In a Vase on Monday: Easter Surprises

I don’t know if you have had any surprises this Easter weekend although none would be as surprising as having rabbits, kittens or puppies hatching out of eggs, as this cockerel* discovered to his horror! Here, the weather has been a surprise as it has turned out even hotter than forecast, with temperatures into the mid 20s, eliciting all sorts of summer activities like barbecues, short shorts, grass cutting and, for some of us, lots of gardening. The garden is full of surprises too, with fresh new growth on dormant perennials and buds about to burst on rhododendrons, aquilegia, dicentra and alliums.

I suppose the egg vase is a surprise too, coming after my statement last week, but eBay was willing and gave me the opportunity to snap up this 1960s art glass egg vase, not the sort of egg vase I originally had in mind, but a very nice piece nonetheless – very heavy, with a textured exterior contrasting with the floral motifs. Interestingly, it looks even better with blooms in it as the opening is concealed, making it look even more egg-shaped.

The bold red colour of the vase limits the choice of blooms somewhat, but on impulse I cut several stems of Spanish bluebells (shock horror!) that have sneaked in from a neighbour’s garden and I keep meaning to dig out – they are well away from my the native bluebells in the woodland but busy bees in the garden could easily flit between the two. They were joined by the forget-me-not style flowers of Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ and white honesty (Lunaria annua var. albiflora) blooms, with the soft tactile foliage of applemint added on impulse and bringing an immediate fresh and zingy fragrance to the posy.

I am sure we will see some more Easter themed vases today, but whatever the contents we will be delighted to see what your garden has to offer this week. If you haven’t got a vase, a jamjar will do, and if you haven’t got a garden then forage in your locality or use your imagination. New contributors are always made welcome, so take the plunge and leave links to and from this post so we can share in the pleasure your vase gives you.

* 1920s postcard, given to ‘Linda with love from Grandpa Easter 1923’

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Six on Saturday: Blossom and Bees

We are enjoying an unusually hot Easter weekend in the UK, but we are not the only ones to enjoy it – apple blossom of all sorts is revelling in the sunshine too, with crab apple ‘Royalty’ above, crab apple ‘Evereste’ and bog-standard cooking apple below. Last year Evereste fell victim to the Eastern Beast and lost all its blossom but is now making up for it in its fecundity.

I read last year that red mason bees tend to hatch around the time apple blossom appears, so ensured the new batch of cocoons we received from www.masonbees.co.uk  was in place in the nesting box as the buds swelled. Last year I left them in the house for too long and many of them dried up and I certainly didn’t want to happen that again, although the few we had that did hatch produced 61 new cocoons, a far better result than the previous year. One of this year’s batch hatched yesterday, and my first ramble today showed another had done the same; by lunchtime another 4 had hatched. I spent several minutes watching them this afternoon, as two more cocoons were vibrating and you could hear the bees crunching as they do whatever they do to get out – fascinating to watch! I was hoping to actually see one emerge, but these two seemed to need a break from their exertions and it all went quiet. However, with this hot spell due to continue for at least a couple more days it would not surprise me if they had all hatched by mid-week. Whilst I was watching the cocoons another bee flew into the tubes, and so the cycle begins again!

The first photo below shows the dish of cocoons in the nesting box – you can clearly see a group of empty cocoons to the left of middle, and the one to the right of this is partially open and at times I could catch a glimpse of leg; the second shows the nesting box in the foreground (which will be removed once all cocoons have hatched) with the nesting tubes in their revamped customised housing against the fence.

The third of today’s Six is Tulips – looking gorgeous and well worth waiting for. The purple mix is from Aldi (Claudia, Flaming Flag, Purple Flag and Blue Diamond, although not all varieties are in bloom yet), Wordless Wednesday’s Silk Road came from Peter Nyssen and were a nice surprise as I had forgotten I had ordered them, and the third are glorious species tulip Little Beauty which naturalises and multiplies readily:

Number Four is Cutting Back: for only the second year ever I have trimmed old foliage from the epimediums in the woodland edge border and could easily regret my late realisation of the difference it makes. As soon as the old foliage goes, the new foliage jumps into action and is so beautifully fresh and bursting with new life, whilst the newly exposed flowers bob about with gratefulness and the whole clump is rejuvenated before you can say ‘Bob’s your uncle’.

Trimming the old foliage of ferns is an even more recent ‘discovery’ and I know for a fact that this huge dryopteris has never been shorn since it was planted which must be around 2003. I now need to rake through the base and remove all the detritus that has accumulated below the leaves – so far this has included an old brush but who knows what else has been lying undisturbed and forgotten. New fronds are unfurling but even so there will still be some all but bare soil around the plant where plants could once again grow now the canopy is reduced – hmm, more plants….

Off to the working greenhouse for numbers Five and Six, Five being the Winter Sunshine sweet peas which are really getting into their stride, immediately drawing attention to themselves as I open the door in the morning and catch their fragrance. I am so glad I decided to mix up the colours as the overall effect is more pleasing – four shades are shown below:

The last of the six is Seeds, and I ramble down to the greenhouse several times a day, not always with a specific task in mind but just so that I can stand and gaze at all the seedlings. I just love the whole process, from the sowing to the pricking out, potting on and planting out, and am in complete awe of Nature’s magic. The speed at which tiny seeds germinate and develop into seedlings and then viable plants never ceases to amaze me, a process which accelerates with the increased warmth and light of the season. When we returned from our travels early in the week I watered all the trays and pots, watering ‘from below’ for a thorough soaking, and I swear everything grew noticeably overnight.

It becomes such a continuous process at this time of year, moving through each stage and then moving trays outside to harden off as soon as possible. Only a few things have actually been planted out so far and although last week’s frosts could well have been the last I will wait a few more weeks before the bulk of planting out begins, by which time hopefully we will have had some rain as it has been SO dry in recent weeks. The photo below shows just part of the greenhouse, but just think more of the same…

Blossom, Bees, Tulips, Cutting Back, Sweet Peas and Seeds – these are my Six on Saturday this week. Thanks go to Jon the Propagator for hosting the meme so pop over to his blog and check out his Six and the varied Sixes of other bloggers.

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Wordless Wednesday: Silk Road

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In a Vase on Monday: Airy Fairy

We were to be away over the weekend and my Monday vase, instead of being put together on Sunday, was created on Thursday and the posy given to a friend so she could appreciate the sweet peas. It would have been a shame for their scent to languish in our absence, enjoyed only by this fairy chicken (yes, I know!) and the other contents of my chicken shelves (mostly egg cups) from whence she came.

The sweet peas are the first of the Winter Sunshine varieties to flower. Sown in October and planted out in the greenhouse in January they are bred to flower in lower light conditions – so not strictly ‘winter’, just ‘early’ – and need to be grown under cover. My neighbour, with whom I shared seeds this year, has risked planting his outside which I feel is a mistake but having emphasised that they need to be grown inside it is his choice to ignore that advice. On warmer days this last week the typical sweet pea fragrance was beginning to make itself known and as more blooms appear the working greenhouse will take over from the Coop as the scented focal point of the garden.

Fresh and delicate and colourful in appearance, some airy-fairy companions seemed appropriate partners for the sweet peas, so they were joined by Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’, recently uncovered EpimediumFrohnleiten’ enjoying the exposure after having the old foliage removed, dangly Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’ and an ever-useful arum leaf. The arum leaf was not from the A italicum ‘Marmoratum’ outside the back door, but a smaller leaved variety that has been in the woodland edge border since its inception and which doesn’t have Marmoratum’s distinctive berries: I daresay there is a label somewhere within the clump. The blooms were temporarily popped into one of my many Caithness Glass vases before being passed onto my friend, and the chicken fairy (which presumably came with an Easter egg in tow) flew back onto her shelf.

Perhaps some of us might come up with an Easter themed vase next week? I know a certain blogger has at least one egg-shaped vase which might be shared with us on seasonal occasions such as this, but despite periodic searches on eBay I have not yet come up with one to add to my own collection. Ah well, at least I know can do something with chickens… But that’s next week – what will be in your vases today? I look forward to seeing them if you choose to share them by adding the usual links to and from this post.

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Six on Saturday: Out and About

With thanks to Jon the Propagator who hosts this six on Saturday meme

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Wordless Wednesday: Blue Haze

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In a Vase on Monday: More Shades

Following on from yesterday’s post about various shades in the garden, when I decided to pick some of the variably shaded fritillaries for today’s vase the logical title was ‘More Shades’; by the time I had finished picking, a title relating to the woodland floor would have been more appropriate as this is what the contents came to resemble.

Joining the fritillaries (F meliagris) with their pink and purple checkerboard pattern and the turned-up edges of the paler ones are some wood anemones (A nemerosa); as these are the current staples of the woodland it was but a small step further to recreate the woodland floor by adding a tiny primrose offset, a little sprig of ivy and a handful of empty beech nut cases (from a neighbour’s tree) and their intriguing triangular profiled seeds. The moss grows not in the woodland but at the edge of it, and covers the stainless steel frog that holds the flowers in place.

A different title would have meant a different prop, but ‘More Shades’ necessitated some shades and to save you the trouble of trying to zoom in when you realise there is a reflection in one of the lenses, I have enlarged it for you – I normally avoid identifying myself on this blog, but inadvertantly you now have my reflection and a very clear view of the house and the wisteria.

Last week’s tulips, instead of flopping after a few days as one might have expected, just sat there and faded gracefully, not budging from where they were positioned a week ago; they will be missed, but there will be more tulips to pick soon. What have you picked today to bring pleasure at the start of another week? Do share it with us if you will by leaving the usual links.

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