Set in stone.

North stone

Most of our garden is planted with edible plants. But when we planned it out on paper we also wanted to include a lot of flowers. Some of them are herbs with culinary and medicinal purposes and some are magnets for bees and butterflies. We wanted to arrange our flowering plants in a pretty way and also wanted a flat area for friends, kids and relatives to pitch a tent when visiting. We do not like square shapes, straight paths and formal gardens very much. Because of this we choose a design based on circles. Circles have been used for thousands of years in cultures all over the world. We like ancient stone circles very much and decided early on to have a large circle in the centre of our garden and add four standing stones, one for each point of the compass. The first job was to get rid of the stones in the ground in order to have a smooth area for pitching tents and have a bit of a lawn as the rest of the garden is more on the wild side.  We did not know just how many stones there were in our 9 meters across circle. We built crescent moon shaped raised beds all around the circle and still ended up with huge piles of stones for other projects. We then had to hire a rotivator to get the area somewhat flat and ready for seeding. All those preparations were done last year. This past weekend we had beautiful weather and decided it was time to put our standing stones in place and start making an edge in natural stone to make the circle easier to mow with our push mower and have less weeds growing into the raised beds. The stones needed to be moved from another part of the garden and we made a sledge for this purpose. We then used the ancient method of rollers to move the standing stones across the garden. It was fun and quite easy.

 Stone sleigh

We dug holes and planted the stones firmly in place at the cardinal points. We dug out a shallow ditch all around the circle and filled it with gravel. Then it was time to mix up some cement and put down the small flagstones for the mowing strip. At each standing stone we added a few more stones.

Gravel ditch

Crazy paving

East is connected to the element of air and the colour yellow so in this section we planted a Japanese maple with yellow leaves and a lot of grasses that can move in the wind. South is connected to the element of Fire and the colour red so we have a lot of red flowers here and a lovely Japanese maple with bright red leaves. In the West we added a lot of seashells for the element water and a blue flowering Ceanothus.  We still have to do the North stone decorations which will consist of a lot of crystals for the element of Earth and bright green plants.

Elemental plants

East set in stone


South set in stone


West set in stone


Here you can see the view across the circle to the East, South, West and North. We are planning to take the same pictures once a month so you can see how the garden changes in the course of the months and years ahead. All of these posts will be in the category called Elemental circle.





stonecircle from roof

One, two, three, SOW!

Seed packets

What better way to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day than to plant potatoes? We have asked a few of the neighbours if it is a good time to plant them this time of year in our part of Ireland (the west) and they have all said we should be alright to put them in. For the last two weeks we have been keeping them in our porch, a cold and bright place and now the potatoes have good little shoots growing. We have not grown potatoes here before but we have opted for the tyre method where the potatoes are grown in a tyre and as they grow more tyres and soil are added to earth them up and produce a large crop. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

Potatoes and tyres

Planting potatoes

In between the tyres we put fluffed up sheeps wool to avoid creating a slug hotel where the slugs could hang out and go on nightly raids to the nearby just sown rows of carrots, radishes, parsnips and turnips. To avoid potato blight we are planning to make a strong nettle and comfrey tea that can be watered down and used at every watering. A friend told us about this method and he has grown healthy potatoes this way. As we are growing everything organically we would like to avoid chemicals and if anyone has other tips on how to avoid blight, please write about them in the comment section.

 Placing wool


 We also planted a lot of things today that need to be grown in pots to get off to a good start. As we have a tiny cottage and not much room inside, we invented a way last year to grow as much as possible under our circumstances. All through the year we save our toilet rolls and along with free newspapers, free plastic boxes from the supermarket and a bit of plastic wrap we create a practical, slug-proof and hygienic environment for our little seedlings. They can be planted straight in the ground in their rolls, or into a larger pot for growing on with no root disturbance.

 Seeds and boxes

We wanted to grow peas, beans, sunflowers and a variety of gourds and squashes so opted for a mix of multi-purpose and seed compost with added perlite as our growing medium. The toilet rolls can be stuffed quite full and placed on newspaper, tightly packed together for stability. We watered the full boxes and let them stand for a few hours to saturate the cardboard and let excess water run away.

 soil mx

a few rolls

full box

Planting all the seeds was great fun, with one person using the dibber to the correct depth, one person planting the seeds and one person writing down all the varieties for the different rows in the box. We then watered the boxes again to set the seeds in, let them drain off for a further couple of hours and wound the plastic wrap around the whole box a few times. Last year we let the seeds stay sealed up like this for about a month, with no water or air added. The box became a perfect micro climate and all the seedlings came out strong and healthy.


boxes wrapped up

We keep the boxes in our gazebo and the seedlings do not seem to mind the frost, even when the ground is white and frozen in the mornings. The boxes and the gazebo keep them snug and they get enough light to not grow weak and straggly.

Plants for less.


 We, like most gardeners love to cram in a lot of shrubs, trees, perennials and grasses into our garden. Unfortunately we do not have the means to pay for full priced plants in the garden centre, but over the last couple of years we have found out that it is not so unfortunate after all. At certain times of the year we visit the sales at our local garden centre. Especially in spring, we have been very fortunate as they sell out a lot of last year’s perennials and grasses at as much as 75-80% off the original price. These plants may look a bit worse for wear, but when you get them out of the pot you almost always find that they have a great root system and are just perfect for planting out in the garden. We have bought almost all our plants in this way and have had very few casualties.

 root close up

sale label

A couple of weeks ago we picked up five potted grasses at a sale and we only paid €15 for the lot instead of the full €75. Today we finally had a bit of time to plant them. We started by forking the ground over lightly to remove all the couch grass that unfortunately has a tendency to creep across and root on any bare piece of land in our garden. We had some shrubs and grasses from last spring’s sale growing in this area and just wanted to add some more grasses to make for a beautiful and hopefully easily maintained part of the garden.

bed with cardboard

wheel barrow

bed half done

We planted all the grasses, adding a lot of well rotted manure to the planting holes and put down a double layer of cardboard boxes, to suppress the weeds and help with moisture retention if we get a warm and dry summer. We always put down cardboard and mulch on top of it around all small trees and shrubs as without the competition from weeds, they grow up to twice as fast. Our local supermarket is happy for any boxes we take away as they have to pay to recycle them. We have picked up many thousands over the last couple of years. We use them on all our paths as well, under the wood-chip mulch. As mulch for our newly planted grass area we put on a 15 cm layer of shredded Laylandii and we hope this will be enough to work as a weed suppressant for this year and hopefully by next year our ornamental grasses will have taken off and can handle the competition better.

 grass from circle

We do think it looks pretty, as the dark colour of the mulch contrasts beautifully with the golden and variegated grasses. We are so much looking forward to see how it will turn out in the summer.

Wish upon a star mosaic.

whole wall

We have been hard at work for the last two days, tiling another wall in the bathroom. We had a lot of small mosaic tiles, about half of them found in a tile shop skip, and we wanted to incorporate some of them into the design on this wall. We also had some hexagon mirrors bought at IKEA and a round mirror with a shell mosaic around the edge. We played around with these components until we decided on a shooting star design.

 shooting star

The trail of the star was perfect for adding the small tiles to in curved lines, alternating colours and structures. We added a sections of mixed light coloured tiles each side, as a contrast to the busier colours and tomorrow we will do a slightly darker area of tiles all around the star. We are hoping this will make the star stand out in a pretty way. The entire wall will be grouted in a medium grey grout and it should bring all the areas together and create a beautiful whole. If you wish to see more of our mosaics just go to the mosaic category on the right hand side.

star mosaic start

star mosaic half way

A shooting star is very practical to have around as every time life gets a bit difficult or sad you can make a wish.

star mosaic wish

star and mirror

Bathroom Mosaic.

 bathroom mosaic

As part of our extensive bathroom renovations, we have now reached the tiling stage. Two days ago we started knocking all the old tiles and plaster of the walls, and yesterday it was time to get tiling. If you have read any of our other posts in the Mosaic category, you will know that we always keep an eye out for old, thrown away and salvaged tiles and mirrors. Most of the tiles for our bathroom come from free sources and saves us money as well as being good for the environment. For this project that has a lot of small pieces, it is easiest to use the ready mixed tile adhesive in a tub. It stays flexible for a long time and makes for easy positioning and a smooth surface. When digging in the garden we have found a lot of turquoise patterned old tile pieces. Our guess is that they were once in the house, perhaps in the very same room we are now tiling, as it used to be a small kitchen and not a bathroom originally. It feels good to put them up on the wall again, in a slightly different way.

bathroom old tiles

 It is important to have a design idea and here we started with the round mirror, building outwards with different tiles, like a mandala. Most of these components came out of a tile skip behind a shop.

bathroom mirror

For the bottom part of the wall we went for a swirl pattern. At first we tried just sticking the pieces on in a random design, but it looked quite ugly and had to be redone. We are looking forward to finishing this mosaic up today and have it grouted in a couple of days. It makes a huge difference to any design once it is grouted, bringing all the elements together.

 bathroom swirl

bathroom mosaic

This is the mirror above the sink,that we tiled and grouted a while back. It casts a great shadow on the wall don’t you think?

Mirror reflex.

Our house was built in 1924 and the bathroom bit was added at a later date, we think sometimes in the 1950’s or 1960’s. When we took all the tiles of the wall and knocked away the plaster we found a lovely old sash window. This was the original outside wall and we will now use the window as a feature in the bathroom, adding some shelves to it for both beauty and practicality. We had to knock out the glass as it had been glued over with old Christmas wrapping paper and painted at some stage. The window frame is in perfect dry condition, with no sign of woodworm, so we will build the shelves in a box behind it.

Knocking through.

Sash window

Natural plant supports.

Fence for Artichokes

It is that time of year again when a lot of Willows and Dogwoods need pruning. As we like to use as many natural and local materials as possible, we decided to use the prunings to make plant-supports. Our Artichokes and Cardoons grew very big last year and some of them blew over on a windy day. So a low, strong fence to go around the bed was on our wish list.  As we wanted it to last for more than one year, we used Bamboo canes as the uprights. Last year we made a few supports and used willow for the uprights, but even turned upside down, they rooted and had to be moved in the autumn. We put the uprights in quite close, about 20 centimeters apart. You need an uneven number of uprights. We then wove long straight Willow rods round and round for about 8 centimeters, left a space and wove another section higher up.

Willow fence


To finish off the top and make it extra strong, we used a slightly different technique, using two rods at a time and twisting them together as many times as possible between each upright. The Dogwood has very pretty colours so we used them as both a decorative and practical edge.

 Fence detail

For our perennial flower borders we decided to use some bushier prunings of Dogwood as natural plant-supports. If they root, we will end up with a lot of new plants in the autumn, ready to give away to friends or plant elsewhere in the garden. If they don’t root they will still have served us well as supports and can go on the compost heap at the end of the season.

planting and willow

planting and willow 014

We also planted some evergreen spring flowering Clematis recently, that we picked up in a sale. As clematis love sun but like to have their roots in shade we made a small basket like willow structure to go around the base of each one.

Clematis support.

 One of our cats was adamant to be included in today’s photographs so here goes…

Tea at fence.

Whole bed and Tea.

Tea in action.