Monday, 23 June 2014

Plant swaps

For a long time I have been propagating, I love the fact that with some knowledge, a few books, tips from fellow gardeners, one can take a plant and make more.  Some plants just want to grow more new ones, other ones take time and patience, and lots of care, and some are just best left in the hands of professionals.  After all my parents were in the profession and I am happy to pay good money if I really would like a plant and it is well grown.

Most of the plants I propagate get given to friends or sold at local venues for charity.  Sometimes I would just love to be able to have more access to plants, swap, and also 'give' mine away to fellow gardeners.

I came across this site the Green Plant Swap, and have set myself up there, so maybe I shall come across a local fellow thinker.  I joined Ravelry which is a superb site for knitters, and hope the Green Plant Swap site may prove as entertaining and productive.  I hope to be more organised with my photographs and more coordinated with my researches.

I have found out the name of this fantastic flower growing in the The National Trust Garden at The Courts is Phuopsis stylosa.  I am trying to source this and wish I had asked the Gardens if they would give me a cutting.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Holiday to Frome

It was just for a week, a week to relax, to 'claim' some of my birthday treats, to unwind......

It was hot, we visited loads of places, our flat was very near perfect, a total success.....

Chosen from the internet, our flat on the outskirts of Frome, but still within easy walking of the Town Centre and the station,  was peaceful, with great views.  I spied a Kingfisher on two occasions, a balloon and many cows who wondered round their large field throughout the day, seeking shade and sipping from the river from time to time.  We watched the birds flitter amongst the trees and wheel over the fields. The flat was very well appointed, clean, quiet and comfortable and we wished for nothing more...

On our way down we stopped at Avebury.  We had visited there many times, but not since the latest restyling by the National Trust.  At first I felt that we were walking through a 'film set', but gradually as the usual relationship melted away, with the help of the room stewards, we came to feel that we could touch and explore far more things than is normally allowed.  Mr S took a shine to the living room, and enjoyed a cool rest.  There was music of the period playing over the radio, and lots of artifacts to look at.

In the dining room I had a go on the 'exercise horse', and then spent ages intrigued by the hand painted wall paper, no touching of this,

but D was invited to sit at the head of the table and imagine that lunch was about to be served.

He had a go in the library at the billiards, whilst I read an Edwardian Gardening Book.  The Gardens at the Manor are coming on a treat, and were well tendered.

The small room again with hand painted wall paper was a delight

As we had a schedule to follow, there is much in the house, to draw us back again.  We made the Horse at Westbury with wide ranging views for our lunch time picnic, and watched hand gliders waiting for a favourable wind, well any wind would have done, it was perfectly still.

When we got down to the flat, and had unpacked the car, we headed into soon as we hit the first shop: James Gaunt Interiors in Church Street, I spied some really wonderful hats in gorgeous fabrics.  Although this is not a hat shop, a local hat maker has a few of her hats in the window featuring the fabrics.  I tried some on, all too large, I have a small head...but the hat maker was in the shop collecting some fabric.  She offered to make me a bespoke hat, in fabric of my choice.  When I went to collect my new hat later in the week, she had made two, it took me ages to choose... I chose one with ferns and dragon flies, lined in green, totally reversible.  The other one I left behind was the same fern fabric but with moths!

Mr S also got his Panama Hat from Matico on Cheap Street.  We had passed the shop when it was closed, when we saw a Panama Hat in the window.  After being disappointed all season not finding a hat to fit, we were not holding out .  We had a lovely conversation with the owner, who had been to Ecuador to meet with the Hat Makers.  During the past seasons she had many chaps with large heads come in the shop, so she had specifically asked for larger hats to be made.  As we entered the shop, one was already walking out with a gentleman.  Mr S even got stopped in the street in Frome with questions about the hat.  Also on Cheap Street, Mr S bought three belts...yes three from a lovely leather shop.  He has been looking for just the right ones for several years now, and the old ones are years and years old!

Saturday we spent walking around Frome, visiting the markets, and found the same cheese we had bought down in Bridport.  We bought some of Wootton Organic Dairy's sheep's yogurt, a whole soft cheese, and a wedge of their Millstone, which Mr S claims is the best sheep's cheese ever.  We bought various other goodies to keep us over the coming days.  By the river, near the market, in Frome grows a wonderful large multi stemmed tree.  I love trees, and I was straight away attracted to this one.

I just had to take a picture under my theme of 'fifty shades of green'.  The bark is well groved and mirrors the ripples in the river below, and from which the sunshine was bouncing back lighting the otherwise shady area.  This multistemmed tree I discover is a wing nut, Ptericarya x rehderiana.  It has long pendulous catkins but by this time was displaying its fruit which gives the tree its common name: wingnuts.

The following day we took a trip out to Cranmore to the preserved line and railway modelling shop.  We had not realised that it was father's day, so were very lucky to get a cancellation at the nearby Inn for Sunday Lunch.  We had one of the best Sunday lunches out for ages at the Strode Arms.  The Ale was very well kept.

We were so hungry that it was not until the desserts, that I got my camera out.

On the way back to Frome we popped into Nunney Castle, just perfect with its moat...

Monday was the day I had plumped for to claim one of my birthday treats:  A day at Bath Thermea .  It was wonderful, after the treatments, delicious lunch, and sessions in the various steam rooms, the room pool, and the other pool, I was totally relaxed.  In the evening our friends Peter and Catherine took us out a meal at Raphael.  We were thoroughly spoilt, and then caught the return train to Frome.  Bath has redeveloped the area around the Station, and the whole City looked very smart.

Tuesday saw us having a bit of a drive around before our special meal.  We stopped for a cuppa at a small cross roads in Chewton Mendip at a cafe called Lynda's Loaf...we could not have been more surprised.  The place was a delight, and the food looked sublime, but we knew what was ahead of us, so only had a drink.  We sat at a big table and had a nice chat with someone from the village.  He pointed us in the direction of a short walk which was totally hidden from the road which lead behind some cottages to the source of the River Chew.

I had recently been reading Paul Hollywood's Biography, and one of the Restaurants he said he would want to go to again and again was that at Ston Easton Park.  I had looked up the restaurants he had mentioned and found this one close to where we were staying, and their taster menu was within our means for this special 'meal of the year'.  The house and grounds were grand and well kept, and we were booked in well in advance.

 We had our drinks in one of the drawing rooms looking onto the 'back garden', and there rested awhile, before having a walk round the walled garden, which was growing fruit, veg and flowers.

 After lunch we went to Wells, and had a 'cool' time visiting the Cathedral, and saw the beautiful 14th century clock

 Wednesday was the day we went to Bath on the train again..this time to claim another of my birthday treats:  tea at the pump rooms...delicious, and with live music.

In the morning, we visited the Victoria Art Gallery.  In all the years I have been to Bath, this is the first time I've been there, and it won't be the last time.  They have a good selection of paintings, porcelaine and glass.  I found this beautiful screen depicting St Dorothea: Patron Saint of Florists, and St Elizabeth of Hungary.  The inscription on one side reads In his celestial garden fruits and roses that never fail, and on the other, and in her lap there lay the red and white roses of paradise.  As a gardener and rose lover this really touched my soul.

After that we picked up a picnic from a little cafe on Pulteney Bridge, and got this picture from their window, whilst we waited for our sandwiches to be made up.

We made for the Holburne Museum,

round the side is this delightful 'garderner's cottage', my name for it.

and had our picnic amongst many other picnickers in their back garden.

Thursday was picking up the hat, more walking around Frome, and I bought two plants from the Country market:  a variegated scented pelargonium, and a fern:  Athyrium Niponicum Pictum.  As a coincidence there was a very good Pelargonium House at Stourhead, though I had to be politely assertive, after I had obviously been told a 'cock and bull story' by a young very confident ticket person, before someone from the shop very kindly went and found the key and opened the house for me.  She was very suprised about the 'story' and said the glass house was usually open!  They have a really good collection, and the names were only visible from the glasshouse walkway, there were fern like pelargoniums,

succulent pelargoniums, and many others...after the doors were opened many other followed me.

Friday saw us decamp and head home, via two super sites well worth visiting: Farleigh Hungerford Castle and The Courts Garden.  As usual I spied a pretty pink ground cover plant which I am yet to find its name.  So if anyone can name it, please let me know.

We did do other things too, like walking on downs and visiting long barrows, admiring architecture, and going for walks.  All in all back and the garden really bloomed during this hot week, so its been early morning dead heading to get it looking tidy, and looking up to see when rain is expected again.

Monday, 9 June 2014

In my Garden

One of my weekly volunteering 'jobs' consists of spending time choosing books for people:  just a lovely way of spending a few hours.  I work alongside professionals and other volunteers.  I love books, and get to spend more time looking at books generally than if I were to visit the library perhaps once every other week.  When I handle books I'll of course have have a quick look if only to know where to place them.  I was tidying away a whole batch of large print books which had just come back from a nursing home, when my hand fell on a small tome called 'In my Garden' by Christopher Lloyd.  It had no pictures, but small articles.  Of course I had heard of Christopher Lloyd, and had recently seen a piece of archive footage of him in his garden in at Great Dixter, but I had never read any of his work, and decided to bring it home and give it a try.

What a discovery it has been!  I completely agree with the note on the back cover that his prose is exciting, his knowledge vast, his ideas are provocative, and he makes one laugh out loud.  As I read the book, I have a heavy book open alongside: The RHS Gardeners' Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers, so that I can quickly look up the plant he is describing. Its not a recent edition, (1990), nearly 25 years old, which I picked up in one of the local charity shops, but it is post dates most of the articles in this book.  I wonder whether there are any present day garden writers of Christopher Lloyd's caliber, and as readable and entertaining.  I picked up some recent RHS magazines and felt the writing style was so very different.  Just as when I was reading the Picture of Dorian Gray recently, I feel that there are so many quotable and memorable passages in his work.  I must start to make some notes, as these would make excellent small extracts to write onto bookmarks etc!

In my garden over the last few days, it has been bright sunshine one minute, and thunder lightning and heavy rain the next.  I brought in a few stems of Grace which I moved from its pot where it had been growing for two years into the border by the patio.  It is a little lax in its growth this year, no doubt due to the heavy dark weather we have been having, and I had staked it with some short bamboo canes.  I have a clump growing just behind the gazebo, and thinnings come in handy for this.  I laughed when I read about Christopher Lloyd's views in 'Stakes on the Future'.  The leaves of Grace are a little pale, no doubt many of the nutrients have been washed down deeper than the roots.  I used Epsom salts a couple of years ago, and will try these again, as well as some more of David Austin's rose pellets.

I planted seven new rose trees last November: Munstead Wood, Gertrude Jekyll, Princess Anne, and the following climbers: A Shropshire Lad, St Swithun, , Crown Princess Margareta and Claire Autin The first to flower is Gertrude Jekyll.  I've snipped off all the flowers, hoping the plant will make more growth in its first year.  I'm not that happy so far with most of the plants, but there is time still, and it has been an odd growing season.  I think in future I shall buy potted plants in the spring rather than bare rooted plants.  They looked pretty strong and I planted them in well prepared soil, in good weather the day after the arrived, and they have had plenty of water.

The scent of this Gertrude Jekyll rose is like old rose perfume, and I've put this little vase in the bedroom.

Izzi and I picked a large bunch of roses from the Etoile de Hollande for her to take back home on Saturday, and with the very open blooms, which will not last more than a day, we picked all the petals, and lay them out on the table in the conservatory to dry.  I am gradually collecting a large bowl full.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Wet Wednesday Post

The feather structure and effect on this shawl I have just finished is achieved by the 'short row' technique, taking 3 balls of grey for the background, and two balls of wool which is spun using different colours which gradually blend from one colour to another.  I bought this 'Dream Bird' pattern on line  have been delighted with it.  The colours of the feathers are more vibrant than shown here.

I've spent the morning doing something which has been on my to do list since late last year.  I feel wonderful now that it is done.  My desire to get this done was spurred on by my 'indebtedness' to my beloved.  We don't keep scores, but I was just so grateful for a couple of things which were resolved last week that I wanted to 'give' something back: one pair of brand new trousers re hemmed to made them longer which involved sewing on some bias binding then hand stitching.  The other 'stitching' job was the repair to the bottom of some chinos.  Personally I do not get this thing that trousers should very nearly touch the ground, which means wear, and dirt, and also when you don't wear shoes in the house and constantly walk on the backs of your trousers, they do wear out!  We have decided that Chinos can have three lives: first with turn ups, and then without turn ups when they are worn down, which I get to make about 1 cm above ground level and finally as shorts!

What was I grateful for?  After I washed my bike on Saturday, using rubber gloves, some brand new break-pads were fitted and everything oiled and whatever needs doing when a push bike is serviced.  I know I ought to learn to do this myself, but I usually end up with a tear to my skin, bruises and sometimes tears.  One sad thing though, on the crowded Patio a large branch of one of my succulents was broken.  But the good thing is that I think it will be too big to spend its next winter in the consevatory, so I shall material to make many plants.  If anyone would like a grand daughter of the lovely honey smelling Aeonium which I brought back from the Isles of Scilly, do let me know.

The second matter was concerning my cooker.  A free standing gas Rangemaster 55 had been left at the house, and since the buyers of our last property specifically asked that I leave my lovely cooker there, this was gratefully accepted.  When I started with my Piccalilli on Thursday the oven would not light...but I did use a match, so was able to continue with the jar sterilization process.

I had only looked for a new cooker earlier this year, and come back home with the vue that nothing was any better than what I had, and suddenly I knew I would need to revisit this.  At Knit and Natter that day, I talked over my dilemma with friends, and reviewed what I really liked about my cooker, so thought a repair would be the best thing.  Back home I went on line, went through to the manufacturers to be told that the cooker was 'obsolete' with no spares carried any longer by them as they had ceased making this one in 2001.  I really thought the person I spoke to would be true to their word and call me back the following day with the spare part number, but no they did not.  Despite or maybe it was because of this my dearly beloved looked up the wiring diagram, got the back of the cooker off, checked circuits, dismantled bits, cleaned sparky bits etc, and et voila, a fully working oven which light first time....

During my sewing stint I was listening to Radio 4, where there was a discussion about letter writing.  I found it quite interesting, and the person from Paper Chase was of course pushing the idea that blank cards were now the thing for people who are time pushed, rather than taking the time and effort of writing using Basildon Bond type pads of paper.  I guess this is more a sign that there is more money to be made from those rather than a pad of paper!  This minded me of the decisions I used to make:  I have several pads, with different coloured paper, different size pades, and one lightweight airmail one too.  I used to buy different inks too for the different coloured paper.  I know that people phone and email now, but one thing they did not mention in the discussion was the cost of a stamp.  I wonder how the cost now compares to the cost say in the seventies and eighties when I used to write at least half a dozen letters a week.

Yesterday I learnt that my little grand daughter had bought a card for me on her recent holiday, but decided to keep it for a bit because she liked it so much!  A chip off the old block I think, so I shall show her all the cards I buy to send, but which get put in my basket.  I've just picked up a few here, with my nice fountain pen.  I love prints and some designs and admit that I usually buy mine when I have spent time looking in arty type shops, when I feel sorry for the owners that I am not buying one of the original art works...I cannot resist Angie Lewin Cards, and recently picked up a nice one called The Beauty of Life by Liz Toole.  This will be another artist to look out for.

Apres le sourdough, the soft 'goat's' milk, butter and egg plaited bread this week, glazed and ready to go into the oven.

And finally a picture from the garden! One of my fifty shades of green

Monday, 2 June 2014

May in the garden

What gloomy weather we had:  lots of rain, low light but no frosts.  At one time I could see the water above the stones, but it soon drained.  At least I did not have to go out and water.  The downside is that I now know that succulents with a little pool of water on the leaf can get 'burnt' when the sun comes out. This one was shaded so escaped the burns.

On the first dry morning this last Saturday I ventured out and the early bees, starved of nectar were buzzing away, there were many flowers weighted down with bumblebees like this astrantia.

I watched the bees land on the iris sibriaca and visit each flower in turn

The Blue Yodeller Show Auricula is just about perfect,

There were insects around, and on the plum tree found a two spotted ladybird.  They are really much smaller than the other ladybirds in the garden.

I gardened just about as much as I could and decided to remove snowdrop and daffodil leaves which were just supplying the many slugs and snails with fast food.  Many were quickly got rid of underfoot or snipped with my 'slug scissors'.  The pinks had the little foamy blobs which hide the little insect which sucks the sap, so they were hand cleared.  I've also had to do battle this month with pigeons and squirrels.  I have several visiting the garden and one even tore the bark of an acer growing in a pot.  They are eating tiny apples, pears, and plums too, and the pigeons have virtually eaten all the cherries and broken several branches on the young tree, so I am looking for a good home for it, somewhere in a fruit cage.

The Etoile de Hollande climbing rose on the arbour just by our patio released its scent into the sheltered garden, with only a  few blooms left after the squirrel decided to eat most the of higher up buds.  There is also myself who goes out to cut a few buds every other day.  Last year I made jam with the petals, and wrote about it on my other blog: Mrs Mace Preserves.   I was delighted to recognise this rose growing on some columns at Coughton Court.

We decided to take a turn on Sunday, and I thought the rose garden at Coughton Court  would be in full bloom.  A few roses had just started to open there, and next week there will be a full on show.  

The gardens with their under-planting with a wide variety of herbaceous plants used to be separate from the National Trust Gardens with their own entrance fee, but this time there was free entry.  I thought the detail of this flower, name not yet known to me, was intriguing.  We had chosen to have a timed ticket to the house leaving us one hour to visit the garden.  We went round the beds, and I rediscovered roses I had planted in previous gardens:  Fantin Latour was just breaking bud and already their scent filled the air.

We decided to visit only a couple of the rooms, as this is a place we have visited and are likely to visit again week perhaps!  In one of the rooms, the steward approached me with a small A5 framed item.  I think he was trying to tease me..and asked if I could make such fine lace.  I knew straight away that it was not lace...he thought it may be cut paper.  Taking off my glasses and holding it about 20 cm from the end of my nose I peered at it, and realised that it was drawn with white ink on a black background.  It was so intricate.  He had no idea what it was or the date.

I wonder whether this was something like an elaborate 'doodle', an exercise in pen practice, or would it be a design for a piece of lace?  Next time I visit I shall ask to see the room notes to see if they know anything more about this.  I've been interested in Zentangle and felt there were similarities.

In one of the sunken gardens we found a sunny bench to eat our ice creams, as good as we had recently tasted in Sicily.  On the steps out was this clematis, a real beauty and with flowers as big as saucers.