Saturday, 4 July 2020

The Courts Garden, Holt, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.

How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
in an English country garden?

We'll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you'll surely pardon

Daffodils heart's ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady's smock

Gentian lupin and tall hollyhock
Roses foxgloves snowdrops blue forget-me-nots

In an English country garden.

☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

All of a sudden I am really appreciating just how fortunate we are to have so many beautiful gardens to visit. Places to escape to from our careworn world and slip off into an earthly paradise of flowers.
The Courts Garden, which began in 1902, is entered via a green oasis down a pathway lined with elegantly pleached Lime trees.
Rest awhile in the neo-Georgian temple made from the local Bath stone.

I was amused by the topiary seen above, and wondered what they would look like if they were adorned with some hats and scarves for fun!
The stone tower of Holt Congregational church can be seen popping up beyond the boundary in several areas of the garden.
An archway of apple trees leads on down to....
....the working side of the garden.
Pots of succulents lined up on the steps - these are to keep all visitors travelling around the garden in the same direction, and help maintain safe distances.
The rich colour of these Aeoniums is far superior to the colour of mine, however, now it is time to bid au revoir to The Courts Garden and go home for supper.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Family Get-together

We had a call from our youngest son suggesting that we should meet him, his wife, and one of our lovely granddaughters halfway between each of our homes. Both of our sons live over 100 miles away (160.934kms) and even though a day trip is viable, it can be quite tiring, and more time is spend on the road than in one another's company. The halfway point he chose for us to meet was Waterperry Gardens, just outside Oxford, and it proved to be the perfect choice on yet another very hot day.
In 1932 Beatrix Havergal, Principal of Waterperry, founded a horticultural school for young women. She was a trained horticulture expert who taught the women to become efficient gardeners in both agriculture and horticulture whilst also having a special regard to producing disease free crops. 
Beatrix Havergal - Photo take by Cecil Beaton via wiki
The herbaceous borders are a riot of colour and a feast for the eyes, and I don't think that I have ever seen so many insects, butterflies, or dragonflies all fluttering around together before. 
Allium seed head
This gazebo covered in roses was a lovely place to sit and talk surrounded, as we were, by some heavenly perfume from the roses - I quite fancy a similar little structure in our garden!
The pool at Waterperry resembled a small heliport with dragonflies continually flittering all over it. There was a tiny ladder reaching out of the water to enable the young newts to climb out of the pond once they have reach maturity.
An exquisitely crafted wasps nest and, 
a beautifully crafted foxglove and daisy gate designed and made recently by a young women.
A view of the gate from the other side.
I covert this lovely gate.
There is a small Saxon church within the grounds which we had no time to visit. Apparently it has some wonderful treasures amongst which is glass dating back to 1220. We intend to return again soon as I have now suggested to my eldest son that he and his family meet us there too, and this will happen as soon as his youngest daughter's school has finished for the summer. 
☆☆☆☆☆☆
P.S The only problem I am experiencing with new blogger is the lettering. When I chose the size that I would normally use, it now looks huge on the post, and the next size down looks too small. So I have to revert to legacy blogger at the end of each post in order to change the lettering to a size that I prefer.

Friday, 26 June 2020

A Grand Day Out

We have just enjoyed a lovely full day out, the first one for well over three months. As we packed the car it felt as if we had both thrown a lucky dice and been rewarded with a couple of "get out of jail" cards each. 
The day was hot, very hot.
1. Hand sanitiser
2. Factor 50+ sun screen 
3. Straw hats
4. Picnic
5. Drinks
6. Tickets
7. Navigation details
8. Something to sit on
The National Trust have opened up their parklands and gardens, but it is not possible to just turn up. Tickets for the following week at each venue are released on the previous Friday for all of the properties that are open. It is, therefore, necessary to go online first thing on a Friday morning if you want to secure yourselves a timed slot. Should you leave it until later in the day then you will probably be too late, they are all snapped up very quickly.
We have visited Croome Court, in Worcestershire before, and walked its beautifully restored Capability Brown landscape. I wrote a post about it then and included some historical information about the family who owned the property, the history of house and it's special landscape. Should you be interested in reading the post then it can be found here. 

In this SW region of England for some unknown reason we have had the lowest number of Covid-19 cases in the country. Currently in our county of Gloucestershire, there have been no new reported virus deaths for almost three weeks, which is encouraging, however, caution should always be the watchword.
I personally have never worn a mask to date, but did decide to purchase a couple of washable ones whilst we were out. Apparently they are needed, if and when, I finally do get an appointment with my hairdresser, and also should we decide to use public transport. I picked up a packet of two washable navy blue ones for just £2.50 a pair at Asda, which was far cheaper than I had anticipated.
Take care, we are all in this together, and stay safe.
P.S It is Friday morning and I have just managed to secure two more tickets for a NT garden next week💚

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Lilies

I love lilies and several of mine are currently holding centre stage in the garden.
Lilium martagon 'pink'
The first time that I ever saw these pink martagon lilies was many, many, years ago. It was during a family holiday taken with our two sons in the Pyrenees. We were staying in Andorra, which is both the highest, and the smallest country in Europe. We had set off early one morning for a full day of trekking and suddenly caught sight of a large clump of them growing in the wild as we crossed a remote valley - it was then that I fell in love with them. 
Lilium martagon 'Album"
Lilium regale
Lilies most commonly mean devotion or purity. In Greek mythology, Zeus wanted baby Hercules to drink the milk of Hera, his wife, but Hercules was born of another woman. Even though Hera disagreed, Zeus brought him to drink her milk whilst she was sleeping, but she awoke and pushed him away. The drops of milk that spilled on the ground grew into lilies.
In China, lilies are used at weddings because they represent 100 years of love and also good luck. The Assyrians and Babylonians associated lilies with the goddess of fertility, Ishtar, and Christians associated lilies, especially Madonna lilies, with the Virgin Mary. Many Victorian painters along with members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood admired lilies and often included them in their paintings - the regale lily shown above being a great favourite.

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Answer to the Flower Quiz

A close up of the flower in question.
You will see that each small flower is a tiny orchid.
These wild Common Spotted Orchids are currently flourishing just over our garden wall on the Common, but they are also growing in our garden. Presumably they have travelled over the garden wall via the wind. Wild orchid seeds are very tiny, resembling a spec of dust, so they travel very easily through the air. However, when they arrive in our garden they do have a tendency to make themselves at home in my already occupied flower pots, and then grow far bigger than those seen in the wild. The plant shown has found itself a happy spot in the middle of a hydrangea cutting. Several people did recognise the leaves correctly - this created a certain amount of deception, not on my part, but on the part of the plant.
The orchid leaves
Three people gave the correct answer - I have to admit that the first one, John, didn't actually give me the name of the flower, but I gathered from his cryptic comment that he knew exactly what it was. I wasn't at all surprised, as I suspected all along that he would know. 
Congratulations to all three - shown in the order that they were received.
1. John 
2. Susan
3. Betty

******
I also want to mention Britta because initially she did suggested an orchid and then immediately changed her mind! 

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Flower Quiz

Do you know what this flower is growing in the garden?

It has been in flower for the whole of June. 
Comments moderation has been switched on during the quiz.
P.S I have noticed that quite a number of bloggers do not have redirect to https switched on. This means that your blog is not secure. It is very easy to make the switch in blogger settings.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Cheese Scones

What's in the cupboard today?
Cheese Scones - easy, delicious, & very tasty

I place all of the dry ingredients into an electric mixer, and 
don't take the traditional routine of rubbing the butter into the flour etc. until it becomes a crumb consistency - I can't be bothered.

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Ingredients
225g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of natural sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
I also like to add a small teaspoon of English mustard powder
50g unsalted butter (cut into cubes) 
100g vintage strong Cheddar cheese (cut into cubes) 
1 egg - 100ml milk (beat together)
Oven 220C/200C fan - Gas 7
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Place all of the ingredients into an electric mixer apart from the egg and the milk. Give it a good whizz and it will form an even crumb texture. Beat the egg and the milk together - add it to the mixture, but reserve a little for the tops of the scones, and then mix using short bursts on the machine until it forms a dough.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until 2cm thick, and then cut the scones out with a pastry cutter, place them on a tray covered in greaseproof paper and brush the tops with the leftover milk and egg - cook for 10 mins.
I have now abandoned 'old blogger' and 'new blogger' seems to be working alright.

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Warning

Time is running out for old blogger, it will vanish forever in just over two weeks. Now is the time to give new blogger a try. I have done three posts on the new format, it is easy to navigate once you have found your way around the things that you personally like to use. However, don't do what I mistakenly did, or like me, you might think that your blogging days are gone forever. You can switch back and forth easily from new to old until you becoming acquainted with it.  
I had a draft post in new blogger that I wanted to check on before posting, but when I tried to edit it I found that the writing had turned into an HTML setting and that the images had vanished. I thought that it must be something that Blogger had done (we all tend to blame blogger when things go wrong), and that it would right itself within the next few days, but nothing happened. I sent Blogger a screen shot and asked for their help, but nothing has been forthcoming. The following day I decided that I would have to abandon the draft post and start again on a new post, but the new post also appeared in an HTML setting. It was at that moment I thought "now my blogging days are numbered."
Before retiring last night I looked at the draft post again in the HTML setting and wondered if there was anything that I could click on or try. It was then that I noticed an icon next to the save icon that I was unfamiliar with. I hovered over it and it said 'compose view' so I decided to click it as I had nothing to loose, and my post in edit returned. As the icon is next to the save icon I must have pressed it in error before I hastily shutting down the blog one night. If I hover over that same icon now it says 'HTML view' - the following is a similar image to the icon referred to but in a larger format < >
Hope that this may be of some help.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Good News Story

image courtesy wiki
The white stork - Ciconia ciconia has been extinct in Britain for over 600 years, but why did they disappear? The reasons for their non-residence here are not clear. It is, however, likely that a combination of habitat loss, over-hunting and targeted persecution may all have contributed to their decline. The last record of a breeding pair was on St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh during 1416. 
Storks are a Christian symbol representing holiness, vigilance, and the Annunciation. According to European folklore, the stork is responsible for bringing babies to new parents. Although this is an ancient legend, it became highly popularised during the 19th century by Hans Christian Andersen through his fairy tale 'The Storks'.
courtesy wiki 
Four years ago around 40 young birds were introduced to the Knepp estate in West Sussex. The estate, a former farm, had been 'rewilded' and turned over to nature. 
This Spring, two pairs of Storks have mated and are now raising three chicks each in two lofty oak trees on the estate. The parents are all young birds - white storks usually mature a little later, so a close eye is being kept on both nests. The project aims to restore this lost population of leggy waders to southern England. 
On the continent white storks build their huge, shaggy nests on rooftops, they enjoy being in close proximity to people. The hope is that if in the future white storks nest on our rooftops again, it will help connect people living in towns and cities to the wider countryside. I would be happy to welcome them here on my Cotswold rooftop. 
The new chicks hatched at the beginning of May, and are growing rapidly. They will fledge when they are about two months old which will be a very special day for all bird lovers up and down the country.  

photo credit Brad Albrecht
One of the pair of white storks at Knepp greet one another as the female returns to their nest with food for the chicks.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

The Walled Garden

illustration done by one of our granddaughters for Christmas a few years ago.
Since lockdown commenced on the 24/3, we have received hardly any rain in this corner of the country. We've had hours of lovely sunshine and blue skies, both of which have been greatly enjoyed by the garden and ourselves. 

The walled garden is currently a random riot of flowers and herbs, along with several pots filled with lettuces, tomato plants, and runner beans.
The perfume of the Thyme flowers attracts many bumble bees, who are joined from time to time by the occasional butterfly flitting around. 
It's an area where we like to sit during these warm May evenings and watch the sun sink beyond the horizon.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Garden in May

The Cercis siliquastrum - Judas Tree came into flower during the first week of May, but it is now almost over for this year.
It has very pretty blossom and lovely heart shaped leaves. Our tree was purchased as a young sapling, but it now towers high up into the sky.
Summer colour has arrived in the garden - predominately showing shades of pink and purple. 
I am a great lily lover, and these Zantedeschia - white arum lilies are the first summer lilies to have opened.
Nectaroscordum siculum - Sicilian honey garlic 
Lots of free foxgloves turn up every year in various shades of pink and white, but they are very welcome. 
The heather has now reached its finale, but it has been flowering continuously since January.
five tunnels filled with a sixth one now completed since this photo
I cleaned our solitary bee hotel during March hoping that some new residents would decide to move in during late April. Solitary bees are non aggressive and much smaller than honey bees. 
Last week I suddenly noticed that one of the tunnels had already been completed and sealed off by a Mason bee, and in the last few days five more nesting tunnels have been finished. 
The bees build a series of cells inside each of the tunnels starting at the far end and gradually moving forward. They deposit pollen inside each cell and an egg. The pollen is mixed with nectar and is there to provide food for the developing larvae. Finally each individual cell is sealed up with some mud. Each tunnel holds roughly 12 eggs, and so my six tunnels represent approximately 72 little bees, which will hopefully develop and fly away next April. A bee manages to complete a whole tunnel from start to finish within two days. The eggs at the far end of the tunnel are all female with those nearest to the entrance being male. This enables the males to leave first so that they are ready and waiting to mate with one the females as they emerge from the tunnels. Once they have mated the males job is done, and they die. 
I am now watching for the leaf-cutter bees to arrive, they normally turn up slightly later. The leaf-cutter bees cut holes and semi-circles into the leaves that they collect which they then use to line and separate each cell. It is quite a work of art that they perform inside each tunnel.
During October the bee hotel should be placed in a cool dry place for the winter and then put back outside during March the following year. This will help to protect the bees from winter weather, and importantly prevent them being attacked by parasites.
Solitary bees are very important pollinators so having a hotel is a great and very easy way for us to help them. They are fun to watch, and require very little maintenance or assistance from their hotel proprietors!!!