Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Very First Garden Book

I popped over to the Rant the other day and found this link about an interview with Amy Stewart who, among other things, is the woman who's entirely to blame that I'm a garden blogger today. If you have the time, do pop over and read the interview, it's fun and Amy's vid about her new book is quite amusing. In the interview Amy was asked what her very first garden book was and that got me thinking about my first garden book and how big it's influence has been on me as a gardener. I still have it, even though it's ever so slightly the worse for wear.
What's that you mumble? There's a cat on the front cover? Well hello, this is Bliss you know, where cats and gardens go paw in leaf. For those of you who can't read Dutch its title is Mimi, the Little Cat. I got this book as a present from friends of my parents when I was 3 years old and unable to read. I distinctly remember pestering all and sundry to read this book to me as I was dead keen on it. Once they had finished reading it to me I charmed them into reading it all over again, which they did, bless them. BTW did I mention the keen thingy? To this day I know the first page of this book by heart.
The book is about a little kitten that's playing outside in a very tiny courtyard garden surrounded by a very high wall. Mimi is chasing a fly but as there is so little space, not a lot of fun is to be had.
So she decides to climb that wall to see what's on the other side. But she loses her balance and lands on a clump of lovely daffodils and Primulas.
Guess what my favourite spring flowers are?
Remember, I even took the dafs to the Desert Island with me (among other things, which we won't mention now) and every year I buy lots of Primulas in February and March to brighten up my living room and kitchen and once they've finished flowering, I pop them in my kitchen garden.

After she recovers from the shock Mimi finds herself in a wonderful garden and she starts to explore it. While happily walking around, she stumbles upon some pretty flowers and has a very nice chat with them. To this day I'm ever so slightly disappointed that my flowers don't talk to me.
I remember impressing the heck out of many a gardener when 3 year old mini me was able to tell them the name of these flowers. In Dutch it's Oost-Indische Kers, a very long name, especially for a 3 year old. Nowadays I have my own version of Mimi with nasturtiums. My Mimi is called Dolly Daisy.
Mimi also has a meet and greet with a talking apple tree with pretty red apples.
And what does Yolanda grow at Bliss today?
And they are bright red, just like the ones in the book!!!

Then Mimi gets to meet a little doggy in the garden, its name is Puck, and a very cute doggy it is too. Together they have oodles of fun.
No guesses as to what Yolanda has running around in her garden.
Her very own version of Puck, better known as Tara.

In the garden in the book there is also a lovely pond filled with waterlilies, frogs and goldfishes, exactly what I had in my old garden and hope to have again this year (keeping fingers and toes firmly crossed that this will finally happen) in the Bliss garden.
So yes, this book about a kitten and a garden has had a big influence on me, and not only as a gardener. What it has taught me most is that a garden should be fun and shared with many creatures so that it becomes a truly magical place in real life, not just in children's books.

And now the 64,000 dollar question: what was your first garden book and what was its influence on you, gentle reader? One enquiring mind really would like to know.

copyright, the drawings not included, 2009: Y.E.W. Heuzen

Gardening, like living, should be fun. It can't be much of the time, but we can do our best to make it so. It is that intangible something which immediately proclaims that behind the scenes there is an original whose guiding hand has created something ephemeral, yes, but with the magic of a sunset.
Christopher Lloyd

Monday, January 26, 2009

The First

Yesterday it was an unexpectedly but very welcome sunny day. And of course Dolly Daisy made the most of it by taking a snooze in the sun in the conservatory. If you want to know what the best place in the house is, look where the kittycat is having a nap. ;-)
The same applies to outdoor spaces. As soon as the sun appears on my front porch, so does Macavity, one of my rescue kittycats.
As it was such a gloriously sunny day I decided to take a good look round the garden to see what's going on there at the mo and this is what I found; a very pretty Heuchera already putting up new leaves.
Chuffed to bits I was with my Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena. I'd bought her last year for a fiver (dirt cheap) and this is the first time she is in flower.
This Hellebore is showing great promise. I also bought it last year so I'm very curious about its flowers.
My snowdrops are looking remarkably like a bunch of white crayons at this stage and my wonderful buttercups, aka winter aconites, are about to burst into flower.
Every year there is a race on between the snowdrops and aconites to see who will flower first. This year it's going to be the aconites, I think.
In amongst my snowdrops I found the first weeds so I did my first spot of weeding this year, the first of many.
Quite a few bulbs are poking their noses through the earth already; I noticed crocus, daffodils, irises and grape hyacinths having a look to see if it was time yet for them to get out of their winter slumber.
The forget-me-nots look remarkably ready, the only thing they have to do now is to make their pretty blue, white or pink flowers.
In the potager the onions are wearing frivolous new green hats and in my cold frames the first radishes are growing their socks off,
and it won't be long before I'll be eating my first lettuces of the year from my potager.
Although we'll still have to wait a fairish bit until Spring arrives, walking around my garden yesterday filled me with hope that it won't be long now before Spring will really be there.
designed by Jacqueline van der Kloet

copyright 2009: Y.E.W. Heuzen

We have descended into the garden and caught 300 slugs. How I love the mixture of the beautiful and the squalid in gardening. It makes it so lifelike. Evelyn Underhill, 1875

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Decisions, Decisions!

Is what we all have to make from time to time and sometimes it is difficult to decide what to do or which one to choose. Today I'll have 2 things to decide about. I've joined my friend Shirl'sand I'll have to make a decision about something else as well, more about that later.

My 3 choices of plants are:
1) Rosa Fisherman's Friend, a David Austen rose with a most wonderful scent and with big (really big) and fleshy flowers of the deepest darkest burgundy imaginable.
2) drifts of daffodils as nothing spells Spring so much to me as they do. Don't underestimate the importance of Spring for those of us who suffer from SAD.
For my third choice I was going to go for this, a gorgeous wild flower meadow but that would be cheating as it consists of many different plants, not just the one. So I have chosen the next best thing
3) the humble Daisy. Why? Because they cheer up this desert of endlessly dull blades of grass, are great for making posies and daisy-chains and, as Dolly Daisy demonstrates so very well, you can roll in them with gay abandon.

Time for my next decision:

This year a pond will be made in the Bliss garden. I know, I know, I've said the same thing last year and the year before but this year it will finally happen.Honest! And with that pond I'd like a water feature or ornament but which one?
This one, although nice, has been done to death so I'll give it a miss.
At Drummond Castle, while I was touring Scotland 6 months ago, I found this water feature. It's fine but a tad too formal for me.
At the Gardens of Life in the Netherlands I spotted this one, totally OTT, great fun but not exactly what I had in mind. And then, in Scotland, I was so bowled over that almost fell into this one at beautiful Biggar Park
Excalibur rising out of the water. This one is right up my pond as I'm an Arthurian buff and have been since the ripe old age of 12. I didn't think that as far as water features or ornaments were concerned, this could be topped but .............. while surfing the net, as you do, I stumbled upon an even better one than Excalibur and have decided that this is what I want to rise up out of my pond:

Wait for it!

Very decorative, wouldn't you say? And I'm taking my new water feature with me to that desert island because although the Desert Island Plant Challenge states that there will be food plants available, IMO a chap or two won't come amiss. I mean, I'm taking a rose so that means a great big hole has to be dug and I'm not the one who's going to do the digging. Pu-leeeeze, I might break out in a sweat errr glow or, even worse, break a nail (shock, horror!). Just look at him, see those bulging muscles? Those would make him eminently suitable for digging great big holes and, of course, to perform that all important task that men were put upon this green earth for ............................

putting out the garbage.

copyright 2009: Y.E.W. Heuzen

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My Kitchen Kitchen Garden

No, yours truly hasn't suddenly developed a stutter, I am talking about my new kitchen garden that is situated in my kitchen, hence a kitchen kitchen garden.
In my kitchen kitchen garden I grow lettuces and rocket salad, all of which are very yummy and taste well in a salad or on a sandwich. About a year ago heads of lettuces in pots and such started popping up in supermarkets.
This yummy lettuce I bought at Albert Heijn,
and the other head of lettuce and this rocket salad (ruccola) at Lidl. But there's no law against sowing your own lettuces, salad leaves and herbs to grow in the windowsill of your kitchen.

The kitchen is the most logical place to have a kitchen garden when you think about it. It is where you actually need the veggies and fruit to prepare them for consumption. With my new kitchen garden in my kitchen I don't have to go out into the garden, which is great now that it's bucketing down most of the time, to pick a bunch of salad leaves for a salad or to stuff a sandwich with, to make it taste fresh and crunchy.
And there is more growing in my kitchen garden. I love ferns and when I went to Ikea, as you do, I found these cute little ferns complete with earthenware white pots totally irresistible.They were only 1 euro each, including the pot, so resistance was futile, to coin a phrase.
The ferns are flanked by tea light holders shaped as miniature greenhouses, very garden-y, wouldn't you say?
To cheer myself up even more I've created a Spring garden in my kitchen too with lovely grape hyacinths
and mini daffodils (Tete a Tete) and crocus. The daffodowndillies and grape hyacinths I bought at a builders merchants. The crocus bulbs in the basket on the far left were bought at a supermarket (Lidl). It's amazing where you can buy flowering bulbs, veggies in pots and plants nowadays, isn't it?
And yes, you've found me out, I'm addicted to fruit even more than chocolate or drop and that's saying something.
Having a mini indoor garden like this quite close to your kitchen tap is really the ideal place for it, because how often do you walk over to that tap in a day? A zillion times sounds about right , wouldn't you say, and every time you do, there is this plethora of plants, veggies and flowers to brighten up the dullest day. Not bad now that so many of us gardeners are stuck inside, gasping for a smidgen of garden-y happiness to tide us over til Spring comes and we can all go out into our beloved gardens once again.

Addendum: in answer to the question frequently asked about the members of the Bliss Team: all of them leave my lettuces and rocket salad alone as they also leave my plants and flowers in the vase alone. There is one exception to this rule and that is African Violets; they are totally irresistible to my Maine Coon Vita who picks off the flowers one by one and then proceeds to remove all the leaves with the flick of a fingernail. I provide my cats with enough alternatives such as cat grass, papyrus and spider plants so they don't bother the veggies, plants and flowers.

copyright 2009; Y.E.W. Heuzen

A gardener wishing to have and keep a good collection of plants, needs patience, liberality and a catalogue.
Canon Ellacombe, In a Gloucestershire Garden, 1895