Month: November 2013

A Time For Reflection Part 2

I hadn’t originally planned for this to spread over more than one post, but I also hadn’t planned for heucheras to take over my garden … but here I am with 11 of the buggers …

Before I get back into a review of 2013, I wanted to share something that made me have a little horticultural facepalm. When I was out doing my bits and pieces yesterday, I noticed something growing in the middle of one of my Japanese anemone (Anemone hupehensis var japonica). Early (for the anemones) in 2013 I purchased two plants that were already in flower (silly boy) to go in my shady border (more on that later). They came, they flowered, they – er – they died right back to straggly little nothings. Clearly not happy where they were, when I revamped the bed (after removing the horribly ill-placed honeysuckle) I shuffled them to somewhere new, under the proviso that they had next spring to start doing something or they were gone. No room for lollygaggers. Not on my watch.

There was improvement in one of the plants, but given that their natural flowering time was over I had some hope for next spring.

So cue the surprise when, upon examination, it was not something growing through the plant …

2013-11-28 12.23.57

As far as I can tell, it isn’t all that usual for these to flower after frosts have started. But there you go. A garden mystery. Hopefully it’ll survive into next year (the plant, not the flowerbuds!). (I feel I should point out that another clump of these started budding in mid-August and were flowering freely from early September.)

Whilst talking of garden, er, mistakes, time to move on to a couple of not-so-great moments from this year …

Along with the anemones and heucheras that I bought for the shady border, I also bought a Trollius chinensis ‘Golden Queen’, having never grown Chinese globeflowers before and reading somewhere that they didn’t mind the shade as long as it was damp, being native to meadows (although cold-wet was bad, they are also very hardy, being native to northern China and Siberia). Mmm.

There’s a difference between willowy elegance and light-deprived straggliness. There’s also a difference between watering something enough and, er, not … Although still alive when the revamp occurred, this was not a happy plant (sorry, no pictures of said unhappiness!) Again, it got moved and we shall see if (with some judicious care and attention) its happier next year!

Astilbes are not right up there on my Must Grow list. However, when I was on holiday in June, my other half thought he’d purchase one. Upon researching them and finding that they like damp conditions (although shade-tolerant and clay-loving and hardy) I was somewhat disheartened by the choice, but upon my return I planted it where I had room at the time.

Despite being in semi-shade and me watering it, it didn’t do well. It didn’t die right off the bat. The flowers faded after a while, but it didn’t seem to grow. It has subsequently gone brown and crinkly. However, upon cutting back there is green in there, so there may be hope yet (and if it does turn out to have croaked then I won’t exactly be crying about it …).

2013-10-19 14.10.46My other main ‘disaster’ this year has been pest control, specifically (but not limited to) the gastropod kind. Last year I bought some very jolly French marigolds (Tagetes patula) in order to infill where I’d removed some previous plants and hadn’t yet found replacements. Annuals. Instant colour. Its all good.

The slugs and snails definitely thought so. Unfortunately, having a dog with a “eat now, repent at leisure” approach to investigation precluded lacing the ground with an inch of slug pellets (yes, you can get ‘pet-friendly’ slug bait; no, I didn’t really want to risk it) so I watched with dismay as they were munched to nothing in the space of seconds (okay – 2 or 3 nights). This year, however, I avoided marigolds altogether (not quite true – in a planty care package provided by my mother and delivered by my father there was a single marigold which was planted in a raised box – and lasted at least a week before the little monsters found it and devoured it).

My main enemy in the garden now is feline in origin, multitudinous in number and foul in nature. I like cats. I like all animals (even slugs & snails have their uses and their place in nature), and its always good to work with nature instead of against it. However. There is a line to be drawn. Vegetarians scoffing my plants when I don’t protect them? I can take that on the chin. Catshit, on the other hand, is something that I don’t feel is acceptable. I have one neighbour with one cat (who generally takes care of his own business in his own garden). I have another neighbour with two cats (who just luuurve my soft, freshly turned and well-cared for soil). I have a third neighbour at the end of the garden who rescues cats. A lot of cats. Need I go on? I think not.

The third pest that arrived this year in great numbers were caterpillars. My mum sent me a batch of sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis) seedlings which did very well. Considering they are biannual (i.e. they flower and set seed in their second year and then die) I wasn’t expecting much, other than a lot of green. Well, I got a lot of that all right, plus flowers (a bit of a surprise, it has to be said).

Then my neighbour planted sprouts (actually, a lot of sprouts). And I planted some alyssum.

2013-06-24 17.19.25

Needless to say, the Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris brassicae) had a whale of a time with all that brassica-y goodness abounding …

However, with some judicious pruning of the rocket (and in one case digging up an infested plant and replanting it on its own behind the shed) things calmed down soon enough – even the alyssum bounced back. Which is more than can be said for my neighbour’s sprout plants. No sprouts, but plenty of sprouting …

I feel that I should end on a high, however. And that is my pelargoniums. Well, I call them ‘annual geraniums’ as I treat them as annuals and don’t bother trying to overwinter them. Last year I had a mixture of red and white (sadly, the vast majority of my 2012 pictures are on an external hard drive that I have yet to send to see what can be exhumed), but the white ones didn’t seem to flower as prolifically as the red. Not sure why. Anyway, I bought a few packs and potted them. I think I ended up with 4 or 5 terracotta pots full …

as well as a metal ‘trough’ that we … inherited with the house and also a big rectangular wooden planter (a kind gift from our neighbour) …

I have to say that they were quite spectacular (as this year I managed to water and feed them on a more regular basis than last year!) and I was very pleased. Debating giving them a miss next year – or finding some alternative ‘flavours’.

And it looks like this will now become a series of posts rather than just the one or two … But the next post will be more of an ode to the shady border (finally …) and me sharing some of my favourite pics from the year!


A Time for Reflection … Part 1

No, I’m not getting all maudlin on you. I’ve just done my last bit of wintertime prep in the garden and wanted to write out some of my successes, failures and … learnings, I suppose you’d call them from the last couple of years.

006Although we moved into this house at the end of May in 2012, I didn’t get a whole lot done in the garden over that summer. Yes, there were some annuals, including some red and some white geraniums pelargoniums in terracotta pots and some cosmos daisies (white and pink). I have to say that the two plants we bought did amazingly well. The photo over there of the white one was taken about a week or so after I planted it. Although it didn’t get huge, it was definitely a prolific flowerer! The pink one – seen in the photo a bit down the page – was an incredible plant! It lasted for months and months, grew tall and wide and was generally an all round fantastic purchase! I also did a fair whack of cutting back, clearing space  and digging up of forget-me-nots …


The first flower I planted was a lovely blue Veronica longifolia – we’d decided early on that the “half moon” bed was to be blue and white. Which was a bit of a bugger to the big clumps of flame-red giant poppies.


 I also fought a battle with clumps of daylily (Hemerocallis). I don’t now which of the previous owners had a love-affair with them and so planted them everywhere but I consider them a waste of time. No, really. Granted, whilst they flower (for a week or two, maximum) the flowers look good (not spectacular – just good), but for the rest of the year they’re just mounds of strappy vegetation and could be, well, anything. I might be missing something important about them but, and I’m not particularly ashamed to say, I’m not that bothered about finding out. There are other plants that look better for longer.

Last year I also grew – thanks to a gift from my mother – shoofly for the first time.  Nicandra physalodes is in the nightshade family (Solanaceae) and is quite an impressive plant – if you have the space. It grows to (at least) a metre in height and possible over a metre square. It does like heat to get going and lasts well until the frosts arrive. The flowers are purple and cream, and then create wonderful paper-clad seedpods. These do seed freely and will germinate naturally, but only if the heat is right (some that seeded from last year didn’t come to anything until about August of this year!).

Geum, cosmos, rudbeckia, shoofly

Geum, cosmos, rudbeckia, shoofly

The big success of 2012 was the planting of my first geum – ‘Totally Tangerine’. Planted in full sun it was a triumphant riot of orange flowers. I was a bit dubious about not cutting it back in the autumn but I was assured by various sources that this is as it should be. Consequently, this spring it was another amazing display.

2012 was also the Year of the Lavender – although perhaps the least said about that the better … out of several plants that were purchased only 4 plants are still alive (and one of those isn’t the happiest of blooms).

Lavendula stoechas 'Coco Blue-White'

Lavendula stoechas ‘Coco Blue-White’

But then winter came around and we all went to sleep until spring 2013.

I think that we were too busy for me to actually learn anything per se about the garden in any more detail than “oh, it gets the sun there at that time and over there at that time”. We met the neighbours, settled in, and I would wander up and down the garden thinking “If only this was my garden and not rented … I’d do this and move that and get rid of those …”

Spring 2013 started fairly warmly in March. So much so that the clematis started to shoot in earnest:

… but then came the frost and buggered it all up …

More in Part 2!

Emily Alice Palmer

When does a member of the family become a ‘black sheep’? When they commit a serious crime? Adultery? Murder? A simple elopement? Somehow rebelling against the standards the family has set or the morals they live by? When does not behaving within the bounds of society turn into becoming a black sheep? Its a tough one to call – and not a label that I can easily tag onto one of my paternal great-grandmothers, Emily Alice Palmer, pictured below at the wedding of her daughter, Norah (my paternal grandmother).

Norah & Eddie's Wedding, 1949

Norah & Eddie’s Wedding, 1949

Emily was born on 26 June 1876 in the Wiltshire parish of Collingbourne Kingston, probably within the village of Brunton (now considered part of Collingbourne Kingston as a whole, Brunton, Aughton and Sunton were all separate villages alongside the village of Collingbourne Kingston). Her parents, Frederick Palmer and Mary Jane Fisher had married in October 1875, and she had an older sister, Sarah Ann Fisher, who had been born in 1874. Frederick and Mary Jane went on to have a further 8 children, all of whom survived to adulthood.

Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)

Frosty Collingbourne Kingston (by Anguskirk on Flickr)

The majority of Emily’s siblings remained in Collingbourne Kingston, with a few scattering to other areas of the UK. The youngest, Dulcima Lillian May, emigrated to Australia with her husband, John Bagot Percival, and son, John Sydney Percival, in 1921.

Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (

Map of Collingbourne Kingston parish (

Emily first crops up in the 1881 UK census, living at Tinkerbarn, Brunton, with her parents and 3 siblings. Frederick is listed as an agricultural labourer and no doubt worked on the Tinkerbarn farmstead.

1881 Census

1881 Census

In 1891, Emily is still living with her parents and siblings in Brunton:

1891 Census

1891 Census

The next year, 1892, sees the birth of Emily Alice’s first child – Edward Sidney Palmer – on 23 May. (In some later records he is referenced as Sidney Edward, and his family knew him as Sid, but his birth and baptism were both registered as Edward Sidney.) Three years later, Emily has another child, this time a daughter called Kate.

On October 22, 1898, Emily married Arthur Tom Bowley in Collingbourne Kingston. He was a carter on a nearby farm, although born in the village of Ham in the nearby parish of Shalbourne. Between 1900 and 1904 Emily and Arthur would have three daughters – Avaline Ada, Hilda Violet and Winifred Jessie.

On the 1901 census Arthur, Emily, her first two children Edward and Kate (interestingly, although Edward was enumerated with the surname Palmer, Kate was entered with the surname Bowley – was Kate, in fact, Arthur’s daughter despite her birth being registered as Kate Palmer?), and their daughter Avaline are living in the hamlet of Gallowood in Shalbourne.

1901 Census

1901 Census

It is after this point that things get a bit … complicated.

I knew at some point Emily Alice must have married somebody with the surname Murray – but could never find a marriage between a Murray and a Bowley (or a Palmer). Searching for my grandmother in the 1911 census I tracked down the family living in Marnhull, Dorset – and there was Emily Alice living with Joshua Murray.

1911 Census

1911 Census

Immediately, several things leapt out at me:

  • they stated they were married and had been for 18 years – Emily Alice’s eldest son, Edward, would have been roughly 18 at this time, but in no way had Joshua and her been together this long
  • various children with the Murray surname – Kate was a Palmer (possibly Bowley, as mentioned above), Hilda & Winifred were both Bowley
  • Avaline was missing – although the return states Emily had lost two children, and one may have been Avaline
  • Joshua’s occupation (threshing machine driver) fit with family lore

Using the FreeBMD website, I was able to find 7 children in addition to my grandmother born to Joshua and Emily, and the family settled in the Parkstone area of Poole, Dorset. Norah had actually been born in Collingbourne Kingston, and it was here where she made her home, having her children and then marrying Edward William Taplin in 1949.

Whilst I will come back to the Murray/Morey family in a later post, I should point out here that Joshua Locke Morey (as the name was spelled when he was baptised) was married at the time of … taking up with Emily Alice. He had married Mary Adela Blackmore in 1885, and they had seven children together – the youngest born in 1903. His eldest child with Emily was born in 1906 (her youngest child with Arthur Bowley was born in 1904).

The 1911 census for Mary clearly states she is married (i.e. not ‘Widowed’ or anything similar). I have not made contact with any descendants of Joshua’s ‘first’ family – something that I’ve put off for many years.

Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer

Descendant Chart for Emily Alice Palmer

That wasn’t the end for Emily Alice, however. Following Joshua’s death in 1933, she married again in the same year to a naturalised Italian. Camillo Antonio Ciotti changed his name to Camillo Antonio Collins in 1941, the following announcement appearing in The London Gazette:

The London Gazette, 24 October 1941.

I, Camillo Antonio Collins of No. 182 Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, Poole in the county of Dorset, Labourer, formerly a head waiter, a naturalised British subject, heretofore called and known by Camillo Antonio Ciotti and that I have assumed and intend henceforth on all occasions whatsoever and at all times to sign and use and to be called and known by the name of Camillo Antonio Collins in lieu of and in substitution for my former name of Camillo Antonio Ciotti. And I also hereby give notice that such change of name is formally declared and evidenced by a deed poll under my hand and seal dated the 8th day of October 1941 duly executed and attested, and that such Deed Poll was enrolled in the Central Office of the Supreme Court of Judicature on the 21st day of October, 1941.

They had no children together and, following Emily’s death in 1949, Camillo married for his third time in 1952 to Winifred Dixon.

(But what of Arthur Tom Bowley? What happened to him? Research suggests that he married again in 1920 and had a further six children with his second wife, dying in Salisbury in 1940.)

Family Group ...

Family Group …

Daphne Triptych


Stationery Slut

I recently outed myself as a lover of dinosaurs (although not in this kind of way), but I also have another vice. Well, okay, I have several, but in this instance I am talking about stationery.


Yep. Stationery. Its a lustful kind of vice, and one that I keep reined in for the most part. I don’t have stacks of notebooks waiting to be filled, I don’t have drawers full of pens, pencils or inks waiting to be scribed with. But desires … yes. I’d happily buy and buy and buy.

Where did this avarice stem from? There are a couple of things that you need to know. Firstly, I was one of those children who enjoyed school. I wasn’t part of the “in crowd”, but I wasn’t bullied – at least not any more than anybody else – I had good friends and I genuinely loved learning new things. I still do. Secondly, we used to holiday in France growing up. You may or may not know this, but going back to school in France is a serious business …

La rentrée scolaire

La rentrée scolaire

La rentrée scolaire means aisles and aisles of text books, paper, exercise books, pens, pencils, desk supplies, pencil cases and more types of fountain pen than you can squeeze your nib at. Every September I’d return to school with a (new) pencil case fit to bursting with markers, highlighters, coloured pens, rulers, erasers – everything your favourite underachieving over-achiever could even possibly think about owning. Invariably by Christmas they’d been whittled down to the merely necessary and all my plans of neatly compartmentalised and refer-by-colour notes had been abandoned in preference to the easily-scribbled (but probably indented).

In College it got a little better. My Psychology tutor used to roll his eyes when I got out my blue, black, green and red pens at the start of his lectures … This was before we had an argument about parapsychology and I got bored of being one of the same two people to answer questions …

But my heart always belonged to the pens and pencils. I’d stand breathless in the aisles of E.Leclerc not even daring to dream of asking my mother to buy red ink cartridges, let alone green or purple … At that time the French were (and still are to a degree) lovers of either graph paper or plain paper in their journals and exercise books. Graph paper was for Maths and plain paper solidly for Art. I wanted ruled lines. With a margin, thank you very much. Something that the pre-eminent French stationer, Rhodia, with its iconic orange-and-black colour scheme, did not do at the time. (And I’m talking about this Rhodia – not the other Rhodia.)

Black N Red Casebound Notebook

Black N Red Casebound Notebook

So when I started journalling in my teens, it was to the standard of British stationery I turned – Black n’Red and their hardback A5 Casebound Notebook. 

I still have several of these, filled with my scribblings from about the age of 15 up until my early 20s. Most of it was probably quite self-indulgent (but then isn’t all journalling to some degree?) but it helped me figure things out in my own head at a time I truly needed it, even if looking back on the entries now often causes me to snicker.

I also use one of these notebooks for my genealogical scribblings, and especially so when I go to a records centre or a cemetery for making notes – and also jotting down reminder questions or facts I already know. This works extremely well if I’m researching for a client. I like the free-ness of these notebooks.

Yes, they’re simple and elegant and nicer to look at than (for example) a top wirebound journalist’s notepad, but they allow me to put things where I want to put them.

Makes sense to me ...

Makes sense to me …

At the time, had I been able to afford it, Moleskine would’ve been my permanent friend. I do have a Moleskine address book and a lovely friend bought me a Notebook XS in the most brilliant red a few years ago. I have to confess that I like it so much that I haven’t actually used it yet …

I also want to point out two other things about Moleskine notebooks … the first is the range of Special Notebooks that they produce with specialised cover art such as The Hobbit, Lego and Star Wars. The second is their range of Evernote Smart Journals – these notebooks connect with Evernote and allow you to create a digital and organised collection of notes. More details here.

Evernote Moleskine

Evernote Moleskine

Last year, on a trip to France, I noticed that Rhodia had created something new … the Webnotebook, aka the Webbie. This allowed Rhodia to up its game (along with some other new collections) to compete with the Big Boys such as Moleskine and the like. It also comes with blank, dotted or lined 90g French-milled pages inside its Italian leatherette cover. (Incidentally, dotted paper seems to be a big thing with stationers at the moment – doesn’t do anything for me as a writer, but perhaps for those of a more artistic or designer slant it makes ears prick up.)

I have an A5 Webbie in black, but A4, A6 and A7 versions are available, in portrait or landscape, and as Webnotepad versions. All available in either black or orange.

Another brilliant marketing strategy from these guys is the Rhodiarama … little A6 notebooks of joy in a selection of wonderful colours. These match up with many other similar products such as Leuchtturm1917’s Pocket Notebook and Moleskine’s Coloured Notebooks.



There are a couple of other brands that I love – I’ve mentioned one briefly (Leuchtturm1917) and the other is Field Notes. I should also point out that I love these simply for the products they make – I have never purchased one from either of these (although I noticed with glee on Saturday that my local branch of Watersones stocks a selection of Leuchtturm1917 notebooks). And I can never love Field Notes as much as these guys

In closing, there are two further sites that I wanted to share with you, both of which add to my atavistic joy of paper stationery. Rhodia Drive is an American blog dedicated to the French orange-and-black notebook. You may feel that this is a bit limited for an authorised blog, but it also covers a wide range of other stationery-related posts. I especially love the Link Share posts.

Rhodia Drive

Rhodia Drive

The second is an online retail outlet … Bureau Direct was originally an independent shop based in Covent Garden, London, opening in 1995. In March 2003 the webstore opened, and in 2005 the shop closed for good. I love this store (and not because I won the first thing I ever won EVER on this site – a gold Caran d’Ache pen). I love what they stand for, and I particularly love Stationery Wednesday …

Bureau Direct

Bureau Direct