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!!! 

Monday 18 May 2020

Answer to the Flower Quiz

Piptanthus nepalensis
Nepal Laburnum
Family: Fabaceae, Leguminosae / Location: Himalayas
This medium sized evergreen shrub has leaves composed of 3 elliptic, dark green leaflets. It has short racemes of bright yellow flowers which appear from soft downy buds during early May. These are later followed by clusters of flat green seed pods. The shrubs stems are a distinctive dark green, almost black, and shiny. It thrives best in well drained soil, but requires some shelter to protect it during winter.
Three people gave the correct answers, which are shown in the order that they were received:-
1. John 
2. Mariette &
3. Britta 
Well done, and a big thank to all for taking part.

Thursday 14 May 2020

Flower Quiz

Do you recognise this shrub with bright yellow flowers growing in our garden?
It is quite rare, and could possibly be confused with other shrubs that share its bright yellow pea like flowers. 
If you know the plants name together with the area that it originates from, please tell me in comments. 'Comments moderation' will be switched on to enable me to hold back anyone giving the right answers. This will then give everyone an equal chance. The answers will be given on Monday 18th May along with those who answered both parts correctly. 

Saturday 9 May 2020

The Church Across the Valley

The unique little church of 'All Saints' sits beneath a large area of Common land. We can just see it from our hilltop spot on the far side of one of our valleys. 

It is not a typical 15th century Cotswold wool church as it was built in 1861. It was designed by the eminent Victorian architect, G.F Bodley for local, wealthy, cloth and mill owner, Sir Samuel Marling, a noted philanthropist.
Marling requested that the church design be modelled on a church that he had visited at Marling in the Austrian Tyrol, but it appears that Bodley has designed a fusion of both Austrian and French design. The resulting church, however, sits happily in our Cotswold landscape, but it could sit equally well in the Austrian Tirol or for that matter in France. Its distinctive saddleback tower and French Gothic gables have all been built using local Cotswold stone along with Bathstone dressings.
An old postcard of the church at Marling dated 1908
The church became one of the most important early works for G.F Bodley and of great significance in the development of high Victorian architecture. 
However, of major importance, is the fact that this was the very first church in this country to exhibit the work of the English Arts and Craft movement, and most important of all, inside are the very first stained glass windows ever to be commissioned from William Morris.
Entrance from the west door. 
The above Creation window is the work of Philip Webb, but the roundel of Adam and Eve in the garden was the work of William Morris (to the left of the central Christ in Majesty roundel).
Victoria and Albert Decanter
Morris and company were formed in the year that the church building commenced. A partnership between Morris, Burne-Jones, Ford Madox Brown, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Philip Webb. Their capital was £20 each plus £100 from Morris's mother. The windows in this church are really important because they involved all of the partners. The outcome is an exquisite Pre-Raphaelite gallery of their early work.
The Resurrection is by Burne-Jones. It echoes Piero della Francesca's fresco, seen many years ago, when I visited the Museo Civico, in Sansepolcro, Italy.
via wiki
A small detail from a window showing St. Paul preaching in Athens, which is the work of William Morris. The detail shows an image of Jane Morris, who was his wife.
Adam naming the beasts
Two of the roundels from the large Creation window designed by Philip Webb. Philip Webb was the architect who designed the 'Arts and Craft' house known as the Red House for William Morris, in Bexleyheath, Southeast London.
The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea
Detail from Sermon on the Mount by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Christ in this window is George Meredith (novelist and poet). The Virgin Mary is Christina Rossetti (Dante's sister). Mary Magdalene is Fanny Cornforth (one of Rossetti's favourite models). The figure immediately behind Christ is Judas Iscariot and shows a depiction of a man called Gambart. He was a London picture dealer, and very much disliked by all of the Brotherhood.
William Burgess, one of England's greatest Victorian architects and designers, was commissioned to design a collection of silver for the church, which was then made by George Hart of London. One of his most famous architectural buildings was Cardiff Castle. He was inspired by medieval England and Gothic Revival styles, the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Pre-Raphaelites. 
When we first moved to the Cotswolds over 20 years ago, Burgess's exquisite silver could still be seen on display during special occasions, but now it is firmly locked away in some secret silver vaults. It is now far too valuable for the church to hold.

An example of William Burgess silver held by the V & A, London. 

Monday 4 May 2020

My World

I'm home in isolation,
I’m saving the NHS,
and lives too.
The governments daily virus graphs are understandable,
I breath a sigh of relief that the daily death toll is now below 400.
'R' now forms a part of my vocabulary,
but what point is it at?
Is it over one or more importantly is it below one?
I feel as if I am living in a parallel universe,
I don’t know a single unfortunate soul who has Covid-19,
and there are no ambulances to be seen chasing around my roads.
In my world,
the skies are blue,
the sunshines everyday.
The garden is looking a picture,
and even the supermarket queues are tiny.
Where we live is normally extremely quiet,  
but now we have daily Ocado vehicles,
disturbing the tranquility,
delivering boxes of food from M & S.

Sunday 3 May 2020

What's in the Cupboard Today

A very easy, simple recipe.
Flatbreads - makes 8.
250g plain flour
250g full-fat yoghurt
4 level tspns baking powder
I added a sprinkle of chilli powder and a small bunch of chopped fresh coriander leaves and stems.
Leave them plain or add whatever spice and/or herbs you prefer.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, knead into a dough then set aside for 10 mins.
 Divide into eight balls, and press out until 2mm thick. I used half of the mixture and left the other half in the fridge to use the next day.
Cook on a hot non stick griddle or dry non-stick pan for 2/3 mins on each side. My electric griddle cooks two sides at the same time and took 3 mins for them to cook.
Whilst still hot brush each side with some olive oil, or rapeseed oil (canola) and sprinkle with a few crushed crystals of natural rock salt.