Thursday 30 December 2010

Handmade Christmas present round up

This is a round up of the gifts I made this year. It's not as many as in previous years - I had to cut back a bit or I'd have been holed up in my craft room all year! I started fairly early, October I think, and made a big pile of Christmas cards as well.

This little cloud mobile was easy to stitch up from felt. I made three of them, one for my nephew, one for Jonny's nephew and one for my goddaughter. The raindrops are scraps of cotton fabric.

The quote on the front was hand embroidered. It comes from quite a beautiful little poem by Langston Hughes:

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

These were presents for my workmates. They are coloured glass nail files, and I made a little sleeve for them from the green openweave ribbon.

Stitched a few beads at the bottom for added sparkle...

... and attached a flower and ribbon at the top. I was going to make one for myself to keep, but of course I never quite got round to that and I'm unlikely to do it in the future!

This wasn't made by me, but for me (yay!) My mum made it - you might recall seeing a similar one in her garden in my first Real Gardens post.

That's it for the round up this year. Did you give or receive anything handmade?

Monday 27 December 2010

Want flowers, need flowers

This is a picture I took at the Ellerslie Flower Show this year. It's been on my desktop ever since, burning itself into my consciousness until I'm sure it's only a matter of time until it just turns up one day outside.

The design is "An Englishman's Retreat" by Chris Beardshaw. The key elements are the tall trees and the spires of the delphiniums, and the colour scheme of purple, silver and shots of red.

And here is my garden... not looking very similar at all I know! I grew most of these plants here from seed, and they have not been particularly quick off the mark, even with the warm spring. The exception is this rampaging petunia, although it comes with its own story of failure (out of a packet of about 100 seeds, only 4 germinated). The other plants are alyssum, angelonia, godetia, gilia and lambs' ears (which is going well - it's already been divided about 4 times). And of course, some extra tomatoes next to the fence.

Anyway, I'm really craving an abundant garden filled with flowers. My slow seedlings weren't cutting it, so I went to the garden centre and looked for Plants That Are In Flower Now. Happily, I managed to make most of my selection from the bargain bin too.

I got gaura (pink and white), nicotiana, impatiens, echinacea Hope (the same as in the show garden! Yay!), arctotis and a pretty, cottagey shrub with pink flowers that I forget the name of.

Close up of Arctotis Louise. I'm going to put this along the side of the driveway - hopefully I'll be able to divide it into two or three sections.

Instant seal of approval.

Today was 31 degrees C, so I waited till late afternoon when it was a more modest 25. Then I planted them, watered, mulched, and admired... and completely forgot to photograph! The forecast for tomorrow is rain, which is good for little plants establishing themselves, but not so good for photos. Anyway, I'll update when I can.

Season's Greetings

I'm a little relieved that Christmas has been and gone - what with everything that's gone on this year I really wasn't feeling the spirit! I had a nice, whirlwind kind of day catching up with lots of family in Timaru, all of whom I don't see often enough so it really was great to see them.

Arrived home about 6pm yesterday to another flurry of aftershocks, there are more cordons up around town and plenty of police directing traffic. We missed most of the aftershocks due to being down south (and I'm glad about that - particularly glad that I wasn't in town or in a mall when they hit!) but there were a couple of goodies last night which had me waking up in a hurry.

I have the next couple of days off work and I'm really looking forward to taking it easy (ha! Like that will actually happen with the garden looking the way it does), or more likely being lazy.

Hope you are having a good summer/winter break, wherever you may be.

Monday 20 December 2010

Weird Cat Behaviour #4


Sleeping on the doormat. No, of course you're not in the way there, I can step quite easily over you balancing a basket of laundry and the hedge clippers! It's especially fun when you jump up and try to go in the door while I'm closing it, balancing said objects!

To be fair, it was 28 degrees C. I couldn't be bothered moving much further either.

*Usually followed up by Annoying Cat Behaviour #1358 - sharpening claws in the screen door while wailing to be let in or out.

Friday 10 December 2010

December ramblings

I've been meaning to post here for a while. I've even had these photos uploaded for several days. But I've been rather busy and tired, and I've had to have early nights because it's getting hard to pull myself out of bed in the mornings. We are shifting to a new location for work this weekend (after being displaced by the earthquake), so a final weekend of hard yards is required and then no more double bus trips! No more getting out of bed before the breakfast radio hosts have even come on air! No more cold, rattly, stuffy, poky, inconvenient work building. Hooray!

So, here's the potager in the early morning light a couple of weeks ago. No, I still haven't laid that last brick path. Potatoes are growing madly in the foreground and you can see the tomato stakes over by the shed.

At the moment I'm harvesting broccoli, rocket, lettuce, pak choi, peas, strawberries, potatoes, various herbs and spring onions. Annoyingly I had to buy a punnet of spring onions to plant out, as I forgot to sow seeds in time to replace the ones I've just about finished harvesting. I got into such a good pattern last autumn, but over winter they all slowed down and came ready all at the same time and I was too busy picking them to think about sowing them. I've let a few go to seed so I'll have some more to sow later.

This is the first potato harvest! It doesn't look like much but I was thrilled with it. These are Heather. I sneaked these out from under a few different plants as they started flowering - apparently this is known as "bandicooting". I'll wait till the flowers die down before I harvest the rest - in the meantime the Swifts are ready.

In the glasshouse the tomatoes are working hard. This is Sunset's Red Horizon. The photo is out of date already - the fruit are probably about the size of golf balls now. Still stubbornly green though. Most of the glasshouse tomatoes now have green fruit. Sunset is in the lead, followed by Arctic, and Amazon Chocolate is growing a big mutant fruit formed from several flower heads.

This cute heart shaped strawberry was fun to eat, but makes me a little sad now. I have strawberries in baskets in the glasshouse, and I also had baskets in a wire plant stand outside the front door. Someone stole the plant stand, and the strawberry baskets, on Saturday night. I went out to water them the next morning and they were gone. Nothing else was taken - not the potted blueberry bush, any other pot plants, or the wooden chair - which makes me think it was planned. Someone had probably walked past, seen the strawberries and decided to come back later and help themselves. The planter was top heavy, so they would have had to remove the baskets to carry it out. The fact that it was so obviously deliberate really annoys me... I would almost rather have found the baskets spilled on the ground, then I could put it down to some drunken idiot rather than a cold, calculated thief. It also annoys me that I can't have pretty things outside my front door (which is set back quite far from the street), without some loser thinking they have the right to just come along and take them. There's obviously a plant klepto on the loose in my neighbourhood... maybe it's time for me to get a dog, or some killer chickens!

Sunday 28 November 2010


I just did a count up of all my tomato plants and I've got 23. Eight in the garden, seven in the glasshouse and the rest waiting to be transplanted somewhere there is room.

In the glasshouse are Black Krim, Juliet, Amazon Chocolate, Brown Berry (x2), Arctic and Sunset's Red Horizon.

Arctic is a cool-weather variety supposedly bred for the US military, to bear fruit in extremely cold climates. I've grown it before and it does ok, but not as well as I'd expect given that description! Sunset's Red Horizon is new to me this year, an heirloom variety from Bristol Seeds with "proven resistance to frost, blossom end rot and cracking". I like to plant at least one cool weather variety in case we have a cold spring. This year it's been warm and sunny, but even so Sunset is growing taller and producing flowers earlier than any of the others. Sunset and Arctic are the only 2 to have tiny green fruit so far.

Black Krim is a yummy beefsteak type that I've grown before and I love the flavour. The skin is a dark reddish black colour. Amazon Chocolate (also from Bristol Seeds) is also a beefsteak with a "winey, smokey, delicious taste".

Juliet is an F1 variety that I've grown before. It's a steady and reliable fruiter. The fruits are small to medium, oval shaped and very tasty. Brown Berry is also from Bristol Seeds (I like to try at least one new variety every year, so everything from Bristol Seeds is new to me this season), it's a cherry tomato, supposedly vigorous and yielding large crops. Semi-sweet, rich flavours and very juicy. I'm not sure how tall the plants will grow so I've staked them just in case, but I have noticed they look a bit more compact and bushy than the others.

In the garden I have Black Krim x2, Amazon Chocolate, Brown Berry x2, Juliet, Sunset, and Abraham Lincoln. Abraham Lincoln (Bristol Seeds) was limited stock and strictly limited to one packet per order, so I had to try it. Anything that limited must be good right? The description says, "High lycopene. Faithfully produces huge crops of meaty fruit." Another beefsteak I suppose. The reason I only have one in the garden and none in the glasshouse is that only one seed (out of 4) germinated, and it grew so slowly that it wasn't ready for potting on when I did all the glasshouse plants. It's catching up now though, so it will be interesting to see what it does.

Also in the glasshouse and just about ready to be transplanted out are another Amazon Chocolate, and some "bite size" varieties which I bought as seeds on sale at Bunnings: Green Grape, Yellow Pear and Red Fig (x5... must be a vigorous one). This afternoon when it cools down a bit I'll find somewhere to poke them in. I've got some pumpkin seedlings that need to go out too.

What tomato varieties are you growing this year?

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Real Gardens #2

Jean and Graeme Holwell's Timaru garden might be small, but it is packed full of delightful plants and tiny treasures. On a sunny morning in early spring, mounds of green leaves are unfurling and buds are beginning to swell.

Everywhere you turn, there is something new and beautiful to see, like this little patch of crocus.

Even the street verge is beautifully maintained, with a patch of yellow polyanthus welcoming you to the garden.

This is a garden of contrasts, both in shape and texture. The path, formed of round concrete stepping stones and flanked by brilliant blue pansies, leads you towards the back of the property.

On the way you'll pass this clever bird bath. It's made from a saucer mounted on a piece of driftwood.

And end up at the pergola, which looks like a beautiful place to sit in on a warm summer's evening. There's even room for a small vegetable garden beside it.

The round stepping stones continue around the back of the house, where the rubbish bins, washing line and even a worm farm are tucked away.

Looking down, I noticed more lovely textures in the form of these groundcover plants scrambling over the round stones.

Here is a clever way of keeping tabs on tiny plants that die down over winter... a little bowl made of rocks. This must look so sweet filled up with little alpine flowers.

I hope you've been inspired by this tour - proof that you don't need a huge section to grow all your favourite flowers and plants. I'll be keeping an eye out for round stepping stones, and probably building a couple of rocky bowls for my cyclamen!

A big thank you to Jean and Graeme for letting me wander through your garden.

Monday 15 November 2010


I started work on the dreaded christmas presents this weekend. This is all I can show you for now, but after Christmas I'll do a proper show and tell. If you are looking for inspiration for handmade gifts, here are some of my previous years' round-ups.

I was busy in the garden this weekend, sowing and planting and transplanting. The potager is finally beginning to fill up. There are plenty of potatoes, rocket, lettuce, spring onions, and broccoli just about ready. I added tomatoes, chillis and capsicums, one zucchini, and sowed lots of beans. In the glasshouse I've got more tomatoes, chillis and capsicums as well as a cucumber and some strawberries. I've also sowed some flower seeds including love in the mist, linaria, gilia, alyssum, cosmos, calendula, scabiosa and echinacea (apparently hard to germinate so we'll see how that goes). Oh and verbascum, which was also hard to germinate. I've now finally got two miniscule plantlets peeking through - so I'm watering sparingly so as not to drown and willing them strongly to live, grow and develop some damn flowers!

This is the first strawberry of the season, harvested last week. It was delicious... so lovely and sweet sweet sweet. The second and third strawberries were fattening up beautifully, then as soon as they began changing colour something decided to sample them, chewing its way through all the red bits. I suspect it's earwigs. Does anyone know a good way of getting rid of them? They must be hiding under the leaves during the day, so I'm not sure if spraying with pyrethrum will work.

Well, I need to get back to my studio and do some more work there. After a winter of not doing much in the way of handcrafts, it's nice to get back in there and be creative! Oh - and I've finally got the next Real Gardens tour ready. Pop back tomorrow to check that one out :)

Saturday 6 November 2010

How to make rustic plant labels

I made a batch of plant labels to put in my garden. They are cheap, easy, and - best of all - not plastic, so I thought you guys might like to see how I made them.

Snap the ends off some wide craft sticks (the ones that are about 18mm wide - that's wider than the average popsicle sticks). You can use your fingers, but pliers will make the snapped end a bit tidier.

Sand the ends to get rid of any splinters.

I like to paint a light wash of brown watercolour paint over the sticks, so they aren't quite so garishly "new" looking.

Use a fadeproof and waterproof pen to write your plant names.

If you like you could decorate the sticks further with stickers and rubons.

Use a small saw to cut a chopstick in half. Sand the cut ends.

Use a waterproof wood glue to glue the stick to the chopstick, with the tapered end pointing down. Let dry.

Seal with a coat or two of clear varnish.

Then pop in the garden. These have lasted at least a season in my garden, and as they age they start to blend in more with their surroundings. Much more attractive than white plastic labels!

Friday 5 November 2010

Crochet ta-dah

Here it is... a crochet footstool!

Third time is the charm, so they say, and it was on my third attempt at making the sides that they finally took on the right shape. First I tried a mesh pattern, but it was too busy with the granny square top. Then I did plain dc, but it began to bulge and ripple most unattractively. Eventually I realised that the top square was too big, so I ripped out the extra row of granny clusters that I'd put round the whole thing and began again in dc. After that, it mostly did what I wanted it to.

I thought about painting the legs, but decided I like them fine the way they are.

Pretty granny flower garden... The cover comes off for washing (which will be useful once Lui discovers it).

I'm very happy with my lovely spring flowers.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Labour Day labours

This post is almost a week late. It's been on my mind all week, I've even had the photos uploaded, but I've just been too tired to actually write it! But after a nice relaxing weekend at home, I can finally sit down and show you what I did last weekend.

I took the crochet outside to my "seating area". (Formerly brick storage area - but I heaved them all to one side, put in a couple of pots of colour and decided to ignore the dandelions.) As for the crochet, I was wishing all along that I'd gone with one of the suggestions offered in the comments of the last post instead of what I had planned. My idea was great but it began to develop an annoying and unintentional ripple, so I ripped it out and restarted three times... Urgh, lucky the surroundings were so peaceful and calming! (I'll show you what I made soon - ta-dah post coming up!)

From my seat I could see this view - the part of the garden where I'd spent the previous days laying the curved path, then digging over the bed. I also built a fence for beans to climb up.

Here's a better view of the fence. I'll plant my pink-flowered runner beans here, and some cannelini.

Here are the spuds before earthing up. I'm growing Swift, Heather and Desiree and I have some Karuparere that I really really need to get into the ground...

The most established corner of the garden - broccoli, pak choi and garlic at the back and spring onions in the front. I've since sown a row of carrots in front of the spring onions.

I put the glasshouse tomatoes into their pots on Labour Day. The rest are still in punnets and will wait another few weeks before I put them outside. The strawberries in their hanging baskets are doing well - I don't think the first ripe one is too far away!

This little blackbird has been turning up lately whenever he sees me digging. He gets himself a tasty lunch that way! He is quite fearless and likes to make a point of coming up really close behind me.

So that was last weekend. This weekend has been nice but not so photogenic - I've mostly been weeding, and digging up the garden to lay bricks for the last quarter of the circle path. I'll be so glad when that's done!


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