Monday, 18 April 2011

Garden abstracts

We had another lovely sunny spring weekend and whilst the warm weather makes it feel summery - it's still rather too early to plant summer annuals. Consequently, whilst I'm out in the garden working on it and getting some much needed fresh air and sunshine, there still isn't that much to see - and certainly not much colour - and it looks a tad barren at the moment. I do however grow quite a lot of greenery to keep it looking interesting even without flowers, so I decided to enjoy that for what it was and not worry about the lack of flowers.
Please click on any of the photographs to see a larger view.

I have one spectacular potted hosta that has lovely variegated leaves and it is just opening up - the bits that the snails haven't already consumed are opening in lovely tight spirals.

I kept coming back to the same leaves as the light changed, totally besotted with the lovely shapes and lines.

The textures of the greenery do tend to give rise to some lovely abstracts and textures and that was what I focused on for my garden photography this weekend.

Newly opening ivy leaves which are seemingly quite hairy as they uncurl.

I often do this when out on my lunchtime walk or if the weather isn't good - I pick a theme or subject and concentrate on looking for images to fit that theme - it's good for making you look at things differently and even in limited locations (i.e. my postage stamp sized garden or the familiar walk to the next village) and poor weather, means there's much more to see that you initially think - once you attune your eyes to seeing them.

Not all my foliage is green - my Japanese maple opens with these scrawny thin red leaves that gradually fill out - red at first, turning green as they mature.

I might pick a theme like shadows, reflections, texture etc. and only take photographs that fit this theme - on other occasions I might limit myself to a particular fixed focal length lens or camera mode. It's very liberating to work this way - and good for finding something interesting when in a creative funk like I am at present. Who needs flowers with all this lovely texture and interest in the foliage.

A long growing tendril from my honeysuckle - it's an evergreen, but like everything else in the garden, it starts growing again with gusto once we get some sunshine and longer days.

I like variegated foliage for additional interest.

Some new opening foliage on alpine strawberry plants - making a lovely carpet of texture.

This bud will open out into tiny red and white candy-striped flowers.

The only thing this monkey puzzle is good for is taking photos of - if you lean against it or brush past it it slices you like a razor blade, falling leaves get totally ensnared in the spikes and need removing with surgical precision and protective gear.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

An advance taster of summer to come

Here in the UK over the last few days we've had glorious warm sunny weather. Spring has well and truly arrived with the bonus of some unseasonably early warmth. I even managed to get several loads of washing dried outside and put away the same day.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

I have collected lots of interesting pieces of driftwood and bought a bag of large pebbles to scatter around and I love the textural interest they provide in the garden even when nothing much is growing.

It was actually slightly odd to be outside in shirt sleeves, yet be able to see trees that were still bare. But that in itself has now changed, 4 days of sunshine and everything has erupted. That gorgeous new spring green foliage that positively glows in the sunlight.

I have a small corkscrew hazel in a pot and the 'lambs tail' flowers emerge before the foliage, which just emerged with the lovely sunshine we just had.

I love this time of year with the promise of summer ahead but with everything still emerging - lovely pristine foliage in fresh perfect colour, before weather, disease and insects take their toll over the summer months.

I have a large feature hosta in a tall glazed pot which looks stunning until the snails find it. It starts off as purple spikes which gradually unfurl the stripey leaves. I didn't spot this family of greenfly until I looked at the photos.

One of the big advantages of being self-employed and working from home is that I can choose when and where to work - for the most part. Clearly work demands take priority if I'm to keep happy customers, but I do love the warmer weather (shirt-sleeve warm, preferably not hot) when I can work with the back door open and potter in and out of the garden to do work outside when it's possible. I have a favourite bench in the shade that I love to sit at and work. It has been warm enough over the last few days to be able to do that and I was actually remarkably productive.

We even had bees busy at work collecting pollen and making the garden sound summery as well as feel it.

I had several pieces of wire wrapped work that I wanted to replace in my stock and several part finished pieces that needed hand polishing and I got through all of it over the weekend in rests between vigorous garden work - like stripping back a lot of the ivy that grows up the outside of the house. We tend to trim it right back, rather like a severe hair cut and it will re-grow rampantly over summer and still more over winter, ready to be curtailed again next spring. It's a messy, dusty job that we both hate, but always want to get done before we plant the summer annuals as the process drops hundreds of loose leaves in the garden.

I bought two phlox plants last summer that looked stunning when I planted them, but the first flush of flowers finished and they never seemed to get more than the odd further one. I was surprised to see that not only had they survived the hard winter, but were positively thriving. They've gone from tight buds, that I hoped were flowers, to full of these delicate flowers in a matter of days. I love how they uncurl as they open.

I do however have to share my garden. We have a very steep pitched roof which overhangs the house rather more than most houses, giving rise to deep eaves which provide good shelter for nesting birds and each spring and summer we have a whole neighbourhood of nesting house sparrows coming and going under the eaves and into holes where the roof crosses the stone walls. They seem to squeeze themselves through implausibly small holes and vanish out of sight.

For the most part, the sparrows don't mind us being in the garden, they seem to accept that we're going to be there but don't interfere with them and we happily share the space - I'm happy to do so as they're in serious decline and I enjoy being close to them. As the sparrows raise their families, we often get baby birds dropping from the nests when they're fledging and on more than one occasion, one has dropped down the drainpipe from perching on the guttering and we've had to take a section out of the drainpipe to release the trapped baby where they get stuck near a bend in the pipe.

I pointed out that as he wasn't paying rent and I fed him too, he might exercise a little more control over his manners.

But sparrows are pretty vocal, especially when a few gather and they sound like they're having heated discussions. I don't know if they're trying to chase us off, just let us know they're there, or just are chatting. So we often have individual birds that seem more vocal than others and make a big fuss as they come and go. The bird in the photos was one such 2011 resident. Every time he arrived or left, he sang loudly and very pointedly looked at me as he perched inside his own particular front door a few feet above me. Several times he hopped over to a length of the telephone cable coming into the house and would look down at me, very pointedly and loudly having his say.

The lovely weather gave me the opportunity to sit and do some wire wrapping and to polish several pieces in progress. There was a distinct 'heart' theme to my work this weekend, I made several pendants this shape in both copper and Sterling silver and the matching earrings are just waiting to be antiqued. I also finished a series of antiqued copper earrings featuring squiggled infills wrapped to a frame with Sterling silver. The oval pair were for a commission and I made the teardrop pairs at the same time to make available in the shop.


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