Wednesday 31 May 2023

May 2023

May has been a month of holidays, three bank holidays as well as Mick taking a bit off time off work.The 1st of May was May Day, an ancient European festival marking the beginning of summer. It became a bank holiday here in the UK in 1978 but the celebration of this day goes back over two thousand years. We had an extra bank holiday this year a week later in celebration of the coronation of King Charles III. Mick decided that he'd take the Tuesday to Friday off work between these two bank holidays to give him an extra long holiday.

The first bank holiday was spent doing what many others were doing too, looking around garden centres and Plant Buying. Since then we've bought more plants and they're all now safely tucked up in the border. It's just a case of waiting for them to grow and fill out, but it should look very nice once they do. I also love having pots filled with plants in the garden, most of these are new but we brought one or two of them with us when we moved. These are just some of the things I'm growing in pots.

It was the coronation of King Charles III on the 6th of May. I watched it all unfold on TV, which was probably the best place to see all the action, especially as there was a lot of rain in London, though of course the atmosphere isn't quite the same when you're watching at home. It was a fantastic day though, the ancient traditions alongside the pomp and pageantry was quite the spectacle to watch. Mick and Daniel were playing cricket so we had our own little celebration the following day. Daniel and Jasmine, and Eleanor and Jacob joined us for a little tea party and we watched bits of the Coronation Concert which was being televised from Windsor Castle.

I've read three books this month.

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

"Oliver Twist was the second novel by Charles Dickens. First published in 1837, the story of the young orphan Oliver Twist and his life on the mean streets of London has fascinated and shocked ever since.

The young orphan Oliver Twist flees a cruel workhouse for the dirty streets of London, where he falls in with a nefarious gang. As the shrewd Artful Dodger, the menacing Fagin, and the vicious Bill Sikes lead Oliver deeper into a criminal life, a dark conspiracy is revealed around him."

I know all the songs from Oliver and have seen bits of the film but I've never seen it the whole way through so I didn't know the complete story. This is the second novel I've read by Charles Dickens, I've also ready the novella A Christmas Carol, and I've enjoyed them all. Dickens gives great descriptions of people and places so that you're able to picture them with clarity, but manages to stop short of overdoing it where I find some other authors aren't quite so skilled. A really good story, much darker than the musical would have you believe with its rousing upbeat singing and dancing. It depicts the horrors of the Victorian workhouses and the London underworld and introduces us to some very questionable characters. The only criticisms I'd have are the ending chapters where the complicated plot is unravelled. It was just too fantastic to believe the many connections between certain characters which takes some getting your head around to understand. All in all though a thoroughly entertaining read.

At Home in Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"In the distance they could hear the school children at play across the green, and the rumble of traffic from the main road at the foot of the hill. It was all very soporific - but suddenly the rattling of machinery close at hand made them alert...

A row of retirement cottages is being built on the site of the old rectory, which was destroyed by a fire, and there is much debate about who should - or shouldn't - live there. Meanwhile, Winnie Bailey has an unexpected visitor who brings surprising news; Miss Watson is worried about her brother, who has been hurt in a car accident; and Dotty Harmer seems to be growing more eccentric with each passing day."

The retirement cottages are finally completed in this book and a whole host of new characters become tenants. That's not to say there isn't still plenty to read about the lives of the more well known characters too as there's always news and scandal in village life.

Picking up the Pieces by Amanda Prowse.

"As Nora and her British Army officer husband, Gordy, pack up yet another home and leave the sun of Cyprus for the drizzle of England, she can't shake a feeling of regret - at her failure to follow her own dreams, but also, if she's honest, at having ended up an officer's wife at all, drifting through a life of temporary homes and temporary relationships.

Since losing her parents at a young age, Nora's life has been lacking an anchor: someone or something to make her feel secure. Her marriage has been her only permanent relationship, and just as even that appears to be fizzling out, a tragedy forces Nora into the role of legal guardian to her seven-year-old nephew, Ted. Faced suddenly with a responsibility she never dreamed of, how can Nora possibly offer the boy the kind of unconditional love he deserves, when she's never experienced it for herself?

But as she navigates the precarious and unfamiliar world of parenthood, Nora begins to see herself through Ted's eyes, as someone worthy of love and even joy. When she's welcomed into the previously intimidating huddle of mums at the school gate, she has to wonder: is it too late to smash down the barriers she's built - and to have a second chance at a happy marriage with Gordy?"

I've read just about every book that Amanda Prowse has written, and it's a lot. She writes stories about women for women and tackles some quite sensitive subjects in a compassionate manner. This book is no different. The subject of mental illness and family relationships is the basis of the story and as usual, the author seems to have got it spot on. Another great read.

Archie celebrated his 13th birthday on the 13th of May. All his gifts were of the edible variety and as usual, he wanted to eat them all immediately. Don't worry, they're being rationed but he did get plenty of fuss and treats on the day.

I showed the amaryllis I was given at Christmas back in March. I think every amaryllis I've grown has had at least two flower stems but it appeared as though this one was only going to have one. It was only after I'd cut the first stem and went to move the pot that I noticed a second one growing and here it is in all its glory. It's definitely extended the flowering period this year. I love the beautiful rich red of this particular variety.

Our third bank holiday of May was on Monday. I'd had a sore throat all weekend and didn't really fancy doing much so we spent a quiet day at home except for a couple of hours when we drove over to the new Marks & Spencer store which opened in Leeds last week. This store is at one of the out of town shopping centres. There was already a Marks & Spencer store there but it's moved to new premises and this megastore is three times bigger. I have to say that I was quite impressed, it's got a huge food hall with a large bakery, a flower shop and a beauty department which sells products from large brands such as Clinique and L'Occitane. The old store had limited stock and it was hit and miss if you'd find what you wanted if you visited for something specific so it's good to have this larger store within a reasonable distance.

I bought these mini skeins from Giddy Yarns quite a while ago. I'm usually really good at entering any incoming yarn on my Ravelry stash page but I haven't on this occasion so I'm really not sure when I bought them. I know it's about time they got used though so I've cast on a scrappy sock, creating my own stripes with them. The colourways are Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, and Kanga and Roo.

The fine weather we've been having recently looks set to stay as we head into June. With nothing much planned for the month ahead we may get to spend lots of time in the garden. Fingers crossed.

Friday 19 May 2023

The Azaleas Are Stealing The Show

We visit Temple Newsam on a regular basis and we always try and make sure we take a walk there when the rhododendrons are blooming. Unfortunately, we were a little early when we visited earlier this week as they seem to be only just coming into flower. I've posted many times about the rhododendrons at Temple Newsam and if you click the link to my Temple Newsam Rhododendrons post you'll see why we love visiting at this time of year.

As you can see, there's only a few shrubs starting to flower at the start of the rhododendron walk.

The flowers themselves are stunning but don't have the same impact as when you see them flowering en masse, cheek by jowl, colours clashing.

In a couple more weeks these shrubs will be walls of colour, as you can see in my earlier post.

Where the rhododendrons are a bit lacking at the moment the azaleas are stealing the show.

It can be hard to tell the difference between rhododendrons and azaleas, they're closely related and azaleas are part of the rhododendron genus, but they tend to be smaller. Many are deciduous whereas rhododendrons tend to be evergreen and azalea flowers are usually more spread out on the stems, rhododendron flowers grow in groups.

There seems to have been a bit of a population explosion at Temple Newsam Farm, as well as lots of newborn lambs there's quite a few kids too. This goat must have had twins. Isn't that the picture of contentment. 

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Plant Buying

It's over a year now since we moved house. Although our new garden is much smaller than our old one we hardly touched it last year, except for removing plants which for one reason or another we didn't require. There's only one flower border so it was about time that we got it planted up.

We spent the May Day bank holiday looking around garden centres and nurseries for plants we liked and came home with the following:-

Aquilegia - stellata Ruby Port

Centranthus ruber - coccineus

Euphorbia amygdaloides - robbiae

Buddleia davidii - Harlequin

Pieris japonica - Mountain Fire

Astrantia major - Shaggy

All these were bought with the intention of planting them in the border but as the pieris needs acidic conditions I've now decided to plant it in a container.

Acer atropurpureum

Geum - Petticoats Peach

These are to be grown in containers.

I also picked up five strawberry plants. I haven't grown strawberries since I had the allotment and I miss them. Obviously, five plants won't produce a glut but I'll be able to take the runners from these plants later on in the season and increase the number of plants year on year.

Later on in the week we visited The Arium, Leeds City Council's horticultural nursery. It's the largest local authority nursery in the country. They had a good selection of plants and these are the ones we chose to bring home with us:-

Photinia - Red Robin

Philidelphus - Virginal

Heuchera - Obsidian

Polemonium - caeruleum Bambino

Delphinium - Magic Fountain Sky Blue

Pulsatilla - vulgaris White

Geranium - endressii

After laying all the plants out in the border and deciding where we wanted to plant them, we realised that we could do with a few more, so back to The Arium we went. This time we came home with the following:-

Hollyhock - Chaters Double White

Physostegia - virginiana Rose Bouquet

Lupin - Russell The Governor

Lysimachia clethroides

Sedum spurium Coccineum

The sedum is to be grown in a container but all the rest of the plants are for the border.

Mick had the week off work so as well as getting everything planted up, we made use of the good weather we had and also crossed off a few other jobs in the garden. It's just a case of letting the plants fill out now and then seeing where the gaps are. We've had a mixture of sunshine and rain so they've had a good start. Fingers crossed that they all do well.