Thursday, 18 August 2022

Shopping For Houseplants

I'm a recent convert to houseplants. I've had the odd one or two over the years, and I've had a few orchids for some time, but over the last couple of years I've increased my collection. I didn't bring them all with me when I moved house, just a money plant, a couple of Christmas cactuses and a teeny tiny poinsettia which I bought last year. It's dropped its flowers since we moved house but it's still going strong. Oh, I brought an orchid with me too and though it's not flowering at the moment, it is growing a new leaf.

Mick's got a fortnight off work at the moment. We thought we might get off for some days out here and there but Archie has, yet again, developed a limp so he's on enforced rest at the moment. He does seem to be on the mend though so we're keeping our fingers crossed that we'll be able to head off somewhere soon. In the meantime, we're staying close to home as we won't leave Archie for long, so we're trying to get some bits and bobs done that we keep putting off at home. There are areas in my new house where I'd like a plant or two so yesterday, we had a look around a few local garden centres.

There was limited choice in the first two, the third was a little better, though the prices were extortionate.

Our last port of call was a local florist who we've used many times over the years and their prices are really reasonable. They had quite a bit of choice and though I didn't buy anything yesterday, I'm going to go back and buy a Ceropegia woodii (string of hearts) and possibly a pilea glaucophylla. I thought I'd better read up on their care before buying them, I'm no expert when it comes to house plants.

Do you grow houseplants and if so, do you have any particular favourites?

Sunday, 14 August 2022

A Wedding Gift From Down Under

I've made lots of friends through blogging, some I've already met in person, others I've yet to meet in the flesh, but Susan from Granny Smith's Quilting is the friend I've met up with the most, which is rather funny as she lives the farthest away on the other side of the world in Australia. We met for the first time back in 2014 and I wrote a post about our Bloggy Meet Ups. We've met up a few times since then when Susan and her lovely husband have been over here visiting family. 

When Eleanor and Jacob announced their wedding plans, Susan contacted me and asked if she could make a quilt for them as a wedding gift. She didn't have to ask twice, I drool over the quilts that Susan shows on her blog, she's such an accomplished quilter.

The quilt has arrived in good time, the wedding isn't until October but Susan made sure to send it with plenty of time to wing its way right around the world. I did ask her if I should hold onto it until the wedding but she said that seeing as they already have their home, I could pass it on to them straight away, which is perfect as they're just in the middle of decorating their bedroom and it will make a wonderful addition.

Isn't the quilt beautiful. Susan's always been very generous sending lots of lovely gifts from Australia. I have a bed runner that she made for me and I love that, but this quilt really does have the wow factor.

You can see the quilting a little better on the reverse of the quilt, just excuse the creases, remember it's travelled all the way from Australia so it's done very well, I'm much more crumpled when I've been on a flight.

Thank you so much, Susan. Eleanor and Jacob are thrilled with it and I know it's something they're starting married life off with which will be treasured for a lifetime.

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Summer Makers Market

We saw that the Halifax Piece Hall was staging a Summer Makers Market last weekend so on Sunday we decided to have a drive over.

This Grade I listed building is the only remaining Georgian cloth hall in the world. It dates back to 1779 and was built as a hall where 'pieces' of cloth (a 30 yard length of woven woollen fabric produced on a handloom) were traded.

The link at the beginning of this post takes you to a post I wrote back in 2011. The Piece Hall was rather run down then, but in 2014 a £19 million restoration project commenced and it reopened in 2017. Since then, it's welcomed over eight million visitors.

There are various exhibitions held at the Piece Hall, as well as live entertainment. I'd hoped to visit earlier this year when there was an exhibition of Sophie Ryder's sculptures in the courtyard but I missed that.

The Piece Hall is now home to a huge selection of independent shops. There's everything from toys and collectables to homeware, fashion and accessories to arts and crafts, on sale here. There's even a Christmas shop which is open the year round. There's also plenty of places to eat and drink with a selection of cafes, restaurants and bars.

There were 34 stalls making up the Summer Makers Market focusing on local produce alongside arts, crafts and gifts. There were quite a few speciality alcohol producers selling flavoured gin, rum, liqueurs and spirits and quite a few stalls selling baked goods, but there were many other things on offer too.

This sculpture, called Contemplation, is of Anne Lister, also known as Gentleman Jack, the owner of Halifax's Shibden Hall.

Created by Diane Lawrenson, it's the first public sculpture of the famous lesbian diarist and businesswoman.

There's always some Yorkshire merchandise for sale featuring Yorkshire humour when visiting touristy places in the county.

It was an enjoyable, well-attended event, and it was also nice to look around the Piece Hall again. We visited a little while after it reopened after the restoration project was finished but many of the shops were stood empty at that time. It seems very popular now with most of the shops fully occupied and the amount of visitors it's attracted speaks for itself.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Eleanor's Hen Weekend

Eleanor and Jacob get married in October. It used to be tradition that the hen and stag events were a night out, just before the wedding, to celebrate the bride and groom's last night of freedom. These days, the nights out have turned into major events which go on for a weekend, or even longer, are held long before the wedding, and see some groups heading off to far flung places. Last weekend, Jacob and his stags headed off to Newcastle where they went go-karting, played zorb football and had some nights out. I believe a good time was had by all.

Eleanor's hen do is this weekend. The hens are currently in Manchester, what they're up to is anyone's guess as it's all a closely guarded secret, however, I do know that there's some pampering sessions, fancy meals and nights out, and fun for all. The weekend actually started yesterday when we all headed off to the Sky Lounge in Leeds for afternoon tea. I think Eleanor wanted to kick the weekend off doing something which the oldies could be a part of too. As well as the hens, me, Jacob's mum, Jacob's grandma and Mick's auntie were invited.

The Sky Lounge is where Jacob proposed to Eleanor and She Said Yes. The afternoon tea was delicious and rather substantial, we all took doggy bags home with us.

There were cocktails too, a Cosmopolitan for me but everyone else had something different.

I'm looking forward to hearing all about the weekend on Eleanor's return, and then it's the countdown to the wedding. It's less than two months away now, it's come round fast, and we've still got some last minute things to organise. Eleanor and Jacob had to postpone their menu tasting evening at the hotel where they're getting married, as well as their pre-wedding photo shoot, because they both had covid at the time they'd been arranged, so they've still got those to come, and there's still some minor details for the wedding to organise but I think we'll be saying that right up to the big day, there's always some little extras to add.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Second Time Lucky

I recently wrote about our Scuppered Plans when we tried to visit the Walled Garden at Temple Newsam, only to find that it was closing just as we arrived. Not to be put off, we visited again on Sunday and this time we were lucky and found it open.

The walled gardens have been on this site since 1788 and were originally used to supply the house with vegetables, fruit and cut flowers. 

Herbaceous borders run along the walls and some are 800 yards in length, it's a large garden. They're well stocked, though I must admit that I've seen them more colourful in the past than they were on this occasion. I think the hot weather probably has something to do with that, many plants will stop flowering after prolonged exposure to high temperatures.

There's a good selection of flowers but the hollyhocks really stood out. I like this really dark variety.

They make quite a statement in the border.

I think the red and pink varieties are really pretty too.

The echinops are repeated at intervals throughout the borders and give a different shape and texture to the planting.

The insects absolutely love them, they were covered in bees.

In fact, the borders were filled with lots of different insects enjoying the plants.

There's a good mix of flower heights and shapes in the borders. Here's the giant of flowers, the cardoon, reaching for the sky. Cardoons can grow up to six feet tall.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I've been visiting Temple Newsam all my life. I remember the walled garden from my childhood as it presented a beautiful rose garden which originated from about 1923. Sadly, it's not so outstanding these days, there are roses growing in some of the beds but many are empty.

I don't think my visit showed the walled garden at its best. The borders have been stunning on previous visits, I think I'm just a little too late this year, especially after the heatwave. It's a shame that the rose beds are lacking though, it would be good to see them stocked with more plants to bring this garden back to its former glory. 

There's also a huge conservatory which contains more temperate plants but as we had Archie with us, we didn't go inside on this occasion. It's a nice garden to visit and there's plenty of seating for the less mobile or anyone wanting to take advantage of the tranquil atmosphere, but more could definitely be made of these grounds.

Friday, 29 July 2022

Planning A New Garden

The garden at our new house is smaller than the garden we left behind. There's a patio area, a grassed area and one small border. When we moved here the border was well stocked, however, on looking at the plants closer, they weren't what we wanted to remain in the border. There was a bamboo, known for being invasive, so that was hoicked out at the first opportunity, and there were various plants which are highly toxic to dogs. Archie's quite good and doesn't tend to nibble anything but grass, but we didn't want to take any chances so they were pulled up too. To be honest, I think that some of the plants, including the bamboo, had been grown in containers and perhaps planted out just before the previous owners moved out, as they came up really easily, and the rhizomes hadn't spread at all, thank goodness. It would have been a much harder job to make sure we'd got it all out if it were a mature plant.

So now we're planning a new border. It won't take many plants to fill it, especially leaving room for them to grow, but it's fun deciding what we want to plant anyway.

There's already a lovely hydrangea, not shown at its best here. It's a really deep pink, suggesting that our soil is alkaline. Hydrangeas actually change colour according to the pH level of the soil. The more alkaline the soil, the more pinker the flowers will be and the more acidic the soil, the bluer the flowers. White varieties of hydrangea don't change colour.

I gave up growing hostas in my old garden as they just ended up as slug fodder, even when I planted them in containers. Unfortunately, this one in my new garden looks to be going the same way, time will tell whether I keep it in the border or not but they're not very attractive with decimated leaves.

This wiegela was beautiful at the beginning of summer, it was covered in pink flowers, but it's not much to look at now. Is it worth keeping it for the short time it flowers, I'm not sure.

Of course, as well as growing plants in the border, we can fill some containers. I didn't bring very much with me from my old garden, even the blueberry bushes, which I grew in containers, were rehomed with Eleanor. The only things I brought with me were three rose bushes and a skimmia japonica. I used to have a cordyline quite a few years ago but it died, I suspect it had something to do with the fact that Eleanor tore all its leaves in half, longways! It ended up with twice the number of leaves it started with. Little monkey, she was only young then. I always liked it so I decided I'd get another to grow in a pot. When I saw some young specimens for sale in B&M I picked one up.

The garden is south-west facing and the border faces the house with a fence behind it. It gets a fair amount of sun and a fair amount of shade. If you have any suggestions of plants which might do well in these conditions, which work well in a mixed border and give plenty of colour I'd love to know. I'd like plants of different heights and some climbers to cover the fence too. Any ideas?

Monday, 25 July 2022

Far From The Madding Crowd

I've never read anything by Thomas Hardy before so I didn't know what to expect when I started reading Far from the Madding Crowd.

"Hardy's powerful novel of swift sexual passion and slow-burning loyalty centres on Bathsheba Everdene, a proud working woman whose life is complicated by three different men - respectable farmer Boldwood, seductive Sergeant Troy and devoted Gabriel - making her the object of scandal and betrayal.

Vividly portraying the superstitions and traditions of a small rural community, Far from the Madding Crowd shows the precarious position of a woman in a man's world."

I found this a story of two halves. The first part was hard-going and I can't say I particularly enjoyed reading it, it went into so much detail about everything and it was quite laborious to get through, but it seemed to turn a corner half way through when I became fully engaged and invested in the characters and couldn't wait to turn the pages as I wanted to know more. I found Bathsheba quite annoying and her choices led to most of the heartache and tragedy in the story, but I'll confess that it ended as I hoped it would. 

This is a book I'd like to read again at some point in the future. Now, knowing the whole story, I believe I'd enjoy the first half of the book all the more if I were to read it again. 

I'd definitely like to read more from Hardy, so it's just as well that I've got Tess of the d'Urbervilles waiting for me on my bookshelf.

Thursday, 21 July 2022

Oh Deer!

Mick had to be up at 4.30am yesterday to travel to Basingstoke for a meeting, it's a long way from Leeds, it takes over four hours each way when the traffic's good. He didn't arrive home until after 8pm, he'd spent a long time cooped up in the car, so we decided to take Archie for a short walk so that Mick, as well as Archie, could stretch his legs.

There's a lane at the end of our street which is quiet and we walk Archie there. Cars can travel along the first part and then it turns into a track for walkers. Farmland runs alongside and last night we thought we were seeing things when we looked out upon the field and saw a deer.

We were watching it for quite a while and it was happy to just stand there, gazing around.

We know there's deer around but it's very rare we see them. I'll be watching out on our dog walks now to see if we see any more.

Sunday, 17 July 2022

1000 Subscribers

I recently discovered the My Yarny Corner podcast on You Tube which is hosted by Alex. She started podcasting at the beginning of 2021 and she also uploads vlogs to her channel which are entertaining to watch so I've been right back to the beginning and watched everything she's uploaded so far.

I subscribed to the podcast at the time Alex was filming her June vlogs and I became her 1000th subscriber. She's now hosting a giveaway to celebrate the milestone of reaching this number of subscribers, and she gave me a pattern prize for becoming her 1000th subscriber. I was able to look on Ravelry and choose which pattern I'd like.

As you know, I do enjoy knitting and crocheting blankets so I chose the Habitation Throw pattern by Helen Stewart. I thought this would be a great pattern to use up some of the mini skeins of yarn I've still got left from various advent calendars, though it would look equally pretty knit up in one solid colour. I'm not going to start it right away, I've got a few things I'd like to finish first.

Thank you very much, Alex, I know I shall enjoy knitting this. If you enjoy watching knitting and crochet podcasts and haven't yet discovered My Yarny Corner, do pop over. Even if you don't enjoy knitting and crochet podcasts, pop over and watch the vlogs. Alex lives near the beautiful spa town of Ilkley which is on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and she films some beautiful scenery.

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

Through My Kitchen Window

One of the first things we did when we moved house was put out the bird bath. I could spend ages watching the birds in the garden, it's like a soap opera out there with all the petty squabbles, the comings and goings, the regulars and the newcomers. We don't get the variety of birds in our garden that we had at our old house, but we're encouraging more with the different types of food that we're offering.

The bird bath has been a hive of activity over the past week with the temperatures soaring. The birds are queueing up to bathe and drink from it.

These photos were taken on Monday when I just glanced through my kitchen window, saw a lot of activity around the bird bath and reached for my camera.

My parents used to love watching the birds in the garden. The house where I grew up backed onto farmland and we'd get quite a variety of different birds visiting, everything from sparrows and thrushes to woodpeckers, bullfinches and even pheasants. House Martins would build their nests under the eaves in springtime right above my bedroom window and I'd wake to the noise of their chicks chirping. I suppose I took it for granted that birds visit gardens and I could watch them any time I wanted if I just looked out of the window. When I moved into my own house I continued to feed the birds, as my parents had done, just as a matter of course, but it was then that I found a real enjoyment from watching them in the garden.

It's just as important, if not more so, to provide water as well as food for the birds, especially in hot weather when many of the natural sources of water will have dried up. Birds need water to drink but also to bathe in, which doesn't only keep them clean but also helps them to cool down.

It was a little cooler yesterday but the bird bath was still being well used, and as the temperatures are on the rise again with records set to be broken at the weekend, I'll make sure that our feathered friends are kept well watered.