The finished passageway. 

So, lets take about our passageway. First off, so that you know what space I am talking about: You know the huge barn door/gate in front of the house that I´ve painted and repainted in the past months? If you open that gate, you are standing in the passageway that leads into the walled garden. Above is what used to be a hayloft and is now our attic room. This space was a huge mess when we bought the house. The photo was taken in 2012 when we threw a garden party in here. I know it all looks very picturesque but trust me, things were bad. The old gate was falling apart. There was a dirt floor that looked terrible, plus our cats had taken to use it as a toilet. The walls had old plaster on them that was crumbling off. It was a shame and I mostly avoided thinking about it because we didn´t have the budget to do anything about it.

Fast forward to early spring 2015. I know, I know, this is the kind of "before" picture that usually makes me roll my eyes. *Everything* looks bad in a blurry picture taken with flash. Anyway it´s all I got so bear with me.
We got a new gate in 2013 which was such a relief. Otherwise, things were pretty much the same.

The plaster situation was really bad. This is the kind of cheap plaster that got used a lot in Eastern Germany. It´s the reason why people associate Eastern Germany with grey villages (although that has changed a lot). Originally I wanted to have the walls in here re-plastered so that I could paint everything white. It would have brightened the space up quite a bit. However the estimates for repairing the plaster came in at about 5,000 Euro which was way more than we wanted to spend on the space. Doing it ourselves was not an option because we aren´t completely crazy. What we could do ourselves though was to get rid of the old plaster altogether. So that´s what we did. I mean, it was mostly my husband who scraped and hammered and scrubbed for weeks while I cheered him on and provided snacks and coffee.
Side note: See that walled-up window? One of the secrets of this old house. It´s in the room that is now our library/my home office. The previous owners had it closed up but sort of forget to take care of the outside. Charming.

These pictures are from Easter this year. The brick walls are bare (such an improvement!) and we started on a new cobble stone floor. That project was intense. We borrowed a tractor from a neighbor which helped a lot with digging out the foundation. The cobble stones were provided for free by another neighbor which helped to keep the costs down.

After!! Yay! So much better. Double exclamation marks are usually one of my pet peeves but I feel they are appropriate here. !!
(Also, in case you wonder why there´s a chainsaw in almost all of these pictures, I cannot provide an answer except that my husband is very much into chainsawing things. Men!)

I love the bare brick walls. I was hesitant at first because with the new cobble stone floor, there are a lot of old stones now in one place. However, I think the combination works just fine.

As for the window, we came up with this solution. We had that old metal frame window lying around so voila, a window without a view! Love it.
All in all, this whole project came in at about 1,000 Euro. Not so bad for such a transformation! One more thing crossed of the list.


Surrounded by sunflowers. 

Our village is surrounded by vast fields. Every year there is a different crop - I think so far we have had corn (not very pretty), rye (pretty enough), barley (very pretty) and this year "our" farmers are growing sunflowers (beautiful!). I nearly fainted when I heard the news in spring. I had hoped for sunflowers for the past four years! 

However, as it turns out, it is super hard to photograph the village *and* the sunflowers, especially since sunflowers follow the sun and when the light is pretty in the evening, they are looking in the wrong direction. Here´s proof: 

Yeah, well. 

Anyway I did manage to take a few decent shots even if I had to fight my way through half a field of sunflowers (very scratchy plants, by the way) and then hold the camera high above my head because those sunflowers are taller than me! Worth it. 

And then I took a few home with me as a revenge (don´t tell the farmers). Also, should you ever plan to walk into a field of sunflowers, don´t under any circumstances wear sandals (ouch). You´re welcome.


A Garden trip to England: Scotney castle. 

We had a few hours on our third day in England before we had to rush to the airport, so we decided to visit Scotney Castle which came highly recommended by my mother. Scotney actually consists of two houses - the ruins of the "old castle" in the valley and the "new castle" on the top of the hill. Here´s a bit more background on the history.

When the former owners decided to build the "new castle", they partially destroyed the "old castle" because apparently back then it was trendy to have a ruin in your garden. While I think it is somewhat decadent to destroy a perfectly good castle I also kind of get it since it really is an enchanting and very romantic place.

There are dozens (hundreds?) of azalea and rhododendron bushes on the hill leading up to the "new castle". I am sure it looks fantastic when they are in bloom.

The "new castle" is open to the public. It´s a lovely house, reminded me a bit of Downton Abbey. In houses like this, I am always particularly fascinated by the servant´s quarter. For example, the kitchen at Downton Abbey is just perfect - right?

The British and their love for vibrant color. This blue was everywhere and it was so lovely. Pretty sure it´s a Farrow & Ball color, any guesses?

Scotney also has a giant walled garden that used to provide the house with vegetables and cutting flowers. It´s still quite lovely these days, very orderly and everything done by the book. And I loved that scarecrow!

All in all, such a good trip - we´ll be back for sure! So many gardens still to visit in England.


A Garden trip to England: Charleston and Monks House.

I am trying to wrap up my garden trip posts real quick now so that I can blog about other things! The last post of this series is (hopefully) coming up on Friday, and today´s post is about the second day of our garden trip to England when we went to see Charleston and Monk´s House.

As for gardens, there probably would have been a dozen more exciting destinations nearby. But after reading this wonderful book last year, I really wanted to see Monk´s House and since Charleston is nearby, it made sense to go there as well. A Bloomsbury day, so to say.

Because of the tricky opening hours, we went to see Charleston first.We arrived around noon and it was super sunny so not the best condition to take pictures, but I hope you get an idea anyway. Incidentally, Gardenista recently posted a Charleston garden tour with much nicer pictures so do hop over there as well!

The most interesting thing about Charleston is the house, really. It reminded me a lot of the Münterhaus with all the painted furniture and the murals etc. If you visit, make sure to pre-book one of the guided tours which are really great.

But Charleston also has a really nice, small-ish garden that both my friend and I loved. It truly is a "painter´s garden" with a great sense for color and texture.

One thing to take away from the garden at Charleston is the exuberant use of white flowers. It made everything seem so light and bright. Really lovely.

So, yes, definitely do visit Charleston if you are in the area.

Then we went to see Monk´s House and alas, it was very disappointing. I really, really love that book but it is a good example that pictures can lie. First of all, the garden is tiny. Like, really tiny. You´ve seen everything in 30 minutes, including the few rooms in the house that are open to the public. That was the first surprise.

The second surprise was that the garden looked tired and frankly, neglected. Maybe it was just a bad day, but still, I was very disappointed. I know that people who visit Monk´s House are usually interested in all things Virginia and not so much the garden, but still... disappointing.

And that was the second day of our garden trip!


The veggie garden, July edition.

Plenty of produce coming out of the garden these days - the first carrots and beets, sugar snaps, cucumbers, cauliflower, zucchini, fennel, salad... so good. And it doesn´t hurt that the garden looks really pretty, too.

The tomatoes aren´t there, yet. I wonder how much of a success these will be... I mostly planted cherry tomatoes this year which need a lot more space than I thought and it´s really getting crowded in the beds. The marigolds don´t help but again, they look really pretty. 

Sugarsnaps, cucumbers, fennel and basil happily growing in one bed. Also, see the black hose? My heroic husband built me a drip irrigation system for all of the beds so NO MORE WATERING THE VEGGIE GARDEN. Huzzah. 

One of my goals this year was to add more colors to the veggie garden. I planted marigolds, cosmos, nasturtiums and a few wildflower seed blends. It´s not all blooming yet but it does look promising. 

Parnips, carrots, onions, garlic. Such a good combination, very happy with this bed. 

The potatoes are looking promising, too. Did you know that for a while, people grew poatoes for their flowers? I can see why! 

The cabbage bed is a joy every single year. Cabbage seems to love our soil. Also I tried growing sweet peas just for cutting. They´re growing well but not a lot of flowers yet. I have a feeling that trellis wasn´t the best choice. You live, you learn.  

Hi, butternuts! You seem to enjoy your new digs in the cold frame. Now grow some nice pumpkins, will you?