Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Did It!

In February of this year I started blogging to, among other things, get into the swing of writing again. I had been writing for many, many years about cats, cat breeding, genetics, cattery management etc and my articles have been published in many countries all over the world. I also wrote a book about the Russian Blue cats: The Russian Blue (sold out). But then my back trouble started and I was unable to write for a long time until February of this year when I started to blog about my garden and, not surprisingly, about my cats too.
August checking out the reading material after his basket inspection.

Shortly after I started blogging, I began writing articles again but this time not about cats but gardening. Writing has always been something that I enjoyed doing and I needed a new career now that my bad back did not allow me to continue with my previous one. So why not try to make money with writing articles?

I send my articles to several magazines and heard zip back from them. Bummer! But it is to be expected as the same thing has happened to many aspiring writers, even to the likes of Agatha Christie and J.K. Rowlings in their time. I guess the publishers who refused them are still pulling out their hair. ;-)

Then, quite unexpectedly, my blog won a Mousie for Best International Garden Blog of 2007. Hurray!!! And one of the reasons it had won, was that many people liked the way I write. I was very happy when I read that.
Delia being totally underwhelmed with the Mouse&Trowel award.

This happy Mousie event was even published in the local rag as it's not every day that a blog wins an award like that. Look Ma, I'm famous! ;-)

Flushed with success - not really, but I did think if so many fellow garden bloggers like my writing I must be doing something right, so let's give it another try- and I decided to send a few more articles to some magazines again, this time with the news that my garden blog had won the prestigious (grin) Mouse&Trowel Award for Best International Garden Blog for 2007 (make hay etc). And guess what? Result! I was contacted by one the Dutch gardening magazines, Tuin&Co (=Garden&Co).
As they liked my writing style too, they wanted to meet up with me and discuss what I could write for them. So that's what we did and here's the result that was published only a few days ago.
That's how much fun a garden club is!

It's an article about my garden club that I founded a few years ago. I had just moved house and didn't know a soul so I started my own garden club, as you do.;-) It was easy peasy, really. I just wrote a letter on my PC about wanting to start a garden club, copied that letter 200 times and then put on my walking shoes. I walked around my village and everywhere I saw a nice front garden I popped a copy of my letter in their letterbox. It stands to reason that when people have a nice front garden, they enjoy gardening, right?
We understand each other exactly.

And many people responded to my letter and as a result we now have a fun garden club. It's great to be able to talk with fellow enthusiasts about gardening, to share your garden experiences, your knowledge, the joy of gardening, the successes and failures etc. And it's also a great way to swap seeds, cuttings and plants too. We visit each others gardens but also open gardens, garden fairs, nurseries etc. which is great fun.
Several members of my garden club at the arboretum in Kalmthout, Belgium

I can highly recommend the above method as a great way for meeting up with other gardeners in your neighbourhood. After all, we don't all live in Austin ( the garden blogging capital of the world), Texas. ;-)
copyright: Y.E.W. Heuzen.2007

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fascinating Stuff

Well, not really. I've been tagged, again! The Bliss Team has been tagged too by Birgit of Day after Day, That's Life! and that will probably be a more interesting read. ;-). I have been tagged by Lisa of Greenbow to reveal 8 random facts about myself.

Right, let's not prolong the agony and get cracking:

Here are the rules:
When tagged you must link to the person who tagged you.
Then post rules before you list and list eight random things about yourself.
At the end of the post, you must tag and link to eight other people.

1) my birthday is on the 25th of November (yes indeed, that was yesterday but I didn't have time to blog then) and I share my birthday with Kadootje whom I found on my birthday in my garden 2 years ago when she was a little kitten. Read all about that here. As I didn't know exactly how old Kadootje (=Present) really was, and my finding her was a sort of re-birth for her (from miserable stray to beloved pet), we both celebrate our special day on the 25th. Here's a pic of the birthday girl!
Well, one of the birthday girls. ;-)

2) I'm a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, my all time favorite TV series (so far).
Don't let the name put you off, it really is brilliantly written and made, wickedly funny, scary, exhilarating and great entertainment. And it regularly gives you pause for thought and makes you yell at your TV screen too, so what more could you possibly want from a TV series? If you're familiar with the Whedonverse, I'm a Redemptionista.

3) I studied interior architecture and design for 4 years and after I'd finished my study successfully I designed my first ................................ garden! I look upon gardens as rooms with slightly higher than normal ceilings that tend to leak a bit more than your average ceiling ever would. I prefer working with natural materials such as wood, wicker, stone, clay, cotton, linen, wool, plants, flowers, grasses etc. both inside and out. Harmony is the name of the game for me.

4) I'm a very private person so revealing personal stuff is difficult, to put it mildly.

5) I started the Bliss garden 1 week before I went into hospital to have a rather serious back operation. I'd had serious and very painful back trouble for many years. It was so bad in fact, that I was bedridden for months on end ( 4 months was the longest period) and I had to spend 24/7 in bed not being able to either walk, stand or sit, but just lie there, doped up to the eyes balls with morphine because of debilitating pain.

A few weeks after my op, I started gardening again, in drips and drabs creating the Bliss garden. Creating my garden and the actual gardening itself was and is a great way to heal myself; body, spirit and soul.

6) My biggest hobby is not, as many would suspect, gardening but reading. I taught myself to read at the ripe old age of 5 as my parents were not very good with reading bedtime stories. I think I've read over 10 thousand books so far and I'm still at it. My bookcase runneth over! When I was at high school (Dutch equivalent of) I read on average 7 books a week. Now I'm down to only 1 or 2 a week. Terrible, isn't it?

7) Apart from being rather private I'm also a shy person. That's why I am able to give lectures to 2000 or so people and not blink an eye or break out in a cold sweet. LOL The first time I gave a lecture the first 5 minutes were pure agony but after they had passed, everything went swimmingly. Nowadays I have to take care not to become too relaxed when I'm in front of an audience as I need that shot of adrenaline to stay focused!

8) Cats play an important part in my life. The first cat entered into my life when I was just a baby. Shortly after she came, my father decided to breed birds and as cats and birds don't mix, my cat Poesja had to go. I have no conscious memories of Poesja but I longed for a kittycat for years and years as a child, teenager and young adult. After I left my parents' home I went looking for a cat immediately and as I was searching I fell in love with those gorgeous blue, actually grey, ones and had to have one as a companion. The one I found was my beloved Chuck, a blue Persian/Longhair
and then, a few months later, sweet little Wendy came, a blue-point Longhair/Himalayan.
A few years later I fell and still am head over heels in love with Russian Blues, for me they are the purrrrfect cat. It was many years later that I found out from my parents that my first cat Poesja had also been blue (=grey).

I've been a pedigree cat breeder, on a very small scale and as a hobby only, for over 20 years. My breeds were Russian Blues
and later on Maine Coon cats too.
I am also an international cat judge, but I do not think the judging side all that important. I'm far more concerned about health issues and I find the behaviour of cats endlessly fascinating therefor I read everything on that subject I can lay my hands on.

As so many garden bloggers I know have been tagged already, I've decided not to tag anyone else unless you'd like to be tagged. In that case feel free to consider yourself tagged to reveal 8 deep, dark secrets about yourself. ;-)

The Bliss Team tag:

1) Name 5 favorite 'songs' :

Kadootje: I wanna go outside!
Merlijntje and Delia: hold me tight!
Surprise: I need food!
Willow: I'm so pretty and cuddly!
Vita: kek kek kek (the bird song she sings to all the birds she sees)

2) Name 5 favorite toys:

Surprise: real mice and ones stuffed with catnip
Kadootje: at bit of string, preferably with a human attached
Dolly: Yolanda Elizabet
Merlijn: feathers
Vita: fluffy toys with catnip

3) Name 5 things you love to eat:
Willow and Dolly: dry cat food and cooked fish
Surprise: everything even remotely edible
Delia and Merlin: cheese, cooked fish, raw meat and thin slices of roast beef
Pippa: cooked fish, raw meat, tuna and cheese
Vita: tuna, cooked fish, slices of roast beef, birds, raw meat and tinned cat food
Macavity: dry and tinned cat food
Kadootje: cooked fish, tuna, raw meat and yogurt

4) Name 5 favorite activities you'd like to indulge in:

Merlijn: snuggling up with Delia in front of the wood stove or on the bed
Kadootje: playing outside in the garden
Willow: sitting on Yolanda's lap
Macavity: seducing female felines in heat and fighting off the competition, then running home and have Yolanda clean my wounds and then hug and kiss me to make it all better again.
Vita: being outside in the garden sunbathing
Surprise and Pippa: eating and snoozing
Dolly: climbing the walnut tree and then pretending that I cannot climb down again so that Yolanda has to get the ladder out and save me.

5) Name 5 bad habits:

Willow: bad habits? Moi?
Kadootje: huh?
Vita: I'm a purrrrrrrrfectly behaved feline person, thankyouverymuch!
Merlijn: you're joking, right?
Delia: I'm purrrrrfection wrapped in gorgeously soft and silky fur. Anyway, that's what my personal assistant is always telling me and I believe her!

The Bliss team have in their turn tagged the following felines:

1) Mungus and the rest of the gang from the Bloomingwriter's blog
2) all the kittycats from Our Little Acre
3) Yin and Yang from Costa de la Luz Gardening
4) Sassy and Tango from Woodlands World, as soon as their personal assistant feels up to it. Get well soon Libby!
And because they are who they are, the Bliss Team has decided in their infinite feline wisdom to tag a doggy too:
5) Lytton from Kate's Smudges in Earth, Paint and Life.
copyright: Y.E.W. Heuzen.2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Look Out, There's a Dinosaur In the Garden!

also known as the Monkey Puzzle tree. But what's it doing in the garden? Do some of us have a fondness of prehistoric monsters? Are we nuts about ugly things? Don't tell me there are people out there who actually like this tree, because what's to like? The razor sharp, needle like leafs that coat both the trunk and all the branches from top to bottom?
The fact that it grows to a 60 to 70 ft height or even a whopping 150 ft in favourable circumstances? And you do know it is going to be about 30 tot 35 ft wide? Do we really have that much space to waste on this worst of all Stephen King's nightmares come true?

And it really is a dinosaur. Apparently it was already visually obnoxious about a cool 60 million years ago. And it is still here today. Why?

Well, we got some Brit to thank for that: Archibald Menzies (naval surgeon and botanist) who attended a state dinner in Chile late in the 18th century. And there he was served some seeds from the Araucaria araucana tree (yes, the official name for the MP tree). Apparently the seeds are almond sized and tasty so Menzies ate some and put some in his pocket, forgot all about them and went home to the UK. There he unfortunately recalled that he had some very special seeds in the pocket of one of his coats and these seeds were planted at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew where, alas, they germinated and turned into little trees. (Thanks a bunch, Archie!)

In the early 1800's another British chap (they're all over the place, aren't they?) after observing this well-armed tree, said it would be a puzzle for any monkey attempting to climb such a tree. Hence it's name. Personally I think that any monkey worth it's salt would run screaming for its Mummy as soon as it would clap eyes on this tree. Such a sensible reaction! I felt like running and screaming when I first was visually assaulted by that horrible tree.

Back to Britain again, where the name of the tree and the story behind it, tickled the fancy of the general public and having a Monkey Puzzle tree became all the rage. Unfortunately it spread like the proverbial black plague to the European continent as well.

Ever wondered why even the most die-hard of all treehuggers won't touch this tree, not even with an exceptionally long barge pole? Because it's bloody lethal, that's why! Look at those sharp and stiff leaves. They last for 10 to 15 years, the little blighters. That tells you something about how tough they are. Not forgetting those cones the female trees produce, which are 6 to 12 inches long and look a bit like coconuts. It's really not very clever to stand beneath a female tree when she's shedding her cones!

Dinosaurs have been extinct for a very long time now, but we're still stuck with this horrific botanical dinosaur and most primitive of all living conifers. Isn't it high time it took it's final bow, went to meet it's maker, kicked the bucket, was pushing up the daisies, in short, died?!

How about cutting them down? Chopping them up into little pieces, burn the pieces, then bury them and stomp on them a few times for good measure. Maybe do a little dance on the remains? There, that will teach them!

And all the little baby Monkey Puzzle trees we can dig up and sent to Chile as there seems to be a shortage of them over there, high up in the Andes, where there is lots of space to grow and no monkeys or people to upset.

And of course removing a Monkey Puzzle tree will leave a big gap in the garden, but that can easily be filled with something nice like an apple or pear tree, or a lovely Amelanchier. They are so much nicer, don't you think? There, I feel much better now!

copyright 2007 Y.E.W. Heuzen

The world we live in is a garden

Mankind reaps what mankind sows

We are farming our future

Harvesting the things we grow.

Linda Beck, Peace Tree, 1988

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Beautiful Garden All Year Round

is something that most gardeners hope for. Although it is possible to have flowers for most ( if not all) months of the year, it is not the flowers alone that make a garden beautiful and interesting. On the contrary, many things are far more important than mere flowers in the garden. Don't get me wrong, I love flowers like the next person, probably more so, but there's more to making a garden look good than flowers alone.

If you live in a temperate climate zone like me, you can have flowers in abundance for 6 months of the year. The rest of the year the garden is either growing (spring) or in decline (autumn) and both seasons can give you quite a few blooms too. That leaves us with 2 months where not a lot seems to be happening in the garden (December and January) and most shrubs, plants and trees look about as interesting as paint drying. It's in those months that the garden is stripped back to its bare bones and beauty, true beauty is all about bone structure (same as with humans).

Part of the bones of the garden are hard materials such paving materials, decking and fences but plants can also form a part of the skeleton of your garden.

Here I've used box as ornaments and as a hedge, to separate the plants from the paving.
Box is an evergreen and is used in my garden a lot.
Now that many plants are disappearing the box balls are coming to the fore and give structure and interest to my garden during the winter season. They also provide rhythm, as 2 balls are planted at the foot of each pyramid (repetition is the name of the game).
It's amusing to see how much the box stands out now, while during summer they were hardly noticeable.

In my front garden I've used box to form rectangular flower beds. The box edging gives structure to the garden and it's good for providing winter interest to. Here it is combined with a hedge of Berberis (barberry) and with white lavender.
That way I have always at least 3 colours in my garden: green, grey and burgundy red which is great when there isn't much else to look at in the garden.

But you can use other plants for winter interest too, just look at my kitchen garden hedge of Fagus sylvatica.
Those pretty brown leaves will stay on all winter long and contrast nicely with the green of the other hedges and lawn. An added bonus is that these hedges will also provide some shelter against the cold winds for the first seedlings in early spring.

As it is nice to look at something pretty in the garden during wintertime, I've put my garden table in front of the living room window and dressed it up a bit. And I've hung the pergola, where once the grapes were growing, full of stuff to feed the birds. It's great fun to look at birds in the garden, especially when not a lot else is going on.
Making sure that your garden has excellent bones is important, but there's nothing wrong with adding a bit of decoration here and there just to brighten things up a bit.

copyright 2007: Y.E.W. Heuzen

The satisfaction of a garden does not depend upon the area, nor, happily, upon cost or rarity of plants. It depends upon the temper of the person. One must first seek to love plants and nature, and then to cultivate that happy peace of mind which is satisfied with little.
L.H. Bailey, Garden-Making, 1808

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November Blooms

Yes, it is the 15th of November so time for Garden Bloggers Blooms Day which originated with Carol of May Dreams Gardens. Although many bloggers have participated for many months and enjoyed it, November Blooms has been dreaded by many. What to show when your garden is covered in snow or it's too cold for anything to bloom? Well, you are allowed to show what's in bloom indoors too, which must come as a big relief to quite a few participants.

Here at Bliss we still have blooms outside, not the plethora like we had for such a long time, but still enough for a show and tell. And at this time of year I enjoy hunting for blooms in my garden as you are bound to find at least one or two surprise blooms which is such fun.

In bloom in the kitchen garden:
Even though I chucked them on my compost bin weeks ago, the nasturtiums are still flowering. There's not a lot in flower in my kitchen garden anymore but a few herbs are still going strong:
- basil
- fennel
- borage
Also still in flower are:
- Cerinthe
- Oenothera glaziouana
- Periwinkle
- Centranthus ruber
In the Victorian greenhouse:
- Solanum crispum is still flowering its little heart out.

In my new borders:
- Verbena bonariensis is still putting up some flowers
- the Dahlias have a few flowers left
- in flower is Trifolium rubens, which is very surprising as it should have finished flowering months ago.
- this plant is flowering profusely, a real joy at this time of year. I bought it at Piet Oudolf's but unfortunately misplaced the label so if anyone knows its name, please let me know!

In the border around my walnut tree I stumbled upon another surprise bloom;
- Japanese Anemones, I thought they had finished flowering a few weeks ago but no, I found 2 more flowers today.
- Achillea ptarmica The Pearl is still having a few blooms
- a hardy white Fuchsia, a new garden friend that I got from friends a few weeks ago. Pretty isn't it?

In pots:
- some pink Verbena
- this one I've forgotten the name of , but it is still flowering away with gay abandon
- white daisies
- blue Lobelia
- pink Camelia
And to be put into pots soon:
- Pansies in white, blue, yellow and burgundy.

The South borders:
- Lavatera, that has been flowering for months and months now
- pink Geraniums putting up a few more blooms
- Centranthus ruber
- yellow Wallflowers, another surprise bloom from my garden
- Polygonum, deep pink
- pink Spirea
- Cosmea, the last few flowers
- and of course ........Sedum!
Another find was this Campanula that self seeded at the edge of my decking.

The front garden:
- Rosa Moonlight, that has been flowering for 8 months now.
- Rosa Madame Alfred Carriere, with still a few blooms
- Rosa Sombreuil, the last blooms of this year, I think
- Rosa Guirlande d'Amour, almost as long in flower as Moonlight, is still having a few blooms here and there
- white Bacopa
- lilac Asters (the last blooms)
- white Gaura, still going strong, some plants are simply amazing!
- this one, Persicaria amplexicaulis
- my Winter Jasmin really gets going now

Today is a special day for me as it is my mother's birthday. She is 78 now. Happy birthday Mum!

And I'll leave you with a pic of that most fantastic rose Moonlight that is even now putting out some new buds, unbelievable!

copyright Y.E.W. Heuzen

If a plant bores you, something must be done about it. The simplest course, if it belongs to you, is to throw it out. If it is someone else's, look the other way. If it belongs to someone you rather dislike anyway, don't be ashamed to let it confirm you in an inclusive repulsion.
Christopher Lloyd
(who else?)