Sunday, 23 August 2015

Starting a new blanket and some colour play

 A couple of months ago I started working on a new crochet blanket. I like having a big project like this on the go that I can pick up and work on without having to think too much about it... it's good for when I want to work on something in the evening or while watching TV and I don't really mind how long it takes.

My granny squares start with a circle in the middle, worked with puff stitch. I started off using the Sunburst square design (as in the photo above) but quickly decided two rounds of puff stitch would look better. I've worked out how many squares of each colour I need, so I'm working on batches of the same colours at a time. 

 I'm really loving the puff stitch and it makes a pretty circle. So far I haven't gotten round to putting the grey square around any of them as it's too much fun just playing with these circles.

 Each of the colour schemes has put me in mind of different flowers or decorative combinations. The sage green and purple ones above reminded me of pansies and cyclamen leaves. The aqua blue and beige was perfect for midwinter.

As my camellias and hellebores have come into bloom I matched them to the circles. The tiny pink buds and blooms of daphne were tucked into this pink and blue rosette... wouldn't it make a pretty brooch!

I'm looking forward to spending time on this project over the next few months or years or however long it takes... I'm not one of those who can knock up a blanket in a matter of weeks. If you want to follow my progress as it happens feel free to look me up on Instagram, or keep an eye here on the blog for periodic updates.

Friday, 21 August 2015

August flowers

Hi again! Welcome to August in my garden. It's been up and down weather-wise... we had some warm sunny days at the start of the month where I threw all the windows and doors open and got the house aired and dried to its bones. We had winter storms and snow flurries, heavy rain and frost. But no matter what the weather's doing, the earth and the plants know the date, and everything is counting down to the spring awakening.

As I showed you in my last post, the wonderful hellebores are blooming and they really are lighting up the garden. Even with the frost and rain, their petals are firm and unblemished. Winter blooms continue with camellias and daphne, and the first early risers of spring are unfurling their petals - some delicate anemones, the long lasting blooms of paper daisies, one-minute-wonder crocuses and the first brave daffodils.

Last weekend it rained, I was travelling and then got sick as well. This weekend there is less on the agenda and I need to get stuck into the garden. Suddenly all those jobs that I thought I'd tackle at a leisurely pace when I got round to it have piled up... and they all need to be taken care of before the mad growth of spring kicks in! If you need me, I'll be in the garden...

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Talking about hellebores

Well, the weather continues to be cold and miserable, but there is sunshine in my heart because now is the season of the hellebore! I've been building up my collection over the past few years since they really are a lovely flower both for picking and bringing inside, and also for lighting up the garden and adding colour at a bare time of year. I have about eight different varieties (and covet several more) which is nowhere near enough!

Hellebores are well known to wilt if you pick a stem to put in a vase. The solution is to just pick the heads and float them in bowls of water. One big bowl looks stunning, or you can do what I've done here and use a selection of small bowls, jars and glasses. I have also found that if you pick them a bit later on in the season when the flower heads have aged a bit, they are less prone to wilting. And sometimes it's worth just picking them anyway, and finding a stem of greenery to rest their little faces against!

Here are my hellebore lovelies:

Clockwise from top left: Pink Lady (a beautiful clear pink with nice round petals), White Lady (similar to Pink Lady but lovely pure white), an unnamed chartreuse variety, White Picotee (very large flowers, green-tinted white petals edged with purple, and black-ringed stamens).

Clockwise from top left: Tutu (green-tinged purple petals with freckles and a gorgeous ruffled centre), a Double Hybrid, a common purple with pointed petals, and Pink Lady with her lovely rosy buds. I also have a new-to-me variety called Mrs Betty Ranicar, which according to Google is a pretty double white. But Mrs Betty is so new she has decided not to show herself this year which is a bit frustrating! Will she be as pretty as the pictures? Perhaps we'll find out next year.

This is my Common Purple staking out its turf next to the jasmine bush. It's getting nice and big and having lots of little babies.

I hope to cross pollinate some of these different colours and styles and create some of my own Double Hybrids... it's a bit of a wait as they take about 4 years to bloom from seed! It's too tempting not to try though... who knows what Frankenstein-like creations will emerge.

Such pretty plants in the garden (left, Tutu and right, Picotee). I only wish they bloomed in summer too. Funnily enough, a couple of years ago I had one that did - I think it was Pink Lady. I have heard from other bloggers who have had summer blooming hellebores too so it's not unheard of! I had to move Pink Lady when we had house repairs done, so she didn't bloom last summer. But I'll be keeping an eye on her and the others just to see what's what...

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Sweetly scented August

I've said before that winter is one of my favourite seasons for flowers, and here are three reasons why! Some of the very best scented flowers are blooming and blossoming right now. Any plant that flowers in the cold of winter has to try extra hard to attract pollinators, so these lovelies have a strong, clear scent that is easily capable of filling a room. First up are the bright and bold hyacinths.

 I keep this bowl of gorgeousness on my mantelpiece which is about shoulder height. Having them up high at nose level guarantees a beautiful gust of scent when I'm warming myself next to the fire!

 Next up is daphne. I have two planted outside my front door, so there is a beautiful scent any time I step in or out. The short little stems make ideal posies for egg cups and other tiny containers - I have one beside my bed and one in the bathroom.

 The high, sweet, slightly fruity fragrance reminds me of lollies... sweet dreams are guaranteed with this next to your bed.

 And of course there are my lovely butterfly cyclamen. I love the way the stems fall in graceful sweeps, which add plenty of movement to an arrangement. 

I'd almost go so far as to say that winter flowers outshine their summer cousins when it comes to scent. What do you think... do you have any favourite seasonal scented flowers?

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Snapshots from July

Hello again! July has been quite a nice wintery month that arrived cold and departed with warm breezes and the (false) promise of spring. We've had frosts most nights but generally fine days even on weekends, which has meant Lui and I can get outside and air out our whiskers in the sunlight. Here Lui is demonstrating our favourite lunchtime spot on the wooden chair in the glasshouse.

Sometimes while Lui lounges I wander around with my basket looking for flowers to pick. At the start of July it was pretty bare... I really only had wintersweet, camellia and the first of the daphne buds not yet fully opened. I still managed to make this posy with a few lupin leaves to bulk it out.

Here we are on a cold and frosty morning! Can you feel the cold air pricking at your nose and the grass going crrrrunch under your feet? She is so beautiful, Miss Frost, covering bushes and branches in crystal coats and furry frozen jackets. Beautiful, but kind of a bitch. I don't really like her.

We have had snow forecast a few times although nothing more than sleety showers has eventuated. On one such morning this new spring catalogue turned up. New season styles just arrived! Really, there is nothing I feel like less than dressing myself in loose tops and floating dresses right now. (Although I must admit I really like the blue top on the cover!)

I have been keeping busy on the crochet front. I have a new project which I will tell you all about in a separate post some time soon! I also made a couple of dish cloths from cotton yarn because that seems to be what I do in the winter.

Fairy lights, candles and early indoor bulbs. These are some of my favourite things about winter!

This is a beautiful new hellebore I got this year. I love its ruffled pink petals. It looks so beautiful floating in a teacup but I have discovered the bloom only lasts for a day or so before it relaxes too much and the petals fall wide open. I still think it is worth it!

In the last couple of weeks of July we've had some stunning warm days. It's even been warm enough to go barefoot! I started working on this edging which I thought was the same one I'd used on a pillowcase previously. After a few rounds it didn't look right and I realised I was following a different pattern I'd pinned. I ended up ripping it out and redoing it, and now I just have a small part of the last round to finish... and that brings us to the end of the month!

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Styling the Seasons - July 2015

Welcome to my Styling the Seasons post for July! I took these pictures a couple of weeks ago and when I went to edit them, I didn't like them at all. So I reshot last weekend from angles I was happier with, and came out with some useable pictures! Bonus: the first of the season's hellebores were in bloom so I was able to use them as well, to my delight.

I've styled the top of my china cabinet again. I see this vignette often as I'm passing by so I like to keep it fresh by changing it up. As it's so dark this time of year I added some fairy lights to the mirror which help to illuminate the display... they are LED lights so shine brightly day or night!

The little Eiffel tower display stand was the perfect place to show off this Tutu hellebore. The purple tones in the hellebore petals pick up the purple centres of the cyclamen blooms. This cyclamen is actually one of my favourite things about winter, it flowers so strongly for months and makes a beautiful centrepiece right when I need to be uplifted!

I love lacy patterns and I've used a lot of them here. The filigree patterns in the ceramic balls and candle holder, the lace patterns on the solid vase holding the test tube and then the doily. I've probably shown it before because it's too pretty to leave in a drawer and so it's been on top of this cabinet for a while... not sick of it though!

Here are another couple of beautiful hellebores. The top one is a double hybrid that is new to me this year, I just love the pink ruffled petals and the freckles. I'm going to try breeding my own hybrids by crossing it with some of the other colours I've already got. 

So that's it for July, the depths of winter. I've brightened my space with lights and flowers and I hope reading this has brightened your day a little bit too!

Styling the Seasons is a monthly styling challenge hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots. Find out more by searching the hashtag #stylingtheseasons on social media.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

July flowers

Welcome to July in my garden! Winter weather has set in and it's been incredibly cold. No snow I'm happy to report, although there have been a couple of storms with sleety showers. But we're well into the frosty mornings and it's been the norm to wake up to minus two or three degrees, and even -5 has not been that unusual lately. Frosty mornings are standard for winter in the South Island of New Zealand, however we have had a lot of heavy frosts lately (and the last two winters were milder than average) so it's feeling pretty damn cold!

My garden is noticing it too. Usually at this time I have something in flower that I can pick, such as pansies, borage and rosemary (I often use these edible flowers on cakes in winter!) but the pickings are very scarce this year. All the borage have succumbed to frost, the rosemary buds are barely showing, and the pansies are hiding their faces. This time last year the first of my hellebores were opening, as was the daphne and even some early spring bulbs. This year the buds are still tightly furled. Luckily I still have camellias and wintersweet to fill my vases... although I am starting to crave a bit more variety.

Above, clockwise from top left: symmetrical succulents, wintersweet, daphne buds, a frosted seed head, camellia Fairy Blush, a dried hydrangea flower head, frosted leaves, some brave geraniums in the glasshouse, a red rose hip, a crazy flowering lavender, a slowly opening camellia Cinnamon Cindy, a pink armeria in the glasshouse. Middle: an ikebana arrangement with azalea branches and camellia flowers.

Here are some photos from one of our -5 degree mornings. It's a very invigorating way to start the day... quite refreshing! (Have I convinced you? I haven't convinced myself!) Oh well, at least everything is reasonably tidy and will stay so as long as it's too cold for weeds to grow! Just as well because there are still plenty of other jobs to do, like pruning the roses. Guess I'm not quite ready for spring then!

Linking up to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Talking about mandarins

Today I want to quickly talk about my mandarin tree. This year it's done better than ever before, loaded with little fruits that are lovely and juicy! I've had the tree for five years now and I'd almost given up on it. I'd actually decided that it wasn't worth the space it takes up in the glasshouse and considered dumping it, but during the spring and summer I decided to give it one more go. Instead of tossing it I cosseted it, giving it plenty of water and even remembering citrus food. I kept its pot weeded and its stems free of scale. And now I've been rewarded! 

This variety is called Clementine. The fruit aren't as big as the ones in the shops but they are juicy, and sweet with a bit of tartness. Easy to peel, and seedless since there aren't any other citrus nearby to fertilise them. In winter I often eat lunch in the glasshouse if the sun is shining, and a lovely fresh mandarin is the perfect end to it! In fact I've never felt better than I do this winter and the fresh vitamin C must have something to do with it.

It also looks pretty in my glasshouse (and is getting too heavy to shift!) so I'm calling it a keeper! Do you have any winter stars in your garden?

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Snapshots from June

 Well, June passed by in a blur! I've spent a lot of time indoors and it's been kind of nice to have a break from the garden. Of course on sunny days I still like to go out and see what's changed, but it's almost nothing at this time of year so I haven't felt too guilty about my little break. I have started a new crochet project and I'm loving every minute of it, from choosing the colours to designing the squares to planning the finished project. These pastel squares were my first colour swatches.

My workmate gave me macarons as thanks for helping her with a project. I enjoyed them for afternoon tea one day... after instagramming them first like any good blogger would!

 A basket of colourful possibilities. And part of my winter book stack which had to be returned to the library. We Were Liars was very good and I also liked Shine.

 I made some little ikebana arrangements. This one has azalea branches and a sprig of camellia. And here are some little crochet circles, purple and green, like pansies and cyclamen leaves.

 Mr Lui approved of my swatch! He sleeps on the couch which gets the late afternoon sun. The low light shining through the tree branches casts interesting shadows on the wall, especially when the bird feeder is full and there are fluttering shapes darting everywhere.

I'll end this post with a sunset pic, they have been especially beautiful lately. We've also had some cold nights, frosty mornings and wet mornings. Despite that, winter hasn't been so bad... I'd actually go so far as to say I've been enjoying it!

Monday, 15 June 2015

June flowers

It's June, the first month of winter and generally the least floriferous month in my garden. We've had a few frosts by now which have knocked back the more tender plants, and while some things like roses are still producing buds, they are unlikely to open now... more likely just wither, brown or rot. There is promise in the swelling buds on camellias and hellebores, and I'm seeing the green leaves of bulbs peeking through. But mostly this month I'm reliant on foliage and berries, as well as the odd hardy bloom here and there.

My best performing plants for early winter are my early camellia, wintersweet, roses (hips are colouring up now), geraniums (still flowering strongly in sheltered areas), cyclamen (indoor only), snowberry, pansies and primroses, lavender, and there is still a bit of coloured foliage on shrubs like azaleas and blueberries. In the next couple of months I'll have more flowers with hellebores, daphne, mid season camellias and early bulbs.

What are your favourite garden performers for early winter?

Above, clockwise from top left: pretty indoor cyclamen, blueberry leaf, snowberries, wintersweet, primroses, rosebud, azalea bud, calendula, camellia Elfin Rose, succulents, pansy, more succulents. Centre: a fragrant bunch of wintersweet and coloured foliage, with the last two rosebuds included (better than leaving them out to be frosted!)

I'm joining in with Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens. As it is summer in the northern hemisphere there are bound to be lots of inspiring posts to look at, why don't you pop over and have a look. 


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