Monday 27 June 2011

My first jewellery making project

Above you can see my first attempt at jewellery making, using some of the gemstones I have been buying recently.  The stones are amethyst, fluorite, black shell and labradorite and I used the weaving technique to create the pattern.  I am really pleased with the result and have worn the bracelet and earrings at work.  I need a clasp for the necklace and then I shall wear that too.  It took me a few goes to get the bracelet the right length as I am not keen on bracelets that drape all over my hand and which have to be shaken back to the correct place. I really enjoyed putting the gems together and making the pieces as the weaving was very therapeutic to do, although the threading required me to wear my glasses!
I have also ordered some blue chalcedony, more (darker) labradorite, botswana agate and larger amethyst stones and I am considering a final order (for now) of the aforementioned clasps, more botswana agate, some jade, some aquamarine and maybe even some tanzanite.  Then I need to make lots of pieces.  Somehow, I think this may become a bit of an obsession!

Sunday 26 June 2011

Gardeners' World Live 2011 (part three)

This was a stunning display of floristry, vegetable growing and artistry by the National Farmers' Union, Waitrose and UK Horticulture where the colours seamlessly blended into the next.  All the flowers, fruit and vegetables were produced by British Growers.

 A close up view of part of the white display.

 White gradually merging with yellow.

 Fruit and vegetables were also included, arranged in beautiful patterns to complement the flowers.

The red area, which included tomatoes, peppers and lettuces.  This whole display made a huge impact and won a very well-deserved gold medal.

And finally, another garden design, but this one has plants made from paper.  It looked very convincing from a distance, and it was only as you got closer to it that the truth dawned.  It was a great example of the versatility of paper and was by Suzie McLoughlin, the paper artist whose work we saw at the hub at Sleaford in the Spring. 
All in all, this was a great day out!

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Gardeners' World Live 2011 (part two)

Inside the Floral Marquee was a mass of colour.  The diascias above were a beautiful shape and a good example of what can be achieved when you know what you are doing!

 The pelagoniums (or geraniums as they are commonly called) were really bright and vivid.  I bought a small plant of one of the cerise pink ones at the centre right (Penny Dixon) as I couldn't resist the colour.

The rocket-like spires of lupins were amazing and elegant and the colours were blended together with an expert eye.

 Of course, I had to include clematis as it is one of my favourite plants.  The above display won a gold medal and it was well deserved.  If only my clematis looked as good as these.

And finally for this post, more elegant spires of colour, this time, delphiniums.  I do admire these in other people's gardens, but have had no luck with them in my own due to slugs and snails.  As they take a good deal of time and effort to look this good, I'm probably better to continue admiring them from afar.

Monday 20 June 2011

Gardeners' World Live 2011 (part one)

 I had a lovely time at Gardeners' World Live at the NEC, Birmingham on Saturday, with my sister, my sister-in-law and a friend I used to work with at school.  We are all keen gardeners and all had a wonderful time, looking at the displays, show gardens and all the retail therapy opportunities.  The garden above was a riot of colour, called "Remember the Dream" and designed by Yvonne Matthews for Macmillan Cancer Support.  The vibrant colours really appealed to me, even though I wouldn't necessarily include all of them in my own garden.  I would probably have painted the obelisks a paler shade or left them natural, but giving them such a bright colour made them prominent.

More beautiful colours.

 This display made me smile - beds and borders indeed!

"The Bodgery" was a wonderfully evocative garden, showing the English woodland and the planting therein.  It was designed by Chris Myers and inspired when he met a Bodger in his local wood.  A Bodger was someone who used a pole lathe (seen here on the left) to create wooden pieces which were then turned into elements for use by the local chairmakers.  The Bodger didn't make a finished chair himself, so gradually, any unfinished job became known as a 'bodged job'.  Unfortunately, this term nowadays means an unfinished job which has been done in a slapdash or wrong way, so is not very complimentary.

 For such a small garden, this really had an air of tranquility and peacefulness, in the middle of a very busy show.

This was more of a concept garden, not really designed to sit in, more to look at.  It was called "Simple Elements" and included Fire, Earth, Air and Water (suggested by the mirrors, grasses and blue mulch).  I wanted to sit on the cube seats as they looked so inviting, but sadly, all we could do was look.
The next installment will follow tomorrow - amazing colours and textures.

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Latest reading

I realised yesterday that I haven't shared my latest books with you, so this post will hopefully rectify that.  As ever, I have several books on the go, depending on whether I am at work or home and how much time I have available to read in.  I must admit that the biography of Elizabeth Gaskell is one that is taking me a long time to read, probably due to the immense amount of detailed information included in it and the slightly more 'academic' form of writing.  I am determined to finish it though, so will keep going.  I have just started The Remains of the Day and The Big House both of which are intriguing in their own way, and both of which I am enjoying very much.  Behind Closed Doors was a treat to myself as I had seen Professor Vickery's series and wanted to know more.  The Secret Life of Wilkie Collins is a book I have read but this copy was a total bargain at WHSmith yesterday - only 50 pence!  I couldn't leave it there, could I? 
I am also awaiting One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes which should be with me next week, so have plenty to be getting on with in any spare moments when I am not gardening, felt making or jewellery making!

Monday 13 June 2011

Open Gardens

 Yes, dear readers, more garden photos.  However, these are not from my garden but from various gardens I saw yesterday on an extremely wet Open Gardens day at my Mum's village.  I did get absolutely soaked, but it was worth it.  Looking round gardens is always interesting to me as I enjoy seeing how other people use plants.  The garden above was beautifully cared for, with not a weed in sight.  The owner told me that they had lost a lot of plants over the winter so had been re-planting through this season so far.  I liked all the trees the owner had planted - birches are so elegant and don't cast too much shade.

 This combination of orange red hot pokers and deep blue delphiniums managed to sing out despite the downpour.
I don't know the name of the tree in the photo above, but I was immediately attracted to the rosettes of needles and the brilliance of the colour.

Geranium Magnificum appeared in most of the gardens and was flowering happily under this tree.

This raised bed using railway sleepers gave a splash of bright colour to this garden, again, beautifully cared for.
A lovely herbaceous bed, with roses, aquilegia, cosmos, nepeta, hemerocallis and a ceanothus - very English Country Garden planting.
The owners of this garden had given it a taste of Japan and had trained this conifer's branches to hang down like a lovely living curtain, giving glimpses of the planting behind.
Having visited all the gardens, we then enjoyed a well-earned cup of tea and piece of cake at the church.  If it had been a sunny day, the village would have been heaving with visitors, but as it was, we did see a few other brave souls venturing out which was encouraging.  The gardens were open to raise funds for the church, so however much money was raised, it was for a very good cause.
The only problem with looking at other gardens is that once home, all the problems in your own garden become very obvious.  I am lucky that I have lots of lovely plants, and also lucky that I don't have the pressure of opening my garden for charity!

Saturday 11 June 2011

Mystery Poppy - solved!

 The mystery of the poppy is now solved as you can see.  I had hoped it might have been 'Black Peony' but that was not to be, as the poppies have turned out to be the common or garden purple variety.

They are still beautiful in their own way, with the crinkled, ruffled silky petals and the dark purple patterns at the centre.  One other benefit is that being single flowers, they will be more attractive to bees.  I can't really complain as they were totally free!

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Roses and Clematis

More highlights from the garden and despite the lack of decent rain, the roses and clematis are doing well.  Another of my favourite roses, Rosa Mundi, looking fantastic with a few drops of rain on the petals.  The raspberry ripple swirls on the petals make each flower an original as no two are the same.  It is also one of the oldest roses still in existence.

A relatively new Clematis - Filigree - which I bought last year from QVC and a Raymond Evison introduction.  The two small plants survived the awful winter and I planted them together in a terracotta pot earlier this year. They only grow about 12 inches in height and are happily growing through an upturned wire hanging basket as a support and are starting to trail slightly over the pot which is very attractive.  The flowers are an unusual silvery grey/lilac and open out with darker stamens as you can see from the older flower below.

Monday 6 June 2011

Mystery Colour Poppies

 These self seeded poppies have suddenly sprung up in the garden - the ones in the photo above are growing in between the bricks in the path, and the others are in a pot of mint.  I grew some gorgeous 'Black Peony' annual poppies last year, but I don't know whether these are that variety, or a different interloper.

 I like the glaucous grey/green foliage of the plants and the delicate stems with their nodding buds.  I shall watch with interest to find out what colour they are. 

On a less happy note, my poor clematis macropetala which flowered very well earlier in the year has had a nasty outbreak of brown scale insect all up the stems.  It was my fault for not noticing sooner, but the insects were well camouflaged on the stems and it was only the browning of some of the leaves that made me notice.  I have tried to remove as many insects as I can (yuck!), pruned out the worst affected stems and have sprayed with a washing up solution in the vain hope it might help.  I shall give it a good feed and keep an eye on it (and on my many other clematis plants).  What Mother Nature gives with one hand, she takes away with the other!

Saturday 4 June 2011

A new hobby - Warning, it is addictive!

This is where my new hobby (Chris says it is on its way to becoming an obsession) of jewellery making all began.  I have always loved jewellery, especially earrings and am usually on the lookout for new ones to add to my ever expanding collection wherever we go.  I saw some faceted amethyst and silver ones on a local craft stall, and bought them because I hadn't seen faceted amethyst before, and because they were gorgeous!  A couple of weeks ago, I was idly channel flicking and came across jewellery maker (also a website which is a shopping channel for gemstones and jewellery making supplies.  I have quite quickly become au fait with beading thread, crimp beads, toggle clasps, jump rings, shepherd hooks and all the other vocabulary required.  Gemstones, shopping, beautiful colours and textures - I was hooked!  So, my first purchase was faceted amethyst beads and silver grey pearls (see above).

My most recent purchase was a mix of stones including labradorite which is the grey stone above, but which in certain lights has a flash of blue or cream or pink shades inside the stone (called a schiller, in case you are interested). 

The whole of my latest purchase, from left, labradorite, black shell squares, lapis lazuli puffy coins, two strand of green fluorite, three strands of picasso jasper.  The presenter said the fluorite is known for its fluorescent qualities in certain lights and I must admit, I wasn't convinced, but looking at the photo above, perhaps it does have this quality after all!

I love the fact that I can make my own bracelets and earrings (well, once I get to grips with the techniques).  Lapis Lazuli sounds so exotic and I think it is amazing that I can wear jewellery made from a stone that was precious in Egyptian times and was ground down to create the vibrant blue used in medieval books of hours or renaissance paintings.
 The picasso jasper reminds me of stones on a beach, especially at Hunstanton on the Norfolk coast, where I spent many happy holidays.  I'll probably use the grey/blue stones for myself and perhaps some of the chocolate brown colours.  It is odd how I have become so interested in such a short space of time - if I feel any of my creations are worthy of being put on future blog posts, I'll include them.  Now I just need to go and have a bit of a practice...

Thursday 2 June 2011

SMILE exhibition

On Monday, a rainy bank holiday, Chris and I ventured out to The Harley Gallery, where we saw the exhibition, SMILE, which had lots of quirky craft pieces on show  - quirky really appeals to Chris.  I loved the clever automata by Robert Race, constructed from driftwood and using stones as the balance weights.  Of course, like most people, I couldn't resist turning the handle and watching the figures move.

I was delighted to see some lovely textile pieces by makers I am aware of; Janet Bolton (above) and Linda Miller (below).  I like the handmade quality of Janet Bolton's work and the lovely machine embroidery pictures of Linda Miller's with the gorgeous shades of blue.

 Lucy Casson's mini upholsterers were busy at work on a rather dilapidated chair, and other creatures were making good use of 1950s furniture.  These pieces repaid close inspection and certainly did make us smile.

I also found a vision of myself in a few years, possibly having come into some money and living in a larger house in the country.  This was 'Flo' by Craig Mitchell, designed as a vase, but without the flowers in the exhibition, which I felt was unfortunate, because the flowers demonstrated why she had the slightly odd hugging posture.  There is something typically British about the stoicism on Flo's face, with her headscarf, her apron over her coat and her green wellies.  On second thoughts, I'm not sure I'll be embracing a headscarf any time soon!
The gallery is in the Welbeck estate, with Welbeck Abbey at its heart, and it once had twenty two acres of kitchen garden.  There is a large garden centre next to the gallery and a cafe and various craft studios too.  The house and estate once belonged to the Duke of Portland and there are some items of silver, ceramic and furniture on show in the little museum.  I really enjoyed reading some of the old recipes and looking at various accounts on show, including a bill for a stay by King William in 1695.  It was a really fascinating trip which we both enjoyed very much, and surprisingly, I managed not to buy any plants at the garden centre!