Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday 29 March 2010

Let's get back to the plot

I haven't blogged about the vegetable garden recently, the winter has been harsh and long and like many gardeners, now that Spring is just about here at last, I feel well behind schedule. But, let's not panic – my Dad always warned me off starting sowing seeds too early and having to somehow keep the seedling from going too leggy and soft in the greenhouse because it was too cold to plant outside. I'll catch up . . . you just see!

Today I had an appointment with the optician, so I missed the postman's visit. On my return I noticed a pile of packages had been carefully put under cover within our courtyard – I was curious then excited . . .

. . . one was a parcel from Zoe (who used to blog and now tweets) – rhubarb crowns 'Timperley Early' and Stockbridge Arrow'. So far rhubarb has not been a success in my garden, but I'm making an extra effort this time and have prepared a bed next to the garden wall, well dug with horse manure. Thank you Zoe - the heritage peas and beans will be on their way to you soon.

The other parcel contained a very large heavy book, 'A Flora of Suffolk'. I ordered it at the pre-publication price and couldn't wait to spend evenings immersed in botanical heaven :-)

My plot is not all bare earth and uncleared pea wigwams – here's a round up of the best bits:

Crimson Flowered Broad Bean plants hardened off and ready for planting out; some healthy looking sweetpea seedlings which have had their tips pinched out so they will make strong side shoots; and some beautiful purple violets I brought home from my Mum's garden – these are for The Wild Wood, but I put them in an old terracotta flowerpot so we could use it as a table decoration at Easter (I dream of having lunch outside, but we may have to wear thermals!).

Sorrel! Doesn't it look wonderful – and it's very very good for you too. I like to finely chop the leaves and add them to scrambled egg as it cooks. The under gardeners love to eat sorrel too – I suppose they are adding sorrel to the egg at the production stage. And here's something to try, dip a piece of sorrel leaf in sugar and savour the flavour – like very good Champagne apparently ;-)

Chives edging the end of the raised vegetable beds. They've sprung up from nothing in little more than a week! It's chopped chive sprinkles on everything from now on.

Yes I know, I know, I need to do some weeding – you're supposed to look at the garlic! Doesn't it look good and strong after spending the winter frozen under the snow. The theory is that the cold weather triggers the division of the bulb into cloves – I'm hoping for a great garlic crop this year.

There are 'weeds' you can eat – which is very satisfying indeed! This is Hairy Bittercress, pulled from overwintering scented geranium pots in the greenhouse . . . and destined to give a piquant pepperiness to my lunch :-)

Lastly here's my favourite flowering shrub of early spring, cornus mas or The Cornelian Cherry. It's a more subtle shade of yellow than forsythia, and makes a beautiful large shrub or small bushy tree. I love to look at the flower clusters which spangle the bare branches – aren't they just beautiful! Tiny posies of miniature flowers held within a ring of pale green velvety sepals. It tells me that spring is here at long last :-)

Friday 26 March 2010

The PPP-prize winners are . . .

On March 14th the Purple Podded Peas blog was three years old. I was far away on my holiday in the sun with Cliff, so I left you to chat – and if you did your name was put into the proverbial hat for a prize draw.

The 38 names were pasted at random on a grid and I enlisted the help of the under gardeners to select three winners. The PPP-prize draw took place early this morning in the sunshine, here is the motion picture of the event, with a musical accompaniment by national treasures, Mr Tom Jones and Mr Jools Holland . . .

. . . over to you Tarragon . . .

So, Anneliese, Rhiannon and Janette & Nick you are the lucky PPP-prize winners – Yay!!!! If you email me via the contact button on my web site with your addresses, I'll post you a package of PPP-prizes including cards, seeds and 'hens with bells on'.


Monday 22 March 2010

All is not black and white

OK, I'm back again . . . and thank you for all those lovely comments on the previous post. I'll put your names in the hat and the under-gardeners will assist me in selecting three lucky prize winners.

But first I'll fess up to being economical with the truth, I did have an offer I couldn't refuse that took me far away from blogland, but it wasn't a work project . . . it was a holiday in the sunshine with Cliff :-)

We flew off to . . .


Who said "Lanza Grotty"? I heard you at the back there! And I have to say it's not a place that was on my 'places to see before I die' list, but with the weather grey and chilly at home and craving some guaranteed sunshine that was not too far away, it seemed a good option.

And I'm going to prove that all is not black and white on Lanzarote . . .

. . . well a lot of it is actually black (volcanic lava) and white (flat roofed buildings)

But, away from the main resorts (and this took a little research and exploring by car) we found some dramatic crashing Atlantic waves on near deserted beaches. You see that haze in the distance? It's wind blown sand!

We walked up valleys carpeted with flowers . . .

. . . to majestic cliff tops high above the blue ocean

Of course we went to Timanfaya National Park and did the bus-tour thing, which was very dramatic. But we also found a volcano all to ourselves, Montana de las Lapas del Coerso, it's a perfect volcanic dome with a collapsed roof, that you can walk right inside. See that tiny white dot just to the right of the centre of the picture? that's Cliff sitting on a rock looking at the awesome view

I took that photo from the far end of the crater, where I was exploring and searching for the beautiful wild geraniums that grow in the black volcanic ash in the shelter of the rocks.

On the outskirts of villages I could indulge in my favourite pass-time – looking over garden walls to see what vegetables are being grown. At first the landscape looks barren, sun scorched and wind swept; but the locals know a thing or two about growing crops in inhospitable conditions. The black volcanic ash is used as a thick mulch and the lava boulders are used to build dry stone wall wind-breaks. Neat geometric terraces and plots spill out across the valleys, full of onions, sweetcorn, chickpeas, beans, peas, potatoes, sweet-potatoes, figs, vines and almond trees.

There's a bit of culture too . . . a visit to Cesar Manrique's house was a must-see for me. It's now a museum, but parts are still furnished as it was when Manrique lived there – it's a 'grand design', rooms made in black volcanic lava 'bubbles' connected by tunnels and a sea of swirling lava flowing through the windows into his studio space (now a gallery). Outside the kinetic sculptures whirl in the wind that sweeps over the island on most days.

Oh . . . and we had some scrummy meals in some very nice out of the way little restaurants

. . . and to top it all a little bit of shopping too – I couldn't resist buying myself a fab pair of summer shoes :-) and some other little bits and bobs I may just blog about later.

Phew! that was a busy week . . . we got back very very late last night (in fact it was early this morning!) and I've been replying to all sorts of emails . . . some about interesting little illustration projects which I must start work on right way.

I'll be back soon to tell you who has won the PPP-prizes.

Friday 12 March 2010

This week . . . over to you

On 14 March 2007 I started a blog, I wanted to keep a diary of my garden and work in progress in my studio. I was also excited about getting some new hens later that week and thought it would be fun to keep a diary about them too. I had no idea that I'd still be blogging three years later . . . and still enjoying it.

You never know who you may stumble upon in blogland – too many lovely bloggers to mention! And who may be reading your blog and where that may lead (did I really do that!)

So how shall we celebrate? The thing is, I've had an offer I couldn't refuse – I'm going to be very very busy next week and probably won't be able to blog . . . so it's over to you for a whole week.

Pop in and say hello, chat among yourselves, visit each others blogs and let me know why you visit PPPs – art? hens? gardening? Like all good parties we'll have prizes HIP HIP HURRAY! Yes, there will be three PPP-parcels of seeds, cards and hens with bells on, for three PPP-readers who comment on this third birthday blog post. The three lucky people will be selected by the under-gardeners after the closing date, midnight GMT 21 March 2010.

Over to you . . .


Tuesday 9 March 2010

"Going somewhere? . . ."

I love my new bag, it's just right to wear over my favourite coat :-)

I'm just going to the little Post Office in the next village with a package of my linocuts for Edwards & Todd in Museum Street London (they've requested more as they've nearly sold out!).

Although there's a Post Office in the local town centre that's maybe closer, it's a pain to find a parking place and then there's the queue and the announcements 'Cashire nummmmber twoooooo' – no, I prefer the little rural Post Office and General Stores in the next village, it sells all sorts of things and there's a stool to sit on by the counter. The dress code is Suffolk country casual - wellies, gardening trousers and hand-knits. Long may it thrive!

Today I look a bit dressy, someone will probably say, "Going somewhere? . . ."

Well, I am actually – the lovely pub just along the road in the adjoining village for a pub lunch with friends :-)

Back soon to tackle the next illustration deadline.

Saturday 6 March 2010

Sunny days, busy days

I've had a busy week, as well as some chunky batches of digital illustration briefs arriving in my email inbox with very short deadlines (you know who you are, if you ever drop in and read this), I had to get wares ready for the Boden Clothes and Artisan Fair at Swaffham Prior.

But the weather was glorious, there were some nice programmes on Radio 4 and I even opened the door of my studio and let in the fresh air and sunshine – the under-gardeners dropped by for a midday snack of porridge oats . . .

They deserve a treat as they helped me design a new range of printed gifts :-)

Here's some block printed wrapping paper hanging up to dry . . .

The sunshine put me in the mood for flowers and bright bright colours!

After a few late nights spent sticking and cutting, all was packed and ready for today – I felt very pleased with my new look display labels. Here's my stall all ready for customers.

Phew! That was a lot of work, but worth it because everyone had lots of fun. Oh yes! I admit it, I was tempted to spend some of my earnings – I bought a gorgeous aubergine coloured 'Lucy Bag' from Lily Button and ordered a sassy (I think that's the correct Boden term) frock to wear when the sun shines this summer.

Hope you're enjoying your weekends too. I've got to work tomorrow – deadlines to meet!


Tuesday 2 March 2010

I was being watched

Blue sky and warm sunshine, today The Wild Wood felt alive with potential growth. The tabby studio assistant sat bathed in warm rays and I settled down to eat my lunch and read about Rooks in Roger Deakin's book 'Wildwood'.

I was engrossed in my reading, but a sense that I was being watched came over me, I glanced down at the tabby one – she was alert to someone or something in the field on the opposite side of the stream.

A little Muntjac deer was watching us intently, amazingly he came closer and sniffed the air – maybe he could smell my lunch of warmed risotto with parmesan and watercress? I wonder if he'll be a regular lunchtime visitor?