Bonfires and bon vivants

Probably a bit cold for the ‘bon vivant’ bit, but the four of us were out under the chill stars a few nights ago, glasses of wine in shivering hands, though getting a little light, a smidgeon of warmth, and rather a lot of smoke, from the first fire of the year in the outdoor fireplace. Barmy, I know, but we loved it.

a garden going up in smoke

Celebrations, really. The last soil had been tipped into place, and, hey presto, we could see how the new kitchen garden would look. We even put out some parsley seedlings that moped on the kitchen windowsill, and planted a few rows of broad beans. Oh, and ponced around with the restored Victorian cast-iron cloche to see if it would make an architectural centrepiece to the veggies, but weren’t really convinced. We may just use a whopping earthenware pot now displaced from the top pond garden (OK, sounds grand, but it’s only a few square yards in size!). It would need something ‘posh’ planted in it… a cardoon perhaps. Or a dwarf apricot tree.

I’ve ordered far more seed than the kitchen garden can possibly hold, even with just one plant of each sort! I just got carried away: several sorts of pumpkin and squash, several climbing beans with fun flowers and colourful beans, irresistable chicories, fancy brassicas I’ve never heard of, and rather much more.

Then we need a couple of new fruit trees to go against the ancient stone walls, rasps and gooseberries for the shade by the south wall, oh, and a door for the doorway that has probably been open to the winds for the last century or more. Last summer, we got our mason to give it a nice stone lintel, and as the complex of tiny buildings is called ‘the ruin’, and there is plenty of spare stone, we might get him to fancy it up to make it even more picturesque. It already has an arrow slit, probably pinched from a ruinous castle near by, so we might make the beginnings of a turret. Well, in fantasy, anyway.

But back to the bonfire. The garden has needed radical thinning out, so branches of apples, trunks of that sorbus described earlier, great poles of Viburnum fragrans, all of an Acer rubrum that, however wonderful in autumn, was shading out too much else, and much else. Sparks flew up into the starry night. Wonderful.


About david stuart

garden writer and journalist, and occasionally a designer, with a garden in the Scottish borders, and his pal's gardens in Edinburgh, London, and Lincolnshire. They keep both of us very, very busy. Books I've written listed on my website, and dozens of articles and garden and plant pictures. Currently working on several new projects. One of these was to return to painting - see the blog - and which is proving exciting! or, more fun, have a look at
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