Thursday, 29 July 2010

Of Châteaux And Gâteaux

Our now done and dusted summer holiday was spent in a new to us area of France. This year we ventured further south to the Loire Valley. This region appealed especially to himself who who has long wanted to see some of the famous châteaux. Our comfortable cottage turned out to be in a central location ideally situated for touring the area. What is more we had access to a television set for the all important World Cup Final. The weather was fine if a little too hot and humid for me - a new word entered my French vocabulary ~ 'canicule' i.e. a heatwave. Fortunately a cracking thunderstorm eventually cleared the air and made being a tourist more comfortable. 

So the stage was set for a week of château visiting ~  images of endless spiral staircases, tapestries, four poster beds, paintings and statues as well as whirlwind of historical facts are still circling around my brain. First there was Chenonceau which was the finest of the bunch according to the literature I had read beforehand. This turned out to be the biggest disappointment. Not only was it unbearably crowded (maybe our fault for visiting on a Sunday afternoon) but part of the chateâu was covered with scaffolding and tarpaulins - what a shame. Himself and I agreed that perhaps the best method of visiting would be by boating under the arches which span the river. Still there was a most interesting kitchen garden to stroll in afterwards ~






Then on to Amboise from its lofty perch high above the river ~



Moving on to Valençay where we were treated to a most entertaining open air performance ~ 






This was followed by a trip to Chaumont-sur-Loire which was the most enjoyable visit for me. Now I wonder if this could be because the chateâu is the setting for an annual garden festival. More of this magical setting and the garden festival in another post ~




From Chaumont to the smallest chateau we came across all week - the chateâu at Fougeres-sur-Bievre  ~ 




We rounded the week up with a visit to Chambord which is the largest chateâux of the Loire Valley  and according to our French host the most French of the chateâux. We gave up trying to count the rooms ~ 


   



Of course such dedication to the cause required some energy and what better to fortify us than consumption of gateâux - as usual France did not disappoint ~ 






Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Bewitched!

B IS FOR?




BUTTERFLY!
Now I have featured a butterfly in a previous round of ABC Wednesday but this happens to be the biggest and most beautiful butterfly that I ever did see. Whilst on holiday in France recently I noticed a little girl crouched on her haunches, taking photos of a flower bed or so it seemed. A budding botanist I thought. Getting nearer to her my eyes alighted on the subject of her photo - not a plant but a most glorious winged creature which was settled on a scented pelargonium. I did not recognise the butterfly but it turns out that it is a swallowtail. I found out that we have swallowtails in the U.K. but they are confined to the fens in Norfolk. Their continental cousins are larger. Sadly this little body has suffered wing damage at some point but is still beguilingly beautiful.


I had to make furious silent signs to attract himself's attention and by time he arrived the butterfly had alighted onto another scented plant - a heliotrope or cherry pie plant. We watched it linger there for some time before it floated off on the balmy breeze.

If you go over to ABC Wednesday you will be able to see a bevy of posts on the letter B.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

''One Potato, Two Potato''



New potatoes ~ what utter deliciousness but at one point I thought that I might be counting my 2010 harvest on one hand. I thought that the potatoes were going to be the equivalent of last year's tomato failure. I have not grown potatoes in the ground before but this year having extra growing space at the allotment, I made the decision to plant two raised beds up with potatoes. My earlies are the tasty 'Lady Crystl' which I was introduced to last year by my lottie neighbours. The first disaster that befell them was when they were caught by the late frost we had in May. Oh how sad they looked having previously looked most healthy and vigorous. More experienced lottie neighbours advised that they would perk up and catch up but they have not flourished since. They limped along, did not gain much height and never flowered. Some of this may well be down to the drought we experienced in June and my haphazard watering regime. 


All the tomes I read advised that you can start harvesting once the flowers are done and dusted. What if you never get flowers? There is no advice for those for those of whose who are in this predicament. Still I had a rummage or two and to my surprise have unearthed quite a few tubers which have proved more than edible. The good news is that there are still more to come and although there are certainly not enough to see us through the winter or to fill the hessian sack I bought in anticipation, there are more than I thought there would be. In the meantime I am pleased to say that the other bed, planted with the maincrop' 'Pink Fir Apple', is faring much better and I am looking forward to the tasting thereof. 


The post title is a reference to a chidhood counting rhyme which some of you may be familiar with. I wonder it is known outside the U.K.


"One potato, two potato, three potato, four 
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more
One potato, two potato, three potato, four
Five potato, six potato, seven potato, more"

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Daylily Identity Crisis



Now when it comes to going on holiday, I am always reluctant to depart when there are new flowers about to come out for the very first time. Just before we left home this daylily was showing signs of opening but would not oblige me by revealing its true colours before departure. We returned home earlier this week to be greeted by some amazing torrential rain yet ironically we have a hosepipe ban in this part of the country (normally renowned for being somewhat on the damp side). Some flowers had obviously been and gone in our absence but last night whilst hunting molluscs by torchlight, I noticed that there was a firm promise of colour today. Yeeeeeeay - I was greeted by flowers this morning ! I am fairly new to daylilies and must admit that I can't quite make my mind up about them. I find many of the flowers attractive but I am not always taken with the foliage, particularly as mine all seem to have large strappy leaves. Perhaps I should seek out the finer leaved varieties. This one though a gift from a friend is a definite keeper. She is without a name and we refer to her as P1070758.jpg -isn't that sad? I wonder if anybody could help us reunite her with her name?

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Melancholy Gentleman

A IS FOR?



ASTRANTIA!

After a two week absence abroad it is good to be home although we have returned to wild and wet weather more reminiscent of autumn than high summer. Just as well that I took this photo of one of my favourite flowers the astrantia before we left, as there have been no opportunities to amble in the garden today. One of the common names given to this plant is melancholy gentleman which seems most apt in all the rain. Much more on the letter A over at the amazing ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

What happened when .....



~ I attended a creative plant gardening and photography workshop. I still get ridicously excited by late presents and recently enjoyed a belated Christmas gift. Himself having kindly treated me to a new camera at Christmas threw in an extra ~ a one day creative photography workshop which I attended a couple of weeks ago. The workshop was held at Bluebell Cottage Gardens/Lodge Lane Nursery where I have attended a couple of workshops previously on the subject of plant propagation.



Venturing onto a photography course was a new venture for me and I was somewhat apprehensive before I arrived. When chosing my new camera I debated long and hard whether to enter the realms of a DSLR. However after much reading about the subject and with welcome and valuable advice from fellow bloggers Karen, Shirl and the Garden MS S I decided that this would be too big a step for me. Instead I went for a more sophisticated compact camera which has a seemingly bewildering array of fiddly bits, bells and whistles on it. I was hoping to be more familiar with all the bits and bobs before the course but as usual the best laid plans of mice and men ......... Luckily there were only five of us there on the day and it was a most non threatening environment. Our tutor Andrew Williams was a former engineer who had gone into photography later in life.



The morning whizzed by quickly as Andrew delivered a well illustrated presentation to us - some of it went over my head being of a somewhat technical nature but other bits registered and have been digested. Then a quick tour round the garden so that we knew its layout. We were asked to think about possible shots that we might like to take and or a theme that we would like to concentrate on. After an al fresco lunch we were let loose in the garden and nursery to take photos to our hearts content. Luckily the course was held on a day when the garden and nursery are not open to the public so we did not have to contend with people popping up everywhere. Back then to base, where Andrew downloaded a few of our respective photos so that we could get some constructive criticism from the rest of the group. I left feeling more confident about my new camera and certainly picked up a number of useful hints and tips, including suggestions of reading material and websites. I will include these in another post later this month. In the meantime I am off to have fun putting my new found knowledge into practice.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Garden Bloggers Muse Day ~ July 2010



'Sudden Shower'

'Black grows the southern sky, betokening rain,
And humming hive-bees homeward hurry bye:
They feel the change; so let us shun the grain,
And take the broad road while our feet are dry.
Ay, there some dropples moistened on my face,
And pattered on my hat--tis coming nigh!
Let's look about, and find a sheltering place.
The little things around, like you and I,
Are hurrying through the grass to shun the shower.
Here stoops an ash-tree--hark! the wind gets high,
But never mind; this ivy, for an hour,
Rain as it may, will keep us dryly here:
That little wren knows well his sheltering bower,
Nor leaves his dry house though we come so near'.

~ John Clare,1793 -1864

More monthly musing is to be found at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago kindly hosted by Carolyn Choi.