Thursday, 13 May 2021

My Hero comes to the rescue

 I was just about to put two home made pizzas in the oven, and Pouf!  the element went on the large fan oven.  The pizzas had to be cooked in the small top oven, which I hardly ever use, as it is also the grill.

With instructions manual etc, a replacement element was soon ordered, and received back very quickly.  Luckily there are two pair of hands, and two strong people.  As we fitted the oven, ourselves over four years ago, Mr S knew how it all fitted together.  Due to screws having been inserted with heads on the back, the element could not be replaced without taking the whole oven out, and removing the back panels. If only it had been fitted from the front, changing the element would have been a doddle. I am just the extra help with lifting out the oven, and passing tools etc, Mr S is the problem solver and fixer on this project.

I'm very happy to report that everything is in working order, and the first and celebratory loaves has now been baked.

Monday, 10 May 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Perseverance

 If there was someone who would wave a magic wand and grant me three wishes, one of those would be the ability to paint, draw, sketch etc. I would not ask to be an artist: famous or even selling a few paintings, just the ability to apply myself and end up with something reasonable that I would not be unhappy to hang on the wall. 

I've grown to understand that effort and perseverance is required to achieve many things, and without even first trying, or even 'try, try, try again' : My mother always used to add the extra try, and another word she used say was needed was 'Perseverance'. I just haven't tried enough. A few one hour zoom lessons from our WI group recently has got me going. I've decided it isn't too late to try.

Getting going: assembling materials for the task, and having failures along the way, is something I find hard. I have a cupboard with a couple of shelves of 'art' things: paper, pencils, water colour, and all my calligraphy things which have not been touched often, since calligraphy lessons and also a few art sessions with Helen Clues  at the Gecko Studio and Gallery in Old Town, Kenilworth.

So following on from the zoom classes, and from posting about one of the plants in the gravel area, this Sunday I spent a couple of hours with my pencils and brush trying to paint from real life.   I had doodled this on my lap whilst watching a film on the TV the night before, to obtain composition, layout etc, but drawing in 'my book' from real life, brought on a few butterflies! 

In my vase was a little spring of Phlox bifida Ralph Lauren. with its cleft petals and elusive light blue periwinkle coloured flowers. At breakfast this morning, with not a pencil in sight, I shall fall deep in the perfect beauty of each and every detail of this charming flower.

Having started In a Vase on Monday, arranging flowers from the garden and celebrating their beauty with others has brought a rhythm to my life. Will I persevere with art as I have persevered with gardening or picking posies, only time will tell. Cathy's weekly coming together  has been a worthwhile gift  with several In a Vase on Monday arrangement to view and ponder about. Having viewed her arrangement this week, I may well have found my next subject for sketching.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Another new Wood visited: Beacon Hill

I nearly didn't go as I was feeling below par the day after my second vaccine.  However I was delighted by the enchanting woodland.  I was there for the Geology of course, and having received the excellent field notes, maps, and diagrams, looked forward to this field trip, as there is nothing quite like having 'our' Professor guide us.  

We were standing very close to, and examined some interesting exposures of andesitic lava flows and agglomerates, the later much sought after during the Iron Age and Roman periods for querns, millstones and the former as sort of grit tempering found in the distinctively decorated Iron Age Pottery found at Glastonbury.

The band missed the little patch of Wood Sorrel emerging from the thick blanket of decaying leaves: 

Standing Stone on Burial Mound

The site is rich in Archelogy, which was been very much disturbed in the past when ridges were ploughed when replanted with some beech  in the 1950s.  There still remains some interesting mounds which I will read a little more about on the Beacon Hill Society's Page.

"In Roman times Beacon Hill was probably at its busiest. Two main roads – The Fosse Way and a road from the Mendip lead mines to Southampton – intersected on the hill top, though little of their original construction is visible today. More apparent are the rakes, quarry pits and working platforms in the wood, that represent a considerable expansion of the stone extraction industry. The querns and millstones that continued to be produced here have been found at Roman settlements like Ilchester, Shepton Mallet or Camerton, as well as at villas and farms in the region. The sandstone was also used as metalling for surfacing the Fosse Way at Shepton Mallet at least."

We came across some wonderful old Beech Trees, not yet in leaf.  

The bluebells were also far behind compared to those lower down and further West along  the Mendips.  On Wednesday it was a jumper, hat and gloves cooler than Wells.  I was already wearing my warm coat and I shall remember to put further layers in the car next time.

I am looking forward to a slower paced visit soon to explore this beautiful wood looking out for other interesting flora.  I did notice that they had a fine selection of ferns, mosses and  a patch of  bilberries.

Six on Saturday - 8 May 2021

1. Shell pink this isn't, however, this small and dainty hardy geranium, with her magenta blooms is starting off early summer with a bang.  Did I say summer?  It is still far cooler than usual, and the fleece hasn't been put away yet.  This little plant is quite hardy though, and no slug is drawn to it either.

Geranium cinereum subcaulescens


2. I used to think Aubretia was easy to grow because I was used to see it tumbling over stone walls in the Cotswolds.  This was has taken a couple of years to make a reasonable patch.  

Aubretia Blue Beauty

3. Phlox divaricata 'Chattahoochee' is much happier in its new position. It has grown into a good clump. Of the cuttings that I took, only one survived.  The slugs seem to like nibbling round the thin stems, and I ought to have kept them in pots till they were a little sturdier.  It is just starting into bloom.

 Phlox divaricata 'Chattahoochee'

I added a different phlox to this border: Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume'.  This one is taller, has  brighter green leaves, and soft blue petals. All I can say for now is I wished I had bought more, had room for more, maybe some cuttings taken this year, will find space.  

Phlox divaricata 'Clouds of Perfume'

I had seen this phlox growing in one of lovely gardens I had visited last year, so when this is out it will remind me to walk up to Milton Lodge Gardens and enjoy some of their tea and cake, and their views and their delightful gardens.

The Phlox bifida Ralph Hayward taken earlier this week demonstrates what I would have missed if I had cut it back.  Maybe after it has flowered will be time for cutting it back.

4. Over in the shady border it is time for the lovely creamy white flowers of  Dodecatheon meadia alba to be the one to draw me out into the garden.

5. Back in the conservatory, where I love to sit and view the garden keeping nice and warm, I have a few succulents, and my species Pelargoniums. Pelargonium ardens is just coming into flower.

6. As a young Mum I used to have an allotment to which I used to cycle, with my son on the child seat, and watering can hanging from the handlebars.  Allotment picnics were always a lovely way to pick salad and eat it still squeaking.  This must have been taken during the summer,  I must have gone in the car that day, as I was probably digging potatoes too.  Apart from the initial double digging, when I had a little help, I did it all on my own. In those days I sowed most things straight into the ground, but had glass cloches.

I now just have only a very small patch at a different garden, but still enjoy growing a few veg. These days I seem to start sowings in small pots.  Here are the courgettes:  two yellow, and two green, which will be garden ready by the time the threat of frosts will be over.

We shall all be waiting on calmer milder weather to start planting out less hardy things.  Whatever the weather we join in under the protection of Jon the Propagator, with much to entertain, inform and educate there from several other SOSs.

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Trees in Spring but for how long for the Ash of the Mendips

 On our walk this week, I retraced the steps of a walk taken with my Geology Group, wanting to show Mr S a particularly lovely little valley. All of this is no further than two miles away from home.

Just beyond the last houses along Reservoire Lane, an old original boundary was engulfed by encroaching trees.  From small saplings growing upwards, after many years, the iron railings  are mere 'piercings' with the railings now going through the middle of the left tree, with the bark of the other two slowly growing over the railings. The trees are now holding up the rusting railings. 

Wide spreading Oak Tree

With leaves just about to burst, it was the shape of the trees, lit by clear bright spring sunshine, that brought me the greatest joy. 

For now but for how much longer, we must enjoy the silhouettes of Ash Trees.  Tens of thousands are being felled, and it causes me anguish when I see all the stumps along the lanes and roads.  The very sound of the saws all around the hills, over the last few months has been their death knell . Will it stop now we are in the nesting season?  Will this be but a temporary respite? I really do hope that trees away from roads and paths, and on private land will have some sort of reprieve, if only they could stand a while, who knows, they may survive, and scatter their seed.  But whom am I to judge whether the science is correct, and whether actions to remove all the trees, or leave some will be the right action.   I really think that many healthy Ash Trees have been felled, simply as a convenience cutting long banks along the roads, rather than just the odd tree which is damaged.  Returning in five or ten years was not considered, and it does not look as if any replanting is taking place at the moment, Time will tell. I can just recall the loss of the Elm Trees from the English Landscape....

Mr S and I have vowed to return as often as possible to our little grass covered and Ashy Dell, with its cool limestone stream,  as often as we can.  There was mention of a picnique, book reading and gazing into tree tops...

RIP Mendip Ash.........

Monday, 3 May 2021

In a Vase - Spring pastels

The winds are roaring, and even in our sheltered garden, plants are getting a good buffeting.  Before lunch, just as the winds were picking up I went out to pick a few spring blooms for today's IAVOM.  Cathy who gathers us together in a great ponytail of flowers, her topic this week is Fringe Benefits, which when viewed will make you smile.

Rarely used for its original purpose the vintage half pint pewter tanquard beer mug is today's Vase.  Usually it sits with its fellow full pint version on a kitchen shelf together with a few other pewter bits and pieces.  It makes a lovely container for posies of flowers.  

Rescued from the winds are soft and delicate blooms: the blue Brunnera Jack Frost flowers masquerade as forget-me-nots, and  the pretty pink sweetpea looking flowers of Lathyrus vernus ‘Alboroseus’. 

With a little twirl of the vase you can see the pale pink Dicentra eximia both flowers and ferny leaf, and a cousin of this one Corydalis Pseudofumaria alba with its white and yellow blooms join together and are surrounded by fresh unblemished leaves of a white edged trimmed leaves of a small hosta.

Sunday, 2 May 2021

Yeo Organic Gardens

Just a week after my last visit, here I am again at Yeo Organic Gardens.  I wanted to bring Mr S to share the beauty of garden with him before Spring moves to Summer.  

Just as in our own gardens, plants are not fixed, how they look is constantly changing. 

This week the extensive planting of Camassias in the Spring Meadow are starting into bloom: their starry blue flowers echoing beautifully the blue of the spring skies. Next week, they will be even finer.

Last time, I completely missed the Woodland Walk.  I took my time along here, both enjoying the views towards the  northern flanks of the Mendips , and also the planting of a wide variety of plants looking quite at home under the trees. 

There are some great Old Oak Trees as well as pretty acers added, and some gem planting such as this epimedium with their new bronze tinted foliage.

The Woodland Walk is an early Spring Gem. 

The Avenue of Malus hupehensis which was in full flower last week, now formed a pale green leafy tunnel leading to the Gravel Garden.  The taller herbaceous planting was still only just beyond its winter stage, yet clever design gives it a look well worth lingering over.  Of course I have yet to visit the garden in full summer.  There is not a week where I can imagine a visit would not yield  a corner to enjoy.

The long border backed by a stone wall reflects the heat and with the long stone path, dainties such as this miniature dwarf iris, surrounded by silver foliage plants makes a good combination worth emulating even in a small garden.

Mr S was quite taken with all the tulips, either scattered in the long border, in the cutting garden, or in The Parrot Cages.  He particularly liked Tulipa acuminata with its long, pointed, flame-red petals.

As Mr S usually prefers naturalistic planting I was delighted by his appreciation of the pleached Malus 'Red Sentinel' which was still in full flower.  When I mentioned that the owner Sarah Mead had explained to me on my last visit that they had been all trained at the gardens, he was even more impressed.  With his Surveyor's eyes he made several comments on the quality of the design and attention to detail.

Beyond the Terrace and through the gates lays a formal area leading to the ha-ha and views toward Blagdon Lake.  By formal let me explain: planting of trees and grass in rectangles.  Native Field Maple Trees, exquisitely shaped and almost identical,  are planted in a grid, each side of a wide grassed area,  with balancing closed mowed paths.

 In amongst the spring green swarth there was a patch of purple leaved plants just bursting into flower.  My instinct said Lady's Smock or Cuckoo Flower: Cardamine pratensis.  After a very wet late winter, the pale blooms of this native British perennial are currently in flower in local meadows, and were flowering well along the road edges as we drove to the gardens.  However I had yet to see such a fine purple leaved strain, and wanted to check various sources. I really do think this is a 'spontaneous new cultivar', which would be a very worth addition for naturalistic plantings: Cardamine pratensis 'Yeo Organic Purple'?

I could share pictures of sculptures, great iron work, mention the wonderful bird song, or the sound of crunching gravel, maybe the taste of the coffee and again the cheese and onion slice, but I have decided instead to end my sharing of the day with my delight at the charming beauty of this 'wild flower'. 
Our reflection just to prove we were there

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Six on Saturday - 1 May 2021

 With cold temperatures at night, there is  ritual of moving plants out into the garden, or back under shelter, each end of the day, covering or uncovering plants with fleece.  This week we have had a little rain, but not sufficient; light levels have been excellent.  Growth is fast and some of the early spring plants are starting to melt away soon covered by nearby early summer herbaceous plants, with hardy geraniums showing beautiful fresh leaves.  

1. The clumps of Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost' are now in leaf and the first of the stems of blue forget me not looking flowers are ones I often use in my small posies which I show each spring on IAVOM. Later in the season, when the flowers are long over,  the leaves often feature in arrangements.  I have grown this plant in several of my previous gardens, and would not be without it.  Not long after moving, my neighbour offered me a plant, and this is it now nicely bulked up.

If you have ever felt the leaves of Brunnera its surface is the opposite of smooth or silky and not at all shiny.  They are covered by coarse hairs which can be quite rasping and which is why I use gloves when handling this plant. When looking up the common name, which is Siberian Bugloss, this led me to wondering about the name Bugloss.

2.  There is a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss which is a type of Echium. In summer it stands out beautifully with its blue flowers   For great detail and photography do visit Brian Johnston's post: on Echiums. This one is a biannual, that I fancied growing just the once maybe, as it is one of those plants that several butterflies and bees love. Last year during its first year, it quickly grew handsome looking rosettes which in themselves added a good structural element to the area.  I am sure that we shall have some fine flower spikes in a couple of months time.

Bugloss comes from the Greek for Ox-tongue and the name bugloss comes up in several plants in the Borage Family, and of course Borage also has those hairy leaves.  Yes that one too is part of the Boraginaceae Family, and so is Forget me Not, and also Pulmonaria. I was beginning to twig that plants in that family share the same characteristic of coarse hairy leaves. 

3. Earlier this week,  I cut right back to the ground all the Pulmonaria Sissinghurst foliage and spent flowers, after these had provided a feast for early bees.  The few gentle showers during the week are helping this plant bounce back, within the last five days.

Pulmonaria Sissinghurst cut back

 I often get further flushes of flowers.  

Several members of the newly formed local WI gardening group would welcome some of these. By splitting a plant,  more than one person may profit.  They are now planted back out into the garden, and will be available to be collected bare rooted some time in the coming months.  We have a few experienced gardeners, and some novices and the whole idea is that we share.  

Previously I would have grown them on potted into compost, watering the plants etc, I have taken on the idea that if the plants are quickly being picked up and replanted in a nearby gardens, this is a better way: the only thing is that I loose a little soil.  I am gradually also realising the benefit of sharing seed.  Encouraged by other members of this group, I am starting to enjoy this activity and have benefitted from their generosity.

One Pulmonaria split, with five small plants settling in

I am looking at two further undivided plants and may well do a step by step division mini session, followed by coffee and cake of course. After all, once one is taught to propagate, one plant can become many.....

4. I happen to have brought one of my  Kenilworth weeds with me in the soil and it is one I like.  I used to search out ones with different colours, and I also have the white form of the dog violet...the ants distribute the seeds, and many plants can be found near their nesting areas.

5. A few years back on a visit to Birmingham Botanical Gardens I saw one of its 'American cousins' and it was love at first sight! I am quite patient and have waited five years and now have a Viola Pedata.   More information of location in sandy soils, and how best to try to keep these plants going has 'passed' some pleasurable time. 

6. Viola Tricolor is now ready to be planted out in odd spots around the garden. I grew these from seeds received from Jim: one of the very experienced and knowledgeable SOSs, last November, and then pricked them out into this module tray when they were showing the true leaves.  I'll try them in different places and see where they like it best! 

Joining up with Jon and other gardeners, whether it is just to see and read, or if you are tempted and would like an interesting way of noting six items in your garden each week on your own blog, and sharing, is open to all.  Any rules and guidance are on The Propagator's blog. 


Monday, 26 April 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Delicate Spring Blooms


 I've been watching the Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem', in last week's vase,  gradually unfurl and turn a pale green, the curving leaves adding a soft flowing movement.  They have been reused this week, with the addition of  a stem of Lamprocapnos spectabilis Alba, several blooms from Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum', and a stem of blue forget me not looking flowers from the Siberian Bugloss: Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

If you have ever felt the leaves of Brunnera the many hairs that cover the surface give a very rough texture.  When I found the common name Siberian Bugloss, that led me to wondering about the name Bugloss as we have a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss which is a type of Echium. Bugloss comes from the Greek for Ox-tongue .  Thankfully the Brunnera is well rooted and cannot come chasing me, as one is likely to be if you find yourself in a field with young cattle, and yes, I have felt the coarseness of a cow's lick!

On a recent walk across fields and styles, the little piece of litchen covered bark caught my attention and came home to sit on the mantlepiece.

Each Monday I join in with Cathy who rambles through her garden, and posts an anchoring vase often with stories and props.  Do go and have a peep at what other IAVOM posts there are linking into hers.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Six on Saturday - 24 April 2021

Six on Saturday headed up by Jon The Prop  is a great way of noting down on my blog the progress or otherwise of the garden over the previous week.  We often talk about the weather too, and this week we have lunched in the garden, and I have had to move potted plants into the shade.  Fleece has been used as much for frost protection as for shading of new lettuce seedling planted out from the scorching sun and drying winds.  The rain tub is empty and and the hose is out of the shed, rescue watering has now begun.

1. Over five weeks, I have now shown all the newly planted species tulips.  Last week I showed my favourite T. Whittalii Major, and in bloom this week is T. Clusiana Chrysantha,  Mr S's favourite. It is looking quite at its best  this week in our front garden.  Later in the day when they open out you can seen into their rich yellow centres.

Tulip Clusiana Chrysantha

2. Cucumber Poinsett seedlings hold great expectations, and have just moved up a pot size,  but need to be cossetted during this chilly spell.

Cucumber Poinsett seedlings

3. 'Make your own tomato soup' update.  The variety of Tomato is still unknown!

Christmas Present from my Grand daughter

I had planted more than four basil seeds, but before they germinated I had knocked the pot over.  I'll be planting a few more of the seeds very soon, as I just love Basil.

4. First Saturday in flower for Apple D'Arcy Spice,  which is about a week later than last year.  Will the weather be kind enough, and any fruit set this year? I have to tread over too many other plants to get close enough to use any protection.

5. Bleeding Hearts or as I prefer today:  Manypeeplia  upsidedownia but for the serious lot Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

This year it is the turn of the' Red' to be strong and full of blooming stems, and joy of joy there are little seedlings coming up in the surrounding area, both for this one and Alba too. There were loads of seeds last year, and I gathered the seeds and scattered them around beyond the area of the plants.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis Alba

Alba is a shadow of last year's self, but I just love the bright green and delicate leaves and its heart shaped pendulous blooms 'dripping' off its erect but tender looking stems.  Again seedlings have been moved to a shadier area. My cooler shadier area is really at a premium, and now that I have given away some of my ferns to a friend setting up a collection, I have a little extra of this 'premium' space.

 Edward Lear, who is better known for his nonsensical limericks, was inspired by this plant and went on to publish a drawing of a plant he called  Manypeeplia  upsidedownia in his book : Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets.(1871).

6. Yesterday I visited Yeo Organic gardens, with friends.  We moved to our home here on the southern flank of the Mendips just over four years ago, and I have yet to forgive myself for not having visited this garden sooner. It is on the northern side of the hills with marvellous views of the lakes. They have a superb 'potager', and in the true spirit of organic gardening I have just planted a few

Dwarf French Beans Annabelle, spelling on Moreveg where I bought the seeds from, but also spelt Annabel elsewhere,  in our discarded paper coffee cups.  I only grow a few veggies in a tiny patch. By the time they are up sheltered in the conservatory, and hardened off, I calculate and sincerely hope we shall not longer be having such low overnight temperatures.