In a Vase on Monday: then and now


Another diminutive handful of spring flowers for you this week: more grape hyacinths, a couple of sprigs of Pulmonaria (unknown variety) and a buff-pink primrose that’s appeared in the paving cracks in a wild part of the garden. I’ve plonked them in a small jug that belonged to my great-grandmother (my mum’s father’s mother). She lived with my grandmother in a terraced house in inner-city Birmingham on a cobbled street with a builder’s yard at the end. We stayed with them for a few months when I was about six – we’d had to leave our home in Malta in a hurry (when the British were kicked out) and my mum took me and my little brother back to her childhood home while my dad stayed behind to sort things out. I went from living by the sea in the Mediterranean sunshine to grey, urban Birmingham and it was a shock to the system.

I have patchy memories from that time: the cold classroom with high-ceilings at school, the rain, my grandma’s pantry, the freezing cold bathroom that would completely steam up when you had a bath, sitting in my great-grandma’s room holding skeins of wool for her while she wound it into balls, watching her knit ferociously. She was a severe-looking Victorian woman, born in 1888, who rarely smiled and I was a little bit frightened of her. My grandmother, on the other hand, was a down-to-earth, kind and loving woman and I adored her. I’ve often wondered how these two very different women, bound by their love for my grandfather, co-existed for so many years after he died. My grandmother cared for her mother-in-law until she died, by which time grandma was in her late 60s.


Anyway, back to the here and now. How was your weekend? I had brilliant time on the Small Beans Photo course on Saturday which was full of lightbulb moments and inspiration. After years of sticking to the auto setting, I’ve now the confidence to take the stabilisers off, as my sister-in-law puts it. Taking good photos is all about the light, which if you understand how a pinhole camera works makes perfect sense. I now understand fancy photography phrases such as ‘depth of field’ and know how to alter the aperture to get a shallower or deeper depth of field (make the background blurry or sharper), how to alter the shutter speed to capture movement, and a lot more besides.

Working on the basis that you can never take too many pictures, I’ve been annoying everyone with the camera at every photo-opportunity. My daughter had her grade 3 ballet exam yesterday afternoon and was practicing non-stop all morning (the above photo is the only one she’s happy for me to show you) and my middle son returned from a two-night CCF camp, in full camouflage gear. (I promised him I wouldn’t use a photo here…) He was grubby, extremely hungry – having existed mainly on Smarties and Jelly Babies – and exhausted, so exhausted that he actually stood still while I wiped all the camo-cream off his face with make-up remover. Any mother of a teenage boy will know this is an unusual occurrence. I had a flashback to him as a grubby toddler, presenting his mucky face for wiping.

I’m joining in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden’s weekly get-together of gorgeous ‘vases’ from around the world.

Have a great week. I’ll be practicing with the camera.



In a vase on Monday: March miniatures and memories


In these early weeks of spring, each bloom spied in the garden is a delight and it gives me such pleasure to collect a few to bring indoors, faff about with arranging them and photograph them for Cathy’s weekly gathering. I could spend a lot of time faffing about with flowers… So, what do we have today?
::  there are still a few hellebores at the bottom of the garden. Note to self: plant more for next year.
:: Muscari are popping out all over the place, diminutive blue soldiers lining the paths.
::  Tete-a-Tete daffs – this stem has three flowerheads – are the only narcissus in bloom in our garden at the moment; later varieties are on their way.
:: most of the snowdrops are going over but there are still a few pristine flowers here and there. I’ll be lifting a few clumps to divide and spread further around the garden this week.
:: the three pots of Iris reticulata I bought last month are still blooming their socks off and choc-a-bloc with flowers. I’ll plant these into the garden when they’ve finished flowering.

The final photo above is of Cerinthe major seeds that I’ve been soaking in water overnight. Their seed cases are very tough and I read that if you soak them before planting, they’re more likely to germinate. I’ve not tried growing this plant before, so hopefully it’ll work. I’m planning ahead for sumptuous summertime vases 🙂

How was your weekend? Ours was a whirlwind of birthday preparations and celebrations for our girl. This birthday in particular has had me feeling quite wistful and conscious of time whizzing by. Slow down! We spent a happy half hour crowded around the computer screen yesterday looking back at photos from when the children were small. ‘Mum! Dad! You look so young!’; ‘Noooo! You cannot show that picture of me in my pants!’; ‘Oh, that’s hilarious!’; ‘ Look at our old house/garden!’; ‘Oh, I remember that!’… Big sighs and smiles all round. On the one hand it seems such a long time ago; on the other hand it seems like yesterday.

Wishing you a fab week.





In a Vase on Monday: Spring

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A bonus day today – 29th February – added back in Roman times to get us back in sync with the astronomical year, to get us back on track. I remember in my secondary school days when there was that thrilling yet terrifying prospect of a day when girls could propose to boys. Such ridiculous excitement. Queen Margaret of Scotland (in the 1400s) is recorded to have brought in a law with hefty fines for any man who turned down a woman’s proposal. I’m sure there was much glove-wearing at the time.

Anyway, tomorrow is March and March is definitely spring. Spring, not winter. So, with a spring in my step I picked this (rather obvious, though it is) selection of perfect tiny spring blooms from the garden this morning. Tete-a-tete daffs, primroses, grape hyacinths, snowdrops and a solitary purple geranium. The sight of these petite blooms fills me with delight and optimism for the growing season ahead. I’m off to the garden centre later to buy seeds; there are garden vouchers burning a hole in my pocket. I have visions of clouds of cosmos, drifts of Californian poppies studded with a dark blue/purple something or other, and borage and calendula around the veg plot.

I’m joining in again with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden and all the lovely Monday vases. Thank you for hosting such a joyful gathering Cathy.