26 March 2009

Letters Across the Pond: Sylvia begins

A couple of weeks ago, everybody's favourite Non-blog-owning blogger Sylvia contacted me with an idea. Inspired by the exchange of letters between Carol of May Dreams Gardens, Dee of Red Dirt Ramblings, and Mary Ann the Idaho Gardener, she thought it would be fun if she and I did something similar, here on bloomingwriter. We have a slightly different angle; we both live on the Atlantic and on basically the same latitude. However, she's 'across the pond' in England, and I'm hanging off the Bay of Fundy (a very large 'inlet' from the Atlantic) in Nova Scotia, Canada, and we have rather different climates, temperatures, growing zones and other challenges. It's a good way to go exploring another part of the world, and hopefully you'll enjoy coming along on the trip.  

For those of you who don't know Sylvia, she does wonderful occasional guest posts at Tulips In the Woods and is a faithful commenter and supportive participant on Blotanical. I'll do my post sometime in the next day or so, as work has me on the road tomorrow, but for now, please give a warm welcome to my fellow horto-epistolary adventurer, Sylvia!

Dear Jodi,

Thank you for hosting our exchange of letters, I think it should be interesting and fun. I am glad that Carol of May Dream Gardens gave us the idea, thank you Carol. Though we live on a similar latitude and get similar day light hours our temperatures are very different, so I will start with telling you a bit about the area I live in and the effect this has on my garden.

Pic 1 coast

I live in west Dorset, which is in the south west of England, if you look at a map of England, we are just to the west of a central point by the sea. I have always lived in West Dorset, though I have lived in different places around the area, rural villages and small towns. I now live in a housing estate on the outskirts of a village. This picture was taken by my son while walking along the cliffs. I can’t see the sea from my house but I can see these cliffs.

The sea has a big effect on our climate, first because Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland. UK includes Northern Ireland) is an island. The sea moderates the temperature, giving us relatively mild winters for our proximity to the North Pole and keeping our summers cool. We also have a complex effect called the Gulf Stream which also moderates our temperatures, particularly in the west of the country. Because I live about 2 miles from the coast, my garden is milder than further inland. The nearer to sea the milder the winters. The sea also bring in mists, particularly in the summer, though these usually burn off by mid morning. The hills around also suffer from fogs, which can make driving fun!

We have a lot of hills around us, not big hills but small ones, separated from each other by valleys. They are usually quiet steep, you know it when you walk up them. As you know all gardens have micro climates and the number and variety of our hills increases this effect. Being in the west of England we get lots of rain, which is great for the garden - if not the gardener! My garden is half way up a hill, looking west wards, this means that the sun is slow to reach the garden in the morning but we get a good amount of sun during the day before it sets behind the hills across the valley from us.

Facing west we are also exposed to the westerly gales that come across the sea, perhaps you are sending them to us! It is interesting that you have had a colder winter then usual and so have we. This is my 11th winter in this garden and 6 months ago I would have said that my lowest winter temperature was -3C but this winter I recorded -9C in the garden. We have had two separate falls of snow that have settled on the ground and more frosts than I have had before in this garden. The picture was taken on 5 March, I was on my way to work, one snowy morning. This was taken through the car windows, while waiting my turn to go down a steep hill. It feels like we have had a proper winter nearer to those I experienced as a child, including the chilblains!

I am glad that for us spring is here. The days are warmer though we can still get frosts up until mid May. Spring is a long season for us, we have had the snowdrops, most of the crocus have finished flowering and now daffodils are everywhere. The magnolias have their white buds ready to open, the last few years we have had frosts in April browning all the magnolia flowers, so we are hoping for a good display this year. I couldn’t resist this picture taken in my garden, last weekend, just 2 weeks after the snow.

We have had a couple of weeks of sunshine and I have been able to do some gardening over the weekends. Now the days are so much longer and our clocks go back next weekend (29 March), I hope to spend an hour in the garden most evenings from next week. I have been sowing seeds for flowers and vegetables (on windowsills) besides developing some new areas of the garden, gradually we are reducing our lawn. I have a new tiny bed for vegetables, which I will tell you more about another time. Compared with yours my garden is small but I understand that things are on a smaller scale here compared to Canada, I am looking forward to reading more about where you live and your garden.

Best wishes



  1. That is such a great idea, and sounds fun too.

  2. Jodi and Sylvia, how interesting to read a more indepth description of another's climate and gardening opportunities. I knew the Gulf Stream warmed England, but did not realize it's effects were even more so on the coast. I look forward to learning more through your letters.

  3. Wonderful letter, Sylvia, telling us more about where you are gardening. In my garden, too, I can have frost until mid-May, so perhaps in that regard our gardens are similar. Jodi, I'm looking forward to your letters, too! This will be fun to follow along, a true trans-Atlantic garden writers exchange!

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. Hi, Sylvia - you sure live in a beautiful place. I can't imagine what it's like to garden on a real hill. What are "chillblains"? Is that like frostbite?

  5. Carol just let me know about your letter exchange...I am so looking forward to keeping up with you both. It's a lot of fun, I am learning a lot about my friends actual gardening, and look forward to hearing from them every week.

    BTW, your photos are just lovely.


  6. What a great idea. It's so interesting to learn more about the areas that other gardeners live in. It sure looks pretty where Sylvia lives. I love her spring garden photos!

  7. Hi Girls,
    what a great and most interesting idea. Lovely reading about 'your islands' Sylvia. I think I will pop over in last april just to enjoy a bit of your wonderful Brittish gardens.

    LOLove Tyra

  8. Jodi and Sylvia,
    Fabulous! I have enjoyed reading Sylvia's letter and I look forward to following this exchange

  9. Hello to two dear friends. I will be eavesdropping on your correspondence with great interest, soaking up all the tidbits about your gardens and lives. Sylvia, thanks for explaining the weather and situation where you live. It makes the vision much clearer. Your garden is delightful and well tended, I already know from your posts at Pomona's. The photo is splendid. Jodi's garden is beyond imagining so we will look forward to seeing it progress minus snow cover. This is a wonderful idea.

  10. Welcome Sylvia, and great idea both! I love the books of gardeners' letters. Maybe you all can eventually turn this into one!

  11. What a coincidence! Just this morning I was on the phone to my friend Sue, who was telling me all about her garden which is on the edge of Christchurch. My very best friend lives in the country near Wareham. I believe I know your part of the world well, Sylvia. Here in Cape Town, we're at the tail end of a very hot, dry summer and everything is parched. Dorset is beautiful in spring and I'm looking forward to hearing all about your garden.

  12. Jodi and Sylvia, I am so happy you are doing this too. It makes us all feel like we're part of a giant correspondence. I think your letters will be very interesting to read. Can't wait. BTW, I want to live on the coast. I do. I really do. We have a snowstorm bearing down on us as I write. :O ~~Dee

  13. This is so cool, Jodi.... your lovely introduction, and Sylvia, for carrying me away to Dorset! I'll look forward to more of this correspondence, Cheers, Alice

  14. Jodi and Sylvia, What a wonderful time we are going to have following your garden adventures. Thank you Sylvia for introducing us to Dorset...It sounds delightful...even though you cant see the sea those cliffs are magnificent! I loved your photos and especially liked the shot of the entire valley. It's beautiful! Looking forward to Jodi's letter and the rest of your correspondence! gail

  15. What a nice idea that Sylvia had, we look forward to hearing about your different gardening climates. The internet really does shrink the miles between most of us.

  16. Oh gosh you two--I'm so impressed with learning more about how you garden and live. I'm so curious. Jodi I know you are overworked and missing sleep. But you always take the time to care and participate. Amazes me that you stay so in-tune. I have to come here to find out what is happening.

    Sylvia--you live in a gorgeous area. I miss the sea in my part of NC. I'm too far inland. Your foggy weather reminds me of when we lived in Lompoc, California. Not as cold but just as foggy.

    I've lived all over the USA from coast to coast and north to south. NC is home for me and I can relate to microclimates. We are up against the mountains also.

    We seem to be about where you are as far as our Spring bloomers. We had a mild winter here and not what our friends up north have experienced. I guess it blew your way and dropped the thermometer for you. Not a big difference in temps but still colder. I bet it will have no affect in the garden.

    Those cold spells nip the blooms of our camelias so I can relate to them nipping the Magnolias.

    I enjoyed reading every bit of this and comparing it to my area. So interesting that you haven't moved much. I think that would be wonderful. I'm in my 30th home with most being from military moves. We never did a tour in the UK. I would love it there from you descriptions.

    I was wondering if your westerly sun bakes the plants in the afternoon. Do you have to buy all full sun plants? I guess those hearty rains quench their thirst.

    Thank you for sharing and I feel I've known you for years.

  17. How interesting. I love this idea -- and Sylvia's pictures. So different from the US Southeast.

  18. What a delightful idea. These letters are a wonderful way to expand our knowledge of other countries and climates, not to mention a great chance to get to know Sylvia better and see where she gardens.
    Thanks for a great introduction to your beautiful location, Sylvia. Those cliffs and valleys are magnificent. I can't wait to see and hear more of your garden, and yours too, Jodi.
    I'll look forward to this exchange very much.

  19. Sylvia, I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come over and see this post, but I'm well-rewarded. I look forward to hearing more about both sides of the pond, I think this comparison's very interesting. Plus, I now have an even better idea of the situation your garden's in, which is always fun. I seem to remember you saying that your summers are fairly mild, so perhaps that offsets the western exposure?


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