Sunshine and gardening in Derbyshire

I am lucky enough to have a wonderful grandmother who lives in the Derbyshire countryside. She has dogs and a horse and the most beautiful cottage garden, and I adore staying there. It’s a wonderful break from the stresses of ordinary life, and I can sit for hours listening to my grandmother’s anecdotes, or touring her garden with her as we talk about the many varieties of flowers, shrubs and vegetables that she grows. My grandmother is 94, and day to day she is helped by my aunt, who lives nearby. However, as my aunt is away this week I have jumped at the excuse to drive the 5 hours south and look after my granny for the week. Or is it she looking after me? It’s hard to tell. While I walk the dogs and put the hay out for Emily, Granny cooks me the most enormous meals. If it weren’t for all the walking, I’d be the same size as Emily myself by now.


My seedlings have come on holiday too. Faced with the forecast of night frosts all week for Edinburgh, I didn’t feel that I could expect my husband to bring all the seed trays in to the cold frame every night and put them all out again in the morning while I was away. So I put them all in the car and took them with me. They have been enjoying their time in my grandmother’s greenhouse very much; even four seeds of the impossible-to-germinate Cleome spinosa have been persuaded to germinate—quite some feat.


Spring advances northwards at walking pace, about 13 miles a day, and when I am in the south at this time of year it is really noticeable how far along spring has come compared with Edinburgh. While my aubretia is only just coming in to flower in Scotland, my grandmother’s is in full fling and is covered in bees. It emerges out of the beautiful dry stone walls for which Derbyshire is famous, built of old rounded stones which absorb the warmth of the sun and radiate it back across the garden, creating a hot little micro-climate that speeds spring along even further.
IMG_9952 Elsewhere in the garden, the camellia, name unknown, planted by my grandmother when she came to this house about 40 years ago, is also covered with the most beautiful carmine flowers. The bearded iris leaves face like tall green swords towards the sun, which bakes their roots the way they like them to be baked, and the drumstick primulas by the pond are at their peak while mine are still emerging from their crowns 300 miles away.IMG_9967IMG_9941IMG_9961Meanwhile, I hear that Edinburgh has also been enjoying some marvellous warmth and sunshine, and while I will be loathe to leave my idyllic retreat, my grandmother, and my three enormous meals per day, I can’t wait to get back and see how the garden has grown.

Clementine enjoying the sun in the orchard


The pond

9 thoughts on “Sunshine and gardening in Derbyshire

  1. You have been lucky with the weather. Everything here has shot up in the last week, especially the weeds.
    Isn’t the pond looking good?

  2. Off topic.. My great grandfather emigrated to USA Michigan. He came from.Derbyshire area. I have photos of family around the home and garden areas. In these photos are lovely structures he built from stones. Walls, bird feeders, garden arbors planters. We are doing some genealogy and a question has come up as to how he came to all this stone work. We knew he would go on walks to look for stones. Your mention of Derbyshire and the stone walls makes us wonder if he was nostalgic for a bit of home and so made them for a touch of England. Your photos are beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Not at all off topic! I am quite sure your great grandfather was nostalgic for the stones of his old home. I often am too!
      Derbyshire, like much of Northern England, is a county where stone is used in every possible way, not just in the building of houses, cottages, outbuildings and walls, but for gateposts, animal feeding and drinking troughs, millstones, paving, stiles, flower beds… All the farmhouses have old stone troughs full of flowers outside. My grandmother even has a large flat old stone bird bath the size of a large bench. The old stones are bedded into country life and the old ways of the Derbyshire people. Some of the stones are really ancient, and of course they last for ever, so they are just littered around in woods, old quarries, along footpaths and in fields. You should treat yourself to a Derbyshire visit and see for yourself.

  3. Bit off flower topic….my great grandfather came to USA Michigan from Derbyshire. My daughter and I have been doing some genealogy and I have some old photos we’ve been studying. He would walk and find stones. Built some lovely whimsies for my great grams yard and flower garden. Walls, bird baths, flower urns, arbor arch for roses. I was told he would sit out there and say it “took him back” Reading your blog I would bet the stone walls around Derbyshire might have been his inspiration and gave him a bit of the home country feel.
    Lovely pictures…

  4. Lovely to have that connection with your Granmother. It reminded me of time spent in my grandparents’ garden. My Gran was from Buxton. I remember (in a sunny dreamy kid kind of way) the garden being full of lavender and blackbird song. To this day I can’t hear a blackbird without thinking of them. My Grandmother would feed the birds with chopped up bacon rinds. Meanwhile I’d organise caterpillar races, and get to eat her most amazing homemade strawberry jam! I think the first time I smelt a lemon-scented pelargonium was in their lean-to.. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped to really appreciate just how much I got from being there. Thanks for posting!

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