A spot of sun in dad's garden

In that milder weather recently I managed to pop out and take a few pictures of dad’s garden. Everything looks so much better in the sun and his crocuses were no exception. One area of his garden is carpeted with crocuses, which he tells me he’s going to try and move some of them so they can be seen from the conservatory. His plan is to plant and grow them in a triangular shape, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on.

Crocuses in the sun in dad's garden

Luckily he knows he won’t move all of them, and having seen them getting ready to flower this year, that’s good to know. I think they’ll look spectacular growing in the grass, rather than his veg bed - although they look pretty good there, don’t they?

a carpet of crocuses

I had a peek through the windows of the greenhouse not wanting to disturb the temperatures inside. The scent of the hyacinth will I’m sure have filled the space, and only just now I’ve noticed the cigarello-like leaves of tulips in a pot to the right of them.

hyacinth taking a bit of a lean

I read somewhere, I can’t remember where, that moss is in this year. That’s good news for my garden and good news for dad’s too though I’m sure he’s less soppy about clearing moss out of the greenhouse gutters than I am. It looks pretty good close up, this year we’ve got more moss in our drive than ever before, and I’m less impressed with that.

Moss and dew on the greenhouse

Dad’s olive tree is thriving, a few years ago dad was all for cutting it down as it was getting out of hand. I’m glad he didn’t but I do think it’s possibly the only olive topiary for a good few miles.

Olive isn't the first choice for topiary

The leaves are those of Lords and Ladies, some of which have migrated to my garden, but the bud doesn’t belong to them. It looks more lily-like, I meant to look again on our more recent visit, but didn’t remember to. I’m sure though that the don’t belong to the same plant, as much as they look like they might.

A usurper, but which - the bud or the leaves?

The glow of the sun was entirely visible as you can see in the next couple of photos. The first is of what looks like it’s going to be a very large foxglove, nestled right in the corner of the bed, but so large that it’s having to tumble over the border.

foxgloves in a sunny corner
Of course there had to be a yellow crocus

And as this post is crocus in the sun heavy, what other photo would I end on? Can’t you feel the warmth just shining though?

Making pastel pom pom sheep

Today is University Mental Health Day, an important day for all university communities and the biggest day of the year for student mental health which as we know from reading the media is an increasing problem for not only students, but all in this age group. At our university we’re using the day to bring our university community together and make mental health a university-wide priority, showcasing ‘self-care’ and the support available in our community.

This post is one of the rare posts where my work-life meets my blog-life, and I’m happy with that because it’s such an important topic. I’m hosting a craft session where people can come along and try crafts such as knitting, crochet and making pom pom sheep or just bring along their own project and craft in company. Those of us that craft regularly know why crafting is good for our mental health, and this session aims to demonstrate that first-hand.

So I thought I really should practice making some pom pom sheep…

If you want to try these too, you’ll need:

  • Two toilet roll inners

  • Wool to make a pom pom for the sheep’s body (I used a pistachio green)

  • Wool to make a smaller pom pom for the sheep’s head, this works best as a dark plain colour (I used black)

  • Scissors

1 Take the two rolls and catch the wool for the sheep’s body between the two rolls.

Wind the wool around the two tubes until it’s about a centimetre thick.

The more wool you wind around the tubes, the more rotund your sheep will be.

Wrap wool around two toilet roll inners

2 Next you’ll need to tie the pom pom together using the darker, plain wool for the sheep’s head.

Tie the black wool loosely between the two tubes, and ease the tubes out carefully.

Tie loosely between the two tubes and ease the toilet rolls out

3 Now tie this tightly, this will form your sheep’s body.

Leave the long ends of the dark wool, you’ll need this to attach the sheep’s head.

4 Carefully cut the loops, forming your pom pom and sheep’s body.

If you want, trim the shape to form a sphere.

After tying tightly, cut the loops

5 Now make a smaller pom pom for the sheep’s head using the dark wool.

Wrap the wool around three of your fingers (not too tightly!)

Slip this off your hand and tie tightly as before, cutting the loops to form a pom pom. This time cut the ends the same length to match the pom pom.

Add a smaller pom pom as a head

6 Using the long lengths you use to tie the body pom pom, tie the head to the body, then cut the wool so it no longer shows.

7 Add a loop, for hanging up your sheep, and legs.

Cut two lengths of dark wool, one about 30cm and one about 20cm.

Tie a loop in the longer length and tie the length around the body pom pom about a third of the way along the body, closed to the head. Tie the shorter length about two thirds of the way along the body.

Trim the lengths which are hanging below the sheep’s body so they are the same length, adding a knot (for feet) if you wish.

Tie a loop so you can hang your sheep up

8 Now step back and admire your work!

I made five sheep - two pistachio, two pink and a black sheep.

Well, there had to be one didn’t there? The black one though was by far the hardest, most probably as it was hard to see where to tie the pom poms together.

I think they work better two-toned, and love the bright colours.

Tie in lengths of wool for legs

You can of course use more traditional natural colours, but I’m rather keen on the pastel versions which have been adorning my bookcase for the past week or so, and will be joining me at the craft session today.

Display and enjoy

What do you think? Are you giving them a go - send me your pictures if you are, tag me on social media - @lifeat139a - I can’t wait to see your flock!

Is Spring springing?

I’d like to say it is, and there’s evidence in my garden that my garden thinks so too.  I was tempted out there for the first time this year at the weekend, and the plan was to have a bit of a tidy up, poke around a bit and not do anything too strenuous.  And I guess I didn’t really, but I did much more than I first thought, which included climbing into the trellised corner of the garden to quite literally tug at a vine that had grown into our cherry tree.  It wasn’t going to be good for any tree, let alone the tree that actually produces cherries.

It was time for the dogwoods to be cut too, so that next year we’re treated to some more vibrant red stems.  Cutting them always makes me nervous though so now I only cut some of the stems, so the plant has a chance of surviving.  I’ve had them since they were bare rooted plants, they’re now taller than me, so there’s quite some investment there - mostly of time, as bare rooted plants are a great and cost effective way to buy dogwoods.  I did cut an older plant back hard once, and that was the last I saw of it, hence my hesitancy.  And after I’d finished the green garden bin was pretty full for the first time this year, and actually it was good to be out there getting stuck in, of course the weather helped.

Back to the bulbs, they’re much prettier and worthy of photos.  This crocus did well to survive MOH’s leaf tidying skills, actually as you can see only fifty percent of it survived. He’d tried to stand the fallen stem up again though in the hope I wouldn’t notice...

A crocus among the ivy

The cyclamens have had a really good winter in our garden and now I’ve clumps of their highly decorative leaves around the garden, and I’m not complaining.  Some have even jumped over into the grass, which I’ll need to rescue before MOH fires up the lawnmower, as as the crocus discovered nothing is safe in his path.  I also need to find out if and how I can thin these and spread them even further around the garden, as it’s always nice to have plants repeating throughout a garden, for continuity.

A good winter for my cyclamens
The black grass has grown a bit but seems very slow to spread

The black grass has also done well, though it’s not spread as quick as I’d like.  I think I’ve plenty of little plants here, so another job is for me to find out how to maximise these.  What I don’t have to do though is find a way to help these miniature iris-like flowers spreading around the garden, they’re doing well enough on their own.  They’re not quite at forget-me-not level, but I’m keeping my eye on them, and I’m ready to unleash MOH if needed, they’ve been warned.

iris-like flowers that have self-seeded

I’m now even more convinced than I was before (and that was quite a lot) that the plants below are elephants ears and not hostas as I thought for many years.  They are spectacular though, have a great name and sit in a part of the garden where they enjoy the sun.  Even their waxy leaves are looking healthy and not quite as nibbled as they will be later in the year.

pink flowers and elephant ears
the euphorbias are on their way

Unusually though the euphorbias seem a little behind the other plants, but I guess that means we’ve still got their lime green loveliness to come - that’s something I love, and MOH tolerates.  Even I’ve given up trying to save them if they hop over into the grass, but that’s mostly because they are so plentiful so need to be taught a lesson or two.  The leaves in the background are thanks to the foxes, who’ve unbagged a black sack or two of leaves, for fun this winter.

I made an unexpected discovery in my succulent trug, and that’s foxgloves.  I’m not sure I want them there, but after years of no foxgloves, right now I’ll take foxgloves wherever they want to grow.  I had success moving them last year to where I wanted them, so I’m hopeful that I’ll be as lucky again this year, but not just yet.

foxgloves in the succulents

That’s the challenge with this weather, it’s lovely now, but is it here to stay?  A sharp frost could damage newly pruned plants, which in turn could jeopardise their flowering or suffer later on.  I caught our new neighbour enthusiastically cutting our jasmine this weekend too, which I wasn’t too impressed about.  I know they have a legal right to cut things that have grown over the fence, and I also know that pruning is addictive, but even so it was a little too enthusiastic for me and so I politely pointed out that it was the wrong time of year to be so keen, and I didn’t want to miss out on the flowers, or the scent the jasmine brings.  It was all very amicable, and there were apologies, so all very British, and I’m hopeful it’s just keenness rather than anything more.

sunlight on the fatsia

But while I was waiting and watching to see if I was being overzealous and over protective, I got to stand and admire the sunlight on the fatsia, they really are special plants throughout the year, and I’ve no idea where this one gets all its leaves from.  And look what else I spotted, some only just turning blue muscari, or grape hyacinths, I don’t think I’ve ever spotted them in this state before and I think this makes me like them even more.

a hint of blue on the muscari

It’s fascin to see how they appear to push their way out of the ground with their spear-like flower already formed.  Look to the right of the just-turning-blue muscadine, in the photo above.

Throughout the garden there’s evidence of bulb growth, so I know there’s more to come.  There’s a couple of daffodils out, and more on the way, and they’re even pushing their way through the cyclamen clumps, and I have to admire their willingness to grow and hope they’re not thwarted by a return of the Beast from the East, which was in full swing this time last year - it’s hard to comprehend the difference this year, isn’t it?

bulb growth and pretty markings on yet more cyclamen

The markings on the cyclamen leaves are also pretty special too, that’s another reason to rescue as many as I can from the lawnmower, when the time comes.  And after that initial poke around, I’m fired up for gardening again this year, and already my garden to-do list is growing, just like my bulbs...

How’s your garden faring as Spring starts to Spring?