I know I’ve used that quote before but I love it and it seems particularly appropriate just now. It’s been so murky here I’ve needed lights on in the car and in the house all day long. I might just as well have kept the curtains drawn. About half an hour ago I had reason to step outside and was struck by the beauty and profusion of the winter jasmine. It’s quite tightly clipped all around a window and positively shone in the gloom. Earlier, being vexed by things, I didn’t even notice it but then it lifted my spirits and I hope it does yours. Happy St Nicholas' Day.


From my garden, that is. The chrysanthemums shown here were bought in Waitrose yesterday; I can’t resist green flowers.
garden disasters )
As grey January (following grey December and grey November) merges into grey February, I really need to see flowers. I splashed out on a bouquet from Waitrose:


and )
I was hanging washing on the line before half past eight this morning. It was what the weather people are pleased to call ‘chilly’ and the rest of us describe as freezing cold. While I was out there I snapped some pretty things.

040514astrantia

Astrantia ‘Princess Sturdza’. I have two other astrantias and they are barely showing their leaves, so are way behind. I don’t know if it’s the variety or the sheltered position which makes the difference.
more )
260413fritillaries

I love fritillaries and they love the damp. The area where these are growing was completely flooded earlier in the year. We had a warm day yesterday, a damp one today (and the heating has come on) and frost is forecast for tomorrow. What is the poor gardener to do? I’m weeks behind. There are still pretty things to be seen and I took these pics first thing when I went out to bring in the bins. I can’t show you the masses of primroses everywhere because I can’t get a good landscape photo. Nor the grape hyacinths and some particularly nice pulmonarias I have because my photos just don’t capture the strong blues. But here’s a few pretty flowers.
more pics )


I remembered enjoying the TV film of The Enchanted April so I ordered the DVD from LoveFilm. 1992! How can it be so long ago? I loved it all over again and may even buy it. As you’ll see if you follow the link, it starred Miranda Richardson, Josie Lawrence, Joan Plowright, Alfred Molina, Michael Kitchen and Jim Broadbent. Hard to go wrong with that lot.

Watching the film naturally made me want to read the book again and I found it just as charming and delightful as I’d remembered. First published in 1922, it’s a sort of fairy story. It begins in London in a wet, muddy February. Two women, not yet friends but members of the same club, spot an advertisement in The Times.

To Those Who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain.

Both women are dissatisfied with their Hampstead lives and long for a holiday. Impulsive Lotty suggests they rent it together; cautious Rose eventually agrees. The rent is more than they’d reckoned on paying from their carefully hoarded little nest eggs so they advertise for two more ladies to join them. Mrs Fisher is an ‘old lady’ of sixty five, living in the past with the memories of eminent Victorians she has known. Lady Caroline Dester is one of those rich, stunningly beautiful young women who are bored by the constant attentions of tiresome men. Four very different women, four different problems, two of which are husbands: Lotty’s Mellersh and Rose’s Frederick.

San Salvatore, the medieval castle, turns out to be a place of enchantment, a place which changes people. After a difficult journey Lotty and Rose awake there to find themselves freed from household responsibilities and soothed by the blue skies and balmy air of Italy. Not even the autocratic ways of Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline’s determination to be completely alone can spoil the sudden happiness the place brings them. Elizabeth von Arnim conveys all this mainly through descriptions of the gardens and walks.

All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she (Rose) could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wistaria. Wistaria and sunshine … the wistaria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, it’s prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach trees and cherry trees.

There’s much, much more in the same vein. Lotty, whose tendency to say exactly what she’s thinking so annoys Mrs Fisher, becomes convinced that this place could change anyone. Her husband, for instance, and Rose’s, would be transformed if they came here; Mrs Fisher will cease to be stiff, Caroline will find out what she wants. And lo! All comes to pass, just as Lotty foresees. For no one can resist San Salvatore.

In the garden that second week the poet’s eyed narcissus disappeared out of the long grass at the edge of the zigzag path, and wild gladiolus, slender and rose-coloured, came in their stead, white pinks bloomed in the borders, filling the whole place with their smoky-sweet smell, and a bush nobody had noticed burst into glory and fragrance and it was a purple lilac bush. Such a jumble of spring and summer was not to be believed in, except by those who dwelt in those gardens. Everything seemed to be out together, - all the things crowded into one month which in England are spread penuriously over six.

Just before the party leaves after that wonderful month, the whole garden dressed itself gradually in white, and grew more and more scented. How wise of the author to leave the story there and not to follow her characters back to London. This book is time out for the reader as well as for Lotty and Co., who spend a short time in heaven on earth.

Candlemas

Feb. 2nd, 2012 10:32 am
Half way through winter and according to ancient wisdom, we should all check that we have stores enough to last the rest of the season. We really shouldn’t complain about the chore of shopping when so few of us have to worry about whether or not there’s enough hay in the barn. Here are some candles of a different kind, scenting the whole house in spite of the bitter cold.



There's a pink pot as well; they cost £2.00 each from Lidl.


I love reading about what other people have been buying, whether it’s clothes, books or a great bargain from a charity shop or car boot sale. So every now and then I have a little market boast. On Friday it was so dark here that lights were on all day and everyone was miserable. Yesterday couldn’t have been more different; beautiful October sunshine. It lifted the spirits and made people at the market chatty and cheerful.

One of the regular traders was selling baskets bursting with pansies for a fiver each. Goodness, you couldn’t buy the makings for that so I snapped one up and I’m really pleased with it. You never know what you’ll find at the market. One week, everyone will be selling books, though hardly ever books I want. Yesterday I saw stamps everywhere. The sellers ranged from specialist dealers to people who’d just put a few spares in bags at a pound a go. My luck was to find a chap who had a few albums for sale amongst his glass and china wares. After a quick look through I took a punt and handed over a tenner for two of them. This was money well spent because suddenly I’m all about stamps. I’d recently realized that I hadn’t looked at my collection for about five years. Now I’ve rediscovered a wonderfully absorbing occupation, just in time for winter. Off to pick the ones I want to keep and have a little gloat.

Even in January, there's always something to be found in the garden for a vase indoors.



Please don't ask me what the flower is; it's some dull viburnum. I love catkins and the sight is all the more welcome now we've lost today's early sunshine.


Those awful deer have been munching my sedums. I suppose it will save me doing the Chelsea chop. Other unwelcome wildlife: an infestation of ants around the kitchen door. No doubt Flavia de Luce could mix me a good poison to deal with them but in her absence I used Nippon.

Since moving in here, I’ve been wanting to put my own stamp on the garden without spending a load of money on landscaping. This means getting rid of plants I don’t like and planting some I do. Last week a man spent a couple of hours digging out two huge clumps of unwanted plants, leaving lovely planting space! At the weekend [profile] ramblingfancy kindly drove me up to the garden centre for essential supplies. Everything was so tempting, but I was strict with myself. I bought the plant shown here, Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl’ and planted it with Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’. I’m hoping to recreate an effect I had in my old garden. Next year, I’ll fill in with wallflowers and tulips (doomed, in this clay). I also bought a few perennials, good value as they are still in small pots at this time of year. All planted and I hope the deer don’t fancy them.

My one failure was with the garden hose. Every time I try to reconnect it, I get soaked. Hmm.

Sweet

Mar. 11th, 2010 09:36 am


A friend called round yesterday and brought me some sprigs of Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ from her garden.

How I wish I had this lovely shrub. The smell is heavenly.

more )


These Rudbeckias are the only sort of sunshine about at the moment. This morning, for about three hours, it looked like Indian summer had started as it was warm and sunny for the first time in at least a fortnight. This afternoon I had justed loaded the car for yet another trip to the dump when the heavens opened again. While I was down there exciting thundering and lightning started up and now we're back to gloom and wet. In the brief break and before my camera batteries gave out, I managed a few garden pictures )


I like to have flowers in the house but I'm terribly mean about picking them from the garden. One rose and a lot of Lady's Mantle, that's my style. The kitchen posy above is just a few geranium flowers with Lady's Mantle and some flax (a weed). Below: Acanthus mollis, phlox, Eryngium giganteum (Miss Willmott's Ghost). I have far too much of Miss Willmott; I should never have let the first plant seed.



You can't be mean with sweet peas, as the whole point of them is to pick, pick, pick every day. They might get a post to themselves.


I'm a sucker for green flowers of all sorts and that includes flowers with green markings. These alstroemerias were cheap, they're certainly cheerful and they will flower for a long time.

Garden News

May. 8th, 2008 05:40 pm
What a difference a few sunny days make to a garden. One day you notice that the borders have filled out with green mounds; the next, geraniums and aquilegias are flowering. I also note that the sun has started to dry out the soil so if I don't get rid of those builders' weeds soonish, I won't be able to get a fork in the ground. It was too windy today to photograph anything tall so here are some smaller plants in flower now.



A white form of the common Bugle, Ajuga reptans



Pink Lily of the Valley. This is very vigorous and is springing up in the grass.



This is Geranium pyrenaicum. The flowers are small but there are plenty of them and in quite a strong mauve. Next to this plant is a white form. They are rather weedy as they seed around a lot but they're so pretty I don't mind.

Today's job was pulling up all the forget-me-nots and cutting down the pulmonarias.


A week ago I bought daffodils and lilies in the supermarket. The daffs were only £1.00 a bunch but they're over. The lilies are just opening and smell fabulous. I suppose there are all sorts of green reasons why I should not cheer up the house and myself with cheap supermarket lilies but I diskard them.
Good thing I didn't put any real money on my pick for the Grand National, as I'd have lost it.:-) Yesterday, lulled into a completely false sense of wealth, I bought a new digital camera. So this afternoon I dodged the showers to experiment with taking photos of flowers.


Euphorbia mellifera
More follow. You really need to click on the images to get the effect. Read more... )

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