Category Archives: Flowers

Wings Over…wherever you are

Recently, my husband and I took the bus up to Seattle. We don’t drive in that city often. Too many cars, too many pedestrians, and too many one-way streets. But we do occasionally like to take the bus up and play tourist. Last year, we went twice.

This time, we went for a specific purpose. We did this ride called Wings Over Washington. It’s one of those theme-park type rides where your seat moves but you never really leave the theater and I hear they have them in a bunch of cities. This one was supposed to show great views of our state…of it’s mountains, rivers, fields, cities, mountains. Yes, I said mountains twice.

You see, as I’ve mentioned once or twice, I’m afraid of heights, although I’m  trying nowadays to not give into it. So…we got seat-belted into our seats. Yes, they put seat belts on us. That should have been an omen for me, but no, I innocently let them belt me in. After all, there was a big wood structure right in front of me and my feet were on the ground.

Then the theater went dark. And our seats moved. Up, up, and over that nice, safe wood structure I’d seen. And my feet were dangling! I don’t do amusement park rides where I can’t hit my imaginary brakes, so this was not good.

The full room video screen lit up with scenes of Washington. They took us up, down, up, swooping down, over cliffs. An eagle led the way, so we had some altitude. And the chair? It shifted, of course. Up, down, sideways.

I was five feet off the floor and completely FREAKED out. I had a death grip on the chair handrails and my husband was talking me calm through the whole thing. Not that it worked. I could not convince myself I was safe. It was insane how well my phobia had me locked in.

I saw, well, most of the video ride. I didn’t get my eyes shut as we went over the first cliff, so I made sure I missed the drop-offs after that. It really was a great ride and view of the state, but geesh, do that have to make it seem so real??? I haven’t had a height issue that bad in a long time, and I wasn’t even really “in the air.”

Afterwards, and since, I’ve been laughing at myself. Guess this is one phobia that isn’t going to leave gently. I’m going to have to kick it to the wall a few more times. Until then, no more video rides. No thank you. I’ll go back to gondolas where my fear is real, not imagined.

To finish off, here’s a couple pictures from Pike Place Market in Seattle, always a fun place to wander through.

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What Was The Heck Was That About?

We all dream when we are asleep, the majority of us not remembering them at all, not even being aware we have been dreaming. Most are good dreams, some scary, some real nightmares, some that make you think you are actually awake and everything happening is real, and others making you glad you have awoken… the list goes on.

What I have noticed is my dreams always seem to be triggered by events that have happened during the day, albeit a conversation or thinking of  someone, some action or incident, a news report, watching a movie… anything at all. If I do remember a dream, which isn’t often, I like to try to make sense of it, work out what inspired that thought to manifest itself in my sleeping state.

Then there are the repetitive ones, always different yet always following the same theme. I used to have these types regularly, usually ones where my teeth crumble and fall out, supposedly a sign of stress or worry. Another where I am looking at new homes but there are never any stairs and I have to climb up like a contortionistic rock-climber to reach the next floor – I never have found out what that one is supposed to mean. Lately, I have been experiencing ones where I am always searching for someone. Again, I have no idea of its interpretation. Whatever it is, it doesn’t worry me too much. A dream is just a dream, after all.

The worst type for me, and I am certain everyone has experienced this sort, is the weird dreams you have early the morning, usually after having awoken from a good night’s sleep, you drift back into that dozing type of relaxed state, or when cat-napping. Odd, peculiar, almost drug-induced highs of tripping out on something and your sleeping world morphs into a crazy, mixed-up, nonsensical mixture of the impossible.

I had one of these the other morning and its very nature has stayed with me all week. I’m still trying to make sense of it. Was it trying to tell me something? If so, what? You see, I dreamt a dandelion plant was growing out of the back of my hand, with an offshoot springing up on my little finger. Okay, I hear you say, I’m a keen gardener, and probably detest weeds. Perhaps I had been gardening the previous day, been to a garden centre, doing or thinking anything to do with plants and weeds. I hadn’t. I hadn’t been in the garden, or even near the garden… it had been blowing gales all week and tipping with rain. But that isn’t the whole dream – whole being the operative word, not a pun. Oh no. The next bit was absolutely crazy! In my dream I pulled the dandelion clean out of my hand, pulling it up, along with the little offshoot, creating a hole right through my hand, and little finger. They didn’t bleed. The holes were clean and perfectly formed, and sealed, no gooey flesh or gunk oozing out. And there it ended.

Weird or what? I’d love to know what that was all about. Any ideas?

Making 2017 Count

Once again, the giant blue orb has slipped into another year and 2017 is with us. Winter has come too, with a heavy frost. The garden pond is frozen, the grass crunching underfoot as I ventured out to replenish the bird feeder. At least today the sky is blue, the air clean and the sun out.

The festivities are over, decorations put away, cupboards looking decidedly bare of food and Mum sitting snug in my sister’s car being safely transported home as I write this. With Dave back at work today, the house is quiet and calm. A little too quiet after a frenetic fortnight but it grants me the opportunity to reflect for a moment on 2016.

It wasn’t a good year for many people including most of my family and friends. Dave and I certainly had our share of misfortunes and serious health issues, and whilst it would be easy to list all the problems we’ve endured and come through, there were several highlights too; nothing major, perhaps small, almost insignificant, for many people, but they meant a great deal to me.

The first was being able to celebrate with the family my mother’s 90th birthday back in March which, in turn, brought my brother over from Spain to spend a few days with us even if he couldn’t bring the sunshine with him. There was a short trip to the English Lake District, somewhere I’d always wanted to visit. It was here I saw our native red squirrels at close hand and had the opportunity to hold and stroke a barn owl ­­– one of my favourite birds. Three items on my most want to do list ticked off in one fell swoop.

Kingfisher © Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Dreamstime Stock Photos

Then came the visit to the garden of  our native kingfisher – my favourite bird of all. They aren’t rare but I had never seen one in the flesh despite my being a keen birdwatcher. They are birds of woodland streams and rivers, so to find one perched on my bird feeder in the middle of a vast housing estate one morning was an absolute joy and a dream come true. It was the last place I expected to see one. By the time I had scrabbled to get my camera ready, the beautiful bird had flown.

So to 2017. I’m not one for making resolutions – like most people’s good intentions they seldom last more than a few weeks. Instead, I make a list of things to achieve. I might never achieve them all, if any, but it gives me focus and a starting point, pointing a way forward. First on my list is to have a proper sunshine holiday. You know me: hate winter, love summer. But at least the days are getting longer now, bit by bit. This morning I spied the first snowdrop in bud on the lawn and the more I looked, the more new shoots I saw, of crocus and daffodils and of hellebores in bud, their colours shining out already. Anyone walking by would have wondered why I wore such a broad smile.

I have several novels written which I am determined this year will see at least one of them published, if not all, along with a self-help book I’m writing.  I intend to give my art a big push too; enter painting competitions, join an art class, lead an art class? And I simply must make the effort to exhibit some of my work. Some how. Some where. Make the effort. Push myself.

Starting now. Things can only get better.

So, yes, 2017 WILL BE MY YEAR!

And wishing you all have a fabulous year too.

The Garden in November

Slowly, imperceptibly, Earth has tilted towards winter again, and as the clocks are forced backwards an hour, daylight increasingly less and less, my garden is still proving to be a delight. The start of this month in the UK has been dismal and grey, turning my mood to grey too and wishing I could withdraw under the duvet until spring. It’s only because we’re having such a colourful autumn that I haven’t quite sunk into S.A.D mode completely. However, this morning the sun is out and before my backyard is plunged into shadow for the remainder of the day and until next March, I ventured outside with the camera to capture the garden’s last flush before tonight’s frost plunges it into hibernation.

2016-10-21-12-05-48The cosmos is still in flower, the pinks and whites a dazzling splash. They were worth every penny. I usually grow this plant from seed but this year, because I wanted the space to move plants from the long border for the planned revamp, I didn’t sow any. These I bought as small plants which have done me proud.

The cosmos is interspersed with dark brown flowers from my chocolate cosmos, my favourite. It not only looks pretty but smells of chocolate. Wonderful! Now this has been a success. I’ve tried for many years to keep this plant over winter but every year, good old Choccy always dies on me. But not this one. It survived, now in its second year and I am hoping it thrives again next year.

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We haven’t been able to carry out the planned revamp this summer, so that has been put back until next year, and thus the long border has been left to do its own thing this summer, and gaps filled in with pots of plants rather than planted.

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Faithfuls have been the fuchsia, grown from a cutting from a cutting taken years ago from my childhood home back in London. We don’t know the variety, but always refer it as the Hounslow fushia. The nigella has been flowering non stop since early spring. It pops up everywhere, in various shades of blue, pink and white, and self-seeds readily. Another plant I can always rely on is the everlasting wallflower (Erysimus), whose long stems of mauve flowers keep coming and coming. It flowers for most of the year so, even in winter there is always this gorgeous splash of colour. I’m on the lookout for the orange variety, but having difficulty locating one.

2016-10-21-12-09-01One plant family I’ve only recently come to like is Heuchera. Its many different varieties have the most varied leaf colours I know, from lime green, through to almost black. The flowers are nothing special, usually white or pink spikes but the beauty of this plant is that it grows in almost any position and doesn’t die back in winter. I must get some more next year. I have the perfect bed for it near the patio doors.

So whilst the rest of the garden succumbs to the autumn chill, I can at least for the time being enjoy the splashes of life thriving in my little plot.

I just wish someone would tell my rhododendron it’s not supposed to flower until next May!

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Give Me A Hammer! by Valerie J. Patterson

I need a really big hammer–but not so big that I can’t lift it!  Must have a smooth, flat surface and be easy to swing with near-perfect accuracy.  I’m thinking I need Thor’s hammer!  Or perhaps Thor and his hammer!

You may be wondering why I would need such a hammer.  Have you ever heard of the video game Whack A Mole?  That’s why I need such a hammer.

You see, there seems to be a family of moles residing in my beautiful backyard.  I mean, it has to be an entire family, right?  Everywhere you walk there are holes evidencing their intricate subsurface tunnel system.  Everywhere you walk there is loose earth that gives way beneath your feet so that you sink into the lawn.

They’ve taken to tunneling beneath my beautiful stone patio and are leaving mounds of earth behind causing the stones to rock and shift.  They’re tunneling–apparently they’re very hungry while digging tunnels–and they’re eating healthy plants along the way because two of my Azalea bushes have bit the dust.  Among the other plant casualties is one of my thickest grape vines that they’ve managed to eat through and kill.  This does not make me happy.  I used to have a lovely apricot Azalea tree, too.  There are only a few remaining live branches left because they’ve eaten through the roots.

So, I need a very large hammer so that when they venture to stick their vile little heads above the surface of my once beautiful lawn I can whack them on the head!  It might sound a little drastic, but I’m frustrated and nothing else has worked!  Besides, unless you have better solutions to suggest, I can get a good workout whacking them on the head!

Until next time, I hope the only pests in your outdoor space are butterflies whose fluttering wings add grace and beauty to your world!

PS…no moles were harmed during the writing of this blog!

Artists and their gardens.

I promised in my April blog to tell you about one more treat I had, an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Painting the Modern Garden Monet to Matisse is the latest block buster exhibition and a feast to the eye, particularly for those of us who love gardens. It ended on 20th April and I am unsure if it will be shown elsewhere. I studied art history and achieved a Masters Degree in History of Art:Venice and Europe from Warwick University in 2000, when I was 52. A life changing event as my core term was 10 weeks in Venice studying Renaissance art, I left my husband and family to study for a year at university as a postgraduate student – took a lot of nerve and support! My plan was to start on a whole new career but health issues prevented me, despite the setback I am left with a love of art which will not leave me.

The delight of this exhibition was that works by many artists I’ve not heard of were displayed. The rooms featured paintings of Impressionist Gardens, International Gardens, Gardens of Silence, Avant-Gardens, Gardens of Reverie but the main focus was on Monet’s early years at Giverny and his later years at Giverny culminating in a room featuring his Waterlilies. As well as paintings one room had a scaled down model of Monet’s heated greenhouse with seedlings and plants ready to plant. Monet moved to Giverny in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1926. His work covers that period including the years when failing eyesight, a cataract, affected much of the colour palette of his work. I cannot describe much of the work as I am limited in space but suffice to say I was transported. I wish I had bought the catalogue but my house has hundreds of art books and catalogues and little space so I resisted!

The paintings included work by Scandinavian artists, French, American, German, Spanish – some personal others huge displays. Scattered through some of the rooms were notebooks detailing botanic sketches of various plants and huge photographs of some of the artists working in their gardens. Some with their team of gardeners!. The viewer has a glimpse of the world of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Architecture varies which reflects colours and textures of various countries. The warmth of Spain, the cool colours of Northern Countries, each work is a blend of colour and vibrancy. Camille Pissaro’s vegetable garden contrasts with Renoir’s wild gardens, others bring the outside inside through glass windows and reflections but everything stimulates the senses.

I hope I have given a flavour of my wonderful day, a difficult task for me to undertake as I cannot cover the long list of work. I have put a link to the website which has a little about the exhibition as it’s finished but lots of other interesting information so do check it out. The exhibition catalogue will be available on-line if anyone would like to buy it. I haven’t included any images myself as I’m uncertain of rules regarding copyright. The main thing is that gardens offer places for quite contemplation, sharing with other people, eating and drinking, playing – particularly with children – but plants in window boxes can offer a different perspective of gardening. In the UK many waste spaces are being reclaimed by local communities, orchards are being planted in the middle of built up spaces, roundabouts are cultivated and many of these initiatives offer free fruit and vegetables. The schemes don’t seem to get vandalised either, bring communities together and get neighbours talking. All show the power of the garden.

www.royalacademy.org.uk

Gallery

Lilac Gardens

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Another beautiful place close to home. Strange how I can travel hundreds of miles from home to see places and miss what’s almost in my back yard. Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens is a National Historic Site in Woodland Washington. How … Continue reading