In a Vase on Monday: Hopeful

It’s lovely to be joining in again with Cathy’s gathering of Monday vases after missing a few. I do so love a good faff with flowers. This week, I’ve picked and plonked three ‘Queen of Night’ tulips, some bluebells (from my garden, not the woods!), forget-me-nots, Cerinthe major, aquilegia and a few tendrils of honeysuckle foliage.

The garden is as dry as a bone, the soil dusty. We haven’t had any rain to speak of for weeks now. We’ve had to use the hosepipe to water all the newly planted trees, something we try to avoid doing as our water bills are extortionate; I’ve even been saving any leftover drinking water to pour on those plants lucky to be near the back door. There were promising-looking dark grey clouds (that’s not a phrase you hear very often!) earlier but they passed by without shedding a drop. There are showers forecast for this evening so I have my fingers crossed.

Happily, many of our plants are toughing it out and we’ve not been short of April flowers. The daffodils are almost over with just a few multi-headed white ones still looking good (although their top-heavy stems are lolling about, through lack of moisture I reckon). The tulips planted in pots are almost over, while those planted in beds are hanging in there. There are plenty of self-seeded Cerinthe, marigolds and forget-me-nots, and the aquilegias are starting to bloom. The bottom of the garden is covered in bluebells which is amazing considering we were stomping all over it a month ago, clearing pernicious weeds and planting pencil-thin Himalayan birch whips. One day, several years from now, there will be a sinuous river of graceful white birches down there in a carpet of bluebells and other delights.

I’ve mentioned my love of tulips many times and how I’d love to have so many in the garden that I can pick armfuls to bring indoors. Well, I’m a little way off that but I have been picking handfuls for the past few weeks – here’s one I picked last week, still looking good in the lounge. It is immensely satisfying to grow your own flowers to pick and bring inside – a fairly simple task with a massively pleasing reward.

Cathy is also showcasing tulips this week. Do go and see, and have a look at some of the many other wonderful vases of flowers from around the world.

Thank you for visiting and commenting. It’s been a bit full-on round here recently and I’m behind with responding to comments and blog-reading (sorry), plus the ironing and much more! I hope you have a good week.

The leaning tower of ironing…
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Five on Friday

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Joining in again with Amy’s Five on Friday, I offer you five random observations from this week:

One  As well as blue skies and delicious, warm sunshine, grey overcast skies and heavy rain, we had a day of sea mist that shrouded the sea and clifftops with billowing, hazy clouds. I had the unsettling experience of standing in the garden in the sunshine with the mist occasionally rolling through, sending the temperature plummeting. It looks like smoke and it’s quite eerie when it happens. Sometimes, in the summer, it can be hot and sunny when a mist will suddenly cloud the horizon and roll in off the sea. I know it as a ‘sea fret’ but it’s also known as a ‘haar’: a cold, sea fog caused by warm air condensing over the cold sea. It’s upset many a beach picnic.

Two  The hedgerows are positively exploding with all this sunshine and spring rain. There’s fresh cow parsley, golden-green Alexanders, white nettle flowers… Walking the dog takes longer when it’s so gorgeous as I have to stop and admire what’s going on. Cassie doesn’t seem to mind.

Three  My eldest has spent the past two days in exam conditions in the school art room producing his final piece for his Art GCSE. From what I’ve seen of photos on his phone, it’s been worth the effort and absolute mess in his bedroom. He’s gone in today for the final school day of year 11. From Monday he’ll be on ‘study leave’ and only go in to school for his exams. It’s also the final day for year 13 before their A’levels and many high-jinks are planned. He customised his school shirt in great detail last night which was hilarious. As I took a photo of him before he left this morning, he fixed me with a hard stare – ‘What are you going to do with that, Mum? Do not put it anywhere…!!’, so respecting his wishes I can’t show you. Suffice to say it’ll raise a few eyebrows among the teachers.

Four  There was a fascinating programme on Radio 4 this week about E F Schumacher – Is Small the Next Big? – and his revolutionary ideas about economics. I’d not heard of him before and was blown away by how contemporary his ideas, which date from the 1970s, sound and how much his holistic philosophy makes sense. His premise, that people matter and that everyone can affect change, is one that I wholeheartedly agree with and I’ve ordered his book ‘Small is Beautiful’ to find out more.

Five  I’ve spent as much time as possible in the garden – it’s so hard to stay indoors when the sun is shining and you can practically hear the plants growing. I’ve tended my seedlings, planted borage, nasturtiums and Californian poppies, weeded, and dead-headed the tulips, which are now all over apart from a few sultry, dark ‘Queen of the Night’ and ‘Ballerinas’. I’ve been admiring tulips on other blogs and Instagram and have  clocked so many that I’d love to have here. Hopefully, all my photos will help me to work out where the gaps are for planting more bulbs come the autumn.

Have a super-duper weekend. I have a friend’s birthday party tonight, the village Gardeners’ Association coffee morning tomorrow and the rest of the weekend at leisure 🙂

 

In a Vase on Monday: Windfallen

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Here I am, rushing in at the last minute and skidding to a halt with my simple offering for Cathy’s weekly gathering of vases. I wasn’t sure I’d have anything to show you but I quite like these spare, pared-back tulips and hope you do too. They’re not looking as they should. Sadly, they were victims of the storm last week – snapped off before they’d reached their glorious flowering prime. I couldn’t bear to compost them, so I popped them in some water to see if they’d recover and colour-up. Their colour isn’t developing – these are Princess Irene and should look like this – but they’re interesting nonetheless. I’m fascinated by the way the stems have gone all curly. Happily there are other tulips left standing in the garden and they should be looking gorgeous in a couple of weeks.

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The tomato seeds I planted on 13th March are growing merrily on the kitchen windowsill and the greenhouse is full of mini summer-blooms-in-the-wings. It fills my heart with gladness to witness their perky growth and I’ll fill any spare moments potting on over the next few weeks.

We visited Great Dixter last week. It’s one of those magical places, with an organic design feel, and all rustic with beautiful old buildings (part of the house dates from Tudor times) and glorious gardens. I’ve been once before for a one-day course – Succession Planting in the Mixed Border – which was a Christmas present from David several years ago. I remember it as a brilliantly inspirational day with a talk by head gardener Fergus Garrett in the great hall of the house followed by a tour around the gardens with him and the other gardeners and I’ve wanted to go back ever since. It was wonderful to wander around the gardens and see it all again. Even though it’s early in the year, there was plenty to see and gardeners to chat to. One guy was up to his knees in mud tidying up the prehistoric-looking gunneras just starting to emerge from their winter sleep; others were planting out in the cutting garden and potting on seedlings. It’s a generous place where everyone is keen to share in their joy and knowledge of plants and gardening. It’s the kind of place that fires you up and fills your head with ideas.

 

 

Lows and highs

 

Wind and rain scattered cherry blossom over the garden.
Wind and rain scattered cherry blossom over the garden.

 

The long weekend didn’t turn out quite as expected. Poor David was ill which meant a sleepless night for both of us on Friday, and Saturday was subsequently a wash-out. I was due to head to London for a friend’s pre-wedding party but sadly had to send my apologies – I couldn’t leave the children with a poorly dad and I was exhausted and definitely not feeling my best. I did tackle a huge pile of ironing, though, which made me feel a bit better. (Oh, the high life!)

One of my favourite colour combinations in the garden green, purple and orange – a cheering sight.
One of my favourite colour combinations in the garden – green, purple and orange – always cheers me up.

The rest of the weekend has been very low-key, which is sometimes what  you need. Pottering around the garden and the greenhouse (checking for snails), walking the dog, snuggling up and watching tv with the kids, early nights.

The tulips are looking so fabulous right now that I have to show you another photo!
The tulips are looking so fabulous right now that I have to show you some more!

 

Oh, and I made scones. I do most of the baking in our house, but making scones is David’s thing. And, I have to admit it, he does make the BEST scones. This is not an exaggeration – they are legendary in our family. Still, it was just what I fancied and David definitely wasn’t up to making them. I followed the same recipe and they were perfectly acceptable but they were ‘not as good as dad’s’, as my middle son bluntly told me (while happily scoffing one).

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David’s scones
Makes about 12 using a medium cutter

4oz caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling on top
4oz butter (or block margarine for dairy-free)
1 egg, beaten
1lb self-raising flour
enough milk to bind to a dough (use almond or soya milk for dairy-free)
a handful of sultanas

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C and grease a baking sheet.
2. Use a mixer to beat the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy.
3. Add the egg a bit at a time until mixed in.
4. Add the flour and and whizz for a while – you’ll end up with a fairly dry breadcrumb mixture.
5. Tip the mixture into a large mixing bowl and pour in just enough milk to bring it all together to form a dough. This shouldn’t be sticky.
6. Add the sultanas and knead lightly to mix them in.
7. Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 2.5cm thick. Cut out your scones and place onto your baking sheet. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.
8. Pop into the oven for 12–15 minutes (depending on how fierce your oven is). I’d check after 10 and turn the tray to ensure even baking.

Best eaten while still warm from the oven – with jam and clotted cream if you have some, or just butter/spread if you don’t. Hopefully you’ll get higher praise than I did!

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It’s all going on

photo-50 After yesterday’s heavy rain, today was one of those high blue sky, vivid colour days. It’s not as warm as it was a couple of weeks ago, though – there’s been a chilly wind which has battered my lovely tall tulips and knocked some of the blossom off the cherry tree.

The wind has loosened some of the tallest tulips' petals but they're still looking gorgeous.
The wind has loosened some of the tallest tulips’ petals but they’re still looking gorgeous.

But wait… Guess what I found peeking out from the soil this afternoon? Only our first asparagus tip! SO exciting. I know we’ll have to wait a couple of years for our first proper crop but we have asparagus! Growing in our garden! I’ve so longed to have the space to grow these precious spears of loveliness and now we have. Brilliant.

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Look carefully. It’s definitely there. The first of hopefully many asparagus spears.

And that’s not all. The autumn raspberries are properly sprouting now and the strawberry crowns we planted two weeks ago are thoroughly romping away.

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The strawberry plants have quadrupled in size since we planted them two weeks ago.

The pear tree is blossoming, as is the greengage and the three small cordoned apple trees. These were hidden underneath old, leggy lavenders and gooseberry bushes when we moved here. We freed them from their clutches and I gave them a fairly tough prune earlier this year. It’s good to see that they’re doing ok.

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The first bea-u-ti-ful apple blossom.

What else is looking good? Oh yes, the Erigeron karvinskianus is coming into flower on our front garden steps. This must be a pretty hardy plant as we had major groundworks for two new retaining walls either side of the steps last year and they were trashed. It’s lovely to see this perky little plant is thriving.

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Erigeron karvinskianus

I’ll say goodnight for now and sign off with a photo of my lovely rescue dog, Cassie, flaked out after this morning’s walk because that’s how I feel right now. Wishing you all a very happy bank holiday weekend. photo 2