In a Vase on Monday – Fading Light

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Grey clouds, drizzle and a distinct lack of brightness are not conducive to collecting material for a Monday vase, or to taking photographs, but I’ve skipped a few In a Vase on Mondays and I have missed the weekly excuse to faff with flowers. I busied myself with other tasks, hoping that there would be a chink in the clouds, a glimmer of sunshine, but no – dull, damp greyness all day. When it’s this gloomy it starts to go dark even earlier, so by 3pm I could wait no longer and I nipped outside to see what I could find.

There is not much going on in the garden at the moment. It’s been very wet and windy and cold resulting in lots of soggy brown everywhere. There are plenty of tiny cyclamen but I didn’t want to pick any of those. A couple of the cosmos plants are still flowering, though, despite being battered by the weather and looking very dishevelled. The flower colour is less vibrant, more muted, but it’s welcome nonetheless. I can’t bring myself to rip out these plants while they’re still flowering. I also found a few nicotiana flowers in the back wall border – the plant is tucked in the lee of a faded aster, sheltered from the worst of the weather. And there are still  smatterings of marigolds and scabious. The orange of the marigolds fairly leaps out at you among all the faded plants and the white/cream of the scabious glows in the gloaming. To these flowers (which I know I have used quite often this year for my vases) I added clippings from a rosemary branch that was hanging off the bush, which must have ripped off last week in the strong winds.

Trying to get a decent photo in such low light was a challenge. The first picture was taken with my DSLR – I changed the ISO setting to try to get as much light as possible without it being completely blurry and I think it’s worked fairly well. I took the other two pictures with my iPhone to see how it would cope. These are much more grainy and muted but I quite like the effect.

I’m going to visit Cathy’s blog now to see what everyone else has managed to find this mid-November Monday.

Wishing you a good week with plenty of chinks of light.

In a Vase on Monday: then and now

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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.

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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.