Sunday, 29 May 2011

May flowers

Flowers and arrangements from the month of May.

 A special shout out goes to the hyacinth in its cozy can, which flowered gloriously around the middle of the month. Hyacinths in May? It felt completely wrong, but I enjoyed it all the same, carrying it from room to room and positioning it where the scent would best waft toward my nose. A special mention also to the brave little rose, surely the last of her bush, who managed to unfurl and shine despite the chilly mornings. 

Thursday, 26 May 2011


 My broccoli is doing really well this season. Sometimes when I've grown it it's been small and spindly, or shot to seed, or not even had a head at all. I haven't been feeding anything special this time, or much at all really, so I'm going to presume this means I have the soil well fertilised with compost etc, and continue what I've been doing with home composting.

 This green broccoli sprouts lots of little heads when you cut one off, a bit like Medusa. It's easy to harvest and an added bonus is that it rarely needs more chopping when you get it inside!

Broccoli is easy to freeze - I just chop it and put it in a ziplock bag. I don't worry about blanching. When I want to cook it I just tip it straight into the pan from the freezer, or you can put it in a sieve and run hot water over it to defrost it first.

 This is italian broccoli. I had a really old packet of seeds that I tried once, back in the garden of the rental flat where the soil was stony and poor. I didn't have much success so the rest of the seeds didn't get used. But I discovered them recently and thought I'd have another go before I chucked the seeds out - looks like I've been more successful this time!

This is my old favourite - Violet Sicilian cauliflower, but called purple broccoli by me. It starts off looking like a cauliflower, but sprouts into more of a broccoli head before long. The purple colour is intensified by cold weather.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Late autumn bouquet

 Making the most of some late flowers - cosmos, carnations, lavender and chrysanthemums - with the first of the season's wintersweet.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Potting corner

 This weekend I continued with my autum clean up and moved onto the potting area. I'd always intended to put some more shelving in there, so I went to Bunnings and picked up this wooden kitset shelf. It wasn't too bad to put together actually - easier than those horrible galvanised shelves I've used in the past, and it can be painted - bonus! It has the holes for the shelves pre-drilled, but there are extra holes too, so you can customise it to a certain extent. I decided to leave the bottom shelf off so I could stack large pots underneath. I put the extra shelf in the middle of the unit for holding saucers and other small things.

 So after a coat of my unifying dark green paint I put the shelf in its new home. The pots fitted under and around it nicely. To the right, under the piece of old carpet (and behind the vintage mirror that I still have to find a perfect garden spot for), is my worm farm. I thought all the worms had died but I had a quick look anyway, and to my surprise found several living worms. I put some more food scraps in for them, but they don't eat the food very quickly - I hadn't fed them for months prior.

 Pots, punnets and plants. I have more punnets than I need and it's a waste to throw them out. I wonder if someone would come and take them if I put them on Trade Me for $1.00...

 I was gutted to lose several aged terracotta pots in the quake. It takes about 3-4 years to get a good patina on there. The ones at the front are new, just starting the aging process. Winter weather helps!

These bags are holding unmatured compost. As I was tidying up it became clear that I would need to start another compost heap, so I emptied out one of the bins. I put it in these bags in the hope that it will break down just as well in them as in the bin.

For the new heap, I layered autumn leaves, grass clippings, old potting mix out of pots, and ash from the pellet fire. I haven't really made a proper layered heap before, as I usually just throw things in as I come across them. We'll see if it makes any difference!

 Some of the last autumn flowers in reclaimed glass bottles brighten up the table.

 Here's the just-a-tad-bit-wonky shelving on the fence. It makes a nice display area.

 Some brave little bulbs making an early showing. The hoop petticoats in the blue pot put out lots of foliage every year, but I've only ever had one flower. I keep meaning to just chuck them in the garden somewhere and forget about them.

Well, glasshouse and potting corner are done. Next weekend is the shed, the worst of the lot. Can't wait.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

On my reading table

Dreamhunter and Dreamquake by Elizabeth Knox

This gorgeously written "duet" by NZ author Elizabeth Knox deserves to be more widely known. It tells the story of the Place, a sort of no-man's-land where dreams can literally be caught as if catching a cold. Only dreamhunters can cross the border into the Place. There they camp, sleep, and if they are lucky and sleeping on the right spot, they will catch a wonderful (or frightening) dream. Once loaded with a dream, the dreamhunter will "perform" the dream nightly at one of the opulent dream palaces - these are where the rich and fabulous members of society go, clad in silk pyjamas and fashionable nightgowns, to retire to their private suites and be swept away in a dream not of their own making. Dreamhunters can become wealthy and famous, but they are also held in a superstitious awe, since not everyone can or wants to be able to enter the Place.

Cousins Laura and Rose come from the most famous dreamhunting family, and are awaiting their Try to discover if they have the ability to enter the Place. Set in a sort of alternate Edwardian era, the girls also attend school at Founderston Girls Academy, prepare for balls and have tea and cream cakes at Farry's Confectioners. The writing is lush and descriptive, and the story is intelligent and complex. It has some interesting twists and turns, but everything fits in somehow, somewhere. I've read this duet several times now for the beautiful visuals and the wonderful characters who now feel like old friends.

Good books.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Supervisor

 He has his own chair - all the better for watching from.

 And my chair too as soon as my back is half turned, for that all-important supervisory nap. We work hard around here!

Monday, 16 May 2011

In the glasshouse, and raindrops in the garden

My number one chore for this weekend was cleaning out the glasshouse. Saturday was perfect weather-wise, so I dragged everything outside, got out the hose and let it rip. I washed down the walls, blasted the spiders and scrubbed away the cobwebs. (Fortunately there was no repeat of this incident.) Everything dried nicely in the sun, and I spent the rest of the afternoon putting it back in and arranging it. By the time I was done the light was no good for taking photos, so I took these on Sunday morning. Of course, by then it was raining, so just ignore the puddles on the floor and the foot and paw prints everywhere...

At the back left corner are two tomato plants, bravely struggling on. One is Juliet and one is Yellow Pear. Neither is particularly happy, they have both been stripped by caterpillars and I'm sure they will keel over when regular frosts set in. But in the meantime, they are producing fruit. It's a bit weak and watery but still beats a supermarket tomato!

At the back right is my mandarine, Clementine. I rather badly neglected her over summer and only recently realised (when her leaves turned black with mould) that she had a bad case of scale. So I cleaned her up and repotted her, and resolved to take better care in the future. I've also harvested two mandarins off her so far and there are about another three on there, so she is worth looking after!

Also in that corner is a chocolate cosmos, which is looking rather dead but I will trim it back, and it should emerge in spring again. And there is a pot with some tiny parsley seedlings, a pansy and a small bunch of spring onions (they are all found seedlings that were growing together in the same patch of the garden).

I built this bench out of some pallet wood and bricks. It's pretty sturdy so should withstand minor aftershocks, I think if we get another big one a toppled potting bench will be the last thing on my mind... Anyway, it is home to spare pots and saucers, a plastic bottle cloche, and some seedlings. 

On the left are onions - I had two opened packets, one red and one white. I sowed the seed thickly because I read that onion seed needs to be fresh to germinate so I figured it may or may not work. Well, every single red seed germinated and none of the white. So I'll need to find homes for about a hundred red onions come spring. Next to them is a Sunset's Red Horizon tomato, my workmate sowed some seeds as an experiment to see if they really are frost resistant. So we'll see if it survives over winter. Next to that is some broccoli, again it was old seed and every single one sprouted. Must be 30-40 of them. And next to that is a Winter Savoury seedling, that's supposed to be a perennial herb that doesn't die off over winter, but this one doesn't really want to get going at all. It's been there for a couple of months. I had to prop it with a small stick because it kept falling over. Chin up little plant!

Here is the heliotrope, also frost tender so I bring her in as well. The vanilla scent is gorgeous. Soon I'll have to bring my geraniums in as well, I lost two last year to the frost so I'll look after them a bit more this year.

After all the hosing and scrubbing I hung my gloves out to dry. Then I forgot about them, and they got a second rinse overnight.

The rain made all the autumn colours pop! This purple broccoli will be ready soon. The sad little pumpkin next to it, not so much - it needs to be harvested now, but is nowhere near ripe.

I planted mizuna at the front of the middle quarter. I was trying to go for that classic potager look of the low hedge. The mizuna is working well - I also sowed corn salad in two of the beds, to compare which looks better, but it's growing much slower. It's possible that the mizuna could go to seed in the next couple of months, so the slower growing corn salad could still win the race. Each quarter bed has a small rosemary bush in the middle which should look lovely when in flower - I'll show you pics when that happens.

And a rainbow to finish on. Next weekend I have to tidy the potting area, and the one after that I will be tidying the garden shed.  The fun never stops around here!

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

White rabbits

 2011 is the year of the rabbit. Apparently, it should be a quiet, restful year, after the ferociousness of the preceeding year of the tiger. It favours home, comfort, peace and quiet. Life is supposed to come easily this year, and progress at a calm and leisurely pace with no cares or worries. I think we can all say a resounding YEAH RIGHT to that! 5.3 aftershock at 3am the other night? That's not what I call relaxing! Not to mention that our homes are being slowly but surely shaken to pieces.

 But anyway, let's not talk about that! Look at the lovely colours these chrysanthemums are turning. They start off peachy-apricot, fade to yellow, and then turn pink and mauve. Not to mention that they last a couple of weeks in the vase. Talk about good value.

 Dianthus also last several weeks in the vase - I'll make better use of them next summer! And yes, you can see I started another crochet project and didn't finish it. And no I still haven't finished the skirt.

I'm also planning a new project in the garden - a blueberry bed. I want to do something to break up the huge expanse of lawn, and I thought a bed here might screen off the "ugly neccesities" like the clothesline a bit. The bed hasn't been dug yet - this is a simulation using prunings to work out the right location and size. I think it will work. Now the ground just needs to be dug up, what a good thing Jon is on holiday next week!

Thursday, 5 May 2011

On my reading table

 Annnnd... it's another Country Living magazine! This is the March issue. I had to buy this one as well, giving myself a stern talking to all the time. You see, I have a bit of a magazine addiction. That is why the library is so great - I bring home as many as I can carry, they are free, and they don't sit around cluttering up my house for long. For I can never bring myself to throw away something that I spent so much money on, nor can I bear to rip out the pages. However it is nice to know they are there to go back to.

 On the cover, it's spring! I love the terracotta pots, and the wicker basket with the spring flowers... pasque flowers if I'm not mistaken.

 This vignette could be adapted to any season just by changing the flowers. The warm colours are quite autumnal.

 I love open shelving in a kitchen, especially when your utensils are pretty as well as practical. I really want a woven mat like that one!

This lady makes limited edition prints from potatoes! Come on guys, we could all do that one. Look how cute her mice are though... I guess that takes a special kind of skill.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A cozy can

 There's something about being in the midst of a big crochet project, that makes me want to just put it aside and work on smaller projects for a while. Also I had this bulb, pre-sprouted, from the garden centre (because I'm nowhere near organised enough to do my own bulbs this year) and I needed something to put it in. And I realised a Whiskas jellimeat tin was the exact right size, only I would need to cover it with something.

 I crocheted this as a rectangle shape that wraps around the tin. As it worked up it made me think of baby clothes - the soft, delicate shell texture. It's hard to keep from picking up the tin and giving it a cuddle, but I think it will be very warm this winter...

 The pattern is Close Scallops, from The Crochet Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden. I finished with a row of single crochet along the top.

I did a row of sc along one edge, and made a loop of chains for each buttonhole. Then I just sewed some buttons on. It only took an afternoon to make this... I love projects that are this quick!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Congrats to Will & Kate

To Will & Kate: Thanks for inviting me to your shindig! It was awesome to sit on the couch in my PJs and watch your splendidly well-coordinated event unfold. I certainly enjoyed the show, and hope you are as happy in the future together as you were on this day.

The bride - radiant. The dress - beautiful. The veil - gorgeous. The bouquet - could have been bigger.
The abbey - whimsical. The guests - fascinating. The hats - awe inspiring. The in-laws - frightening.
The prince - scrubbed up well. The groomsman - dashing. The train-carrier - stunning. The little bridesmaids - frilly.
The crowds - exciting. The horses - sleekly beautiful. The happiness - palpable. The kiss - a fairytale.

The hilight - the cartwheeling priest:

Oh and a big thumbs up to Beatrice's Philip Treacy hat! Why not have a little fun with it. I liked Posh's too and I wish I had a reason to wear a fascinator. I think Eugenie looked sloppy though.

Did you watch? What did you think?


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