Friday, December 31, 2010

I Won!

During December I followed the Garden Bloggers' Advent Calendar and was amazed that I actually managed to work the answer out from the anagram of letters that I had accumulated over the 24 days.  I was even more amazed when I won!  And yesterday my prize arrived in the post - this wonderful book, which was the answer to the anagram.  

It is a perfect book for winter nights as it is full of lots of little sections with all different snippets of information in.  I started it last night and know I'm going to really enjoy reading it, so thank you Sally for creating the puzzle and for my lovely prize.

I hope you all have a good end to the year and I wish you all a very happy, peaceful and prosperous 2011, it's been lovely getting to know you.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Nearly Ready for Christmas

We finally got real, proper snow here last weekend.  This is what my garden looked like at the beginning of the week.

I couldn't get into the greenhouse for several days, but fortunately the little paraffin heater kept going without requiring a top-up and everything in there seems to have survived fine without me.

Every year I end up racing around for Christmas at the last minute, and this year is no exception.  The snow hasn't helped that, but I think that finally I am nearly done.  The house is cleaned, the food is bought, the tree is up and the presents are nearly all bought. Of course I haven't wrapped anything yet and I still need to make the mince pies but there's still about 36 hours left isn't there!   Before I get wrapping though I think I should sample the chocolate biscuits, after all it would be wrong to offer them to guests without testing the quality first wouldn't it?!

I hope you all have wonderful Christmases and wish you all lots of happiness and peace in 2011.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Not Quite A Hat ..................

My granny taught me to crochet when I was about 9 and every so often I get an urge to crochet something. Usually what happens is that I buy the wool, start off ok, then it all goes wrong and I lose the desire so the wool gets put away and that's the end of that project!  Last weekend I decided to crochet myself a hat and found a pattern on the internet. I tried for ages to make a hat that fitted my head, but my lack of forward planning let me down, as the wool that I'd bought was a different thickness to the one in the pattern and the crochet hooks I had were different sizes too.  After many hours of crocheting and unravelling I gave up.  But then I had another idea - I'd make myself some arm warmers  as I get cold hands when I'm working on the computer but can't work in fingerless gloves.   This time I didn't have a pattern but just worked the size out as I went along.  They're not perfect (I'm not even quite sure they're the same size as each other!), but they are unique.  Initially I could only wear them when I was sitting down as they fell off when I walked, but thanks to some shearing elastic I can now walk in them too!

I don't think they'll start a new fashion trend, and I won't be making anymore, but they're bright and cheerful and will keep my arms and hands warm when I'm working.  (I couldn't photograph them both, logistics of a camera and not enough hands, but there is a pair really!).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Splash of Colour - December

Here is my Splash Of Colour for December, hosted by Silverpebble.  There are also some bright and cheery photos on the Splash of Colour Flickr group.

I was quite amazed at how much colour there still was in the garden at this time of year:

 1.Christopher Marlow frosted   2.Orange Rosehip   3.Cotoneaster Berries
4.Clematis Freckles   5.Choisya    6.Rose Thorns
7.Red Rosehip   8.Paperbark Cherry   9.Christopher Marlow in the snow

 It's bitterly cold here but we have escaped with less snow than most of the rest of the country.  Hope you're all managing to keep warm.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Greenhouse Friend

It's been really cold here the last few nights and yesterday afternoon at 5pm the thermometer in the greenhouse was showing -1C. Time to light the paraffin heater!  I have to use a paraffin heater as the greenhouse is over 150ft from the house and has no electricity installed.  Not that I mind having to use a paraffin heater - infact I love it, I just love the smell of paraffin!  It's no hardship having to walk down the garden each morning to turn the heater off, as the smell wafts towards me as I get to about the pond.  I don't know if the neighbours appreciate the subtle smell which must permeate into their gardens too, but they've never said anything.  I know my friend Fran shares my love of this "unusual" smell, as does my Dad (who was once known to try and make toast with a paraffin blow torch!) but I wonder how many of the rest of you do too?  I'm guessing it's probably abit like marmite - love it or hate it!  

 My trusty friend

Friday, November 19, 2010

Seed Head Inspiration (2)

The weather has been very grey here today so I thought I'd share some more colour with you in the form of my other textile creation inspired by seedheads.

 Poppies on Garden Fleece (click to see the detail)

 The poppies on the top layer (made from garden fleece!) were formed by stencilling on gesso and then painting the whole layer with fabric paint.  It was then machine stitched onto the bottom layer of painted pelmet vilene (which had more poppies stencilled on with oil paint sticks).  Free motion stitching with sparkly metallic thread is not something I've cracked yet, and I shouted at it many times as it jammed and snapped and missed stitches etc!  After all that I got the heat gun out and blasted it - the fleece disintegrates VERY quickly!  Finally I distressed the edges (I don't like straight lines) with the solder iron.

Well, if nothing else, it livens up a dull day when even I won't venture into the garden!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Splash of Colour - November

I've decided to join in with Silverpebble's wonderful Splash of Colour project.  The idea (for any of you who don't know) is to post a colourful photo at the begining of each month from November to February to combat the greyness that's outside.  

This is my offering for November, the jumbled and higgledy contents of my thread box.

She's set a flicker group up so you can pop over there too to see lots of wonderful bright colours!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Seed Head Inspiration (1)

Back in the summer Gina posted a series of blogs about a Sketchbook project (click here to see them all), and I had a go at doing alot of her ideas,  (I loved painting with ink and uncooked spaghetti!).  A few weeks ago I decided to experiment further with the stencil I'd made of a poppy seedhead, and stencilled with extra heavy gesso onto tyvek paper.  When it was dry I free-motion embroidered around the gesso and randomly across the tyvek.  Then I blasted it all with a heat gun, painted it with black writing ink, bleached it, and painted over the gessoed area with a gold markal paint stick.  Finally I highlighted areas with treasure gold (a purchase from the Knitting and Stitching Show last month) and mounted it on painted pelmet vilene.

 (To see the detail you'll need to click on the image to enlarge it)
I love how tyvek does its own thing, and how the gesso and stitching goes someway to controlling it, but not totally.  (I'll let you see how I used the same stencil with garden fleece another time!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Seed Heads

It's most definitely autumn now.  The leaves are turning lovely colours and falling to the ground, we had our first frost which has blackened the dahlias, and the flowers of the summer have given way to sculptural seed heads.  I must admit to having a real fascination with these this year:
Stipa Gigantea
Opium Poppy

I think my fascination is because of their textures and shapes, which slowly emerge after the flowers fade.  I love the hidden seeds in the paper thin casings in the chive and the solid shell of the poppy.  Maybe it's also because I look at them now as inspiration for creating something in textiles and paint, but that's another post (or maybe even another blog to separate my new love of textile art from my old faithful friend of the garden?).

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Little Helper?

This throw had been washed and was hanging over the banisters drying (it was damp and drizzling outside).  I think Dylan was fed up with waiting for me to put it back on "his" chair, so he decided to take it down himself!  Needless to say that the moment I photographed him he went off in search of more mischief and I am now left waiting for the next crash or thud!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Better Late than Never

This year my friend and I grew Cobeas from seed.  She sowed white ones, and I sowed blue ones.  Mine were problematic from the start, and the first packet failed to germinate at all.  Eventually though they grew and we swapped plants.  I planted four in all, 2 white and 2 blue.  The white one  that I planted in full sun, where it was supposed to thrive, has just about hung onto life but hasn't done anything else. The other ones I planted over a pergola and they have eventually produced buds.  Two days ago I was thrilled to see that one had opened - isn't it just gorgeous!

It would have been nice if they'd flowered during the summer when I could have sat outside and enjoyed them, but it's better late than never!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Autumn Confusion?

Most plants in the garden are doing what they should be doing at this time of year.  The sedums have started to flower,


the roses are still in bloom and are deliciously scented,

the clematis and eryngium have got beautiful seed heads,

but this primrose is obviously confused and thinks it's spring,

 and my poor cobea doesn't realise that it's autumn and is finally producing buds! 

I'm hoping that a few might open, but it needs to get its skates on!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Purple Grapes

Remember the tiny grapes I blogged about in May?  Well this is what they look like now:

I still have no idea what variety they are but as you can see they turned out to be beautiful purple ones, which are sweet enough to eat.  The birds are having some, but there are so many growing that there are ample for me and friends and neighbours to enjoy as well.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A First For Everything

This is a first in many ways.  To start with it's my first blog post that isn't about gardening or cats, secondly it's about my first piece of textile art, and thirdly it's the first time I've shared anything arty that I've created with anyone.

Back in January I bought a couple of books about textile art, and for the last few months have been fiddling around with various techniques and materials, but last week I decided that I had to bite the bullet and actually try and create something.  So here it is: (you'll need to click on the image to enlarge it to see it properly)


It's abit of a mix of techniques.  The background is painted silk dupion, the sand and rocks are layers of tyvek, bondaweb and painted organza distressed with a heat gun.  The sea is layers of shot organza and painted bondaweb, also distressed with a heat gun.  There are beads in the sea and the sand, with gold hand stitching running through the rocks.  I used 3d medium, painted with pearlex, along the shoreline and gold markal paint to highlight the rocks.  Finally I added dangles of frayed silver thread to the sea to add movement before distressing all the edges with a soldering iron.

The most important thing is that I really enjoyed doing, and already have some ideas forming for other ones, which will keep me occupied during the dark winter evenings when I can't garden.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Bargain

Last week I was at a meeting at a local conference venue where there was a garden show taking place in the grounds (you can probably guess which of the two I really wanted to go to).  At the end of the meeting they announced that as we were already on the site that we could have free access into the show.  I have to admit that the plants weren't anything spectacular, but I was so pleased when I spied this obelisk.

I wanted one to go in the space where the pittosporum used to be, but couldn't find one that was small and delicate enough for the tiny clematis aromatica that would grow up it.  It was priced at £8, but I only had £6 in cash and they didn't take credit cards.  I've never before haggled for anything  but I decided to ask if they'd take £6.  You can see that they did!  I was going to rub it down and paint it cream, but at the moment I quite like its mix of rust and shine so I might just leave it as it is.  What do you think? (If you click on the picture you can see it in more detail).

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tall White Daisies?

The label in the pot said "Tall White Daisies".  My mum gave me the plant a couple of years ago when I moved in, and although I planted it last year it didn't do anything.  This year it grew and grew, and had masses of tiny buds for weeks.  I was intrigued to see what type of tall white daisies they would be.  They obviously weren't leucanthemum, might they be a type of aster maybe?  Gradually they opened and revealed themselves - not exactly tall white daisies, more of a tall golden rod!  Not what I was expecting, but thanks mum as it does give some good autumn colour!

Golden Rod

Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Pittosporum No More

When I moved in I inherited a very tall tree-like pittosporum, in the centre behind the table in the picture below.

before (2008) - doesn't the garden look narrow?

Over the last 2 years I've had to periodically cut branches off that were too low or causing too much shade.  This year I wanted to let more light into the garden without having to loose my lovely snake bark maple, so I decided the pittosporum had to go.  I used various brute force and ignorance techniques with extendable loppers, a step ladder and, once most of the height had been reduced, an electric saw.  It took the whole afternoon, and was much taller than I'd realised (between 15 and 20 foot), but I had a great feeling of satisfaction when I finally sawed through the trunk at ground level.  

I can't even attempt to get the roots out so I've painted the stump with stump killer.   This whole area of the garden is so much lighter now, and I hope that the plants will be much happier.  I will add some height with an obelisk that a clematis can grow up, but that's a whole other tale! 
after (Aug 2010) - no tree and the garden seems wider!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Working Hard

It's raining, so gardening is on hold at the moment.  That's not all bad as it's given me time to catch up with work for The Treasure Tree and I'm hoping that I'll have another animated story starter ready for the new school term. However not all occupants of the study are working quite as hard!
 Anyone would think that chair had been put in here just for her benefit!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Today's Favourite Clematis

As I've said before I love clematis (and roses).  At the last count I had over 30 (of each - I know I must stop buying them!) but as of today this is my favourite:
 Clematis Triternata Rubromarginata

It is so delicate and pretty, and not at all like the more blousier ones which scream out "come and look at me", this one just sits there, silently, waiting to be aspied.
I do suspect though, that in time, another one may inch its way to the top of the favourite board, but we won't tell that to this one, will we?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Can You Hear A Donkey?

When I asked my neighbour "Can you hear a donkey in the distance?" she looked at me with a slightly worried expression as though I'd really lost the plot!  "No," she replied, "there are no donkeys round here."  When I asked my friend (who knows me well and understands how I think) the same question, she didn't bat an eyelid as she replied "No, but I can hear the cattle on the water meadow, it's probably them you can hear."
I didn't know there were cattle on the water meadow so I went for a walk down there to investigate.
It was a lovely evening and the thistles were beautiful - 

The swans were enjoying the river -
But the cattle were shy!  I could see them in the distance, and hear them mooing, but they wouldn't come close enough for me to take a decent picture.  But I found this one of them on the internet when I got home, and they really do look like this.  How could I have lived here for over 2 years without knowing they were there?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Reason Not To Tidy!

I would really like to be a tidy person, but naturally I'm not!  I try to keep things put away and filed correctly, but piles of papers and books just appear from nowhere.  Downstairs I just about manage to win the battle, most of the time, but my study is another kettle of fish.  Alot of my work stuff is filed in baskets on shelves, and I even put up another book shelf a couple of months ago (which is now full!), but still piles appear on my desk.  Sometimes they appear within a few hours of me tidying.  But today I realised that I shouldn't worry about it, because if I had cleared this pile away then Florence would have had nothing to use as a pillow!
 And that seems to me to be a perfect reason not to tidy up!

Friday, July 23, 2010


Today my waterlily opened.  Back in April I blogged about how I was hoping to avoid the thick green soup type of pond water and had bought a minature waterlily last year to try and provide the necessary shade.  The water is very clear this year so I'm guessing the waterlily shade has helped, although I suspect that the duckweed is also providing some necessary shade too!  I do skim it off regularly but it's a never completed job!  There are more buds, so I'm looking forward to many more weeks of blooms.
Nymphaea Walter Pagels

Sadly Dora died last week, but Nemo and Chilli are still happily enjoying each other's company and are swimming around under the lilypads.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I have several hemerocallis in my garden.  This one I bought many years ago and planted it in an "ali baba" type pot.  I'll never get it out of the pot (unless I smash it), but it's quite happy as long as I remember to water it and feed it.  I have no idea what variety it is anymore!

The rest are all ones that I acquired with the garden, and so are also mainly unknown varieties, apart from this one which had a label near it.
Hemerocallis Pandora's Box

Yesterday I noticed that one had opened that had not flowered before - I don't think I've ever seen a double one before and I think it is quite stunning!  Again I have no idea of its variety.
Unknown double orange hemerocallis

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Is it, or is it not?

When I bought this house I inherited a Magnolia Grandiflora, the neighbours say it has never flowered.  I was cutting it back today as it was threatening to take over the patio when I stopped, and went inside for binoculars and camera.  Is this a flower bud?  It doesn't look like a leaf bud.  There is only one, but one will be better than none.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Veg Growing

I have just picked my first two courgettes!  There are lots more to come as well.  When I first had my allotment I planted 6 courgette plants and practically supplied the whole village with them!  I learnt my lesson and only planted 2 plants the next year.  Now I don't have an allotment but I manage to squeeze a small veg plot in behind the greenhouse.  Currently I an growing various cut and come again lettuces, onions, carrots, rocket, red mustard, beetroot, courgettes, runner beans, tomatoes, cucumber, and strawberries outside, with more tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines in the greenhouse.  I have leeks that need planting and a blackcurrent bush with no fruit or flowers.  I didn't realise how much I was growing 'til I made that list!  I've picked a few strawberries, although they're in too much shade really, but I have had a lot of fresh salad.  Can't wait for the rest of the bounty!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Around Midnight

Earlier this week I spotted this little gem at the back of a border.  In the spring I thought it had died as there was no sign of life anywhere, but eventually the leaves appeared but no flowers.  I fed it with tomato feed and it has rewarded me with 2 flowers.  They are tiny, but beautifully marked, (and are actually darker than in the photo).  Maybe if I look after it a bit better, and cut back some of the surrounding shrubs to give it more light, it might reward me with more flowers next year?  For the moment though I'm very happy that it's alive!

Iris Chrysographes Around Midnight