Monday, 23 April 2018

In a Vase On Monday - Samples


Samples of the best in flower in my garden this morning: Euphorbias are the catalyst as I experiment with my new set of vases.   Test tubes have featured very well in  in the IVOM  group particularly by Cathy who hosts this meme.  This week she has loads of tulips and it well worth looking at the previous post too.

Last week whilst visiting the Willow and Wet Land Centre where I bought my new white willow basket, I bought these three little sample vases in their carrier in one of little shops on site.  They reminded me of those test tubes.



Its the time of year where the lime green of the spurges shine out in the garden.  There are very many garden worthy  Euphorbias and always admired them and grown several over the years.  The three which I have growing in the garden at present each have their little vase. All three Euphorbia plants hare very different, and not grown primarily for the flowers but colour and form of the foliage, plant and flowers overall.




Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow

The Red polyanthus picks up the red in the eye of the Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow.




Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea'

With its purple foliage this Euphorbia works well in the border at any time of the year.

The bluebell which is growing profusely is not the native British one but the Bumble bees are not bypassing them.  I just need to keep these in check so that they don't spread until I decided whether to ditch them all.


Euphorbia myrsimites 

I have had this growing in a clay pot for several years.


A group of plants happier in shade are the Epimediums.  Again a group I love to observe.  Only one came with me, and I hope it will soon make as interesting a clump as it did in my previous garden where I photographed it with both its lovely flowers but particularly its foliage.


Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum'


Lastly a little sprig of the self-sown Forget me knot.  I feature this for my friend Kay...more about that on my post 'Swallowtail' to follow.  Kay enjoys reading my IAVOM posts and peeps at others too.  She has a fabulous garden and appreciates seeing what is going on in others too.



Swallowtail Shawl

It was particularly hot on Friday, and in the small amount of shade by the house, we were sitting having our lunch.  Answering the door,  Mr S returned to the garden with a parcel.  I was intrigued..nothing had been ordered or was outstanding.  On opening the jiffy bag this is what I found.


A note with the one word 'ENJOY' and two skeins of hand dyed lace weight Pure Kid Mohair yarn in the most delicate mixture of lime green and blue.

As I continued my painting of skirting boards and door architraves during the afternoon, with peace and quiet I mused on several aspects concerning this parcel.  There was no postage stamp or cancellation mark to indicate where the parcel was posted...the printed postage paid label issued by the Post Office gave no clue. There were only neat capital letters on the envelope and a one word entry on illustrated notepaper.

Before the advent of emails, easy phone calls etc, keeping in touch with friends by post meant  recognising handwriting, pens and ink, as well as the telltale cancellation mark on the stamp showing the origin of posting areas, time, date etc.  All these would let you know which friend had written to you.  Indeed when I first wrote letters, it was customary to write one's own name and address on the back of the envelope.  Times have certainly changed.

Following on from this, I started to think of who would understand me and my passion for knitting, and my love of fine yarns.  Who might guess that a thoughful present may just be the thing to light a little spark of enthusiasm.  It suddenly came to me....and the handwriting then seemed familiar.  When Kay gave us instructions and directions at our WI craft meetings, or would slip some note through my front door, the short and to the point details were in this script.

A phone call during the evening confirmed my thoughts, and had I checked my emails I would have known, but also I would not have spent such a lovely few hours painting and thinking about the sender.

This is the gist of what Kay had written to me:

Our speaker last night talked about wool, spinning and knitting.  It was a real fun evening.  Lots of noise and laughter as we all tried different methods of spinning. Ancient and modern.  Lots of information and knowledge about different types of sheep wool and lots of samples to touch and feel.  The speaker  takes the wool from fleece to garment all natural processes and materials including the dyes.  After the talk I was looking at her samples and she had some beautiful little triangular scarves, not as beautiful or intricate as yours, but how they reminded me of you.  I am sending you a little gift, as I could not resist it, to knit yourself a little bit of spring.


The Kenilworth WI was a lifeline for me when I moved to that area and particularly the craft group, where over the years I learnt many new skills.  As a parting present Kay made me this beautiful sampler which is now hanging on the wall.

Following our phone conversation I mused on what I would knit.  I looked through my Ravelry wishlists, through my lace knitting books, and notes.  I dug deep, and still could not decided, so slept on it.  It came to me in the middle of the night.....It would be The Swallowtail Lace Shawl

I lost my shawl many years ago...and I miss it. I used to call it my tucker.  And each time I wear it, another opportunity to think of my dear friend.




Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Lime...sharp and citrussy.

Its greening up in the garden.  Of course the ever green Holm oak just over the wall is a constant backdrop.  Even in the winter the sun shines off  its dark green shiny leaves and the contrasting silver of the back of leaves can shimmer in gentle breezes.  Within the garden I like form and strange structures, leaf patterns, with different greens, purples, splashes and splodges of creams and whites....one of my favourite plants however humble it may be is  Alchemilla Mollis.  I also have Alchemilla conjucta which is more silvery with hairy leaves.  I have yet to find Alchemilla erythropoda but will be on the look out for these at the local rare breed plant fairs. I would have loved to see the collection at the Botanic Gardens when we visited Cambridge  a couple of years ago, but it was closed due to the high winds.

"One of the things that make Alchemilla so interesting to plant scientists is that many are able to produce seed without the need for fertilisation of the flowers; this is known as apomixis. There are very few plants that are like this. It means that the seeds are genetically identical to the parent plant. This is useful on a practical level for gardeners because any seedlings that arise in the garden will be exactly the same as the parent." Source Cambridge University Botanic Garden Web Page.


Green is probably my favourite colour...and lime seems to work beautifully at this time of year.

Another of my passions and 'pass temps' is preserving and even have a separate blog where I publish some of my recipes, preserves, and trials.

Mr S likes straight forward preserves, and amongst the pots at breakfast rarely reaches for the lime marmalade.  It is one of my indulgences.  Since having Roses Lime Marmalade which must have been specially imported to Mauritius for all the expats like my Mum, as a child, I have been rather partial to lime marmalade.  This batch included lime and juniper, no gin, and Lime cardamom and ginger.  I was quite surprised Mr S he said: "What no 'just lime' for me?"




Back in 2012 when we had a break in Sherborne,  one of my 'souvenirs' was a jar of lime and fig jam/marmalade from a craft preserver at the Farmer's Market.  It was sublime  two of my favourite things in one pot!

Over on my Facebook page a friend mentioned that she rarely sees home made lime marmalade. This may be because it is quite tricky to get a set, and not just that the limes take a very long time to cook until the peel is soft.  Here again the pressure cooker reduced the time considerably.  

Indeed I used to think the problem of getting a set was very strange, I have found out that this is because the fruit is too acid, and the acid inhibits the pectin.  Dan Lepard one of my go to authors admits to this problem but there is a solution: adding a little bicarbonate of soda.  As limes ripen the acidity falls.  

Many of the limes we have access to in the UK are picked really underipe which also accounts for their not yielding much juice.  The box I bought last week must have been picked almost at the perfect point.  They were a pale yellow with a hint of lime green, and as juicy as a juiciest lemon, with a thin skin.  They have no pips at all so they are most probably Persian Limes: Citrus latifolia.  These types of limes are parthenocarpic which mean the fruit grow without fertilisation. 

From flowers that can set seed without fertilisation, to fruit that can set without being fertilized and having no seeds...and I thought about just writing about why I think there is not much home made or craft lime marmalade!  One friend's comment opens up such avenues for exploration and discovery.  I love to have comments so thank you for them. 

Monday, 16 April 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Spring Posy

I was going to make up a vase of some of the beautiful greens in the garden, by that I mean green foliage.  I hadn't the heart to cut them in case the plants bleed too much and left them where they can continue to grow unmolested.  Instead I have a little selection of what is growing in the front garden.  Today the main attraction in the front garden are the three Amalanchier tress.  It is the first day that they are fully in bloom and they look terrific.

Its from the front garden that I picked  pale lemon wall flowers, pansies, and silver laced polyanthus, and a few springs of Lonicera  nitida 'baggesen's gold'.  Last week on the IAVOM posts there was the talk of untidy wallflower plants.  I was therefore pleased that the ones I planted have grown into sturdy compact plants with many flower stems on each plant.  Lime greens, lemons and purples in the vase this week.



The tiny watering can in crystal used to belong to my mother and reminds me that even though we are having showers...the bird baths need cleaning and filling virtually every day.  Its been fun watching the birds come down to feed and bath each morning.

As with all of us gardeners this is a really busy time, and Kathy who hosts this meme has posted lovely blooms again...so do go and see what suprise she has in store.

More plants

Its only after I bought two more little plants that I have vowed to myself that I must really get the garden sorted...and get beds ready for planting.

Dicentra cucullaria 

I love green in its many forms and when I saw the foliage of Dicentra Cucullaria on the little stand in Wells run by Graham from Tadham Alpines, I just had to get it.  Only when I got back home did I start my research.  In doing so I found a very good source of information on growing Dicentra Cucullaria   The author of this blog is Roger Brook who holds the national Dicentra collection.




The second plant was Iris Knick Knack ...a little miniature iris white with blue markings.  Its many years since I grew iris so why not start with a little one!

In my last garden I had a lovely patch of Dicentra Eximia also known as Fringed Bleeding Heart, but it was not amongst the cuttings or small plants brought here.  They must have died down completely and in the rush to move home, forgot about it.



It often featured successfully in my arrangements


A really precious little plant to me which also got left behind was Epimedium Grandiflorum Lilafee, I notice that Graham has this on his web site so that will be one for the next order.