Tuesday, 28 May 2013

A garden party...

We had an invitation to a garden party for a friend's 'significant' birthday at the weekend, and enjoyed an afternoon tea of homemade scones with several different fillings, both sweet (my favourites were the Quark with blueberries) and savoury (the best cheese scones, from a Delia recipe which I have to find and try out).  What could be nicer than fresh scones and glasses of Buck's Fizz, on a perfect sunny day - bliss!

The party was held in a wonderful long garden, divided into different sections. A stepped section filled to bursting point with frothy forget-me-not, and all the usual cottage garden favourites popping up in between, gives way to a formal area with raised beds, garden sculptures and trees, and a curved path which sweeps past an immaculate lawn. The owners also run a lovely b&b, so you can always visit for yourself!

My favourite part, however, is the 'working' space at the back of the garden, filled with greenhouses, vegetable plots, fruit bushes in cages, wood piles, several ponds which are home to newts and frogs, a scattering of buckets, pots and tools, as well as sundry ad hoc structures to house some of the bits and bobs that are accumulated throughout the life of a garden.

And how about this for a wall colour? I know I could never be this bold, but it's really effective - especially with that zing of orange in front of it.

Our generous hosts, and an abundance of rhubarb, ensured we left with armfuls of the stuff (rhubarb wine is C's plan), plus a promise of some frog spawn next year. I also seem to have come away with definite greenhouse envy! I think I might need my own garden shed too. You know. To store the tools to build the pond to accommodate the frog spawn next year... Keep up!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

This little piggy....

A quick jaunt yesterday, with friends, to a charity bring-and-buy book sale held in a private 16th century house, which also has b&b facilities. It was really charming - filled with oak beams, antique furniture, patterned crockery and all the other individual, homely touches that sum up comfortable English country style. Biscuits (including wafer-thin, heart-shaped shortbread) and cakes, all home-made, with tea and coffee served in proper cups and saucers, made for a very genteel and self-indulgent half hour. I spent as much time admiring the house as looking at books, but I contributed to a very good cause by donating three books and coming home with seven...so much for de-cluttering! Amongst those I bought was a book called Fopdoodle and Salmagundi, a book of 'words and meanings from Dr Johnson's Dictionary that time forgot'.

It was a bit of a dull day, but the journey home was brightened by the fields of oilseed rape looming on the horizon, and glimpsed between the trees. The smell of the stuff is quite distinctively musty. I don't find it unbearably unpleasant - but it does make me think of suitcases full of ancient clothes that desperately need to be freshened up, and preferably without too much close examination beforehand! Some hate the colour, but I love the almost artificial brightness of it, and every year plan to paint it. Perhaps this is the year!

Then we spotted an unusual sight - a little family of around a dozen little black piglets, out with mum, snuffling around in a field dotted with dandelions.

As the runaways (for that's what they were) got nearer to the road we (with our city ways!) were mightily relieved when two locals took charge by phoning the farmer and ushering the whole lot back home - the little black piggies scattering like marbles every so often before scurrying back to catch up with mum. Very sweet!

So now I must make sure I don't have an erke (adj. Idle; lazy; slothful) day and get to it... Blue skies, strong winds and sunshine today - perhaps I need to go and get some more inspirational pictures of yellow fields!

Monday, 20 May 2013

...beside the seaside, beside the sea!

We took a trip to the coast at the weekend to visit some old friends. Their garden is always changing - it started out as an overgrown jungle, which they transformed into a veggie plot contained in raised beds with some flowers dotted around. Now it's three quarters flowers, with a smaller veggie plot tucked away at the far end.

They brought some massive pots with them when they moved in, from the days when they lived in a flat with only a courtyard, and these look incredibly elegant lining the pathway. There are plans afoot to lay a camomile lawn in between the flagstones!

We always try to fit in a stroll down to the sea front when we visit - whether it's bracing on a cold day or relaxing on a warm day, all that sea air means we usually sleep very well that night! There are always inspiring things to catch the eye on the meander down there.

Like this little house...

Or this workshop, with its Vivienne Westwood/Union Flag-style door...
Or the ubiquitous, rusty, corrugated iron fence...
And this garden, with its nautical style...

The pool was closed...
...but perhaps that was because everyone was out at sea!
While writing this I suddenly remembered going on the Sunday School Trip - when a convoy of double decker buses would leave the city to head off to the coast for the day. I call it the Sunday School Trip, but it seemed to involve the whole community, all crammed onto the buses, singing the whole time - Three Craws Sat Upon A Wa', Ye Cannae Shove Yer Granny Aff The Bus, or Ten Green Bottles. Festooned with balloons, and with multi-coloured streamers unfurling from the upstairs windows, each bus left a fluttering rainbow in its wake, and we kids were beside ourselves with excitement.

My favourite song was the one which would erupt at any moment, usually before the bus even set off. Someone near the front (or back) would start singing 'The back (or the front) ae the bus, they cannae sing, cannae sing fur peanuts.' Challenge accepted, the back (or the front) would reply in kind. On and on it would go, getting louder and more raucous by the minute. I guess those unfortunates stuck in the middle would simply move the imaginary cut-off point a few rows forwards or backwards in their heads and quietly assign themselves to the 'winning' team, until the next time. The singing and the streamers are my only vague memory of the day - other than the sandwiches and drinks handed out for the picnic, which seemed terribly exotic to me. Must have left its mark - I still enjoy the 'surprise' of an airline meal (I know!) and once in a blue moon, sitting on the top deck of a crowded bus, the urge to start singing 'Aw, the front ae the bus they cannae sing....!' is almost overwhelming!

After a lovely weekend, today is a bit dreich - so that means no excuse for not sorting out the studio and getting on with some work!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Growing pains...

I'm hoping that the amount of blossom on the trees this year equates to the amount of fruit we'll get -  although we had blossom last year, we only had a handful of apples, very few pears, and none of them edible. This year, the apple tree is covered in blossom, the pear tree had lots (although it is now mostly gone) and the two new apple trees (one is James Grieve, the other a hand-me-down from a friend) also had smatterings of blossom. More importantly, we have a little bit of sunshine - so we shall wait and see!

Off to post some birthday gifts now, which will hopefully arrive in time!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Fair drookit....

Fair drookit. Well, that's not strictly true. I might have been if I'd stepped out of the door last night. The wind's been howling, the rain has lashed down, but the plants have survived and the grass (and the weeds) had a much needed drink. Mizuna and pak choi seeds have been planted today - a little late, but then so was Spring. I don't hold out too much hope for a bumper crop, but you never know.

The courgettes, pumpkins, dill and tomatoes are still waiting wistfully on the windowsill, hoping that they can cavort in the Great Outdoors too - but not just yet. And my homemade cold-frame - inspired by Alys Fowler (using bricks and a bit of perspex from an old picture frame) - is still sheltering some stock, cosmos, and other seedlings, which will probably be turfed out in the next few days to go it alone in the wilds of the garden.

It's fun, this gardening lark!