Let there be grass!

The hay really did the trick —the grass took and is sort of thriving.

We’ll see what it looks like in the spring, but nuts to you, squirrels! At least you didn’t get my grass seed.

Keep our libraries (and gardens) open

In 2008, I joined the Kilburn Library Garden volunteers, the group that built a garden behind the Kilburn Library in Queen’s Park, London.  I hope they still consider me a part-time member, even though I am 3,000 miles away. I’m still on the email list at least! I was over last month and saw the amazing progress that was made this summer.

Now it seems some local libraries in the area are in danger of closure. The local government have to make deep cuts and are considering closing six libraries, including the one in Kensal Rise. I don’t think Kilburn Library is in danger—yet—but I hope that the community comes out in force, to not only use the library and take out loads of books, but also use the garden as well. A lot of man and woman hours went into wrestling that bit of wasteland into a lovely, quiet spot.

Good luck to the Kensal Green and KTRA organizations and keep the libraries open!

Stupid squirrels

I. hate. the. squirrels. I planted dozens and dozens of beautiful hyacinths, tulips, snowdrops, narcissus and covered the beds with netting. When I came back from Thanksgiving, the little bastards had not only completely disappeared the netting on one half, they ate all the bulbs! Just little depressions in the earth, all empty.They must have thought it was a damn smorgasbord. “Oh look, some sucker put out a buffet,” as they scampered along the fence with their little person-claws. “Delicious!” they cried, as they crunched on the small snowdrop bulbs. “Delightful!” they sighed, as they gnawed on the juicy tulips.


Oh, and this is why I haven’t put any birdseed out in the cute “porch swing” bird feeder. I refuse to give them one more free meal.

Gone, all gone.

Bulb buying

Back in New York now and it’s November. It was warm enough to have people over and barbecue ribs in the garden and toast marshmallows on the fire pit. All of which left us a little woozy the next day when we took the bus to Lowe’s. I needed to buy bulbs to plant in the two beds on the north side of the garden that actually catch the most sun, especially I thought, in spring, when the leaves on the trees are not fully out.

I wanted tulips, hyacinth and daffodils, but was quickly overwhelmed by the choice. Behind me was the Christmas aisle and a big box of cinnamon-scented pine cones. I now know I’m very allergic to whatever makes those pine cones smell like cinnamon— my face and neck got very, very itchy and my eyes were burning.

But I soldiered through the holiday miasma and bought pink tulips, pink and white hyacinth, snow drops, and narcissus. All that is left to do is fill in the dug-out beds with new topsoil and compost and plant the bulbs. Then I’ll be done for the year!

Garden at Les Sources de Caudalie, Bordeaux

We spent a happy few days at Les Sources de Caudalie in the Bordeaux countryside. The hotel is attached to the Chateau Smith-Haut-Lafitte and they make some very delicious wines—we certainly sampled as many as we could! We bicycled through the vineyards and had a marvelous tour of the caves.

Our room was on a little pond, complete with two swans who swam up every morning to nibble the tender grass on the bank. Behind our room was a very wee garden, clearly closing up shop for the autumn, but it must be very lovely in the height of summer. You can see it has a formal shape, even for being so small. I love the wishing well in the center.

I also found myself admiring the gravel paths, especially those in front of the chateau. I may have been working on the garden too long!

Indian summer

It was a beautiful warm and sunny weekend in October–the perfect weather to finish the garden and start thinking about next spring. We still needed to complete all of the the architectural elements in the garden: expand the patio by digging out a foot to the grass and adding river stones to match what had already been laid down; and add edging to separate the grass from the stones. We also wanted to plant more grass seed—the hot weather killed off the summer growth, and we bought a fire pit for much-anticipated chilly nights and toasting of the marshmallows.

We rented yet another Zip car for another trip to Lowe’s. I also bought some colorful mums.

We dug out about a foot in both directions and laid the black plastic edging that we bought at the Lowe’s upstate in Kingston. It’s not the most beautiful, but it gets the job done for now. Then we tamped down gravel, poured in more river stones, and voila, our patio got much bigger.

We scattered a whole canister of grass seed and fertilizer and covered it with a sweet-smelling bale of hay. My mother and stepfather brought it down from the country along with a couple of boxes of seasoned, split logs. Perfect for our new fire pit!

Here’s one-half of my American Gothic.

We set up the fire pit, but kindling was a problem, so Nick used the axe the former tenants had left behind to split some off the logs. We did wonder why the former tenants had an axe.

Practically perfect! I potted my mums, it was so nice to have some color! I ended putting them out front so they could get more sun, along with a pumpkin that we picked upstate at Greig’s Farm, near Rhinebeck. (We also brought back a large bag with a large bag of crisp apples that I still have in the crisper.)

Later on, we lit the fire pit to celebrate our finished garden. The only thing left to do is to plant some bulbs for the spring.


This article in yesterday’s NY Times reminded me that I have to seed the sorry strip of lawn in the garden. My parents were in Brooklyn and brought me half a bale of hay so I can cover the new seed and keep the birds from eating it all.

I haven’t carried a bale of hay in a long time and it smelled sweet, like summer. It immediately made me think of when I worked in a stable and had my own horse, that delicious, clean horsey smell that must be like a drug to little tween girls. Maybe that’s what Justin Bieber smells like?

Hauling dirt

This is a ridiculous amount of dirt. We have been wanting to dig out the rest of the garden,  so I can replace it with top soil and try and plant some bulbs for next spring. We bought 100 sandbags and Nick spent a week filling 82 of them. Our friend Jeremy’s help was key and he came over Saturday morning to help us load all 82 bags into the sinister-looking white van we had rented. Figuring out how to dispose of dirt in Brooklyn was impossible, so I thought of taking it to the Saugerties dump up in the country. Brilliant, because the dump said they would take our dirt—all of it—for only $10!

This is what over 4,000 lbs of dirt looks like in the back of a van. It was not a fun ride.

The woman at the dump told us to unload our dirt on the brick pile.

It’s probably the prettiest dump I’ll ever see. That’s Overlook Mountain in the background.

Baby shower

With the patio finished, the big issue was all the dirt that was still piled about five feet high over the path. Nick and I bought sandbags at the hardware store on Court Street and Nick managed to clear the path and most of the bed on the right side. He advertised on Craigslist and someone came by and took all the sandbags.

The day of the shower and champagne tea. We decorated with paper lanterns and pink crepe paper and ballons. (It’s a girl of course!)

The garden looked lovely, even though it was clearly unfinished and my friends had to pick their way very carefully in their nice shoes and pretty dresses. We managed not to get eaten alive by the mosquitos and had a very yummy tea:

Tea sandwiches: egg, egg and tomato, cucumber and cream cheese

Scones and choc chip oatmeal raisin cookies

Eton mess

Tea, coffee and Prosecco

Stone patio success

I realize I have a deadline! I’m hosting my friend’s baby shower next weekend and the patio has got to be finished and all the dirt that we shoveled onto the path and the wall needs to be taken out. Nick and I went to Lowe’s again and bought more sand, gravel and river stones. We had done some excavating and realized that the original flagstone path was there, just covered in about six inches of dirt. We tried to buy more bluestone, but since we needed such a small amount, no one at the landscaping place we went to would sell. So we decided to cannibalize our path and figure out how to fix that later.

The work went much slower with only two people and without Chris’ perfectionism, but we did it.

I still couldn’t relax because I had to plant the $175 worth of creeping and woolly thyme that I bought from the Chelsea Garden Center in Red Hook. I know that they are the most expensive place around, but no where else had the thyme so late in the season. They were nice as pie and special ordered it for me.

Unfortunately all 32 plants were root bound, and it was late and starting to rain. But I planted them all. And somewhere along the way we bought a wheel barrow!