Thursday, 31 December 2009

The Year Of The Blog



The last entry in my blog each year has been usually one of very few posts - I am delighted to say that this year has been the exception. It is the year that I got into blogging and although I have not yet matched the prodigious output of some fellow bloggers, I am more than happy. This state of affairs is mainly due to the encouragement of fellow bloggers including all the lovely folk on Blotanical. Thanks for all your comments, suggestions, enthusiasm and great sense of humour in 2009 - it means a lot to me. I am looking forward to seeing my blog grow during the next year. I am pleased to have the chance to be involved in a new project come January at the kind invitation of Teza over at Teza's Garden. This will come online on a few days and I am sure it's going to be fun. It was also a pleasure to meet up in real life with fellow bloggers - The Patient Gardener and Veg Plotting. Hopefully we will see each other again before long and I hope to meet other bloggers in 2010.

As for the weather what can I say ? 2009 has been weird, wonderful and wet! Sadly it has bought its share of misfortune and grief in the north west of England when the inhabitants of Cumbria suffered dreadful flooding. That's only my tiny corner of the planet and as usual throughout the world the elements have reminded us of their tremendous power.



The allotment fared well. I would like to say flourished but I would be exaggerating. It benefited from having so much more of my time lavished on it, as 2009 was the first full year of me not working. I grew the usual suspects but also strangely enough some vegetables I have not grown before. Nothing exotic - carrots and peas but they were delicious. I am not sure why I have not grown them before but will be certainly be doing so this coming year. In fact next year's early peas have already germinated in the greenhouse and are fleeced in anticipation of frost tonight. I still have not got my head round the art of successional planting but hope to get nearer this year. Himself is working tomorrow so I will be spreading myself out on the carpet - seed boxes, reference books plus pen and paper in hand. Bliss.


As for the garden there is much to do. Sadly looking back on the last decade the garden has suffered - it is extremely overgrown and neglected in places. Now that work is no longer consuming my time and energy 2010 is time to tackle some of the big tasks that I have been putting off. It is going to involve the removal of one or two mature but unhealthy shrubs, reclaiming paths and a whole border which has more or less been swallowed up by some pernicious ivy. I have also got a nasty patch of vinca to sort out - I will save this for when I am in a bad mood.



New plants wishlist for 2010. Well I am going to try to be restrained (where have I heard that before ?) and wait until I can see the wood from the trees. Having said that there are one or two hardy geraniums on the list to add to the ones I already grow. You can see one of my favourites in the garden in this post. I am also sure that I will be tempted by some of the beauties that I have recently drooled over at Gardening With Grace and Mr.McGregor's Daughter. In fact I may just have to stop visiting all you bloggers who tempt me by featuring such desirable plants on your blogs.

Well 2010 is almost done and I'm off to Liverpool later to round up the year with a Chinese meal in the company of himself. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and peaceful new year. May all your plants prosper in the new decade. See you on the other side.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

''P...P...P...Pick Up a Penguin!"

X IS FOR?



X FACTOR AGAIN!
I'm afraid that the festive season and my almost annual Christmas cold have dulled the old grey matter so I am repeating myself. Back in June I posted about Flora the superlambanana with undoubted X factor - now it's the turn of some rather special penguins to take over the streets of Liverpool. Over one hundred individually designed penguins are decorating the streets of the city. They have been commissioned by the city council to round up their 2009 'Year of the Environment' campaign with a seasonal winter trail. Many of the penguins carry messages about climate change or give hints as to how we might all be a little bit greener.

The photo above features from left to right 'A Pengiun For All Seasons' and 'The Mab Lane Plantation Penguin'. Below you can see from left to right 'Yote' (Year Of The Environment) and 'Blizzard' who greet passengers arriving at Liverpool Lime Street railway station.




We only saw a handful of penguins on a trip into town yesterday but I am hoping to see a few more before they disappear on the 10th January. I would especially like to see the most attractive 'Grow Your Own' penguin as described by HappyMouffetard over at The Inelegant Gardener. You can find out more information about these creatures and their creators over at Go Penguins.

The title of this post was inspired by the song that accompanied adverts for Penguin biscuits - one of those annoyingly catchy little ditties that floats around in the recesses of the mind for years and years ~



Lot's more on the letter X over at ABC
Wednesday
!

P.S. Monica from the Garden Faerie's Musings commented that the Penguin advert seemed rather 'retro' and wondered whether Pengiun biscuits are still being made. The advert comes from the dim and distant 1970s. As far as I know the biscuits disappeared from the national palate some years ago.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

'From A Fairy To A Child'

W IS FOR?



WINDOWS AND WONDERLAND!

"Lady, dear, if Fairies may
For a moment lay aside
Cunning tricks and elfish play,
'Tis at happy Christmas-tide.

'We have heard the children say -
Gentle children, whom we love -
Long ago on Christmas Day,
Came a message from above,

Still, as Christmas-tide comes round,
They remember it again -
Echo still the joyful sound
"Peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Yet the hearts must childlike be
Where such heavenly guests abide;
Unto children, in their glee,
All the year is Christmas-tide!

Thus, forgetting tricks and play
For a moment, Lady dear,
We would wish you, if we may,
Merry Christmas, Glad New Year!"


~ 'Christmas Greetings (From A Fairy To A Child') - Lewis Carroll,1867.

Within five miles from us is a little village close-by to the Cheshire town of Warrington. A little boy was born in the parsonage there in 1832. He grew up to write world famous stories of a white rabbit wearing a waistcoat and carrying a watch, a walrus and Wonderland. In the village church of his birthplace is a memorial stained glass window. This is made of five panels depiciting a Nativity scene. Underneath the Nativity scene are illustrations of characters and scenes from 'Alice in Wonderland' including the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Dormouse, the March Hare and the Cheshire Cat. The three middle panels contain verses from the Lewis Carroll’s poem quoted above - the scene featuring the dormouse is at the centre of the those three panels.




Wishing anybody who stops by here a wonderful Christmas!

Why not wend your way over without delay to ABC Wednesday hosted by Denise Nesbitt now for more on the letter W.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Magic In The Air



Veg Plotting kindly invited us to do Festive Sparkly this December for her 'Out On The Streets' quarterly theme. I was hoping to get into Liverpool this weekend to return to Chavasse Park but himself has had other plans for me. The week before Christmas is not the best time to undergo a small operation but luckily it was a minor one and has gone well. It has meant though that I have been at his beck and call and that shopping has gone on the back burner. Just as well that it is really now just food shopping that is left. Hopefully I will get into Liverpool before the end of the year camera in hand but in the meantime here's some festive sparkle from the streets of Strasbourg and Colmar taken earlier in this month. There was certainly much of it evidence ~

Bears perched everywhere ~







There were hearts and stars too ~







An entire shop appeared to have a false festive facade. Click on the photo to see the little owl peering out from high above ~



Restuarants wore their seasonal finery ~



Here you can see the stork which is the emblem of the Alsace region ~







I would have liked to have dined here but where would my plate fit in?



Trees,statues and planters joined in the Christmas party too ~



This statue is a tribute to the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi who designed 'The Statue of Liberty'. He was born in the house you can see in the photo ~





In the centre of Colmar ~







As for my favourite piece of festive frivolity you can see it at the top of this post. You will have to look carefully but out of the boughs surrounding the owls, rainbow soap bubbles floated out into the air - absolute magic.

''Ring Out , Solstice Bells''



'Now is the solstice of the year,
Winter is the glad song that you hear.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Have the lads up ready in a line.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Join together beneath the mistletoe.
By the holy oak whereon it grows.
Seven druids dance in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.

Ring out these bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.

Praise be to the distant sister sun,
Joyful as the silver planets run.
Seven maids move in seven time.
Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming.
Ring out those bells.
Ring out, ring solstice bells.
Ring solstice bells.
Ring on, ring out.
Ring on, ring out.'

~ Jethro Tull

Solstice
- A stopping or standing still of the sun.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Out On The Streets In Alsace,France



Well it was December so we were sidetracked by Christmas markets, hot chestnuts, vin chaud or gluehwein and the ilk. However apart from these distractions, there was still plenty to see out on the streets of Strasbourg and Colmar for Veg Plotting's OOTS Sparkly Festive Edition.

Strasbourg is situated on the river Ill, where it flows into the Rhine on the German border.There are other waterways which cut the city up into different chunks, so it is rather challenging to find your way around. These planters which straddled the length of one bridge were in fine fettle. I am unsure whether they had been specially planted up for autumn/winter interest or whether they had been there all year round ~





There were chrysanthemum balls hanging from stylish lamp posts ~



and various planters back down at ground level ~



Himself and I pondered over various statues. This one speaks for itself ~



Here one of a series on display in the university area. I have never quite got into modern art ~



Back in the city centre one that I would have gladly taken home but we might have got odd looks going through customs ~



In close proximity to the statue this Nativity scene ~



On the last day of our holiday we made a short train journey to Colmar about 40 miles away from Strasbourg. These seasonal window boxes just opposite Colmar railway station provided a most welcome splash of colour. I am not that fond of ornamental cabbages but thought that they looked effective here ~





but walking further into town this planting did not do much for me ~



Finally still in Colmar it's winter on one side of the street yet summer on the other ~



I will be back soon with a sprinkle of festive glitter from Alsace.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Pick Of The Bunch

V IS FOR?



VINE!

Earlier this year I was able to pick grapes from the vine on my allotment plot. Not a brilliant vintage harvest in 2009 but enough to feel that my vine is a valuable asset.

View more Vs over at ABC Wednesday!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - December 2009



Not much to report in the way of flowers from this neck of the woods. I have been out for a good part of the day so confess to cheating and taking one or two photos at the weekend when the sun was out. Just as well as it was too dull and damp to take any this morning. The star of the show at the moment is prunus subhirtella autumnalis - the autumn flowering cherry. This seems to go in suspended animation when there very cold weather but then comes good again in the spring. I sometimes cut branches to bring inside and enjoy the dainty blossoms at close quarters. I believe that this can also be grown as a shrub and intend at some point to try striking some hardwood cuttings.

Also not pictured but in flower are jasminum nudiflorum (this has crept round the corner of the house when I have not been looking), viburnum tinus and pulmonaria rubra 'Redstart'. I have not told the virburnum that it is in for the chop early next year. There are also still one or two annuals desperately hanging on but looking sadder by the day. Meanwhile there's evidence of the forthcoming spring with hellebores already showing colour and some bulbs already coming through the ground. Hopefully the cold snap that's due to arrive this week will slow the rate of growth down.



Galanthus plicatus'Three Ships' which I posted about in November is now fully out. Hopefully this will live up to its name and will hold on until Christmas Day.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day is kindly hosted by Carol over at May Dreams Gardens.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Cautionary Tale



Like long ago essay deadlines Christmas shopping usually sees me living on the edge. This year, despite having all the time in the world, has been no exception. I realised last week how near on the horizon Christmas is and decided that I must be proactive. So on Friday I switched the reluctant shopper button on and headed by bus into Chester. I would like to say it was a successful mission but elementary mistakes were made. The first of these was forgetting to write a list so I fell at the first hurdle.

One or two little gifts were purchased though as well as some festive fare. The latter including a stollen has been secreted away in case himself eats it - the man is a serious serial stollen addict and I do not want to put temptation in his way. Before leaving town I wondered into that bastion of the British high street M&S to pick up one or two bits and bobs from their food department. Before I could do that I was mesmerised by the most colourful display of orchids that were 'This Week's Bargain Buy' and indeed they were at half price, all of £4.99p. Now could I resist - of course not! After what seemed like half an hour of uming and aaaahing I finally selected one and placed in my shopping trolley. By the time I left the store I was laden down and creatively or so I thought, rearranged my shopping so the orchid slid into a long bag, which already held a roll of wrapping paper. This left me with just two bags to carry - no sweat. Back onto the bus and I merrily daydreamed away the journey home. Stepping off the bus and walking along I soon felt that something was missing. I looked down and it dawned upon me that I was minus a bag - the one containing my new plant. A rather unladylike four lettered word involuntarily slipped from my lips. So I returned home to relate my loss to himself. Later after finally tracking down the phone number of the local bus depot (this required the sleuthing ability of Miss Marple) and a four hour wait before the bus finally returned there, I was delighted to hear that my bag with its contents still intact had been handed in to the driver. It was yesterday though before the two of us were reunited. The moral of this story is not to be tempted by horticultural goodies when out on the important business of Christmas shopping. Keep to the matter in hand!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Le Sapin De Noel

U IS FOR?



UNDERNEATH THE CHRISTMAS TREE!

"O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!

Not only in the summertime,
But even in winter is thy prime.

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
How are thy leaves so verdant!
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Much pleasure doth thou bring me!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!
Du grünst nicht nur
zur Sommerzeit,
Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,
wie treu sind deine Blätter!

O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!"

- Christmas Carol, O Tannenbaum.


Last week we were standing underneath this mighty Christmas tree in the centre of Strasbourg, France. At some ninety feet it is the tallest Christmas tree that I have ever looked up at. Underneath its branches a little wooden village glowed out.



You will find more unique utterances on the letter U over at ABC Wednesday !

And The Winner Is .....



Thanks to all of you lovely folk who left messages on my recent post celebrating my official first year of blogging. I hope that the next year is just as much fun. My able assistant himself drew the winner from the depths of my allotment hat. 'A Bunch Of Sweet Peas' will soon be winging its way to Mr.McGregor's Daughter. I have also decided to send a couple of small runner's up prizes which will go to Easygardener and Deborah from Kilbourne Grove. Could those concerned please email me your addresses so I can do the doings. My email address is thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Sunday, 6 December 2009

'It Started With A Kiss'



It started with a kiss in March 1984 and were married later the same year on 1st December. The gentle, patient and kind man that is Himself has just taken me away for a short break, to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary. We returned home yesterday evening.

Our journey started here ~



at St.Pancras Railway Station in London. Its fairy tale turrets seem worlds away from a railway station. The photo at the top of this post is of the 'The Meeting Place', the statue which graces the end of the platform area of the Eurostar terminus. It is nine metres tall and weighs five tons!

Our destination?



More of the interesting, elegant, lively and definitely most festive city of Strasbourg very soon. Now I must away for a stint of emulating a domestic goddess before I sort out the draw for 'A Bunch Of Sweet Peas'. Back soon.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Not Guilty M'Lud!

T IS FOR?



TILES AND TRIBULATIONS!

This is a tale that started off at the allotment and ended up in a court room. Have no fear - I have not spiked my fellow plot holder's perfect pumpkin with a toxic substance or purloined their potentially prize winning leeks. It happened like this ~

One summer day earlier this year as I was crouched on my haunches (favourite position of allotmenters) planting something in the ground, I heard the sound of the car pull up and espied the occupants of the plot opposite me arrive. Within a minute or so, the early morning peace and stillness was pleasantly pierced as an operatic aria sung in full throttle floated through the air. When this came to an end I jumped to my feet, clapping my hands in appreciation shouting 'Bravo!' and 'Encore!'. This was much to the mortification of my plot neighbour who thought that he had the place to himself.

It transpired that R. belongs to an operatic society and had been practising one of the songs that he was going to sing in a imminent production of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'Trial By Jury'. He suggested that we might enjoy the production. He explained that it was being staged in the very courtroom in Liverpool, where W.S. Gilbert practiced as a barrister for a short spell, before he moved on to matters musical. How spooky is that ~



This thoroughly enjoyable short but sweet operetta was held at St.George's Hall, Liverpool. ~



When I went to get our tickets I was delighted to find out that we would also get a rare chance to see the famous Minton tiles which form a priceless mosaic floor of 30,000 tiles. These are usually covered to avoid wear and fade but but come out from under their wraps occasionally. The tiles were going to be on show for a couple of weeks on the same dates as 'Trial By Jury' was on. So went into town early, gazed in astonishment at the tiles and also took in an unexpected exhibition of George Harrison paraphernalia, before making our way to court. A grand day out !









Do not tarry but trip over now to ABC Wednesday for more on the letter T!

P.S. If you would like to be entered into a draw to celebrate my first official anniversary of blogging please leave a comment here by 5th December ! A short story featuring sweet peas will soon be winging its way to the winner.