Just a little bit, like, TOTALLY OUT OF CONTROL!!!

This happens every year.  I get back from holidays at the end of August, ram all our holiday laundry into the machine, go into overdrive sorting out school uniform and try to remember what it is I do for a living.

We all dive down that helter skelter of back-to-school and back-to-work, and packed lunches and homework and juggling after-school clubs and social events.

Then I go away for a girls’ weekend and come back to TOTAL FREAKING CHAOS!!!

My eldest is having a minor breakdown over her art project.  Stevie has held it together but you know, there is nothing like your mum asking you to tidy your room to induce a fit of if-this-is-the-second-week-of-term-how-am-I-going-to-make-it-to-Christmas?!!!

So I introduce my daughter to her homework planner.  And the concept of clearing a desk space so that you can put your laptop down flat, rather than balancing it on a teetering pile of art materials, phone chargers and stray socks.  We’re prioritising which GCSEs to stress about and which to just-try-hard-enough-to-not-get-a-detention.  We’re learning to breathe.  And stretch.  And to ask for help.

We’ve mopped up the tears, untangled the phone chargers, filled a waste paper basket and a laundry basket, had a hug and labelled some files.  I’ve plied her with chocolate and left her with her laptop, and now I am going out into the garden.


And breathe.

Dahlia ‘American Dawn’ in bud.

And stretch.

Antirrhinum ‘Rust Resistant Mixed’

I can feel the sun on my face.

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Matilda’

And listen to the hum of the bees.

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and a bee.

And I am ignoring all that washing on the line.


The cosmos is looking like an unmade bed.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’

So I set to work with the snippers.


That’s better.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Xanthos’

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’ has been a weedy affair for much of the summer, but a little neglect seems to have done it good.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’

I love its rumpled sheets.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’

There is a sense of abundance now.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’

And fun.  This looks like a two-tier bloom.

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Double Click Cranberries’

Nicotiana is enjoying the cooler, shorter days.  In the heat wave its flowers were closing up, but now they stay open to enjoy the sun.

Nicotiana ‘Sensation Mix’

They shimmer again.

Nicotiana ‘Sensation Mix’

Nigella damascena ‘Midnight’ is looking magical.

Nigella damascena ‘Midnight’

And just a little bit witchy.

Nigella damascena ‘Midnight’

It is, after all, the season of spiders.


The dahlias are standing out against the laurel hedge.

Dahlia ‘American Dawn’ with Dahlia ‘Purple Dream’

Dahlia ‘Purple Dream’ is like a waterlily.

Dahlia ‘Purple Dream’

I love it with Dahlia ‘American Dawn’.

Dahlia ‘American Dawn’

The zinnias are mostly looking good, though I have tugged out a few ‘Cupid Mixture’ which were starting to look wizened.

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ has been a joy.  Here she is with Dahlia ‘Vino’ behind.  I love palest apricot with magenta pink.

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’

I like the variation in her colours.  These ones are a dark, dusky pink.

Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’

This is Dahlia ‘Vino’.

Dahlia ‘Vino’

The colour is fading a little, but I love a good ombre.

Dahlia ‘Vino’

The most bouffanty dahlia prize goes to ‘Blue Bayou’.

Dahlia ‘Blue Bayou’

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Matilda’ continues to delight me with its watermelon exuberance.

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Matilda’ with Dahlia ‘Totally Tangerine’ and Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’ in front.

It has subtlety too.

Dahlia ‘Waltzing Matilda’

These scabious are going to take some time to tease out.  To deadhead it, you have to trace back the stems of the seedheads to quite low down on the plant.

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Fata Morgana’ and Nicotiana ‘Sensation Mix’ behind.

It’s a bit like untangling phone charger cables.

Sacbious atropurpurea ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’

But after a bit of a comb, they’ll be back to looking fresh-faced, and ready for a new day.

Scabious atropurpurea ‘Fata Morgana’ with Nicotiana ‘Sensation Mix’ behind.

I’ll cut a few for my daughter’s desk.  They’ll look nice with the pots of pencils and pens and the regrowth of socks and charger cables.


Are you flying by the seat of your pants this September?  What do you do to de-stress?

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44 Comments Add yours

  1. cavershamjj says:

    Been there, twice. And shall be there again. Twice. This term we will mainly be introducing #3 child to the concept of actually doing some work. Beautiful pictures, must look again later and add some plants to the want list…

    1. Ali says:

      Oh wow! You’re an old hand!

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    I sympathise with your daughter – there’s a lot to GCSEs (I was a teacher until recently, and I also marked for an exam board this summer). At least she’s freaking out at the start of the year and not just before the exams! Teenagers have so much pressure put on them my schools with targets etc. Sound like you are giving her great advice about study & planners.

    1. Ali says:

      There is way too much pressure. I don’t know how teachers do it either. I think they end up passing the stress on to the students, which is such a shame.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        Not all of them do – they leave! Many teachers absorb a lot of that stress and try to only pass on enough to “motivate” not frighten the pupils. The requirement of the exams is very complicated. There’s a lot of “exam technique” (not facts, as such but how you answer the question) which has to be learnt. The pupils have to learn this for up to 10 subjects. It’s insane!

      2. Ali says:

        Yes, I should have qualified that. My daughters have some fabulous teachers. I don’t envy teachers, and sadly it is often the best ones who leave the profession.

  3. Linda Casper says:

    If only controlling children and life were as simple and calming as getting some order into the garden!
    However, I don’t mind a bit of wildness in my garden.
    I do enjoy reading your posts.

    1. Ali says:

      That is so true!! I don’t mind a little bit of wildness in my children either!

  4. Fun intro; excellent, well-captioned photos

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Derrick.

  5. Penny Post says:

    Highly entertaining, reminds me why I like the fact my children are well past teenage years. Love your photos I only wish my garden had so many flowers still in bud, although you have led me astray with the dahlias which are still doing well all two plants of them.

    1. Ali says:

      You don’t need many dahlias to have fun, though, do you? They’re good value.

  6. Christina says:

    I sometimes think there is never a good time for a gardener to go away.

    1. Ali says:

      Maybe the depths of winter!

  7. You make me glad my daughter is grown and out on her own. I don’t remember it being that stressful, but be sure you enjoy the good with the stress. It flies by all too fast and then they are gone.
    Your garden is still looking so lovely and full of color. Mine is mostly green and you inspire me to plan for more late season color next year.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes. I’m trying to draw my daughter’s attention away from the stress and encourage her to find things to enjoy. I don’t want her to wish her school life away. I can hear my gran’s voice in my head saying about school days ‘best years of your life!’ and being somewhat incredulous!

  8. Heyjude says:

    My daughter is going through all this with her three – one has just started A levels, one starting GCSEs and the third just started secondary school. She’s in for a stressful couple of years I feel – such a shame she doesn’t have your beautiful garden to chill out in.

    1. Ali says:

      Eek, that is a lot all at once. I’m not sure our children totally appreciate the haven of tranquility on their doorstep!!

      1. Heyjude says:

        Yes, she didn’t plan the gap with teenage years in mind! Then again neither did I 🙂

      2. Ali says:

        Me neither. 20 months’ gap (2 academic years) between my daughters, and 2 more years’ gap with step-daughter. But in for a penny!

  9. bcparkison says:

    Momma said there will be days like this but gardening to the rescue.
    Everything still look beautiful.

  10. FlowerAlley says:

    What would we mamas do without our chocolate and gardens? You are a kindred spirit. I always feel like I am being punished for leaving home. Sometimes I wonder if playing is worth the paying.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes! Chocolate and gardens are equally important in my life!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Chaos – check! Looking beautiful though Ali

    1. Angel says:

      Don’t know why it made me anonymous! Anyway – great post!

      1. Ali says:

        Oh! Thank you Angel!!

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    Nothing like a spell in the garden to cut through the chaos and stress of domestic life. Beauty renews!

  13. Rupali says:

    What a great way to rejuvenate. Love your garden. Just step out for some time and ta-da. When you are back in house you are ready for a new assigenment

    1. Ali says:

      That’s right. It’s a good reset button!

  14. Good for you! but I thought nicotiana was white. At least, my grandmama’s was white and exuded a lovely fragrance.

    1. Ali says:

      Lots of them are white, and the white ones seem more fragrant. This was a mix of purple, lilac and white.

  15. I need to learn your daughter’s lesson about the laptop. I am so hard on laptops. Zinnias are my favorite flower. I love them so much. Right now to destress, I am walking, taking long baths, and telling myself, “I have retired from worrying. It’s not my job anymore.” 🙂 Sometimes it helps.

    1. Ali says:

      I love that! I will join you in your retirement!

  16. Cathy says:

    Yes, there are many similarities between our Lives and our Gardens if we care to make the comparisons…!

    1. Ali says:

      It never ceases to amaze me how many life lessons and analogies there are!

      1. Cathy says:

        Yes indeed 😊

  17. How lovely that you have such a beatiful garden to walk in and breath, relax and leave the chaos for a while. One day you will be sat at home like me wondering if you missed the moment when they grew up and left home. Gosh I sound old !! Im really not.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you for this reminder. Life moves at such a pace, doesn’t it? I love having teenagers, angst and chaos and all!

      1. I was on my own when my four were teenagers. It was tough but now they have grown up they are such lovely people. I must have done something right 🙂

      2. Ali says:

        That is an achievement. 🧚🏽‍♀️

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