Jan’s Garden

Cottage Garden Autumn


Autumn has arrived in my cottage garden, along with a new addition to the family. Mason, our baby English bulldog, has brought a lot of joy into our home. He is a rascal, that’s for sure. He was simply too thrilled that I opened the elusive garden gate to sit still for this photo. This section of our yard has poison ivy in the woods, hence the reason I keep this particular gate closed. We do need contact a Smyrna, GA Tree Company because some of the old trees need to come out to give the new trees a chance to grow. Anyway, I managed to get one photo that wasn’t blurred at least.

This is my favorite time of year, but it’s also nostalgic in many ways as preparations begin for winter and the days become shorter. I’ve been thinking of getting some new outdoor garden furniture but I think it might have to wait until next season. Frost arrived yesterday and the perennials in my garden have begun to die back. It’s those cool nights and warm days that turn our maple leaves glorious shades of red. While the leaves may look beautiful, they can be a real nuisance when they start clogging up the cottage’s guttering. It starts to look pretty unsightly when it builds up, but services like Clean Pro Gutter Cleaning Long Island can help to clear the blocked debris which also helps to prevent future water damage that could occur if left unaddressed. Nature is such an extraordinary thing, and as one season passes I like to remember the last. I love spending time in my garden, but as the nights start to draw in it can be difficult to sit outside for long. One of my friends lives in Norway and has just bought a Lyktstolpe (lamp-post) for her garden so that she can sit outside in the evenings. Maybe I’ll have to invest in some garden lighting too, especially now I’ve got a dog to keep my eye on.

Anyway, as promised, I’ve put together a photo tour of my cottage garden this season, a scrapbook of sorts, and a simple reminder that spring is just a winter away…



These yellow tea roses and black-eyed susans are new additions this year. My husband keeps telling me there’s no room for more flowers, but I always manage to find some.


The Frog Prince guarding the nasturtiums.


The best tomato cages EVER! I will try to post the pattern before next spring.


I fell in love with impatiens this year.

Welcome to my cottage garden. This is my favorite gate entrance

Welcome to my cottage garden. This is my favorite gate entrance.

This is just a little nook in my garden. I hope the clematis will climb the trellis eventually, but it's taking its time.

A favorite garden nook.

A hare that often visits my garden.

A hare that often visits my garden.


Sunlight through a maple tree in my yard.


Every year I have wildlife visitors in my garden and butterflies seem to love the hanging pots of lobelia.


This little creature reminds me of how magical a garden can be. It’s a clearwing hummingbird moth and they are not intimated by humans. This one landed on my hand and had no problem posing for the camera.


The pixie house, inspired by Ms. Hafwen, a character in my Celtic Wolves series, continues to survive our Maine winters.

Brynmor cottage received a few upgrades this year, with a light in the turret and a wreath on the door.

Brynmor Cottage received a few upgrades this year, with a light in the turret and a wreath on the door.


Well, that’s the end of the garden tour, but I will leave you with a few pictures of our new addition. Meet Mason, our new English bulldog. He is so sweet, and Willow is adjusting well to her little brother.


If you can’t read Willow’s expression, I will translate: “Really? This is a joke, right?”


Mason is learning my writing routine and he seems to like my office just fine. 🙂


And then it’s snuggle time.


As always, I hope you’re reading something just for fun!
Happy Autumn,

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe

GardenCleanUpHappy Autumn everyone! It’s that time of year here in Maine to begin cleaning out garden beds.  This is also the time to  gather and dry herbs, and till the soil for next spring.  I will be posting garden happenings over the next week.

As always, there are a few zucchini plants still growing while everything else is spent.   I think our ancestors created zucchini bread just to find a use for this prolific vegetable that keeps producing from early summer to fall.  My family has never been a big fan, but I do have one recipe they will eat without complaint.  It’s double chocolate zucchini bread.  The chocolate hides the zucchini and the bread is moist because of it.

This is a great snack with coffee while reading a good book!  I’ve been on a contemporary romance kick lately, but I love most genres.  If you have any good reading reccomendations (that aren’t my books) you’re always welcome to share! 🙂


Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread Recipe


Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour
¾ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ¼ teaspoons of baking soda
¾ teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk
3 cups of peeled and shredded zucchini
1 teaspoon of vanilla
2 eggs
1 stick of butter
¾ cup of sugar
¾ cup of brown sugar
1 bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Optional: 1 cup of chopped walnuts
Optional: Vanilla glaze (recipe and ingredients below)



Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease two bread pans with shortening or cooking spray.

Before you begin, all ingredients should be at room temperature.  Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.  In a separate bowl, blend butter until smooth, add sugars and eggs and continue to blend.  Add milk and vanilla until blended.  Gradually add flour to wet ingredients and blend until mixed.  Add zucchini and chocolate chips (and optional walnuts if you choose) to batter and mix until even throughout.  Pour into bread pans and bake for approximately 50  minutes to an hour, or until the toothpick test comes out clean.  Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.


Vanilla Glaze Recipe


1 cup of powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of melted butter
2-3 teaspoons of warm water


Mix sugar, vanilla and melted butter.  Add warm water by the teaspoon until its a frosting-like texture. This should not be too wet as it will melt.  Spread over top of bread while it’s still warm.




*This post was edited on 10/19/2015 to include an updated photo and the optional vanilla glaze.

Summer Moon Brew

Book launching and beer brewing–that’s what’s happening in my neck of the woods. Summer Moon (the book not the brew) is available  on  September 30, 2014! This is the second book in my Celtic Wolves Series, and I’m so excited for you to meet Luc and Rosa. I will be visiting several awesome book blogs over the next few weeks with giveaways, interviews, and all sorts of fun stuff, so be sure to check out my Happenings page.

Harvested Hops

Harvested Hops

Summer Moon Cover

Available September 2014

As for the beer brewing, I planted the hops vine a year ago and already it’s taking over my eastern arbor, as you can see in the photo below; the hops are on the left, and morning glory vines are on the right.

Hops and Morning Glories

Hops and morning glory vines.

This is my first attempt with fresh hops, and I will let you all know how it turns out. I chose an IPA recipe and it has been happily bubbling all week.

beer brewing

Adding hops to the brew.

It's perking...

It’s perking…

My Autumn 2014 newsletter will be sent soon. You can subscribe here. Elen’s double chocolate hazelnut cookie recipe will be included. (Yes, I’m teasing you with beer and chocolate. Shameless, I know.)

Garden Tea

Elen’s double chocolate cookies

Wherever you are, I hope you’re having a beautiful September!

All my best,

{post transferred from original blog}

The Nesting Arbor

I saw my first robin yesterday, a happy sign of spring after a long winter, and it inspired me to clean out the bird houses around the yard and hang a basket of goodies for birds to build their nests. The cardinals, chickadees, finches and winter wrens stay throughout the year, but it is always a welcome sign to see the summer birds arrive once again. For my bird goodies, I just use a feeder basket that can be purchased at most grocery stores and bird feed suppliers, and fill it with strings of cut yarn no longer than five inches. I keep it as natural as possible, using wool yarn not overly treated with chemicals or dye. The birds have already pulled some of the strings and will weave them into their nests.

Birds seem to love my garden, especially the central arbor, even though it arches over a well-traveled gateway to the vegetable garden beyond. I have begun to call this the nesting arbor. Five nests were built last year within the wisteria vines that cover it, and throughout winter I keep the bird feeder well stocked.

There are lots of good reasons to make your garden more welcoming to birds. For example, it is no secret that birds are a natural form of pest control! Most garden birds eat a diet of seeds, berries, and insects. Additionally, in late spring and early summer, birds are busy filling the mouths of their hatchlings. Baby birds like nothing better than freshly caught bugs! However, that isn’t to say that birds aren’t an issue at times, especially if you don’t have a bird feeder. They will try to dig up any seeds that you have buried for their dinner. I know a few people who have had to get in touch with a bird control service (you can see an example of one at – https://www.apexbirdcontrol.uk/service/anti-bird-netting-poole), so it’s just one more reason to keep those bird feeders stocked so that they won’t make a meal out of your lovely garden.

This is excellent news for gardeners, because garden pests are usually at their peak in late spring and early summer. Birds can therefore save us lots of headaches by combing our gardens for cabbage worms, whiteflies, aphids, earwigs, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, grubs, and other pesky pests! Which reminds me, you can learn more about some of the most common garden pests to be on the lookout for this spring here: https://www.pestcontrolexperts.com/. If you prefer home remedies better than pest control experts, there are options for that too. Especially for rats and other rodents like gophers which damage plants and crops, need special control. They can destroy the plants and also make horseshoe-shaped mounds. Gophers are sensitive to strong smells, they are known to dislike the smell of fish scraps, castor oil, peppermint oil are which you can easily try. However, you might need to ask for tips from the pros on how to trap these pests properly. When you adopt such home remedies that are chemical-free, you won’t harm the birds, just the rodents.

Some of the birds that I have befriended also love to nest in a couple of the trees in my garden. To be honest, it is about time that I got the trees in my garden pruned as quite a few of the branches could do with tidying up. I know that my friend recently contacted a Lake Oswego tree service to prune the trees in her garden so I think I am going to do some research online to find an arborist in my local area. Some things are best left to the experts after all and pruning your trees is definitely one of those things. I would not want to disturb any nests after all.

Anyway, here are a few pictures I took of the nesting arbor in my cottage garden this morning. It may seem colorless, but if you look closely you’ll see the wisteria has begun to bud…

Nesting Basket

Bird basket full of nest building goodies.
Notice the nest above from last summer that I haven’t had the heart to remove.

Bird House

Cleaning out the old nests before spring birds arrive to build new ones.
The mama bird who stayed here last summer loved morning glory seeds.
And I wondered why I didn’t have many seedlings last year. Now I know. 🙂

Swinging Squirrel

As you can see, I don’t chase my squirrels away from the feeders.

Cardinal and Finches

Cardinal and finches taking their turn on the feeder.

I never see the nests that are built on the nesting arbor until fall when the leaves shed from the vines, but I do enjoy watching the birds jumping in and out of the arbor with treats in their beaks for their eager young ones. Their high-pitched tweets echo throughout the garden when Mama arrives back in the nest.

Nesting Arbor

Nesting arbor in summer.

Wherever you are in the world, may signs of spring be in your midst!
Best wishes,

Take a photo stroll around my cottage garden

I have been tucked away in my office writing, so I haven’t done much this year to my little cottage garden. However, my garden didn’t seem to mind, because summer has arrived in full bloom without me. I have more hummingbirds this year, butterflies, birds, and bumblebees than ever before. In the mornings, when I walk around with my first cup of coffee, it is like listening to a symphony of nature. It is so beautiful. One day I’ll have to post a video on my blog or directly on my Instagram story so you all can enjoy the birds with me. I suppose I’ll need to look at getting some free followers before I start posting online, I’m not much of an Instagrammer!

My garden is only small but I love it just the way it is. At the minute, it’s manageable. However, when I get older, I may not be able to keep on top of all of the jobs that need to be done to ensure the garden looks lovely. In that case, I’ll probably need to find someone who can sort my garden for me. Perhaps a company like https://www.lawncare.net/ could maintain the garden, it’s worth keeping a business like that in mind for when we all get older!

Although my garden is smaller than others, I was speaking to one of my friends from Australia the other day though and she told me that she is currently in the process of having a granny flat built her in a large garden. Her parents are not as mobile as they used to be so she wants them to live as close to her as possible. It turns out there are plenty of granny flat builders in the Sydney area who can create the granny flat of your dreams provided you have enough space. I thought it was such a lovely idea as caring for your loved ones is so important.

Back to my garden now though and I love perennials, and I tend to choose hardy ones that come back each year without fuss. Peonies, poppies, Dutchman’s pipe, climbing roses, wisteria, clematis, honeysuckle, and allium are all in bloom. Everyone always asks how much time this takes to maintain, and truly, it isn’t much. I do one round of weekend weeding and mulching each year in the spring, and then let it go for the rest of the season, except for an occasional offender I might see while walking about in the evenings when my husband is grilling. Of course, there’s the odd job in the garden we’re not able to do ourselves unless we want to put ourselves in harm’s way, trying to tend to or remove a tree being the one that pops into my mind. If we ever have a need to do these tasks, we’ll likely use the arborist services (like those found here – www.treeserviceremoval.com) for assistance.

Although, for whatever reason, clover abounds in my flower beds this year. I’m just going to take that as a sign of good luck. Here are a few pictures I took yesterday. There will be another round of photos come mid-summer, when my daisies, coneflowers, dahlias, sunflowers and morning glories arrive.

Until then, here’s a little photo stroll through my garden in June…

Pinks and Poppies

Pinks and poppies spill over the walkway.

Lantern through the garden gate

Open the garden gate to where the lanterns have been hung.

Peony Bouquet

Pick a bouquet of peonies for the table, and don’t mind the ants because they are working hard to pollinate them for next year.

Grape buds

Grapes have begun to grow. They were a gift from a library patron and are over five years old now. Maybe this year we’ll try to make wine. Or drink someone else’s attempt and eat the grapes.

Sugar water over hanging plants

Boil some sugar water and fill the feeders.


For the hummingbirds to enjoy.

Hostas and Clematis

Hostas keep the clematis’ roots cool.

Gate Keeper

The gate keeper assesses the situation…


And then snuggles into her favorite shaded spot.

Climbing Roses

The climbing roses have begun to open. They get one uninterrupted bloom before the Japanese beetles hatch and much away.

Dutchman's Pipe Vine

The Dutchman’s pipe vines its way around the garden bell. Look closely and you’ll see it’s in bloom. Maybe this year we’ll get Dutchman Pipe butterflies.

Hope you all have a wonderful summer!

Best wishes,

(post transferred from original blog)