In a Vase on Monday: winter wonder

Having temporarily lost the use of my right hand/arm, I’m adjusting to a much slower pace. The simplest of tasks that you wouldn’t give a second thought to with two fully working hands are much harder and take much longer and it’s hard not feel permanently irritated and frustrated! Determined to start the week off on a positive note and to have a productive day, I went into the garden with my secateurs, carefully snipped one stem of hellebore (winter rose) from a healthy clump growing by the path, put the secateurs down, retrieved the flower stem, picked up the secateurs without squishing the flower… (you get the point!).

I can’t use my  camera at the moment because the controls are on the right (how do left-handed people manage?!) so these pics are from my phone. They are grainy but nevertheless show the beautiful blushing on the petals, the delicate veining and the intricate flower centres. This little vase of winter beauty will keep my spirits up for as long as they last indoors; I seared the stem in a centimetre of boiling water for a few seconds which will hopefully prolong it. The gorgeous flowers should continue to bloom in the garden, though, for at least another month. At the time of year when light levels are generally low, when it’s cold and when it seems an awfully long time until spring, with the added complication of one arm down, I need all the chinks of wonder I can get.

It’s lovely to be joining Cathy and the other Monday vase bloggers with my very simple offering this week. Click on the link to see more floral loveliness.

I hope January has got off to a flying start, that you’re well and you have a lovely week.

PS Thank you for your lovely comments and good wishes on my previous post. Forgive me if I don’t reply to each one individually  – it takes me so flipping long to type!

(Not) In a Vase on Monday: leaf fall

It’s a real pleasure to be joining in with Cathy and other bloggers today to celebrate five years of In a Vase on Monday. Do click on the link to see what she and others have come up with to rise to her challenge of (Not) In a Vase.

I’ve used a sculpted wooden bowl – a polished piece of rhododendron bought at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall about 15 years ago – and some of the beautiful burnished cherry leaves that are currently scattered all over our back lawn. They have such glowing colours that I couldn’t leave them out there to all turn to mush in the heavy rain we keep having.

I’d like to say a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to Cathy for hosting IAVOM and for keeping it going so brilliantly over the years. It’s a lovely thing to join in with on a Monday when I have the time and has really rekindled my love of flower ‘arranging’ (that’s in inverted commas because I go by instinct rather than proper arranging techniques) and of photography. I’ve started growing flowers specifically for cutting which brings such pleasure and I’ve discovered that one of my most favourite things to do is to stick some flowers in a jug and take photographs of them. I’d especially like to thank her for all her encouragement and kind comments on my blog over the years.

Here’s to many more Mondays of flower, grass, leaf or whatever faffing!

In a Vase on Monday: saving daylight

It’s flipping cold outside today with the wind blowing from the east – the waves on the sea are heading in the opposite direction to the way they usually go. As I sit here looking out over the Channel, the sea is pewter grey and a dull greenish brown where the sun pierces through the dark clouds. The boiling waves are topped by white horses and I can see a yacht in the distance valiantly riding the wind.

What a difference a week makes – last Monday I was wearing a light jacket over a t-shirt when I walked the dog ; this week I was wrapped up in several layers wearing my winter coat and sheepskin mittens! Brrr. Not only is it colder, the clocks went back at the weekend so it’s now dark by 5pm and soon it will be getting dark even earlier. Boooo. We had a large log delivery last weekend and spent a day splitting and stacking wood so we were prepared for the cold weather and have already had the two wood-burners going. I’m just not mentally prepared for winter, though. It’s crept up on me this year. I don’t like going out in the dark – I need all the daylight, preferably with sunshine.

Anyway, on to this week’s vase. It’s always a great pleasure to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly get-together of flower-arranging bloggers (or, in my case, flower-plonking). I have a feeling my jug of flowers might be rather similar to one I put together a few weeks ago, but never mind – it’s the taking part that counts.

I’ve gone for an autumn colour berry-and-seed combo: a few  guelder rose stems with red-tinted leaves and bright red berries, a couple of stems of snowberry, a tendril of jasmine with green and black berries, beautiful seedheads of Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and a Miscanthus (can’t remember the exact species), some Euphorbia oblongata, a few hardy geranium leaves that are turning red at the edges and sunny orange marigolds and blue hardy geranium flowers to add a bit of contrast.

I hope you’re keeping well and warm and enjoying as much of the light as possible. Wishing you a good week.

 

In a Vase on Monday: Quinces and Valerians

This week’s Monday vase is inspired by The Runaways by Elizabeth Goudge. First published in 1964 as Linnets and Valerians, it’s an adventure story with dollops of magical realism all skilfully woven together with wonderful descriptions of the characters, the rooms and landscape they inhabit and the food they eat. It had me entranced and I loved every minute of reading this delightful, comfort blanket of a book. It is a children’s book but do not, for one minute, let that put you off. If you haven’t yet read it and you’re in need of a reassuring and satisfying read, I highly recommend it.

The valerians in my jug are red valerian aka Centranthus ruber. This is an incredibly hardy plant which some people view as a weed but I admire its tough constitution and ability to keep on flowering for months and months. There are no linnets, obvs, but there are sprigs of rosemary – “…But you must each have a sprig of rosemary in your pockets. Ezra says rosemary is a holy herb and not much harm can come to you if you have it in your pocket.” That’s good to know 🙂 Joining the valerian and rosemary are white and pink Japanese anemones, because they’re prolific here at this time of year, and some stems of guelder rose (Viburnum opulus) which are starting to show their gorgeous  autumnal hues.

There are no quinces mentioned in The Runaways but I feel sure that wise Ezra would definitely bake them for supper or include them in a steaming apple pie. Just look at their fluffy skins! They’re rock hard and seem incredibly dry when you peel, core and chop them but bake or stew them with brown sugar and they turn into the most deliciously fragrant fruit you’ll ever taste. Culinary magic.

We were lucky enough to be given a bucketful by a friend who has loads this year and I put a few in a ‘windfall cake’ yesterday. We ate half of it for pudding with lashings of custard and it was heavenly. I adapted a recipe from Sarah Raven’s  Garden Cookbook (she originally got her recipe from Monty and Sarah Don). This is a much simplified version:

2–3 medium-small quinces (or 1–2 large ones)
2 cooking apples
zest and juice of 1 lemon
200g brown sugar
150g butter
2 eggs
85g self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
100g ground almonds

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (fan oven). Peel, core and chop the quinces and apples and pop them into an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the lemon zest and juice and 50g of the brown sugar and bake for about 20 minutes, until softened. Grease a deep 20-cm cake round cake tin.

Wait until the fruit comes out of the oven before you make the cake batter so that the fruit can cool a little. (You could bake the fruit well ahead.) Cream the butter with the remaining sugar and add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Fold in the flour, baking powder and ground almonds.

Lift the fruit out of dish with a slotted spoon (there will be juice) and fold into the cake batter. Scrape into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30–40 minutes. Put a piece of baking parchment or foil on top if it’s browning too much. Eat hot, warm or cold with custard, cream, ice-cream or yogurt or all of them at the same time. Close your eyes and feel the love.

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I’m joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her usual Monday vase gathering, so do hop over to her blog to see her dahlias and what other bloggers from around the world have put in their vases today.

Wishing you a good week.

PS Thank you very much for the lovely comments on my previous post. I’m sorry I haven’t replied yet. I will get round to it.

In a Vase on Monday: flowers to the rescue

My usual approach to a Monday vase is to pick whatever is in abundance in the garden (or whatever is flowering) and hope it’ll work together. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn’t. Today, there are two jugs of flowers because it was the latter, although I think they work well side by side. In the blue jug there are a few dark purple osteospermum, lovely pale burgundy-tinged Calendula officinalis ‘Sunset Buff’ (self-sown from last year), pink Japanese anemones, red salvia and lavender seed heads. In the flowery jug there’s a tangle of Clematis tangutica ‘Bill McKenzie’. I’d been chopping this back because I thought it was the invasive wild form but will stop hacking it now I know that it’s not! I love the little yellow lanterns, fluffy seed heads and twirling tendrils of foliage.

I’m glad to be joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly gathering of Monday vases. She has a lovely sky blue arrangement today, so do click on the link to see it and find links to many others from around the world.

A little flower faff is just what I needed today. Along with hundreds of other parents all over the land (we passed several on the M25), we drove our son to university on Saturday. It was pouring with rain when we arrived, there were families huddled under umbrellas trying to keep piles of bedding dry, scurrying from cars to halls as fast as possible without dropping anything. We helped our boy unpack and find a place for all his stuff in his very small room; he put his pictures up on the wall and logged into the wifi (essentials first). We popped out to buy him the groceries we’d accidentally left at home in the fridge… Then we said our goodbyes and headed out into the gloom. I’m sure you know exactly how that feels if you’ve been there. If you haven’t, I can’t really describe it yet. I’m still a bit dazed. I know he’ll be fine, he’ll work things out and, hopefully, he will enjoy the whole experience and come out with a degree at the end of it. As for us, we will get used to him not being here all the time – there will be lower food bills, less laundry, fewer missing glasses and mugs, it’ll be quieter – but in the meantime, the dog is doing her mournful small whine (she knows something isn’t quite right) and I am trying to not think about it.

Wishing you a good week.

PS If you love ballet (even if you don’t), you might like to click here to read the latest Agnes Q&A with Royal Ballet Principal Francesca Hayward – she’s an inspiration.

Wider than the sky

After yesterday’s heavy rain and winds, the garden definitely feels less summery – apples have dropped off the trees much to the delight of patrolling wasps, there are blackberries ripening in the hedge, fallen beech leaves are scattered all over the back lawn and the air has that smell of damp earth, fruit and slight decay. Autumn. It’s coming.

David has resumed the mammoth task of cutting our hedges, chopping back a large briar rose laden with hips in the process and this inspired my vase today. Joining the rosehips are a few nasturtiums, marigolds and geranium leaves with reddening edges. The photos are taken with my new 50-mm camera lens (it was my birthday yesterday) and the vase is sitting on a beautiful tray sent by my brother and sister-in-law – the perfect Monday vase prop.

I was quite happy it rained all day yesterday as we had no great plans other than to go out for lunch. Afterwards there was nothing for it but to curl up on the sofa and do very little indeed. I managed to persuade my family to play a round of Rummikub (“Ok, Mum, but only one round…”), then I watched a film (It’s Complicated – undemanding and funny in parts), Fake or Fortune about some Henry Moore sketches (much more interesting than the show title suggested) and the new Sunday evening drama, Bodyguard, which had us gripped. It’s the longest I’ve sat and watched TV for ages and it was great.

My eldest returned home from Reading Festival today. He looks as though he’s spent five days in a field (which he has) and his voice sounds as though he’s been shouting and singing for five days (which he has) and he smells… not too bad, considering! He has existed on cereal bars, tap water, alcohol and cheap burgers so this evening we are having roast chicken, roast potatoes and all the veg, followed by a vanilla sponge filled with strawberries and cream made by my daughter. This is tripling up as a birthday, exam results celebration and welcome home cake.

Thank you very much for all the kind and generous comments on my previous post. You are a lovely lot and I am grateful for your understanding and compassion. One of my favourite Emily Dickenson quotes is “The brain is wider than the sky.” There is always something to learn about oneself, about others and about the world and by facing challenges, whatever they may be, we learn what we are made of.

Until next time, my friends. x

PS Thank you, as always, to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting the Monday vases. Do pop over there to see what she and other bloggers have found to share today.

In a Vase on Monday: still hot

Phew, cor blimey and good grief! It’s still hot; hotter than is comfortable when you have to get on and Do Things. These temperatures are absolutely lovely when you can lie about reading, swim in a pool or the sea, then lie about some more but not lovely when you have to sit at a computer (which gives off heat), or scrub toilets or do anything that involves expending energy. Earlier this morning, I spent 30 minutes picking up the small apples that have dropped off the old apple tree in the back garden, deadheading a few plants and picking blooms for a Monday vase and that was enough! Any gardening has to be done early in the morning or late in the evening, so there’s not a lot going on here. Watering and dead-heading is about all we can manage.

Having missed a few weeks of Monday vases, it’s lovely to be able to join Cathy (who hosts this weekly gathering) and her dahlias today. I started off by cutting a few stems of Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ which were lying down (overcome by the heat, no doubt), then picked my way through the wild patch to reach two Buddleia bushes at the bottom of the garden – one is a common-or-garden massive weed but we have left it there for the butterflies and the other (the darker one – Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’) is one we planted. It smells lovely. I thought it would all look a bit too same-y, so I added nasturtiums (‘Jewel Cherry Rose’) and red salvia (I think it’s ‘Royal Bumble’) and a few amber Heuchera spires to make it more interesting.

It seems that here in the UK we’re not alone in having a drought. Jane, The Shady Baker, who farms in Australia, has written eloquently about the severe drought they’re facing. Her family’s livelihood depends on the weather and reading her post put my concerns about the garden into perspective.

Keep cool, wherever you are, and have a good week.