Sunday 31 July 2011

Latest book purchases

My latest additions to the ever-expanding library of books that Chris and I possess are the above - from Renaissance to 19th Century art in two steps!  However, I am really drawn to both, for the serenity and beauty of Fra Angelico to the colour and brush strokes of the Impressionists.

 Summer's Day by Berthe Morisot c. 1879
I really like the blues and greens used in this painting although it is a shame the centre of the book cuts the figure in half.  The obvious brush strokes also work well to describe the surface of the water.

 A close up of the water reveals the zig-zag brush strokes the artist used.

 Bar at the Folies-Bergere by Jean-Louis Forain 1878

The brilliance of the colours used appeals to me and again, the close up shows the overlaying of lines in the background.  

 The close up of the marks shows how the artist overlaid many different colours to give this effect.
 Fra Angelico's work seems much more serene but uses the same colours as the picture above albeit four hundred years before.  I love the deep lapis blues in this work "The Coronation of the Virgin" (around C15th) and the brilliance of the colours really shines out, even after several centuries.  It is tempera on panel.
A close up of the bottom right hand corner shows the perspective as well as the amazingly bright colours.
The Impressionist book ties in very well to the current series on BBC2 on Saturday nights, "The Impressionists - Painting and Revolution" presented by the very enthusiastic Waldemar Januzczak.  It is a rather gimmicky programme using lots of extraneous visuals, but the commentary is intelligent and I am enjoying it despite the gimmicks.
link to iplayer:  

Monday 25 July 2011

Latest jewellery creations

Here are some of my latest jewellery designs - really, it is a matter of having a play with all the gemstones I have amassed (in a very short time, it has to be said!)  Above is a lapis lazuli bracelet, with a gold heart that Chris found in one of the boxes of beads we have.

 This bracelet has amethyst (my favourite) with labradorite and black jasper.  The patterns on the black jasper are incredible and I am going to make a bracelet just using them.

Finally, a bracelet made with amazonite, turquoise chips and labradorite, and earrings with amazonite and aquamarine.  The loop earrings were a result of me having some beading thread left over from a bracelet and trying a weaving technique.  I am still practising with crimping and have found that the crimping pliers I have are not very effective unless there are a lot of strands to crimp.  For less than about four strands, I use my normal pliers which seem to be working. I am really enjoying making my own jewellery. 

Sunday 24 July 2011

Granny's garden at Crayke (part two)

"At the top of the hill outside the greenhouse was a small rose garden.  The roses were mostly pink and dark red.  Father liked a dark red rose best.  He pruned them himself and I used to enjoy watching him.
The square was the sunniest and most sheltered part.  Nurse used sometimes to send us to walk round the square on a winter's morning if there was no time for a walk.  The centre of the square was occupied by an asparagus bed with peas, beans and carrots in season and a border of flowers round, sweet peas, gypsophila, shirley poppies and love-in-a-mist.  There were also some frames for early lettuces and seedlings.  Below the square was a bed for spring greens and radishes and parsley and a large blackcurrant bush.  Then came the main potato patch.  All down beside the potatoes were steps with logs of wood for treads.  Below the potatoes were cabbages, onions, leeks, celery and marrows.  A small gate led from here into the field.  The field ran steeply downhill but at the bottom was a level lawn where we played bowls, croquet or tennis.
Two fine oak trees grew near the lawn.  One was easy to climb and provided good seats.  The other oak was very old and had a stout trunk.  The roller stood up against it and by climbing onto the handle, Margie and I could be hoisted up to the first intersection where the branches spread out.  Room could be made for all five of us to sit at the top of the trunk.

We each had a garden of our own near the house, where we grew pansies, mignonette, forget-me-nots, candytuft and such easy growing flowers.  Father had a special place for primroses and was very fond of his blue primroses.  Every year he would arrange his plants to form the initials of one of the family.  How proud I was when it came to my turn and I saw E.M.W in primroses!
We had a swing and a see-saw under the chestnut trees.  I was afraid of the see-saw as I once got my leg pinched when I sat in the middle.  Sometimes all five of us climbed on the swing together and pretended we were Huguenots escaping from our enemies, or Cavaliers being chased by Roundheads.  The swing went up and up and faster and faster until at last we reached safety."

The garden and field were sold off some time around the 1960s and I believe houses were built there.  The garden obviously had a huge impact on Granny as she could remember it all so vividly.  She was extremely knowledgeable about plants and flowers, particularly wild flowers, and sometimes would collect us from the bus stop after school and point out all the different flowers we walked past on the way home.  I am sure she would be very pleased that I love gardening so much.

Saturday 23 July 2011

Granny's garden at Crayke

I haven't posted any of Granny's memoirs for quite some time, so, to fit in with the garden theme of my blog at the moment, here is an exerpt about the garden at Crayke.
 " The garden at Crayke was a perpetual delight to us. We had a good gardener called Taylor, who, with the help of his son Tom, kept the lawns, the greenhouse, the vegetable garden, the flowers and the fruit trees all in good order. We grew enough vegetables and potatoes to keep us all the year round, and usually had plenty of apples and pears. Taylor must have worked very hard. He pumped all the water for the house as well. We had a WC but no bathroom. There was an earth closet in the garden and another for the maids, in the yard.
There were window boxes at the front windows filled with double pink creeping geraniums and lobelias. By the drawing room steps there was a jasmine plant and the scent of white jasmine always takes me back to Crayke. Lilacs and laburnums grew round the side lawn where we often played croquet. There were plenty of trees in the garden which we could climb and others, like the big elm trees, which had no low branches.

The garden was laid out in terraces down the hillside.  The top terrace was wide enough to skip along and bowl our hoops.  There were hyacinths growing in the border and one year Mother hid my Easter egg amongst the hyacinths.  Berberis grew on the bank above... Along the lower terrace were the gooseberry bushes and on the bottom one, the strawberries, but they never did very well.  Beyond the strawberries were rhubarb and horseradish, and two lovely lilac bushes." 

It does sound an idyllic garden to grow up with and there will be more about this garden in my next post.

Monday 18 July 2011

Iris - final photos

 What a difference one day makes, and here is the proof.  The iris buds have opened to reveal the most beautiful deep purple flowers with splashes of yellow at the base of the outer petals.

The other amazing thing about these bulbs was that they were an absolute bargain at a pound shop - only £1.00 for 25 bulbs.  Not all of them will flower, but most have produced leaves and several have produced flower stems, so I am very happy. 
I also have more courgettes on the way and a few more beans too (although the slugs and snails are turning the leaves into stumps), so all in all, my vegetable growing hasn't been a total disaster.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Iris and Gladioli progress

I know my blog posts have become rather gardening-heavy just at the moment, possibly because things are growing quickly and the garden is changing every day.  You can just see a purple petal starting to emerge in the photo I took yesterday.

The gladioli flowers have opened and there is a pink pattern inside, although the outer petals are more of a salmon/apricot than white.

Here is the iris as it was this morning - showing more of the deep purple/blue flower that is going to bloom in the next day or so.  It goes well with the geranium that is sprawling all over the top of the pot.

The gladioli this morning, with another flower open, and a few more still to come. 

Thursday 14 July 2011

Modest garden success

 I have been experimenting with some new plants this year and am finally seeing some results, albeit in a modest way.  However, even modest success is really exciting for me!  Above is a lovely bud from some Dutch iris bulbs I planted a month or so ago.  I thought all that I had managed to grow were some very lovely green strap-like leaves and was ready to chalk it up to experience about impulse buying, but a little more patience and I have been rewarded with the promise of flowers.  Once they come out, I'll post a photo.

 More impulse buys, this time dwarf gladioli (not a plant I was particularly enamoured with), but I was prepared to give them a try.  I do have a couple of stems almost in flower, but most of the bulbs/corms/rhizomes have just produced leaves.  I think the flower has a pink strip on the inside of the petals, but I'll just have to wait and see.

 Here is evidence of my second attempt at growing something to eat in the garden.  Chris has mentioned (just the odd once or twice!) that he likes things you can eat, so I do grow chives and mint, but not a lot else in that line.  So, this year, I thought I would try again.  My previous attempts with carrots and shallots convinced me that I did not have what it took to grow veg.  This year, I bought seeds of Courgette 'Midnight' and Runner Bean 'Hestia', both developed for container growing. The seeds grew really well and I planted them into large pots.  I watered and fed them, but nothing much seemed to be happening.  Then, flowers appeared on the beans and then on the courgettes.  You can imagine my delight!  Unfortunately, the courgette flowers just kept falling off.  I then discovered that these were the male flowers and the female ones take a little longer to grow.  I fed the plants again and found an actual courgette, much to my surprise.  So, I am feeling encouraged, especially as the beans are also starting to develop.  If nothing else, at least I can say I have grown some veg this year!

Monday 11 July 2011

Hydrangea 'Avant Garde' progress report

Here is my Hydrangea 'Avant Garde', looking as though it has settled in to my garden (although it is still in a pot.)  It has put on quite a bit of growth and has developed a flower bud, so it looks as though the guarantee of flowers in September is going to work.

The leaves are huge and a beautiful glossy green.  It is on the shady side of the path, so gets a bit of morning sun, but is then in shade for the rest of the day.  So far, so good.  Once it is in flower, I'll post another photo.

Saturday 9 July 2011

Ken Dodd - a national treasure!

Chris and I went to see Ken Dodd at the local theatre last week.  It was absolutely packed with not a spare seat to be seen.  We knew that his shows tend to last quite a long time, so were prepared to be there until the early hours of the morning.  In the event, this show started at 7.15pm and he let us go at 12.00 midnight!  We certainly got our money's worth. 
He is an amazing entertainer and told us that he was celebrating 55 years in show business.  He sang, told many, many jokes which had the audience hooting with laughter, and even included some ventriloquism with a 'Diddy Man' character called 'Dicky Mint'.  I think he could have quite happily continued entertaining us for longer as he had incredible energy and enthusiasm and showed no sign of flagging (we did, towards the end of the second half). 
It seemed that a large percent of the audience were mature, because they are the ones who know him best, but I did spot a few people younger than me, which was encouraging.  It really was a masterclass in joke telling and in entertainment generally and I am very pleased that we had the opportunity to see him in action.
(photo from Daily Mail)

Monday 4 July 2011

Plant combinations

I just thought I would share a couple of lovely plant combinations I noticed on my daily wander round the garden.  Above is a lovely trio of climbing rose 'New Dawn', Clematis 'Perle D'Azur' (flowering really well this year, not sure why, but very nice anyway) and Jasmine 'Clotted Cream'.  The jasmine and rose also have the added benefit of fragrance too.

Here is Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle' with Clematis 'Arabella' to the left and Clematis 'Etoile Violette' on the trellis at the back.  The Hydrangea has gone completely mad this year and has a huge number of flowers and is in danger of taking over the garden.  It is a beautiful plant though, so I just let it grow where it wants to.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Mrs Gaskell - finished!

I have finally finished this biography of Mrs Gaskell and as I had been less than enthusiastic about it in a previous post, I thought it warranted another post.  Yes, it was extremely detailed and written in a scholarly way, as I said before.  There was a wealth of source material, used effectively and intelligently, and the author obviously liked her subject immensely.  There was plenty of analysis about each of Mrs Gaskell's novels which was very interesting, and as one of my favourite novels is Wives and Daughters, the analysis made me want to immediately re-read it.   However, initially, I found it hard going but was determined to finish it.  Having made it to the photographs in the middle of the book, things started to become much more interesting for me. Charlotte Bronte entered Mrs Gaskell's life and also various Pre-Raphaelite artists and eminent poets and writers of the day.  This made me much more interested and indeed, I started to really enjoy the book from that point onward.  My favourite part is a description of a meeting with Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the Pre-Raphaelite artist and poet, who they "got to know pretty well".

"...always excepting the times when ladies with beautiful hair came in, when he was like the cat that turned into a lady, who jumped out of bed and ran after a mouse.  It did not signify what we were talking about or how agreeable I was; if a particular kind of reddish brown, crepe wavy hair came in, he was away in a moment, struggling for an introduction to the owner of the said head of hair.  He is not as mad as a March hare, but hair-mad."

There is also a lovely description of the possible origin of the word 'scrattling' by one of Mrs Gaskell's daughters (maybe Stella Gibbons knew about this and so included it in Cold Comfort Farm).
"Some cousins of Mama's very often had an old lady staying with them who was most inquisitive and if the cousins had been out of the room or were away from her for some time, on their return this old lady would make a point of saying "Well Mary and what have you been doing?" Mary told her, but in time this grew very tiresome, so they determined to invent a word which was to mean anything they chose.  So the next time the old lady asked her Everlasting question of "Well Mary and what have you been doing?" "Oh," said Mary, "I have been scrattling".  The old lady never liked to betray her ignorance of this word so she said, "Oh, scrattling have you and a very nice employment it is for you."
The second half of the book definitely redeemed it in my view and I am glad I decided to stick with it and finish it.