Sitting on the back doorstep

Sitting on the back doorstep, hopefully in some early morning sun, a cup of tea in hand; waking up, coming round to the day, drifting off in that early morning head haze – coming round to tasks and jobs at hand, by which time I’ve usually progressed to coffee. This is my favourite place to sit and start my day.

I live in an old house, with old crumbling cobbled walls. I live in the centre of a town, a minute or two’s walk to the sea.

The garden is a walled garden, a secret garden if you will.

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This last month has seen major work on the garden, years of neglect due to building work but finally the space is transformed, to our secret garden where we can sit and relax, enjoy some shelter from the sea breezes, the hustle of work and  the bustle of life.

We have dug, and levelled, shovelled and shovelled. All the garden waste has to go through the house, through the sitting room, into the kitchen and then out the door and up the steps. And of course anything that is needed in the garden goes through the same journey but in reverse. Can I tell you that there has been a lot of shovelling and levelling, a lot of climbing those stairs, and a lot of tea drunk. I mean A LOT. YES LOTS.

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I had an idea a few years ago. I knew what I wanted. A few sketches and scribbles on graph paper and the plan was done. Wait a few years while the building work is completed. Show the plans to your loved one and what you see is the translation of my sketches.

The planting is nearly there, a few more gaps to fill, a couple of areas to complete but the basics are laid down.  From the house there are steps down onto a deck that with time will age a silvery-grey, and where I sit. There is a table and chair but I like to sit on the steps, leaning against the wall and gazing. To my right there is a pond, I can see progress with the Water Lilly’s new leaves emerging. To my left, a bed of tulips on their last hurrah. Down some steps to a crushed shell path, that in the photos looks whiter than it is – a mix of shells – light pinks, tans and taupe’s through to white, gives us a level path to potter along, a way to wend towards the back of the garden.

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The old Magnolia tree, is at the heart of the garden, it gives us and our neighbours a delight, from the big blooms in early Spring and acid yellow-green new leaves to the dappled shade of summer. And onto the back, a black painted potting bench and woodshed, and yes the Blue Wall and the Terracotta pots. The blue is taken from the Majorelle Gardens in Morocco,  a truly inspirational garden set in the heart of Marrakech. We had to replace the dilapidated fence and wall at the back, and this was our bright idea. A Blue that works in this temperate climate. Doesn’t dull with grey low light in winter but bounces brightness and light around in summer.

We’ve reached the end of the garden for now, there will be a bench there at the back, under another sail, there is lighting for warm evenings to be finished too. And at some stage a wire trellis to conjure up above the low cobbled wall for climbers to clamber along. It will happen, but not just yet, time out is needed from the physical work to enjoy what we have here and now.


I keep looking and looking – seeing bare soil and titchy plants (most of the planting is new). Patience and imagination are needed. One day alchemilla mollis will froth and fizz, one day the herbs will have settled into their new space, tumbling over onto the crushed shell path, one day the Alliums will have spread, the ferns settled and the Euphorbias grown and grown. Lots of leaves, colours and shapes, textures and light. A garden for the senses, a garden for this gardener’s soul.

This post is a part of the collective farmy fellowship posts  at the kitchensgarden– Celi suggested we do a show and tell,  showing our own view from our own spaces, wherever you are in the world and whatever you see share it. My friends Chica and Misky, Lynda and Mandy have joined in so far, why don’t you?



  • Claire, what a magnificent and peace filled lovely view you have – fantastic! I would love to enjoy copious amounts of tea with you in this beautiful serene setting.
    Thanks for the link love and have a wonderful weekend.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  • A magnolia tree! Yes, it’s a tree that I’ve always wanted, and now that we’re about to tip the garden upside down, I might just request a magnolia tree to balance my little knobbly umbrella willow. And that blue is the colour of heaven, I reckon. Gorgeous, Claire.

  • Just adore the blue wall … stunning – and I can imaging who grand all the flowers will be against it .. very soon. I would love to join you for a morning cup of coffee … just to sit in silence … and let the time pass by. Lovely post. Thanks for sharing your sanctuary.

  • What a lot of work and so much tea! Stunning garden and another fan here for your blue wall. it is such fun to see sll these gardens, like a virtual National Gardens Scheme 🙂

  • That looks like a really cosy little haven to come home to – I love the shell path and pebbles used in the walls. I can also visualise the herbs of days to come overflowing those beds. Love it Claire-thanks for the inside view!

  • What a lovely, nurturing space you have created here and it all bega with ideas pencilled on paper. May you have thousands of mornings to sit and soak in beauty and peace.

  • Oh wow Claire, you (two) have really done an amazing job on what was already a beautiful space. Gosh, the hard work that must have taken and I was moaning that we’ll have to take things through the flat in Bexhill (and it’s all on one level)! That blue really is amazing, maybe that will be the colour for our new front door…you need to show us the magnolia in bloom (or did I miss it, I’ll go back). I was blown awya in England by all the beautiful magnolias people had in their front gardens….fabulous!

  • Hi Claire, I love this challenge and your back garden looks lovely. I couldn’t think of anything worse than traipsing through my house with buckets of dirt. Surviving that deserves a gold medal (and a lovely garden).

  • I love your garden and right now I’m glad I’m not planting anything as the weather has been so changeable. Going from the mid 80s down below freezing in very short periods of time. Yesterday, we were in shorts, a few hours later, rain and wind and it was 60 deg F. I’d be tearing out my hair if I had to bring trays of seedlings back and forth in fear of them all being killed.

  • The garden is looking fantastic. I am so so pleased for you that you finally reached the point to be able to give it some love and attention and achieve this beautiful space. Your garden is back to being your garden (and then some 🙂 ) I LOVE the blue wall – that shade of blue always conjures up memories of Majorelle for me. Yes it was hard work but look what you have achieved! Now sit back, on your step and enjoy 🙂 xx

  • Having lived in a house with a similar arrangement – anything inbound or outbound from the garden having to go all the way through the house from the front door – I have massive appreciation for what you’ve accomplished. Your space is very special, and it’s easy to see how it will become only more so, through the years, as the plants mature. Enjoy every morning you have there!

  • It is not the end destination which counts but the journey, isn’t it! And in spite of logistics you seem to have achieved quiet satisfaction all along the way . . . A lovely personal peaceful haven, and I DO envy you that gnarled magnolia tree. Have a ‘minature’ grandiflora about four years old and finally friendly enough to bloom [even if at crazy unseasonable times!]. Love Celi’s initiative . . . it has borne grand fruit!!

  • Outdoor spaces are simply the best, and the one you have created is terrific. However much hard work you put into it is well worth it and will, I’m sure, give you much pleasure. Go fix a cup of tea and enjoy it.

  • Do hope you’ll go on writing about your garden, and keeping us up to date… one of my favourite things – reading abut other people’s gardens – and other people’s food.. where they drink their coffee, and eat a summer supper… it all sounds so charming in this post…

  • what a lovely serene garden you have there! Just gorgeous 🙂 Especially love that shade of blue on the wall, it creates a great contrast to your beautiful plants.

  • Very nice views… a shame you have to drag things through the house. I suppose there’s no path around…

  • Sitting on the back step seems like a lovely place to view your dream-come-true secret garden. What an idyllic refuge! Thanks for sharing your “space!”

  • As lovely as the garden is, I can’t fight the urge to gush over the blue wall and white rocks that set everything else off so magnificently!

    • Gush away my friend, gush gush gush 🙂 If you like the blue wall then you will love the Marjarelle garden in Morocco – that’s where the inspiration for the blue comes from

  • Love your secret walled garden…so peaceful and beautiful. And I also love your header…what a shot of that tulip, a real stunner! Thanks for sharing your view, Claire.

    • Hi there Betsy, thank you for your kind words, I like sitting there in the evenings, when all is quiet, except for the trickle of water I hear from the pond – it’s such a peaceful space in the midst of a busy town. x

    • what a lovely thought – gardens certainly do teach and I know I certainly become very attached to mine! Hope you are having a super day

  • Claire, I too love that blue wall. I find blue in the garden refreshing, and used a similar color on my well house door. It makes me smile every time I look at it.

    I will look forward to future updates on your lovely garden!

    • Ah, the pond, she hangs her head in shame….. I haven’t quite got the knack of water gardening, I really need to spend some time working on that one. Hope all is well with you Inger x

  • You are such an amazing garden. There is such an art to being able to co-locate planets. You’ve got it!

    • I think the patience is wearing thin around here, mind you I’ve been shoving in lots of herbs to fill in the gaps – got have something edible around here 🙂

  • So love the secret garden. I love the blue wall and the magnolia and the cobbled wall–wonderful! I hear Dickon whistling…

    • Oh Alice, Dickon !! On my allotment I have a friendly robin and Blackbird, they follow me around waiting to catch the early worm 🙂

    • We’ve had a fantastic 3 weeks of hot sunny weather, the kind we haven’t had for a few years, so we’ve been able to sit out in the evenings, without resorting to five layers of jumpers! It’s been a delight

      • Ahhhhh jumpers!! I LOVE your word for sweaters! Whenever i used that word up north no one had a clue what I meant. Hahaha and down here you say sweater and people are like, “whaaa??” Its too hot for those things!
        Seriously I do miss a good woolen!

  • What an oasis you have Claire, it really is beautiful. My favourite is the magnolia tree, and its gorgeous saucer like blooms. I even love it when the blooms gently glide to the ground covering it like pink snow.

    • Thank you Linda, I’m currently trawling through loads of photos from this summer and I can’t believe how much the garden has grown and all the soil covered under leaves. I must get to it and write a post or two to update us all! Hope you have a super week x

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