Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

9 Dec 2017

Gardeners' gifts and a really lovely and useful GIVEAWAY

Thank you to everyone who took part in this giveaway.  The winner's name drawn from the bucket last week is Karen Gimson. Congratulations, Karen - enjoy your fabulous prize!

I'm feeling very pleased with myself as christmas is usually a last minute thing in my home but, yesterday, a real Nordman fir tree was purchased and the first flutters of christmas excitement began. The box of decorations has been retrieved from up high, candles will be lit, cakes made and snowglobes brought out.

The twinkle of indoor lights is especially welcome this winter as I've lost most of the light coming into my home thanks to scaffolding boards sitting just above the window lintels. Add in short days and grey skies and the room is in more or less permanent deep gloom. Never have I needed a deep dose of hygge more.  So to brighten my day, let's have a look back at a cornucopia of lovely things that have come my way this year and might give some inspiration to fellow gardeners - and, if you read (or skip) to the end, there's news of a very generous and lovely giveaway.

↓ 😃 ↓

22 Nov 2015

A Garden Craft project for December: Botanical advent calendar

You know how it is when you come across a project that you just want to get started on straightaway? Well, that happened to me the other day.

There I was, happily skimming through the December issue of Gardens Illustrated in my lunch break when a particularly beautiful article called out for my attention.  It highlights the work of Sonya Patel Ellis of the Herbarium Project, an artist who gathers botanical samples from her garden throughout the year, presses them for preservation and uses them in her artwork.  She's exhibited recently at the Garden Museum and has now created a project for the magazine's readers - a flower inspired vintage looking advent calendar that gradually reveals a suitably seasonal message.

Never mind that the artist collects plant material throughout the year, I reckoned that there might be enough still in the garden to embark on this project.  And what's not to love about a bit of crafting that involves collecting flowers and leaves, drying them, sticking them onto luggage labels (serendipitously, I have these in my stationery drawer) and then tying them onto a board? That's the sort of christmas decorating that's right up my street.

So, even though it was getting dark (and decidedly chilly) by the time I'd finished work on Friday, I tucked a large paper bag (thank you, local bread shop) and scissors into my pockets and went to the garden to make a start.  I've wandered through the garden often enough to know what's still growing and where, so cutting samples in the dark didn't thwart my intentions and there was a bright half moon to light my way.

I quickly found sage (purple, pineapple and blackcurrant), fennel fronds, feverfew, honeysuckle, strawberry flowers and leaves, geum (I'd spotted one last flower earlier in the day), geraniums, pelargoniums, artemesia, petrovskia, erysimum, lavender, violas, helichrysum, nasturtiums, heuchera, thyme,  ivy and sweet cicely.  Other options might be hydrangea, bay, fatsia, holly, rosehips, box or Lonicera 'Baggesen's Gold'.

I returned with a large bag of cuttings within the half hour.  These were set out onto double sheets of kitchen paper, topped with another double sheet when I was satisfied with the arrangement and sandwiched between the heaviest of my gardening books. I threw Nigel Slater, Sarah Raven and Mrs Beeton on top of the stack for good measure.  Now I wait.  (Oh, alright then, yes I have had a peek to see how it's all going; I can't help myself.)  The flowers and herbs usually take one or two weeks to dry; ready or not, I'll be coming for them on 30th November when they'll be mounted with linen tape onto a board (cork? wood? cardboard? Not sure but hopefully something recycled).

In the meantime, I'm preparing the luggage labels by printing out letters from vintage Lexicon cards and glueing my message to the back. What will it be? 'Peace and Love to all mankind' would seem appropriate after recent events.

The photo below is of Sonya Patel Ellis' finished calendar, image taken from her website, link above. I'm not sure mine will be as beautiful as this one, but I'll have fun trying! 

(Image copyright Sonya Patel Ellis)

I'm wondering if any readers are working on craft projects for christmas? Do tell! 

25 Dec 2014

God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen (and women)

Finally, we're there. Christmas Day. For the next 24 hours I can put my feet up.  Sort of. The winter solstice, my favourite landmark day for the inherent optimism it brings, has passed; now we're at the start of winter, the days will start to get ever-so-slowly longer, brighter and, eventually, warmer.  I've had enough of putting the lights on indoors at half-two in the afternoon.  No wonder plants struggle.

So, onwards to the bleak midwinter. It's one of the UK's little ironies that just as we feel we're into a new year with Spring to look forward to, the weather can suddenly plummet into minus temperatures.  I'm ready. I have a new woolly hat and toasty sheepskin lined gardening boots.  Nothing like 'being prepared'.  (And, no, I was never a Girl Guide. Missed opportunity there, I think.)  Dare I say that, here in London, signs are good for another mildish winter like last year?  Hopefully without the wind and slightly less rain.

I've had a severe cold for the past week - the sort that gives you a temperature and sore throat, makes you ache all over, cough, sneeze, sniffle and generally be entirely unappealing to visitors.  Lots of hand washing has been taking place as I prepare for the big lunch today.  I'm quite proud of myself having put together a Charlotte Russe late last night, enduring through the fog of a head cold. It's one of those popular-in-the 70's retro puds that my mum used to make involving jelly, mandarin oranges, savoiardi biscuits (aka sponge fingers) and loads of cream and eggs. (Sensible eating will resume shortly.) It's one of my son's favourite puds and a complete faff to make although very delicious. Now all I have to do is turn it out of the mould in one piece and I shall be the (self-styled) Queen of the Kitchen.

Added afterwards, as requested!  
Here's what's left of it the Charlotte Russe - it was enjoyed immensely, despite colds.

Apologies for the lack of a post about wreath making - I've been feeling too wretched to think about taking photos.  I will do a post though as - to paraphrase - a wreath is not just for Christmas.  On my wanders I've seen some gorgeous flowerheads, foliage and seedpods which has made me think about making a wreath a permanent but seasonal feature in my home. It's a good way of keeping your eyes open and really noticing what the changing seasons are doing.

Sage, bay, juniper, lonicera, ivy, hebe, clematis seedheads, pine cones.

But for now, I'm going to wish all you lovely people the best of the season - with many, many thanks for coming back time and again to read and comment on my posts.

Happy Christmas and a fabulously productive 2015!

Caro xx

18 Dec 2013

The wishing tree (almost Wordless Wednesday)

Having started to float along on the festive tide with my christmas garden post at the weekend, I took two toddlers to the zoo in Regent's Park yesterday to see the reindeer, as you do.  Their day was made up when one of the reindeers obligingly turned his back and did a poo right near to where we were watching.  Joy and laughter are very poo related in the life of a two year old.

Christmas outside

My day, on the other hand, was complete when I detoured to see the hippopotamus and came across a giant decorated cedar tree. Its lower branches were covered with wishes and hopes, written on luggage labels and other tags, tied to the tree.  It was a glorious sight and made for some lovely reading.  If only they'd thought to use waterproof pens! The synchronicity of seeing this when I'd just written about creating a wishing tree was very thrilling, not to mention inspirational.

16 Dec 2013

A Christmas Garden: perking up your plot and a competition

Rowan berries and ivy
Pink Sorbus berries where they'd fallen onto ivy - I'll use these plus more in a wreath.

Is it really only 10 days until Christmas? The veg patch garden is still being treated to resolutely mild weather so I'm able to potter around getting ready for next year but I can't ignore the festive lights in trees along local avenues or the buzz of people preparing for christmas.

Those lovely people over at Plant Me Now have provided the kickstart to think about extending seasonal decorations into the garden with their Christmas competition on Facebook. I'm giving the heads up on this one as the prize is £100 to spend in their online shop and let's face it, who wouldn't want to win that!  Their plug plants were well reviewed by Helen over at Patient Gardener this year and I'm always happier with a personal recommendation. Personally, I've fallen in love with a gorgeous dusky rose coloured delphinium that I'm coveting for my flower patch next year, middle bottom of this link.  (Oh, be still my beating heart!) You've only got one week to enter as the deadline is next Sunday, 22nd, (take a photo of your decorated garden, 'like' their FB page, upload your photo); it's worth a shot as, so far, there's only a few entries.

Although bright sparkly lights are good for jollying things up on a commercial level, I prefer something altogether more subtle in my own home - and that also extends to the garden. I love the simplicity of cinnamon sticks and dried orange peel tied onto a swag with a bit of ribbon. For  me, colours should harmonise with nature: think wood, robins, nuts and cones, stones, grey skies, white snow and icicles. Wonderful. Nature offers plenty of inspiration if you look around and that's what I went in search of.

Here's a robin I saw earlier.  I love that this photo has the feel of a Rob Ryan print (in my humble opinion!)

On Saturday I went for a little wander, bag over shoulder, secateurs in hand (just in case!). In the York Rise gardens I found rose hips, cornus stems, juniper branches, rosemary stems and ivy leaves. Walking in the Capel gardens, I'd already foraged fallen crab apples and - to my extreme delight - the fallen pink berries from the Sorbus hupehensis tree (Rowan). The purple berries from Callicarpa would also have been wonderful, as would the fluffy tips from a Miscanthus grass but I'm loathe to take something that nature isn't quite ready to part with.

Crab apple decorations
Fallen crab apples tied with florist's wire and hung on a christmas tree.

Walking through the woods, I spied a sheath of branch tips lying on the ground; they look like silver birch and I presume a child had gathered them up while walking and then been told to leave them behind. As I picked them up and rolled them into a circle to fit my bag, it occurred to me that they're so fine and pliable, they would be perfect as a base for a door or tree wreath. Bizarrely, I couldn't find any pine cones, despite large numbers of pine trees up at Capel but I did find plenty of acorns and their cups which were added to my goody bag (inspired by the acorn babies in the collage below).

So now I'll be crafting in the evenings in the week ahead, making decorations from my nature finds that will find their way into the garden. If you've thought, however briefly, about jollying up your garden for the forthcoming holidays, here's a few things to inspire or be aware of:

• Real christmas trees. I absolutely hate to see all those sad, brown, rootless trees dumped after christmas. If you must have a real tree, please buy one with roots, plant it properly in a deep pot of soil with good drainage, by all means decorate it but put it outside where you can see it. Your tree will thank you for  it and you'll be happy as you won't have to clear up thousands of pine needles. Leave it in the pot, well watered throughout the year, and you won't find yourself with a 40ft tree outside your back door in ten years time but will be ready when christmas comes round again.

• Let your garden have a holiday. Don't go mad sweeping up leaves and tidying the garden. If you've done a bit of pruning or have logs for the woodpile, great. Leave them in a heap for hibernating hedgehogs, if you're lucky enough to have them. Ladybirds and other beneficial insects like bees need somewhere sheltered and safe to over-winter and will still be in your garden in spring if they find a welcome there in winter and nectar when they wake up. Birds too need food and water. I like the look of these apple decorations but would hang them outside for the birds rather than indoors.  And put out home-made fat balls, recipe from Fiona at The Cottage Smallholder.

Image from my Pinterest page.
• Embrace the great outdoors. Wrap up and get outside to breathe fresh air! Look around and see the potential in found objects. Take a leaf out of my book (not literally, I need them for my collages!) and take a bag with you to collect interesting finds. (I have to warn you, this becomes a very addictive hobby!)

Acorn babies!  Decorated rakes! Loving Pinterest at the mo … 

• Take time out from festive fussing. Make decorations and cards from your found objects. Relaxing, therapeutic, calming - and, for kids, you could even work in a bit of anti-consumerism through baking and craft. (You see what an optimist I am?)

Images from my Pinterest 'Christmas Garden' page but … loving those candles tucked into hagstones! 

• Connect. Next Saturday is the Winter Solstice. (Interesting Yule facts and the story of mistletoe through the Solstice link.)  It's a day that I always observe with quiet contemplation as the world starts to turn towards spring and renewed life. The days will start, imperceptably, to get longer; we may not notice but the plants will.  It's a day to connect with nature, neighbours and family - perhaps over tea and cake.

• Dream.  Look over the bare bones of your garden and plan for next year.  I love this time of year for looking through catalogues, reading gardening books and visiting public gardens - the structure of the garden without its summer dressing is revealed and there's a lot to be learned from that.

• Decorate your garden!  Bare branches of trees are perfect for adding ribbons, nut or fruit garlands, stars cut from recycled milk containers or, if you have time, laminate little messages of hopes, wishes  and thanks for the year ahead and the year behind us and hang them up with pretty ribbons.

I hope that this post will inspire people; if I have time, I'll post about the crafts I make … and don't forget the competition!

There are fairies in the garden!
Seen at Capel: Mushrooms and fairies in the garden!
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