The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

While looking back over this year’s photos, I have been cheered up by the fact that there aren’t too many “bad” or “ugly” moments in the garden, most of them are “good” in spite of the weather or how much work I have been able to do outside. In fact the garden has carried on regardless, no matter how I have been feeling, and flowered it’s socks off, for many months at a  time. I think this goes to prove that maybe I fuss too much, maybe it doesn’t need so much attention and therefore my New Years Resolution ought to be,  be much more relaxed about it all,  and to plant all the many plants that are sitting around in pots, waiting for me to bestir myself ! This post will then be roundup of 2011 starting with last January when no gardening got done because we were covered with a deep layer of snow!



When the snow eventually disappeared, snowdrops were popping up everywhere and looked especially lovely in the woodland and other shady borders.We have quite a number of special snowdrop bulbs but I think that masses of the wild ones are just as charming. I started out with 50 bulbs and by splitting them every few years, we must now have thousands.


It was in January that we discovered that “our” robin was no longer with us. He would come and land on my shoulder as soon as I stepped through the back door and then flutter down to eat the sunflower hearts in my hand. I never went in the garden without the seeds in the pocket of my gardening coat, he had me well trained! All of a sudden we had 2 new robins in the garden who wouldn’t come anywhere near me, I can only assume that they killed him as British robins  do fight to the death to defend their territory.


February is the month when the Hellebores join the Snowdrops and make the woodland and shady borders even more beautiful. Such lovely flowers at a time of year when not much else is flowering. We had been going to open the garden for a Snowdrop and Hellebore day to raise funds for the mission in Sierra Leone where we worked for a month in January 2010, unfortunately I went down with ‘flu so had to cancel that, this is in spite of having the ‘flu jab for “oldies” the previous autumn.


Where the woodland had been looking white with all the snowdrops, now in March it changes to yellow, it is as if someone has dipped their paintbrush in yellow paint and dragged a wash everywhere. Lots of other bulbs are now flowering in the light in the woodland before the leaf canopy fills out and puts them into shade once more.


During march, just when I was beginning to feel better from my dose of ‘flu, down I went with another dose, this was getting beyond a joke, enough to send me to the doctor.

Snakeshead  fritillaries

Snakeshead fritillaries take over the damp part of the woodland strip in April. These are expanding, year on year. We started out with just a few bulbs  20 yrs ago, and by sprinkling the seed every year, loads more are now flowering. I think they have such beautiful flowers, but have to watch for the dreaded red lily beetle as they love these just as much as the lilies later.


Saw a new doctor when I went to the medical centre and the first thing she saw when looking at her computer were all the injections that I had to go to West Africa. Almost rubbing her hands with glee she told me she had specialised in tropical medicine and then set about taking loads of blood to see if something had lain dormant for a year!


May is the month for Meconopsis flowering in the garden, but also for pricking out all the seedlings that I have been carefully growing.


What a really beautiful, gorgeous flower, the Meconopsis is. Such a fantastic colour, I could stand and look at them all day long. Thank goodness I have the heavy, damp, acid soil that they love and can therefore keep them happy without too much effort.

All blood test so far coming back negative, so more are done.


June was when we had a swarm of bees in the garden and I spent a very happy 2 hrs watching Basil coaxing them into his box before he then took them home. What an experience that was.


Also in June was our opening for the National Garden Scheme to raise money for their Cancer charities. Still not feeling too brilliant, very tired all the time and weak, only able to do half an hours gardening at a time and not the 4 or 5 hours that I was used to, so had to pay for quite a bit of help in the garden to get it to the standard that the NGS expect. In spite of all this, it was a successful opening, raising quite a few hundred pounds for them.


When we got back from our holiday at Aigas Field Centre , north of Inverness, the garden had gone into overdrive, the fruit was dripping from the bushes and so huge, they had a lot of rain while we were away which had helped to swell them to enormous proportions! The flowers were all  performing beautifully without any help from me, after a quick tidy, everything was looking beautiful once more. Except, I’m afraid for my Meconopsis seedlings. When we got back from holiday, I found that most of them had developed mildew while we were away, and in spite of neighbours watering them for me, one by one , they all died.


Agapanthus are the stars of the show in July and they flower for such a long time brightening up the Bee and Butterfly border at the front.


August is definitely the month for the most varieties of butterflies in the garden. We have noticed an increase in the number of varieties since we have planted the food that the larval stage enjoys as well as the food for the adults.Butterflies start flying in the spring and can always find flowering plants to provide them with nectar until late autumn, over the course of the year we have counted 15 different varieties of butterfly.


July into August is when Crocosmia Lucifer is doing its own thing, grabbing the limelight, taking centre stage. A beautiful plant, you can’t miss it, no matter how hard you try.

I felt by this time, that I was feeling a lot stronger, when once again, at the end of August, would you believe it, another dose of ‘flu, this time much worse than before!

Horse Chestnut

September saw the devastation to our Horse Chestnut trees by a moth that is spreading northwards in the country. We are still sweeping up the leaves to store them for a year in refuse bags, hoping to break the life cycle of the moth, will have to wait and see if this works. This fits in the “ugly” category!

The forms that need filling in for the NGS to open our garden  next year had to be sent off this month, not knowing how I would be feeling next year, it was with regret that I e.mailed the County organiser to ask them not to include us in their Yellow Book for next year. Lots more blood taken and tests done, but nothing showing up yet that could be the cause of my problems.


Autumn tints started early this year in September, it was very dry and the trees and shrubs responded by shutting down early and giving us beautiful colours for such a long time, through to November.

Spiders web

The beauty of a lovely autumn day quite often starts with fog or mist that shows up all the spider’s webs in the garden, this is my favourite photo from all the ones that I took.

By now all my muscles feel as if they are burning inside, not nice at all, lots more tests being done, lots more blood taken, soon I won’t have any left!


This photo was taken in October, liked it so much that I decided to use it as my new header photo.


This is how it looked before I tidied all the extra leaves away by combing through with my fingers.


By November, loads of berries have been formed on bushes, trees and smaller plants like this Iris foetidissima. The birds and small mammals will certainly have enough to feed on during the winter months.


The latest bush to be added to the collection, a Callicarpa, which will contrast nicely with all the red, orange and yellow berries already in the garden.

A diagnosis at last, Polymyalgia rheumatica, which is inflammation of all the main muscle groups. The good news is that it is treatable, might take a long time, but I will get better eventually and be able to carve and garden once more, thank goodness! Now on steroids, so that puts paid to my chances in the Olympics, but at least there is light at the end of the tunnel!


December has my favourite Cornus again as the centre of attention, you have seen so much of it lately. It really stands out at the side of the drive and I love it! It will still be looking good next March when it will need coppicing.


Finding that dormice have taken up residence in the garden really is the icing on the cake as far as gardening for wildlife is concerned. We have always encouraged the wildlife to live along side us , well, maybe not the rabbits and moles, but lots of other creatures are very welcome indeed. You maybe have read about the problems next door with a developer that wants to cut the trees and hedges down, we will certainly keep you up to date with the situation. Once again, thanks must go to Bengt Lundberg for his beautiful photo, maybe one day I will be able to take my own photos, I do hope so.

Waiting rather a long time for the pills to take effect. Eventually on Christmas Eve I was pain free for the first time for months, it was the best Christmas present I could ever have had and so far I am still pain free, so let’s hope that this is the beginning of the end.

The garden has managed without me fiddling with it, my husband has been doing such a lot more than he would normally do, just couldn’t have managed without his help. Looking through the photos has shown me that the flowers still looked beautiful all by themselves so maybe I should sit more and just enjoy it all !!

Wishing you all a very Happy and Healthy New Year in 2012 !!!


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22 Responses to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

  1. Liz says:


    A very nice look back on the year and I’m glad to hear you have a diagnosis for your illness and that you’re now painfree!

  2. What an interesting horticultural year you’ve had, Pauline. It’s a shame you’ve had to put things on hold due to illness but steroids are wonderful things. Your photo of the robin is exquisite. Bird photography is something I want to work on this year.
    All the best and good health in 2012 (and banish developers)!

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you so much Janet for your good wishes, now that I am painfree I can work on my muscles and slowly build them up again, thank goodness. My robin was quite happy to come and sit within 3 inches of me ( as long as he had his reward of seeds or mealworms) and was photographed with the macro lens for close up photography!! Wishing you and your garden a wonderful 2012!

  3. Your photos for the year show so many of my favorite plants including hellebores and snowdrops. I hope your garden has been a refuge during all the physical problems you have had. I am glad a diagnosis has been found. My husband has gone through the same thing for years with Lyme disease, which I hope they ruled out for you. Happy New Year.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you for your good wishes Carolyn, sorry to hear what your husband has been suffering from, will check with the doctor next week that she has done the test for Lyme disease, she has done so many without telling me what they were all for. Hellebore and snowdrop time is a very special time in the garden, I love that time of year, it holds so much promise of what is to come later.I wish you and your family a Happy and Healthy New Year!

  4. wellywoman says:

    You have a very beautiful garden and I loved looking through your gardening year. I’m pleased to hear you are on the road to recovery and wish you a happy and healthy 2012.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you so much Wellywoman, for your good wishes, so glad you enjoyed looking back through the year. I wish you and your garden a Happy New Year!

  5. debsgarden says:

    Paulin, I enjoyed the tour of your garden through the year! I especially love the woodland photos with all the beautiful bulbs blooming! I am glad you finally got a diagnosis and treatment. I know how poor health can rob one’s strength and joy; I hope you will have a prosperous and healthy 2012!

    • Pauline says:

      It won’t be long now Debs, before all the woodland bulbs start once more, a wonderful time of year, so full of promise.Thank you for your good wishes and I wish you and your family a Very Happy New Year and happy gardening in 2012!

  6. Alberto says:

    Dear Pauline, the only thing to put on the ‘bad’ category is your illness but as you said that’s coming to an end, so you leave this 2011 as a winner in all categories! 🙂
    Your garden is simply beautiful, I follow your posts with interest and admiration for the good job you are doing with plants. I really hope to have the chance of coming and seeing it in person one day or another, no wonder if people pays to see it!!!
    You triggered something on me with you words about butterflies and food for their larvas, you might write something more specific on what you have done, maybe on a specific post, because I would be very very interested. I only know a few things about that and I wish I had more butterflies in my garden…

    I wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthier 2012.

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you for your lovely comments, Alberto, you are so kind! If ever you are over here you must let me know and we can arrange something. You have inspired me, re. food for butterfly larva,- yes, I think that would make quite an interesting post, will have to look up lots of facts first! A Happy New Year to you Alberto and happy gardening for 2012.

  7. Caro says:

    Just found your blog via WellyWoman – your garden is stunning, I’ve loved having a wander through your 2011 post, especially November and December – Callicarpa is one of my favourite winter colour plants and I’ve been wondering which plant the November berries belong to since I saw them in a local NGS garden near my parents’ home. What a relief for you to have your illness named and treated after all these months; I wish you well for 2012.

    • Pauline says:

      Thanks for stopping by Caro, lovely to hear from new people! Thanks also for your kind comments about the garden, its looking a bit dull and brown at the moment but soon all the woodland bulbs will be flowering once more, as long as this mild weather continues! Happy gardening in 2012 !

  8. Pauline reading your year makes me exhusted, I’m glad they found what was causing your health problems and that they can stop the pain and cure you, being always on the borderline of amenmia I understand feeling tired, your garden is always so wonderful, sad about the horse chestnut trees lets hope they find help for that, dividing and spliting is something I must do much more of in my garden and I second Alberto in the request for a larve food post please, it is something you can do sitting down 😉
    glad you had a good christmas and were taken care of buy loving DD and DDiL, wishing you and your family a happy, healthy new year and 2012, Frances x

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you so much for your lovely comments, Frances, have just done half an hour in the garden and that is enough, a few weeks ago I couldn’t even have done that, so I’m improving!! Have started looking up information about a post re.caterpiller food, as you say, I can do that sitting down! Got Sarah Raven’s new book Wild Flowers for Christmas and she says that the Duke of Burgundy Fritillary lays its eggs on cowslips and primroses, we have hundreds of those and yet the butterfly is the second rarest in the country!
      I hope you have a really happy new year and that your garden has a windless 2012 !x

  9. Pauline I had meant to say in my previous comment but by the time I got to the end of the post forgot some of the beginning…..
    I love your robin story of him sitting on your shoulder and eating from your hand, love the photo too, could he have died of old age they don’t live long, when I first came here there was a very friendly blackbird, never landed on my shoulder but would come close the minuet I went in the garden and followed me around even brought his brood to show me a few times, then after 4 years I never saw him and I learnt that the life expectance for a blackbird is 4 years, I like to think the blackbirds I see in my garden now are his decendence, grandsons and great grandsons 🙂 Frances

    • Pauline says:

      Hello again Frances, thanks for coming back with your lovely story of your backbird. I would like to think that this is what happened, but seeing the 2 robins who havn’t come near me all year, in spite of my tempting seeds, make me think they have now taken over the territory.We had a friendly blackbird last year who had one white feather on his head, looked very comical, havn’t seem him for a while now, such is nature I’m afraid.I feel honoured to have shared our robin’s short life and that he trusted me enough to come so close for food, happy memories!
      Did a post about it earlier in the year

  10. thanks for the link Pauline I just read the post, it’s almost magical, the other blackbirds in my garden have not been as close as the first, as you say nature, for a long time the last few years a starling has sat on one of my chimney pots during spring and summer singing it’s little heart out, I often wondered if it was the same one or they took turns, one saturday afternoon this summer there was a dreadful clattering on my roof at first I thought one of the chimney pots had come down when I went to look a horrid blackbacked gull had my singing starling by the leg then flew off with him, I know they have to live too and the starling eats insects and things but boy did I hate that gull! no birds have sung on my roof since, the -15 could have taken your robin he could even have gone at his summer vacation place, I hope he is at peace and you have your memories and photos which is better than never having the experience, Frances

    • Pauline says:

      Oh dear Frances, your poor starling, hopefully as he was taken by the leg, he could manage to attack the gull with his beak and do some damage or escape before anything too nasty happened, no wonder you hated that gull !! I’d almost forgotten our sub zero temperatures last winter, yes, maybe that was what caused the demise of our robin, doesn’t pay to get too attached to our garden wildlife does it?!

  11. Christina says:

    I’m sorry you’ve been in pain this year but your garden doesn’t look at all as if you have ignored it. Every image was more beautiful than the last. The spring photos are all stunning and also nice as they give us all hope for the coming year. I have enjoyed following the seasons in your garden so very much this year. A very happy new year to you and good gardening for 2012. Christina

    • Pauline says:

      Thank you so much Christina for your kind comments. Really looking forward to all the woodland bulbs, not long now as long as the weather stays as mild as it is. Quite a few snowdrops up already, signs of things to come. Gardens really don’t need us fussing over them so much do they, my new year’s resolution will be to sit more and enjoy it !! Happy new year to you Christina and happy gardening!

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