Thursday, November 11, 2010

leaves on the line

Autumn Leaves
the leaves fell
Autumn Leaves
and old biochem text books came in useful for pressing a few
Autumn Leaves
before they were strung along an orange ribbon to decorate the chimney breast
Autumn Leaves
the snowflake lanterns are out (Dan's request - not my fault for once) as the're too pretty for only two weeks a year.
Autumn Leaves

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Success and Failure


Its' grim, wet, windy and cold. The growing season is over. In an attempt to learn from our mistakes, I shall now take stock and recount the successes and failures of our growing year - for which I had such huge aspirations.

Success: Very early sowings of spring peas. Delicious.
Fail: No where near enough home grown peas! I failed again to get good successional sowings going. The first batches I planted in loo rolls in the cold frame did very well. The rest I tried to direct sow when the weather was warmer failed miserably. Eaten by slugs I suppose. We were a lot less diligent on the slug hunts I think than in previous years.

Success: Our first apple!
Fail: Hardly any strawberries. I split last years plants before they were well enough established to deal with it.

Success: Tomatoes in large quantity and four varieties.
Fail: Last year I grew the tomatoes in tiny pots where they struggled valiantly and gave some yield at least. They were very straggly though, and kept falling over in the wind as well as running out of water constantly. This year I bought them massive pots, but they just grew four times as big, became even more ungainly and still toppled over.

Success: Cucumbers (Burbless Tasty). Had quite a few through the summer, think we got the hang of them this year. Probably would have increased yield with better feeding, but I think I failed most things on the feeding front in the latter half of summer.
Fail: Courgettes and Pumpkins/squash, or lack there of. Epic, epic fail. I sowed courgette seed late and most of it failed to germinate anyway. The two that did were miserable things and barely flowered. Good germination with the pumpkins and squash, buckets of flowers in many cases, but never a fruit you could eat. Again, I suspect I failed them on the feeding requirements, in that they didn't really get anything. Bad me.

Success: I grew a variety of miniature aubergines (Ophelia) this year. Much more successful than the fully grown kind and we had several fruits. Highly recommended. Dan's cousin who lives just round the corner grew nothing but aubergines of the larger variety this year and got nothing for her trouble, so there you go.
Fail: Despite the relative success of baby aubergines, there weren't that many. Most came towards the end of the season when there was precious little sunshine to bring them on (a common problem with aubergines). It's hard to know whether they're worth the space given to them.

Fail, fail, fail, fail: Carrots, parsnips and anything else we tried to grow in the "vegetable patch" - the raised area at the end of out garden than in another situation would be perfect as such. As it is, it's too shady by far and nothing thrives. Time to rethink where to grow things.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

is cold...


So, after the big day of emerging from my chrysalis into a post PhD world, I almost immediately got on a plane to the US. Not for a holiday like what normal people do, but for interviews for my next job. September was quite grim in parts here I seem to remember, but the skies of Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia were clear blue in the beginning of October. In fact it was 28+ degrees C in Baltimore, which was hotter than we'd experienced for the majority of summer. This confused me a bit I think, 'cause it's felt bloomin' cold here since I came back. It feels like the dead of winter to me already, like Autumn missed us - which is sad because I am fond of Autumn. I'm still trying to tinge the house with orange nevertheless. I have to decorate the house somehow to stave off my desires to drench everything in Christmas cheer way too early to be decent....

Ride home

The gnarly pumpkin got a lift home from the farmers market on the back of my bike. Amusing and tragically north London at the same time. In a brief period of relaxation and heady creativity I crocheted some lichen for the dried teasel heads (yes they're still knocking about). I'm sure I got the inspiration for this activity someplace on t'interweb, but for the life of me I can't remember where. There must have been good vibes in the air, because Dan was inspired to take plenty of photos.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dr. Dozenoaks

No longer am I "a 27 year old graduate student in the final throws of a PhD". It's all over. I'm done! I wish I had some sort of celebratory picture to go with this, but the state of disorganisation round here is epic...

Friday, July 23, 2010



I'm still obsessing over the Bees, but the Bees themselves are currently obsessing over the teasels, to the point where they're pretty much covered in pollen. Quite honestly, from even the most disinterested garden design standpoint, the teasels are a disaster. They're biennial so I've not had them in the garden before now, and it's been a long wait. But they're too huge in this compact London space, and currently choking out more delicate things. I'm still slightly in love with the prehistoric gigantic nature of the beasts, but it's a pleasure I'm going to have to put off for a grander scheme than this. Currently my dilemma is whether to yank them out after the Bees have done with them, or leave them so the Birds get some seed.... hmmmm. Opinions?


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Small things I made


Back in June, whilst there was no gardening or knitting to speak of, I did manage to find half an hour to make these lanterns and decorations for our winter honeysuckle. The strange bits of dangly ceramic were bought in a charity shop for not very much. Not sure what they were originally, but I fashioned some largish hooks out of heavy gauge wire and now they sit in the tree. While I was at it, I finally got round to adding handles to our old jars so they could hang in the tree too. Not exactly glamourous, but pretty enough at dusk.


Of course the reason everything was so quiet was that all my energy was going into producing another thing entirely. That thing I made was my thesis. It was finally printed on Friday, bound on Monday and submitted on Tuesday. I'd like to think aspects of it were aesthetically pleasing, but a fair-isle sweater or well maintained veg-patch it is not. This is the start of a strange new world for me to be without it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010



The first week of July I spent on conference in Amsterdam. I'd never been to Amsterdam before, had very few expectations and left feeling pleased with the place and wishing to spend more time there. It felt very familiar and easy, as well as peaceful and relaxing. The virtual complete lack of cars rendered an otherwise dynamic and exciting city, particularly easy to loll about it - especially along by the canals whilst drinking white beer. I spent most of my time here, in the RAI conference centre:


...but it was Amsterdam, so there were a few floral delights to be had amongst other more serious things. I was most enthralled by the streets giving birth to an impressive range of Hollyhocks that were seemingly growing straight out of the pavement.

IMG_3185 IMG_3186

I made it to the flower market too, but honestly I was underwhelmed. It felt sterile and lifeless. I know I'm a spoilt rotten Londoner with my regular visits to Columbia Road Flower Market, which is a heady (and costly) experience any Sunday of the year. Yet, plant fetishist that I am (and particular lover of bulbs) I left Amsterdam without a purchase. The varieties of tulips on offer were dull and uninspiring, and everything else had 'Do not touch' signs on it. Half the pleasure of a trip to the market (or garden centre) is fondling the foliage and stroking the petals.... I'm not even giving space to the market photos, they can live together in this montage and be done with:

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

Anyway, regardless of what was a minor dissappointment, here's to a pretty city, and to dreams of going back (still need to check out the Van Gogh museum at the very least, if only for the Dr Who geekery of it all). And if I can entice you further, here's a city guide from 6 music's Laverne show. Just to be ultra obnoxious, I got to go to a pretty cool party at Melkweg whilst in Amsterdam, it really is a cool place...


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Poor you

Early June Garden

Poor blog, you are neglected. Just one post for the whole of June - you deserve better! Well consider this a resolution to make time for you in July. I think we've passed through the worst storms of work related woe that came in with June, and time will be made for all things garden and creative once more. On the plus side, there is a whole stock of photos from June just waiting in the wings for you - July will be better I'm sure of it.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Name that Bee

We seem to have a broad variety of bees in our garden, and whilst pratting about photographing them I started to idly wonder what species they were, in that weird science-y way that sometimes comes over me... Thus, I found my new favourite toy from the always gothically mysterious, Natural History Museum: Bombus. Amazing. And so -

Early June Garden
this is B. terrestris, the Buff-tailed bumblebee. Probably a worker but possibly a queen; the tail is quite yellowish.
Early June Garden
This is a southerly specific bee, B.hypnorum or Tree bumblebee. Can't decide between queen, worker or male from this shot.
Early June Garden
The wings are in the way here and its a bad angle for looking at his/her bottom... I know it's not terrestris by comparison so on that basis I'm going with B. lucorum the White-tailed bumblebee, but I'm not convinced.

the best thing about this game is that I know there's other species in the garden yet to be photographed...

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Unexpected

a hot May weekend

Four years ago, when we moved in to this flat and reclaimed the garden, very little was left to give that 'garden' feeling. I can list them very easily: winter honeysuckle, two neon pink roses, a leaf of a sedum which somehow grew into a clump, forget-me-nots, bluebells, a creamy peony and a half dead hydrangea. Oh and the one bramble we left in for fruit. That was it - literally. Every single other growing thing was added by us, including the lawn. This short list left quite large expanses of empty borders to deal with.

Iargely my approach was to dump whatever we managed to beg, steal and grow from seed into the available gaps based on what colours I wanted to see together with a cursory nod to conditions said plant would like to grow. Chaos was added by leaving anything to that wanted to self seed to it's own devices. Now, last year I plonked a load of alliums in, having never grown them before. This has led to a mixed result. Firstly the gloriously unexpected acidic colour combination above: allium purple sensation and welsh poppies. It's actually even better now, this picture is a week old - more alliums and more poppys in flower. I want to improve on this further by seeding more of the prolific poppies under the alliums over the summer. Unfortunately, the Mount Everest alliums did not fair so well. For one, they're midgets and you can't even see them at the backs of the borders and for another one lot is in a hopeless place and have been squished under cat traffic. The picture below is an official reminder to self to move these once they've finished they're attempt at flowering - together with the agapanthus and iris swamped under the unexpectedly huge hydrangea.

Jobs to do

While I'm here giving myself a list of things to do - I need to lift and divide the hostas and flag iris' behind the pond when the time is right:

Jobs to do