Monday, 26 January 2015

Talking about tomatoes, part 1 - Jan 2015

 It's tomato time... finally! We had a cold, late start to spring last year. I sowed my seeds inside and usually I just need to put them on a sunny windowsill and they sprout fine. Not so this time - they sulked, refused to come up, and those which did poke up a sprout wouldn't go any further, so I had to resort to putting them in the hot water cupboard. That worked, but I was well behind schedule, and even though the weather's been great for the couple of months they've only just started ripening. Better late than never though and I am now going to gorge myself on fresh tomatoes for hopefully the next three months at least. (Pictured above: Juliet)

 Tomato notes - glasshouse

  • Juliet - first to ripen as usual. Always reliable, has lots of green fruit and flowers.
  • Brandywine - I noticed very sporadic fruit set with a lot of unfertilised flowers on each truss.
  • Brown Berry - looking promising with lots of ripening fruit.
  • Black Cherry - lots of fruit. Starting to ripen. I'm not sure how dark the fruit has to get - I tried to pick one and it didn't want to release so I'll wait a bit longer.
  • Black Krim - sporadic fruit set as well. Is this typical of beefsteaks? I grow Black Krim every year... I think it is normal as they grow so big.
  • Yellow Pear - not much fruit yet, still flowers. As I recall it was one of the last seedlings to pop up.
  • Green Grape - still lots of flowers. The fruit is starting to ripen too.

 The potager is filling up. The tomatoes are right next to the glasshouse. They are a forest of leaves and laterals... I need to spend some time in the evening pruning a bit!

Tomato notes - Potager

  • Kumato - I was given two cuttings of this by a friend. I'm not sure of its qualities, but it's grown faster and developed fruit faster than the other tomatoes planted outside. Also it's less bushy than the other plants - I wonder if this is because the plants are lateral cuttings. Fruit is not ripe yet, but looking promising.
  • Green Grape - has flowers and green fruit
  • Brandywine - no fruit yet as far as I can tell
  • Juliet - the winner again. Just started ripening.
  • Brown Berry - some green fruit and flowers.
  • Black Krim - some fruit.
So that's how the tomatoes are faring so far. It's also worth noting that so far, I haven't had any trouble with pests like caterpillars. I did add neem granules at planting and have also top dressed with neem granules again. I've used Nitrophoska Blue as a fertiliser along with sheep pellets and compost.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Snapshots: January 2015

Here are some snapshots from my phone and Instagram. Summer has been great so far - it's been really warm and with my long Christmas holiday, I had a lot of time to relax as well as getting jobs done.

• This is my summer book stack. It's a mixture of library books and loaners. Picks of the bunch so far are Days of Blood and Starlight, Icons and The Giver. I still haven't read The Fault in Our Stars, Doctor Sleep and Gathering Blue, but the rest were average.

• Lui is SO HAPPY when it's warm. He just flops onto the nearest couch and sleeps all day. He wakes up to eat and then sleeps some more. Often he can't even be bothered to tuck his legs or tail in, which leads to some very odd poses.

 • The sunsets lately have been amazing.

• A posy of flowers from Mum's garden. The roses are Compassion which have a beautiful scent.

 • I bought myself Decorate With Flowers as a Christmas present and didn't even crack the cover till after the day. Such self control!

• The flower garden is full and abundant.

 • It's relaxing to stroll around the potager in the evening.

• I love my calendar for this year... each month has a different animal portrait. Disapproving deer is disapproving...

 • There are a few more things to look at in town these days. New Regent Street is up and running with a fresh paint job and some pretty Christmas lights.

• I love this mural by Rone.

 • Dahlias in my German pottery vase. I thought it looked like a painting even before I added the filter.

• Another gorgeous sunset.

• One way to beat the heat is by mixing up refreshing drinks. This is a raspberry and basil mojijto. Don't forget the mint!

• You know it's summer when you find chewed up cicada wings on the kitchen floor. Thanks Lui!

And just like that, the weekend was over. Hope you've had a good one!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

January flowers

Hooray, it's summer in the garden. I've just finished my Christmas holiday and I'm back to work, which is a little depressing, but I have great memories of long relaxing days at home and in the garden. The grass is brown but the flower beds are full, and there's plenty of choice for the vase. I head out with basket and secateurs and wander around, picking flowers.

Clockwise from top left: lavatera (I'm not sure if this is a weed, though I did grow some annual lavatera a couple of years ago so it's probably self sown from that. Either way it's good filler), white tuberous begonia, soft pink geranium petals, hydrangea, godetia, calibrachoa (doing really well in the hot spot on my deck), lacecap hydrangea, another calibrachoa, the show stopping cactus dahlia, Christmas lilies, penstemon, Peace rose.

Special mention goes to this lacecap hydrangea. It's changed colour every season... when I got it about 4 years ago it was pink, then mauve, and now it's getting more violet. Maybe next year it will be blue. I've loved it in all its incarnations.

I'm linking up to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens. Hope you are having fun in your garden this month!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Talking about garlic and spuds (and a summer harvest)

It's full swing in the potager as my various summer crops begin to come due for harvest. I love to put my basket over my arm and head out with a pair of secateurs to fill it. It's best done as a lazy potter in the late afternoon, when the brick paths are sun-warmed and a glass of wine awaits me on the deck.

The basket above was a bit more work as I had to dig up my spuds! That's always fun though, like searching for buried treasure, and the thought of melt-in-your-mouth new potatoes kept me going. I grew my usual Laratte heritage potatoes, which were a bit small when I dug them up - probably they could have gone on growing for a few more weeks but I needed the space in the bed. There were also a few purple-skinned potatoes which are probably Heather, and must have grown from an overlooked small spud from last season. This year I shifted my potatoes to a new bed to see if they fared any better as last year they were quite small... but as I didn't grow Heather again (at least not on purpose) I can't quite tell. I did plan to grow my spuds in grow bags or straw this year but I didn't quite get around to it - so maybe next year!

Also in my harvest basket are runner beans, sugar snap peas, strawberries and raspberries, a zucchini, and a cheddar cauliflower. (The caulis did well this year - they were planted in early spring. There are a few small caterpillars on them at harvest time but they are still small enough to wash off easily and not have caused much damage.)

 The main point of this post was going to be to talk about my garlic and shallots. (Garlic pictured top, shallots bottom.) I harvested them around New Year's when the weather was warm and dry. The leaves were dying off and had been for a few months actually - they started looking a bit sad in spring and I must make a note here to water more in spring! When there aren't any other seedlings in the potager I don't tend to put the sprinkler on it, but I must make sure I do it next year.

The size of my garlic bulbs is average-to-small this year and here are the possible reasons why...

- not enough water in spring
- some bulbs being crowded by pansies (though not all of these ones were small)
- there was an infestation of those little black bugs that like onions. These horrible bugs also took out a lot of my chives! Very annoying as pests aren't supposed to like to munch on alliums!

 When I had dug up my bulbs I spread them out in the sun on this old wooden trellis. At night Jon and I moved it into the garage. When they have dried like this for a few days they can be tied together and hung in bunches. I cut the leaves off and store them in baskets hanging from my garage rafters.

 I'm much more pleased with the size of the shallots. To replant shallots, you just break up the clumps and keep the biggest bulbs for replanting. You put the bulb back in the ground in winter and it sprouts and divides itself into a clump of bulbs. Easy as anything and you get a very high return for putting just one bulb into the ground! I usually plant 4 (the bulbs shown come from 4 plants) but next year I'm going for gold and planting 5.

All right, enough talking about all this food, I need to go and either cook, freeze or otherwise store it. Are you harvesting any crops from your garden right now?

Monday, 5 January 2015

Styling the seasons - January 2015

 Hello friends, on a hot summer's day. It's been too hot to go outside, so I've spent the day packing up the Christmas decorations.

It's the new year and while I'm not one for resolutions and all the hoopla, I find myself feeling a bit reflective. Last year was not the best one I've ever had - it was disruptive at home with having to move out for two months for repairs, and it took most of the rest of the year to settle back in again. Not long after moving back in, I also discovered that we have a lot of broken pipes on the property that will need digging up and repairing, and that whole process is shaping up to drag on for the next few months. What with that and the broken state of the city, road works and so on, it's made me a bit despondent. So I'm glad to say goodbye to 2014, and use the occasion of the new year to wipe it all clean and look forward to what will hopefully be a bright, peaceful, beautiful and happy year.

 So I've cleared away the Christmas decorations and I'm now ready to celebrate summer. It was beautiful and hot today so I've styled up my mantelpiece with hot pink dahlias, feathery soft gypsophila and touches of green with rosemary and kolkwitzia branches.

 I hope to get back to a more regular posting schedule here on the blog and one way to do that is having new pictures to share. I recently came across a monthly linkup via Instagram called Styling the Seasons, which is a great reason to create and share a little seasonal vignette. As you know I love my garden so I'm very connected to the seasons already, and it's just a little prompt to bring a bit of nature inside and record it. Styling the Seasons is hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Lotts at Lotts and Lots. You can find others contributing on Facebook, Instagram or anywhere you can search a hashtag... #stylingtheseasons.

 I just love this cactus dahlia... it has such dramatic petals! It's also perfect for floating in a small bowl.

 I have a small collection of antique stoneware (ginger beer bottles etc) and on Sunday I was able to add to it when I found some at the market at good prices. It's the kind of collection you can't have too much of as it all looks better in a big group. I just need some taller bottles now... I had to improvise by putting the bottles on some small jars wrapped with lace. That works, too.

 I love washi tape! It has sooo many uses. Here I've made a simple banner with flags of torn washi. I've also used it to tape some small art prints to the wall, along with a sprig of gypsophila.

So it's goodbye Christmas and hello summer mantel. Tomorrow the temperature should be cooler and I'm planning a gardening day. It's harvest time, not to mention weeding and replanting time! 

Have you put away your Christmas decorations yet? What have you replaced them with?

Monday, 22 December 2014

Christmas decorating

 Hi again friends! Christmas draws nearer and I thought I'd show you some of my decorating this year. Settle in because this post is picture heavy! Normally I'd break it into two posts but I've pretty much run out of time - I'm travelling tomorrow so if I don't get it done now it won't happen...

 My Christmas tree this year is in the dining area. I kept the tree fairly pale and vintage inspired. It has silver balls with the occasional pearl pink or gold one, and a few more detailed ornaments. The lights are those LED ones that are super bright but also blue tinged, so I coloured them with pink nail polish. (You can see more about the technique on this post.)

 This is an ornament I made back in November. It's a tiny bottlebrush tree in a salt shaker, with glass glitter instead of salt.

 Here's another glass bottle tree. I made four in total, with slightly different trims on the lid.

 I have a couple of these little clip on birds.

I wanted white ornaments with pastel polka dots but couldn't find anything like that. I couldn't even find white ornaments to paint dots on, so I had to spray paint some coloured ones. It was a bit of a performance but I love how they turned out. I only made four in the end so not enough to do the whole tree... maybe next year I'll do some more!

I had time this year to do a bit of Christmas baking. This is shortbread, dipped in pink tinted white chocolate and chopped pistachios and dried cranberries. Simple but delicious and looks pretty and festive, I think. I've also made a syrup for cocktails with raspberries and basil leaves, and I tried a little bit out as a tea... delicious and perfectly summery!

 I also made this summery garland to hang in the window. A lot of Christmas decorations are winter themed, and sometimes that's ok. But since it is summer here, I'd like to acknowledge that and a flowery garland is the perfect way to do it! The garland is off Trade Me (party supplies section) and I've hung glass jars of flowers and various ornaments I've either made or been given. (The rest of my polka dot ornaments are here!) Below are some close ups of some of the ornaments.

 Here's my kitchen shelf in it's latest fit out...

 I love these bottle brush trees in teacups! Bottle brush trees are actually really hard to come across in New Zealand. I read sometimes on American blogs about how they go into chain stores and buy big bags of them... not so here! I actually found it really hard to go through with glueing the pearls onto the trees because you know... so hard to get more! But I did it in the end and I'm really happy with how they turned out. I also found some tiny glass baubles to put in the cups, and this tree topper which looks vintage but is just a really cheap one that the glitter is flaking off.

 On the top shelf I have some more Christmas tree ornaments and tiny baubles, and I put some rosemary in glass candle holders. I wanted some greenery somewhere and this puts out more of a traditional Christmas vibe.

Last but not least, this is the table in the hallway. I started up a small Christmas village and it's slowly being taken over by cards. Every year I plan to make some glitter houses for a village but once again it hasn't happened, but I like the eclectic look here too!

Hope you've enjoyed this tour. Now it's time for me to start to pack and get organised as I'm going to visit my family for a few days over Christmas. The weather forecast is fantastic and I'm looking forward to some long summer days relaxing with family and friends, before I come home and get stuck into the garden and other projects. Merry Christmas, to those who celebrate it, and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. xxx

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Summertime garden views

Hi again, and welcome to summer in my flower garden. It's getting pretty full in here which is good - more plant coverage means less weeding! I do need to get in there and tidy up a bit, especially the edges, and trim back the geraniums which have stopped flowering.

On the right is a mass of Queen Anne's Lace which has self seeded. There is also borage amongst it, so the bees are happy! I also have dahlias, catmint and lambs ears in this bed, and some tall dusky pink foxgloves in the bed at the back by the fence.

This penstemon has exploded in a mass of colour this season! The coral pink is stunning, especially when backlit by the sun.

Lui always enjoys prowling through the garden looking for catmint, well that and mice. There were some mouse families last year and he brought some of them inside... they seem to have moved on this year!

I'm edging a lot of beds with lavender as it's so easy care and looks gorgeous. You can never have too much lavender, and the bumble bees agree with me.

Lavender sachets for every drawer!

The sweet peas are also doing well and I'm picking big bunches a couple of times a week. I've also got some lovely self sown poppies this year. I had some last year but they didn't do any good - I've realised they don't like to be transplanted, so just have to wait for the seedlings to pop up and hope they're in the right place!

This variety is appearing in all shades of pink and purple.

Here's a picture from a few weeks ago when the peonies were still in bloom. Such show stoppers they are!

Now, after doing all those garden tours a few weeks ago, I want to add more garden! I thought about enlarging the garden by my fence (as seen in the first photo), but I don't want to lose the curve. So then I thought perhaps I could mirror it by making a curved bed opposite, so that there is a patch of circular lawn between two beds. I'd edge it on one side with lavender to frame the path and put some stepping stones through the middle. Half the bed would be quite shaded in winter but the other half would be very sunny... could be the perfect spot for my new peonies!

Anyway, whatever happens here won't be done in a hurry as we are still awaiting repairs to the path and driveway. So that gives me plenty of time to daydream...


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