Thursday, 21 November 2013

Pale, but otherwise unharmed, prisoners emerge from the cellar.

Even the gas man is giving me funny looks now.  He knocked on the door to do a meter reading this week, and was ushered down into the darkness of the cellar, with me on his heels carrying a watering can.  He looked rather nervous at the prospect.

As he checked how many billions of pounds we owe the gas company, I carefully tended my row of captives - hyacinth and crocus bulbs which are being forced to grow, against their seasonal inclinations, to flower in time (I hope) for Christmas.  The first planting of crocuses looked anaemically sprightly, with significant shoots poking sturdily out of the soil.  So, as they have decided to submit to my will and cooperate, I have granted them release from the darkness.  Added a bit of moss to the soil to hide their naked bits, and voila:

Plant up crocus bulbs in early October for flowers at Christmas

Swan planter with crocus bulbs - a one off from

Won't this be lovely when the flowers are in bloom?

…they're ready for market on Saturday.  Now I'm wishing I'd planted more up. These will be white 'Ard Shenk' crocuses in the coming weeks. Rather pretty, don't you think?

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Frosts herald tulip time

First frosts have hit Birmingham, so now it is time to get the tulip bulbs in before winter earnestly sets in.  Planting them after the frosts lessens the risk that they will be hit by an infection called Tulip Fire which, for the unlucky, can strike bulbs planted in the warmer conditions of early autumn.

Am really looking forward to the ruffled purpley pink beauties called 'Rai' which I am planting for the first time this year. Am also going to be brave and dig out the 5 year old bulbs which have given me such lovely flowers in previous years - titchiness tendencies are becoming too pronounced, so it is time for them to make way for some vigourous new blood.  And it gives me an excuse to dig out lots of mint roots which now snake through that particular patch in the the main border (and to think I once couldn't get mint to really get going… be careful what you wish for is the moral of that particular story).

Will also dig in the compost which sits waiting for a new home after the recent bin turning exercise and retire to my slumbers tonight, dreaming of gorgeous goblets of glamour next spring.

It may have taken a long time for them to arrive this year, but when they did, the tulips made it in style.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

A necklace of crab apple and a feather of grass.

I've been grubbing around again….

Today's colour was definitely yellow.  The windfall crab apples in the school garden, the uprooted cotoneaster berries in a local skip and the rejected crocosmia seed heads sitting waiting for the green waste collection to come by for the very last time. (Birmingham is going over to wheelie bins for compostable waste, and a fee for using this service).  I also rootled through a bag containing magnolia trimmings - brought back memories of how magnolia saved my bacon on my first ever stall earlier this year.

My foraging sack, otherwise known as an H&M plastic bag, ranneth over on my way home from school:

Love these yellow crocosmia seed heads

With a bit of patient threading, spike trimming and mixing and matching, these bits were teamed up with items from my stockpile of natural goodies and became….

Freshly cut evergreen wreath with pine cones, magnolia and silver birch twigs.wreath with crab apple garland

Vine wreath with ammi seed heads, pampas grass and silver baubles.Yellow cotoneaster berries, mossy twig bundles and crocosmia seed heads decorate this pine and willow wreath.

 … amongst other things.  Love the wisps of pampas grass heads on the white feathery one. Am quite taken with that.

Saturday, 9 November 2013


Every year, my children get to purchase a new bauble for the tree and we have had some beauties - a handblown green glass globe strung on a velvet ribbon, a matt gold bauble frosted with a jacquard of glitter. And there have been horrors - plastic knobbly glitter peaches and bright blue monsters….

But you can't beat a bauble and I have not lost my childhood fascination for them - can still remember a small pale pink one with a scallop pattern of white glitter which I adored on the family tree for many years and the feeling of delight as I unearthed the segmented box in which it nestled when the decorations came out of hibernation each year.

Making lots of wreaths this year has given me an excuse to go bauble shopping and I've found some lovely clustered ones in a range of colours, finishes and sizes.  Here's today's wreath just pretending to have berries….

Red baubles, pine cones and birch twigs on a fresh viburnum leaf Christmas wreath.

Viburnum leaves are a perfect size for making a door wreath.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Today we are wearing.....

....mostly twigs.
Forage your wreath ingredients - there are lots out there!

This one is made from a metal wreath frame wrapped with silver birch twigs.  Two young teenagers on bikes saw me picking up twigs on my way back from school today and were curious as to what on earth I was doing.

"Here's one", kindly offered one youth, proffering a mangled stick which had been run over several times to me, the obviously mad lady.

I had to then explain that I only wanted pretty twigs, not any random manky objects - which probably just made me seem madder, now I come to think of it...

Twiggy wreaths are, however, among my favourite styles. Nice to have a birds nest on your door.  The only question remaining is: to bling or not to bling?  Toying with the idea of a clip on robin or a few gold sprayed teasel heads. What do you reckon?

Monday, 4 November 2013

A virtuous circle

I'm the nutter in the park, picking up cones and birch twigs and eyeing every mossy branch I pass.  Which means that we're heading into the festive season and I've got lots of wreath bases to decorate....

Here is my favourite one of the day:

Winter wreath by Tuckshop Flowers.

Never throw anything away is the moral of this one.  The stems binding the metal frame are from my recent flexible virginia creeper pruning, the poppies were salvaged and hung to dry in the summer and the lavender has been hanging in a large bunch from my light fitting for about 6 weeks. I'll miss it now it's found a proper home. As for the twigs, they're from one of my bag lady foraging missions...

What I like about wreath making is that there are so many possible variations - dried, relatively minimal ones like these, or the big fluffy evergreen ones which will go into larger scale production at the end of November.  It's quite fun working out how you can use a handful of  pine cones and twigs which the recent wind has scattered.

Maybe I should have a rival for Radio 4's 8.00 am piece and introduce a new feature: 'Wreath of the Day'?  But it will have to be 'Wreath of the Evening' as I don't think I can produce them that early in the morning.

Any Birmingham locals wanting to have a go? Come along to a workshop in November or December and see what masterpiece you can create for yourself! It is very satisfying...