Gone parenting

sistersHello there! I’m not getting much time to myself at the moment, as I’m sure you can appreciate, so it’s been hard to keep up to date with our tales.

I remember a friend saying “it’s not twice as hard, it’s twenty times as hard” after the arrival of her second child. I also read something recently that said when your second baby arrives you feel like you know what you are doing with the newborn but the toddler becomes more challenging in a “PUT YOUR BABY SISTER DOWN AND DO NOT FEED HER CHEERIOS” type way. Based on my short experience of being a mum to two, I completely agree with these comments! Our main challenges at the moment are the continued feeding difficulties with Imogen and potty training Seren. Neither of these things are going as well as I’d like and both are pretty logistically and emotionally draining.

On the whole though we are all getting used to being a family of four, in that Andy and I are getting used to being needed by two little people at exactly the same time and Seren is getting used to sharing us. She loves Imogen and being a big sister but has found not being top dog around here anymore tough. The best tantrum was when she slammed the front door behind me as I went back out to get Imogen out of the car. We’d just returned from swimming and I guess she was tired, hot and feeling a little sensitive as she is prone to at the moment, she wanted a cuddle which I said I would give her once I’d got Imogen inside. 99% of the time I put the door on the latch as I go back and forth to the car but of course this was the one time I hadn’t. Seren was locked inside and is too little to open the door herself. Fortunately my bag with my phone were still outside with Imogen and grandad was able to come round quickly with spare keys! Thankfully Seren was happily playing with her toys when we got in.

Hopefully things will settle down soon and the big challenges of today will be, almost, forgotten about before long.

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The garden in June

We’ve been lucky to spend quite a lot of June in the garden! Playing with the usual toys, drawing with pavement chalks, chasing bubbles, having real and pretend picnics and sliding into the paddling pool.

june garden june-garden-5There’s lots of colour at the moment, we planted out our bedding plants at the end of May and perennials such as the fuchsia and hydrangea are now flowering too. The early clematises and gorgeous aliums are now both over though along with most of the snapdragons.

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The hydrangea is now 4 or 5 times the size it was when we planted it 2 years ago!

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Perennial fuchsia and one last snapdragon.

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I have no idea what the plants below are called but I love the colours!

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The nigella is flowering too, I discovered last week during a conversation with my auntie about blue flowers that its also called ‘love in a mist’! You can see why.

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We’ve planted lots of geraniums in pots to cheer up the dreary concrete at the back of the garden and filled the hanging basket too.

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I don’t think my peony plant is going to flower alas. The buds have gone hard and pretty dead looking. The plant is from my stepmum’s garden and didn’t flower last year after we uprooted it and moved it down south. I was hopeful for flowers this year but after reading more about the plant it may take another year to get settled.

june gardenMrS picked up these ‘Stars and Stripes’ petunias and I love them!

june garden

The vintage fruit crates that we planted with climbers and bedding plants are doing well. The jasmine in one of the crates is flowering and starting to smell wonderfully.

june garden june-gardenThe climbing rose we planted last year is now flowering too. I love the mixture of pinks, corals and brighter orange colours it has.

june gardenThe passiflora has spread a lot but no flowers as yet.

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We’ve hung bird seed in coconut shells and Seren has enjoyed watching the magpies come into the garden to eat it.

june garden

Seren is also enjoying being chief strawberry and raspberry picker! Which means that as soon as something turns red she is allowed to pick them for an immediate snack. So I don’t really get to photo the ripe fruit but here are some green ones.

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We planted out the tomatoes and MrS has put a robust frame in place after last year’s crop got into a bit of a mess.

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The courgette plants have been planted out too though it would seem that they might be squash plants instead! I can’t tell yet.

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In the vegetable patch, the potatoes are flowering and the peas are growing up the canes. I think the carrots we planted in between them have been totally overshadowed – oops!

june garden

Hopefully July will bring more sunny, carefree garden days.

P.S. The garden in May

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Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

can't take my eyes of you

Image via Pinterest

It would seem that Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ is mine and Imogen’s song. I’ve been bursting out into the ‘I love you baby’ chorus when I pick her up to which she responds with a bewildered look. Like this:

bewildered

Seren’s song is ‘You Are My Sunshine’ (and to a lesser extent ‘Little Donkey’ but I try not to sing Christmas songs too much in the height of summer). Seren complained when when I song ‘her’ song to Imogen, telling me that, “no mummy, I’m the sunshine”.

MrS and I don’t actually have a song though we danced to Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ at our wedding. And I walked down the aisle to the pianist playing Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ chosen as my parents sang it to me when I was a baby!

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Hillyfields to Forty Hall Walk

Forty Hall has been getting a lot of love on these pages recently but it really is a great local place to pop to for a few hours or even as another child friendly stop on the north eastern stretch of the M25. It’s a 5 minute drive from junction 25 (as is Myddelton House Gardens and Capel Manor Gardens).

As well as wandering around the grounds there is a longer circular walk that can be done from Hillyfields and back again. Part of the walk is on the Enfield Greenways pathway which was laid last year making it super buggy friendly and the rest of it is certainly possible with a buggy you don’t mind getting a bit muddy. Hillyfields to Forty Hall is also part of Section 17 of the London Loop walk which goes from Cockfosters to Enfield Lock.

hillyfields to forty hall

Start by walking across Hillyfields from your chosen starting point in the direction of the Rose and Crown pub on Clay Hill (which claims to have been used by both Guy Fawkes and Dick Turpin as hideouts). Or before you start the walk you could pop in to Karen’s Kitchen cafe within St Luke’s church at the south east corner of Hillyfields on Phipps Hatch Lane. Karen’s Kitchen is a little child friendly, cash-only cafe serving gorgeous homemade cakes (and more substantial lunch things) open from 10am Wednesday to Saturday.

hillyfields

Hillyfields is an open grassy area with woodland and a bandstand that little ones will enjoy exploring. It’s hilly (you may have guessed that) so care needed with scooters and bikes. You can play Pooh sticks on the little bridge over Turkey Brook too! Exit Hillyfields at the north east corner and cross over Clay Hill. Enter Whitewebbs Park on the footpath down by the right hand side of the Rose and Crown pub.

hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hallThe footpath takes you all the way to Maidens Bridge, a Grade II listed bridge that runs over Turkey Brook (which used to be known as Maidens Brook). To get to Forty Hall you need to leave the pathway, not long before you get to Maidens Bridge, turning right following a worn path across the grass.

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You should then get to the ‘avenue of trees’ which runs from Forty Hall down to the Turkey Brook valley.

hillyfields to forty hall

At Forty Hall you can sit down for a rest, walk round the lake, tour the house and visit the cafe. It’s worth noting that as I write (June 2014) there is quite a bit of building work going on in the grounds around the lake.

forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hallTo complete the walk back to Hillyfields you need to find the pathway behind the Walled Garden. This path takes you down in between Forty Hall and Forty Hall Farm back to the Whitewebbs Park woodland. If there has been lots of rain or snow, this bit can be quite muddy! And last time I visited there were quite a few stinging nettles so watch out for those. We can usually see the farm’s pigs from the path but sometimes they are nearer than other times!

hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall forty hall farm

As you walk through the woodland there are signs leading you back to Hillyfields.

hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall hillyfields to forty hall

Before long you rejoin the path back to the Rose and Crown and you can head back to where you started from.

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Imogen at 1 month!

Imogen-1-monthImogen-1-monthphotos-late-spring4Top 3 photos at 1 month old, bottom 2 photos at 2 weeks old

Imogen is a whole month old already! The month has flown by, though at the same time it feels like she has always been here. I’m not too sorry to say goodbye to the fragile, anxious very-newborn days and move on to slightly more settled times.

After having such a positive, straightforward birth, we had a few issues in the first week which saw us back in hospital for 3 nights on children’s ward. The primary issue was that Imogen wasn’t feeding enough – a combination of not enough appetite, bad wind and not latching on well when breastfeeding saw her lose ‘too much’ of her birth weight in the first few days. Most babies lose some weight initially as they adjust from being fed constantly by the umbilical cord to needing to be more proactive about getting milk. She picked up a slight infection too. She had to have a feeding tube, IV fluids and IV antibiotics as well as being hooked up to a heart and oxygen monitor. The doctors carried out a variety of tests to rule out anything more serious which all came back negative thankfully. Not an experience I wish to repeat in a hurry and I was so pleased to get home to my big girl and be able to cuddle Imogen properly again without the various wires and tubes attached to her.

She is absolutely fine now, eating well and putting on weight, you can see that in the photos above taken 2 weeks apart. We still haven’t got the hang of breastfeeding so I’m expressing milk for her and she has some formula milk too. We are still trying with breastfeeding and have more success some days than others, especially when I relax about it.

Imogen at 1 month Imogen-1-month

After being super sleepy at the beginning, she is having longer periods of being awake and alert and she is just starting to follow moving objects with her eyes. She stares at the toys hanging on her chair and playmat and kicks the playmat’s bars too. I think she has made a few tentative attempts to reach out for an object with her hands though that could be a coincidence! She still has the tight newborn grasp.

photos-late-spring photos-late-springHer skin is filling out and becoming less wrinkly and is less dry and flaky too. She isn’t showing any signs of eczema or cradle cap like her sister had yet and she hasn’t started to lose her velvety hair (or fur from her ears! yet either. She has had plenty of ‘wind smiles’ but we don’t think there’s been any real ones yet! She still gets wind after feeding and is quite a sicky baby too.

photos-late-springOverall she’s pretty chilled out and settles easily, waking up once in the night to feed. Whilst half asleep she makes little grunting noises and does karate kicks. She very much likes a cuddle and can complain loudly if expected to nap on an inanimate object. So, I’m typing this one handed, laptop balanced on feeding cushion with a sleeping month old baby snuggled into my left arm, I can’t complain too much about that!

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Happy Father’s Day!

I hope all the daddies out there had a lovely day yesterday. MrS had the precious, priceless gift of a lie in having stayed out to watch the England World Cup game the night before! Plus some daddy snacks and drinks to give him the energy to keep up with a slightly manic two year old and a newborn baby.

fathers' day

fathers'-day

It’s been lovely to watch him bonding with Imogen over the last month (yep she is now a whole month and one day old!). He’s been an absolute rock to all three of us since she was born. Seren and him have been spending more time together just the the two of them, doing day to day stuff and off having adventures too. During the weekdays her first question when she wakes up is “where’s daddy?” and follows that up with “I want daddy” during the day.

Willows-Farm2 Willows Farm

Happy Father’s Day Andy, your three girls love you very much!

Father’s Day 2013

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Life in photos // late spring 2014

We went to a fun day back in April, Seren loves a bouncy castle at the moment and is quite keen on having her face painted though only sat still long enough for half a face!

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I got through quite a few craft / DIY projects before Imogen arrived including making some (very simple) curtains for the girls’ bedrooms. Seren wanted to ‘help’.

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Carpet pizza picnic at our friends’ house!

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Cakes at another friends’ house – a statuesque red velvet cake and chocolate ginger cake too.

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Imogen Lily arrived! We’ve taken a lot of photos as you can imagine.

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We’ve had a lot of visitors, piles of cards, lovely gifts and beautiful flowers too – Imogen is a lucky baby!

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My sister came to stay for a week to help us out. Seren loved having auntie Leanne around to take her for numerous park trips and to play out in the garden with. In the photo on the right Seren is demonstrating to Leanne how to catch a ball!

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We’ve had more time than usual in the house. Seren has been pretty good at entertaining herself, she’s been playing on her piano a lot and putting her dressing up box to good use.

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She’s also enjoying being a big sister!

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And we’ve all been enjoying getting outside when it’s not raining. We had our first BBQ last weekend! A super low maintenance one with most of the food cooked in the oven and finished on the BBQ for that smokey flavour. It seemed much less stressful that way! And a berry custard tart to finish.

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We finally escaped from the house for a trip to Myddelton House.

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Life in photos // early spring

Follow me on Instagram for more photos! http://instagram.com/sianlittlestarandme

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Early summer at Myddelton House Gardens

myddelton house myddelton houseWe had our first family-of-four outing last Friday. Just a local trip to Myddelton House Gardens as we wanted to a) not go very far; b) have minimal financial outlay, as we didn’t know if we’d have to rush home if it all got too much! I’ve written about Myddelton House before after our visit last summer, the house used to be the home of botanist E.A. Bowles and the restored gardens are open to the public along with a small museum and cafe. It’s 5 minutes from Junction 25 of the M25 if you are looking for a free ‘stretch your legs’ stop on the north east section of the motorway.

The good news is that we survived the visit and had a pleasant couple of hours. We even bumped in to a couple of friends too – I love that about local trips! We did have a couple of stressful moments when I totally lost Seren in the shrubbery (daddy found her) and then when Imogen needed feeding and Seren needed a nappy change at the same time but we tag-teamed for that. I guess when I’m on my own, the nappy can wait!

We tried out the buggy board on our Bugaboo Bee for the first time and Seren enjoyed riding on it. Hopefully that will translate well to longer, more purposeful journeys! She’s still been sitting in the Bee in toddler mode until recently and had a moment of “that’s my buggy!” when she saw Imogen in it for the first time but now she says that they are sharing it which seems OK with her.

myddelton house myddelton houseWe spent some time looking at the ducks and the carp in the lake and watching other people feed them (there is a machine selling fish food but we didn’t have the necessary 20p, note for next time). You can just about see the carp in the 3rd photo below.

myddelton house myddelton house myddelton houseWe played hide and seek in the old market cross.

myddelton houseWe wandered in the poppies, planted to commemorate this year’s 100 year anniversary of the start of the First World War. We (well, I) considered using Poppy as Imogen’s middle name instead of Lily due to the anniversary. They have also planted barley on the Tulip Terrace to commemorate the campaign to grow vital food supplies as imports were cut off. The government took over 3 million acres of land to use as farm land in 1917-1918, any area that could be converted to grow food was used.

myddelton house myddelton houseI enjoyed looking at the other seasonal flowers and getting some inspiration for our garden. I especially loved the peonies and foxgloves.

myddelton house myddelton houseWe finished with an ice lolly before heading home. I’m flying solo with both kids as of today! Wish me luck. I don’t expect we will have any more exciting outings just yet but we’re expecting a few visitors which will be lovely all the same.

www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/nature/gardens-heritage/myddelton-house-gardens

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Imogen’s Birth Story

2 hours old

This is a much shorter story than the 3 part epic tale of her big sister’s birth!

As I wrote in the last instalment of my pregnancy diaries, I had a membrane sweep at 4 days overdue and started to get period-like and back pains later that afternoon. The pains continued the next day, they were constant and not contraction-like but gradually got worse. I couldn’t be sure that this was labour though, I’d had quite a few different aches and pains over the previous weeks. I rang MrS at about 3pm and asked him to come home and pick Seren up from childcare as I couldn’t face getting in the car with the back pain I had. He got home about 5pm and I’d gone to bed for a snooze. He gave me a back massage using the technique we had learnt at the Birthing Workshop we had been to and then he went to pick up Seren.

We played in the garden for a while though my tummy pains were getting worse and I couldn’t pick Seren up to put her in the swing. She seemed to sense that something was up as she got very upset by this even though MrS was on hand to play with her instead. I felt like I was possibly overreacting but something was telling me it would be a good idea if she stayed at her grandparents’ house for the night so we called them to come over. She happily toddled off down the driveway with grandad in her pyjamas to have her sleepover.

As soon as Seren left, at about 7pm, my contractions started. I used my TENS machine to manage the pain before getting in the bath for an hour or so and breathing through the contractions. By about 9pm they were averaging 5 minutes apart and lasting about 50 seconds. In between contractions I could happily be online on my phone but I noticed that when I did that the frequency dropped to every 6 minutes. When I focused on listening to my natal hypnotherapy CD the frequency increased to every 4 minutes!

P1010931 2 hours old

At 10pm, I called maternity triage and had a completely different experience to my calls to the hospital when I was having Seren. The midwife was sympathetic and respectful and after listening to me breathe through a contraction, told me to get my stuff together and come to the hospital.

The 20 minute drive was peaceful, though I kept telling MrS to slow down. I noticed there was a beautiful full moon and someone told me later that there is supposed to be a spike in births across the animal kingdom at full moon as the bright light means there are less predators about!

We got to the hospital by about 11pm and the lovely midwife I’d spoken to on the phone examined me and declared that I was 5cm dilated. We all high fived! The contractions then started coming on top of each other and I was ready for some gas and air. There was a bit of delay in us being taken up to a birthing suite as the midwife took a long-ish phone call. Finally the student midwife took us upstairs and we we’re shown to the last available birthing suite with a pool. It took a while to fill the pool and during this time I was in cat position on the bed, deep breathing and having gas and air for the contractions.

post labour post labour

I got in to the pool at around midnight and felt the urge to push soon after. As the pain intensified I started to crumble remembering the 3 hours it took me to push Seren out. The midwife said that the next thing that would happen would be my waters breaking and after that it would be easier. But after only a couple of pushes the head was out! It took another two contractions to push her body out too and she was still in her membrane sac – the waters never broke. The midwives got quite excited by this, there’s a superstition that a baby born in their sac (known as “in the caulk”) will never drown. Fishermen used to buy the sacs from midwives to put on their boats to protect them from drowning!

hospital tag

We delayed the cord being clamped this time, I didn’t have to ask, it’s their policy now. I was lucky again in that I had no tearing or stitches and the placenta came out easily (I opted for a managed 3rd stage after the clamping delay). We had 2 unhurried hours of lovely bonding skin to skin time before Imogen was weighed and had her vitamin K injection. I pretty much ticked off each item on my mini birth plan!

11 hours old

At about 3am we were shown to our postnatal room, I didn’t know what to expect but we had our own room with a double bed in it! So Mr S got to stay too. He and Imogen both slept soundly whilst I stayed wide awake, too high on happiness, adrenalin and labour hormones to sleep.

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The garden in May

chive plantLots of sofa time snuggling my newborn means I’m watching a lot more TV than usual and last week MrS and I were glued to the BBC coverage of the Chelsea Garden Show. How times change, I was barely aware of the show’s existence 2 years ago but this year it was unmissable viewing and we keenly debated the garden styles, plants and colours with regards to what would work in our garden. I loved that the wilder, cottage garden look seemed to be in fashion along with an abundance of deep purple flowers and ‘my favourite sticky up, pointy flowers’ such as foxgloves.

When we moved into our house nearly 3 years ago, our garden had no greenery or flowers and we’ve worked hard to develop it into somewhere all the family can enjoy spending time in. Here’s what it looked like before (the photo was one I grabbed from Rightmove so the quality isn’t great):

garden before

We’ve taken up the old paving and decking and laid a new patio with a little raised vegetable patch (ok we paid someone with heavy duty machinery to do those bits), laid a lawn, created flower beds, hung baskets and planted a variety of shrubs, flowers, fruit and vegetables. Here’s what it looks like now:

the garden in may the garden in may the garden in may

We’ve acquired plants along the way in a hit and miss fashion, from cuttings, seeds, bulbs, cheaply at church plant sales and from supermarkets and also spent a fortune at garden centres too. We were complete horticultural novices when we started and didn’t pay any attention to soil types, sunny spots versus shade and proper plant care so we’ve learnt the hard way with some planting mishaps. We’ve still got a huge amount to learn but we’re having fun along the way. I dream about getting rid of the ugly building at the back of the garden, or at least halving it and changing the aesthetics, and increasing the garden’s footprint. The building housed the business of the previous owners of the house but has primarily become a depository for our junk.

Here’s my favourite things happening in the garden in May:

vegetables

The potato plants on the left are getting really big (you’re supposed to bury them again with soil when they start to come up but we forgot to do that again) and the peas on the right are coming up too. There’s carrots in the middle which have just been planted. After enjoying watering the garden last year, Seren has helped us to plant herbs, carrots and peas this year and is very proudly watching them grow.

strawberry plants

The strawberry plant is flowering. For the past couple of years, we’ve ended up with several strawberry plants where they’ve multiplied but with very little fruit across them. We managed to kill all the other strawberry plants last summer by scorching them in our little greenhouse but this one survived and survived winter outside too. Fingers crossed for more berry bounty this year!

raspberry plant

The raspberry plant is stirring too and has new shoots and leaves. We bought the plants as teeny, tiny ones last year and got about 3 raspberries. They are much bigger already this year so I’m hopeful for a better crop, though we’ve realised that the plants are in the shadiest part of the garden where even grass struggles to grow so we’ll probably move them in the autumn.

Herbs

We’ve re-sown our herb window box with parsley, sage and thyme. We did quite well with this last year though by autumn the parsley had taken over. We’ve also sown rosemary and mint seeds in separate pots, coriander and basil inside on the window sill and the chive plant is flowering again (photo at the top of the post).

courgettes tomatoes

Courgette plants (top) from Charlotte and cherry tomato plants (bottom) to go outside.

geranium

Our geraniums from last year are re-flowering! That isn’t supposed to happen but we left them there over the winter as I was in the throws of morning sickness last autumn so never got round to clearing our the dead stuff and bedding plants. Apparently the mild winter means they have survived! It’s like nature knew we wouldn’t have time to plant a load of new plants this spring and has given us a helping hand.

daisies

I got stupidly excited about the appearance of daisies! I know they are weeds but to me it signals that our new lawn has really settled in and I think daisies are charming anyway. Seren likes to pick them and bring them to me!

hollyhocksSnapdragons in beautiful bold colours. My favourite ‘sticky up’ type of flower. I thought these were bedding plants last year but apparently they can come back and spread.

alium

Perhaps my favourite thing at the moment is watching the two alium flowers uncurl their star shaped petals one by one. I’m sure we had three flowers last year so one hasn’t made it. They’re here so fleetingly too and will be gone by mid June so I am trying to appreciate them as much as possible.

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