Sunday, 19 April 2015

Crochet musings

 I'm nearly finished my Moonlit Night blanket. 99% in fact - so close I can taste it - but, as always happens when I'm close to completing something, I've lost interest in it and can't concentrate due to thinking about what I'll start next. So many possibilities! But before I start trawling Pinterest for yet more ideas, I thought I'd better cast around and see what else is lying around that I could do. There are plenty of other projects at the 80-90% mark, and also supplies I've bought and not got around to using yet... maybe just maybe I could actually use up something I've already got on hand!

 I've got this white jar cosy almost finished. All I have to do is edge it, and then I want to cross stitch a rose on it, a bit like this pin. I also have this pretty vintage pillowcase which I think will suit a pink lacy border.

 Every year I crochet myself a new pair of fingerless gloves. Last year I made the super cute Mr Fox fingerless gloves. This year I want to do this pattern by Crejjtion. I've even got the yarn, this lovely soft grey.

 I've also been obsessing over this hat - again, it has a cross stitch rose on it, clearly I need to make at least one thing embroidered with a rose before I'm able to move on! I still have this strip, left over from another project, to use and there should be enough colours in my cotton thread stash. Hmm, ponder ponder.

There's also a skirt which I want to hem with a lacy border and I'd like to make some more padded coat hangers. I've had plans for ages to make another crochet handbag and my life isn't really complete unless I'm working on some kind of blanket. So... there's no shortage of things to do, the biggest trouble is just deciding which project to work on!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

April flowers

We had a short sharp introduction to winter this week as a cold front blew across the country. It's not really acceptable, snow forming on the hills and sleety showers in the city - what is this, June? and as I write this gale force southerlies are still slamming the house. So, summer has gone and at this stage it feels like we skipped autumn and went straight into winter! Luckily there is still plenty of colour in the flower garden and there are even some surprises this month, including some confused anemones which are sending up flower buds!

Above, clockwise from top left: salvia, Cecille Brunner rose, astrantia, dahlia, pink-tinted succulent, sedum flower, fairy mushrooms, camellia Elfin Rose (another surprise. I bought this in a bargain bin last spring and it had a couple of flowers then, so I wasn't expecting that it would flower so early in the season), cosmos, cosmos and scabiosa backlit by the sun (a quintessentially autumn combination for me), calibrachoa, penstemon Blackbird.

How is your garden this month? Hope you're having good weather and good flowers. Don't forget to check out Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for more flowers from all around the globe!

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Gardening in Tinyland - my miniature garden

 This summer I planted a new garden, on a slightly different scale than my normal one. This is a miniature garden in a pot. All the plants are living, but by using miniature and small scale plants and combining them with tiny accessories, you can create the illusion of a complete garden within a very small space!

I was inspired after reading Janit Calvo's book, Gardening in Miniature. I've always loved tiny things and as soon as I realised it was possible to garden on a miniature scale I knew I had to get in on it. This garden was about a year in the planning, but was paved and planted in an afternoon! 

I used leftover tiles from our fireplace for the paving stones. I used a hammer and chisel to chip them into roughly rounded paving stone shapes. I set them on a bed of sand and then swept Pavelock sand between them to hold them in place.

 You can see how much the plants have filled in during the 2 months since I planted it! The plants I used are:
Tree - Irish Yew. Not really a miniature, but it's slow growing and I hope I can prune it to keep it small. I actually cut about half of the tree off when I planted it so it no longer has its distinctive conifer shape. I also trimmed the lowest branches off to expose the trunk. I'm not sure how long the branches will grow but perhaps a bit of selective pruning will enhance them. Don't you love the red berries for autumn colour!
Groundcover - creeping thyme. Small leafed and low growing.
The pink flowered shrub is Serissa Pink Mystique. I've seen it trained as bonsai so I thought it would go well in this tiny garden. I'll keep it trimmed to large bush scale, I think it looks like hibiscus or rhododendron.
To the left of the yew tree at the back is a miniature fuchsia called Lottie Hobby. I bought it years ago (this is a cutting) and it has tiny flowers the size of your pinky nail. It grows quite vigorously so I intend to keep it trimmed to a small tree scale.
The neat round bush just behind the two terracotta pots is Calluna. It's a true miniature form of Erica that I got from the alpine plants show. The stallholder I bought it from said it won't grow much bigger than that - perfect! It has the most delicate tiny foliage.
And to the left of the calluna is leptinella. This is a groundcover with tiny fernlike leaves. 
Succulent cuttings last well in the pots - just don't forget to water them occasionally!

 Once I had the garden planted up it was time to start making accessories. Overseas, mini and fairy gardening is a fast developing hobby and big industry but not so much here in NZ (although a few people have heard of fairy gardens). I managed to source a few furniture items but I made most of the garden accessories myself, including the hanging bird feeder, birdhouse, solar lights and hanging lantern.


I even made this fish pond! I actually wanted some kind of ceramic or polyresin one that could hold real water, but couldn't find one. So I made this one out of a small metal pie dish, coated with clay and painted to look like stone. I put some gravel and rocks in the dish and poured in a layer of resin. Then I added a tiny koi fish and poured in another layer of resin so the little fish is suspended. It looks pretty good I think, and you can still 'float' leaves or flowers on the surface.

 There is a lady here in Christchurch who has a dolls house miniatures business and I sourced a few items from her, including the mini teracotta pots and the birds nest. I got the metal wheelbarrow from a fellow mini garden enthusiast and knew I had to make some gardening items to go with it. So I made the little crochet hat and the garden gloves, and this wooden trug full of spring bulbs (must get these planted out for tiny blooms in spring! ;)

 Hope you've enjoyed this peek into my tinyland garden! Have you heard of miniature gardening before, or tried it yourself? (For more information have a look at Janit Calvo's book or excellent website, Two Green Thumbs.)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Styling the Seasons and Urban Jungle Bloggers - April 2015

This month I've decided to combine my entry for Styling the Seasons and Urban Jungle Bloggers. I hope it's not against the rules, but since it's Easter and that would have been my theme regardless, it seemed a bit much to recreate the same thing twice for different posts. So here is my hall table, bedecked with eggs and flowers and lights in celebration of Easter and autumn.

 Styling the Seasons is a vignette created to show what this month means to me. April in NZ is autumn, the end of Daylight Savings time and Easter. The Easter part is obvious - I've put up my decorated Easter egg tree! This is one semi-commercial trend I really enjoy... why should a decorated tree be just for Christmas? Especially when eggs are the perfect size and shape for decorating.

 It might be autumn but I'm still in denial a little bit, and as long as the dahlias are still flowering I'll keep pretending it's summer! One thing I can't deny is the end of Daylight Savings time this weekend. Longer nights call for more lights, so I fashioned a wreath of sorts from a bamboo circlet wrapped with ribbon and my string of beaded fairy lights. (Side note: aren't we lucky to live in a time of great advancement in decorative lighting options? Fairy lights, solar lights, flameless candles, waterproof candles, LEDs, battery powered lights... it almost makes long dark evenings fun!)

The theme for Urban Jungle Bloggers this month is Happy Green Easter. I've brought in my lovely pink cyclamen, whose blossom co-ordinates most beautifully with the pink foil Easter eggs!

 I had my niece and nephew over for an Easter egg hunt yesterday. They had a blast running round the garden with baskets, finding chocolate eggs. They didn't find these ones though... Greedy Rabbit and I are pleased about that :)

 These Easter eggs are ones I decorated a couple of years ago. I shared the tutorial here if you'd like to make some of your own! It's not too late... I for one won't be taking this lot down until I've had a good few weeks' enjoyment out of them.

 Urban Jungle Bloggers is hosted by Judith at JOELIX.com and Igor at Happy Interior Blog. Find out more at urbanjunglebloggers.com

Styling The Seasons is hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots. Find out more by searching the hashtag #stylingtheseasons on social media.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Talking about tomatoes, part 2 - March 2015


Tomato season is coming to an end, so I want to quickly jot down some notes here to refer back to next season. We had a great summer but the tomatoes took a while to really get going, especially the outside ones, so next year I will need to think twice about whether it's even worth planting them outside - perhaps just the tried and true varieties. (Oh who am I kidding, I always have too many seedlings and I'm not going to just throw them out, am I?) Anyway... when you are picking that sweet, savoury, juicy, delicious fruit and putting it straight into your meal (or your mouth), you forget all the challenges and it all becomes worth it.

Tomato notes - glasshouse

  • The caterpillars were slow arriving but they did come at last. Not as bad as previous years.
  • Tomatoes succumbed to blight at the end of the season as usual, but fruit not affected.
  • I usually like to make my own fertiliser from comfrey but I just couldn't be bothered this year. I also had a bag of Tui Novatec to try, which did a good job.
Tomato notes - outside

  • Tomatoes outside were much slower to flower and ripen. The plus side is that they are continuing after the glasshouse ones have finished.
  • The best performers are Juliet and Kumato... the rest really aren't worth the trouble.
  • For fertiliser I used Novatec, sheep pellets, compost and neem granules (for pest repellant).

Tomato varieties

  • Juliet - always reliable. First to ripen, prolific. Firm skin and fruit, not really the best texture but they store really well, and fallen fruit don't tend to rot and will continue to ripen.
  • Brandywine - same growth habits as other beefsteaks. Nice flavour, but didn't beat my favourite Black Krim!
  • Brown Berry - Prolific cherry tomato with nice flavour.
  • Black Cherry - slightly more pink/maroon than Brown Berry, otherwise very similar.
  • Black Krim - didn't set a huge amount of fruit this year but I think that's normal for beefsteaks? As the fruits they do set are so big. My favourite sandwich tomato!
  • Yellow Pear - the slowest to get going, but good once it did. Doesn't set quite as much fruit as the other cherry tomatoes.
  • Green Grape - I remember this one being fussy when I first started growing it, but I've been saving my own seeds for several years so I must have kept the good ones! They have chartreuse skin and green flesh with a lovely sweet taste. 
  • Kumato - this was the wild card this year and it's proved itself. It did ok outside and would have been even better in the glasshouse. Medium size, brownish maroon fruits with firm skin. They had a nice smoky flavour and were good in sandwiches, also the firm skin meant it was easy to remove when blanched, so they are good for making sauce/relish. I've saved seed and am looking forward to trying it again next year.
I've been gorging myself on fresh tomatoes, in sandwiches and salads, on toast and mixed into almost any dish I've cooked! I made a batch of relish and several batches of semi dried cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator. I dry them for about 8 hours so there is still some moisture in them, then pack them into bags and freeze them. They are a treat in winter.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

March flowers

Hi and welcome to March in my garden! Summer might be winding down but the garden is as flower filled as ever, and the lowering light makes blooms and petals even more beautiful. There are seed heads and berries forming and it's fun to look each day and spot new changes.

Clockwise from top left: an unknown climbing rose grown from a cutting, autumnal tints on a hydrangea, viburnum berries (these plants have always been in one of my side gardens but I never noticed berries on them before. They are so vibrant - wow!), white rose grown from a cutting, a patchwork looking cosmos, pink penstemon, lupin and lavatera, water drops sparkling on a hydrangea, burgundy scabiosa, autumn cyclamen, apple blossom geranium, scabiosa seed head. Middle: lupins and gaura backlit by the evening sun.

What is blooming in your garden this month? Is it spring or autumn? I'm linking this post to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Styling the Seasons - March 2015

Hello, and welcome back to Styling the Seasons for March! This is a monthly styling challenge hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots.

This month I've created a relaxing little corner on my deck. In New Zealand, March is late summer/early autumn. The weather is usually hot but you have that creeping feeling that the gorgeous weather won't last all that much longer, and so some advantage needs to be taken. (Also, the angle of the sun has shifted a little bit, and this corner is now a bit shadier... that's appreciated on a summer's afternoon!)

I made myself a refreshing basil and raspberry mojito drink. You can find the recipe here, just leave out the booze if you're drinking at home alone on your deck at lunch time... or leave it in, I won't tell! Just don't forget the mint.

My calibrachoas are doing really well - they are perfect deck plants! They have flowered nonstop since about October. I have three and I'm going to make a real effort to look after them over winter so they will hopefully bounce back again next year.

It might be summer but I still want a soft blanket for padding, or pulling over my bare feet if a breeze comes up. My Summertime Patchwork Quilt blanket is perfect, nice and lightweight but warm. This is exactly what I imagined using it for when I made it. I also have pillows for snuggling and a hat to pull over my eyes while I take a nap!

Well, the wind came up, the garland fell down and my set was photobombed by the cat. Hey, that's late summer for you... I still sat back in my chair and drank my mojito! Here's to a few more weeks of happy sunny days before the dreaded daylight savings kicks in. Cheers!

Monday, 16 February 2015

February flowers

Here we are with my February flowers post. This month my garden seems a bit more muted, or perhaps I've just chosen to focus on the softer flowers rather than the brash, end-of-summer colours of dahlias and salvias. I like the soft shades here as a respite from the hot weather we've been having!

Clockwise from top left: lavatera and gaura, carnation, Peace roses (currently opening as a bright yellow bud then fading to pastel fondant shades of pink and cream), gypsophila, white echinacea, dahlia, sweet alyssum, poppy seed heads, hydrangea, penstemon Blackbird, Claire rose, scabiosa. 

I'm joining in at Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, where gardeners all around the world show what is flowering in their patch right now.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Styling the Seasons February 2015

 Hello there! Well, it's February (a week into it, oops) so I'm joining in again this month with Styling The Seasons, hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots. Each month we are invited to style a surface in our home reflecting that month and season, and since it's February I've gone with my kitchen shelf. Late summer for me means hot, sunny afternoons and evenings, and lots of produce to harvest in my garden. I'm busy chopping, packaging, preserving and freezing, so I want nice things to look at in the kitchen while I do that!

 I have four sets of curtains in the kitchen/dining room and they are all different shades of green. It wasn't exactly intentional but I ended up loving the matching-yet-mismatching look of it!
 
This is the first time that I've used yellow as a feature colour deliberately! It's not normally among my favourite colours, but I found the rose patterned plate a few weeks ago at a market and decided to use it as the basis for my display. I don't know if I'm a yellow convert now, but it does add a nice pop here!


 I found some pink trim in my suitcase of vintage trims. It's very soft and was probably used for trimming flannel nighties. I'm going to make sure I edge a pair of pyjama pants with it before winter!

I love the delicate fronds of this maidenhair fern. It's right at home in its little enamel pot.

Hope you like my little shelfie this month. It's bright pretty colours are definitely lifting my heart and making my kitchen chores a little more bearable!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plants and Coffee

Welcome to my post for Urban Jungle Bloggers' February styling challenge! If you haven't come across Urban Jungle Bloggers before, it's a monthly challenge hosted by Judith from JOELIX.com and Igor from Happy Interior Blog. This month's theme is Plants and Coffee. I decided to take inspiration from a cafe that's recently opened in Christchurch called The Lemon Tree Cafe - it's a gorgeous little cafe filled with vintage china, lace, doilies, shabby chic furniture and lots of plants! Before I show you the rest of my styling, let me show you some photos of my inspiration.

I loved the beautiful lace tablecloths and crochet doilies. The tables were covered with a sheet of safety glass, you can imagine what a mess they would get in otherwise! All the tables also had packets of sugar in little cups or jugs, and various sets of novelty salt and pepper shakers. Such a fun touch!

 I especially like the row of plants on the wrought iron table. Old chamber pots make wonderful planters! Also, African violets! I had two leaf cuttings which survived for a while but both eventually died. I really should find some more and try again.

 Back at home I decided to recreate the vintage display. The obvious place to put it was on top of my china cabinet which I've just finished repainting and refurbishing! I've got plenty of doilies at home to choose from (I may be just a touch obsessed with vintage doilies) and I had a vintage rose print to prop up at the back.

 My cyclamens are just gearing up for their winter flowering season. This pink one is the first bloom... looking forward to many months more. The wooden house frame is an op shop find from my mum. I think I'll paint it, just need to decide what colour...

 In the green enamel pot are some cuttings from my goldfish plant. They were getting a bit leggy. I was going to trim them back, but then I thought of making a frame from some wire. Now I love the way they look wrapping around it.

 Here's my silver tray and spoons. They are a bit tarnished and I like them like that. In a nod to the Lemon Tree Cafe I've put out my favourite set of vintage salt and pepper shakers. I think this mug goes quite well too... though it happens to be brand new from Briscoes!

The roses are Sexy Rexy from my garden. They have such a compact and beautiful form.

I wasn't going to buy new houseplants for the purposes of this post, but it's funny the way they just jump into your shopping basket of their own accord isn't it? I really do like this zebra plant - it's bold graphic leaves are such a perfect contrast to the soft and feminine planter. And the funny little succulent is right at home in my teapot.

Well, it's taken long enough to write this post that I really am craving a cup of coffee now. Hope you've enjoyed my vintage display. There are more beautiful stylings to be enjoyed at Urban Jungle Bloggers - make yourself a cuppa and head on over!

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