Sunday, 31 October 2010

Acer, Acer Baby!

Good grief but I detest that irritating ridiculous Halifax Bank advert and the way the tune sticks in my head!
Anyway, moving swiftly on...... I had a very convivial dinner (or lunch as some people prefer to call it!) at the Fat Cat Pub in Sheffield on Friday with Woody and Wilma Woodbury from Allotment 81 (which, if you've not come across it before, is a great read as Woody has a smashing sense of humour!). I've met up with Woody before and thoroughly enjoyed his company, but this was the first time I'd had chance to meet Wilma, who was equally as congenial as Woody. I really enjoyed our meal and conversations, all washed down with a very pleasant half of Pale Rider. Pale Rider Bitter is an extremely good real ale from the Kelham Island Brewery, which is conveniently located next door to the Fat Cat!

Anyway, the reason behind my tale of beer, food and convivial conversation is that as I was driving home along the dual carriageway between Sheffield and Chesterfield I was suddenly struck by the sheer beauty of the autumnal colours in the trees. Kicking myself for not having my camera with me, and not sure quite how well "I stopped to take a photo with my phone because the trees were so pretty officer" would go down with the local constabulary, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour and I continued homeward to survey my own trees on more legal ground!

My Acers are stunning this year - but it's a lot more by luck than good judgement that they all put their autumn coats on at slightly different times and give us ongoing sparks of colour for about 6-8 weeks!

A. palmatum 'Ornatum'
...which purred as I came up close to it! Odd! Plants don't usually purr....

......except when next door's cat is nestled under it!
I love the way this one is growing to hang slightly over the rock in front of it. (and to give a cat a cosy place to hide!) The radience of the red leaves stands out like a beacon and draws the eye to it from the house. In spring and summer it is a duller deep bronze colour but really comes into its own in the brief flurry of autumn.

A. 'Emerald Lace'.
I love the elongated shape of this one as it mirrors the path alongside it - good planning there I thought! :D It'll get to around one and a half metres tall, which is perfect for walking under along the path but not too tall that it'd dominate the garden.
It's underplanted with Camomile and Ophopogon 'Nigrescens' for textural and colour contrast, plus the camomile will spread as gorgeous, scented ground cover.

A.Conspicuum 'Red Flamingo'
- a striking snakebark maple in shrub form. The red of its bark is quite luminous with the sun on it. New leaves are pink, moving through red to green to brown as the year progresses. This one is next to the top pond so we often benefit from its reflection as well.
A. palmatum 'Kotohime'.
It reminds me of a Triffid for some reason! It didn't photograph well as a whole bush because it's at the back of the Japanese garden up by the fruit cage, so the background behind it was just too busy. Up close and personal you can see that it's begining to change colour.

A. palmatum 'Seiryu'.
This one is the most vibrant green of all the Acers in summer, but will turn fully into red over the coming week. It nestles comfortably under the old flowering cherry outside the tea house and will be lovely to walk under along the stepping stone path down that bed once it gets a bit bigger.
A. palmatum 'Shin Deshojo'.
I moved this one this spring from further down the garden where some idiot (that'd be me then!) had planted it under a Weigela a few years ago. It was loosing the battle for light and not growing well. It's been a lot happier in its new position.
This one is at its best in spring when its leaves are a vivid scarlet, fading to bronzey-scarlet in summer then turning to the plummy-golden tones you can see begining here.

Right. Acer tutorial over - I'm so glad I kept those labels :)
Here are just a few photos of what's going on in the rest of the garden.....
Windfalls of cooking apples.

Heuchera 'Creme Caramel'

The cherry tree we planted in spring.

Yes ..... I know I should have netted the pond by now!

And a final view of the top pond.
Happy autumn.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Book review - Plant Whatever Brings You Joy

I've never really had the urge to write a book review before - well, actually I have - but never strong enough to bother doing anything about it! However, having recently got my hands on 'Plant Whatever Brings You Joy- Blessed Wisdom From The Garden' by Kathryn Hall, who many of you will already know from her blog at (funnily enough!), I decided that this was a book that needed sharing with the world - so here I go....but please bear in mind that this is solely my take on the book and other people will have their own thoughts on it :)
I loved it!
It is ostensibly a book about Kathryn's life, her multiple house moves, her life in different countries and in different part of America, her beloved daughter and her many gardens - yet it is so much more than this and touches the heart (my heart anyway) because of it.
The book is divided into 52 chapters, some very short at just a page and a half, some longer lasting at several pages but all having very temping titles such as 'Never underestimate the power of one tiny seed', ' Aim for beauty', 'Never pull up and discard what you cannot identify', 'Appreciate small returns', ' Cultivate plants which attract lovely company', 'Clean up after a storm' and - my favourite title, 'Move gently among bees'. The titles intrigued me and pulled me in.
As the autumn night closed in and I had the house to myself for once my plan was to settle down in front of the fire, a glass of fine red wine at my side, and indulge myself in Kathryn's book - I intended to read it from cover to cover that evening and, at 228 pages, it was an achieveable goal. However, because this is no ordinary book it didn't turn out that way!
Kathryn's memories and experiences are rich and fascinating. They helped me to further understand the Kathryn I think I've got to know through her blog and our email correspondence, but they also deliver clever but gentle metaphors for self discovery and learning - both hers and her readers.
She has a canny nack of making her last sentence in the chapter either a statement or a question, both of which seemed designed to make me go "oh, what? yeah! I do that!", " Ooops, perhaps I could have done that differently?" or "Hmmm, maybe I ought......!", but always making me stop and think. Hence the reason I couldn't read the book all in one sitting, no matter how much I wanted to, as I just had to have some thinking time. Not all the chapters made me ponder for hours, but some certainly did and I feel better and stronger for having done so.
She writes in such a way that I found myself smiling, nodding and even, on more than one occasion, my eyes filling with unshed tears - from both pleasure and sadness previously held in. Memories of people, places and events long forgotten or sometimes supressed came unbidden into my head as I read.

I think that if I have one minor niggle with the book, it's Kathryn's use of the phrases 'Dear ones' and 'Dear readers' - but I am aware that this is my issue as reading these phrases whipped me straight back to my slightly stroppy teenage years and exams! (stroppy? Moi?!) The Bronte sisters and similar writers all used those phrases and, as part of English Language and English Literature lessons and exams, we had to dissect their books to the Nth degree - thus ridding them of any pleasure for years proved by my response!
That aside, this is a thought provoking book that stands repeated readings - and I will certainly be dipping back into it on a regular basis. Her motto for her book publishing company is 'Changing the world one book at a time' and she has certainly done that for me with this book!

I shall leave you with Kathryn's final thoughts in the book ...and, no, it's not going to spoil the ending for you! ;
'Each and every adventure I have chosen, dear readers, held within it the power to expand, to teach. The more I risked, the wider and more diversely I chose, the richer my experience and the more precious the gift. I have been so blessed. Aren't we all?'

Bliss in a book!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The doors - stages one and two

As March progressed, so did my impatience! Himself and the wonderful Pete had spent many, many hours debating how to make the tea house doors. We'd had sliding doors that slid from the corner, leaving the whole corner open, we'd had sliding doors that slid from the middle of both sides of the building, we'd had swinging doors, inward opening doors, outward opening doors, one pair of each sort, solid doors, panelled doors, half panelled doors, clear doors, opaque doors ....if fact everything but REAL doors!

I knew the endless discussions were more to do with a reluctance to get started in case it all went "horribly wrong" (- as Himself the pessimist is prone to saying!), but eventually my albeit limited patience ran out, I had a hissy fit, stamped my metaphorical foot and told 'em just to flippin' well get on with it!!! *ahem, coughs in a slightly embarrassed way*

The upshot of my temper tantrum was that Himself suddenly found the ideal solution to the door dilema! He decided to do one trial door first though ......just in case it did all go horribly wrong!

He assured me it was all in the design detail:

For some reason known only to Himself and Pete, they couldn't have a solid piece of wood and pop a realtively simple tenon joint into it. The frame is one piece of wood, split into two down its length, with complicated joints that I don't even know the names of at relevant places down its length! The two long pieces are then glued back together again.
Checking for fit.

Very neat!

Himself got to use some of his clamps - happy days!

The basic frame at the end of stage one.

Next came the 'simple' cross pieces.....

Door stage two!

Trying it for fit ...can't be too carefull :)

Happy with the style and fit of the door, Himself went into mass production mode in the garage and I didn't see him for three weeks!

A total of eight doors meant an awful lot of pieces - most of them with complicated joints in.

Seven door kits ready for assembly!

And in the next episode of 'How to build a Tea House in the most complicated way possible', we'll see what Himself can do with polycarbonate panels!
Suggestions on a postcard please! :)
201.10 Addendum.
Himself has finally read one of my blog posts!!! He's asked me to point out that the reason he split the door frames is not because he wanted to make more work for himself (!), but because the frames are very thin for the height of the doors. Wood bends, so by splitting the wood and turning one piece round ( a part of the process I didn't know about as he was locked in the garage at the time!), the tendency of the 2 pieces to bend cancel each other out and the door stays straight there you go! :)