Monday 29 August 2011

August Bank Holiday - Garden visiting part 1

August Bank Holiday Monday, and the last bank holiday before Christmas, so we decided to make the most of the fact that it wasn't actually raining and go out visiting two of our favourite local gardens.  These photos are from The Garden House, Saxby, which I last visited back in April/May.  The house and garden are in a small village, off the beaten path and the setting is quiet which immediately gives a feeling of relaxation.  In April/May, the owner was very apologetic on that occasion as he had lost a lot of plants over the winter and was concerned that things weren't looking as good as usual.  No such issues this visit!  There was a riot of planting, with lots of cosmos, nicotiana and petunias.

 The hard landscaping gives the garden wonderful 'bones', with interesting vistas wherever you look.  The formal layout of some of the areas really appeals to me, with the 'floofy' planting inside.

The Cathedral garden had the addition of an organic flowing sculpture that turned out to be a gate, set with slabs of agate - a little play on words from the artist there - this gate complemented the formality of the pleached trees beyond.

This quiet and contemplative space is one of my favourite parts of this garden, surprisingly, as it is devoid of any other planting. The sun obligingly shone for me, giving an added dimension of shadows.
Perhaps one day, I'll be able to have a garden like this...I can dream.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Jekyll (revisited)

Chris and I recently revisited this series thanks to a friend lending us her DVD.  We had both watched the series when it was originally broadcast back in 2007, and had enjoyed it (although bits made me jump and there were plenty of gory bits too).  I remember thinking at the time that there should be a sequel as the ending was left suitably open for some kind of continuation, but there has been nothing so far.
Anyway, we both settled down to watch it again and I had forgotten just how good it was.  The writing was clever and darkly humorous with an absolutely amazing tour-de-force performance from James Nesbitt in the lead role.  His Hyde was unpredictable, menacing, funny, child-like and much as I tried not to, I couldn't help but be drawn to the character - the writer's interview showed that he did that on purpose so that the audience would care about both parts of the character.  I had also forgotten that the writer was Steven Moffatt who has taken over the lead writing for Doctor Who and who wrote my three all-time favourite Doctor Who episodes.  These are the "Are you my Mummy?" one with the gas mask people, the Madame de Pompadour one with the clockwork robots and "Blink", with the first appearance of the Weeping Angels.  In fact, at one point in Jekyll, Hyde asks "Are you my Daddy?", which made the link to Doctor Who very effectively for us.
I'm not going to give the story away, but it is a clever re-imagining of the Jekyll and Hyde idea, set in a contemporary world and is well worth a watch.  In fact, having seen it again, Chris has ordered our own copy!

Tuesday 23 August 2011

And another latest book read

I was given this book by a colleague at work who said, rather worryingly, "I've read it once, it was good but I won't want to read it again".  When I asked why she told me that it was like watching "Schindler's List", because although you are glad you have seen it, you don't want to put yourself through the ordeal of watching it again.  With some trepidation, I began reading.  Another colleague noticed me reading and asked what the book was.  On seeing the cover, she said "Oh, it's really good but it is so harrowing."  As I had only just got started, this didn't fill me with confidence.  Having now finished it, I can see what they meant, but that is to do with the subject matter.  Any book dealing with the Second World War and the persecution of the Jews is, by its nature, going to be upsetting and harrowing.  However, this book views Germany through the eyes of a child who initially hasn't quite grasped the significance of events unfolding around her.  The most unusual aspect of the book is the narrator - not the girl, but Death.  It is an interesting slant on the war and the author has cleverly given Death a sympathetic voice.  Death is not the grisly phantom so often depicted, as he tells the reader, (and I have assumed he is a he).  The story doesn't shy away from the concentration camps, nor from the forced marches nor from the allied bombing over Germany.  At the end, it is an uplifting story, in spite of the subject matter, which concentrates on the survival of the human spirit.

Monday 22 August 2011

Latest reading

Miss Buncle's Book - somehow it doesn't sound all that fascinating, does it?  Of course, the less than inspiring cover picture doesn't really help either.  However, bear with it, because this book is a great fun read which made me laugh out loud while I was reading it.  Written in the 1930s, it is the story of a spinster living in a quintessential English village who has no money coming in and has decided to write a book about something she knows - the inhabitants of the village.  Of course, this causes outrage once the villagers read the book and they cannot work out who wrote it.  Needless to say, everything works out most satisfactorily.
While I was devouring the story, which I read on Saturday afternoon having collected the book from the local library that morning, time and again I was thinking what a great film this would make, with a plethora of fantastic roles for English actors/actresses in it.  The likes of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Celia Imrie and perhaps Emma Thompson as the eponymous Miss Buncle would bring this to life on the screen - I could almost see it as I read.  It would make a wonderfully escapist film, one with a seemingly gentle story but actually, Miss Buncle is a very shrewd, clever, witty, observant woman (I imagine her as a kind of Jane Austen of her community) and it is her perceptive words that cause the villagers such embarrassment.  I need to find out about the author too because she shares a lot with her creation in that her writing is clever, witty and funny. I do think it is a film that could be made so well...  If only I had the contacts!

Saturday 20 August 2011

Hydrangea Avant Garde - in flower

Here it is, as promised in a previous blog post, my Hydrangea Avant Garde in flower.  Unfortunately, the photo doesn't give any idea of scale.  This flower is 30 cm/12 inches wide and is huge!  It also looks as though it is going to be pink, rather than blue, but it is still gorgeous, so I don't mind.  There are two more flower buds developing so hopefully I shall have flowers for some time to come.  However, it does need to be re-potted sooner rather than later, so I shall get on with that. I have lots to do in the garden at the moment - potting on, weeding the paths, planting, tidying the pots, and watering of course, so that should keep me busy for quite some time.

Monday 15 August 2011

More about the garden - Spring...again?

I know that the weather this year has been all over the place, with freezing Winter, boiling hot Spring and now damp and cool Summer, but I think my plants have been totally confused too.  Above is a Spring flowering clematis, happily putting out new flowers ( I took the photo this morning) and below shows my Magnolia liliflora Susan flowering again as well.  I know this can happen with some plants, but it has come as a bit of a surprise.  Still, if it means enjoying more flowers, I am very happy to see out of season blooms.

 Below, just to reassure me that it is still Summer, my hardy annual Morning Glory put out this gorgeous flower this morning.  The flowers only last one day, but when the colour is so astonishingly beautiful, I'm not going to complain.  Moreover, these plants were a gift from Mum who grew them from seed, so are doubly welcome.  They are a member of the bindweed family, but a very well behaved one which will never become a weed or a nuisance.
My garden (though very small) is always a source of endless fascination for me and I enjoy photographing the plants and sharing the photos with you.  I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I do.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Wildlife in the garden

Apart from our cats, the occasional hedgehog and one year a toad, the wildlife we tend to see in the garden is from the insect world.  This year, there haven't been many butterflies, probably due to the very cold temperatures last winter.  I have noticed lots of hoverflies and the occasional bee, busily searching for food.  The above photo shows a spider in the centre of the web, but what really attracted me to the image was the way the web appeared as though decorated with glistening raindrops, like pearls.

I bought the perennial lobelia above from a market stall this morning, as the colour appealed to me, being a lovely shade of blue/red.  I put it in the garden, still in its pot, to allow it to become acclimatised and to allow me to decide where it should go.  As I was looking at it, I noticed a bee and was lucky enough to have my camera with me at the time.

Finally, a Clematis Jackmanii Superba (and it has really been superb this year - probably the best I have ever seen it) with a hoverfly right in the centre.  I love the richness of the colour with the purple/crimson bar in the centre of each petal and the way the petals look as though they have been made out of velvet.
I enjoy seeing wildlife in the garden and am pleased that I can do my bit to help the insects survive.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

A successful plant (and thoughts about the weather)

Excuse me for feeling a little pleased with myself due to my successful growing of the above plant, Cerinthe Major Purpurescens.  I didn't plant the seeds until the beginning of June and they were saved from last year's flowers. However, they have been steadily growing too big and were desperate to be in the border, or a larger container at the least.  I kept seeing them and thinking, "I must get round to planting them", but never quite managing to do it.  Finally, on Monday, I decided enough was enough and planted them (rather unceremoniously, it has to be said).  They are quite sprawly in their habit but I like the combination of the glaucous green leaves with white ridges and the deep purple bell-like flowers.  Another benefit is that they are very attractive to bees - I think their common name is honey wort, which may explain why bees like them.  They are hardy annuals and hopefully I'll be able to save seeds for next year too.  They are also filling some gaps in the borders and help to keep the colour going for a while yet.
Incidentally, so far this summer has been 'typically English' with baking temperatures one day then downpours the next... Still, what would we talk about if we didn't have the weather?

Monday 8 August 2011

More Trials and Tribulations of Jewellery Making ( and my thoughts on creativity)

 Here are my latest attempts at jewellery making from yesterday.  I had gone up to a colleague's house (the colleague who I do felting with occasionally) and as she has recently started jewellery making, we thought it would be nice to sit and chat while we made jewellery.  She got on really well, dismantling a pearl necklace to create two more and then creating an amethyst nuggets and pearls necklace.  My afternoon was less productive!  Initially I started by taking a blue lace agate necklace apart to create a simpler design, but my wrap loops went wrong and somehow, whatever I did wasn't quite right.  So, I tried a Botswana Agate bracelet instead.  The design was fine but I kept making it far too big.  In the end, I brought it home and tried again.  (I realised when trying to make it that I didn't have my glasses - this could have been the reason things wouldn't go right for me!)  Eventually, I was happy with it and I made some earrings to go with it (see above).  I think that the markings on the stones are absolutely beautiful and I shall enjoy wearing them.

Deciding that I had better continue while things seemed to be going better (and I did have my glasses!), I made this amazonite bracelet which has rounds and one large chunky piece at the front.  It also has two smaller fluorite beads near the clasp.  This is a calming colour I find and it is rapidly becoming one of my favourite stones.  I just need some clothes to go with it...
I decided that I wasn't in the right mood to be creative yesterday afternoon, and that is why things didn't go right for me (the fact that I couldn't see that well probably didn't help either). Note to self: go with the creative urge when it hits you and give up and do something else when the muse isn't there!

Monday 1 August 2011

Nature's Bounty (albeit three weeks early!)

We went for a walk today along a path by a stream and found a large number of blackberry bushes just waiting for us to pick the fruit.  Judging from the scratches they gave us, perhaps they weren't so happy that we took the fruit, but that seems to be the pay off.  However, we left plenty for other people and wildlife and there were lots more berries ripening up too. As we have had a blackberry and apple crumble last week, and the weather here is now incredibly warm and humid (ugh!), I feel we should make blackberry sauce to have with ice cream.  To that end, Chris is looking into the costs of ice cream makers too, just in case we want to start making our own ice cream, sorbets or frozen yogurts.

While I was taking a photo of our haul, Ginny showed a keen interest in the bowl, but soon decided it was not something she could eat.  I think the blackberries are about three weeks earlier than last year and it must be due to the mad weather we have had this year. I hope that I shall soon be tucking into ice cream and blackberry sauce...mmm!