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.

 

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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.

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We’re famous.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.