Monday 25 December 2023

Merry Christmas 2023


(some of our Christmas decorations)

Merry Christmas to all blog readers and commenters (who celebrate this festive season).

(another Christmas decoration)
As has become my Christmas tradition, here is the quote from one of my favourite Christmas carols, "It came upon the midnight clear", written by Edmund Sears in 1849.

"Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not 

The love song which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing." 

I wish the men of strife would hush and there could be some peace in the world.

(My Christmas cards this year)

To end on a positive, I quote from Desiderata (a 1927 prose poem by Max Ehrmann): 

"...And whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy."

(Another Christmas card I made this year)
May I wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful festive season.

Thursday 21 December 2023

Winter gardening and looking forward

So far, December has been wet, grey and a bit dismal.  The garden is looking rather bedraggled and unkempt.  I leave all the flower heads and seed heads over winter, for insects and birds and winter interest. When I venture out, which is most days, I look forward to seeing the garden changing with the seasons. I am trying to have something in flower for every month in the year and so far, I think the garden is managing that. Above is camellia Yoimachi, proving it was a good buy.
There is also Camellia Yuletide, a relatively recent addition, but with lovely red flowers.  It is certainly earning its place.
While not yet in flower, some of my hellebores are showing they will be soon. Above is Hellebore Ericsmithii Winter Sunshine.  I was very excited to see these buds.
Here is hellebore Hello White Pearl, proving to be a real stalwart, along with...
...Hellebore Hello Ruby.  While I don't want to wish the days away, it's lovely to be able to look forward to what is yet to come.

Thursday 14 December 2023

Wanderlust 2023 - weeks forty-one to forty-nine - Monoprinting and carving

I was really looking forward to the final focus of monoprinting and carving and I really did enjoy it.  The first week was looking at different kinds of carving and printing  and we used stencils on the gel plate, heat sensitive printing foam (where you heat the foam, press an object into it and an image is created.  When you have finished, you heat the foam again and the image disappears. I used some japanese anemone seedheads), foam shapes on a kitchen roll inner and a lino print.

My linoprint was of honesty seedheads, from a calendar - 'silver pennies'.
The next week was making papers using the gel plate and then creating a collage image.  My papers included corrugated cardboard, my own foam stamping plates, bubble wrap and my own stamps.  I chose the tree as we were enjoying nice autmnal weather.
Week forty three was using charcoal and then oil pastels on the gel plate. I had wanted to try using charcoal on the plate, but just hadn't got round to it, so this was my chance.  We used a photo to trace over using the charcoal and then stuck the image to the gel plate.  We then made some 'wonky people' using oil pastels, which was a bit of a trial and error process, but I got there in the end.
We then had to represent a favourite place using gel plates and bearing value and contrast in mind.  My place (not that you'd know from the image) is Haddon Hall. The little bridge is represented by the arches, the swirls are roses, the wavy lines are the river, the castellations are just that, and the diamonds are the window panes.  I wasn't sure I had chosen the right colours, or that I had enough contrast... 
...but when I desaturated the image, it looked better than I thought.  There are light and dark areas.
We next made a lino print again from a photo and made decisions about how much to take away or whether to add patterns.  I was really pleased with this. I made a frame for the image with gel plate printed patterns.
For this week, we used a gel printed background which was a very colourful one.  We then painted out a lot of the colour using black acrylic.  I used a face stencils for my version and was pleased with how it turned out. I like the change of colours from warm to cool.
For the penultimate week, we took our inspiration from Matisse's paper cuts and designed our image using cut out paper.   We then made a lino print of the image and printed it on paper and material.  I decorated the paper print with acrylic pens and stitched over the material version.  
I used three stitches: backstitch, split stitch and french knots.  It took a while but the result was worth it.
The final week was just having fun with colour, so I did!
There was also a wrap up week, where we were encouraged to bind any loose pages and then make a cover for the journal. I need to decorate my cover, so shall do that shortly.
This year has been about experimenting with different media and I have learned a lot. I have found some lovely techniques and will be using them again in the future.  I have embraced some media, such as pastels, which I didn't think I liked.  
Most recently, I have rediscovered my love for lino printing and collage and this is an area I really want to develop, so this will be a focus next year.  I have also signed up to Wanderlust again next year, so it will be interesting to see what that will bring.

Wednesday 6 December 2023

Winter has arrived

Last week it was much colder, as winter started to make itself felt.  Above is Clematis Wyevale looking beautifully statuesque with a dusting of frost.  
As we were going into the city centre, we were stopped in our tracks by these amazing icy spiders' webs. 
They look so beautiful.
I can't remember ever seeing something similar, although it could be I just wasn't looking!
These are all at the front of the house, along the railings.
Aren't they incredible?
Then on Sunday morning, this is what greeted us.
Even with the frost, ice and snow, this salvia, Cerro Potosi, still had a flower.
The winter flowering jasmine was also braving the temperatures.
I also found two raspberries - one was eaten before I took the photo - and they still tasted good!

Thursday 30 November 2023

New watercolours from Rosa Gallery

 I have wanted to upgrade my watercolour paints to better quality for a little while.   Winsor and Newton professional or Daniel Smith are just a bit too much for my budget so I was looking at some reviews and Rosa Gallery paints, made in Ukraine seemed to be a good option.  They are mid range and can also be bought in single pans.  So I bought a 28 set and waited for them to arrive.

I have only swatched them so far, on the card that came with them and in my swatch book.  I can report that they are lovely and creamy, and don't need a lot of water or brush work to activate. My current student grade paints need a fair bit of brush work to get them going.

In my enthusiasm to swatch them, I managed to have two of the same green on the card that came with the paints.  I added the black at the top instead.
Lots of little blocks of colour in my swatch book - it makes me happy!
I particularly like the blues and greens.  I have ordered a few more colours which I think I will need, such as Opera Rose, Cobalt Turquoise and a white, which is useful to have.
I'll let you know how I get on.

Saturday 25 November 2023

In and Out

My vibrantly coloured Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera - originally from Brazil) is starting to show its fuchsia flowers. Last year it tried to flower but I didn't give it enough water so the buds fell off.  I am not making that same mistake this year.  I repotted it in the summer and have been much more diligent with watering and look at it now!  It is on the bathroom windowsill and seems to be enjoying it there.

The flowers are so bright they are almost neon.  When things are turning shades of yellow, brown and grey outside, it is so nice to have colour inside.
Having said that about outside, Camellia Yoimachi is starting to flower.  We had our first frost last night and it is due to continue to be frosty for the next few nights.   This camellia will continue to flower on and off through the winter into the Spring.  There is only the faintest touch of pink around the petals at the moment.
I do like the contrast of the white and yellow.  The garden is still providing things to enjoy.

Saturday 18 November 2023

Jobs in the garden

 I have been busy doing some gardening tasks as and when I can.  I have finally got my tulips planted, delayed by hurting my back a few weeks ago (the spinal facet joint).  After a couple of visits to an osteopath and being very careful, making sure I bend my knees, it is better, so I have been able to do a few jobs. However, they have taken me longer than usual, as I have just done a little at a time. I have planted my tulips for next year - just three pots.

At the front of the house is Orange Emperor (picture above from Avon Bulbs).  In the two pots in the back garden are: 

Brown Sugar... (my photo from the garden in Spring 2023)

...and Ronaldo (also my photo from the garden in Spring 2023).  Ronaldo seems to last particularly well.
I have also insulated the pots which really needed it - again this took a while.  There may be others to do as the weather gets colder but I can do those as and when.  
I may have ordered a new grass, Calamagrostis acutiflora Karl Foerster, so I am looking forward to receiving that - probably not until the beginning of December. I have a Calamagrostis Overdam which is a lovely plant, so am hoping Karl Foerster will be too.  He will go into the sunny border.
In Spring, I need to do a lot of re-potting. All my roses, my ornamental standard cherry and patio apple need to go into larger tubs.
There are always plans to make and autumn/winter is a good time to make them!

Thursday 9 November 2023

Things to enjoy in the garden - after Storm Babet

We survived Storm Babet but have had Storm Ciaran creating havoc in the South of the UK, with high winds and more rain as it moves away.  So far, the garden seems to be coping.  I  have all the normal Autumn jobs to do - collecting leaves, planting tulips and insulating my pots.  These will get done as soon as possible.   You can tell Autumn proper is here by the change of leaves - above is a blueberry.
However, there is still some colour to enjoy.  This is Salvia Cerro Potosi.
Rose Blush Noisette is also still in bloom.
Japanese Anemone Bressingham Glow has been flowering since July but the flowers are now more muted in colour than the bright pink they were in the summer.  This lilac-pink shade is still rather lovely.
Hydrangea Merveille Sanguine is putting on some fiery autumnal shades too.
Rose Gertrude Jekyll has put out one final rose which is beautifully scented.  I am enjoying it while I can.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Things to enjoy in the garden - before Storm Babet...

I took these photos a week or so ago, before Storm Babet decided to make her presence felt and flood a lot of the UK.  The watercourse levels were higher than I have ever seen them in thirty years and we lived in a state of worry for a few days.  We have been so much luckier than so many others and our house hasn't flooded this time. We did get between one and two months' worth of rain in one day.  Here's what caught my eye in the garden before all that happened.  Above and below is my cosmos plant which is at the front door.  It was grown by my sister-in-law and has given me so much pleasure.
The faintest pink colouring can just be seen on the edges of the petals.
Salvia Amistad, which has been great value. I bought six of these earlier in the year and grew them on inside initially. They were planted out in pots and have flowered all through the summer. They are showing no signs of stopping yet, but I expect the frost will kill them in time.
Hydrangea Bobo is putting out two more flowers and its leaves are starting to turn yellow.
Ever reliable Liriope Muscari doing its thing and really needing to be divided (I have been saying that for about four years).
Rose Roald Dahl - there are still buds to come.
A few raspberries from my Joan J plants in a tub.  They have been fruiting since mid August.  If Ii had more space, I would have a lot of these!
Clematis Arabella which has just decided to flower in the last few weeks.  This is a non-clinging variety and I have another of these in the North facing border, but this one has always struggled a bit, so it was lovely to see it flowering.