greentapestry : December 2010

Friday 31 December 2010

Looking Over My Shoulder

Here the year is slowly evaporating in a misty haze, with the odd reluctant to melt patch of snow still on the ground. The last spell of extremely cold weather has taken its toll but there are signs of spring's inevitable renewal. A quick tour of the garden this morning revealed snowdrops breaking through the ground, hellebores with plump buds and a slug making its merry way along the inner lid of the compost bin.

2011 has not been the best of years for me because of my father's rapidly deteriorating health. Dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia in November 2009, which although not entirely a surprise was still a blow to the family. My parents though seemed to be coping quite well until he had a fall this May resulting in a head injury and a broken hip. Since then his decline has been rapid. At eighteen I could not wait to leave the parental nest but now oh how I wish that I lived somewhat nearer than an almost four hour train journey. Not near enough to nip down for the day although I have done it once. Since May I have been yo-yoing back and forth to give my mother some support as she looks after Dad. Dad was a primary school teacher in his working life, eventually becoming a headteacher. After years of teaching children the basics of literacy and numeracy I have found it heartbreaking to observe him slowly losing these skills.

I was one of those unenviable minority of children who was taught by their father ~ a most strange experience chatting to 'Dad' over a bowl of breakfast cereal before he morphed into 'Sir' calling out the register in the classroom less than half an hour later. Dad told me when I was much older that that he was unnecessarily strict with me at school, so much so that once some of my classmates formed a delegation to tell him so! I did not realise it at the time but he was a fine teacher and well respected by many of his former pupils. One most touching tribute to this is the fact that one of my former classmates, who has many years of experience of mental health nursing, is now spending a couple of hours twice a week with him as his carer. She considers it a privilege.

Leisure activities including gardening have taken a bit of a back seat these past few months. Last years garden plans remain by and large on the to do list, as what time I have had has been spent at the allotment, in a determined effort to keep on top of it and stave off those nasty letters and the possible threat of eviction. I will do another post about the allotment season very soon before it becomes a distant memory. In fact I have just remembered that I have already done a retrospective post in September here ! What I will just echo from that post now is that I never ever thought that I would not be able to face the thought of eating strawberries - this scenario arose several times this summer. I will do a forward planning allotment post very soon.

There have been some gardening related highlights though in 2010 and when I look back plenty to treaure. It was the year that we finally demolished 'The Temple' and we now have a snazzy new gazebo in its place thanks to himself's hard labour. I think that I started the story but never finished it so again one for another post.

Our first garden visit of the year took place in the chilly depths of February -  to the newly created nearby Winter Garden at Dunham Massey - hopefully a return visit will be on the cards soon. In late March we searched the Lake District in vain for Wordsworth's "host of golden daffodils". A much delayed spring meant that there will still snowdrops abound whilst the yellow trumpets were only just unfurling. In May we had the pleasure of revisiting the Malvern Show which is becoming an annual pilgrimage. It was a pleasure to meet up again with a couple of blogging acquaintances, as well as meeting many new blogging friends, some who had travelled from long distances.

In July himself and I travelled to France in our trusty old camper van, where amongst other adventures we spent a memorable day at the garden festival at Chaumont - sur - Loire (the above photo and the one at the top of this post were taken there). August started with a day out in the company of a dear friend visiting the Garden Museum in London, where there was a special exhibition featuring the life of the late Christopher Lloyd. In late August himself and I had the chance through my garden club to visit the gardens at Highgrove, the country home of the Prince of Wales, which was another most interesting and amusing experience. Within minutes of the tour starting the heavens opened for probably the most drenching shower I have ever encountered - oh what fun but at least it was warm rain. Towards the end of September we spent a week in North Wales, which although almost on our doorstep is an area we have sadly spent little time in - to be remedied in the future. Here we came across a hilltop garden - Caerau Uchaf, set in stunning surroundings, made our first trip to Portmeirion and also revisted the beautiful gardens at Powis Castle (below) ~ 

There have also been some most positive learning experiences during the year, through the monthly meetings of my gardening club and also from attending excellent propagation and garden photography workshops, at nearby Bluebell Cottage Gardens/Lodge Lane Nursery.

The most special garden memory though of 2011 for me took place in my parent's garden, where some of the family gathered towards the middle of August, to celebrate my parent's diamond wedding anniversary. Dad was well enough to thoroughly enjoy the day, to sit outside for a while and to smile with joy at the rose which he had bought with our assistance for Mum and which my sister and I had planted for him.

So as one year slowly slip - sides into another  I wish everyone a most happy, healthy and peaceful new year. May all that you grow in your gardens and allotments sing out loudly and longly in 2012.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Angel's Hair


Once the festive season is done and dusted himself and I usually start discussing holidays. When I say discussing I mean so at great length. The process usually turns out to be an epic saga of earnest debate, maps and guides overload as well as some minor spats before we come to a satisfactory conclusion. It is often well into the new year before we make any decisions, sometimes only a few weeks before we are due to depart. This year was no exception to the rule. The dilemma seems to be that my ideal holiday features the coast and garden visiting, whilst himself has a yen for mountains and architecture. This year we both comprised ~ our destination was the Loire Valley, where there are both grand gardens and chateaux in abundance. We both agreed after the event that our choice more than lived up to our expectations. The most exciting and exhilarating day of the holiday for me was a visit to the annual international garden festival at Chaumont - sur - Loire.  The above photo is of the most exceptional exhibit in my eyes which was entitled 'Cheveux d'Anges'. This translates as 'Angel's Hair'. I still have to post in length about this visit. I have made a start several times but have agonised over which photos to include. I will do so though before we decide on where to venture forth in 2011! 

More on the extraordinary letter X can be explored over at ABC Wednesday.

Meanwhile if you would like to indulge in some seasonal silliness and possibly win a small prize do have a peek at my last post here.

Monday 27 December 2010

Some Seasonal Silliness

The space between Christmas and the New Year is one of my favourite times of the year ~ the drawbridge is up, the larder is well stocked and there seems to be endless time to browse through the seed catalogues, make a start on Christmas books, indulge in Scrabble marathons and pour over giant crosswords ~ oh what bliss. So in keeping with the season,here is a little quiz to tease your grey matter ~ this like my recent post featuring a guide to etiquette at the bird table, was unearthed as I  continue to declutter. It featured in our garden club newsletter some time ago. The answers to all the questions are names of plants, flowers, herbs etc.

1) Wise old man
2) Without a dance partner
3) In perfect condition
4) Harlequin's sweetheart
5) It's in the eye
6) Fictional hotel proprietor (first name)
7) Elizabeth has been active
8) Wordsworth sung its praises
9) Prickly Christmas evergreen meets a German wine
10)Did Chaucer's pilgrims hear these when they ended their journey? (plural)
11) A company of animals or birds
12) Romance bloomed in the foggy weather
13) A motionless insect usually busy
14) The girl would share your tandem if you sung to her
15) The truth be told
16) The Universe
17) Mother sprinted like this on sports day
18) Amour, prone and haemorrhaging
19) Head cover worn by monastery's inhabitants
20) A floral fiddle
21) It would smell as sweet by any other name ?
22) This girl has been in a fight
23) Daughter of Zeus and Hera?
24) Ms. Ledward may grow this in her garden
25) Bear's Breeches

In the spirit of the season there will be a small prize for the first set of correct answers to be pulled out of a plant pot or whatever I can lay my hands on. Answers should be emailed to me at before midnight on 6th January 2011.

For the winner a copy of Elspeth's Thompson's 'The Wonderful Weekend Book' which includes many ideas for enjoying the simple pleasures of life!

Thursday 23 December 2010

"Tidings of Comfort and Joy"

A very merry Christmas to anybody who may wander past ! 
~ here the snow is still on the ground, my trusty sherpa has set forth for the last lot of provisions and the Scabble board will soon be making its first seasonal apppearance, so I will refrain from the sherry until later. I hope that you are able to enjoy this special time of year with your loved ones and a safe and warm journey to those who have still to reach their destination.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

"Welcome To The Pleasure Dome"


As I child I always hankered after a snow globe. I was fascinated by these glass globes, which encapsulated either festive or well known tourist scenes. Turning them upside down and shaking them resulted in magical and hypnotic snow flurries. I sadly never ended up with my own snow globe, so was delighted recently  to come across this grown up festive version in Liverpool. Much to my disappointment though despite the welcoming 'Have you be inside?, I could not work out an obvious way in and there was not an attendant in sight. So I was left to wonder whether I would have been shaken but not stirred and would the snow have whirled around me or would I have whirled round?

The wonderful letter W stars this week over at ABC Wednesday whilst over at Veg Plotting you can enjoy more seasonal whimsy out on the streets.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Etiquette At The Bird Table

"Dear Mr  and Mrs Blackbird

You, your family and friends are always welcome to dine chez us ; a bird table and other perching posts are available for your convenience along with the ground.

On the menu please be assured of finding a selection of seeds (mixed and sunflower), dried mealworms, nuts, cocofat feeders, bird - cakes as well as fresh and dried fruit. From time to time chef will provide specialities such as moreish cubes of cheese for you to nibble on.

In return, please observe these simple courtesies :

~ Mr and Mrs Blue Tit are valued customers ~ do not allow your boisterous behaviour to spoil their enjoyment.

~ Separate containers are provided to segregate the various tit -bits, please do not allow your party to mix these, or spread viable seed on the ground where unidentified seedlings could sprout next spring. Any spilt food should be collected forthwith and either returned to its container or eaten.

~ Appropriate toilets facilities may be found elsewhere ~ please do not despoil the new fence, the washing line nor mess over all the food. Other diners have complained that they find this sort of behaviour somewhat off - putting.

~ From time to time when it is warm enough, complimentary slugs, aphids, vine-weevil grubs etc. and other such delicacies will be provided. Please feel free to eat your fill of these. Indeed we insist !

~ Please feel free to elbow any squirrel who may pester you or use any other form of dissuasion whether it be fair or fowl.

Assuring you of our best service at all times (service charge at your discretion) 

G.Ullible (Head Gardener)"

Firstly I should explain that the above are not my own words. I came across the above letter on the internet in the middle of 1999. I printed it off and came across it recently in my ongoing de - cluttering. Unfortunately I am unable to credit it to its author, but I am sure that other folk will appreciate it, especially at this time of year when the bird station is a great source of amusement. I have amended it slightly in places. In particular the original letter was addressed to a starling - now for some reason we do not get any visiting our garden and the squirrel advice is my addition. Have fun watching your bird table on these oh so chilly winter days and please remember to vary the menu. Some excellent advice on what to feed the birds and on hygiene can be found here on the RSPB website.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Dishing The Dirt


VERMICULTURE which is rearing worms for the purpose of making compost.

The stars of the show saw me coming camera in hand and went into hiding. No wriggly mass of worms in sight but if you peek very carefully you might see the odd character squiggling by. They do not like light so disappear from sight rather quickly.

My wormery came as a ready to put together package from Wriggly Wrigglers but it is possible to make your own wormery, which does work out considerably cheaper. Chris Beardshaw gives a demonstration in this short video ~

The worms came to live with us in May 2009 - you can read about their first meal here. They live outside in the shed and when inclement weather is forecast I wrap their residence up with horticultural fleece or an old blanket - sometimes both. I must admit that they do not produce vast amounts of compost for me to use in the garden. This could be because there are only the two of us (humans) producing waste for them but we also have a compost bin in the garden. However they provide me with much entertainment and I usually visit them every day with food or without. Unlike us they do not eat as much in winter!

You can view more on the vital letter V over at ABC Wednesday!

Monday 13 December 2010

Embracing New Technology

I first discovered the magazine 'The English Garden' whilst waiting for a train connection at Nuneaton Railway Station of all places. This was back in the spring of 1997 and I can still remember my heart ~ skippy joy at discovering this brand new gardening magazine, which was very different to other contemporary publications. It made the hour or so I had to wait fly past, although keeping hold of the magazine was a major challenge, as the high speed trains shot past, leaving a hurricane like drag in their wake.

The magazine was published bi-monthly for the first year before becoming a monthly in May 1998. Since then I have purchased every copy which now fill a large wicker basket. Sooner or later I will be getting rid of this collection, preferably to a good home if I can find anybody who would like such an inheritance.  In the meantime as part of a major life de - cluttering effort, I have surprised myself by taking out a two year digital subscription to the magazine. I did this after much deliberation - the deciding factor was the financial incentive to do so. My subscription started instantly with the December edition. An email reminder arrived last week to advise that the January 2011 edition is now online. I realised that I already have a backlog to catch up on - so some things never change!

Tuesday 7 December 2010

A Guessing Game


The state of the contents of my greenhouse is giving me some utter nightmares and could result in a ultimate tragedy.  I did not take many cuttings this year but there are a few - mainly penstemons, erysium 'Bowles Mauve', lemon verbena and a parahebe which bears little white flowers. The November sown sweet peas are also in there along with a mature astelia and a phormium (both 2010 purchases) I was recently away for a week and unfortunately left home before the big freeze. I was foolishly very dismissive about the possibility of such a prolonged cold snap at this time of year Although the cuttings and the sweet peas were underneath some fleece just in case, I have serious doubts as to whether they will come through this weather undamaged. I have not dared to open the greenhouse doors to find, out so as soon as the mercury rises an urgent inspection awaits. I will be most sad if the parahebe suffers as my mother and I have both lost our original plants.  All will be revealed in due course but in the meantime I am keeping my fingers crossed.

You will find further coverage of the unique letter U over at ABC Wednesday.

Sunday 5 December 2010

'Plants For A Future'

Arriving in the post this week some allium ampeloprasum var babingtonii seeds or rather I should say little bulbils. I read about 'Babington's Leeks' earlier this year and have since been on a mission to get some to plant at the lottie. This is a perennial leek which not only produces bulbs but also produces leaves which can apparently be picked when young to eat as salad leaves, apparently as early as January.  The bulbils develop on the flower heads - it could take a couple of years for them to flower from sowing.

I must admit that after reading the instructions on the packet I was slightly bemused as to when to sow them so this led to some late night research. My books threw no light on the matter so I then had a play on the web. I was delighted to come across this most informative new to me site, where I am sure that I am going to spend much more time in the future :

'Plants For A Future' holds a database of some 7000 plants with edible, medicinal and other uses. Here I found all the information I was looking for - not only germination details but cultivation and use too. Ideally I should have sown the seed as soon as it ripe but there you go. I plan to sow some as soon as the compost in my greenhouse thaws out and my fingers too but will also hedge my bets by sowing some in spring. There is a lot of information on the site about lesser well known edible plants as well as the more familiar. I have only skimmed the surface but think that I will be using this resource regularly. Do have a peek.

Wednesday 1 December 2010

Garden Bloggers Muse Day ~ December 2010.

" I heard a bird sing
  A magical thing
  And sweet to remember.

  We are nearer to spring
  Than we were in September,
  I heard a bird sing
  In the dark of December'

~ Oliver Herford, 1863 -1935 - ' I Heard A Bird Sing'

You can mull over more December muses over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago kindly hosted each month by Carolyn Choi.