Our Summer Garden

We are having a very hot summer with temperatures often in the 30s. Hosing restrictions have started, but thankfully today we are having some lovely rain, which the trees and plants will be thankful for.

The tomatoes are growing well and we have started picking cherry tomatoes. Also picking zucchinis, beetroot, spring onions, lettuces, kale, chard, carrots, cucumbers, and strawberries.

Believe it or not, there are lots of veggies in there amongst all the flowers we grow for the bees. The potatoes should be ready to dig up soon.

Echinaceas are flowering amongst the lavender, rosemary, and lemon balm.

I was given this beautiful hibiscus for Christmas and have left it in its pot outside the studio for now until I decide where to plant it.

I have been bottling beetroot from the garden, to last us through the winter months, and making raspberry jam with raspberries from the local berry farm.

My husband gave me this lovely gardening journal for Christmas. It has the most beautiful nature illustrations by Hannah Dale, as well as seasonal recipes, and lots of room to record garden plans, notes and sketches. I’m looking forward to filling it up over the year ahead.

That’s it from our garden for now. I’m off to make some zucchini muffins, while watching the lovely rain through the kitchen window.

 

October garden journal

I love the month of October, before the season gets too hot, when the garden looks fresh and green and bursting with colour. I find that tending the garden, or just spending time in it relaxing and being amongst Mother Nature, feeds the soul, relaxes the body and stills the mind, allowing room for daydreams, imaginings, and creativeness to wander in.

This month has brought lots of lovely sunshine, warm days, and a little rain. Birds are nesting in the trees and the garden is full of life. Beside our front porch, the wisteria is dripping with cascading white blooms, its delicate fragrant scent welcoming visitors to the front door.

Anemones have continued to bloom, as well as poppies and dianthus, and the beautiful crimson Sweet William that we planted last year.

The trusty cinerarias return with their cheerful blooms year after year. They thrive in shady spots beneath trees, and pop up throughout the veggie garden, too. I love the wonderful variety of shades they come in – especially the blues and purples.

In the backyard, our orange tree is laden with blossom, filling the garden with its divine scent and attracting the bees in droves.

We continue to pick oranges, as well as lemons, chard, kale, spinach, lettuce, parsley, carrots, rhubarb, and herbs. Our little apple tree has its first leaves. In the veggie garden this month I planted tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, spring onions, beetroot, and more carrot seed as not many of the last ones grew (I think they must have been eaten).

Calendulas have self-seeded throughout the veggie garden and I have been picking the flowers and infusing them in oil to make lip balm and body lotion.

I have picked and pressed flowers throughout the month to use in art projects. It is always exciting to open the pages of a book after a few weeks and see how the flowers have held their colour. Pansies, in particular, always seem to produce a lovely result.

This is my seventh year of keeping a garden journal. I love looking back at my garden through the pages, month by month, season by season. Seeing all the loveliness of nature fills my heart with joy.

Hello from Finn!

Poppies and Bumblebees

A beautiful symbol of spring, there are poppies in gardens everywhere around here at the moment. This painting was inspired by photos of poppies taken in our garden a couple of years ago. I created layers on the canvas with tissue paper, scrapbook papers, acrylic paints, inks, and a honeycomb stencil, then painted the poppies, seed heads, and bumblebees with acrylic paints. The bumblebees were fun to paint. I think they help to add movement and life to the painting.

In the language of flowers, the poppy is associated with faith, remembrance, and consolation. The red poppy has come to symbolize the sacrifice of those who laid down their lives during the two world wars. According to folklore, if you sniff a poppy three times a day it will bring you luck. I have yet to test this!

 

September garden journal

Now that spring has arrived with sunshine, warmth, and longer days, there is lots to do in the garden. This month has been busy with planning, browsing catalogues and ordering seeds, composting, and planting. Carrots and potatoes have been planted in their garden beds, while trays of vegetable seeds, and seeds saved from last year’s flowers, are starting their growth under cover of the greenhouse, protected from late frosts and inclement weather.

The vegetable garden continues to provide us with a steady supply of greens – chard, spinach, kale and lettuces, as well as parsley, which has flourished alongside, and which I add to many dishes as it is highly nutritious and packed with vitamins and minerals.

Our rosemary is in full bloom and the bees are loving it! We often enjoy potatoes roasted with olive oil and rosemary.

The anemone bulbs we planted last autumn have produced these beautiful purple blooms.

Forget-me-nots and primulas self-seeded and sprung up throughout the garden.

I have been neglecting my garden journal over the winter months, but am back into it again with the new season, beginning with a garden plan of what will be planted over the next month.

Finn is loving the warmer weather and sunshine.

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly. “One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen

 

Tiny tea bag book of nature

 

Lately I have seen a lot of wonderful art on the Internet using tea bags. As an avid tea drinker, I decided to start saving my used tea bags to make my own little book. Although mostly I use loose leaf tea, I do use some tea bags and got some interesting effects from black tea, green tea, and nettle tea, while some I left unstained.

I decided on a nature theme for my little book. I stitched down the center of the tea bags to bind them together, then added cardstock and vellum to the front and back covers. To embellish the tea bag pages I used stamped images, stickers, stamps, tiny pictures, pressed flowers and leaves, and washi tape.

Here are a few of the pages.

 

Finally I glued coloured hemp and recycled silk fibers to the spine.

This teeny tiny book is as light as a feather and fits into the palm of my hand.

Larkspur art journal page

I love purple and blue flowers, and larkspurs are one of my favourites. In the language of flowers, larkspurs signify lightness and levity. They also have magical connections to health and protection.

Larkspur

For the journal page I used paints and inks, washi tape, corrugated cardboard, a stencil, cutout butterflies, a pressed larkspur flower, larkspur seeds, rust-dyed fabrics, a white pen, and impasto gel medium.

Larkspurs self-seed in our garden and come up every spring in myriad colours of blues, purples and pinks. Their soft, feathery foliage is pretty, too.

At the moment, with the end of summer and herbs starting to die off, my studio has become a drying room with bunches of bergamot, lemon balm, and basil hanging from the rafters to dry for use in the winter.

Wildflower Meadow

I hope all the mums out there had a lovely Mother’s Day on Sunday. It was a beautiful autumn day here, continuing our run of amazing autumn weather.

I made my mum this mixed-media picture using watercolour and inking techniques from Jane Betteridge’s book Watercolours Unleashed. After the background was dry, I added pressed flowers and leaves from my garden, and a few butterflies cut from scrapbook paper.

wildflower meadow

Jane Betteridge does the most beautiful watercolour painting, using nature as her inspiration. I was so pleased to have discovered her book. You can see her lovely work on her website at www.janebetteridge.com.

Pressed Flower Journal

flower journal

I love collecting flowers from our garden, and wildflowers from our walks, to press and use in craft projects. It is always interesting to see, after they have been pressed between the pages of a book for a few weeks, what they will turn out like. Some hold their colour much better than others. I find that blue and purple ones seem to hold their colour well, while red and pink often seem to fade quickly.

I bought this lovely journal a couple of years ago and have been saving it for a special project. When I thought about keeping a record of the pressed flowers, the journal seemed like a perfect place to keep them. I simply attached a few of each of the flowers to the pages with washi tape, and wrote the names below on a strip of masking tape. These are a few of the flowers that I have pressed over the last two or three months.

pansies

wildflowers2

larkspur

white clover

violas

radish flowers

cornflowers

lobelia

lavender

feverfew

daisies

wildflowers

pansies

alyssum

I’m looking forward to filling up the rest of the pages as different plants come into flower over the seasons.

Garden Journal

There is a lovely lot of colour in the garden at the moment with all the spring flowers in bloom. Last summer, on one of our walks, we saw some pretty poppies growing wild and we took a flower head home to save the seed. We planted the seeds in our front garden, and they have been flowering the past few weeks. Nick took these lovely photos.

poppies

poppies

poppy

poppy

Yesterday I planted the veggie garden with the tomatoes, zucchinis, lettuces and spring onions that I raised from seed. I still have a lot of planting out to do of flowers and herbs. Hopefully we won’t get any more frosts. I’ve planted the beans, saved from last summer’s crop. Nick had to erect a new bean frame, as our old one blew over and broke in the wind. There are still a few cabbages, red onions, silverbeet and spinach growing in the garden from the winter, although the silverbeet and spinach are starting to bolt and go to seed now.

These are the October pages from my garden journal.

garden journal

garden journal

Our Summer Garden

Our summer, so far, has been very hot, with not very much rain. The flowers, veggies and weeds are all growing well! Some of my favourite flowers in our garden this year are the foxgloves, snapdragons, asters. . .

Foxglove

Foxglove

Foxglove

Foxglove

Snapdragons

Snapdragons

Aster

Aster

Osteospermum

Osteospermum

. . . and the good old-fashioned hydrangea, which is a beautiful blue colour with tiny flecks of red.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

I love the soft blue and lemon of the newly forming blooms.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

Hydrangea

These pretty blue cornflowers self-seeded throughout the garden.

Cornflowers

Cornflowers

Here are a few pictures of our veggie garden. Although it is small, made up of raised beds tucked away in a corner, we manage to grow a lot in it.

Vegetable garden

Vegetable garden

I picked our first zucchinis last week.

Zucchinis

Zucchinis

The climbing beans have lots of flowers, so shouldn’t be too far away.

Beans, Basil & Marigolds

Beans, Basil & Marigolds

I have bottled several jars of beetroot and there are lots more coming on.

Beetroot

Beetroot

Bottled beetroot

Bottled beetroot

We are picking radishes and lettuces and spring onions, and we had a really good crop of strawberries this year.

Radishes

Radishes

Lettuces with blue and purple flowers for the bees

Lettuces with blue and purple flowers for the bees

Spring onions

Spring onions

Tomatoes, Anise Hyssop and Feverfew

Tomatoes, Anise Hyssop and Feverfew

Anise Hyssop and Oleander

 

I hung shiny things over the spinach and chard to keep the birds from eating it, and surrounded the small plants with grit to deter the snails and slugs.

Spinach and Chard

Spinach and Chard

Finn keeps me company in the garden while I plant, weed, and harvest.

 

Finn

Finn

Garden Journal – August

With another winter almost over and spring just around the corner, the gardens and roadsides are coming to life with blossom-covered trees. The tuis adore the nectar they provide at this time of year. Nick took these photos of a tui drinking from the blossom flowers where he is working at the moment.

Tui

Tui

Tui drinking nectar

The bright yellow flowers of the wattle trees have been adding a splash of sunshine to the winter days. I wish we had room for one in our garden. I love the Golden Wattles with their clusters of small pompom flowers that we see when we go for walks.

Golden Wattle

Golden Wattle

The weather is warming up and new growth is emerging, with flowers appearing that have been dormant over the winter months. I’ve been planning what to plant in my garden this year, drawing diagrams, making sure to rotate the crops where I have room, and reading through my companion planting book to make sure not to plant things next to each other which don’t get on. I’ve started a few seeds off inside to get a head start. A little glasshouse is on my wish list, the trouble is finding somewhere in the garden to put one!

I have been keeping a garden journal for a year now. I started last September, at the beginning of spring. It’s interesting to look back over a complete cycle of the seasons and see how the garden changes.

august garden journal

Our broccoli are finally ready for harvesting. I cut the main heads off and and let the plants continue to grow so that they form side-shoots.

broccoli

Broccoli and Mushroom Gratin

1 large head broccoli
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cups button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon butter or non-dairy spread
2 tablespoons flour
1½ cups milk (or soya milk or oat milk)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1½ cups grated cheese
2 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, melted
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

Preheat oven to 180º C.

Cut the broccoli into florets and steam until bright green and just tender, about 5 minutes. Place in lightly greased baking dish.

Heat the oil and saute the onion and mushrooms until the onion begins to soften and the mushrooms are lightly browned. Spread mixture over broccoli.

Heat the butter or non-dairy spread in a saucepan. Stir in the flour until smooth, then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce is thickened. Add the parsley, salt, pepper, and 1 cup of the cheese, and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is bubbling. Pour the sauce over the broccoli mixture in the dish.

Stir together the melted butter, breadcrumbs and remaining cheese, and sprinkle over the gratin.

Bake about 20 minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.

broccoli & mushroom gratin