Flowers in a Vase – Feeling Christmassy

Vase

One of the funny things about moving to the Southern Hemisphere after living thirty plus years in the Northern Hemisphere is Christmas. It rolls around every year just as before and yet it is a Totally Different Animal compared to my Christmases Past. Obviously the main difference is that it falls in the summer and you just don’t get that long build up that you do in the UK. I remember really enjoying shopping in the afternoons when the Christmas Lights would be in full force, carols blaring from all the shops and Enormous Department stores crammed with everything under the sun. Here I shop at local markets and smaller shops that are still decorated beautifully but in a less flashy way. We eat turkey and ham on Christmas Day and Christmas pud but we might start with whitebait fritters or Paua patties and I might make an ice cream cake for desert too. It’s still Christmas but Not As I Knew It! I’ve adapted and, as with food and shopping and other traditions, I’ve also adapted my decorating traditions including Decorations of the Green Variety. Even though I know I have an infinitely larger variety of flowers to choose from it still took a while for me to stop myself looking for berried ivy and holly and mistletoe and trying to force hyacinths for Christmas (I did it once as a Brownie and always associated it with Christmas!) However, four years on, I feel I have Moved On and so, here is my Southern Hemisphere Take on a Christmas Vase!

Vase Close up

Stunning, vibrant colours aren’t they….a bit much maybe? I wanted to add some Lime green Zinneas but some pesky insects ate them all in the green house….

Berries

…so I substituted this rather wonderful berry plant that (dare I say it) is rather like a weed in my garden! I love it though and have used it on many occasions. I like to tuck a little sprig of it ino napkins when I decide to Make An Effort (can cause Mr Fig to Raise An Eyebrow when I do this!)

Dahlia

This dahlia is amazing not just because of it’s array of hues from yellow to orange to pink to red but also because it Survives Without Too Much Attention and I Like That. I’m quite busy really (who isn’t?) so I really appreciate flowers that pop up in Spring, die down again and then pop up in Spring again. I have lost count of the number of dahlias that seem to Disappear Without A Trace. Where do they go?

Orange flower

I adore this orange flower. Mr Fig chose it and seems to think its called Elephant’s Ears….I’m not so sure so if you recognise it please tell me what it is! I grow it alongside Chocolate Cosmos because it puts me in mind of my favourite chocolate of All Time Terry’s Chocolate Orange.

So this is my offering for this Monday’s Flowers in a Vase, as part of  Cathy’s inspiring and wonderful meme at Rambling in the garden. Pop along and have a look and perhaps be inspired to join in. It really is beginning to feel like Christmas now so Merry Christmas to everyone who reads my blog and thank you for joining me on my journey (especially to those who comment – you really do make my day!!)

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Flowers In A Vase – Oopsie Daisy Theme

Long Shot

By now you’ll know that I love growing veges but I also love growing flowers. It’s a real labour of love growing some of the more fiddly annuals like ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, some poppies and Bells of Ireland but I think it’s worth it though. I’ve had real triumphs like my Knautia plants and campanulas that are still thriving today and some failures; sunflower ‘Vanilla Ice’ that just wouldn’t strike and Alchemila Mollis of which I’m still nursing my one and only seedling from a whole pack. I still harbour a dream of my own Cutting Garden aka Sarah Raven. I bought a copy of The Cutting garden and was enthralled by the glossy pages and imagined myself making grand displays full of parrot tulips, maple branches and Smyrnium olustratum. The fact that I didn’t have a maple tree nor any parrot tulips and that I hadn’t even heard of Smyrnium olustratum didn’t phase me; I’m stubborn like that. However, as with most things in life, it all takes time and I realised that Starting Small was probably a good place to start. So my offering for this Monday’s Flowers in a Vase, as part of  Cathy’s new meme at Rambling in the garden, is a Simple Arrangement of just four flowers; roses, daisies, mini agapanthus and feverfew.

Daisy

Daisies make me smile!

Feverfew

Did you know that Feverfew can be used to treat a headache? Simply pick a couple of leaves and pop between two slices of brown bread and eat.

Agapantha1

I have a soft spot for the mini agapanthus but their bigger brothers and sisters are like a weed in my garden!

Close Up

I’ve written this post as part of Cathy’s new meme at Rambling in the garden. Pop over and see what others have chosen for their vases this Monday!

Rub-a-dub-dub….three chickens in a (dust) tub

My chickens love a dust bath. They love to roll around, fluff out their feathers, squirm and wriggle in them. On a sunny day they will stretch out one leg and a wing and sunbathe. Honestly! My Sporty Friend thought I was joking when I told her that but it’s true. Chickens love to sunbathe! My chickens think the Ultimate Dust Bath can be found in the freshly turned over soil in my raised vege beds. This is fine when the vege beds are empty of veges but when they’re full of tender little plants they’re off limits to my feathered friends!

Chickens in a dust bath

I decided to make my own dust bath for them in their coop. Mr Fig raised an eyebrow and rolled his eyes when I told him of my intentions. He walked away on a breath of words including “pampered chickens”,” they’re only birds”,” you don’t make me dust baths”…actually he didn’t say that about making him a dust bath but you get the drift. He thinks I’m a bit eccentric when it comes to my chicks. I’ve been known to sit in the coop and guard new chickens that have been introduced to an existing flock in my early chicken caring days. Anyhow, here’s how I made my new dust baths :

I had some posts left over from a broken archway so I simply recycled these to make a border for the dust bath. I then pinched some soil from the vege garden and added plain old fashioned wood ash from our fire that has been sitting around for a while in the car port.

spade and ash  ash in dust bath  Herbs in dust bath

I love a free by-product. Recycling and free – happy days! I also added some herbs to the dust bath; not just to look pretty but for their anti-parasitic and anti-bacterial benefits. Choose any or all from the list below:

Dill – anti-oxidant and relaxant
Lavender – stress reliever and insecticide
Lemon balm – stress reliever and anti-bacterial
Mint – insecticide
Pineapple sage – aromatic
Rosemary – aromatic
Yarrow – stress reliever

Here it is all ready for some chickens…. hello chickens?! Look at the lovely dustbath I’ve lovingly made for you!

Getting Cosy

Now my chickens aren’t stressed that I know of; the dog had to see a psychologist but that’s another story…. Strictly speaking the stress reliever herbs probably don’t need to go in the dust bath but I did wonder if I might add them to the nesting boxes. One of my chickens lays an enormous egg every other day and I think a little bit of stress relief might be welcomed by her!

Herbs in egg box

What do you make of all this Twiggy?

Twiggy

Ah, I think thy’re very happy with my efforts. Right, I’m filthy from all that work I’m off for a bath (water in case you’re wondering!)

There’s nothing like a Bit of Bunting….

    Pin Box

It’s so true. There aren’t many occasions that can’t be brightened up by some cheerful little triangles fluttering in the breeze. I made some gorgeous vintage bunting last year to hang out on the veranda for Christmas.

Christmas5

Super special isn’t it. I got a great mix of fabrics

Material 4  Material 3

Material 2  Material 1

and I love the fact that I can wheel it out year after year so it becomes very much part of the fabric of the Figlets’ Christmas memories. Now I actually went a bit mad last year and made too many triangles.

Unfinished bunting

Look here they are. They’ve been sitting in a box all year long waiting for someone to help them to fulfil their destiny and be fully fledged bunting hanging on someone’s wall at Christmas time. How can I possibly thwart the desires of half made bunting? I can’t, so I’m going to show you how to make bunting and then I’m going to parcel it up and send it off to someone to enjoy!

I’d better start by saying I can’t sew. I can’t knit or crochet with any kind of panache either but then you can take cheer from this sad fact because if I can make this bunting then anyone can. Begin by making a cardboard triangle 18cm across the top and 21cm for the sides. I’m using my gingham red triangle in the photo that was already cut out from last year. Simply pin the triangle to the fabric you’re cutting….

Lay out

……and snip, snip, snip along the edges with pinking shears. I love pinking shears because they stop the fabric from fraying. You can use normal scissors though. I backed each triangle with red gingham because I had a huge roll of it to use up. You can use the same fabric for both sides or buy a cheaper backing fabric. A friend used the red gingham side of the bunting for a Farmyard Party last year – I love versatile bunting!

Cut with pinking shears

Now turn the right sides together (the right sides are the good sides, the ones you want to display), pin together and simply sew along the two sides. Don’t bother sewing the top. You will be hiding the top when you sew the binding tape along.

Right sides together

Now turn the right way out and use a pencil to poke the pointy point at the bottom of the triangle and make it super pointy! Then iron flat. Ironing your triangles is Really Essential. They look so much better all flat and crisp. Now all you need to do is make a few more!

Turn right way out and iron

Once you have your triangles all sewn up you can start on the binding tape. You can use coloured binding tape or a thick ribbon but I am making my own out of one of my pieces of Christmas fabric. Simply cut a strip about 6cm wide and as long as the material. If you’re using a patterned fabric make sure it’s the right way up. See my little birds are the right way up? We don’t want wonky birds.

Strip of binding

Now turn the top edge down about 1cm-1.5cm or there abouts and iron it flat all the way along and do the same for the bottom edge.

Iron one hem  Ironed binding hems

Now you can start to pin your triangles into the binding tape.

Start pinning triangles Getting there

Keep going gently laying each triangle on the binding and folding over and pinning. Pin, pin, pin and you’ll soon have something like this….

Me

Now take a deep breath it’s time to sew it all together. I have a love hate relationship with my sewing machine. Sometimes it works like a dream, purring away happily like a cat and sometimes it gets tangled up, spits out too much thread, runs away with itself like a defective stream train. We’re a Work In Progress you could say. My best advice is to Take It Slowly. Bit by bit, centimeter by centimeter sew along the edge of the binding keeping the fabric nice and straight. And remember, Sewing, like Life, is a marathon not a sprint.

Start sewing

And here it is.

Bunting Circle

Really pleased with it and can’t wait for it to reach it’s destination and Fulfil it’s Destiny! Here it is all wrapped up ready to send. Post a comment on my Facebook Page when you receive it won’t you Lucky Person!!

To be sent

Garden Share Collective December

It’s been an exciting month in the garden! After three days of solid rain I ventured out to take photos for this post. It was as if the plants had been taking steroids! First up is the big, beefy caullie and the strong and hearty savoy cabbage…

Caullie   Cabbage

Now for the tiniest… another teeny-tiny alchemilia mollis…..

Alc Mollis

and a weeny chilli growing from last year’s chilli plant.

Little Chill

It’s the week of the Pea it seems as my Sweet peas are flourishing as are the Greenfeast and the sugar snap peas….

Peas    Sweetpea close up    Sugar Snap peas

The spice bed is filling up with some pretty needy spice plants. I’ve molly-coddled Anise, Anise Hyssop, Hyssop and Chamomile and they don’t look too thankful for the extra love. I’m hoping they’ll love being outside in the sunshine! The Caraway, Cinnamon Basil and Lemon Grass are thriving.

Spice Bed 2  Spice Bed 1

I always get really excited when I see the first courgette flower. I really, really resent paying for courgettes in the vege shop because they are so easy to grow and so prolific! Not too long before I’m adding courgette to every meal! Every year I also say I’m going to cook with the flowers….I Never Do. It seems I’m a creature of habits so perhaps this year I’ll surprise myself.

Courgette Plant  Courgette FLower

Starting to snake their way through the courgettes and the butternut squash are the Nasturtians ‘Peach Melba’…

Peach Melba

The Pimms Bed is looking good with flowers on the mini cucumbers and the spinach strawberry looking strong. Those mini cucumbers will be perfect for the Figlet’s lunchboxes too. Looking forward to the day when the Figlets can pop into the garden before school to pick some goodies for their lunchbox. Happy Days!

Pimms Bed

The beetroot is looking great and so are the red bunching onions…

Beetroot  red bunchng onions

I’ve been a bit random with the tomato planting this year because I ran out of space. I heard Mr Fig mutter that I’d planted them too close AGAIN. These backseat gardeners think they know it all don’t they!! The other task that evokes dark mutterings from Mr Fig is “pinching out” the laterals on the tomatoes. Now I admit that I have been known to use secateurs to “pinch out” the giant laterals from my toms but they still seem to produce lots of fruit so it all works out in the end.

Oops! Spotted One!

Tom with lateral

Ah…that’s better!

Tom without pinching

I’ve harvested 280g of tomatoes so far! I’ve decided this year to record the yields of everything I harvest. Is that a bit trainspotter-ish? Should I be sporting a blue anorak and a thermos flask? Maybe, but I’ll be recording them on my new Facebook page and on here so I’ll see if I get any comments.

Toms

I’m thrilled with my sunflowers! It was Touch and Go for a while there as it seems to be with many things that I grow. I gave them some fertiliser and they perked up and grew tall and strong. They’ve got a lot more growing to do but I can’t wait to see their bright, sunny faces amongst my veges.

Sunflowers

The garlic is ready to harvest although theoretically they say to harvest on the longest day. It’ll free up a whole bed (apart form a couple of random tomatoes and some basil). Might get some Telegraph Cucumbers growing up a wigwam in there. They’ll look great with the sunflowers behind them.

Garlic

The first plum tree is ripening and the Nashi Pears are well under way so all looking good.

Plums  Nashi Pears

I have one bed that has been neglected so that is my To Do for this month. It’s the Cup of Tea bed. Now, when I planned it way back in the depths of Winter I forgot that it contained Horse Radish. You Can’t Make Tea From Horse Radish. However, I’m Going With It and will be re-organising this bed for next time.

Cup of Tea Bed

I’ll also be planting more herb seeds like parsley, basil, dill, thyme so I can make up some pots to take round to friends as gifts over the Christmas Season. Such a simple idea but always well received. Happy Gardening!

Heartsease    Lupins  Yarrow