Signing off

I’ve decided to stop blogging so this will be my last post for the foreseeable future, perhaps ever. There are no bad or sad reasons for this. I haven’t fallen out with my love of writing, it’s just that after five and a half years I feel it’s time to take a break and do something different with my time. For instance, I’ve recently renewed my commitment to disciplined daily Spanish study; some of my learning resources are online and as I don’t like spending too long staring at a computer screen, once the Spanish is done I don’t feel like writing a blog post. Much as I love the buzz of writing, at this point I know in my heart of hearts it’s far more important to be working at improving my (still) very basic understanding of Spanish rather than messing about in fluent English!

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After two and a bit years we have finally reached the last phase of house renovation and with a big push now, it should be pretty much done and dusted by early autumn. Wow, what a project it has been, transforming what was basically a mountain hovel into a bright, clean, comfortable home. House done, we can turn our attention to the many, many outdoor projects we have in mind for the garden, meadows and woodland. That is going to be interesting, exciting and rewarding but will also take a lot of time and energy so other things will have to take a back seat.

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We’ll also have more time to get out and about which we are both really looking forward to. There is still so much to see and do locally, so many parts of beautiful Asturias left to explore . . . and then there’s the small matter of the entire Iberian peninsula. Well, it would be rude not to make the most of such a fantastic opportunity, wouldn’t it?

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We love to walk and the promise of more regular hiking already has me smiling. We want to put our bikes back on the road and do some cycling, sling our swimmers into a backpack and indulge in more wild swimming. Asturias is made for outdoor living and has so much to offer from surfing to ski-ing, riding to rock-climbing, camping to kayaking . . . who knows what new adventures await us?

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After almost a year out of action with a knee injury (ironically, not running related), Roger is now back to his old training ways and notching up 120km (75 miles) of running a week. He has started to enter races again and hopefully can look forward to some more Spanish podium moments in the coming months. After a rush of blood to the head, I’ve decided to start running again myself in a sort of masochistic ‘if you can’t beat them . . .’ way; I’ve even joined a running club for the first time in my life so that I can enter some races here. I will always be a plodding pony but that doesn’t matter; races need plodders as well as whippets and I know after training for a half-marathon last year that the benefits of regular running are huge. It’s something we can share (if not actually do together – Roger runs literally twice as fast as I do!) and we’re planning to travel more widely to events in the coming years. Reykjavik marathon (for the hare) and 10k (for the tortoise)? Well, why not?

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Of course, there are all the other things we love to do, too. I still have a huge box of fleece to spin and dye, a pile of colourful yarn to be knitted or crocheted into beautiful things, a stash of patchwork fabrics waiting for a project, not to mention several cross-stitch kits and a tapestry I still haven’t finished after fifteen years (ah well, no rush)! I have a guitar I don’t play anywhere near enough and Roger has his banjo to master and a motorbike to strip down. We have a huge pile of books brought home from our favourite charity bookshop in Ludlow – we are both avid readers – and a thousand and one recipes we still want to try. Then, naturally, there is the garden, our patch of flowers and food carved out of a steep mountainside that keeps us constantly busy and entertained.

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When I first started to write a blog on the now defunct ‘Vegblogs’ site, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing; I had no idea how to create a blog and only slightly more about how to operate a camera. I learned so many new skills and had such a lot of fun that I decided to carry on through various gardens and blogsites. It has been a real pleasure to write and share and a privilege to be part of a vibrant, creative community. I’ve learned much from other people and have made some lovely friends along the way. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has taken the time and interest to read my posts on both current blogs, to everyone who has ‘followed’ me, to everyone who has been kind enough and interested enough to make comments either on the blogsites or in personal emails. Your support has been hugely appreciated and of course, I shall still dip in and out to see what other bloggers are up to, it’s such a lovely thing to do.

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So, time to say goodbye. Who knows, I might start to write again in the future, either picking up from where I’m leaving off or in another fashion altogether. The temptation, I feel, will always be there! For now, though, I have the rest of an adventure to enjoy and an exciting, happy and very full life to live. On which note – it’s time to put the keyboard away and GET OUT THERE! 🙂

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Six On Saturday 28th July

Would it be rude of me to use the ‘R’ word given the extraordinary hot, dry weather searing through so much of Europe at the moment? Here in northern Spain – somewhat ironically – there has been no shortage of wet stuff falling from the sky; in fact, for weeks and weeks we wondered if it would ever stop. (For anyone tired of lugging watering cans now cursing me soundly, I’d like to point out we’ve also been living under mostly cloudy skies, grateful for the tiniest scraps of sunshine). It might be warm and incredibly humid rather than hot and dry,  but the upside is that the landscape is still lush and green and everything is growing like stink. Ten days away to attend the most beautiful West Sussex wedding was followed by another ten days trying to get the jungle-masquerading-as-a-garden back under some sort of control. Needless to say, we came home to delights and disasters so here are my six for today.

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I’ll start with the scene of devastation that greeted us in the polytunnel: every single tomato plant collapsed, brown and stinking, as a result of blight. It was no great surprise as blight is endemic in this area and this was our third and last attempt at growing a crop, a sort of  ‘do or die’ affair. Die it was, then. It’s a bit frustrating but I’ve filled the space with spare pepper and chilli plants and we ate what unblemished fruit there was. Forget chutney, green tomatoes cooked in olive oil with warming spices and finished with a dash of balsamic vinegar are truly delicious. Honestly.

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If nothing else, the Great Tomato Collapse had me tidying up the tunnel a bit; I staked the aubergines and peppers and gave them a good feed with comfrey tea, then turned my attention to encouraging some of the crazy ‘Melba’ melons upwards. . . and found some hidden treasures under all that foliage. Three fruits (so far) on five plants will hardly make the headlines but it’s a bit of fun. Everyone needs a little bit of frivolity in the garden, surely?

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So we have no tomatoes, no potatoes (there’s a two-year ban in place thanks to the Guatemalan potato moth) and the caterpillars have devastated the brassicas in our absence. 😦 Even so, I love this time of year in the veg patch; what is better than wandering around, trug in hand, foraging bits and pieces for dinner? We have more food than we know what to do with and although our veg wouldn’t win any prizes, they are fresh and wholesome and totally delicious. For me, this is what it’s all about!

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It’s good to see the hibiscus flowering again, they are such pretty things. We have several bushes – all of the common hybiscus syriacus variety –  and although they’ve been planted in daft places (such as the one in the background of my photo, struggling for light under the monster kiwi), they never fail to please. We have a couple of pink ones but my favourites are the whites with those waxy centres and astonishing ink blot of deepest pink dye.

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At the risk of sounding a bit tongue in cheek, Roger has been proudly admiring his nuts this week. In late winter, he lay a hazel hedge; it was quite a feat as the trees were really too tall but they have greened up into a thick, verdant hedge that has already housed several birds’ nests and is now flaunting clusters of large, frilly nuts. They are very beautiful,  looking more like a Kentish cob (well, a filbert really) than common hazel to me so we should be in for a treat if we can beat the wildlife to them later in the year.

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Finally, what a delight to return home to the gorgeous intensely blue abundance of agapanthus. These are ‘Northern Star,’ a hardy variety which flowered amazingly well in our former garden on a wet, windswept Welsh hillside but are ten times happier on our Spanish mountainside (mmm, also rather wet and windswept this year, it must be said). They were given to us on our son Sam’s 18th birthday so there was something lovely to come back from celebrating his wedding seven years later to find they had burst into their best ever show of blooms. Perhaps they knew? 🙂

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It’s time now to head across to join The Propagator   and find out what great things other gardeners have to share from their gardens this week. Happy gardening, all! 🙂

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Family trees (and other special plants)

Isn’t it a lovely thing to share other people’s gardens? Whether it’s a case of simply relaxing and drinking in the sights, sounds and scents or else mooching about through plants and produce, exploring colours and textures and perfumes,  for me it is always an enjoyable and inspiring experience. The last few times we have visited Roger’s parents in Ludlow, the weather has been too inclement to spend much time outside so what a treat on our recent trip to be able to luxuriate out of doors in proper summer weather. The garden they have spent several years creating is stunningly pretty, very long and narrow with teasing vistas that draw you naturally ever upwards, climbing the steep path through formal plantings, a productive vegetable patch, an orchard and a wild area at the very top.

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I love the Jack and Jill seat nestling in a green, leafy glade, completely hidden from sight but enjoying far-reaching views of the South Shropshire hills. I also love the way personalities of plants and gardeners alike echo through different spaces and I have a habit of coming away from other people’s gardens with inspired ideas to transplant into our own patch. The morning sunlight through that magenta clematis had me popping with joy and rushing out to find one similar  . . .

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. . . and true to form, I managed to come back with not one plant but two, a magenta ‘Aotearoa’ and a lilac ‘Proteus’ to keep it company (of course). I also found myself drawn to a pretty grouping of plants: a golden rose, a soft, buttery yellow marguerite and bright sunny creeping Jenny all combined with a somewhat moody purple sedum. Colour wheel opposites, artistically paired.

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I’ve forgotten the name of that rose but what I do know is that Sam gave it to his Granny and Grandad at their golden wedding anniversary party; so good to see it still going strong eight years on and there was a satisfying circularity to the fact that we were there to provide a grandparent chauffeur service to Sam’s own wedding. When it comes to gifts, we often choose experience over stuff; our wedding present to Sam and Adrienne is impossible to wrap but that golden rose inspired me to find them a ‘living’ card, something to plant as a reminder of their special day. Over the years, we have planted many things – trees, shrubs, perennials, bulbs – to mark birthdays, anniversaries and special milestones in our lives; it’s such a pleasure to watch them flourish and be reminded of happy days and celebrations. For Sam and Adrienne, I fancied a climbing or rambling rose, something that would suit them and their garden, that will (hopefully) flower on their future anniversaries and with a name appropriate to the occasion. ‘Shropshire Lad’ would be a good choice for Sam but not without a ‘Montgomeryshire Miss’ to go with it! In the end I plumped for a Harkness climber, a really enthusiastic looking plant with pretty coral buds, flat pink blooms with bright yellow centres (a little past their best in the photo but this beauty will flower three times in a year) and a delicate perfume. The name? ‘Summer Sweetheart.’ Ah, that will do nicely!

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So to the wedding itself and what a truly captivating day it was. We are so thrilled that all three of our offspring have had the imagination and courage to turn their backs on the excessive and unnecessary spendathon so typical of modern weddings and instead have opted for something small, intimate and very personal – a true celebration of their special day, bursting with their own creative touches. What an idyllic setting for the ceremony at St Mary’s House, Bramber , an enchanting 15th century timber-framed house with five acres of immaculate gardens.

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How lovely to spend time in the gardens after the ceremony, the children playing tag and hide-and-seek and bubbling with mischievous energy, the adults mingling and chatting and laughing in the sunshine. No official photographer running the show; instead, simply the informal pictures taken by everyone there which capture the atmosphere so much better than anything posed and staged.

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The ‘tunnel’ of homemade petal confetti was utterly beautiful as was the bridal bouquet; no stiff and formal hothouse prima donnas here, rather something sweet and pretty that could have been gathered straight from a cottage garden. Gorgeous!

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What a wonderful reception, too, at The Artisan Bakehouse where tables and chairs were set up outside in the sunshine. No formal seating plan, no speeches, no standing on ceremony; instead, a blissfully relaxed and happy time for all, chatting over a glass of bubbly, playing lawn games and indulging in the delicious food. So much fun and laughter. What a perfect, perfect day!

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On one of our previous UK trips, Sam and Adrienne had treated us to a prototype wedding cake, a delicious confection of lemon and pistachio lovingly baked in their kitchen. In its final rendering, that citrussy top layer was filled with whimberries, freshly picked from the patch where Sam popped the question last year and decorated with crystallised pansies picked from the hanging baskets he had given Adrienne for her birthday. There is just something so right about all that.

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So, home again to Asturias and time to check what’s been happening in our own (somewhat neglected) garden. There’s been plenty of rain, just perfect for the new hydrangeas we planted with Annie – one for her, one for Matthew – to celebrate the recent holiday they spent with us. Ah, more happy memories. I was also delighted to see the agapanthus in bloom at last; it’s been a bit tardy this year but is now resplendent in vibrant blue and carries yet more meaning for us.

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It was a gift from my brother and his wife, given on Sam’s eighteenth birthday to mark the fact that we had raised all three of our children to adulthood. At the time, I was touched by such an unusual and totally inspired gesture and this ‘Northern Star’ variety, designed to thrive in cooler climes, has flowered every summer without fail. Not surprisingly, however, it has moved up several gears since arriving in Spain; I’ve split the original plant once and both pots are ready to split again. I might even try some in the ground this time. Our garden will never be perfect but it is in so many ways a reflection of our family, life, love. I like that. 🙂

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Six on Saturday 30th June 2018

We’ve had a blast of heat this week, the kind that leaves everything in the garden flagging and wilting in a slightly soporific way during the afternoon and evening . . . but there are no complaints. Overnight temperatures in the high teens and a little gentle rainfall to freshen things up have encouraged maximum growth and certain plants seem to have doubled in size in a matter of days. We might have been several weeks behind this year but suddenly the gap is closing and glut time is knocking on the door. Yippee! Here are my Spanish Six for today.

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Having sat in the ground looking less than enthusiastic for several weeks, the cucumbers have decided this is the week to do something more energetic. Maybe they didn’t like the look of the very ‘unique’ climbing frame I fashioned for them out of three twirly metal tomato stakes (bought in France many years ago, one of the most brilliant garden equipment investments ever), a stout hazel pole, twine and three corks (a decent Rioja, by the way – someone has to do it :-)). Well, art it isn’t but it will do the job. I planted two varieties – ‘Diva’ and ‘Marketmore76’ – but despite a resolution to try and keep tabs on labels this year I have failed in spectacular fashion, so I have no idea what each of the five plants is. No worries, it’s good to see the first tiny fruits forming and if the last couple of years are anything to go by, we will be up to our necks in cucumbers in no time at all. Mmm, bring on the chilled cucumber and yogurt soup, such a perfect lunch dish in this warm weather.

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Another crop that invariably grows well here is squash; in fact, give it another month and they will be threatening to take over the valley. This year I have planted several new varieties sent to me by a Finnish friend which I am watching with great interest, but our absolute favourite ‘Crown Prince’ and the butternut variety ‘Harrier’ both went in as bulk staples (we have only just eaten the final stored butternut from last year’s harvest). Good old ‘Crown Prince’ is already well on the way to another bumper crop.

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Continuing with my theme from a couple of weeks ago, here is the late large-flowered clematis ‘Polish Spirit,’  yet another bargain basement supermarket buy that has started to flourish in its second year. It’s making quite an impact with those deep, velvety blooms sprawling along a post and rail fence in front of the rather unglamorous white polythene of the polytunnel; gorgeous throughout  the day, but I love them with the evening sunshine backlighting their show.

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One of the enduring memories of my grandparents’ north Shropshire garden is a fabulous butterfly-studded lavender hedge. I’ve never been able to emulate it in my own gardens, possibly because we’ve always gardened in higher, wetter, windier places and who could blame the plant for its refusal to thrive in those conditions? Now, at long last, I have a dozen or so basic ‘Munstead’ plants grown from a cheap packet of Wilko seed; they are thriving and have really come into their own this week so I have been crumbling a few flowers as a last-minute addition to my petal confetti. Perfect!

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The next one is something I had never really come across before we moved here so I needed to do a bit of research (thank goodness for the internet). It’s a tillandsia (I think tillandsia stricta) which grows literally suspended in the air. Thriving on high humidity, it’s little wonder they grow well here, although most of the others we’ve seen have been in gardens down on the coast. There were two balls of them here when we arrived two years ago; on the day we bought the house, the former owner (who insisted on being here to instruct us in how to operate the door keys – we obviously looked totally inept) plucked a flower bud off one and with a theatrical flourish, stuffed it up his nose to indicate – I assume- an impressive scent. Sadly, it proved to be the only bud on either plant and there has been no sign of another until now. This week, one plant has finally burst into bloom and the flowers are quite curious, pink buds that open into tiny blue blooms. Unfortunately, they are hanging too high for me to check their scent (and they are competing with some highly-perfumed roses) . . . but after two years, it’s good to see them.

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I won’t be Sixing next Saturday as we will be busy celebrating our son’s wedding in a rather beautiful West Sussex garden; by accident rather than design, the day before just happens to be our own anniversary. When we reached a ‘biggy’ three years ago, my parents-in-law gave us a beautiful Persica floribunda rose called ‘For Your Eyes Only.’ It was voted Rose of the Year in 2015 and little wonder: it is an absolute stunner and was one of a tiny handful of plants we brought with us when we moved here. It flowers three times a year and has burst into its second flush this week, bang on time for our anniversary as it has done each year. Thank you, you gorgeous thing!

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Time now to pop over to The Propagator and catch up with what everyone else has been up to in their gardens this week. 🙂

The light fantastic

Summer has most definitely arrived here. The children have broken up for their lusciously long school holiday and the San Juan fiesta rockets have been crumping and thumping in the distance all over the weekend. We have put up the sunbrella, stacked the fridge with sparkling water and cooked our dinners outside on a wood fire every evening.

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Morning is now the time to get jobs done in the garden before the searing heat of the afternoon leaves everything  bleached of colour and soporific in the shimmering, silvered sunlight. There is no rush, though; I love nothing better than wandering out, still pyjama-clad, with my first tea mug of the day to breathe in the freshness and beauty of the moment and welcome the gift of a new day. The air is spiced with the scents of eucalyptus and lavender, sugared with roses, honeysuckles and sweet peas.

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Swallows skim the vegetable patch just above ground level, swooping and twisting like arrowheads through the plants with split-second precision (I wish I could capture them with the camera!). Even this early, the flowers are teeming with myriad insects. Lacy coriander blooms sparkle with dainty hover flies, lavender bristles with businesslike bees and everywhere – everywhere – there are butterflies, so many different varieties floating dreamily on painted wings.

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This is the time of day to truly appreciate the garden beauties; illuminated by a soft, dappled light they take on a whole new allure, a delicate elegance that is washed out by full sunlight. Here I can see every shadowed pleat and fold, every nuance of shade and texture, every mesmerising mystery of petal and sepal, stigma and style, frond and tendril, pattern and form.

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The wild ones, too, take on a fresh flush of beauty, clothing the garden’s margins in their soft hues and rowdy brights.

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There are the cheeky chancers, popping up uninvited in unexpected places: a nasturtium trailing cheerfully amongst the beetroot plants, satin Welsh poppies fluttering in the asparagus bed, a  self-set young walnut tree (they are weeds here, no question) on the edge of the patch. How can I be anything other than enchanted by their optimistic charm?

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So, to work and the main task of the week is weeding. Hoes are handy tools but I enjoy a bit of hand weeding, even more so now that I can take my time and do it with focus and attention rather than cramming it in around a hectic working week. I love the simple physical act of getting down amongst the plants and looking at them from new angles and through fresh eyes. I relish the smell of the earth, delight in the characters of the plants and cherish the work of tidying things up a bit. There is something so fundamentally satisfying about feeling the essence of all those scientific processes – germination, transpiration, pollination, photosynthesis and the like – going on all around me, not textbook descriptions but fizzing and buzzing with real in-the-flesh life. What a wondrous, miraculous thing it is! How captivating, too, are those vegetable plants caught in the teasing play of light and shadow; here even the mundane is taken to new heights.

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Working in the garden? No, we’re unashamedly tripping the light fantastic, don’t you think? 🙂

 

Six on Saturday 23rd June 2018

We love to encourage wildlife into the garden but there has been a definite whiff of midsummer animal madness around the place this week. We have had to hang a small mirror on the outside of the house to stop a narcissistic blue tit from constantly hammering on the windows and car mirrors from first light. I nearly trod on a snake trying to wrestle a midwife toad into a hole (I’m not talking sausage and batter here); interestingly, the toad somehow came off best. He has now resumed his all-night call that sounds like a very loud electronic beep and has me wondering which smoke alarm battery is running low. We discovered two feral kittens that had been craftily birthed behind the freezer in our underhouse barn and have needed to shut the windows to keep out a persistent pair of swallows who seem hellbent on nesting with us inside the house. The raucous jays have started to gather in an attempt to beat us to the (as yet unripe) figs, pausing only to scream at the polecats hunting up and down the hedges and fence lines. Time to return to the relative sanity of the plant kingdom . . . here are my six for this week!

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Did I really say sanity? I’m starting with the kiwi this week and trust me, by its very nature, it would push itself to the front of the queue anyway. I have never seen anything that grows so quickly and voraciously. Less than a month ago it was a network of bare branches; now it has smothered the pergola, climbed into and over the barn and is involving itself unnecessarily with the nearby fig and pear trees. What you can see in the photo above is a mere fraction of the whole beast. We have to lop it several times a year which I suspect just encourages its rampant thuggism but still every time I hang out the washing, I live in fear of being sucked up into a triffidesque vortex. You’d think we’d be grateful for that leafy, shady canopy in the summer heat but the foliage stinks to high heaven – especially in hot weather –  and it is not a place to linger. However . . . the first flowers have opened this week and I’ve remembered how pretty they are, how sweetly scented and totally irresistible to honey bees. We will start picking fruit in November and they will stay firm on the vine right through winter; no need to harvest and store, there will be five months’ worth of fresh fruit to pick as we need. Last year, the harvest ran into thousands. Time to stop grumbling.

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All our roses took a real bashing in the recent heavy rains so there has been much sorting out and deadheading to be done this week. Happy to see some sunshine at long last (me too!), the stronger characters have lifted their heads again this week and carried on where they left off. The only variety I can name for certain is the one we brought with us so everything else is a bit of a mystery. This is my favourite of the week, not as showy as the others but very busy climbing through them and making a bright little statement of its own. ‘American Pillar,’ maybe?

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When we first arrived in May two years ago, there was barely what you would call a garden here, yet alone anywhere to scatter seeds. Feeling the need for a little bit of cottagey bling, I sprinkled the tiniest pinch of Californian poppy (eschscholzia) seed close to the house. No exaggeration now to say they are growing absolutely everywhere, thanks in a large part to the homemade compost I spread around as a mulch. On the terraces they’ve gone berserk and it’s a case of playing ‘hunt the squash.’ On the strength of their enthusiasm, this year I’ve planted the ‘Mission Bells’ variety, too, but sad to say they’re not doing a lot yet. Still, the bees aren’t complaining.

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One of our winter jobs was to relocate a huge comfrey plant which had been in the ground for a year and had grown five times faster than expected (we’re still adjusting to the climate here) and was seriously encroaching on the asparagus bed. Naturally, it had sent roots down a zillion miles so no surprise to find that we’d missed a bit. I’d allowed the escapee to grow back until the asparagus was looking nervous again this week then decided it was time to cut the lot for fertiliser. What a worryingly satisfying job all that leaf chopping was and what a lovely fresh cucumber / borage / melon scent they released. Mind you, that won’t last long now they are festering away in a bucket!

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I have to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of hydrangeas but they are immensely popular here and seeing them grow in huge sweeps of bright jewel colours from deepest blues and purples to bright magenta I have been swayed a little. Most of the ones already in the garden were either planted in a daft place or a very insipid washed-out whitey-blue so this week we decided to address that and introduce a splash of stronger colour with hydrangea macrophylla ‘Red Beauty’ and hydrangea macrophylla ‘Early Blue.’ Need to find the best spot for them now . . . oh, and I definitely have plans for those lime green pots once vacated.

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Finally, broad beans might be the main ingredient in the classic Spanish tapas dish habas con jamón  but here in Asturias it is the white ‘fabes’ (dried climbing beans of the ‘phaseolus vulgaris’ variety) which reign supreme. They are much prized,  commanding a high price and many are grown commercially in the valley but we seem to be the only gardeners hereabouts that bother with broad beans. Our neighbours call them ‘May’ beans but as with everything this year they are have been little tardy. Now at last they are cropping like crazy; these are ‘Imperial Green Longpod’ that were planted in the autumn, this lot destined to be lightly steamed and turned into a salad. Next will come broad bean hummus, food of the gods. Delicious.

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Time now to pop across to The Propagator  and see what other Six on Saturday gardeners have been up to this week. Happy gardening, all! 🙂

 

September Bouquet Blanket

There’s still something so pure and heartfelt and emotional and genuine about a bouquet of flowers . . . Vanessa Diffenbaugh

With my self-imposed finish line of early July looming ever closer, I recognised the need to crochet like a mad thing in order to have the ‘September Bouquet’ blanket ready for its trip northwards. Not for the first time, I was thankful that those squares were pretty easy to make and so I just made sure I picked up my crochet hook in any spare minute to get all 90 done. That of course was the easy bit! Then came putting them all together . . .

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I suspect that most proper and talented designers have a clear picture in their minds or on paper of exactly how their finished work will look, backed up with research, sketches, colour swatches and lots of practice bits and bobs. That never seems to work for me; ideas just hover around the periphery of my imagination and it’s not until I have everything in front of me to mess with (I’m very much a visual learner, I think!) that I start to see the finished thing. I’ve never made a ‘colourwash’ project before, so having scrubbed the floor, I laid the squares out and began to play.

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My goodness, did that take some time! I switched and swapped and swapped and switched then walked around looking at them from every angle . . . then started all over again. It’s a good job I have a very understanding husband as I was blocking the main thoroughfare through the kitchen for quite some time. Eventually, I settled on a plan: purples moving through blues to greens then yellows. As the final round still had to be worked on each square as the joining round, I could at least tell that the finished blanket would be big enough. No need for any extra squares. Phew!

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If I had made much smaller squares and used more colours, I think the most effective way of organising them would have been to mix them through a bit; for instance, different shades of blue next to one another with an occasional purple or green at either end. These squares somehow felt more comfortable sitting together in their own little colour groups, sort of ‘not quite stripes.’ I joined them vertically which meant changing colour every one or two squares; this made the job more interesting and as each new strip was added, the solid blocks of horizontal colours appeared as if by magic.

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I’m not sure if this is what I’d been imagining but I felt pretty pleased with the outcome.

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So, on to the border. I hadn’t given it a single thought until the squares were joined at which point all I can say is I knew what I didn’t want. The sunburst flower pattern creates a fairly dense square which in turn makes for a cosy, weighty blanket. This was definitely not the place for a lacy border, nor anything too open and airy or too narrow; I wanted something firm and closely-woven to echo the feel of the squares, with the possibility of using plenty of the colours in the process. Having hunted about for ideas and tried a few things out, I opted for the linen stitch edging by Lucy at Attic24. This is a simple and speedy stitch which builds up into a tight-knit border of beauty and – even better – allowed me to use all eighteen colours! Given that the first colour would have to nestle comfortably up against the other seventeen, I opted to start with ‘Parchment’, the most neutral shade I had. Similarly, I knew from finishing the ‘Granny Patchwork’ blanket earlier this year that ‘Parma Violet’ makes a subtle outer edge colour that sits more harmoniously than stronger shades against whatever surface it rests on.

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All that remained to be done was fill in the space between the two and with so many colours being used, I felt the need for a little plan to keep me on the straight and narrow.

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The most important thing about working this border was not to pull it too tight so I switched hooks and opted for a 5.5mm bruiser; it’s a rather snazzy metallic green number but boy, did it feel chunky! Still, it’s amazing how quickly it moved around the blanket and revealed the charming pattern. Here’s the ninth round being worked: almost halfway there . . .

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. . . and the other nine done.

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Blanket finished, with time to spare. I feel like I’ve moved a long way from my starting point of the beautiful wedding bouquet Sarah made for herself but I hope at least there is an echo of the colours and textures that she gathered together in such a stunning way and carried under a brilliant blue September sky almost five years ago.

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Certainly for me it has been a huge, indulgent pleasure to remember such a happy day with every stitch I’ve made. How can such a simple pastime bring so much joy?

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Now I breathe a sigh of relief that it’s finished in time to take and give in July – a little early I know, but we have Sam and Adrienne’s wedding (yes, another wedding!) to attend and I am so excited! Happy, happy days! 🙂