Thank you all who came to see us at our Christmas Shopping Day. It was like a lovely day-long party with long-lost friends! We raised £200 for Unicef and I did my Christmas Shopping. The house looked very bare after everyone had gone. Since then we’ve done a couple of shoots for my column in the Telegraph and so various decoration projects have appeared and the house looks quite festive again.

Using succulents, herbs and various other plants, wreaths have appeared on doors, candle rings on tables, small trees on windowsills and little landscapes in terrariums. Some will stay and others will go out into the garden where they’ll be much happier.

My poor spruce will be spared disinterment and instead, disregarding cries of ‘Call that a Christmas tree’ from my sons, I’ve bought a driftwood tree from Martin Pammant (, hung with sea-washed glass and pebbles. Since we intend to eat part of our lunch in the beach hut – depending on the weather, this will be a seaside themed Christmas.

Enjoy yours too!


Last few joys of the season. A spectacular day out at Great Dixter at their Autumn Fair buying a last few gems for the garden, a visit to Charlotte Molesworth’s exhibition, packed with paintings, metal sculptures and pots, and a huge bunch of garden flowers. Wonderful how the Michaelmas daisies all carry on despite the weather.

Now I need to stack my wood store with logs, bed the garden down with a snug layer of compost, batten the hatches at the beach hut and dig out some warmer clothes. Buying, preparing and eating food suddenly seems to take up a major part of my time, and it’s not entirely due to a week’s visit from Max, down to finally get his beach buggy on the road (strange timing – but at least it will be ready to go next year). The change of season heralds an increase in appetite, and waistline. I crave rich autumnal tastes.

Am also starting to source goodies for my Open House at Christmas (this year on Sunday December 7th) and have joined forces with a great band of local makers. I shall be taking books to a Christmas Craft Fair Bethersden for the Friends of Canterbury Cathedral on October 16th (email me if you’d like more details), and joining the judges for this year’s batch of entries for Gardening Against the Odds.

Twitter lessons may result in a bit more activity on that front, so do follow me @FrancineHens if you have time.

16th December 2011

For the past fifteen years, getting ready for Christmas has followed a time worn routine: the Christmas Shopping marathon, the decoration bonanza and the food foraging, round well-loved venues. This year I’ve enjoyed our pop-up shop, decoration workshops and finding local food outlets (like our Farmers’ Market and Macknades in Faversham), and although I’ve missed my customers and friends (one or two showed amazing fortitude and came here), I’m beginning to feel quite Christmassy – and I must admit – slightly more relaxed than usual.

This will be grandson Ludo’s first Christmas – he’ll love the tree and decorations – it’ll be a year or two before he really appreciates the presents, and we’re planning a big family celebration. We had a small naming ceremony for him in the garden recently, where we planted a tiny walnut seedling that made the journey from Troston in a pot of agapanthus, courtesy of a squirrel. There are lots of squirrels here, so the chances of Ludo ever seeing any nuts are remote.

The new hens are settling in well, though one has turned into a cockerel. The minute he found himself in sole charge, he started to develop cockerel tendencies, so sadly he will have to return home with his mum. I’ve become so enamoured with her that I’m hoping to find two more Brahmas once my girls have grown to full size.

Can I take this chance to wish you all a very happy Christmas and thank you for all your support during my first year here.  Please keep in touch. I enjoy your emails and cards very much.