Tuesday 28 September 2010

Asters in Autumn

I had intended to plant my narcissus and muscari bulbs over the weekend, but the weather wasn't conducive to staying outside for any length of time. I did manage to take a few photos and was very pleased with the aster display at the moment. They are the aster novae angliae varieties which are resistant to mildew and are very reliable. The yellow accent is provided by Helianthus Lemon Queen.
This delicate aster ericoides has taken a long time to start flowering but is worth the wait with small lilac flowers. I have been interested to watch the buds develop and was concerned that the weather would change before it had a chance to flower, but I needn't have worried. These plants are giving that final flourish before the onset of autumn proper.

Monday 27 September 2010

New Felt Hearts finished

I don't seem to have put any felt items on my blog for ages, so, as I have finally finished making the hearts from the patterned felt I made, here they are. For some reason, it seems to have taken me a long time to get on with it. I am really pleased with the end results, though, and this justifies the time element a bit. I have agreed to have a stall at the craft evening in November - I attended this event last year - and have decided that my display needs a rethink, so have ordered a jewellery display stand to use, which I think will look more professional and display the hearts and stars effectively. I also realised I need to make some more white stars with red embroidery as these sold really well and I haven't made any replacements as yet. So, that's what I need to be doing over the next couple of weeks.

Friday 24 September 2010

Gonga - the original

Having introduced our cat, Gonga, to you, here is the original knitted rabbit he is named after. I'm not sure exactly how old I was when he was given to me, but he must be at least 36 years old! My Mum's best friend, Auntie Myrtle, knitted him and originally he had a red tie, turquoise felt shorts and a yellow hat (which has long since disappeared). I am in the process of darning him, adding some more stuffing and making him some new clothes. He is a lovely toy to have as he hasn't any sharp bits and is very cuddly. He does look a bit the worse for wear now, but he was extremely loved and played with a lot. He is now in a peaceful retirement, because he is quite a venerable age, but he is still loved and has lots of happy memories associated with him.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Terracotta Pot

We visited Mum and Dad last Sunday and Mum gave me this rather gorgeous terracotta pot. It has a very satisfying shape and lends itself well to small bulbs for Spring, I think. My bulb order arrived yesterday and I think the little daffodil 'Tete a Tete' and Muscari latifolium, which are like the usual grape hyacinth but with broader leaves and flowers that are shaded from dark blue up to light, will go in this pot very nicely. I bought some violas which would look lovely on the top and give me something cheerful to look at while waiting for the bulbs to grow.

I also ordered some narcissus 'Pheasant eye' ( the above photo is from http://www.theplantexpert.com/ ), as they remind me of my Granny, who loved that variety, and also received some free tulip bulbs which I won't plant until October at the earliest as they are more vulnerable to diseases if planted too early. Once I have planted the pot, I'll post a photo of it.
I planted up a small trough yesterday with two cyclamen coum, two scillas and some muscari, so I hope that will look good from January onwards. The cyclamen are already putting out their gorgeous marbled leaves.
I always enjoy bulb planting time as it is a time to look forward to next Spring and enjoy the thought of yellow daffodils dancing in the breeze.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

The next book

Above is the next book I am going to read. It is quite a weighty tome, but actually, from the dipping into it that I have already done, it is written in an accessible and interesting way. It intrigued me to think that both 'Jaws' and 'Beowolf' are based on the same theme - nice community terrorised by monster, hero goes to kill monster, nice community continues.
In the book, the author shows how storytelling uses seven basic plots and he goes into incredible detail, including books, theatre, opera, TV and films. The book actually belongs to Chris and I have been going past it on the bookcase on the landing for quite some time, without wondering what it is all about. Curiosity finally got the better of me, and I think it will prove to be a really worthwhile read.

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Apples galore!

Above are just some of the varieties of apples that Chris has collected on our various forays into the countryside. He has been studying his books to try to identify them all, but this has proved to be quite a challenge, as there isn't a definitive guide with photographs of all the many hundreds of varieties, as far as we know. There are lots of books with beautiful botanical paintings of apples, but it isn't quite the same as seeing a photograph. Still, whatever variety they are, the greens, browns, reds, yellows and orange colours make a lovely picture.

Monday 20 September 2010

'Ingres in Fashion' by Aileen Ribeiro

As I have been immersing myself into the Victorian era recently, I though I would continue the theme. I have borrowed this book (Ingres in Fashion by Aileen Ribeiro) several times from the Library because it is a fascinating insight into the fashionable world of the Victorian era in France. The author has done a great deal of research into the way wealthy women dressed and the fashions of the time, from late regency through the Victorian era. Some of Ingres' work leaves me cold, but these portraits of wealthy French aristocrats and business people are amazing. It is almost photo-realism, because the silks shimmer like silk and the jewellery sparkles. This portrait is of Louise de Broglie, Comtesse d'Haussonville (1845).

This portrait is of Josephine-Eleonore-Marie-Pauline de Galard de Brassac de Bearn, Princesse de Broglie (1853). The detail of the materials is quite astonishing and I love the shade of blue in her dress. The sitter had five children but died of consumption in 1860, aged 35.

The very famous Marie-Clothilde-Ines de Foucauld, Madame Moitessier (1856). This portrait is in the National Gallery in London (when it isn't going on international tours) and I had the opportunity to study it when I was there a couple of years ago. Although the paintings look so realistic, when you go up as close as you can, they become much more impressionistic. For example, the amethyst bracelet on her left arm has beautiful diamonds on it, but up close, the diamonds become white dots of paint. This doesn't detract from the incredible talent of Ingres at all in my opinion. These portraits give us an idea of the image the women's husbands wished to show the world. However, I do wonder whether they enjoyed their lives as Victorian women lived under strict rules of conduct and morality.

The book itself - one to really lose yourself in.

Friday 17 September 2010

A jewel colour

A wonderful deep purple-blue that is in my garden at the moment. It is nearly the shade of lapis lazuli, but as it has a purple undertone, perhaps it is more a quadruple A tanzanite. Whichever it resembles, it is a stunning colour for this time of year. The plant is Caryopteris cladonensis 'Grand Bleu' which I planted to replace a Caryopteris cladonensis 'Heavenly Blue' which was affected by a soil problem I had. (Hopefully, having replaced the soil, this plant will continue to do well.)
It also has the added delight of scented leaves which have a slightly minty but certainly herby fragrance. It is good to have shrubs that can be relied on to perform during this rather changeable and unsettled weather we have. Although my garden is small, I have managed to fit quite a lot in, but it does mean that walking down the path can be rather a hazardous experience as there are lots of pots to negotiate your way past. If only I could have my half-acre plot...

Thursday 16 September 2010

Chris - 'King Jam' !

Chris has been very busy with his jam, jelly and chutney making this year, and here are the results. They range from cherry to gooseberry and elderflower, crab apple with a hint of lavender jelly, blackberry, mixed fruit and damson jelly. The blackberry has been extremely popular, with lots of compliments, but the others have been really enjoyed too.

He has also become fascinated by the variety of apples that are still in the area, and has found several that he is trying to identify. I have the feeling that this could become an obsession, but at least it is a harmless one! It is wonderful to be able to make the most of all the fruit available at the moment, and also to be able to give it to friends and colleagues.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

My favourite poem

The way through the woods by Rudyard Kipling (1865 - 1936)

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods...
But there is no road through the woods.
I first read this poem when I was around eleven or twelve. It appealed to my imagination and I really enjoyed the way the words sounded, especially the lines, 'You will hear the beat of a horse's feet, and the swish of a skirt in the dew'. Those lines still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! It still appeals to me now but more for the feeling behind the poem, of looking back to an age gone by and mourning its loss. It also has relevance in our modern world, where more land is being taken up for housing and we are losing the beautiful countryside. Probably due to reading the book 'Circle of Sisters' which is all about the MacDonald sisters, one of whom was Rudyard Kipling's mother, this poem has been on my mind for a while, so I thought I would include it in my blog.

Monday 13 September 2010

Flowers after the rain

We have been getting more rain recently - throughout August and now into September. The garden always feels refreshed after rain and all the plants look rejuvenated too. These images show busy lizzies and fuchsias looking much happier after a shower. My busy lizzies haven't done as well this year as in past years and normally I can keep them going until October, but I don't think they will last beyond the next couple of weeks. Whether this is due to the weather or just to the varieties of plant, I don't know.

Fuchsia 'Star Wars', which, after a slow start following the cold winter, has done well this year and is still flowering profusely. You can also see two small white flowers from 'Hawkshead' which is nearby. I grow all my fuchsias in pots and on the whole, they are fairly undemanding, although some could do with potting into bigger pots now.

Fuchsia 'Garden News' which I bought this year as a plug plant. It has done really well though is a bit sprawly. However, the big double flowers, like a Can-Can girl's skirt, are beautiful. I can forgive a sprawly habit for flowers like those!

Sunday 12 September 2010

Look closely...

At first sight, these photos only appear to show ivy on our wall, but look a little closer and the amazing hard work and creativity of the humble garden spider becomes clear. I went outside first thing this morning because the weather was so gorgeous, and everywhere I looked, spiders had been at work.
The webs are really beautiful if you study them and it is amazing how strong they are too, considering how easy it is for us to destroy them. The garden first thing in the morning is a lovely place to be, as it is the only time when it is quiet. Usually, the peace and quiet is shattered by children shouting, power tools buzzing and people talking (loudly!). Of course, this is to be expected when your house is in the middle of a city, and is in a terrace. That is why it is a delight to be out in the garden before other people's lives intrude on your own.

Friday 10 September 2010

Fabulous Seedheads

I saw these wonderfully sculptural seedheads down a public footpath adjacent to the Garden House at Saxby and thought they would make a great photo. They are also really useful to me for one of my felt pieces which needs embroidered seedheads like this.
I think they are a member of the cow parsley family, but I'm not too sure which. Still, I'm really pleased with the photos and they will be a great resource. It was Chris who encouraged me to wander off down this path, as he loves exploring!

Thursday 9 September 2010

Introducing our cats

Well, I have mentioned our cats in previous posts, so thought I should give them a starring role in a post of their own. Above, hiding in the undergrowth of our garden is 'Gonga'. He started out as Georgie, but somehow the name just didn't work for him. As a child, I was given a knitted rabbit which I called Gonga and Chris just started to use that name for Georgie. Somehow, it just stuck! As I was saying to Chris this morning, the alternative name for him could have been Bagpuss, because he is an 'old, fat, furry catpuss', but Gonga suits him very nicely. He was a stray, but someone owned him because he used to have a collar (the fur has been rubbed off round his neck). He is a large cat, about eight years old, the vet thought, and very solid! He has been with us now for nearly two years and is very affectionate.

Here is Ginny, dozing on the chair and keeping me company when I am writing my blog (as she does quite often). She is about fifteen years old and is gradually getting a bit more grumpy (like me) and having to cope with arthritis in her joints as she gets older (also like me!). She is very good at communicating her likes and dislikes. Sometimes she tolerates Gonga and at other times will hiss and swipe at him. She can be contrary but she is a lovely cat.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

A Trio of Pre-Raphaelite books

Here are the books I am reading at the moment - one at work (during my lunch hour) and the others at home. The good thing is that they are all on the same subject, so overlap and interweave beautifully. 'Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood' and 'Jane and May Morris' are the library books and 'Circle of Sisters' is my own. I bought it following an exhibition of Pre-Raphaelite art at Nottingham Art Gallery in 2005, and had not got around to reading it.
The books are about the women in the Pre-Raphaelite circle; Jane Morris, Lizzie Siddal, Georgiana Burne-Jones, Annie Miller, Fanny Cornforth and Emma Madox Brown, who were all models and muses to the various artists, as well as wives in some cases. Dr Jan Marsh is an authority on the Pre-Raphaelites and her research is thorough, but is also easy to read. I don't think any of these women had an easy life, there were many social conventions and certainly a stigma attached to being an artist's model. Some of them also were artists in their own right but were not able to continue their own work once they were married or were not given much recognition during their own lifetime.
I am particularly interested in the children in these marriages; what happened to them and how did they cope with their famous parents? (I think I shall have to buy the other two books as they are ones I shall return to. Our house is rapidly turning into a library and it is no surprise that I don't seem to have any money!)

Monday 6 September 2010

A new garden (part 2)

Chris and I were both stopped in our tracks by the amazing steely colour of the display of cabbages at The Garden House. They looked really sculptural and beautiful. I could imagine a giant cabbage sculpture on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square - now that would cause some comments!

A close up of the lovely Acidanthera flower which is both elegant and graceful, and which looked wonderful planted en masse at Saxby.

There were views of enticing areas wherever you looked and the eye catcher here, right in the centre of the photo, was a wall sculpture of an Elizabethan man clutching a spade.

There was a circle of orange and yellow dahlias with dark foliage that made an exciting colour contrast.
Just a two minute walk away from all the colour and exuberance of the garden, was St Helen's Church. The current building dates from 1775 and was a chapel and mausoleum for the Earl of Scarborough and family. The building had just had its interior restored when in 2008, there was a earthquake which caused a lot of damage. Luckily, the church has been restored again and the interior is the most calm and tranquil space. It added yet another wonderful memory to our afternoon.

Sunday 5 September 2010

A new garden to visit (part 1)

We have had the most fabulous afternoon, visiting The Garden House, Saxby,
http://www.thegardenhousesaxby.co.uk/. It is a garden that I had read about in the National Gardens Scheme brochure, but hadn't ever managed to visit...until today! It is an absolutely beautiful garden, set in a beautiful location, in a quiet and peaceful village. Below are a few photos I took of the formal gardens set around the house.
The cathedral garden, a quiet and contemplative space, just containing green.

I thought the planting in this area was so effective - Nicotiana Sylvestris and Acidanthera - just white and green - but very elegant and understated. The formal elements of the garden with the lovely vistas worked so well, but within this structure there was some exuberant planting.

Looking back over the echinacea, perovskia and grasses towards the Obelisk garden.

Another lovely vista with more beautiful planting. The petunias in containers were particularly impressive. The whole garden was beautifully cared for and maintained. There were plants for sale (I bought yet another miscanthus - but a dwarf variety this time) and there was a self-service tearoom, again, beautifully looked after. The weather was kind to us as well, although it did get a bit windy at times. Beyond the formal areas, there was a lot more to see, including a new woodland area, and several ponds. More in my next post...

Friday 3 September 2010

Cyclamen Hederifolium - harbingers of autumn

I treated myself to these (at the moment) rather unprepossessing bulbs/corms/tubers (I'm never sure) from my 'favourite' shop, Wilko's. I have high hopes that they will eventually grow into something that rivals the plants seen below, in pots, in my garden. I like that fact that they burst into flower at the end of the summer and that this variety, Cyclamen Hederifolium, gets larger with age, becoming even more floriferous.

I also really like the delicate flowers in shades of pink and white, with a darker centre.
Delicate-looking, yes, but tough as old boots too - what more could you ask for?

Thursday 2 September 2010

A view from my own garden

A view of my own garden with my favourite grass taking centre stage. I do enjoy visiting other people's gardens as I am always interested in planting combinations or the way the garden is laid out. However, sometimes it is a little depressing once you come back and look with critical eyes at your own space. As I love collecting plants, my garden is a mixture of styles - Chris says my idea of planning/design/planting is to throw the plant over my shoulder and plant it where it falls! I don't necessarily plan where I am going to put things but I often end up with some very pleasing combinations. Nature is very forgiving which helps a lot.

My three asters are flowering away at the moment and helping to ensure that there is still plenty of colour in the garden. Long may that last.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

More from Hall Farm

The planting during the different seasons completely changes the look of the gardens from billowing romantic pastels in high summer to the rich bright hot colours of autumn, with dahlias, heleniums, grasses, asters and other reliable plants.
I would love to be able to grow agapanthus successfully, but my two previous attempts have failed miserably. The agapanthus above is a great example of a happy plant.

A little corner of the garden, backing onto the house and incorporating hollyhocks, nepeta and a very exotic looking bulb in the centre - I'm not sure what that is and shall have to do some investigating.
A riot of autumn colours and a fantastic display!

A view down the long walk of the garden, just giving little glimpses of what lies ahead.
The garden also has a nursery just next door, so you can buy a plant that has particularly caught your eye in the garden. I went a bit mad, although I did manage to keep to my list with the exception of one impulse buy. I went for Miscanthus sinensis 'Ferner Osten', a Eupatorium and a Lonicera Fragrantissima (winter flowering honeysuckle) to replace mine which seems to have given up. I also bought some metal flower supports for my rather wayward asters. Now, I just need to decide how I am going to fit my new plants in...

Bank Holiday Treat

I had a lovely Bank Holiday and went to one of my favourite local gardens - Hall Farm, Harpswell. http://www.hall-farm.co.uk/ It is the kind of place that I aspire to having, not only for its beautiful gardens, but for the quiet location and the mellow stone farmhouse. The gardens lead off from a central path and then snake round to incorporate a pond, a sunken garden and an orchard area (where we collected some lovely apples - with permission).

The foxglove gate is a relatively new addition and was made at the forge next door to the garden.

Another relatively new addition was this mosaic path which we saw being made last year. A time consuming activity but immensely satisfying when complete.

At the bottom of the garden, there was a moat area and we stopped to say hello to some very friendly cows. This one in particular was a show off and posed for the camera!
Although it wasn't that warm, (it being a Bank Holiday, we never expect good weather) it was a bright day with some sunshine. Just perfect for having a wander round some beautiful gardens.