Dusk, the gloaming, twilight, crepuscule....time to unwind.
These photographs were taken at 10.30 the other night and it still wasn't quite dark...
The Purkinje effect is the name given to the way we see at this special time of low light (it occurs just before sunrise too, I'm told) when certain colours, especially those in the blue spectrum, seem to glow from within.
See yesterday's post and read more about this fascinating phenomenon here, and here, and look out for it just after the sun has set and before it gets dark.
I'm experimenting with taking photographs at dusk.
In the new banner above can you see that the flowers on the right look particularly glowing? There's a time of evening just before dusk when colours are particularly vivid and the flowers seem lit from within - have you noticed it? It doesn't occur every evening but often enough for me to be in the habit of looking out of the windows around dusk, waiting for what the artist Bonnard called L'heure Blue - the blue hour.
I love creating new banner photographs now and then - it's an unusual format and a little challenge to get it looking right.
Well done Jill (who is also trying to go sugar free) for refusing lovely free cake!
I went for a period of about seven years without sugar at one time, but gradually it crept back into my diet. It's not like giving up cigarettes or alcohol - you can't just stop, because sugar is hidden in so many of our foods, even unexpected ones like bacon, breads and soup, and supposedly savoury things.
I am starting by cutting out the obvious ones - the cakes and biscuits, sweets and sugary desserts - and am finding it quite easy this time. It does make me notice when I need sugar. At times of stress I need chocolate! It doesn't help, in fact it makes me feel worse after the initial high.
Am losing pounds in weight and saving pounds in cash (I like to think!).
Am gaining in energy and time, as I feel so much better without sugar.
Anyone else feel the same?
Hardy annual orlaya grandiflora (seed from http://www.sarahraven.com/) was the most asked about plant in my garden on the Open Days.
We raised over £1200 for the Scotland's Gardens charities - Maggie's Cancer Caring Centres,The Queen's Nursing Institute Scotland,The Gardens Fund of the National Trust for Scotland and Perennial.
We don't ask the gardeners if they will do it again until they've had a while to recover!
Well, miracles do happen! The weather forecast changed as the weekend went on. It got warmer, the sun shone, there was enough of a breeze to keep the midgies away.
Lots of lovely people, compliments, shared ideas, plant sales and garden chat.
The silence after the last visitors left was profound and the blackbirds came in for their evening bath, the jay to the nuts, the baby great tits appeared again and a few late bees came back to the poppies. A lovely contented peace descended....and the feeling that it was all very worthwhile..
A glass of wine in the last of the sunshine.
..and Keep Calm and Carry On!
A test of my resolve not to eat sugar will come this evening when I bake the cakes I promised for the teas at Open Garden weekend.
Did you watch The Men Who Made Us Fat? (See Jill's comment on 18 June.)
Short post today -
Garden looks great.
House is a tip.
Weather forecast AWFUL.
But I did get a long overdue haircut yesterday - hurrah.
Signs and balloons to put up....before or after the 29mph winds arrive....?
Two days to go till Open Gardens weekend and all eyes are on the weather forecast....
Here are two more of the lovely gardens you can visit:
For more information about the Shore Villages gardens click here
Here are two more of the Shore Villages gardens opening for charity under the Scotland's Gardens scheme this weekend. If you live near enough to Argyll I hope you can come!
Click on the photographs for a better view and here for more details..
Today was the day that the gardeners of the seven gardens opening this coming weekend visited each others gardens (as obviously we can't do over the weekend..) It was sunny and the gardens looked amazing. Here is a little preview of the first two gardens on the Shore Villages Trail (click on a photo to enlarge):
More tomorrow....browse www.scotlandsgardens.org for more information..
If you are reading this in UK you may have seen the programme called The Men Who Made Us Fat (it's on iplayer until 5th July and is episode one of a series of three programmes on Thursday evenings on BBC2).
Jacques Peretti makes a very good case for the theory that people are not lazy and greedy but addicted to high fructose corn syrup in our foods - almost all our foods: meat, bread, savoury snacks, soft drinks and most processed foods and ready meals, many 'health' foods. Fructose,lactose, maltose, dextrose, glucose, almost anything on the label ending on 'ose' is a sugar. Fructose has been found to interfere with the hormone leptin which controls appetite....!
The evidence against added sugars is mounting and the food industry are beginnning to sound defensive, like the tobacco industry when they were under pressure to come clean about the dangers of tobacco - cigarettes were 'good for you' not so very long ago!
Sugar has always been a bit of a problem for me - bursts of energy then overcome by tiredness, mood highs and lows..
Today I give up sugar.
(Did I really just say that? Now I'll have to stick to it..)
Not being one to always take my own advice (see TIP ONE 13 June), I'm trying to move a huge clump of fabulous delphiniums to the front garden which needs the wow factor!
Can't think why I had these just in a spare plot in the back garden anyway....
This is the key point that needs that something extra.
Thought it through, prepared the ground, and conviced my husband that it could be done - here goes!
Patient and skilled gardener that he is, Barry has managed the move - will they thrive or will they flop? The cool wet weather is an advantage for them, and if they do flop, well, they'll get a chop and will probably flower in September....
worth the risk!
Another useful principle is to make the good bits look really really good, rather than try to do anything with the less good bits at this stage.
So deadhead, weed, cut off all yellowing leaves or part eaten leaves, broken stems etc in the key areas. There may be time to buy in a few plants to add interest and colour, and a good covering of mulch (see yesterday's post) will set it all off.
Don't panic buy! It's tempting to go to the garden centre and just take what's in flower! I've bought some foxgloves and epimedium I wanted for the garden anyway, and couldn't resist some penstemon. Often such plants in full flower look impressive in the nursery, but are just swallowed up and look insignificant when placed in the garden (this is the case with the penstemon). A large pot full of such plants, placed well, can be a better option at this late stage. On the other hand if you see just the right plant - go for it - buy as many as you can afford!
Cast a critical eye over the less good bits of the garden and do the absolute minimum there. Throw down some dark mulch. The idea is to have nothing there which catches your eye, so take out the yellowed leaves, broken branches, leaning stems....It should be a neutral space which the visitor's eye just glides over in it's search for the interesting bits.
Finally remember that no-one else is likely to look at your garden with the same critical eye you have been seeing it with these last weeks - most people will simply enjoy the fruits of your labours and think how lucky you are to have such a beautiful garden!
TIP THREE for a good looking garden - quickly..
In an old book about National Trust Gardens the gardener at Standen, Robert Ludman, who in the 1980's looked after twelve acres single handedly, talked of a gardener he knew called Jack Lilly whose principle was 'keep the toes shiny and you don't notice the dirty heels' by which he meant keeping the paths and lawns as good as possible.
Our lawns are very far from perfect but, weather permitting, we'll cut the grass two days before the open days, and cut the lawn edges the day before. A crisp line between the long grass area and the short grass area makes the long grass look intentional and not just neglected. We'll put bark mulch on the front edge of all the beds straight after the last grass cut. This makes the biggest difference to the look of the whole garden. I like to use granulated composted bark - it looks like dark rich soil and sets off both grass and plants perfectly. Coarser bark (which lasts longer and is cheaper) can be used further into the beds.
Our stony soil looks better covered in a bark mulch (excuse the weedy looking little geranium!)
If time is running out identify the key areas. Some parts of your garden will be more noticeable than others, either because they are in a prominent position or are particularly attractive and colourful (or are an eyesore!) Step back and try to look at it as if you have not seen it before - better still take photographs. What is the first thing that catches your eye? That's a key area. Is it looking great? Focus on it till it is!
I took my own advice before writing this post and photographed the garden. Not in my usual way of composing the picture carefully and photographing only the bits that look their best, but as a stranger might see it, impersonal and objective, arriving at the end of the drive, looking over the fence, stepping up the path....What an eye opener! It made me aware of how selective and subjective my vision is.
It also made it very clear which areas are key.
Back to it.
Do you open your garden for charity? Or do you have an event like a wedding or a party for which you want your garden to look its best? Or maybe you're about to put your house on the market?
We have 10 days to go until our Open Garden weekend when seven gardens in the four villages along the shore open to the paying public.
Is it stressful? Well the idea that people are actually going to pay to look at our gardens is certainly a big incentive to have them looking good! What if they don't like it? What if....that little critical voice in the head goes into overdrive....However though we've been working on ours for months, we are running out of time to make any big changes (illness and a bereavement have found us behind) and I am looking at it today and getting real about what we can hope to achieve.
So here are four tips for getting a great looking garden in a limited time:
Get real about what can be done
Identify key points
Keep the toes shiny
Make the good bits really good
Get real about what can be done, accept that some things cannot be done.
It's too late to move large plants - they would just flop and not have time to recover. I can't make grass seed germinate any faster so....Some of my favourite effects will be over, some won't yet have come into flower. Apart from a little liquid feeding to try to bring some things on, there's nothing that can be done about these - let them go. I'm probably not going to get the wall painted, or that handrail, the path might not get power-hosed....
In other words IT WON'T BE PERFECT.
Accepting this, I relax and focus on the things I can realistically do.
tomorrow: Identify Key Points
Well, not exactly.
Last year I decided to paint the blue chair on the porch yellow to match our front door, but half way through I decided I really quite liked the blue showing through the yellow (or maybe I just got fed up painting it!) Anyway, I left it like this, the golden hop behind it looked lovely.
This year I popped this hosta down beside the chair - it matches it almost perfectly!
'You couldn't have done that if you'd tried' said Jenny.
Another happy accident.
Are there any happy accidents in your garden this year?
Still, damp days - it's midgie weather!
If you are holidaying in Scotland order yourself some Alfresco Anti Bug Bite Moisturiser. It's a bit expensive, smells gorgeous and is really lovely to use. A 200ml bottle lasts me a year or more. The midgies will still annoy you, but they won't bite! www.alfresco.uk.com
(Sadly I see it contains parabens - more research needed....)
Two websites I've enjoyed browsing recently: www.toasttravels.co.uk a company website that's not too blatantly promotional, and the writer Alexandra Harris who has just written an acclaimed book on Virginia Woolfe www.alexandraharris.co.uk and who writes about the relationship between mainstream and academic writing.
NB Alfresco have removed the parabens (thanks Maggie)
....and there are no midgies! As promised a more positive view of the garden....
Do you ever have one of those days when you can only see what's wrong? Two weeks until Garden Open weekend and this was what I saw as I walked round this morning....
Tomorrow I promise I'll only look at the positive....
Not the National Trust (who are sometimes criticised for being too perfect!), but another kind of charm...
and another kind of anxiety for the owners no doubt.
I wouldn't want to take on the upkeep of Nether Winchendon House! Weddings, filming (it featured in Brigit Jones's Diary), guided tours and asking for donations seem to be the means for old houses like this one, the oldest part of which is Tudor.
The ties that bind..
The best thing about the gardens are the magnificent specimen trees - it would take an Ansel Adams to do them justice in photographs so I didn't even try!
Visit if you get the chance....and don't miss the trees.. www.netherwinchendonhouse.com
We visited National Trust's Waddesdon Manor last weekend and found these magical sculptures in the grounds. I loved the way they were in and of the landscape without being in any way obtrusive or 'self conscious' (if a sculpture can be self conscious!). They sat lightly in their setting and gave an intriguing and subtle new perspective....
Geometric Mirrors by Jeppe Hein
We meant to go to London....
Wonderful Jubilee afternoon tea, first time Jubilee swim (yes, me!), delicious Jubilee lunch, relaxing Jubilee massage, tremendous Jubilee bonfire, moving Jubilee beacon, tasty Jubilee barbecue, very impressive Jubilee fireworks....
Well and truly bunted!
Thank you Lynne!
(I had to go to a 'foreign land' to have such Jubilee fun...)
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)