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.

Friday 13 June 2014

Visible mending

Two years ago I went for a walk wearing an almost new pair of trousers, I skidded on some gravel while crossing a dry ford and landed with a bump. Then I picked myself up and examined the damage - grazed palms, a grazed and bleeding knee AND a gaping hole in my trousers!
I've been meaning to mend them but kept putting them aside, until today when I sat down in a shady place in the garden and mended the hole.

Inspired by Japanese Sashiko 

Circular patterns in little running stitches

Stitches that firmly hold the tears to a patch underneath

Visible Mending.

And while I stitched I listened to a concert of birdsong . . . I've put a little film with sound over on Instagram


Wednesday 11 June 2014

A feast of flowers! The Autumn-sown flower border in June

The weather is glorious – 'Flaming June!'

"Your poppies are looking good this morning" said Cliff, when he returned from letting out the hens early this morning. And when I looked out of the window I could see the Autumn-sown flower border vibrant with colour . . .

I am experimenting with ideas and techniques for filling the garden with colourful flowers AND have free-ranging hens. "Is she mad?" I hear someone say – don't answer that – I will show you how I created a feast of flowers.

Last September the Supervisor and the Under-gardeners helped me to mark out a new border and to dig up the lawn.

I then sowed Hardy Annual flower seeds, mine were from Higgledy Garden plus some poppy seeds collected from my Mum's garden. I covered the seed beds with wire mesh 'tunnel cloches' to prevent Mr Cheep and his hens from scratching them all up . . . this is the most vulnerable time for the seedlings and hens love to follow and copy anything I do in the garden – where I dig, they dig!

The seeds soon germinated and became healthy looking but tiny plants. This is how they remained all winter, the wire mesh would have also protected them from snow . . . but we had no snow last winter.

As the temperature began to rise and days lengthened, the little plants grew quickly and pushed against the wire mesh, so I carefully removed it and made twiggy woven structures around the patches of young plants. I included little wire mesh fences to prevent the hens from walking through the growing plants, by now they seemed bored by my project so didn't interfere. At this stage it looks a bit of a mess – but not for long  . . .

After the Spring Equinox growth really takes off! the twiggy/wire-mesh structures disappeared under a mash of swaying plants and I waited expectantly for the buds to open.

I love the mix of shapes and colours, like Liberty Tana Lawn that's come to life.

 100 Flowers #084  Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum

Once grown abundantly in Fen villages for medication against symptons of the ague, the latin name means 'sleep-bringing poppy' and it is the source of many narcotics; but it is legal to grow it in the UK as long as you don't start making drugs from it. This is the poppy so familiar in Art Nouveau designs, the frilly foliage is grey-blue and the buds are elegantly hooked over until a day or two before the flower opens, when they stand up straight. 

100 Flowers #085  Corncockle - Agrostemma githago

Corncockle was once a common wildflower in wheatfields and the seeds got mixed into the harvested grain . . . which was a bit of a problem as all parts of Corncockle are poisonous! So eradicating this toxic weed from crops was necessary, consequently the Corncockle is now very rare in the wild.

It is a very pretty flower, deep pink with spiky green sepals like a green star; just don't eat it!

100 Flowers #086  Cornflower 'Black Ball' - Centaurea cyanus

This is a cultivar - taller and with larger flowers than it's wild blue cousin. I grew this last year as a Spring sown annual, but the Autumn-sown plants are so much bigger and more robust. For those of you who like to sprinkle petals on your food – this one is safe, Cornflower petals make very pretty sprinkles. I think that the deep dark burgundy flowers are fantastic cut flowers that seem to blend well any other colour and it looks particularly wondrous mingled with Ammi.

100 Flowers #087  Common Bishop's Weed - Ammi majus

Ammi is the 'posh Cow Parsley' that is so fashionable with garden designers and florists wanting a 'natural country-look'. It is ethereal and wafty, insects love it and it is the perfect mixer for your flowery cocktail. This is another flower I wouldn't recommend eating - I know some people nibble Cow Parsley but there are so many similar plants that are highly toxic (Hemlock for instance) or a bit dodgy like Ammi, so be safe and no nibbling.

The wonderful thing about Hardy Annuals is that most of them make good cut-flowers, the more you pick the more they flower – win win win! You can pick buckets of flowers! Have fun filling vases with flowers, give some to your friends – flowers make people smile.

Top tip: grab your diary and make a note to sow some seeds in September. It's easy – throw seeds onto dirt and wait. Pop over to Ben's lovely seed shop at Higgledy Garden, he has all the seeds and information you need. (There are lots of other seed suppliers but they aren't as entertaining to follow on Twitter.)


PS: you can now also follow my garden and studio on Instagram including a video of the poppies.

Thursday 5 June 2014

An evening orchid hunt in the SW corner of Suffolk

We've just been on an orchid hunt . . .

The first one we spied was this bright cerise Southern Marsh Orchid, just starting to open.

Next we found some beautiful spires of palest mauve speckled flowers of the Common Spotted Orchid

And on our return route we found some lovely tall stems of the Pyramidal Orchid just coming into flower.

And nearby I was thrilled to find lots of gorgeous Bee Orchids.

Close up you can see the bee-like lower petal.

Then I spotted . . . not another orchid but a Broomrape, possibly Common Broomrape, but after consulting 'A Flora of Suffolk' I found there are many species and sub-species each specific to a different host plant and particular habitat - Broomrapes are parasitic. Amazingly a Broomrape seed can seek out and attach itself to particular species of plant's root and when it detects it has found the right host, it germinates and plugs itself into the host plant's vascular system and grows a flowering stem.

This is where we were orchid hunting . . . it isn't a nature reserve, it's the 'flood-park' on the edge of Haverhill opposite a supermarket and a DIY store. The lake and marshy meadow surrounded by high embankments is a safety-valve allowing the swollen waters of the Stour Brook to be diverted by sluices and prevent flooding in the town centre.

It's worth looking for wildflowers wherever you are . . . you never know what you may find.


Tuesday 3 June 2014

A PPP Product Review : Sophie Conran Architectural Cloche

Some of you who have been blogging for a while will have received the odd request to review a product – and I do mean 'odd'! Up until now I have declined all such requests, not because I disagree with reviews on blogs but because the products were not something I would buy (pink gardening tools, noxious insecticides, etc). However the other week I received a request to take a look at Sophie Conran's new web shop, my comments on the gardening products, produced in collaboration with Burgeon and Ball, would be most welcome.

Of course I'd heard of Sophie Conran (and her lovely blog) and Burgeon and Ball, so I had a look and found lots of very nice things – the sort of thing you might buy as a present for a friend who really likes gardening. I thought the gardening tools looked very practical but I really liked the wire cloche – now that would have been very useful to stop a certain hen named Holly from trashing the new shoots of my beautiful pink and white tulips earlier this Spring! 

'Would you like to write a review of the cloche if we send you one?' Well, I thought, that would be nice – so here's the first PPP Product Review . . .

The Sophie Conran Architectural Cloche

The web site and the very smart printed catalogue that I also received, picture the cloche over a perfect, blemish-free lettuce, of course you could grow a single lettuce under a single cloche but I'd need a truck-load of cloches for my veg plot. So I've taken photos to demonstrate practical ways the cloche could be used in our garden.

This is a Cat Mint plant that I've transplanted from where it had self-seeded. It would have no chance of survival if left unprotected, the tabby and ginger studio assistants would sniff out the bruised leaves and totally destroy it before it had any chance of settling in and getting larger. I would normally use and upturned wire hanging basket – but the wire cloche is even better, it has longer prongs to peg it into the soil and it's taller so the plant can grow more before leaves poke through the mesh and get nibbled off.
This also applies to precious plants that the hens might trample on, or peck, in the early stages of growth - such as the Snake's Head Fritillary or the lovely bronze leaved Celandine.

It was in a pot just like this that the tulips met their sad end – newly planted up pots are very tempting to hens - it's just the sort of place they like to have a good dig! Once the plants are well rooted in and larger the hens won't be as tempted to trash them – but you could leave the cloche in place and let the plants grow through it. 

My third use for the cloche is quite probably not one for which it was intended – but it works really well. I was inspired by some fabulously loose and exuberant flower arrangements at Het Loo, the Dutch royal palace that I visited last summer. When I got home I tried to copy the style on a small scale, but by using this cloche and a basket with a round plastic bowl inside I could attempt a larger arrangement.

In the photo above you can just see the plastic bowl and a tall glass jar standing in the centre, both are filled with water and the cloche put over the top.

Then you simply poke the stems through the wire and down into the water – the tall jar in the centre is for the longer stems and shorter stemmed flowers and foliage go around the edge with their stalks in the bowl.

It doesn't matter that the wire cloche is still visible because it's a really pretty shape.

I've use some Golden Oats (Stipa gigantica) and ferny Sweet Cicely leaves, the flowers are Alliums that had fallen over in the rain last week and the first pickings from my new cut flower border – those beautiful Black Ball Cornflowers and Indian Prince Calendulas are from Higgledy Garden seeds that I sowed last September.

Hope you enjoyed reading my first PPP Product Review as much as my Ginger Studio Assistant and the Garden Supervisor enjoyed helping me take the photos.


By the way, I haven't been paid anything or told to say nice things about the product, I just got a nice wire cloche to play with and to keep. 

Monday 2 June 2014

100 Flowers : catching up with the abundance in May!

I've been taking photos of the flowers in our garden last week but didn't have time to write individual posts  . . . May is a time of abundant growth and the Spring flowers and blossoms are quickly fading to make way to the more colourful flowers of Summer.

So here are flowers #037 to #083 in a slide show, the names are listed below. If you are unable to view the film on your iPad, you can view it here on my Facebook page.

#037 Common Daisy - Bellis perennis
#038 Sweet Pea 'Painted Lady'
#039 Dame's Violet - Hesperis matrionalis
#040 Geum 'Prinses Juliana'
#041 Mexican Fleabane - Erigeron karvinskianus
#042 Geranium x oxonianum (unknown variety)
#043 Ox eye Daisy - Leucanthemum vulgare
#044 Pot Marigold - Calendula officinalis
#045 Bearded Iris - Iris germanica (unknown variety)
#046 Allium (unknown variety)
#047 Bearded Iris - Iris germanica (unknown variety)
#048 Meadow Rue - Thalictrum aquilegiifolium
#049 Oriental Poppy - Papaver orientale (grown from seed)
#050 White Weed - Lepidium draba
#051 Spiderwort - Tradescantia occidentalis (unknown variety)

#052 Common Laburnum - Laburnum anagyroides
#053 Shrub Rose - Rosa moyesii 'Geranium' 
#054 Dusky Cranesbill - Geranium phaeum hybrids (self seeded)
#055 Great Masterwort - Astrantia major  (unknown variety)
#056 Snowball Bush - Viburnum opulus
#057 Fuschia-flowered Gooseberry - Ribes speciosum
#058 Armenium Cranesbill - Geranium psilostemon
#059 Allium hollandicum 'Purple Sensation'
#060 Paeony (unknown variety)
#061 Granny's Bonnets - Aquilegia hybrids (self seeded)
#062 Mountain Cornflower - Centaurea montana
#063 Sweet Cecily - Myrrhis odorata
#064 Sage - Salvia officinalis
#065 Common Thyme - Thymus vulgaris
#066 Atlantic Poppy - Papaver atlanticum
#067 Pink-flowered Strawberry - Fragaria x Comarum hybrid
#068 Strawberry 'Gariguette'
#069 Crimson-flowered Broad Bean
#070 Herb Robert - Geranium robertianum
#071 Angelica - Angelica archangelica
#072 Wild Starwberry - Fragaria vesca
#073 Cow Parsley - Anthriscus sylvestris
#074 White Comfrey - Symphytum orientale
#075 Germander Speedwell - Veronica chamaedrys
#076 Alexanders - Smyrnium olusatrum
#077 Solomon's Seal - Polygonatum hybridum
#078 Eleagnus 'Quicksilver'
#079 Salsify - Tragopogon porrifolius
#080 Lemon - Citrus x limon
#081 Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum
#082 Opium Poppy - Papaver somniferum
#083 Pea 'Robinson' and 'Victorian Purple Podded'

That's 47 different flowers without even trying to search for them and missing out the ones which really deserve a proper blogpost of their own.