Midsummer in the Edwardian House

IMG_2388Here we are in midsummer and as you can see the front garden is going well.

IMG_2366The lavenders are enormous and attract so many bees. I counted a total of 36 bees on the four plants this afternoon when I was watering them. Mostly the big bumble bees but some honey bees too.

IMG_2107I cut some of the lavender and have hung it to dry. Ruby inspecting.

IMG_2368The Japanese anemones (Pretty Lady Susan) are in flower.

IMG_2364As are the hydrangeas.

IMG_2365The Lisaura will flower in late summer.

IMG_2146 (1)Here is one of the lilies from our friend Mindy, who brought the bulbs from her own garden in Portland, Oregon when she and her husband John came to stay and look after the cats for us last year.

IMG_2367The two larger types of Japanese anemones (Montrose) are budding.

IMG_2296Out the back, the fern garden is looking good. I have put bark chips down to help keep the soil moist and the weeds at bay.

IMG_2291I tidied up the corner down the side of the house by the gate for my garden tools and bought this storage box. This was where the pile of logs had sat since the giant silver birch was cut down when we first moved in. On the weekend I moved the logs across the road to our neighbours as they have a wood burning fire and can make good use of them next winter.

26308181325_ff0fc6651d_oNow, here is a photo of the back garden from a few months ago, complete with squirrel stealing the bird food. As you can see the garden was a bit of a mess. Everything was neglected and overgrown, there was bindweed and brambles/blackberry bushes everywhere. The first thing that I did was cut back a lot of the vegetation behind the birdbath there, which I blogged about in my last post. It was a kind of privet growing in amongst the holly tree. I cut it all back and it took several weeks to get rid of all the cuttings in our garden waste bin. I also started to clear the garden beds.

IMG_1851This is that back right hand corner after I cleared it and dug away a lot of the soil. The original plan was to get quotes for a new fence along the back but, as you can see, there is a bit of a rock retaining wall here and the soil level has risen with all the years of leaf litter from the trees, meaning that the fence is buried about a foot under ground level and would take major excavation work to remove.

IMG_1855Here you can see what bad condition the back fence was in. The missing palings, however, were good for the hedgehogs, as they need to be able to roam freely between gardens to feed and breed.

IMG_1856Further along you can see that part of the fence has caught fire at some point in the past. Also the position of the neighbour’s shed means that access to replace this section of the fence would be almost impossible.

IMG_1854The same goes for the structure in our other neighbour’s garden.

IMG_1884My solution was to attach brush screening to the fence to create a more pleasant looking boundary. I also cut back some of the lower branches of the giant yew tree in the garden behind ours.

IMG_2396It makes a big difference, so I plan to put some more along the fence along this side too. In the back corner you can see that I have planted some ivy to obscure the low breeze block retaining wall. I have also planted some Spotted Laurels and small cypress trees and continue to weed the garden beds. The lighter-coloured and variegated foliage on these plants will be an effective foil to the dark green of the yew, holly and conifers that dominate the rest of the garden.

IMG_2148This was taken a few weeks later and you can see that the privet is growing back nicely and the holly looks much neater with all the lower branches removed. If you look closely you will also see the neighbour’s cat keeping a watchful eye on proceedings from the roof of the shed.



I kept a section of the screening open for the hedgehog to get through.


IMG_1916Here is a shot of the hedgehog. We haven’t seen him for a few weeks but they do have a big territory. Unfortunately hedgehogs are not very good at crossing roads, so we hope he is OK.

IMG_1928Down the other side of the house I have been tidying things up too. There is still a lot of weeding to do here too.

IMG_1848By the back door I have weeded and cleared the beds and planted hydrangeas, the old fashioned mop-head variety. What with the crazy paving and rockery borders, this is a very mid-century garden so I am continuing the theme with what I call “granny plants”.

IMG_1847Also geraniums, pink and white.

IMG_2130This was my latest purchase. Combined with the strimmer I bought a few weeks ago, I have started to tackle the grass.


IMG_2308After the first mowing. It almost looks like a real garden!

IMG_2314Cat updates. Hello from Oliver – I think he needs to do more to relax.

IMG_2041The same goes for Ruby, pictured here during our recent heatwave.

IMG_2257And Rose. She is playing with the catnip mouse – the look in her eyes says it all.

Early Summer in the Edwardian House

IMG_1079Here we are in early summer. There have been a good few warm days so far and also some very heavy rain yesterday. This means that the garden is having an explosive growth spurt. All of the spring bulbs are spent, as are the primroses, although a few yellow pansies remain.

IMG_1081Hydrangea with new growth.

IMG_1082The lavenders have doubled in size.

IMG_1085Hydrangea at the other end of the garden bed also looking healthy.

IMG_1084Last week I planted this new Japanese maple to replace the other one that was planted last year. This one has more robust leaves so I hope it will withstand the exposed position a little better. The other one kept drying out as its leaves were like little feathers.

IMG_2210This is what the front garden looked like a year ago when we were right in the middle of Stage 2 of the renovation.

IMG_2225It’s good to look at photos like this and see how far we have come.

IMG_0997Out the back the fern garden is coming along nicely. You can see that I have moved the Japanese maple with the delicate leaves to this more protected postion.

IMG_1010The view from the kitchen window is improving. Avert your eyes from the crazy paving path and the leaning fence. All in good time…

IMG_9809With the new fern garden in place, we decided it was time to scatter the ashes of dear old Doris and Orlando. Doris died in Australia in 2009 and Orlando in Liverpool in 2011.

IMG_9810We scattered their ashes in the garden bed around the Dicksonia Antarctica fern that was imported from Australia.

IMG_0369Doris and Orlando loved their fern garden back in Australia, so it’s only fitting that they should have one here in the UK too. You can also see a more mature Dicksonia Antarctic tree fern that Doris is lying under on the left of the photo.

IMG_9638Oliver and Ruby are well.

IMG_9817As is Rosie, who had her fifth birthday in late April.

IMG_0919I finally got around to framing this limited edition print by the artist Paul Bommer which illustrates Christopher Smart’s poem “For I will consider my cat Jeoffrey”.

IMG_0921It was one of the first things I bought for the Edwardian House when we moved in.


It’s a great piece and I could look at it for hours.

IMG_0922It is in the breakfast room right next to the cat tree.


In the back garden I have cleared one corner that was dominated by an overgrown holly tree and a shrub underneath it. The entire back fence will need to be replaced so I am just trying to clear it enough for access. The soil level is quite high here too as this was an old garden refuse heap, so we will need to do some digging to lower the ground level.

IMG_0985The lawn hasn’t been cut for three years, though I am managing to get a handle on controlling the bindweed that used to grow in the beds by the compost bin.

IMG_0981I am also tackling the other pest – the blackberries. It’s just about keeping the whole back garden under control until we can re-landscape it.IMG_0984At least you can still see the path down the other side of the house.


The wall of ivy has this year’s new growth too.

IMG_1002Our neighbour’s beautiful lawn. If only we could annexe her garden somehow…

IMG_9684Grey squirrel helping herself to the bird food.

IMG_0936In the guest bedroom we have replaced the single bed with a double, in preparation for summer guests.


In other news, we had a nice time on our holiday to the Cote d’Azur.

IMG_0027We stayed in Nice.

IMG_0364Lovely views from the Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill).

IMG_5904We had a day where we drove along the Grande Corniche past Eze, Monaco and Menton and went into Italy.

IMG_5912Eze from the Grande Corniche.

IMG_6121Dolceacqua in Italy.

IMG_0048We visited Renoir’s house in Cagnes-sur-Mer.

IMG_0069Built around the same time as the Edwardian House it was great to see that Renoir also had a quarry tile floor in the kitchen.

IMG_0070It’s just like ours except his tiles are hexagonal and ours are square.


Interestingly, when I visited Monet’s house in Giverny last year with Frogdancer, he also had a quarry tile floor. I’m glad we kept ours.





Spring in the Edwardian House

IMG_9732This is the first Spring for the front garden since it was completed. For early colour I recently planted some primroses and pansies.

IMG_9727Also emerging are some of Paddy Fraser’s old bulbs that must have still been in the soil.

IMG_9733Paddy’s daffodils among the primroses. In fact, I also transplanted the fuchsia primrose in the centre of the picture from the back garden, so that was Paddy’s as well.

IMG_9728The Japanese Maple is coming back to life, as are the hydrangeas.

IMG_9719The lavenders are looking healthy and strong and will really take off this year.

IMG_9718Not being an avid gardener, this front garden is a manageable size for me.

IMG_0230How the front garden looked before we began the renovation.

IMG_9702Not so manageable is the generally untouched back garden, or ‘hedgehog sanctuary’, as we like to call it. Last week I rearranged the old pavers to form temporary stepping stones to the bird bath and bird feeder in one direction, and the compost bin in the other. The grass is a soggy, muddy, mossy mess and will have to go one day when the garden reaches the top of our budgetary priorities. I envisage a large area of paving for a BBQ and outdoor seating surrounded by lush garden beds. The back garden is far too shady for a healthy lawn to grow.

IMG_9706Last weekend I also dug out the path at the side of the house again, as it was covered in fir needles and there were bluebells sprouting through the cracks. Down by the dining room’s French doors the camellia is looking very healthy and has a profusion of buds. The fuchsias are starting to leaf and that shrub on the right is starting to flower (not sure what it is).

IMG_9714In the spirit of tackling the garden in small, manageable bits, today I planted the fern garden on the other side of the house. You may remember that this was created in Stage 2 of the renovation. Originally a servant’s courtyard, this space was paved and gave access to the Edwardian coal store and servant’s toilet, which now form part of the breakfast room, utility room and downstairs toilet. Before and after pics here.

IMG_9696Among the plants in the fern garden I planted this, a Dicksonia Antarctica. It’s a tree fern from Australia.

IMG_9695It has been imported from Victoria and when I opened the box it smelt exactly like the Dandenong Ranges National Park.



Here are some tree ferns growing in the last fern garden we planted – 11 years ago in our old house back in Australia. Goodness the sun was bright back there.

IMG_9715This is a much smaller fern garden than that one though, but it is what I can see from my kitchen window and will look lovely when it is established.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 1.49.00 pmI was also wondering why the blog was experiencing a spike in hits recently, then I found this link referral on an American website.

Screen Shot 2016-04-09 at 1.49.16 pm

We’re famous.


Property Maintenance (and some cats photos at the end)

IMG_9500A couple of weeks ago I looked up at the ceiling in the entrance hall and saw this. Guess what’s directly above? The en suite shower room. I had completed some overzealous cleaning of the shower a few days before and hoped that the stain was perhaps from something like a small gap in the floor tile grouting where I has spilled water. When I got my tape measure out though, the stain sat directly underneath the shower drain outlet above.

IMG_9501Upstairs I prodded the drain where it sits in the shower tray and there was water underneath the rim. When I unscrewed the drain section I could see that all the silicone inside it had expired and was wet and mouldy. At the same time I felt the drainpipe drop away from the shower base towards the ceiling below. Ooops. I called P the plumber and asked him about it. Without seeing it he said that he didn’t think the drain would be the culprit as they are basically fitted and then sealed and shouldn’t ever pose a problem. He suggested that perhaps some of the silicone around the base of the shower might be faulty.


It was true that there were a few places where the silicone had started to come away, so we decided that I would dry out the shower and strip away all the silicone and P would come by later in the week to seal it all up. I cut away all the silicone and then prepped the surface by cleaning it with white spirit.

IMG_9506As I pulled the drain section apart I also discovered the rubber drain seal was all mouldy. This confirmed my belief that the drain had been leaking, all that mould doesn’t form overnight. I gave it a good clean.

Luckily we had the shower in the top floor bathroom to use while we waited for P the plumber. After using it a couple of times though, I noticed water coming from under the base of that shower too! Again I prodded the drain and there was water under that rim as well. P the plumber was very busy and a few days had passed. I had some silicone in the house and I have siliconed a shower base before, it just looked a bit messy, so I thought I would give it a try. I started by siliconing around the rim of the the top floor shower drain. When next we used it there was no leak! Emboldened, I decided to tackle the en suite shower too. It was a bit more difficult as there was quite a large gap between the shower base and the tiled walls, but I managed it in the end. I also re-sealed the drain, screwing it all together and re-siliconing it, making sure that there was a light ring of silicone around the rim too. Two weeks later and we are still leak free!

IMG_9540Continuing our theme of water and property maintenance, last week we had some major storms. Whenever it rains heavily I like to check that all the drains and gutters are flowing freely. The cascade coming from the gutter at the back of the house told me we had some problems. The gutter on the roof below it was overflowing too.

The next day, when it was dry, I inspected the lower gutter and downpipe. The plastic leaf guards that we had fitted in the mouths of the downpipes last year were blocking too quickly and easily. I cleared out the one I could reach with my step ladder. When I tested the downpipe with the garden hose though, it was still overflowing. The problem was underground, so I pulled the downpipe out of ground to inspect the pipe. Sure enough it was blocked with a mixture of silt and tiny fragments of terracotta roof tiles – when the roof was being repaired last year the gutters weren’t protected, so all the debris had been washed down the pipes. Underground drain clearing can be expensive, we know that from our experiences with our last house. Luckily I remembered that we had a Wet-and-Dry Vax machine under the stairs that we used in our last house when the cellar flooded (what is it about our houses and water?), so I though it would be worth a try. I brought the Vax out into the back garden and shoved the hose down the drainpipe and switched it on. A combination of vacuuming and hosing with water brought up about a cubic foot of debris. When I tested it again, all was draining properly! No pictures to show you of that episode, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

I couldn’t reach the rest of the gutters and downpipes so I needed to call in a professional.


Today A, the window and gutter guy, came by. He inspected and cleared out the rest of the blocked gutters and removed the offending leaf guards. He could even reach the valley gutter between the two gable roofs of our house and the neighbours, which I had been worried about for some time. There was evidence of it having flooded some time in the past, as there had been blown plaster on the walls of the master bedroom before we renovated. It is far less likely to happen now as the giant silver birch has gone, and we maintain the house, but it still worried me, so I was glad that A was able to get up there with his ladder and clear it out. It was a long way up and looked precarious, but A’s other job is as a fireman, so he knew what he was doing. He even repaired some of the gable tiles and resealed where the downpipe goes through.


Another of the gutters to block easily was the one at the front of the house way up above the front door. Here you can see it flooding in last week’s storm (the picture was taken from the window of the top floor bathroom).

IMG_9663Along this line of gutter, A installed gutter-brushes (which are like long bottle-brushes) to prevent leaves settling in the future.

IMG_9662As A also does window cleaning with special equipment, he was able to reach the really high windows that our regular window cleaner can’t reach. It was the first time the leaded windows along the top flight of stairs have been cleaned, which is great. As you can see, those windows are at the level of other houses chimney pots.

IMG_9659Ruby was fascinated by all the goings on.

IMG_9651Rose seemed pretty relaxed.

IMG_9638And here is one of Oliver and Ruby from yesterday. As you can see, they are not allowed on the kitchen benches.

Final Carpet Installation

Today we had the last of the carpet installed on the stairs, hallways and landings.

IMG_9028And also in the creepy top floor cupboard. View 1, before.

IMG_9030And View 2.


IMG_2739 - 2013-06-11 at 17-21-27

This is why it’s known as the creepy top floor cupboard. Remember how it looked a couple of years ago? Complete with the old header tank, lead pipes, gas light fitting, woodworm, cobwebs, 1920s newspapers, collapsing ceiling and that little hole into the roof I lost the cats in?

IMG_9066Just look at it now! It could almost be another bedroom, or a least a box room (as tiny bedrooms are called in this country) for our steam trunks, portmanteaux and the like. We use it for general storage, which actually does include our suitcases.

IMG_9069It was a bit dark when I took these but you get the idea.


IMG_9031Top floor landing, View 1.



IMG_9034Top floor landing, View 2.


IMG_9208Reading corner on the landing.


Heading down the top flight of stairs.


You get the idea.


IMG_9039Looking back up again.


IMG_9043First floor landing and hallway looking in the direction of the servants landing and maid’s bedroom beyond.

IMG_9198And now.

IMG_9046View from the servants landing.



IMG_9050Back towards the main staircase.


IMG_9041View from Bedroom 1.

IMG_9202The closest I got to a matching picture.

IMG_9051View from my study.



You may recall that I painted this flight of stairs last year.


IMG_9185It was always going to be a temporary measure but I had planned to have a runner fitted to this flight so that all my efforts painting the stairs wouldn’t go to waste.

IMG_9188A word of advice though, don’t plan to fit a carpet runner on stairs that go around corners.

IMG_9187It is possible but the geometry of it was doing the fitters’ heads in. Mine too. It was impossible to get the runner looking even, particularly when there are also asymmetrical sides to the staircase (in this case the wall on one side and the newel post on the other).

IMG_9211Looks great though, even without the runner.




IMG_9233Inspection crew. It is no coincidence that the carpet is the same colour as the cats’ fur – the lighter carpet in the bedroom tends to get a “grey sheen” on it when it’s time to vacuum…

IMG_9238Pile depth tester.

IMG_9223Heading up.

IMG_9228Oliver not quite sure.


And so on.

IMG_9244Ruby checking her lookout isn’t osbcured, in fact she should be half an inch higher now.

All we need now are some blinds for the dining room and the entire interior will be complete!

Cupboard Fastenings


Recently a new visitor to the Edwardian House Renovation (hi Edd!) asked about what the door fastenings for the built-in wardrobes look like. I have taken some photos and will try to explain. This wardrobe has two doors, the ‘first closing door’ (right) and the ‘second closing’ door (left).

IMG_8996Inside the first closing door is this little vertical latch bolt.

IMG_8997When you close the first door the bolt slides up and into a notch that has been cut into the internal shelf. Also at the top of the picture above you can also see a spring catch which was designed to hold a little counterpiece attached to the second door. Ours doesn’t work as the doors don’t close as neatly as they used to, due to the countless layers of old paint preventing the doors from pushing completely closed.

IMG_8999On the second closing door is a simple knob that has a latch attached to the back


Back view.

IMG_9001You push the door closed and turn the knob to catch the latch behind the leaf of the first door. And that’s it.

Hope that helps you Edd – I must say that the modern magnetic latches you say you have on your doors might actually work a bit better than these!



An Alarming Development

IMG_9013A reassuring red light sentinel flashes on the new external siren box. The ‘first fix’ wiring was done for the alarm sytem about two years ago but it has taken us this long to get around to having the system actually fitted. The company has been so patient with us, giving us a courtesy call every six months or so. It’s one of those jobs that has to be done when everything else is complete – in particular all the decorating. For a look at what was happening back then look here.

IMG_9009Alarm system brains and communication centre.


Downstairs keypad.

IMG_9008Upstairs keypad.

IMG_9007Internal siren.

IMG_9003Passive infra red movement detectors (pet friendly).

IMG_9006Door contacts.

IMG_9005Shock and vibration detectors on windows and doors. It might all seem a bit much but we were burgled once in our old house so we are keen for it not to happen again.

Another job complete!


January in the Edwardian House


Happy new year! We had a little snow earlier this month. It started coming down one evening and we thought it would probably melt by morning.

IMG_8680It stayed for a day or so though. Not much snow admittedly but this is the most we’ve had in the two years we have been in Leicester. There was even enough for children to make snowballs. Luckily it melted before it had a chance to turn into ice on the footpaths.


We also got a new car for Christmas!

IMG_8694The bird feeder in the back garden is proving popular, particularly with the family of robins that live in the holly tree. They seem to regard it as their personal pantry and chase the other little birds away. This photo is a few weeks old – the robins now look more like tennis balls with beaks, so we think we are fueling a robin obesity crisis.

IMG_8711Ruby would love to catch one of the pigeons, which are also getting quite fat.

IMG_8746Speaking of husky animals. Oliver getting comfortable on the clean towels I had just put down for a few minutes.

IMG_8870I was looking through my January photos and realised that I hadn’t taken a picture of Rose all month! I headed upstairs immediately to rectify the situation.

IMG_8864She began to pose, as usual.

IMG_8869Time for a chin scratch.

The house priorities this year are carpet on the stairs and landings, finishing off the security systems, and  taming the back garden.

More to follow!

The Return of the Japanese Chest…or is that the Phantom Japanese Chest…

Or The Japanese Chest Awakens? With apologies to George Lucas. In truth though, there are only three Star Wars films and they ended when I was eleven years old. So there.

IMG_8473Today I went down the street to visit my friend Claire who owns the local antiques/vintage shop called The Vintage Fox, where I previously bought this. What should I find on the pavement but the Japanese chest that had spent nearly sixty years in The Edwardian House!

You can see my post about the chest here.

IMG_8474I knew I should have held onto it! Claire said she bought it from a man who occasionally drops by to offload the odd piece. I had thrown the chest into our skip when we were starting Stage Two of the renovation in April/May this year and six months later it turns up here! As I laughingly told Claire, my builder used to refer to these individuals as ‘skip rats’.