Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ghosties & pumpkins

A bit of childish excitement today - I carved my first ever pumpkin. When I was little, we used to try and carve swedes. Don't bother trying - hard, smelly in the way that only brassicas can be, and too small to put a candle in. Complete waste of time.

So today, I took advice from friends on Twitter on the best way to carve a pumpkin without removing a limb in the process, and then I carved. He might not be as scary or as complex as some of the pumpkins on websites such as Zombie Pumpkins but I'm as proud as punch.

I was so excited by the result that I couldn't wait for it to get dark and shut myself in the garage with him, a candle and a box of matches.
Hopefully he'll impress the hordes of small children who will no doubt come knocking. I hope some turn up, otherwise SomeBeans and I will have a mountain of chocolatey treats to eat.

Happy Hallowe'en!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wordless Wednesday - Tyrone

Sunday, October 25, 2009

No imagination

I do like our front garden. When we first moved here around five years ago, part of the front garden was overgrown with shrubs and trees sculpted into lollipops in an attempt to stifle their growth and keep them under control. The other part was covered in chippings, with a couple of half barrels plonked there; both barrels contained rather sick looking rhododendrons. And there were hydrangeas - they had to go. So did the lollipop shrubs. And the crazy paving path.

A skip was hired and filled. Nice men came and took out overgrown shrubs and their stumps. A blank canvas. And no real idea of what to fill the space with except that I wanted lots of plants, lots of flowers, no lawn. Limited funds meant that a few shrubs (pittosporums, viburnum, smoke bushes) and a few herbaceous perennials (achillea, penstemons, japanese anemones and so on) were supplemented with a load of self seeding annuals (candytuft - I have an absolute love for this plant, with memories of simpler times many years ago when the time taken for these seeds to germinate seemed an entire lifetime, love-ina-a-mist, cerinthe, cosmos, bedding dahlias, californian poppies).

Visits to gardening shows helped fill the gaps. Even when there weren't gaps. What we have now is loved by butterflies and bees. And I enjoy it. The postman enjoys it rather less, as he gets thwacked in the legs by wet foliage as he walks to the door. But it seems like it is missing something, and that something is structure. There is nothing that captures the eye - it slides from plant to plant. No bad thing, maybe - I love plants. But I am starting to feel it needs something more. A little less chaos. A little less variety. A little more order. SomeBeans will barely be able to believe I've just written that - my middle names are Chaos and Disorder.

And so I took myself off to evening classes on designing your own garden, and have been learning. And practicing. And thinking. It's difficult - the other (mostly) ladies in the class all seem to have extremely large gardens, where there is room to experiment with different styles, have different 'rooms' which perform at different times of the year. Some of them seem to have room for landforming, like at the Garden of Cosmic Speculation. I need something that looks good (or at least reasonable) all the year round. And I have discovered a problem. My imagination - or rather lack of it.

I find it difficult to come up with ideas, or at least ideas which will work in the space provided, and with the backdrop of our rather ugly house. I drool over pictures in books - whilst the ladies above exclaim over photos of traditional gardens with sweeping lawns and large ponds looking over open countryside, echoing their own gardens, I find myself drawn to more modern plantings. Clipped trees to give structure, but still with abundant but perhaps more controlled planting with fewer types of plant.

Does anyone have any tips on how to develop an imagination - is it like a muscle, developing the more you use it, or am I doomed?

Just added this - Leee John certainly had some Imagination. Just look at the sequins on that!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Comfort me with apples

All over the country, apple days are taking place. These were initiaited by Common Ground in 1990 to celebrate the diversity of apples and the range of local varieties. They are held all over the country at this time of year.
This one is at Reaseheath College all weekend (as advertised by Goodfood Shopper here). The perfume, when you walk into the greenhouses where it is being held, is amazing. Individually, an apple doesn't smell unpleasant but put lots and lots together and the aroma makes your mouth water.
There are lots of varieties to view and to taste, and experts, including Harry Delaney, on hand to identify varieties, and give advice on cultivation and on preventing diseases. There are tours of the fruit gardens. You can also taste and buy cheese made by the students at the College.

The most interesting part of the day is the opportunity to view so many different varieties, many of which have a long history. A wonderful website that I have just discovered fro apple varieties is Orange Pippin.

Greensleeves - been around since the 1960s but with an "unexceptional flavour"

Court of Wick is from Somerset (1790s).

The Bloody Ploughman is a Scottish variety from 1880

How could I not take a photo of Pig's Nose Pippin? It originated in Herefordshire in the 1880s and is very sweet
Another great name, this apple arose in the 1850s.

Who could resist an apple called King of Tomkin's County? It's an American variety from the early 1800s.

Catshead. The person who named this apple had obviously never seen a cat. Either that or cats have evolved rapidly since the 1600s in England, to prevent them being mistaken for apples and put in a sweet pastry case.

Arthur Turner is a variety from 1912, from Berkshire. I'm not sure who Arthur Turner was, but according to the RHS he's prone to mildew.

Talking of diseases (well in this case a deficiency), there are examples of common apple problems on view.

Not just apples - there's the opportunity to stock up on pumpkins before little darlings start knocking on your door at the end of the month.
Common Ground has a list of the Apple Days across the country - go and visit!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

GBBD October 2009

The middle of October already. No frosts just yet, although the temperature has hovered around 2degC on a couple of mornings.
There are still a lot of flowers in the garden, although with the nights drawing in, I leave home for work in the dark, and come home in the dusk. The orange of the calendulas and Heleniums show up beautifully in the growing dusk. Because of the dark evenings, I had to cheat and take these photos on Sunday.

Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' - flowers for ages and looks after herself nicely. She's loved by the bees and hoverflies.

A Penstemon (no idea which one as I failed to make a note of the cultivar when I bought it). A lovely lilac blue.

Japanese anemone 'Pamina' - a lovely looking lady who appears tres elegante but can put up a very good fight in a crowded border. Handbags ahoy!

Fireworks! Unknown aster, given to my father by someone he did some work for. It's around 36" and loaded with flowers. Any suggestions? Its legs are a little bare, so it likes to hide behind a shorter colleague.

The cool blue of Perovskia

The shocking pink of Nerines

The elegant twisted petals of Cyclamen floating up from the darker hoop.

I may have a tendency to put lots of Helenium photos up at this time of year, but I'm not going to apologise because they really are gorgeous.

Schizo stylis coccinea - not doing quite so well this year as last, due to the dry autumn, but they have still been flowering for several months now.

And if I may just extend the remit of GBBD and include some of the stunning colours from foliage at this time of year - as bright as many of the flowers...

Cornus canadensis

Witch Hazel
Thanks, as always, to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD. Visit her blog which has links to many, many more people taking part in October's GBBD.

Wordless Wednesday - Stipa

Monday, October 12, 2009

Of pussycats and poetry

A whole year since the fantastic fun that was LAPCPADPOUB Day.

Don't worry, it was a one off, never to be repeated event - I wouldn't wish to be responsible for further damaging the delicate sensitivities of James "yes please to lots of kewt kitties and bad rhymes on the internet" Alexander-Sinclair.

However, I couldn't let the date pass without some sort of recognition, so here is something for cat lovers...

And something for lovers of bad poetry....

Enjoy ;-)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"You can almost see the fire sprites dancing in the flames!"

I came over a bit arty today, after gathering some acer leaves from my father's garden. The tree looked fantastic with the sun on it but I didn't have a camera with me. So, I took some of the leaves away with me and have done a 'Sarah Raven'.

The title of this post is in tribute to Professor Denzil Dexter. SomeBeans and I are probably the only two people to remember the sketch.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Scary harvest...

The mother of all potatoes (I have size 6 feet)...
And does this parsnip remind you of anything?