Sunday, November 09, 2014

Garden at the beginning of November 2014

Last week was busy so I'm only just getting round to posting this now. The sun is getting low in the sky these days, as you can see from the first picture! The first weekend of November was disturbingly warm, despite the low sun, and we had temperatures in the high teens, which made for very pleasant gardening. It has dipped since though, and it was 9° out in the garden today!
These are a few plants we bought on my birthday weekend (no, I haven't bloggged about that yet!). This is a replacement for "Spiky bush", who was purchased a year ago to go under the bird feeder to stop the pigeons being a nuisance down there. I don't think its roots took as it was fine whilst the weather was wet, but as soon as the weather turned warm it turned brown and died. This new one is smaller (but will grow bigger over the next ten years) and it's called Picea Glauca Globe. I've also moved the bird feeder back a bit so it's now in the middle of a bush, which should stop the pigeons compacting all the soil round the base of it.

This is part of a bed in the front garden, which had some older plants in it that weren't doing well, their leaves went all mottled and  unhealthy looking. So I dug them up, and we bought a couple of new plants. The left hand one is another Abelia Grandiflora, which was in a new section of the garden centre where they had smaller versions of many plants which were a lot cheaper (and it'll grow!). The right hand one is a Choisya ternata Sundance (Golden Mexian Orange Blossom), which has lovely bright green/golden leaves, hopefully making that corner look lighter.

These Hellebores are also newly planted, but they're ones I've grown from seed from a Hellebore given to us by a neighbour. They are showing lots of new leaves and I'm hopeful that they'll flower early next year. The Daphne has also got buds forming on it.

My newly planted up containers are looking good, and the pansies will hopefully flower through the winter. The Hellebore in the middle is from the bargain shelf at the garden centre.

Newly potted up cyclamen - this has been on the go for a couple of years now, and I keep thinking it's died each summer, but it comes back each year.

We've done some clearing up and tidying up ready for winter. The half-hardy fuchsias and the Alstroemeria have been tucked up in the cold frame to protect them from the worst of the weather (don't know whether there will be a 'worst of the weather' this year - last year I think we only had one frost).
We tidied up the patio, and I've put the herbs in pots in a line to make them easy to find for evening cooking sessions - picking herbs by the light from the security light! The wooden bench has been moved further away from the shed, as that area floods very easily (the drainage is really poor - we're saving up for a new patio) and I don't want the bench to be stood in water over the winter.

This is a couple of plants that I've had for several years, but their leaves look so pretty in Autumn I couldn't resist taking a picture. They are both Heucheras (one of my favourite plants). The back one is "Ebony and Ivory", which my Mum brought with her one time she visited. The one in the front is "Georgia Peach", which I bought with a garden gift voucher received when I left a job a few years ago. Georgia Peach has been planted in various spots around the garden, and in a container, and wasn't very happy, but it seems to be thriving in this spot.

It's been so mild up until now there are already signs of bulb foliage appearing above the soil, although the new cold weather will slow them down a bit. I love the signs of next year's flowers already appearing too - something to look forward to over the Winter! The Camellia is covered in buds and should look really pretty early next year.

And these are just three of the many buds that have formed on the winter-flowering Clematis "Wisley Cream". This is really pretty, and lovely to see flowers in the depths of the winter. I'm hoping this will be the year that I achieve my aim of having something in flower in the garden every month of the year!
Think that's all for now!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finished items

I've been on a bit of a knitting roll recently. I took the socks that I was knitting in Swansea in August away with me to Yorkshire and Yarndale, as a straightforward portable project. And they were perfect for this. The pattern is Basic Ribbed Socks by Kate Atherley, and they fit really well. The yarn is Bergère de France Opal, which is lovely and thick knitted on 2.5mm needles.

Then last week I finished my not nautical or striped, but now with stripes, nautical striped sweater. This used almost all of the 15 balls of the Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran yarn I had in my stash. I'm really pleased with this. Despite not getting gauge and deciding to wing it a bit (I knitted the smallest size, and made the body longer than in the pattern), this fits really well. The "design feature" of stripes on the upper body when I realised I had two slightly different colourways in my stash, rather than 15 balls of one, also seems to have worked. There is also one sleeve each in the different colourways.
 This means I'm doing really well on my four-garments-in-different-yarn-weights-in-a-year challenge. That's chunky, 4ply and aran all completed. The DK one, the Garter Yoke Cardigan is coming along well, and I just have one sleeve now to finish on this.

As the number of projects I've got on the go was getting worryingly low(!), I thought it wise to cast on for something else. I always like to have a smaller, more portable, project on the go for things like taking to knitting group or travelling by train. I couldn't resist winding up the set of Knitting Goddess mini skeins I bought at Yarndale, and casting on for a hat for the OH. I decided on the Mini Roni hat, which comes in all sizes from premature baby to absolutely huge adult. It turns out the OH has an absolutely huge head so I hope it's going to fit.

I love the colour of these mini skeins

And don't they look cute wound into little balls?!

Of course, those projects aren't going to keep me busy for long, so I'd better get deciding what to make next.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Books read 2014 #4

#16 Emma Healey Elizabeth is missing
Another book I saw in a bookshop on holiday, then ordered from the library! This is a murder mystery story, but with a difference, as the main character has dementia. I thought the author did a pretty good job of describing how bewildering it must be from the point of view of the person with dementia, who is trying to find out where her friend Elizabeth has gone, but no one seems to care that she is missing. The action jumps between the present-day, and her childhood, when her sister also went missing. Intriguing angle for a story, and it kept me captivated anyway.

#17 Andrew Atherstone Archbishop Justin Welby: the road to Canterbury
This is a shortish biography of Justin Welby, published just as he became Archbishop of Canterbury. I don't agree with all of his views, but I like what he's done so far as Archbishop and I think he could be a very positive force, so this seemed like a good idea to read. It did help me fill in a lot of the background to things that I'd read in the media. It covers everything, from childhood, through to Archbishop, explaining things along the way, such as his education and how he came to faith and what he did before ordination, and got involved in various initiatives at the churches he worked at after ordination. A good introduction, which has given me the background to help understand more about what I read elsewhere! It's written in a very readable way, and only took me a week to read, so well worth dipping into.

#18 Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Free-range knitter: the Yarn Harlot writes again
Another amusing collection of anecdotes from the Yarn Harlot. These are the perfect thing to dip into at the end of a long day. Some observations are longer than others, and some are tinged with sadness, as well as amusement.

#19 Clara Parkes The yarn whisperer: reflections on a life in knitting
Borrowed this from a friend, and it was read almost overnight when I couldn't get any sleep when I had a cold. It's in a similar vein to the Yarn Harlot books - reflections on knitting, and is a very enjoyable read.

#20 Wendy Moore Wedlock: how Georgian Britain's worst husband met his match
This was from a display of books by the issue computer at the library, which I picked up as the title intrigued me and ended up borrowing. It's the biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes and was fascinating. Mary Bowes wasn't someone I'd heard of before (she is actually an ancestor of the Queen Mother, and I'd heard of the Bowes Museum). She was an incredibly wealthy girl, who was married twice, neither time particularly well, but the second was a disaster, when she married a fraudster and experienced what we would now recognise as domestic violence. In those days women had very few rights, and weren't allowed to own property (it passed directly to their husband on marriage), but Mary managed to pull off the almost impossible and get a divorce. It was interesting finding out how the very beginnings of equal rights for women began, and made me very glad I live now!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Salisbury holiday 2014

Last week we had a few days away in Salisbury, staying at the very comfortable Rose and Crown Hotel. This was the view from our hotel bedroom, straight out onto the River Avon, with Salisbury Cathedral just visible through the trees. The restaurant was also on the banks of the river, and we enjoyed having our breakfast looking out over it. We ate in the hotel one night too, but it was too dark to see anything then!

The hotel was 10 minutes walk from the city centre (about 20 minutes' walk from the railway station), or a longer route over the water meadows with beautiful views of the cathedral on the other side.

We'd already done some exploring when we visited Salisbury for the day whilst we were on holiday in June, so we quickly got reacquainted with the city centre. This is one of the routes out from the Cathedral Close.
On the first day, after we'd got settled into the hotel, we visited Mompesson House, an 18th century National Trust property within the Cathedral Close. The Sense and Sensibility film starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet was filmed here back in 1995, so some parts may look a bit familiar.

There was a modern sculpture exhibition on inside the house, which included the occasional knitted/felted object too.

The rooms were all beautiful, and it was fairly quiet so easy to see everything and photos (without flash) were allowed. This is the OH looking at some of the books in the library. There are more photos of Mompesson House on Flickr.

On the full day of our holiday we decided to visit Stonehenge, after lots of umming and ahing as the only way to get there by public transport is on the Stonehenge Tour bus, which costs £14 for an adult! In the end we decided to go, as we could get free admission to Stonehenge itself as we're National Trust members. Otherwise the outing would have cost nearly £60, which would have really put us off going. I was also interested to see what they'd done to Stonehenge, as I knew a new visitor centre had been opened.

Stonehenge was actually better than we'd been expecting. The visitor centre building is a bit jarring and modern, but isn't within sight of the stones. More importantly it houses plenty of loos(!), a café, a very over-priced shop and an exhibition. Outside, there are a few replica neolithic houses to go inside. The exhibition was quite good, if not very big. It was definitely designed to get as many people through in as little time as possible!

The stones are a short distance away, and you can either walk to them, or catch a shuttle bus/land train. As it was rather a wet and windy day, we caught the bus. There is an accessible path up to the stones, and then plenty of space to walk around them, with good views of the stones, both reasonably close to, and further away. I know some people were complaining that they couldn't actually go up to the stones themselves, but that seems a bit unrealistic considering the fragile ground and the number of visitors. Also, seen like this, it was possible to take good pictures of the stones without people in the way.

Halfway round viewing the stones it started raining in earnest so we got totally drenched!! There is no shelter at the stones themselves, so we just carried on walking round them, then caught the bus back to the visitor centre! It was very windy so the rain was blowing sideways. Always fun. There are more photos from Stonehenge on Flickr.

On our way back towards Salisbury the tour bus stops at Old Sarum, which was what we'd really come to visit. This is the original site of the city, and was an Iron Age hill fort, and where the castle and first cathedral once stood, but the site had little access to water and was abandoned in the 13th century in favour of the current site of Salisbury. It's easier to get a sense of the site from the aerial photo on the Old Sarum website.

This is the view from near the entrance, over towards Salisbury itself. The site was first used in the Iron Age, and first appears in documentary records during the Roman occupation. After the Conquest, William the Conqueror built the castle on the site.

Inside the castle, the remains of the Courtyard House. The walls were demolished when the city was abandoned, and the stone taken away to use in building the new Salisbury.

This is the view from what remains of the ramparts, to the remains of the cathedral. The first cathedral was begun in 1075, but was damaged in a thunderstorm in 1092, only five days after it was consecrated. Work on the extended cathedral began in 1130. I found it rather odd that they put so much work in over so many years, only to move the cathedral (and tombs) to the new Salisbury site in 1226.

There are more photos from Old Sarum on Flickr.
And that was about it. We returned to Salisbury for another night at the hotel, before catching the train back to Staines the next day.