Thursday, 31 January 2013

The Primrose - Herald of Spring

I am very fond of the primrose (Latin - prima rosa - first rose of the year) a flower which heralds the coming of spring.  I know they come in a wide range of bright colours, but for me, the pale yellow primrose is the one I prefer.  The bright light when I took these photos makes them look white when they are in fact the palest of lemon.

The primrose is a vital nectar plant in early spring and is pollinated by a range of insects, apparently, particularly the long-tongued Brimstone Butterfly, fresh out of hibernation.

Did you know that April 19th is Primrose Day.  This is the anniversary of the death of the former Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli.  The primrose was his favourite flower and Queen Victoria sent him bunches on a regular basis - so the story goes.  According to tradition primrose flowers are laid at his statue by Westminster Abbey on this date every year.

 Today I visited a garden centre and they had a whole section full of pale yellow primroses, it looked stunning, and on the bargain shelf they had a pack of six plants for £1.50 - and yes, you've guessed it - I snapped them up.  They are easy to split into several plants when they have finished flowering, so my spring border will hopefully be a mass of of these beautifully simple blooms in a few years time.

The primrose was also used in ancient cookery as the chief ingredient of Primrose Pottage, another old dish had rice, almonds, honey, saffron and ground primrose flowers.

In the Language of Flowers the primrose symbolises youth or young love and is said to mean 'I can't live without you'.
The Primrose Fairy
But apart from all the background history, for me it is the simplicity of the flower that I like best - a plant that doesn't mind shade, and can be found growing almost anywhere that is moist,  looking its best in natural surroundings.
O fairest flower
no sooner blown but blasten
soft, silken primrose
fading timelessly

John Milton

Thursday, 24 January 2013

One Thursday Evening in July

One of my favourite winter pleasures when I am stuck indoors is to look back at summer pictures of the garden .  When it is bleak and cold, and I am wrapped up in thick sweaters with the heating on, thinking of a tummy-warming casserole for dinner, it somehow makes me feel less miserable when I find a particularly sunny batch of pictures.  I had captioned these 'a warm Thursday evening ' and the pictures give a fair indication of what my garden looks like at any given time during the summer.

How would I describe the Rosebank garden? 

Well, it is supposed to be reminiscent of a true cottage garden.  Nothing too fancy, just full of flowers, shrubs and home-grown veg - somewhere that is not too organised  - some might say, a bit of a jumble.  It has a table and chairs on the patio for when I fancy eating out of doors, and a bench at the top of the garden for catching the last of the afternoon sun,  sitting and taking in the colour and fragrance of my surroundings with a view of the open countryside beyond.  It isn't a sophisticated garden that has been designed to within an inch of its life,  but looks as though it should be there.

The red pole was holding up a branch of the plum tree that was overladen with fruit
 Every year the garden looks a little bit different as plantings change and shrubs and perennials grow and mature.  I don't want the garden to be a showcase for plants, just somewhere that I can potter round in a relaxed manner, maybe wander up to the raised beds and pick a lettuce and some tomatoes for lunch or gather a bunch of flowers for the house.

I need the garden to be somewhere that doesn't involve too much work, where I don't  have to worry about the weeds or plants not being in the right place - it needs to be a respite from the pressures of the outside world - a retreat - and a solace for the soul.

I get more pleasure from the garden than anything else - the skills I have acquired over four decades of gardening are instinctive now and this garden, the fifth that I have established, will probably be my final one, as I have no intention of moving any time soon. 

This one is the culmination of all my ideas, and is still a work-in-progress.  Each year I sow different flower and veg seeds according to my whim and fancy, so the garden will never stay the same.  But the backbone is in place, and after that, I can play around all I want.

Some years it looks better than others, some years I am happier with it than others, but however it turns out, everything that is growing is there because I put it there - my little piece of Eden - full of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

My garden may not be as neat and tidy as some, nor as unkempt as others - but it suits me just fine.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

A Black and White World ...

I opened the bedroom curtains a little and peered outside - still dark.  I went downstairs and pulled on my thick padded wax jacket and slipped my feet into my walking boots.  Gingerly I made my way down the garden path to start the car up to de-frost, crunching and crackling as I carefully stepped, frightened of slipping on the icey path.  The car door was hard to open, it had frozen and was stuck.  Whilst the car was warming up and the ice clearing from the windows I went back into the garden to feed the birds who were waiting in the trees and on the path.  Poor little things must have a cold night of it, shivering and huddling together for warmth.  After filling the bird feeders, putting down apples, crushing fat balls and spreading them on the grass, I sprinkled seed on the path for the ground feeders.  Hardly had I finished when about twenty birds came down and started pecking at the seed.  The water in the bird bath has been frozen solid for two days, but  the pump  is kept going in the pond and they come down to drink where there is no ice.

I drove slowly up to the plot to feed my sheep, even though the roads had been gritted there was black ice and freezing fog.  The whole world seemed be like a black and white movie, no colour anywhere.  The sheep were in their shed where they had spent the night on a thick layer of straw with plenty of hay to eat.  I had to climb over the gate as the padlock was frozen and they waited patiently whilst I tried to undo the shed door without removing my gloves, my fingers were already numb.  I gave them some sheep mix to eat and replenished their hay, putting one or two piles outdoors for them as well.

I had brought my camera with me to try and capture the frosted hedgerows and trees, but it seems the camera got confused by the black and white world and on checking the pictures when I returned home they all had a blue tint to them.  The temperature seemed to stay the same all day, and the snow still lays on the ground, the sun never broke through and the day never got brighter.

 Winter has definitely arrived.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Hyacinths - To Feed My Soul

Spring border - 2012
As the winter draws on my mind shuts down and no new ideas for blog posts come to mind.  Does anyone else go through 'bloggers block'.  I have been reading gardening books and old magazines looking for inspiration - but nothing seems to spark enough for me to say 'yes' I'll do a post about that. But I did see some lovely hyacinth photos on Jennifer's blog which prompted me to write this post.

I thought about the hyacinths that I have in pots around the house.  I have been photographing them over the last few days as they have sent up their flower spikes and given off their heavenly fragrance.  I plant them with the intention of them blooming on Christmas day - that is my aim - but I have only ever achieved this once.  Most years, almost, but not quite.  This year was no exception.

After they have finished flowering they are demoted to the greenhouse to dry out, then they are planted out in the garden border specially reserved for hyacinth and spring flowers. I now have quite a collection that re-appear every year and flower to their hearts content, with smaller flowers than the originals, and will hopefully continue to re-appear for many years to come.

The best thing about planting them out is when you are weeding in amongst them - practically keeling over with the headiness of their scent.  This year they were particularly good value for money as I got them at half price. There is nothing quite like having a flower bloom under your fingers in the middle of winter.

The name originates from Greek mythology
Hyacinth was a beautiful youth loved by both the god Apollo and the West Wind, Zephyr. Apollo and Hyacinth took turns at throwing the discus. Hyacinth ran to catch it to impress Apollo, but he was struck by the discus as it fell to the ground, and died. A twist in the tale makes the wind god Zephyrus responsible for the death of Hyacinth. The youth's beauty caused a feud between Zephyrus and Apollo. Jealous that Hyacinth preferred the radiant archery god Apollo, Zephyrus blew Apollo's discus off course, so as to injure and kill Hyacinth. Apollo did not allow Hades to claim Hyacinth. Instead, Apollo made a flower, the hyacinth, from Hyacinth's spilled blood.

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Persian poet - Moshlin Eddin Saad

In the language of flowers
Blue Hyacinth - Constancy
Purple Hyacinth - Please forgive me
White Hyacinth - Beauty

Friday, 4 January 2013

Fresh Flower Posies

Each year I grow as many flowers for cutting as I can in the flower patch at my plot.  I don't go in for big formal arrangements, just sweet little posies of flowers that I pick as I wander round the cutting patch.  The pale pinks of cosmos or the fragrant butterfly petals of sweet peas.  Sometimes I go for the bold and the bright of zinnia or rudbeckia.  Last year I added wild flowers for a bit of variety - feverfew and mallow and corn marigold.  I place them in the kitchen where I can look at them whilst I am cooking and washing up, and in the hallway so that they are the first things I see when I walk through the front door, or on the coffee table where the sun catches on their petals and the room smells sweet with the scent of lilac or rose. 

 Below are a few posies that were picked during the year:-

I love to have home-grown flowers in the house, the first daffodils of the season their bright yellow cheering up the room or the tight buds of tulips that loosen and curl into wonderful shapes before the petals fall. They lift my spirits  and make me smile, and I am able to say to myself - aren't they beautiful, I grew them.  As simple a thing as a posy of flowers can bring such pleasure.