Monday, 15 September 2014

September flowers

Spring is here, hooray! The weather hasn't been exactly quick to cooperate, but there's no denying the swiftly lightening mornings with slightly less chill to the air, not to mention the explosion of bird activity around dawn! It's finally time to do things in the garden like planting out shrubs, and preparing the potager for spring veges. There's also time to appreciate bulbs and blossoms, and to say goodbye to some winter performers whose season is almost over.

Clockwise from top left: vivid coral blossoms on peach Rose Chiffon, a hellebore setting seed, the first anemone of the season, almond blossom, a cheerful pansy, a pretty white and cream daffodil, gorgeous hycacinth, camellia Fairy Blush (still going strong and having bloomed since May!), the first lavender of the season, blue star flowers (ipheon uniflorum), the blue and pink flowers of pulmonaria, a gaudy but welcome daffodil.

How is your garden this season? Pop over to May Dreams Gardens to find links to gardens all around the world blooming in spring and autumn!

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Macro phone photography

I've been having a play with some new lenses I got for my phone. There are 3 lenses, including fish eye and wide angle, but it's the macro that I've spent the most time with. Springtime blossoms are perfect for macros.

Above: a ruffled daffodil, fresh growth on lavender, peach blossom.

I got this set on Trade Me for about $25.00. There is a separate fish eye lens, and the macro and wide angle lenses screw into each other. When you use them both together it's wide angle, and if you remove the wide angle lens it's macro.

 They just clip over the phone camera, so can be used with any brand of phone or even tablets.

With the macro lens you need to be 1-2 cm away from your subject. It's amazing how much tiny detail it captures! It works much better than I thought a cheap lens would.

Above: fine hairs on an anemone petal, fuzzy hairs and raindrops on lambs ears, a teeny tiny unfurling leaf on the cercis tree. 

 Above: pollen-covered stamens in an almond blossom, leaf buds on an apple tree, the glistening petals of a hyacinth.

 One thing I quickly realised is that as well as magnifying detail, the lens magnifies any camera shake. It can be hard to hold it steady while getting in close to a subject which might also be blowing in the wind. I accidentally tore through the spider's web I was trying to capture!

Above: Cercis buds, torn spider web, a drop of water cupped in the tiny new leaves of a lupin seedling.

Just for comparison, here are the little seedlings in their punnet. 

Spring is here so there will be plenty of new leaves and flowers to photograph in the coming weeks. Pop back tomorrow to see what's been flowering in my garden this month!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Crochet dishcloths

 I recently made some crochet dishcloths. They were a bit of an experiment because I kind of had doubts, and wondered if they would be as effective as a proper shop-bought dishcloth. There is a great range of bench-wiping, dish-cleaning cloths available these days, but the problem is that I don't like most of the colours they come in. So I bought some cotton yarn, found some patterns on Pinterest and set to work.

 They were very quick, fun and easy to work up. Especially the pink one - I enjoyed that stitch, and it scalloped the edges all by itself! You can find the pattern here. For the striped one, I just did rows of single crochet, and alternated the colours a couple of times.

 So, do they work as well as a shop-bought super cleaning cloth? I think they do. Being cotton they are nice and absorbent, and the rough texture means they clean dishes well! They wipe up crumbs on the bench and subject themselves to being rinsed under the tap. To disinfect them I use the same method I use on all dishcloths - microwave them on High for 2 minutes then machine wash. They have stood up well to this treatment. 

I was worried they would shrink when submerged in a sink of hot water, but I found the opposite to be true - they are actually more prone to stretching as you wring them out and drape them over the tap or sink. That's ok though as cotton yarn doesn't have a lot of give so they don't get too much out of shape.
I love the way crochet dishcloths look and perform in my kitchen, so I'll be making more. What about you? Would you use a crochet dishcloth?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

August snapshots






So it's the end of August already! I've been a bit slack with my blogging... it's that time of year when I'm sick of winter, drained of motivation and just waiting for the extra daylight hours to kick in again. There's still a month to go till daylight savings (I'm counting down) but today when I got home from work there was enough daylight for me to go out to the garden and harvest a leek and some broccoli. It's such a relief to be able to do that! That and other small things, like emptying the rubbish bin or fetching something from the garage, are just so much easier when it's daylight. So bring it on.

Here are some of my recent pictures from Instagram. (At first I thought Instagram was just another trend but now I'm really appreciating it as a quick and easy way to document daily moments...If you want to look me up on Instagram I'm here!)

Hellebores are still the flower of the moment but their time is nearly up. My favourite this year has been the picotee - white with a dark purple edge - which looks gorgeous glowing in the garden, in a vase, and floating in a teacup so you can better see its pretty little face. I also got a new hellebore - Tutu - and it was so potbound that the first thing I did was soak it in water, then slice down the middle to create two plants. They didn't flower much after that but I planted them out in the garden and they'll be away next year.

On the crochet front, I made a couple of dishcloths. I'll do a full post about them soon as they turned out well. The pink one above made a pretty scalloped pattern.

And last weekend I assembled a flat pack bookcase for my reading corner. I ended up with 20 dowels left over, which I eventually realised were supposed to help anchor the shelves to the walls, but I couldn't be bothered redoing the whole thing to put them in. They were completely missed out of the instructions which were hard to follow anyway - you know those line drawings which make it look like the whole thing assembles itself! Anyway, it feels very sturdy so I happily filled it with all my books. There is a little room for expansion but not very much, so I'll either have to have a purge or buy another bookcase. The book stack above is my latest library haul, this should be just enough to last me a month as long as none of them turn out to be duds (they haven't so far).

That's about it for the last week in winter! I probably shouldn't be in such a hurry to wish it gone, as there are plenty of jobs to get done, like cleaning the glasshouse, before the busyness of spring arrives. But actually I can't wait!

Saturday, 16 August 2014

August flowers

Welcome to my garden for a small taste of what's blooming this August! I did wonder if I would find anything new to photograph at all, as it's definitely feeling like the tail end of the season now and anything still flowering is looking a bit tired. However there were a few surprises, like the jasmine I found trespassing over the fence into the neighbour's yard. When I pulled it back that particular part of the vine was covered with flowers! I am not sure why my flowering vines do this - no matter which side of the fence is sunniest, they always seem to push their way to the neighbour's side and flower there. Of course the neighbours don't mind at all, but I feel a bit put out. Plant - you flower for me, got it?

There are also small buds now to be seen on dormant plants like clematis, fruit trees and spring flowering shrubs. It won't be long now before everything bursts forth.

Clockwise from top left: snowdrop, a new hellebore called Tutu (see the frilly petals inside? And it was on sale so it's all right!), the first blossom on my almond tree (I hope the rest of them hold off till spring is a bit closer), polyanthus, ipheion uniflorum, camellia fairy blush (looking blossom-like in this picture, but it's been flowering since May), earlicheer daffodils, paper daisy, an opening bud of hellebore Pink Lady, the surprise jasmine, daphne (still smelling gorgeous), picotee hellebore.

Special mention goes to this picotee hellebore, mainly because I really like this photo. How is your garden blooming this month?

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

July snapshots

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder for a while waiting for me to find some words to put with it. I thought I'd better get onto that while it's actually still July! These are just some photos from around the house this month.

I've had hyacinths blooming in glass jars.

This really was the last of the roses for the season. The green leaves are Jacob's Ladder (polemonium). Such beautifully shaped leaves - they are perfect for vase arrangements as they seem to compliment every kind of flower and fall so gracefully from the container - very little arranging is actually required!

One of my winter pleasures is lighting candles in the evening. Especially scented candles and tealights in glass votive jars. 

 More hyacinths. This vase was a great way to grow them as the high sides supported the flower heads when they got too heavy. When they finished flowering I planted the bulbs outside and transplanted some not yet flowering ones into the vase.

 You might remember a couple of months I showed you some Instagram photos including one of a round blue crochet circle. Well, now it's a cushion! All I had to do was add a scalloped border and some crochet roses. Easy and cute. My crochet cushion corner is growing!

This was taken at the end of a rainy afternoon, where at the last minute the sun peeped in under the thick cloud cover. Then it disappeared below the horizon. However, I am taking heart that sunset is happening a little later every day... soon soon soon I'll have a little bit of light left at the end of the day.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Flowers from summer

 I was going through my photo files recently and came across these pictures from February. With all the hustle and bustle of preparing for the house repairs I never got around to processing and posting them. Since it's raining outside and sleet is in the forecast, I'm going to look at these flowers and dream of summer for a while...

Above is a small posy I made while I stayed at my mum's house when we made the water feature. It's tiny rosebuds from The Fairy rose, and the first autumn cyclamens. Aren't these little rosebuds the sweetest? I think I'll take a cutting from the bush this summer!

 Mum was given a bunch of chrysanthemums for her birthday. I made a few bouquets with them and then floated any broken or leftover heads in this bowl, with some more fairy rosebuds.

 The pink roses are Compassion, and they smell just beautiful. Another cutting I must take this year. They are paired with some white chrysanthemums, in an amber vase which picks up the warm tones in the roses.

 Back at my house, I picked some Queen Elizabeth roses and put them with catmint and delphiniums. I love this romantic arrangement on a vintage embroidered tablecloth.

 At the end of February was the Ellerslie Flower Show, sadly the last one as it's been cancelled for being too costly and not recouping its costs. This was one of the showstopper gardens. How could I not love it as it's called Passion and is all about pink flowers!

 There are over 1000 flowering plants here. I love how girly and romantic it is, down to the flowered fabric covering the chair!

Yes those are tulips mixed in with the late summer plants. I overheard some people talking about it and apparently the designer forced all those bulbs to get them to bloom at such an unusual time. They look beautiful... not something you can really do at home, but the rest of the planting is quite inspiring. It was really nice to see a garden that was all about the flowers, rather than hard landscaping!

Well I've had a nice little walk through summer in my pictures. Now I'll cuddle up under my blanket again and wiggle my toes in their thick fluffy socks. Mr Lui is snoring beside me and we're both counting down the days until it's summer again!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

July flowers

There is plenty in flower in the garden this winter. We've had remarkably mild weather for the past three or four weeks, it's been really springlike some days but almost better, since in spring we get blustery winds. So I've spent as much time outside as possible. I feel like I've barely made a dent in the list of things to get done, but I did enlist some help in chopping down some of the wild shrubbery along the front fence line. Out came the horrible pittosporums and then I realised I had a big empty space to fill. I've got a camellia (Elfin Rose) and a snowball tree to go in there and I think some hellebores will be nice too, so I'll transplant the seedling ones that have come up.

Next it will be rose pruning and transplanting, there's more weeding to do, things to plant out, and before I know it spring will be here! Winter's been great so far, and I feel fully entitled to say that after all the rain and flooding we endured in autumn. However a cold snap is meant to move in tomorrow so I could well change my mind.

Here's what is in flower in my garden in July (clockwise from top left): Camellia Cinnamon Cindy, linaria, purple hellebore, rose hip, picotee hellebore, camellia Elfin Rose, miniature iris, winter cyclamen, hebe, jonquils, erica, daphne. Middle: scented winter posy of daphne and hellebore. I'm linking up to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens.  It's interesting to see the differences between winter gardens (southern hemisphere) and summer gardens (northern hemisphere) this month. Where does your garden come in?

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Making hanging birdseed cakes

One of my favourite things about winter is feeding the birds. I love seeing little flocks of waxeyes and finches flitting around and chatting to each other while they eat. I have two feeders in the garden, but now that we have bigger kitchen windows I wanted to be able to feed them right outside. My little apple tree was in the perfect spot, but it's branches aren't strong enough to hold a feeding tray... so I came up with an easy way to make hanging birdseed cakes.

I've posted about my birdseed cakes before, and I usually make a batch of them and put them in my other tray feeders. It's so easy though just to add a wire hanger and then you can put them anywhere.

You just need birdseed, fat or dripping, some wire to bend and some pliers to bend it with, silicone muffin trays and a large microwaveable jug.

First cut 12 lengths of wire about 30 cm long. The wire just needs to be thick enough to hold its shape when there is a bit of weight hanging from it.

Bend the wire into a rough spiral shape with a hooked end. The spiral just needs to be small enough to fit in your muffin pans.

Melt the dripping in the microwave and then add the birdseed. Spoon or pour it into the muffin trays over the wire. Put the trays into the freezer for about half an hour, then just pop the birdseed cakes out. If you have too much birdseed mixture for your trays you can just remelt it and do another batch when the first one is done. Keep birdseed cakes in your freezer, or go crazy and decorate a whole tree!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Introducing the Moonlit Night blanket

 I've started a new blanket. I've been working on this for a little while... since we got back into our house in fact, and I was able to unearth some yarn from my stash. I missed having a blanket to work on... there is security in knowing exactly what you will be working on for the next few months, especially when you have the vision in your mind and all you are doing is bringing it to life. That's how I've felt about this one anyway, I can't wait for it to be finished but I'm also enjoying every minute of the process.

I've called it the Moonlit Night blanket because of the soft grey colourway. I'm using the join-as-you-go method too which I'd never tried before and it's brilliant! Because of that I've gotten into a good routine of sewing in the ends on each square before the white round goes on, and then I sew in the white ends as I go. So there won't be such a massive end-stitch later on.

  This is a basic granny square, the most simple crochet design out there which makes it great for working on while watching TV. I'm currently watching Orphan Black season 2, which I've nearly finished and then I'll start on something else, either Sleepy Hollow, Vikings season 2 or Orange is the New Black season 2.

And to top it all off my hyacinth is blooming! How can I not be happy surrounded by cozy crochet and pink flowers. Hope you've had a great weekend too!

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