Monday, 20 June 2016


The summer solstice has crept up on me this year, and already we have arrived at the longest day. I don't like to think of the days shortening, as it always seems too early in the summer for this, so I prefer to concentrate instead on celebrating the longest day. It's a time of early dawns full of birdsong, warm days and long evenings spent outside. For me nothing epitomises the magic of midsummer like roses. Our new rosa mundi has flowered for the first time and I love its soft stripes of deep pink and white.

 I've just been outside dead-heading and as the smell of roses wafted on the evening air, those enchanted lines from Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' came into my head as they always do:

'I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopies with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine'

Our William Shakespeare rose is looking and smelling lovely at the moment.

And Gertrude Jekyll is as beautiful and deeply-scented as ever.

Following my usual tradition, I have lit a scented candle, and I wish you a Happy Solstice and some of your own summer magic x

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Across the Fields

After a very overcast day yesterday, the sun came out in the late afternoon, and P went off for his regular run in the countryside nearby. It's been a wet week with some torrential downpours, and suddenly everything is looking very lush and green. I had been sitting indoors trying to crochet a new mandala for the table and had ended up after an hour's work crossly ripping it all back and putting it away in a disgruntled manner with nothing to show for my efforts. At this point my phone buzzed and a message came through from P saying we should go for a walk to the fields he'd just run in, as he'd seen something he knew I'd like. I knew that some fresh air and exercise would do me good, so we soon headed off to the fields a couple of roads away, following our familiar path over the stile and across the stream.

On our way this little fellow charmed me, as I'm very fond of squirrels. He/she hung around for quite a while, allowing me to take a good few photos. My favourite is the top left springing action shot.

The hedgerows have changed since our walk in April, and are now full of tall perennial wild flowers, tangled clematis and arching brambles. As we walked we listened to skylarks singing high overhead and spotted what we think was a red kite wheeling with outstretched wings above us on the warm air.

We followed the line of the hedgerow and soon stopped at the elder bushes. They are in bloom now, and the large heads of tiny frothy flowers are gorgeous.

A rich, yellowy white, the colour of clotted cream, they smell wonderfully sweet. and are full of pollen. We picked 30 heads of flowers with elderflower cordial in mind.

We swooshed through he grasses as we walked through the fields. They are at their best now, purpley and delicate, and swaying in the gentlest breeze.

Soon we rounded the corner of a field and came upon the sight that P had told me about - a corn field full of poppies. A huge swathe of bright scarlet red scattered over a field of soft green. I stood and stared with my mouth open, trying to take in all that colour. I make no apology for the fact that I took lots of photos, as the poppies were absolutely glorious. 

Rarely do you see such concentrations of eye-popping colour in the British countryside.

The farmer had left a narrow path through the field as a right of way, and I was able to walk right into the middle of it and get up close to the flowers and wheat without damaging anything.

The sun shone through the paper-thin translucent petals and caught the tiny hairs on the stems and buds.

Standing deep in wheat and poppies I stilled myself and, as a couple of minutes ticked by, my heart-rate and breathing slowed. I got used to the lack of the sounds I'm used to in everyday life and really listened. Two sounds emerged and grew as I concentrated harder - the buzz of bees and insect life, and the song of birds. The field was absolutely a-buzz with life.

So much floral loveliness. Wow.

After a long time of gazing, photographing and just drinking it all in, we wandered home carrying a bunch of elderflowers each, looking like two lost wedding guests carrying bouquets.

Once home, I boiled up some water and sugar, and poured it over the flowers with the rind and slices of a lemon and an orange, and left it to steep overnight. 

A delicious memory of a wonderful summer afternoon.

(Before I go, I'd like to say thank you for your kind and encouraging comments on the flower painting which I showed you in my last post - you are a lovely lot! I shall try to catch up with you all this week. See you soon x)

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Watercolour Flower

Over half term I got my watercolour paints out. It's been a long while since I last painted anything and I was feeling very rusty indeed, so I had bought myself a new set of watercolours as I couldn't find my previous set anywhere. It's a little travel set which is perfect for taking out and about with me. I can't help but feel excited when I open a new box of paints. 

The little half-pans of paint are like brightly-coloured sweets waiting to be unwrapped. I love the tiny silvery brush too. I couldn't wait to get started. I knew what I would paint. A flower (of course).

I chose a fairly simple subject. A sweet purply-pink geranium from the garden. I had decided I was going to give myself an hour to see how far I got with it. If I don't time-limit myself I can go on for ever.

First I drew a faint outline in pencil. Hopefully you can just about see it.

Then came my favourite bit - finding the right colour. I loved playing around adding more blue here and then some red until I got as close a match as I can. Each petal is made up of several shades of deep pink and purple, and varies depending on where it's in shade or light.

Then I washed some colour onto the petals. It looks rather fuzzy in this picture because the paint was very wet and the light was reflecting off it.

Time for some green. The leaves were quite a fresh, yellowy green

This first layer was important because I had to decide which bits to leave white.

The petals needed depth. and some green at the centre of the flower,

as well as the veins on the leaves.

Next came some touches of red to the leaves, and the veins and centre of the flower.


From start to finish it took me an hour and fiteen minutes. It's by no means perfect and far more a quick impression than a detailed botanical illustration, but for a first attempt after a long break I'm pleased with my picture and am going to get my brushes out again soon.  There's so much potential floral subject-matter out at the moment, it's just choosing where to start ...

Thursday, 9 June 2016

A Nice Surprise

Today has been very hot and humid at work and it was rather a difficult day. I walked home in fabulous sunshine in the late afternoon and stepped indoors feeling very weary. P was there and I asked him if he was free (he works from home a good deal) to go out for a coffee. He's usually very busy, and I was hoping that we might pop down the road to one of our local coffee shops, but he suggested we go to the Walled Garden at Mells for a cup of tea instead! Well, I didn't need asking twice, so we hopped in the car and were there in 10 minutes. I've been quite a few times now and this really is a wonderful time of year to go. The sun was incredibly warm and the air balmy, and as we stepped through the door in the old stone wall I felt the stress beginning to melt away.

We went first to the cafe for a pot of Earl Grey and just sat and relaxed.

Unusually I came away without buying any plants, but I did take lots of photos

There's a sort of large greenhouse with indoor seating and vintage things and seeds for sale. What I like best about it is the fabric blinds. Aren't they pretty? Rather like a huge patchwork.

After a while it was time to go for a stroll. The garden is full of perennials and they are at their best at the moment.

I've never seen geranium phaedra in these lovely colours before.

Ornaments abound in this garden, and I love them.

Some are for sale. I especially like these twirly glass ones.

And this purple one's gorgeous.

They've recently fenced off the pond with these similarly beautiful iron railings.

In a shady part of the garden there are pretty lights,

and luxuriant ferns.

We went down the steps, round the corner and onto the terrace which overlooks the hills.

The old monastery walls were mellow and warm in the heat of the sun and the roses planted against them clearly love it there.




The perfect place to sit and soak up the sun.

Soon it was time to go, and we wandered out. I was certainly a good deal more chilled than when I went in. Proof, if it was ever needed, that gardens and nature are good for the soul.

See you soon x