Thursday, 29 December 2016

Ebbor Gorge

A very short distance away is open countryside, and as we are on a break from DIY and refurbishment, we thought we would explore the local Nature Reserve.  The weather was magnificent and from the top there were clear views across the Vale of Avalon towards Glastonbury Tor.

I do love a little climb, and thankfully we had taken a pair of sticks with us...I think we may need to buy another set so that we can have two sticks each.  On one stretch, we lent one stick to a more mature much easier than helping with a sprained ankle further down the slope!  One of the billboards rightly describes the walk as a scramble.  We shall be visiting this National Reserve again and again over the different seasons, as it promises many wild flowers, insects and birds!  We even saw a butterfly in flight....and by the way the robins are paired off in the garden too!

In a Vase at Christmas

Mr S & I spent a lovely day with our nearest and dearest. In a Vase at Christmas was on Izzi's list of decorations for the big day.  

Decorated cake, gingerbread house, tree laden with interesting decorations, crackers filled with windup father Christmases and reindeer, which we then raced with much fun and excitement...non went in straight lines!

and to top the Christmas Tree a hand made fairy....

We enjoyed a lovely meal cooked by Matthew, with contributions of peeled veggies from Somerset at lunch time.  In the afternoon, a walk, a few rounds of the board game Labyrinth  which everyone had turns to join in. Then a little ballet concert given by Izzi...but I also just had to join in, the music was too enticing.  Its so lovely to think that all the steps were the same as I had learnt when I was little.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Happy Christmas

Mr S and I went out for 'our office' Christmas Party.  We chose the Swan Hotel and we both opted for the traditional Roast Turkey and all the trimmings.  The Christmas Pudding home made of course, was particularly good, and had it been pudding shaped it would have warranted a 10 out of 10.  Instead it got 9.75 from me!

Straight outside the entrance to the Hotel, there is a wonderful courtyard, where customers can sit out at other times of the year, which looks straight onto the Cathedral with its large green in front.  For now, they have decorated it with a snow scene....After dark it has some interesting lighting effects.

Austrian Christmas Bread the Sourdough Way

This is the December 2016 Challenge from Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough book, the recipe is on page 144..  I love to bake at Christmas:  most years I bake Christmas Cakes and other treats.  This year in our New Home, we have both been busy unpacking and getting to grips with urgent DIY etc.  I was to have bought a small Christmas Cake from the Country Market, but it closed before I got there!

Most years I buy a Panforte, and I could tell that I had, for many years, been meaning to make my own, by the date on the unopened rice paper in the drawer!  So a home made Panforte is taking the place of Christmas cake this year.  A small slice with a glass of Port is a fitting finish for a special meal.

One of our favourite eats for Christmas Breakfast is a Panettone.  One year I even devised a recipe for Panettone based on Pumpkin.  We do love this tradition, so I may well bake one for the New Year.  I rather like the one with Pumpkin and will use butternut squash this time.

This year we shall have the sourdough Austrian Christmas Bread.  I set this as a December Baking Challenge on our Facebook Page.  With ground almonds, sugar, butter, anise seeds, and fruit, I am expecting some delicious slices with a large cup of coffee, on Christmas Day morning.  I used up the last of my own home made crystallized orange and lemon peel.  This has been so successful that I am thinking of making another batch after Christmas.  It was quick and easy using the Pressure Cooker, and there are some very good citrus fruit around for Christmas.

I left the sourdough overnight with its first refreshment and got kneading this morning.  By the time I had got back from shopping, it was ready to have the fruit folded in and be shaped ready for its last rise.

Before it went into the oven, as per the recipe I brushed it with melted butter before slashing it, but it did not have the glossy finish of the loaf in the book...

I'm happy with the rise, and its beginning to smell a lot like Christmas!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Catching up with Sourdough Challenges

Spiced sourdough gingerbread, with added fruit, and nuts:

The Gingerbread recipe is on page 133, and was the challenge I set for the facebook page for early November, and would have been lovely for bonfire day.  As it was I was in the midst of packing, and when I read through the recipe I felt it would have been a bit 'plain' for my taste, so added some raisins, chopped home made candied peel and topped it with some whole almonds.  When I first made this, the neighbours were out decorating their home with lights for Christmas, and asked if they could festoon our tree near their garage...of course yes, and I took them out a slice of the freshly baked gingerbread.

It makes for a large loaf 20cm square, so having frozen some of it, some was defrosted today for Bun Friday, and it was delicious buttered, and topped with apricot and pistachio conserve.

I had not managed to use up all my flour supplies before moving, and was happy to find a kg bag of Shipton Mill's French Flour Type 55, so felt a good bake to choose for December was the Sourdough French Bread.  Jane Mason gave us the link to her demonstration of a good shaping technique.  I watched it a couple of times, and followed it for the shaping.

The shaping went well, and I used a lovely heavy linen vintage tea towel called a Huckaback.  Its actually a large towel, from when towel were not woven in the loopy weave.  I love them, and look out for them in vintage shops.  It worked very well at keeping the loaves propped up whilst they were rising.  However, the last two somehow got to sticking together...I must have pulled the wave down, whilst I was placed the first three baguettes on the baking sheets and giving them their slashes.  The last two therefore got twisted together to form the large 'baguette'.  I froze the three smaller ones, and have since defrosting and warmed one up.  It worked very well, and we have been enjoying this with Somerset Saucisson, olives, goats cheese etc, everything from Somerset except the Olives which were bought from the market were imported from Morocco!

Shipton's  flour worked very well...and I think after Christmas I shall treat myself to a fresh delivery, though I shall miss sharing my order with my Kenilworth baking buddy Tony.  Maybe I shall meet someone locally equally nutty about baking in Wells who would like to share an order.

Keeping up with the standard of the Close

Its just over a month since we moved in, and we have some very nice neighbours.  Last weekend there was quite a bit of activity of everyone started putting up their decorations in their gardens.  We had reindeer, a Santa with his sledge.  They are of course put up for the children!

All our decorations were still in the loft.  When we got them down, and we delighted to find a set of little multicoloured lights which we had picked up in Wilkinsons in the post Christmas Sales, and which we had completely forgotten about.  We had intended to weave them in and our of our heathers and conifers in our front the time of course, we had no idea that we would moved home.

David and I had fun putting the lights into our two small trees.

I took a video with my camera, and having tried to upload it, our broadband speeds are not up it!  Just another thing to look into, and maybe upgrade!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Seeking Angels in Wells

I have real angels in my life, they know who they are!  I also love  looking for and at angels in any form: whether depicted in ancient manuscripts, or carved in stone, or sometimes just the face of a kind person.  On my various trips around towns and cities, in any country, my eye is drawn to them.

There is so much to look at in and around Wells, where we are now settling down, and starting to get out and about, in between various refurbishments projects around the house.

Mr S and I popped into the Wells Museum just for a short visit.  We have joined for the year, so will made further visits.  Up the stairwell they have a few old statues from the Cathedral:

As we were leaving the volunteers on the desk were pleased that I had admired the angels and said that if it is Angels I am seeking, what did I think of the art exhibition?  We had not looked in, so quickly turned back.  The Exhibition called Sacred Places and Divine Fragments showcases the work of Elizabeth Hand and Derek Nice.

Here are just a few of Derek's Angels

 Liz Hand invited us back to their special opening day on Saturday, and although it was raining, I made a special trip back into the centre, as I wanted to have a look again close up and in detail at all the works.  It was lovely to meet and speak with Liz again, and be introduced to Derek and his wife Mary.  I loved the way that Derek has used old pieces of timber and made angels in all shapes and sizes...and quite masculine angels too!

Local walks

Just at the end of our road, there is a beautiful view of countryside and farmland.  The hedgerows even this late in the season show promise in that there are so many different trees, and plants growing in them.  Even the remains of the crops make a lovely pattern across of the field.

Just on the left we can see the tor in the distance, which seems to move closer depending on the weather conditions.

One afternoon, a little too late, we set off for a walk using our map, a short circular walk we thought, which led us between Hay Hill on our left and Ben Knowle Hill on our right.  This next picture is less than half a mile from our doorstep! 

The low winter sun was casting long shadows but also showing up the countryside to great advantage.  As we walked up and around Hay Hill, we were taken by surprise and 'chased' off the path by a herd of young cattle.  Luckily we are both fit enough to climb over a high field gate at great speed!  By this time we were off the footpath on the map, but with some map reading, we managed to find out way back....and as a present from the gods, found some of the largest apples as windfalls in a big that I could only carry back one in each hand, and Mr S three, with one in the crook of his arm.  It was quite dark by the time we got home.  As a special treat I cleaned off Mr S's trainers..well he had been working hard all day replacing the flush on one the loos, and dealing with other plumbing matters.

Lessons learnt:  don't go out for a walk in the country without having plenty of daylight ahead, take a torch, long walking stick, telephone having first checked for coverage, a whistle to call for help, and avoid any field with more than a couple of quiet old cows!  If it is going to be muddy, wear wellington boots in the countryside.

Friend bearing gifts

Even though we feel that we have loads to do to get the house ship shape, and be really comfortable enough to receive guests, it was Penny who was brave enough to come to stay and take us just as we were.  For this I am so grateful, it was lovely to see a friend, whose visits were always so very welcome.  It took a great deal of effort, with train and bus across the Country, but Penny loves a challenge and loves travelling by train and bus.  At least we had the heating up and running, but forewarned, Penny brought down a new hotwater bottle, just in case, and this was one of the gifts she brought.

During our walk into Wells, Penny could not resist going through this gate at one of the Almshouse complexes....

We enjoyed walking and admiring the buildings, and later when we visited the Cathedral, we found the well worn steps which Penny remembered from a visit many years ago.  I am really looking forward to Penny's next visit, when we can explore more places together.

Only a couple of days before Penny's visit, when we were talking on the phone, she asked me if there was anything she could bring for me.  I must confess that back in Warwickshire from time to time, I would ask Penny to be on the look out for some obscure ingredient on her various travels. When we found unusual spices, or ingredients, we would share them.  Penny was therefore not surprised when I asked her to bring me a couple of boxes of dates.  I explained that they were soft Persian Dates and normally I bought them from Joe Richards the greengrocer in Kenilworth, and that my favourite fruit and veg stall at the market in Kenilworth: Stodds of Leicester often have them too.

I've been on the look out here for these lovely soft dates, but had not seen any.  These are my 'chocolates' they are soft and delicious, and I love them stuffed with a brazil nut as an after dinner sweetmeat. The nearest I have found are these.  Mazafati or Bam dates are quite the nicest dates at the 'affordable' end of the price range.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

New Home

I feel frazzled.....We had several months when we did not know what was happening, found one house, which was withdrawn from the market two weeks before our expected move date, But found another home in another place altogether, and several months later we are finally snuggling down for the winter in our new home.

We are delighted with our new "City"...the smallest City in England.  It feels so friendly, and with the open countryside on our doorstep,

We can still walk into the Centre.  We have two markets each week: one on Wednesday and the other on Friday, with the most wonderful selection of locally grown and produced food.  So far we have bought sheep and goat cheeses, somerset apples and pears, and other superb vegetables....locally made salami, etc and oh some spelt sourdough bread for when the oven was not fit to use....a friend suggested that we got in a professional oven cleaner.  What a superb new!  Chris from TLC in Street was spotted pdq in the local flier!

We have met most of the neighbours, and with some lovely apples a gift from one, I made some apple buns for Bun Friday.  I was a little overgenerous with the filling with some, and decided to make a Wells Apple Bun...little wells of sweet dough stuffed with apples and spices, and sprinkled with sugar!  Invited one of our new neighbours to share our Friday Bun Day treats.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Pumpkin Cake with pumpkin seeds recipe

This morning, I found a lovely bag of large cranberries in the freezer, and looking through my books for inspiration, settled on making some cranberry chutney, with red onion, apple, and cider apple vinegar, with a mixture of festive spices. It will not need refrigeration, and will be nicely matured for Christmas.

I've also finally baked theTurk's turban pumpkin which has been adorning the conservatory for the last few weeks.  It had got jolly hard, and I had to have a second pair of hands to break it open.  I simply placed the quarters skin and all in the oven to bake, and when soft scooped out the flesh.

There are no pictures...a small piece of the cake was cut off to eat, and the rest went into the freezer! Its going to come in very handy in the next week or so!   I am very busy using everything up.  I know what needs to be used from the freezer, fridge, and store cupboard, and ideas just appear from somewhere.

As well as making the cake, today I made up buns with pumpkin flesh, strong flour, home candied peel, the remaining of the preserved ginger, aniseed, butter, milk, yeast, eggs etc.

I've been sorting out recipe books, magazines, my card index box and hand written recipe books which date back many years, when I came across a typewritten recipe for a pumpkin cake...and it was from this that I have developed the Pumpkin cake below.  The original recipe which had margarine and walnuts, used the creaming method, and had a different blend of spices, and far too much sugar for my taste buds now.  Joyce Hatwood had brought some of her pumpkin cake to a crafting session about six years ago and it was so delicious, I asked for the recipe. I've been on a mission to eat more pumpkin seeds as they are high in zinc, and yes that's another item which needs using up!

Mr S has also been on the use up path, and when I emptied the teapot in which he had been brewing his spicy chi...I knew that would make a lovely soaking liquor for the raisins...I've kept back some of the last teabags to use for soaking raisins in during the next few days.

Pumpkin Cake with Pumpkin Seeds

225g plain flour...I used white spelt flour
1tbsp baking powder
175g soft brown sugar
225g cooked pumpkin flesh
75g butter, I used goat's butter
150g Raisins soaked in strong hot chai tea...enough to hardly cover the raisins
50g chopped candied peel
A good handful pumpkin seeds
1/4 tsp ground mace
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs

You could sprinkle the top with some demerara sugar and more pumpkin seeds, but may need to cover part way through baking to prevent these scorching.

Sift all the dry goods, add the sugar, and rub in the butter.
Add the drained raisins and the orange, mix eggs into the pumpkin puree, then add this to the mixture, with the pumpkin seeds.  Stir well, and add sufficient of the soaking liquid to give a softish texture.

Bake in a lined 2 lb loaf tin for 60 to 70 minutes in a preheated oven gas Mark 4.  Test with a skewer.  Cool in the tin for about 20 minutes, then turn out and cool on a rack.  The cake is very tender, and it is best left till completely cool if you want neat slices.

One of the tips on the guides to making the removal process as smooth as possible is ensuring there is plenty of tea and biscuits...well there will be buns and cake!

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Avoncroft Museum

We have a little note book...and in there we list places we would like to visit, places we may have glimpsed or heard mention, and we have been meaning to visit Avoncroft for some time.  With just a few days remaining in this area, we choose a lovely sunny day...and we were completely entertained.

The staff were really friendly, and we were invited to pick fruit from the orchard, and I found some lovely chestnuts..of course a little contribution was accepted.

One of the many exhibits which was really well done was the prefab house.  My mother lived in one in Hull, for a while when her home had been bombed, so I was very interested in all the details.  It was well furnished, and I recognised the style.   With very little money and fewer items to buy after the war, people continued to have the same things through the fifties and well into the sixties, and my mother had transported many of the items including a washing machine, half way across the globe!  I remember an old bathroom foot towels just like this one, but maybe it was in red.

The house felt quite spacious..modern homes must be getting smaller and smaller!

There was a lovely little tin chapel

and beyond a barn whose sides were made up of beautiful woven wooden lattice

was a working post windmill..we had a guided tour.

I haven't listed all the buildings or mentioned that two young burly men were enjoying themselves blacksmithing and turning out manly pokers, with lovely elegant twists, or the lovely apple orchard...but you get the idea....

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Durum Rye the Sourdough Way

Another sourdough loaf from our Facebook challenge group,with the recipe on page 60 of Jane Mason's Book.  Mr S reckons it tastes really good.  The crust is very tasty, and the crumb smooth and silky on the tongue.  We should be using durum flour...I used a bag I bought earlier this year from and Italian Stall which is Semola di Grano Duro Rimancinata by Arco.  This is so typical of me..looking around and buying ingredients that look interesting!  I do believe it is Durum flour: it is very finely ground and has semolina's yellow tint, and is very absorbant and elastic.

I have a much better picture from the other side, but I want to show the tear along the base.

The first time I baked this, I put in in a 800g banneton, and it split only on one side along the as it was eaten up so quickly, I tried again, this time splitting the dough into two 500g bannetons...and I had the same splitting along the bottom, on the sides of the loaves facing each other.  Still...this is a journey to improve and perfect I shall have another go soon!

I've been reading around, and I shall try the tray of steaming water in the bottom of the oven for the third try!

Fougasse looking like Swiss Cheese Plant Leaves

When I last baked Fougasse I had an idea:  make them like the leaves of the Swiss Cheese Plant with a little cheese scattered over the top...the ideal bread for the farewell party held at Liz and Bob's with friends from the Kenilworth in Bloom and Kenilworth Horticultural Club Committees and judges.

We were really touched by Liz and Bob's offer to hold this party at their home.  Many of the guests were co-opted to make different dishes, and Liz asked me to make the canapes and bring some bread and chutney, and all the dishes, with desert and cake too, made for a lovely spread.  Bob cracked open some magnificent wines from their cellar.  We even had a tour of their home, and what a wonderful house, full of their personality and also hard work reviving and decorating family treasures.  It was a wonderful send off!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Day out to Hampton Court Castle and gardens

Jenny organised the last of this year's Kenilworth Horticultural Society outings to Hampton Court Castle.  We had a local coach company pick us on Sunday morning, and the trip through the countryside on one of the finest of Autumn mornings was a joy in itself.

The Castle of which little of the original remains is still picturesque, having been remodeled over the centuries, and is beautifully positioned in lush countryside.

There are some wonderful tree specimens surrounding the house, and the gardens, although now almost at the end of their display of plants, have been well laid out, with interesting walk ways, reflective pools, a wonderful maze, with tower in the middle, secret gardens, topiary etc.  As with many gardens, from the planting, it is definitely summer when the garden would be at its best.

scattered around are some interesting sculptures by the artist George Webb

This pergolas was displaying the hips of the rose Francis Lester which were bright and beautiful against the deep blue sky...and how about this for a novel plant label, which had been well hammered into the ground?  There is no fear here of the label disappearing or getting moved to another plant.

A few other plants were performing well late into the autumn:

and even where the vegetables had been grown, the green maure Phacelia of which I am found was a late source of nectar and pollen for the bees:

Mr S and I had lunch in the orangery, and then joined our group for a tour of the castle.  It is rented out for parties and weddings, and it has some lovely large rooms.

Inside none of the furnishing are original but a previous American Owner did his best to bring the dramatic element to the property:

Towards the end of the day, I went in search of the zip wire, and since there was no one else around, had a lovely exhilarating ride!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Bagels the sourdough way

This is the recipe set for the first half of October on our facebook group working our way through Jane Mason's Perfecting Sourdough.  The usual recommendation is to read and reread the recipe.  I noted that Bagels are made with a very stiff except for all the other ingredients I held back some of the water and added sufficient to get the stiff dough...not too stiff, but not slack.

I activated the sourdough overnight, and it has taken most of today, with the buns coming out of the oven just after was the dough doing its the meantime I cleaned the brass and silver, and attended to other urgent matters.  I had a lovely call from my friend Penny this afternoon.  We chatted about the time she spent in the US which is when she tasted the real thing!

We have never really been 'bagel' people...I think I once had a little chew on a piece and did not think it was worthwhile finishing the bun!  We'll see what these are like tomorrow.  I had intended baking the sweeter version: Montreal Bagel from the Book of Buns, which coincidentally is being baked on the 'sister' group!  However I had no malt syrup...and our local honey is also coming to an end.  Maybe next week!

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Exciting threads

I am so fortunate to be in a little group of knitters, and we love a challenge...this is a project that I am still working on.  It was reading a blogging friend's post: Not yet mitten weather,  that got me looking further into colour work.  I have fought shy, much preferring lace when I want a challenge.  So firstly its thanks to knitting friends for 'stretching' me into this area.

The thread then lead me onto Be*mused where I was thoroughly interested in the stashes of Latvian Mittens.

Also I have discovered that one can knit a braid..and have them as interesting elements in knitting on circular needles.  This is where I shall be spending quite a few hours learning more, so many thanks to Klionik

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Fougasse from Paul Hollywood's How to Bake

More and more, we are recording TV programmes, then watching them when it suits us.I had heard from friends that a couple of weeks ago, Fougasse had been Paul's choice on the Great British Bake Off.  Like a worm, this became buried in my mind, and then on Saturday to go with soup for lunch, I rustled up some Fougasse.  Whilst we went for our half an hour power walk, they were proving nicely under their cover.  From the recipe based on 250g flour, which the recipe says makes one, I made two: a nice sized fougasse for two people to share.  His book gives only two slashes, whereas on the show they were making six slashes each side.  The ones I made reminded me of the leaves from the Monstera House plant, but in them, the slashes go to the edge...As it is also known as the Swiss Cheese Plant, how about a cheesy version......I'll try that next time, maybe a great idea for our Gardening Club parties!

That evening we watched the episode, where for the Botanical Week, Paul asked for a herb fougasse.  Wish I had put fresh herbs in mine, as well as scatter them on the top.  I can't remember exactly what Paul said a Fougasse should be like...but Mr S said that is exactly what yours was like!

I've made Paul's bacon and onion fougasse in the past, and that too was delicious, but that has several stages and is more time consuming, whereas this Fougasse on page 70 of the book, can easily be made in a couple of hours.

Monday, 3 October 2016

In a Vase on Monday - Birthday Posy

With the few remaining flowers in the garden, I managed to make up this small arrangement.  It is dedicated to my sister, whose birthday it is today.  Just three types of material...three sisters, arranged in my mother's favourite little vase brought back from Japan by my father.  The darker bronze foliage tipped by small white flowers is the Persicaria Red Dragon, a present from Cathy, the little roses are Ghislaine de Feligonde, and white Michaelmas Daisy.  

The Persicaria has now yielded at least five new plants, and all going to members of my gardening club, to raise funds for getting some great speakers for the new year!

The Michaelmas Daisy is magnificent.  I bought it as a small flowering plant, in a pot, the sort you get at the greengrocers for about £1, but it must have been sprayed with dwarfing compound as it was flowering then at about 20cm high.  This year still at the front of the border where I thought it belonged, it has grown to about a meter and is covered with lovely blooms, must appreciated by the bees and other flying insects at this late time of the year.  The stems are strong and there is no sign of flop at all, most probably the best white daisy I have seen!  It very nearly got grazed completely to the ground by the hoards of slugs and snails we had earlier in the year.

The little dish I bought at the airport in Spain returning from my visit to the birthday girl many years ago.

This afternoon we had a walk to the birthday girl's favourite woods, which earlier in the year are bathed with dapple light and bluebells.  Now there is the the 'straw' from the leaves and stems, but on a long fallen silver birch tree were were beautiful since this is one of the reasons we walked out there, to see if there were any fungi..I was pleased to see this one.

Cathy is also thinking of Autumn, but her arrangement full of colour is an echo is the glorious weather we are having at the moment.  Do go and and have a peep!

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Saffron Buns revisited

This is the second try at the Saffron Buns from The Book of Buns.  This recipe is on our baking challenge for the second half of September 2016....and my friend was arriving on Saturday, so what could be nicer that having saffron buns, clotted cream, and preserves after our walk around Kenilworth Castle.  I had the apricot and pistachio, and Jayne, having tasted the blackcurrant jam...even had a new jar to take home with her, together with a helping of cream and buns to share with G on Sunday.

I was going to bake these on Friday evening...but felt they were just not rising in line with my experience with other buns...I even left them overnight for a slow rise in the conservatory, and even in the morning, they did not seem to have risen significantly.  They went in the oven...and they were reasonably light, but not as fluffy as I would have expected.  For 300g flour, there is 90g sugar, and I wonder whether the high level of sugar retards the yeast growth, which also has 60g of mixed lard and butter to struggle against!  I also wonder whether the saffron also affects the yeast.  Next time I would reduce the amount of sugar, activate the yeast in a little of the milk and sugar, then add the rest of the milk in which the saffron has been infused etc.  For more details here is the link to my previous attempt.

In a Vase

Mondays seem to fly by and its not until later in the week, that I feel able to go into the garden and be inspired to cut some flowers.  Maybe it is because it is late in the flower cutting season, and this year I have not planted autumn flowering plants.  Tucked in a corner amongst my potted ferns, is a graceful grass: Hakonechloa Macra albostriata, growing in a blue ceramic pot.  We had seen this grass planted to great effect in the Birmingham Botanical Gardens last week.  I had first been introduced to this plant by a member of our gardening club.

After wheeling my bicycle back to the shed, I spotted some lovely berries on a self seeded Hypericum.  I had one in a pot several years ago, got rid of it, regretted that, and then several sprouted around the garden...That plant has rather insignificant flowers, but lovely berries, which start green, then get a red tinge, and finally turn a glossy black.

I've been sorting through my vases, and came across this soap stone vase given to me by my mother many years ago, but sadly it started leaking and I realised that the two elements were stuck together and not water tight.

I had tied the material with some raffia, and decided that the ends were worth bringing up and having a little peep...but now a different vase was required.  I had cut some other material, but felt that the arrangement was just ending up like one of those pots of stew, where you have thrown everything in where there is no distinct flavour!

The little elephant is a reminder that this weekend my dear friend Jayne and I spent a wonderful day together.  Jayne loves elephants.....

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Day out to Birmingham Botanical Gardens

I had decided a long time ago on a trip to Birmingham Botanical was to have been my birthday present, so before we collide into the next one, we set by today, for a visit.  Strange time to visit a garden, but then a good garden has treats for all times of the year.

The trees were magnificent, however with no start with autumn tints, there were none the less treats in store:  from magnificent cedars to dinky clipped bonsai trees, there was lots to see.  Looking down on the ground I found this lovely nut then looked up at a tree I did not recognise, which looked very different from our usual hazels trees: Corylus colurna, the Turkish Hazel.

Under some of the trees, autumn crocus were putting on a splendid show

In other areas the seasonal colours were being showcased by more tropical plants

The butterfly house was still open, and there were some really colourful and large butterflies sipping the nectar from the last of the flowers

In a cool greenhouse, one of my favourite little autumn flowers: cyclamen

and then still basking in the warm autumn sunshine, a superb bed of cacti and succulents, which I am sure will shortly be dismantled and taken under cover for the winter

This great looking shrub took my attention with its delicate white frilly flowers:  Crinodendron patagua, the Lily of the Valley Tree, from Chile

Of course there is always the one plant which I would have loved to have found for sale in the shop: guess what, it wasn't!  Great flowers but with a leaf so unlike our violets...this one comes from North America and is called Viola Pedata bicolour, the Bird's Foot Viola.  Must put this plant down on my next birthday present list!