In a Vase on Monday: minimal

There are plenty of flowers in the garden to make a pretty spring bunch for a Monday vase – loads of daffodils, grape hyacinths, pulmonaria, anemones, primroses, etc – but I decided to leave them where they are and instead snip a twig of the Chaenomeles (ornamental quince; not sure which species/variety it is) which arches over our top path.

It has more blossom on it this year than I’ve seen before, possibly because we thinned it out last summer and cut back it’s pushy neighbour, the lilac, letting in more light and air. That’s not saying much, though, because it is not nearly as floriferous as many other Chaenomeles I’ve seen. Maybe we should cut it back harder for more flowers next year. Ornamental quinces produce small, hard, knobbly fruit in the autumn which make a deliciously fragrant jelly with the most beautiful colour. You do need a load of fruit to make a relatively small amount of jelly, though, and our bush has never produced many. That might be a good enough reason to prune it harder this year.

Or perhaps not, as I’m not a fan of this flower colour – it’s an odd ‘salmon’ pink which I don’t usually go for, partly because it doesn’t go with anything (and it’s an incredibly difficult colour to photograph). But I do like the minimal nature of this sprig with its few flowers and buds in this blue spotty jug. I’ve added a couple of apple and pear sticks pruned from the young trees in our mini orchard.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden. Do click on the link to see what she and other bloggers from all over the world have found to put in a vase today.

Have a good week.

 

 

In a Vase on Monday: rule breakers

“Blue and green should never be seen except with something in between”, goes the old saying. What a load of old tosh. Thanks to the commonsense of the plants in my garden, it’s my current favourite colour combination. I think the particular blue of this common Muscari (grape hyacinth) and the zingy chartreuse of the flowers of Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae (wood spurge) go together brilliantly. They’re growing together on the top of the wall by our path (in the third photo) and this is what inspired my simple Monday vase today.

A little rootling around on the internet to find the origin of the saying reveals that it may come from the days of black and white films where blue and green were too tonally similar to distinguish between the two. I suppose it makes sense in that situation. You learn something new every day…

Euphorbias (spurges) are poisonous plants and a drop of the vicious milky sap from any cut stems can burn the skin, so I wore my gardening gloves to snip a few flowers and then seared them in boiling water for a few seconds to seal them. (For goodness’ sake, don’t ever get any near or in your eyes.) Nasty sap aside, Euphorbias are great architectural plants. There are about 2000 species – from annuals and perennials to shrubs, trees and succulents. Some prefer a sunny spot but some thrive in shade; some are tall, others short; you can get purple ones and blue-green ones and chartreuse ones and ones with deep-red flowers. There’s a Euphorbia for every situation – all will add a lovely form and structure to a garden.

By the way, did you by any chance watch Monty Don’s two-parter on Japanese gardens recently? (He has the best job in the world, doesn’t he?) I was blown away by now neat everything is. And how colour-coordinated; all the gardeners seemed to wear the same blue utilitarian jackets (which coordinated beautifully with Monty’s scarves) that look perfectly gorgeous against the backdrop of the green gardens. Joking aside, the programme was a real inspiration and has definitely given me a new appreciation of Japanese design and of the moss in my garden. 

Do visit Cathy’s blog to see what she and others have found to put in a vase today.

Hope you have a lovely week.

 

In a Vase on Monday: quiet anticipation

If you stand outside and shut your eyes, you can definitely hear it – the birds know it’s coming; their songs have shifted up a gear – and in the warm sunshine of recent days it’s easy to feel in your bones that early spring is here. Of course, winter could come back and bite us but I’m taking it as it comes at the moment and savouring the simple pleasures of a blue sky, a calm sea, busy birds on our feeders and the joy of finding early spring flowers dotted around garden.

Snowdrops in the lawn and in clumps in the borders, primroses in the wildflower patch and in borders, violets and muscari in the cracks and crevices in the paving. We have divided clumps of snowdrops and spread them around the garden (post-flowering) in recent years but the violets, muscari and primroses appear where they want to and we’re happy to let them do their thing. Spears of the narcissi I planted in the lawn under the window where I sit at my desk are around 20cm tall so those will be flowering in the next few weeks and the new tulips in pots are coming up. The tulips in the borders are a little behind but they’re pushing through the soil and there are bluebell leaves already carpeting the area under the cherry tree by the bottom gate.

There is so much floral loveliness to look forward to but in the meantime I’m enjoying the bright sunshine colour of these daffs (4 bunches in tight bud for £3 at the market on Saturday which opened within 24 hours in the warmth indoors) and a small posy of tiny spring flowers I picked in the garden this morning – violets, primroses, snowdrops and a single muscari. I seared their stems for a few seconds in boiling water to hopefully keep them looking perky for a few days. For more flower therapy, do visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other garden bloggers from around the world have found to put in their Monday vases today.

It’s half term this week and my younger two are off school. My first-born has also come home from university for a few days for home cooking and laundry services. He’s still in bed (I think he misses his bed most of all) but my younger son is out having a driving lesson and my daughter is in town with a friend so all is quiet here. I can hear a robin singing its heart out in the garden and the soft snore of my dog dozing after a good walk this morning. It should be a fairly laid-back week with a few appointments and commitments but plenty of time to catch up. I have an appointment at the fracture clinic on Friday (oh, I am counting down the days) and I’m daring to hope that the cast will come off at last. I’m eager to start strengthening exercises so I can get busy in the garden as soon as possible. My secateurs are calling me!

Wishing you a thoroughly good week.

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.