Saturday, 30 June 2018

Swallowtail Shawl

I took the yarn, needles, and instructions for the Swallowtail Shawl on Holiday.  It was very soothing re-knitting for the fifth time this lovely pattern, and spent siesta times on our terrace knitting and watching the local swallows flying around.  At Knossos there were swallows nesting in the shade of the reconstructed chamber....


Back home the weather continues as hot if not hotter than it was in Crete, and having finished the shawl just before the flight, I got down to washing and blocking it.  With the dry weather, and very low humidity, even in the shade it took less than two hours to dry to perfection. 

Everything feel into place with this shawl:  the perfect present from a friend, a lovely holiday knitting pattern, and the connection with Swallows.


Mr S decided to celebrate my official birthday.  During a special breakfast I opened my present....


Its a clear glass stacking cup and saucer and infusion pot.  I love to be able to grown my own 'tea' and this lovely dry weather is just the ticket for drying the Lemon Verbena.  The shrub that remained outside all winter is growing away well now, despite having also been moved just before the last snow.  This is the harvest from the small shrub which I overwintered in the shed.  Once it starts to regrow, I'll take more cuttings to overwinter.

Its so warm and the sun so very hot,  that some of my plants are being scorched.  Geraniums in pots have been moved to shady spots, and the row of beetroot and lettuce is sheltering under white fleece.  Normally the fleece is used for winter protection, but here it is acting as sun protection.  I waterlast thing at night, and leave the fleece off to aid air circulation.  In the morning, I pick that days lettuce...currently thinnings, and replace the fleece just before the sun comes round.


Thursday, 28 June 2018

Day out to Mottisfont and Hillier Gardens

Loving gardens and plants as I do, my first Summer Outing with Henton Gardening Club was a treat.  The first garden we arrived at was Mottisfont Abbey, a National Trust property reknown for its rose garden.  As I had sat on my own on the coach, enjoying the views and reading etc...I had not yet found a 'buddy' to go round the gardens with.  This quite suited me and I took my time, visiting other parts of the garden first, and waiting till later to view the walled rose garden.

The weather was really warm and the cool shallow waters flowing over their chalk beds, overhung with willow, were quiet and peaceful.


Having recently admired very old Plane Trees at  Lassi in Crete, I homed in on the plane trees in the garden.  I love plane trees, ever since very young staying in London with my parents, being intrigued by  the bark on the London Plane trees which grew along roads and in the gardens behind our  home.


This statue of young man and his greyhound languishing in the summer heat, was one of several statues in the Italianate Style.



 After sitting quietly enjoying a good cup of coffee, and sorry no cake, the pieces were so large, good for sharing, but far too large for one, I started my walk to the Rose garden....I could smell the roses before I could see them.  I saw many old roses I have grown before, reminisced and wondered whether they are still in their original positions....

At every step there were wonderful blooms to admire, smell and recognise:  Ghislaine de Feligonde was growing beautifully.  I enjoyed extolling her virtues to a group who had not seen this perpetual flowering rambler before.  The circular seating area surrounded by pillars and arches was a real eyecatcher set against a backdrop of tall green trees.



The rambling rose Debutante had the most exquisite shaped pink pointed buds


and clothed from soil level to their very tips.

I think there will be a place for this one somewhere in my new garden.

How about this for a 'summer house' in the garden!


A short ride took us to Hillier Gardens...where I sat and had my lunch on a bench looking down the Centenary Border.  I had some nice chats about the wonderful plants and borders as friends from the club walked past or sat down for a few minutes rest.

Both in this border and in other areas of the garden, certain plants were at their peak, and certainly attracted my attention...here are just a small number of pictures I took:


Almost all the plants were labelled..I am sure most of them were when planted.  This shrub with pink flowers is Indigofera Howellii and loves hot and dry areas...so I shall be on the look out for this one.  However now that I am reading about this shrub I can see there are several types, and I shall be on the look out in gardens to compare different forms.

Just as you turn into the Wisteria border the lovely green of Japanese grass Hakonechloa..I have this growing in pots for now...what a lovely shape




Two of the plants which caught my eye in the rockery near to Jermyns House, were growing in dry sunny and stony spots.  It was strange to see this white one: Fillipendula Vulgaris Multiplex, as I thought it enjoyed damper conditions.  I had taken picture to get the name, as I believe I grew this several decades ago...and then just by complete coincidence, on Wednesday, a friend pointed this plant out to me, and I spent a hour of so trying to find its name and picture of the plant to share and discuss its propagation with Jean.  I had one in my camera!  The strap like leaves in the middle are from an errant plant.  This fillipenda has the finest of divided leaves.


This yellow flowered Achillea is Moonshine, again with fine leaves, this time grey, with flowers on fairly short stems.  In my previous garden I grew Alpine Achillea King Edward in the gravel garden.


Again in Hillier Gardens, in the heat, it was the Bog Garden and Pond area, with the verdant bamboos, ferns and other luscious growth which held me captured for some time.


Just time for a cooling drink and a more moderate slice of cake in their cafe...before a walk around the Pinetum, then the drive home with wonderful views across the countryside.

Monday, 25 June 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Its too hot

Its too hot, even in greenest Somerset.  We have birds queuing for the three water stations.  My pots of Japanese Grass Hakonechloa add a cool element in garden and my lady which stood near the pond in my previous garden tries to keep cool too!  All these pictures were taken before breakfast as I toured round the garden, watering pots.



I could have picked Clematis Vienetta which reminds me of the cool iced dessert...
or white Iceberg Roses




or the pretty white edged sedum, which I believe is Sedum erythrostictum 'Frosty Morn'


This plant came from my friend and IAVOM contributor....

On Saturday, we went and spent some time at the Country Garden Festival then had a walk around the Bishop's Palace Gardens.  Alison brought a lovely bunch of sweetpeas which are so perfect, and in the colour matching Caithness Vase they have been on the mantel shelf, and this morning, I was feeling too hot to go out and pick flowers.  It Monday, its in a Vase, they were grown by an IAVOM contributor, but not me!


After taking this photograph, succumbing to their wonderful fragrance...and yes the pollen count is very high...I thought of my neighbour, and off they went to spend another couple of days spreading their charm and beauty with her.  Kay knows she is getting someone else's flowers....often my IAVOM flowers go to a neighbour.

Its not just Alison who is on the ball with regards to Sweetpeas...just go and see Cathy's.

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Kitchen Tour at Imperial Belvedere Hotel Crete

Its several weeks since we returned from our fortnight's holiday in Crete. As I carved up a large pineapple ready for Chutney, early this morning, I remembered the wonderful flower, fruit and vegetable arrangements on display at each of our wonderful meals in the restaurant at the Imperial Belvedere.

Every element for the displays is chosen from fruit or vegetables fresh in that day and from flowers and herbs growing in the attractive grounds of the hotel.  





On the first Sunday of our holiday, as we were resting from some walks, I opted for the Kitchen Tour.  This is the first time I've toured a professional kitchen of a large Hotel.  I was totally impressed.



Maitre Nikos Kastanakis, together with Head Chef, and Restaurant Manager guided us around the voluminous kitchens all found in the basement below the two sister hotels: The Imperial and Royal Belvedere Hotels. Lifts take the dishes straight up to the restaurants above.

Areas and large refrigerators, I think there were around 18 room sized refrigerators which we walked past, such as these are highly segregated with different categories of food.  The management and cleanliness of these areas is exemplary.


The Kitchens  have their own butchery, and areas where all the fresh produce is sorted, and cleaned, before entering the preparation areas.  The waste food area is also refrigerated in its own area by the exit, awaiting collection, which means there are no smells whatsoever whatever the weather.

The Hotel has its own olive oil, and honey which is served at every meal,  comes from the hillside hives situated on the slopes above the hotel.  All the lemons come from the orchard on the Hotel site too.  

I was really interested in the bakery where the wide range of breads, rolls and croissants  are made from scratch each day.  In a separate area I met two of the pastissiers.  The head of this section is Ilias Mastrogiannis who manages several pastissiers and two chocolatiers.  

At the end of the tour we were given tasters of local specialties.  As you can imagine, in all the areas there are many well trained and experienced hands.  When I explained that my husband, who was not on the tour, thought their chocolate desserts were amongst the best he had had, they explained that they were had the very best of 70% best quality Swiss Chocolate as a starter as well as the best of local ingredients.  Not being able to eat chocolate, I was non the less spoilt with the choice of beautiful fresh fruit and other delightful desserts.  Even filo pastry desserts are all made on site...and with a bowl of the wonderful honey, I did not hold back but drizzled the odd teaspoonful on!

We met the artist responsible for all the lovely decorations....I would have loved to have a carving workshop...but time was too short!


Monday, 18 June 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Early this time

They say the early bird catches the worm...we have this young robin waiting for worms.  Mr S is moving turfs...turning them over, as he excavates soil and moves it around the garden.  Here is his little companion.


Meanwhile, I have made up a little vase. I have been getting my dates mixed up, and thought the 17th would be Monday.  That meant that I was quite surprised that on Sunday morning...I had anniversary greetings, as well as having to rush and wish my sister a Happy Birthday.

The important thing is that I was thinking of both of these whilst gardening and then arranging a few blooms from the garden.  I thought I was arranging this for Monday...but Sunday was the day after all for the arrangement.  Instead of being a day early...this vase was spot on for the 17th of June.  But it turned out a day early for In a Vase on Monday.  Am I having an Alice in Wonderland moment?


Of course I would have nothing had I not been watering...hence the little crystal watering can which once belonged to my mother.  Or is it one that Alice was using?

The roses are Ghislaine de Feligonde.  They are the first blooms off my plant which I grew from a cutting from my original rambling rose left behind in Warwickshire.  I'm not sure how the plant will behave since it is not grafted.  I would have left the blooms, but was busy sorting out the area and wanted to spread some more compost..so these growing close to the ground would have been damaged, and were therefore snipped off.

The Verbena Rigida which was still flowering last October, managed to survive the cold and wet winter, and has put on good growth, and even sent out a couple of suckers, which I have planted elsewhere.

The leaf is from Athyrium Niponicum Burgandy Lace, which got bent and nearly broke off.   I was using the hose, and I caught the plant..the waterbutt is now empty!  

Cathy has some snips...and an interesting post about using 'prunings' in a vase.  I think many of us add 'prunings' to a vase.  Why not join in, and go and see what Cathy and others have 'gleaned' from the garden today.



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Books and pictures

Back in April, I heard about this book: Wildwood:  A Journery Through Trees , by Roger Deakin...it was recommended by Caroline.  I am still reading it.  Although there are no pictures or illustrations, except for small prints as chapter headings, Roger Deakin is the master of description...none except one's imagination or a few clicks on the internet are necessary.

I took a little break from it as I have been reading The Island by Victoria Hislop, set around Spinalonga, which I read after my visit to this area of Crete.

I have now gone back to it, and loosing myself....which is wonderful,  as I am nursing severe pain in my left foot.  It started whilst walking in Crete...I am waiting for an appointment to visit the Podiatrist, having been referred for further diagnosis by my Doctor.



There are so many good passages, I love the way that Roger Deakin has brought all sorts of references to the continuing lives of trees to the readers' attention.  For instance he introduces us to his friend David Nash, who used wood, including burnt wood as part of his sculptures and installations.  Naturally I have been looking up the various artists...and making connections again!!

I had not made a note of the artist, but I remembered posting about a sculpture we saw at Blackwell in the Lake District...then searched my own blog...it was back in 2009.


I am currently reading the section 'Driftwood'

"Driftwood makes a vital contribution to the sea's ecology.  It is an important to the oceans as dead and rotting trees are to terrestrial forests, but its mode of decomposition is quite different.  Whereas in a living wood it is fungi that do most of the work, floating driftwood in the sea is principally eaten by animals.  Those energetic sculptors fall into two main groups:  wood-boring crustaceans and bivalve molluscs.  The first of these are the gribbles, responsible for the labyrinthine galleries of tunnels that worm their way through the surface so so much driftwood."


Its no surprise that, this morning, my eye was caught by my little piece of driftwood, collected on a beach walk many years ago.  It now sits in one of my pots of ferns.

There are so many threads in the book...I am borrowing it from the library, and I am sure a copy will find its way here..... when I have a larger bookcase.


Sourdough Butternut Squash, Turmeric and Black Sesame Bread

I have long been a fan of Dan Lepard.  As well as his book: Short and Sweet, I also have The Handmade Loaf which I bought back in 2006.  He recently posted on Facebook about a sourdough Pumpkin, turmeric and black sesame loaf which he was making for a Charity Event in Australia.  Alas I cannot find the recipe....but having spent nearly two years working my way through  Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough, I drew on my inner bread baker, and went for it.

Since I have no pumpkin, I baked a butternut squash till soft...and used 300 g of that, having blitzed it first. As I went along I made sure to write the quantities in my recipe book.  The loaves were slower to rise than I had anticipated, most probably because at last it is a little cooler.  The loaves seemed just about ready to bake, so they went into the fridge, while the dinner was being roasted.  The first loaf to go into the oven was the long one, just before we sat down to eat.  I didn't have time to egg wash this one.  

For the second batch, I had time to add  an egg glaze and sprinkle of black sesame seeds. 


We cut into the loaf today at lunchtime...absolutely delicious!


I used a mixture of wholewheat flour, Kamut flour, and white...with 50g pumpkin seeds which I soaked overnight, and just one teaspoon of turmeric.  The flavour is wonderful...can't wait  for pumpkin to be in season again.  In the meantime Butternut Squash works very well.

It was a little tricky getting the dough to leave the baskets.  I follow Karen's Kitchen Stories, dipping in, and learning new techniques.  I was interested to hear her describe using plastic proving baskets, where you can spray it with oil which helps to release the the dough.  I may investigate this further.

Ancient History at Knossos and the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion

On a trip to Heraklion we spent all of our time in the Archaeological Museum.  This is a really fabulous Museum and the artifacts superb.  I'm only showing and mentioning a fraction of the wonderful things on show.

Firstly this little needle case carved from soapstone...




This grouping of intricately carved boxes with lids shows two of them with similar carved dogs as handles....I wonder whether people had dogs as pets or just for hunting over four and a thousand years ago in Crete.

From Vasiliki, pots with spouts about 4 thousand years old....




I loved the Octopus decorations of these 'Marine Style' rhyta and flasks



A whole cabinet of Poppy Goddess figurines





Glass from the Roman period was on show


These glass scent bottles have wavy coloured and gold patterns and were made during the Hellenic period 3-2 Century bc.



I didn't think I would be finding any angels...and perhaps this little cupid figurine, again from the Hellenic period, could stand in for them.  They were offerings placed in Children's graves, and still carry traces of gilding, and blue and red paint.  It is thought they carried ribbons or a little harp in their hands.

The following day we had a visit to Knossos...







Monday, 11 June 2018

Camera Obscura effect in the bedroom

Stirring this morning...and turning over...this is what was being beamed onto the wall opposite the window.  There was just a chink in the drawn curtains.  The sun was very bright even at 7 am...and it was shining off the house opposite.  In full colour an image of our neighbours' house projected upside down onto our bedroom wall.


Going ahead in the garden

We have moved to working in the garden.  I'm really lucky that Mr S, although not a gardener, joins in with the planning and execution of works....We have decided to have a gravel sitting area just by the house, rather than paving stones set on concrete.  First the turfs need to be lifted.  This is where we are today.  The other rings of the circle, used as stepping stones during the winter,  have now been moved....



The new garden chairs and table have arrived, have been assembled and are sitting on the full stone circle.


Over the next few weeks, an outer circle of gravel will be added..and hopefully the thyme and other small plants will soon colonise the area.


The veggie border is under way, with a wigwam of climbing french beans and runners, some courgettes, lettuce and beetroot.  I have a purple chilli plant from Alison, and the lemon verbena which managed to go through the winter. The fallback plant in the foreground which I overwintered in a pot in the shed is just to flower.  Its been so hot and dry, that the water butt is now empty and I have to use the hose.


The stepping stones have just been delivered...



Plants waiting to be planted out are waiting in an area of the garden with a little shade after noon.



As usual I love to have some plants and shrubs  in tubs...and this one we can enjoy from the conservatory...which except for breakfast and later for dinner in the evening are far too hot!




Twice a day the bird bath needs to be topped up...we queues for the bath..parents and new broods...



It dawned on me when I returned from holiday, that the number of succulents could be said to have got out of control.  Since it seems to be so hot here, and the front garden on a slope is very sunny and dry, almost all the succulents have been planted out along the drive.  At least they will only need minimal watering.




Towards the end of summer I shall strike just a few of each of my favourite ones, and scrap the rest!

Its just a few weeks ago that the border was full of lemon wallflowers and pansies, with alliums yet to bloom.