Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Winter - Time to Reflect

November comes
And November goes
With the last berries
And the first winter snows.

With night coming early
And dawn coming late,
And ice in the bucket
And frost by the gate.

The fires burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until the next spring.

Today it is the Winter Solstice; rooted and entwined with Nature it is the longest night and shortest day of the year. 

The countdown has begun and the year is almost at the end, yet it feels to me as though it has barely begun. The year has flown past unnoticed, but I still feel as though it is only November. The summer didn't seem to appear until October and as October ended, so the incessant rains began, which merged one grey soggy day into another. I wonder to myself what I have been doing with my time all year?

It is time to pause, draw breath and take stock of what has actually happened throughout the past twelve months.

The year began with hours and hours of painting

 - transforming a shell of a house into a home.

I bade farewell to my old home and the little garden I loved.

and put down new roots at La Petite Maison.

Work began on transforming the garden from land strewn with building debris to the beginnings of a little oasis.

Roses as usual featured highly throughout the year; in the garden - where the last bare root rose was planted only last week,

 and on my walks to the local rose park.

Alas, the allotment has taken a back seat temporarily; very little Sowing done - while Soaping completely dropped off the 2015 To Do List.

I have however managed to squeeze in a bit of the other form of Sewing. Once the curtains were completed, I turned my attention to smaller projects, 

such as these bags I made from left over curtain fabric that are ideal for hiding away the small items that clutter up a living area.

A linen lampshade in the hall

that I made to hide the ugly shade beneath.

Somehow in the dark evenings I found a few spare moments to start to teach myself how to embroider.

This little lavender heart was my first attempt.

In the autumn, I renewed my acquaintance with a sweet little person 

who had been absent from my life for several years 

and has blossomed into a delightful young girl, in whom I see our ingrained family traits. I smiled inwardly as I watched her sitting, cuddling the purring cat with her head bent over - immersed in a book, her long dark curls tumbling forward around her face.

I was also delighted to discover that some things hadn't changed and the hours flew by as her mum and I giggled the night away until the dawn.

Reminiscing over our 'Eighties memories

Much as we had done when we were her age, except that now we were the adults and there were no parents in the next bedroom to bang on the wall to tell us to go to sleep!

A trip to Guernsey introduced me to this little island for the first time. 

Staying at the Fleur was an enjoyable experience, 

and the little island did not fail to show off the beauty of its coastline.

The neighbouring island of Herm 

had white sandy beaches worthy of any tropical island with the added bonus of not needing to embark on a nine hour flight to get there.

The festive season has crept up, taking me unawares, (perhaps because I missed the usual seasonal build-up of Christmas Fairs). My plans for making seasonal decorations did not come to fruition, with the exception of the lovely evening spent at the wreath making workshop in The Barn, 

 where I created a woodland wreath from yew, ivy, herbs, twisted hazel sticks and green hydrangea heads

that was described by my fellow wreath makers as akin to something from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

There has been sadness too, and as time has slipped past, so the memories have slipped away. The woman I once called my mother no longer knows she has a daughter.

This year has brought about changes, but as the rain batters us again, making for a rather sodden Solstice, and 2015 draws to a close, the days will be getting longer and there is a promise of new beginnings. Already I am looking forward in anticipation to the Spring when I will watch eagerly as the garden develops over the course of 2016; returning again to the allotment and pulling it back from the brink of being reclaimed by Nature - capturing and sharing it all on the blog.

Most importantly I am hoping to spend more time with friends and family now that the long slog of renovating La Petite Maison has reached its conclusion.

By taking the time to pause and reflect, I realise that although I may not have done all that I had planned; it has actually been a positive and productive year after all!

So Farewell 2015, 
I am looking forward to 2016.


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Witch's Thimbles and a Witch's Garden

As it is approaching Halloween and I haven't done a lot of blogging recently (lots of things happening but not a lot blog worthy), I thought I would do a little post about Witch's Thimbles.

A curious name; Witch's Thimble is another name for the foxglove, or digitalis, with its tall spikes of bell-shaped flowers. A deadly poison, which if administered in high enough doses can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and death.

I introduced both white and pink foxgloves to the allotment when I first took on the plot and now they flower there profusely - seeding freely, scattered at will by the winds, adding an unexpected splash of colour to a dark corner and lining the boundary fences.

The stately spires of foxgloves make me think of hedgerows where they grow in the dappled shade; woodland glades; coastal walks where self-seeded wildflowers sway and dance in the breeze on either side of the path; or gorgeous old cottage gardens with foxgloves jostling amongst roses, hollyhocks, peonies and geraniums.

The garden at La Petite Maison combines all of these. 

Foxgloves blend amongst a plethora of herbs including fennel, rosemary, thyme, sage, artemisia, yarrow and lavender and intermingle with pink roses, peonies, verbena bonariensis, teasels, hollyhocks, clematis, poppies and the prolific little daises often found in old stone walls in Cornwall - Erigeron karvinskianus (Fleabane). In front of the hedge along the back of the garden, a black elder, a crab apple and a rowan tree arch their young branches above foxgloves and as they mature, these trees will provide the dappled shade that foxgloves thrive in.

The profusion of Witch's Thimbles and Devil's Nettle, Opium Poppies and Verbena growing both at the allotment and in the garden, might have led the folk in days gone by to declare that these were the gardens of a witch.

Red-flowered Nasturtiums

and Monarda border the edges of the allotment - keeping "witch hunters" away.

Marigolds (Calendula)

and Sunflowers planted around the plot keep other witches out.

Devil's Nettle or Yarrow

 is used by witches to make incantations and as poultices for wounds 

while the Opium poppies would be be used for sleep potions. (Remember the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz put Dorothy to sleep in a field of poppies?)

There is a Hawthorn hedge at the allotment and a Hawthorn tree in the garden.

Hawthorns are a symbol of protection and in the past most Witch's gardens contained at least one Hawthorn tree that as a guardian and protector of the entrances to the "Otherworld" protected the house against evil spirits.

It is important not to damage a Hawthorn tree lest the Guardian spirit becomes angered. I am concerned that Evie's terrible incident may have been a consequence of her recent decision to use the Hawthorn tree trunk as a scratching post, tearing the bark destructively with her claws!

I love to sit by the shed in summer 

and watch the fat Bumble Bees crawl deep into the bell-shaped flowers the foxglove

 and listen to their lazy drone as they feast drunkenly upon the nectar. 

It is not only the bees and butterflies that love the foxglove - Folklore says that Fairies too are quite fond of the flower. In Folklore, foxgloves are also called Our Lady's Glove, Folk's Glove, Lion's Mouth and Fairy Caps. Fairies are often depicted with a foxglove bell for a hat.

If a foxglove is bending, it is said that the flower is bending to receive the fairy.

One folklore tale of where the name foxglove originated was that fairies used to give the flowers of the foxglove to foxes to wear on their feet so they could sneak undetected into the chicken coops.

It is believed that if you want fairies to make a home in your garden, plant some foxgloves where you want them to live. 

It was also believed that taking foxglove allowed people to communicate with the fairies, (probably before something drastic happened to their heart - so don't try that at home!)

Although foxgloves were used to lure fairies, the opposite was supposed to be true - that they were effective in breaking fairy enchantment over humans.

In a witch's garden are plants with flowers from every birth sign, so that the right ingredients are at hand to cast spells on everyone. Foxgloves and snowdrops would be used to "hex" someone born under the sign of Aquarius.

I treat the foxgloves that self-seed around the garden and at the allotment with care, tenderly digging them up and replanting them should they have seeded in an inappropriate location. In the garden, gravel paths edged with granite cobbles are ideal for the foxgloves to seed into. and whilst I like the informal naturalistic way that they self-seed, Mr Long-Suffering prefers the paths to be neat and tidy, so I carefully lift the young seedlings - (it is said to be bad luck to destroy foxgloves) and move them to another location where they can grow happily and undisturbed.

Admittedly I cannot resist leaving a few young plants casually growing from between the cobbles and amongst the gravel under the bedroom window. Not for me the formal and meticulously tidy garden - untamed and semi-wild is much more to my liking!