Farewell Skimble the Bold

Two weeks today we lost our darling boy Skimble. NAH found him in his final sleep on our patio when he went down to get breakfast. He looked so peaceful, as if he'd just paused on his way back in to see us. Needless to say we are heartbroken.

We'd been concerned about him for a while as he'd got very thin, though he seemed to be on the mend and was enjoying the garden again. He'd even earmarked a spot under the figs as his hiding place of choice for the summer. He had a different spot each year.

Jess had a good look at him with calm acceptance. We fear its only a matter of time until we say farewell to her too.

We lit a candle in the evening on the spot where he was found and then we watched the bats fly round the garden, just like he used to do. He even caught one once.

I miss my garden helper.

You can read more about our cats' adventures here.

A green bouquet

The Eryngium leapt over the central terrace wall into the lawn many moons ago. NAH's threat to 'mow the meadow'*, as he calls the wild and woolly lawn, prompted me to cut back the emerging flower heads to make his job a little easier.

Instead of composting them as I usually do, I decided they would make an interesting green bouquet for the house. It looks like they last quite well in the vase, a week at least.

Green allium seed heads made a long lasting bouquet in my Flowers for Mum project last year. It meant she had flowers (in the widest sense) in her room whilst I was on holiday. I'm definitely warming to the green bouquet concept.

I rather like the effect of these architectural stems (and one of the new filters on my editing software), what do you think?

* = of course if it was a real meadow, he could leave it until much later in the year 😉

Postcard from Texas

I'm back from a wonderful week in Austin where the Garden Bloggers Fling was held this year. We saw plenty of amazing gardens, and a few extra days plus our downtown location meant there was plenty of time to see what else the city has to offer.

It's the Fling's 10th anniversary this year, and it was apt to return to where it all began, though in quite a different format to the first time. I was struck by the incredible hospitality of our hosts, who opened their homes to us pre, during and post Fling. Pam deserves a special mention as she not only had 90 Flingers visit her garden, she also broke away from her preparations to take Barbara and I on a tour of some of the key sights of the city. It was great to see Austin through her eyes and here's her take on our trip together.

The photo shows a view from Mount Bonnell, Austin's highest point with great views over the city, Lake Austin and the surrounding hills. I chose this photo because it shows some of the key el…

So, sow good

It's major catch up time this week, with seed sowing underway at last*. Quite a few have been sown at home, and the others are set to be dealt with at the allotment this weekend, once I've cleared the raised beds of all the naughty weeds that have sprung up. I'm particularly looking forward to trialling the new Optigrow seeds I've been given (at the bottom centre of the picture) as they might just help me make up for lost time.

So far I'm particularly impressed with the cucumber seeds I'm trialling courtesy of Mr Fothergill as they all germinated within 4 days. These come with their own mini greenhouse and coir based compost; the latter was great to watch grow from its 1cm high starter disc to an impressive 5cms when I added the water**.

Our curries have been transformed this year by the use of fresh turmeric, which in turn gives a wonderfully fresh flavour. I was delighted to find there's lots of information about growing and the use of this in Matt Biggs…

A different kind of tea

I'm delighted to offer a different kind of cuppa for #nationalteaday as I'm allergic to the usual stuff*. Instead I'm exploring a different kind of tea via those found in Henriette Kress's Practical Herbs 1.

For those in the know, Kress's double volume has been available in a pdf format for a number of years and it's clear from the interweb she's a well regarded herbalist in her field. Now it's available in book form and for me, the first volume I received to review for today's tea blog tour has the clearest and most detailed explanation I've found of the preservation of herbs and their use as herbal oils, salves, syrups, vinegars, tinctures and teas. There's the added bonus of what to do when it all goes wrong - which is often omitted in all kinds of reference books - and here we have the voice of experience to help make things better, in the herbal world at least.

We're quite early in the foraging season which combined with our slower…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Rethinking the plot

Writing a post for Blooms Day after an absence of several months is a sure sign that things are beginning to get back to normal, at last.

However, I decided to start this post with a photo from outside VP Gardens. It's hard to resist the first sunny bloom-filled scene of the year from yesterday's walk with friends, especially when we found a host of golden daffodils in nearby Allington, with more yellow springtime goodness* sprinkled beneath a willow tree just beginning to sprout its cloak of green.

Like most of you reading this, spring has come late here this year. The farmers are saying they're a month behind with their work because it's been so cold and wet. I must be one of the few people taking comfort from that because of my enforced 'holiday' from gardening. It was good to get out in the sunshine at last - not just for yesterday's walk - but also to see and smell my favourite 'Thalia' daffodils in bloom.

To be honest I've spent the past …

Things in Unusual Places #22: Tea cup

In the past I've dismissed the giant cup and saucer planters you can buy as a bit twee and kitsch. However, this understated blue one stuffed with large succulents - which graced the shop window of a local funeral directors - made my day yesterday.

Veg Plotting in the news

Yesterday's gardening section in The Telegraph was HUGE! I had a little slot in there thanks to my friend Naomi. Sadly the weather forecast is against most of the tasks mentioned, though today's weather looks generally OK for a spot of raised bed making or plot mulching*, and there's plenty of opportunity for sowing seeds indoors**.

It was so relaxing (and less painful currently) to do this over the phone rather than bashing it out on the computer. Thanks to Naomi who did the latter as well as our call. There are lots more hints and tips here -  not just from me - with some that are doable whatever the weather. Note that the full online version is only available to subscribers.

As NAH says, now I've got to get on with it myself. What are your garden projects this weekend?

* = unless you have a broken wrist
** = which I will be doing... gingerly!

Cocktail and mocktail fun

I'm easing back slowly* into bloggage again. There's been lots of reading over the past couple of months, and my sole foray into garden-related-ish activities was to make some fun, delicious cocktails and mocktails for WI last week. These went down well, and I thought you'd like to see the recipe leaflet I put together, especially as many of you'll have family gatherings and get togethers planned over Easter.

I couldn't resist tweaking slightly Marc Diacono's gin recipe using Seville oranges to make 'marmalade gin' from his late January newsletter. Mine is a cheeky nod to the 'Jam and Jerusalem' WI stereotype, which is so far from the reality in ours. Flavoured gins whether distilled or infused are super trendy and I've found the latter are easy to make**. After a month of infusing, marmalade gin makes a fine Tom Collins. You don't need to wait until next January to make a start on your own as the usual oranges available can be used for…

A clean break

Sometimes fate conspires to take us in an unexpected direction, just like it has with my quest for fitness this year. In the last five minutes of a 5 week trial of walking netball, my feet got carried away in chasing after a ball. I eventually crashed into a cupboard then onto the concrete floor. Ouch.

I've got off relatively lightly. My pride at playing a better and swifter game suddenly came crashing down, which is a good lesson to learn. The more obvious results are a goth-like face without the need for make-up, minor concussion, bruised knees and a fractured wrist. 10 days later, yesterday at last brought good news... the bone has stayed in place without pinning, so I can look forward to 5 more weeks in a plaster cast. No driving in that time and no return to netball for around 3 months.

As is my usual wont, I'm concentrating on what I can do rather than what I can't. However, I'm also having to face up to reality. What I need to do in the garden is out of the que…