Thursday, May 27, 2010

Halcyon Days

After a cold Malvern I was happy to find that Spring had returned in full force at Bliss. In the potager veg simply jumped out of the ground overnight. From 8 C to 23 in one fell swoop, no wonder everything was growing its little socks off.
 My soft fruit is growing like the clappers too, soon it will be time to harvest and, far more important, savour the fruits of my labour although with gooseberries there is very little labour involved. Just bung them in the ground, give them a good feed in early Spring and Bob's pretty much your uncle.
 My riot of tulips has calmed down a bit but there are still enough left of them for a good solid hit in the solar plexus everytime you enter the potager. They've been rioting for 9 weeks now, bless them.
The arches in the potager are covered in flowers from Clematis, apple and raspberries. Soon the Sweet Peas, peas, sugar snaps and runner beans will join them.

 Loads to harvest in May; radishes, rocket, lettuces, herbs, rhubarb and dandylions.

Yes, I do harvest dandelions as well and turn them into yummy fritters.
Simply make a pancake batter, dip the flowers in, fry in a bit of butter or olive oil and bon appetit! And as the rhubarb is producing so much this year, I've turned quite a bit into a delicious rhubarb and ginger jam (thanks for the recipe Michelle) and into a scrumptious rhubarb chutney (thanks for the recipe Mrs B). 
For those of you who'd like to try it yourselves; the recipe for the rhubarb and ginger jam you will find here.

During the warm Spring days I work in the garden where I do a lot of weeding. In the new borders I've been adding quite a few new plants. As always Jeeves keeps me company.
Here he is trying to find a bit of shadow in the potager which isn't easy as it's south facing.
Lately someone else has been keeping me company while I work in the potager too; little Tara. Here she is garding the strawberries amidst the forget-me-nots, a great combo.
And as soon as it gets too dark to work in the garden I indulge in a spot of this
 This is one I prepaired earlier, I hope you are frightfully impressed. With all these horticultural things going on it's a miracle I manage to fit in a bit of work as well.

After that long cold winter and the stop and start spring it's good to see my garden finally getting into full swing.
 And for the first time in years I've been drying the washing outside again. On sunny days it dries very quickly and I love taking it in as it smells so nice and fresh. Making your bed with sunkissed sheets is the bestest way to insure there will be sweet dreams.

Halcyon days indeed, make sure you make the best of them, I do!

copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Malvern, The Lighthouse of Laughter

When I told my friends I was going to the UK to meet up with people I had never clapped eyes on before they were a bit bewildered and concerned as well. Even more so when they found out that I would spent the first night at Michelle's house whom I had also never ever met before. But what if she's a crazy person, my friends objected. Michelle? I said, hardly! But you don't know her. Well, I've never met her in person but you do get a feel of who someone is when you read their blog. So you're going to the UK to meet loads of people whom you've never met and also share accommodation with 5 other women whom you wouldn't know from a bar of soap either? I am and it will be alright, don't worry.
So I went and I met and spend lots of time with all those bloggers and survived the "ordeal".  Frankly, people worry too much sometimes and it's fear that's stopping them from doing things they love. It was lovely meeting Michelle and later on when I met the others at Malvern, at the pub, at Helen's, at Ask it was all fine. More than fine it was great fun and I had a truly brilliant time. In case it has somehow escaped your notice; gardeners are good people to hang around with.
After it became clear that there would be more bloggers coming than Michelle and Helen initially thought; Michelle: Helen and I thought maybe 8 to 10 people would come, but it turned out to be much more than that. Much, much more.  And then there was the added shock that not only I would come, but other bloggers from abroad as well. Gail and Frances would be there all the way from Tennessee and then Ewa from Poland would come too. Where to put them all as they would not be there for just 1 day?
Fortunately Victoria knew just a place. So the Lighthouse was booked and in dribs and drabs we all arrived there. I had met Helen at Malvern earlier that day (Thurday 6 May) but not the others.  I met Frances, Gail and Ewa for the first time at the Lighthouse after they had been kindly collected from the train station by Helen. We all arrived at the same time and the first thing Gail said when we met while she pointed at me: Michelle? Erm no, that's Michelle, I'm Yolanda. Gail: It's the jetlag! That was the very first time that excuse was trotted out but not the last, not by a long chalk.
We went inside the house and decided who should sleep where. Helen had gone home (she lives quite close to Malvern) so there was only 5 of us as Victoria would arrive on Friday. At least I thought we were 5 until I heard Don say, when he clapped eyes on the bedroom that he would have for the next few days: this bedroom has a wash basin! Don was ever so slightly underwhelmed as most of the bedrooms came with their own bathroom  and his had only a wash basin.
Fortunately there was this gorgeous bathroom close by that Don, Frances's alter ego, could use. I got to know Don quite well during my stay at the Lighthouse and he's a guy after me own heart.
After we had all settled in we went shopping and then went to the pub for a meal and meet loads of fellow garden bloggers. We were 13 in all not counting Don, a lucky 13, and we had a fab evening with lots of laughter, good food and even better company.
 Deb Bird's lovely show garden: The Nature of Nurture

The next day (Friday) we all went to the Malvern Flower Show, it was the second show day for Helen, Michelle and I but the first for Ewa, Frances and Gail. It was a bit nippy though and Frances and Gail had to buy warm clothes at the show to prevent pneumonia. But regardless of the weather, we all had a great time at the show. There was so much to see and so much to do. Late in the afternoon Victoria arrived too. That evening we went to a party at Helen's. Helen: I thought maybe 8 people would come but it's much more than that, but am I bothered?
Ooh look, there's Yolanda and she wearing leather pants!

A fab time was had by all, we had a bit of a natter, then there was cake, utterly yummy cake baked by Helen's own fair hands, there was big lashes of laughter, an enormous mountain of food and a spot of group photo taking.
Well, an attempt at it but we decided it wasn't good enough as the people in the back were merely lurking in the dark. So we tried again, with more success this time and here we all are:
From left to right starting at he back: Lia, Zoe, Karen, Gail, Elizabeth, Denise and Michelle.
On the couch: Claire, Yolanda, Helen, Ewa and the other Michelle. In front: Frances, Sally and Victoria. But there were 2 more people there; Jane (Dobbie) and the Digger, alas no pic of them.
 After Helen's party we went back to the Lighthouse where we had another natter, a cuppa tea/coffee before we finally caught some Z's. Women!
 How was it to share a house for a few days with people whom you've never met before? Well, great fun of course. We all got on swimmingly and it felt as if we'd known each other for yonks.
Ewa on the Aga: it is a beautiful cooker but it takes a loooooooooooong time to boil eggs.
There was talking, laughter, lashings of tea/coffee, laughter, breakfasts, and did I mention laughter? There was even some light entertainment provided by Victoria.
 Victoria: I love waking up in a house filled with laughter.

What I haven't told you yet is that the bloggers at Malvern were sponsered by the Biscuit blog chaps, which was very kind indeed. Here are some of the biscuits that were so thoughtfully provided by them but some of it also by yours truly.
 Of course we had to have a biscuit tasting session and we did on Saturday afternoon after Gail, Frances, Ewa and I had returned from a lovely day out with our trusty guide Helen (more about that another time), and Michelle and Victoria returned from a fun but cold and wet day at the Malvern show. They had brought a few people from the show for a visit: Dawn, Rob and Liam. We all felt the more, the merrier! And it was. Very merry!

You can read all about the biscuit tasting here. Suffice it to say that due to all the biscuit munching, spraying of crumbs due to excessive laughter in the very bestest of companies, we all had a great time.
That evening we went to dine at Ask, a restaurant where they serve Italian food. Do I really need to tell you that we had a fab time?

But then Sunday came, time to say goodbye as Ewa was going back to Birmingham by train, Victoria, Gail and Frances toddled off to London by car and I had a plane to catch back to Dutchland.
The Malvern 6: f.l.t.r.: standing: Yolanda, Frances and Ewa, sitting: Michelle, Victoria and Gail.

We could happily have spent at least another week at the Lighthouse  and we were all a bit sad about our imminent departures but unfortunately there is never  any Volcanic ash around when you need it.

The weather may not have been the best but to quote a world famous Dutch blogger:  it may be cold and wet outside but inside we have nothing but sunshine.

A big heartfelt thank you to Helen (left) and Michelle who made it all possible. My dears, organising a bloggers do at Malvern was one of the very best ideas you both ever had. XXX

copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fab Gardens At Malvern

Back To The Future is the name of this wonderful garden and it was designed and built by the pupils (groups 5-8) of the  Parkside Middle School in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire.
The garden theme was reduce, reuse and recycle and they certainly did. Just look at that fantabulous greenhouse made from plastic bottles. And if you think they threw away the bottles tops, think again!
Isn't this the best reuse of plastic bottle tops ever? And it's so very pretty too, not to mention colourful. It was a dull day that first day of the Malvern Flower Show but this perked us all up.
Here are two of the culprits pupils responsible for creating this absolutely gorgeous garden where sustainability plays a major part. It was fun meeting these two lovely girls who were so proud of their garden, and rightly so, and they both did an excellent PR job as well.
These junior gardeners & designers also grew many of the plants themselves, including herbs and vegetables. And you haven't heard the best bit yet; they also have their own allotment at school. Suddenly I wish I was a pupil there, don't you?
 This garden shows how easy and wonderful it is to reuse plastic bottles. The pupils from the Parkside Middle School not only used the bottles to built a fab greenhouse, the bottle tops to create the most wonderful murals but also used the bottle bottoms to create a plastic bubble path and a bird feeding station as well. It took a lot of bottle to design and create a brilliant garden like this. Well done!
Another most fantabulous garden that made my heart sing was this one created by the students in the supported learning area of Herefordshire College of Technology. Isn't it just the best? It's called The Time Machine and it takes us on a journey from the very first Malvern show in 1985 to the future in 2035.
Have you spotted their colourful greenhouse made from plastic bottles? Bottles were a bit of a theme  at Malvern and so was sustainability, no doubt about that. Inside the greenhouse loads of hightech stuff that put the Doctor's sonic screwdriver to shame. And anyway, who wants a lame Tardis when you can have a greenhouse like this?

Loved the green wall and the scarecrow in the back too! A big thank you to the students who showed me around and whose enthousiasm was so infectious. You have created a wonderful garden; well done to each and everyone of you!

From a designer's point of view I thought that most of the gardens designed and built by children and teenagers made some of the show gardens designed by adults look a bit meh. The above is garden design at its best; no rules, no bounderies, no what-will-the-neighbours/other-designers-think attitude but pure fun and joy as that is what gardening is all about. At least it is for me.

copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen