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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Garden art ......... and architecture

I felt a sudden compulsion to get all arty, so I took this photograph of the inside of a Nasturtium flower. The colours and pattern are amazing! It wasn't easy to get this because it's blowing a gale outside and the petals were waving around. I had to quickly click in between gusts of wind.

This is a lovely little silvery-green Sedum (sorry, not sure of its name) alongside Houseleeks that are growing in an old metal watering-can. The can is under a Rowan Tree and that's how the berry came to be there.

I think this is the first time I've taken a photograph of an insect and it didn't fly off! Okay, I know it's not a great close-up, but it shows how pretty the Sweet Pea 'Cupani' is.

I just had to show you this, although it's difficult to see from the photograph just how small this little nest is. I found it in the potting-shed while tidying up. Don't worry, it's not being used or I wouldn't have moved it. It's 4 1/2 inches wide and the shallow hollow in the centre is only 2 inches wide! It was on the floor in the corner, behind some plant pots. I'm not sure which bird built this..... anyone any ideas?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A good heart is very hard to find......

..... and thankfully, my son has one. Seeing this photograph from his album makes me smile. It reminds me of a sunny day when we were in the garden together. He was about 13 years old at the time. I spotted a tiny beetle crawling up his arm and went to blow it off.

"Don't!" he cried, swinging his arm away, "You'll break its legs!" He then proceeded to lift the beetle on a leaf to safety.

wildflowers and mountains of Switzerland

Jon-Paul lives and works in Switzerland and this is how he describes part of his journey to work:

".....every day I walk down the little hill to the train station to go to work I see the Swiss/French Alps and Lac Leman. Every day I see birds of prey flying overhead, hunting or playing with each other in flight, and quite often over the rooftops of the houses in Vevey, they seem used to civilisation here. See quite a few different kinds of birds, and lizards too, the fire salamanders are my favourite, black with yellow spots/splashes."

Gruyere, Switzerland

This was taken when we lived in the Scottish Highlands. Jon-Paul is on the right and brother, Robert Francis (Bobby) is on the left..... pretending to be a stag. Hmmmm, wonder if he still does it?! Lol, look at the 1970s pudding-bowl haircuts. (I'm so for it for this!)

Jon-Paul with his partner, Nadia

....... just me having a few sentimental moments.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Bowl of Flowers

One of the joys of having a garden is being able to bring some flowers indoors. This simple arrangement consists of Sweet Pea, Purple Loosestrife, wild Yarrow and Achillea 'Summer Berries'.

This is Buckwheat, a useful and very attractive plant. If you double-click the photograph you can see each individual floret in detail. Seeing it close up, it reminds me of apple blossom. Buckwheat has many uses including feed for livestock, food for humans, honey crop, weed control and green manure.

Buckwheat is not a true cereal but is related to sorrels and docks and, in my opinion, is as pretty a plant as any other in the garden. I've grown it as groundcover previously, to protect the soil from being leached of its precious minerals by the rain. Next Spring I want to grow lots more just because of its pretty flowers, which are also of great benefit to bees because of its long flowering season.

This is Achillea 'Summer Berries', which produces flowers in various shades of pink. It's extremely pretty and looks wonderful grown en masse.

And here is the common Yarrow, one of my favourite wildflowers.

Folklore tells us that if some Yarrow is sown up in a little pouch and placed beneath the pillow, you would dream of your future husband/wife. You also have to recite the following charm before dozing off to sleep:

Thou pretty herb of Venus tree
Thy true name be Yarrow
Now who my bosom friend must be
Pray tell thou me tomorrow.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Beverley Nichols

One of my favourite writers is Beverley Nichols (1898-1983), author, pianist, playwright and socialite. He wrote books on a diverse range of subjects including politics, travel, religion, detective mysteries, children's novels, his cats and autobiographies.

I particularly enjoyed 'Father Figure' in which he freely confesses to attempting to murder his alcoholic father several times, all of which failed. Although he describes the fear that his father inflicted upon the family, written in Nichols's own style, it becomes a hilarious and heartwarming read. Believe me! :O)

It's his books that he wrote about his house, garden and nature that I e
njoy the most however. Today, I'm not sure how many people remember or know about the writing of Beverley Nichols. If you enjoy reading uplifting books, sprinkled with lots of humour throughout that leave you feeling sorry when you've read the last page but feeling good, then you should seek out his novels. Luckily that wont be too difficult as Timber Press are offering re-prints of many of Beverley Nichols's books. Here's a direct link to those available.

Here also is an excerpt from his book, 'Laughter On The Stairs'.

"This fourth spring I went bird's-nesting, by which I do not mean crashing like a bison through the bushes, wrecking other people's houses. It was a question of watching, and listening, and, when the time came, of standing and staring. For the miracle of a bird's nest is almost the greatest miracle of all. Think of it like this....... An aery meeting, a flutter of feathers and then, before you know where you are, a beautiful house, perched in the branches of a tree.

That is only the beginning of it. Shortly, on the floor of the house, exquisite ornaments are deposited by unseen hands. These ornaments are light blue, or pale green, or speckled like a fritillary; they are oval in shape, and fashioned from the most delicate, fragile porcelain.

Even then the miracle has only just begun. For each of these ornaments contains music. Liquid music, sleeping music, disguised in the form of two magic fluids,
one gold and one white. Unwritten music, as yet, but music which one day will echo through the woods like distant flutes.

These ornaments
are filled with unwritten music. It is all there, 'tuning up'. There is the white and there is the yolk, and between the two of them there will one day be a bird, with a swelling throat and an eager heart, singing for you and me.

You may tell me that you could rhapsodizde, in the same way, about the e
mbryo of a baby. Perhaps you could. I couldn't. Having babies is in no way to be compared with depositing delicate pieces of porcelain in the branches of cherry trees. It is a far less decorative process. Whether it is a more useful one is open to question."

'Laughter On The Stairs', pages 151, 152

To find out more about Beverley Nichols, go here.
Timber Press publish books about gardening, ornamental and edible plants, garden design, sustainability, and natural history. For their UK website, go here.
For their Oregon USA website, go here.

"To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat."

Beverley Nichols

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The best laid plans o' mice and men.......

Last year I grew some celery, but it was tough as old boots..... not even Benji, our canine composter, would eat it. I liked the colour and form of the leaves though, so I kept one plant back and left it to grow at will in an old half-barrel.

Here it is with its dainty pretty flowers.

During a quick tidy-up in the greenhouse last Summer, I came across some lily bulbs. I always grew the lilies in containers but because of the time it takes to water them, I decided to cut down on containers. Having come across the discarded bulbs I thought it was a shame to leave them there, so I planted them in the nearest little plot of ground at the side of the greenhouse. I'm so glad I did. They're one of the highlights in the garden this Summer. Their roots not being confined to a pot (and a couple of liquid feeds), allowed them to grow almost to the height of the greenhouse! I took this photo early in the morning and the sun was shining on them making them seem paler than they are. The colour is more intense.

Here's another unplanned success. We were given this rose some years ago but everywhere was crammed full of plants. The only place available was down at the bottom of the garden where all the prunings and green 'waste' go. Being a rambling rose, I thought it would grow along the top of the fence amongst the other plants. Instead it scrambled its way through the Weeping Willow tree, reaching for the sunlight. Each Summer I think it wont survive and each year I'm proved wrong as it grows more beautiful than ever.

This little corner of the garden has been planned! It's a shady plot where the Weeping Silver Birch tree grows and behind it, ivy has almost covered the old stone shed. I've underplanted the tree with fern and foxgloves and some smaller woodland flowers. The birds like this part of the garden too, as it provides them with a sheltered place of protection. This is where all the baby blackbirds have perched throughout Spring and Summer, waiting for mum to bring them their meals.

The Millenium Bugs at Durham Botanic Gardens..... and 13 year old daughter. :)

This photograph has nothing at all to do with this post. :O) It's for John of Sedgdunum Warbler.