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 is 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 I have 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 are very different, and not grown primarily for the flowers but for the colour and form of the foliage.

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 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 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 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.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018


I love Pestos...and frequently look for the best there are with real ingredients.....

It goes on gnocchi which I and Mr S also love...homemade preferably, in breads, on breads, and even as a filling...

Friends even brought back the most fabulous Pistachio Pesto from Sicily as a present last year.

Its no surprise that I got excited that one of our local WI members is currently running a wild garlic pesto workshop.   However because I did not go to the last meeting and had not registered my interest on time, I found out today that I have not only missed the first group but also the second group.

I have been rather in the dumps recently and a short break in Cornwall seems to have got me out of the doldrums.  I cannot thank Pat enough for taking good care of me over three days.  Here is a picture of Pat and her favoured pet Breeze on the beach.  It is just a short walk from her home to this little cove.  Of some of my home made bread, cake, marmalade etc which I took down, it was the Beetroot Chutney which Pat is going to try her hand at.

Today for supper I decided to just go completely off piste and made my own pesto, without even doing any research.  I was preparing pasta with a mushroom and pheasant sauce.  This sounds rather extravagant but to be honest it was a 'breeze'.  My cousin Pat was going to cook up some Venison but the local farm shop had run out and suggested a pair of dressed pheasants instead.  When Pat got out her cash to pay a second pair was put on the counter...It was buy one, or rather a brace of pheasants, which is a pair, get another pair free.  All four birds went into the oven...and we came home with a whole cooked bird.  Yesterday we had a meal with most of the meat which I had made into a 'fricassee' on the hob.  There was really enough for three good helpings, so I kept one back.  It was that portion which I then made into a sauce with saute mushrooms, onions, herbs and my ubiquitous Calvados.

The pesto which I dressed the pasta with, before topping with the pheasant concoction, was made up as follows:

a handful of roasted walnuts
the dregs of the lovely olive oil from Greek Olives in a tin, another present from a dancing friend
all the leaves of my windowsill basil plant which had reached the peak of perfection
some Cave aged goats's cheese from Wookey

It was really a use up....but absolutely delicious.  Except for exceptional pestos such as the pistachio future I shall be exploring the world of Pestos through experiment in my kitchen.

I came across a really splendid blog just by chance and there are also tips from Paola Bacchia on gnocchi as well as Pestos.

Monday, 9 April 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Two plus one

Just three elements in the vase today:  two are from the garden and one is from the wild.  From the garden some periwinkle for their contrasting colour and form, and just two stems of Mahonia aquifolium.  These flowers are already attracting early pollinators such as bees and the queen bumble bees, with their nectar a welcome early spring pickmeup for the creatures coming out of hybernation.  

The shrub is large and raggedy but with its shiny evergreen leaves with large red blotches it had been the focal point of this garden during the dull wet days of winter and spring.  Whether it still has garden room once other shrubs grow that is the great question only time will tell.

From a different range of lovely bird song in Cornwall which included gulls...we are back to more lovely bird song here in the garden.  I lingered yesterday early evening, and even this morning as I gathered these in the rain, the dunnock, robin and many other birds' song was the nicest reminder that nature will hopefully carry on despite the ups and downs of the season. Hence the little prop of my pottery bird which has a lovely toned whistle.

The other element is yellow archangel.  I admired this in my cousin's little arrangement by her front door.  Of course the leaves are rather interesting, and the plant seemed familiar to me.  I tentatively named the plant archangel and straight away wondered from what recess of mind this came from.  I wasn't far wrong..Lamiastrum galeobdolon argentatum or yellow archangel is now classified as a non native which is listed as a Schedule 9 species...use the link to read more about that.  I used to grow this many years ago on a dry sunny bank and I don't remember it being any trouble.

I have read that it seeds readily and that ants move them to their nests and hence the plant can pop up far away, and since it also creeps therefore if I were to plant this I shall have to watch it very carefully.  As we walked down the lane to the Cove in Cornwall, the verges were yellow with primroses and patches of flowering yellow archangel.

I have been amazed by the large amount of primroses this year.  There are far more compared to previous years.  Primroses are the foodplant of the caterpillars of the rare Duke of Burgundy butterfly so hopefully with many more plants around this will bode well for this butterfly, and I shall be on the look out for one.

I noticed on our last walk along the lanes in Somerset last week, that the other wild Lamium the Red Dead Nettle or Sweet Archangel is already in flower.  It was the loud buzzing of a Queen Bumblebee that drew my gaze to this pretty wild flower growing on the road verge.  I've always rather liked lamiums, so maybe a few of the more choice ones will find their way in the garden.

Cathy who hosts this meme has a 'sweet little angel' posing on her prop with of course some lovely flowers.  Do go and look and maybe also join in either this week or some other with this meme.

Monday, 2 April 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Easter Eggs

These are my favourite type of Easter Eggs...the real sort.  I loved it when I had a few bantams and collecting their eggs was one of my greatest pleasures.  Each hen laid a subtly different egg.  I didn't have any of the breeds that lay blue eggs. The blue goes through the whole shell to the other side.  I get my mixed eggs from a friend, but am always on the lookout for eggs for sale from signs at the side of the road.

I very rarely eat chocolate these days as it affects me, so it was rather odd that yesterday evening I indulged.  The consequence was a strange night of sleep and was drowsily woken up this morning with a call to morning breakfast.....

With even more rain overnight it meant a quick step out onto the drive to pick the smallest amount to fill my empty egg shell.  Some of my 'Ivory White' Wallflowers, a miniature daffodil and a few violas.  I would describe the wallflowers as pale yellow.

For some reason the violas seem to have attracted all the snails in the neighbourhood...they just love the blooms, and I really had to hunt to find some unnibbled ones.

Cathy who hosts this meme has been enjoying blue skies, how nice to share in with gardeners from around the world.