Pink Roses

I love almost every colour of rose, but I think pink roses are my favourite. And even though it goes against my California-native/drought-tolerant principals here in California, I couldn’t resist a few David Austin roses in my new planting schemes. This

Gertrude Jekyll rose with deer sageis one of my all-time favorites, Gertrude Jekyll, planted last year and finally hitting her stride. Doesn’t she look great against the grey of the deer sage?

And this

Charles Rennie MackIntosh budsis a new friend, Charles Rennie Mackitosh, planted in February and about to reward me for my faith. You can take the girl out of England… 🙂



House Update: Crane Day…again…

I thought once our roof was on we would be done with heavy machinery. But no…

Once the house was done we wanted to add a pool. The original plan was for a classically-styled in-ground pool with a spa and a tanning platform, all tastefully landscaped to match the rest of the house. Then we found out how long the planning process would take and what it would cost in permits and fees before we even broke ground, and we simply didn’t want to wait. So, on to plan B.

We’re neither of us big swimmers, and there isn’t much room on the terrace, so we decided to go for an above-ground swim-spa. It has seats around the edges for relaxation, and a deeper section in the centre where one can do water-based exercises, or swim against a current. We chose one made by Arctic Spas, which arrived on a lorry from Canada, and after some palaver getting it off the back of the truck, sat on our driveway for a week or so while we did the prep work on the terrace.


But, it weighs 2000lb, so there was no way we were carrying it around the back by ourselves! Which brings me to the heavy machinery…

First came thisIMG_4037

Which lifted the tub off the driveway, across the garden and into the back…


And then came this little baby



which was walked through the garden onto the terrace, where is did this…


…and then this…


After some maneouvring


the pool is in place and in use.



It’s not as pretty as we would have liked (more landscaping required!) but it took eight weeks to install, from placing the order to swimming. Yay!

Friday I’m in Love: First Fruits

So exciting…! I have been so preoccupied with house and visitors that I have rather neglected my kitchen garden. But this week I got two new presents.

First is a pair of gooseberry bushes. IMG_4156It seems gooseberries are not popular in California but Lovely Man loves them. And so I managed to track down some plants. Here’s hoping…

And second is my first actual produce…IMG_4157…mulberries. Not going to be making jam any time soon, but it still very rewarding to have results so quickly. Now if I can only keep the birds off until they’re properly ripe!

Friday I’m in Love: Pool-friendly plants

I’m planning a planter to go alongside our new hot-tub (on which more next week). From a practical point of view the plants need to be hardy, drought tolerant and evergreen. Ideally they should be tall or visually interesting, to disguise the boring wooden sides of the spa.

I’m leaning towards succulents. Nothing spiny or sharp, but there are some beauties out there that would make a striking display. Here are some inspirations from Pinterest…what do you think?





Friday I’m in Love: Bluebells

Bluebells are one of my top ten favourite flowers. There is nothing more evocative of an English spring than a woodland carpeted with these fragile beauties.


When we first moved here I planted several hundred bulbs under the liquidambar trees and azaleas as a taste of home. Despite suffering a trampling when we redid the irrigation earlier this year they are beginning to put on a show…


…my own little patch of England!

Terrace Garden

When we bought our house, one of the main attractions was the view. It’s beautiful, day or night.


But the main garden – a terrace that wraps the house to the south and west – was uninspiring. Serviceable, but fractured and a bit boring.


And in remodelling the new kitchen and porch, much of it got trashed.


So once the main building work had quietened down we started landscaping. We wanted a space for entertaining which was water-conscious and wildlife-friendly, in a Mediterranean style to match the house. Pinterest was a great source of inspiration!


The old spa bit the dust when we extended the porch so we began by getting rid of the old pink concrete.



Luckily a friend of Contractor John needed exactly that to build a wall, so it went to a good home! Then we marked out the beds, put in a drip system for irrigation, and edged them with salvaged roof tiles, an idea I’d seen at the Old Mill in Pasadena.


The main part of the terrace is a boules piste (bocce ball court to Americans).


John had never made one before but I found instructions here. Since we didn’t have oyster shells we used the tiny loose stones from erosion control bags. I can see it getting a lot of use once we start entertaining properly this summer!

The planting is a mixture of drought-tolerant aloes, euphorbias and succulents, California natives and Mediterranean plants. They’ve been in about six weeks now and are filling out nicely.



The seating area is positioned for the best views. It’s high desert flag, a greeny-grey stone already in use elsewhere in the garden, interspersed with gravel. I’ve planted Corsican mint in some of the gaps, which gives off a wonderful smell when stepped on. The seat can accommodate eight when separated, or pushed together becomes a massive lounger for when we feel like lying around.


Beyond that, at the back of the house, is the spot of the – future – pool or spa. Currently overflow storage for garden equipment and building detritus!


And at the other end of the piste is my kitchen garden.


Have you designed a garden for yourself? What are your inspirations?