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.

Wednesday 30 June 2010

Light and reflections in the gallery today

In just over an hour's time I'll be drawing back the shutters and putting the signs out on the path in Hill Street Saffron Walden – it's my turn again to be on the front line of retail in The Riverslade Gallery.

Are you basking in the heat wave? The gallery is a little oasis of tranquil calm, Carole Grey's glass panels casts coloured patterns on the floor . . .

Patricia Palmer is a new member of the gallery, her paintings are geometric compositions inspired by Moroccan buildings. The colours are echoed perfectly by Marilyn Andreetti's ceramics.

So, if you're walking into town from the Waitrose car park, look for the pink geraniums in the window box and pop in for a chat . . . and find some beautiful treats for you and your friends.

Monday 28 June 2010


I try to leave Foxglove plants where they self seed, this one is right next to a large Bay tree and I can see it from the kitchen window. Digitalis purpurea is biennial, so when it sets seed the plant usually dies, I'll collect the seed and scatter it in the areas of the garden where I would like it to grow.

Digitalis purpurea is a native British plant, and is perfect for a woodland edge wildflower garden. I have another Foxglove, in the garden – Digitalis lutea; I grew it for our previous garden from seed supplied by the RHS Members Seed Scheme. This is a perennial and also self seeds around the garden, and like the common native Foxglove it likes slightly shady corners. As you can see in the photo, the pale yellow/green flowers are small with turned back petals like pixie hoods. It's a pretty and stylish plant and like Alchemila mollis, it's a useful colour that sets off brighter flowers.

Now let me introduce . . .

This pretty plant grows next to the patch of Digitalis lutea, but the leaves are slightly larger and a darker green in colour. The flowers are larger and blushed with pink – knowledgeable plantsmen give it a second look and ask "what's that?". My guess is that it's a cross between D. purpurea and D. lutea and it's unique to my garden. It's survived about four years including the harsh winter we've just had, it doesn't set seed but the plant is slowly increasing in size. This autumn I think I'll carefully try to propagate another plant by splitting a piece from the side of the original plant. I think I should give it a name . . . any ideas?

Sunday 27 June 2010

Will it be a piece of cake?

Come on En-ger-land!

This afternoon our village is providing teas for the choir and musicians from a north London school, who will later perform in the village church. This is an occasion which happens every other year and gives thanks to Thomas Parmiter, a silk merchant who had a farm in our village and in 1722 used the income to fund a school for the education of 'poor boys' in London.

I decided that my contribution for the teas would have a patriotic theme, after all the result of a certain football match will decide whether Choral Evensong will be a celebration or a solace. I'm sure at the end of the today Cliff and I will find something to smile about – we're going to the local Arts Centre for an evening in the company of dear Rabbi Blue, who I'm certain would approve of a large slice of carrot cake.

March of the Harlequins

You may have heard of Harlequin Ladybirds and how they may threaten our native 7-spot Ladybirds (just like Grey Squirrels wiping out our native Red Squirrel from most of Britain). If you would like to play a part in the research you can supply data to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey. On the web site there are detailed descriptions and photographs of how to identify a Harlequin Ladybird at all stages of its life-cycle.

I filled in a survey form on Friday, I had seen adult Harlequin Ladybirds in our house over the winter and had seen then in the garden this spring, last week I spotted the larva on a peony leaf . . .

Close up, you can see it's a dramatic looking beast! Covered with branched 'spines' and is dramatically coloured blue-black and orange.

So, if you're sitting in a garden with a G&T or a cold beer or dead-heading the roses, take a minute to look out for Harlequins and record your sighting on the on-line survey.

Tuesday 22 June 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly

What's that? Who said "She doesn't blog about her vegetables and her Purple Podded Peas any more" ?

Guilty as charged. I could go on about all the reasons why my vegetable plot isn't something to show off this year, but the PPP-rules are no whinging, no apologies and no negativity (well sometimes a little bit, but I'm quite capable of all three of those things in real life, so it does me good to ban them from my blog posts).

So, here's an update on the garden – it's a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly. It's a long story, with lots of photos, so make a cup of tea and get yourselves comfy. Let's start with the bad news . . .

The Ugly

It was all going so well, I had lots of pots of different pea varieties germinated in pots, I built some lovely twiggy wigwams and planted them out. Then this happened! Yes, to ALL the peas in the vegetable garden. I'm not even sure what has caused it – so if you know, break it to me gently. Oh well! there's still time for a late summer crop.

And now for the not quite as ugly but not good . . .

The Bad

The Three Sisters mound. Not much progress here this year . . . yet.
I have squash plants in pots in the greenhouse and they will get planted out into the 'mound' – yes they will!

The Winter Potager. This raised bed has been earmarked to be planted with all those crops that are harvested over the winter and following spring – leeks, broccoli, etc. The thing is, I haven't got around to preparing the bed. Then lots of parsley seedling sprang up and some interesting poppy plants which looked like Iceland poppies, but turned out to be the pretty orange Papaver atlanticum which I brought with me from a previous garden and I thought had died out.

The greenhouse is jam packed with plants in waiting . . . waiting to be pricked out, potted on or planted out.

Various brassicas which needed a home after the end of the Village Fete – destined for that Winter Potager, when I get round to moving those poppies!

Now you've had a good snigger, let's look at something a bit better . . .

The Good

I planted a couple of wigwams of peas in a flower bed next to the patio, unlike the peas planted in the vegetable garden, these are doing well. Here is the stately 'Victorian Purple Podded Pea' just coming into flower.

Spuds are doing well – hurrah!
And behind you can just see the 'Ronda' grapevine romping away. Lots of lovely fresh vine leaves for dolmadas too.

Crimson Flowered Broad Beans, doing OK despite the really tough spring we've had.

We had a superb crop of asparagus this year, now I'm letting the fern grow to build p the crowns for next year. In the foreground are wigwams for climbing beans (San Antonio and Bird's Egg) and in between stone circles protecting the Algerian Courgettes from soil run-off when I water them.

I think we'll step up a notch and call the next section

The Bountiful

Courgette Nano Verde di Milano will soon be ready to eat.

Gooseberry 'Invicta' looking superb – no sign of sawfly or mildew yet. I think I'll make so jam this year, I love gooseberry jam in a sponge cake with elderflower cordial flavoured icing on top.

The Redcurrants are ripening fast against the warmth of the 'Suffolk Red' bricks. The nets are there to stop the Blackbirds from snaffling the lot – we want to replenish our store of Redcurrant jelly!

Strawberries have produced just in time for Wimbledon. Lovely intense sharp 'Gariguette' and plump round juicy 'Cambridge Favourite'. The pole supports a net to stop birds nicking all the fruit – it doubles as a beam for the tabby studio assistant to show off her gymnastic routine!

The Globe Artichoke survived the long harsh winter and has some very promising looking heads appearing.

Sage planted at the end of the vegetable patch is in glorious purple flower, the bumbles bees love it!

A good crop of Damsons – what will we make?
Damson cobbler? Damson Gin? Damson Vodka?

A few nice Cambridge Gages filling out. The crop is sparse this year, but I'm going to enjoy eating these, they won't even get as far as the kitchen.

And lastly, the areas of the garden that don't need me to help them put on a good show . . .

The Beautiful

This is the informal border along our gravel drive, I limit the colour palette to white, lime green, gold and dots of magenta and metallic blue.

The west facing wall, the Wisteria flowers are over and have been replaced with white 'Iceberg' roses. The froth of white behind the seats in Crambe cordifolia, its flowers smell of honey.

We made a new path behind the Dragonfly Pond to access the door to The Wild Wood, it means there's a new view back across the pond to the walled garden.

The shrubs and climbers planted to disguise the wooden fence near the back door of my studio are at last looking abundant – and fragrant with Honeysuckle and Mock Orange (Philadelphia).

All the photographs were taken this morning in my garden.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Sunny intervals

Thank you to everyone who navigated the Essex lanes and came to see our Open Studio. On Saturday between increasingly heavy showers we had a sprinkling of visitors. In fact we had been very lucky, on my way home I could see that there had been much more serious rain close by. At home Cliff told me there had been storms and power cuts, and just then the power went off again, it stayed off for a long time so we cooked supper on a gas camping stove! As it was almost mid-summer it was still light outside so there was no need to get out the candles and lamps; the overhead power cables were repaired and the power supply was back by 9.30pm.

Sunday brightened up in more ways than just sunshine (but that in itself was lovely) and we were busy for most of the day. Visitors enjoyed being in the little garden behind 'May's Cottage' – old thatched cottages seem grow out of the ground like toadstools, I like how the thatcher has created organic curving shapes instead of imposing regularity onto her.

As well as our display of larger work in Annette's studio, we put smaller things and cards in the little conservatory. It was good that people asked us lots of questions about how I cut my lino blocks and choose colours; and how Annette makes her rag rugs and patchwork. And it was lovely to actually meet some happy customers and see some of my prints going off to their new homes.

And then, of course, at the end of the day we had to pack everything up – luckily Cliff had been walking near Saffron Walden and dropped by on his way home to help me, it was so much easier fitting everything into two cars!

Saturday 19 June 2010

Ready and waiting

After a busy afternoon yesterday, our work is now on display in Annette's studio in Duddenhoe End. And just to make sure you don't get lost around the lanes of north-west Essex (even with a a sat-nav to help) we went out in the drizzle, armed with gaffer tape and a mallet, to put up signs with arrows to guide you along the route.

When I got home last night I was looking forward to cooking supper, drinking a glass of red wine and then watching a footie match on TV (I thought I'd watch just one at least just to see what I was missing!). Then I'd have a wallowy bath before bed.

I was just about to turn on the heat under the new potatoes (freshly harvested from big pots in the greenhouse) when the phone rang . . . our friends were sitting in the pub and where were we? There had been crossed wires and emails and instead of Saturday night the table had been booked for Friday! So we hastily revised our plans, turned off the oven, jumped into the car (looking a bit disheveled), and raced down to the pub. Our table was in the restaurant area, so we could only guess what was happening in 'the match', but we got the gist from the groans of the people watching the TV in the bar . . . and they weren't elated.

You can see details of all the studios that are open this weekend, here. Good luck everyone! I'm now heading off to Duddenhoe End . . .

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Summer evening light

There are some landscapes that become so familiar you no longer look at them; but there are some views that, although they aren't dramatic, take on a special quality because you do see them regularly.

Last night I took my camera with me when a drove to the pilates class in a neighbouring village, I wanted to capture the view across the fields where Suffolk meets Cambridgeshire. This is one of my 'slow-burn' inspirations which will emerge into a print or painting one day; there's something about the arrangement of trees and small woods across a gently rolling eiderdown of wheat fields, side lit by the evening sunlight, that makes the space in front of me seem vast. If views where music this one for me is Vaughan Williams's 'Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis' and I imagine myself taking giant steps over the fields as light as air.

On my way home two hours later, the sun has just dipped below the horizon and clouds are rolling in from the north-east. You can just see a fine crescent moon on the edge of the cloud.

The horizon glows pink, red and gold silhouetting the squatting woods that seem to nestle down lower into to the wheat fields as if settling down to sleep.

It's frustrating that photographs (unless taken by a master of landscape photography) flatten and shrink the view. But I can use these to recollect the images in my head.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

I did ask for it!

At 5.30pm Tarragon took his harem around to the outhouse door to wait for me to open it and retrieve the feeder full of mixed corn for their 'Corn Supper'. But, I was busy preparing our supper – I knew they were waiting but I decided they could wait, they knew that I knew . . . they had a cunning plan!

Then out of the kitchen window I spotted them . . .

. . . . an act of vengeful wanton vandalism. I suppose I asked for it!

Monday 14 June 2010

Smashing fete!

Behind every big event there's hours of planning and hard work . . . and committee meetings – for those of you unfamiliar with English village life, I can inform you that 'The Vicar of Dibley' is not entirely fictional. Our Village Fete is no exception – we have discussed, persuaded, painted, un-twiddled bunting and carried boxes of stuff up the hill; so it is with relief that Saturday afternoon passed without rain, hissy-fits, bad language or any falling out among friends and neighbours. In fact it was all jolly good fun with sizzling barbecued sausages and lashings of home made cakes and cups of tea.

(At this point I intended to show you a little movie of the smashing time we had, but after the fourth failed attempt to upload the file I've given in to Blogger's non-cooperation.)

At the end of the day Cliff and I undertook the marathon task of counting the money and producing a report for the committee at the after-fete supper. We've got this down to a fine art and after just under two and a half hours our sums showed a record breaking profit of almost £3,500 HURRAH! By next spring we'll have forgotten what hard work it all is and will probably agree to doing it all again.

So, with 'Village Fete' ticked off everyone's 2010 calendar, life returns to normal and I can concentrate on getting ready for next weekend's Saffron Walden Open Studios event. I will be exhibiting alongside Annette Jacob at her studio in Duddenhoe End, just west of Saffron Walden near Audley End. I hope that some of you can come along.

All flowers picked from the garden this morning.
Top: Sweetpeas, Sage, Alchemilla Mollis, Ground Elder, Geranium Psilostemon, Astrantia, Rosa glauca and
a double white Rosa pimpinellifolia.
Bottom: Roses – the white one is 'Iceberg' but I don't know the names of the others, the deep pink one in the front has the most beautiful rich scent!

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Shopping options – Etsy and Folksy

I've recently re-opened my etsy shop with a new image and name, Magic Cochin's Emporium. I'd been concidering opening a folksy shop instead so I could price items in GB pounds, in the end I decided it would be a shame to ditch the etsy shop.

However, this morning I was tweeted (is that the correct term?) by Emma, saying she would prefer to pay in pounds. Maybe others feel the same? I had a rethink and decided that I would list all items on etsy AND folksy. At the time of listing the prices will be as near the same as I can get them, but as you known the currency exchange rates fluctuate daily; if you want to get the best possible deal you can check the GBP/US Dollar exchange rate on here.

Here are the links to Magic Cochin's two Emporia . . .

Magic Cochin's Emporium (etsy) – prices in US dollars

Magic Cochin's Emporium (folksy) – prices in GB pounds

Celia x

The stamp of approval

I'd fancied getting a Magic Cochin rubber stamp for ages . . . I could customise packaging and envelopes. Yesterday morning I searched on the web for a supplier, there were lots to choose from and most had web sites where you can design your own stamp or upload an image – most of the prices were shockingly high!

I nearly ditched the idea as a frivolous whim, then I found Speedy Stamps. Within a few minutes I'd uploaded my Magic Cochin artwork, sized it, selected the sort of stamp I required and paid. Speedy Stamps promised that they'd deliver next day.

This morning, before I'd even made my first cup of tea of the working day, Derrek the postman was ringing the bell outside the courtyard gate and handing me a padded packet . . .

How's that for service! Wooohooo! Thank you Speedy Stamps :-)

Monday 7 June 2010

A classic model in working order

I actually preferred sharpening pencils with a knife because sharpeners never seemed to do a good job. Up until the weekend I had two pencil sharpeners in my studio; a little metal one that lives in my pencil case, it's fiddly to use and a bit blunt and a plastic box pencil sharper which has a habit of breaking the lead in the pencil. Neither are things of joy!

But, now sharpening pencils has transcended into a happy ritual with the help of this . . .

. . . a classic vintage desk mounted metal pencil sharpener in full working order.

It's been installed on a shelf in the office and sharpening pencils is now a satisfying interlude :-)

Friday 4 June 2010

Magic Cochin's Emporium now open

I've re-opened my etsy shop with a new name . . .

the shop will sell cards, books, vintage and printed gifts.

Must dash . . . back soon :-)

Thursday 3 June 2010

A tonic for the senses

While recovering from whatever laid me low over the holiday weekend, I had time to just look at the garden and think . . .

What is a garden for?

A place to sit outside

For enjoying morning sunshine, midday shade
and evening sun.


The intense saturated colour of an Oriental Poppy,
one of many I grew from a packet of seeds,
each a different shade of red.

Form and pattern

Curves like an Art Nouveau arabesque,
the iris flowers beside the pond, with exquisitely
complex patterned petals.

Anticipation and scent

I found this plant through it's scent – drifting over
a hedge to a footpath I was walking.
I found out its name, Elaeagnus 'Quicksilver',
bought one for our garden and waited.
And waited. Waited for four years.
Until this year! There are buds, now tiny flowers
and the most heavenly scent – I wish I could blog the scent!
Vanilla? Apple pie? Ice cream sundaes?
All of those wrapped up in floweriness :-)

All photos taken this morning in my garden.