In a Vase on Monday: Goodbye To All That

My, how I dithered yesterday when deciding on the contents of today’s vase – champing at the bit to use the first of the ‘big’ tulips that were now in bud but still wanting to celebrate the last throes of  the gorgeous early spring colour that we have been enjoying recently… It was the latter that won this tightly fought duel, but I felt a little like the Roman god Janus, the ancient god of beginnings, endings and transitions (amongst other things), looking both forward and back. Looking at previous posts, this dithering seems to be regular occurrence, especially at these transitional times in the year, so shouldn’t really come as any great surprise!

From the Coop I cut the last of the Narcissus ‘Grand Soleil d’Or’ which have been flowering cheerily for weeks, unaffected by the vagaries of the weather, and keeping the stems tall I picked out similarly lanky pruned stems of Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ from a selection saved from the previous day’s seasonal pruning of the three cornus in the shrub border. They have positively glowed this last winter, warming the cold dark days and leaving me reluctant to carry out the essential spring maintenance which will ensure a repeat performance next year. But it’s done now and the prunings have been severally dealt with – some used as cuttings (which I have not tried before), some plonked in a bucket of water for future use in vases such as today’s and the remainder green-binned.

All the stems were popped into my first ever vase, a gift in the 1970s, a sharply incised cylindrical pottery creation with a denim blue matt glazed finish. For many years I have  associated this vase with daffodils and tulips (always separately, never together), for which it is eminently suitable. The result is taller than most of my IAVOM offerings, almost 24″ in height, but with my new Improvised Vase Backdrop Contraption it was still a doddle to photograph. I have been meaning to ‘design’ something to make staging my vases easier for ages, and when I came to talk to the Golfer about it I realised there was very simple option which would do the trick perfectly – just 2 pieces of MDF taped together to make a hinge, over which can be draped whatever fabric is being used as a backdrop.

The photograph shows it in situ in same location I usually use, one of the benches near the house (a bench that is always grubby and often wet), which usually needs a barrier to protect the fabric. The backdrop was previously limited by the height of the backrest over which the fabric would be draped, so this new 24 x 24″ backdrop is a big improvement. In due course it will have a simple ‘stay’ at the back to allow it to be freestanding, as well as having wing nuts to hold the backing fabric in place, but it functions perfectly adequately as it is and took about 5 minutes to make. Rather than my ragbag collection of coloured felt, most of which will now be too small to use, I shall seek out a collection of other fabrics which will  have the advantage of not attracting spicks and specks of general garden detritus, as well as being washable.

So, perhaps it will be tulips next week – in April, rather than the tail end of March. In the meantime, no doubt other IAVOM contributors will have some tulips to share but whether it is tulips or twigs, narcissi or dried grasses, grand lilies or humble daisies, there will invariably be something in our gardens that we can cut and pop into a vase so take the plunge if you have not already done so and enhance your life in ways you never thought possible. If you would like to share the pleasure with us just leave the usual links to and from this post.

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49 Responses to In a Vase on Monday: Goodbye To All That

  1. jenmac13 says:

    Hi Cathy, what a delightful collection of fancy daffs and dogwood, – I hope that’s not too crude a description for such a delicate bunch – and how lovely to use your ‘first’ vase!

    It is absolutely a transitional time of year, the temperature changes are more dramatic, the light is getting more intense, and the hellebores are about to hand over to the tulips.

    Thanks ever so much for starting us all off on this lovely habit of sharing vases to start the week.. I’ve lots to share this Monday!

    Jen x

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Jen – the warmth and light levels make such a difference, and I especially notice it in the greenhouse. Some of my bubble wrap was falling off so I have removed that bit rather than stretch to attach it again and I was astonished how much lighter that made it too! I have decided to get shade netting this year though, as it can get so hot in there (up to about 30 degrees at the moment, in the glorious sun))

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  3. pbmgarden says:

    Hi Cathy, the gorgeous daffodils deserve their shining moment. Love that you still have and used your first ever vase—perfect. The staging background will make photographing much easier. I’ve missed being part of this Monday ritual. Still dealing with family health issues but found an opening today so I could join you. Enjoy your week. /Susie

    • Cathy says:

      Oh it’s good to hear from you Susie and I hope that good progress is being made health-wise. I wonder if you have still been able to find time to pop thngs in vase even if you weren’t blogging about them. If not, today’s will bring you even greater pleasure

      • pbmgarden says:

        Thanks Cathy. Progress is much slower than hoped but present nonetheless. Only once have I made another vase—even photographed it, but no time to post. Beautiful Lenten roses that lasted more than a week and scattered seeds all over the counter. I should have tossed them into the garden but didn’t think to at the time.

  4. Christina says:

    Thanks for the instructions for making a backdrop; I think I will have to do something similar but given that my arrangements are often a metre by a metre I will have to find somewhere to store something so large. Although that wouldn’t have been a problem for this weeks vases. Love how you used the Cornus, it should take very easily; let us know when it is successful.

    • Cathy says:

      I wouldn’t say they were actually ‘instructions’, Christina, but I am glad you found the idea useful. I had meant to sort it months ago (but the garden gets in the way of course) and was originally thinking of some sort of a framework. Apart from being so simple, having a hinge like this means it just folds for storage so could slip behind or between things. The front section of mine is about 18″ deep. I rarely have very tall/wide vases so hopefully this will work for me – I knew yours would need to be bigger!

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  6. Ah, I’m enjoying the Narcissi while I can and looking forward to the tulips in good time (except my own, which have mostly been chomped by a squirrel). I love these small-headed daffs, with three or four flowers to a stalk. I have grown some this year too, a paler yellow, and they are a delight. Chopping the glorious Cornus back every year must be a wrench. Luckily so many more wonderful things are emerging. Here’s mine this week – not exactly a vase but I hope it will do!

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, you are right of course, although tulip foliage is so dense and almost ugly that it is a relief when there are flowers to soften the effect! Sorry to hear that Squirrelgate has seen off your tulips though…

  7. Amanda says:

    A lovely cheerful vase, as always Cathy! Thank you – you’ve got this week’s ball rolling happily! I struggle every week with trying to find the right place to photograph my vase. Sometimes it has just worked, more by luck than judgement, and other times I have had to relocate my vase(s) several times until the light is right, or the image just works with its backdrop!! This week was one of those weeks and as the last few days have been quite hectic, I haven’t had time to come up with anything special, but here it is anyway! Amanda

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Amanda – in the early days this was a big issue with me as I struggled to successfully photograph vases inside. Moving them outside makes a big difference to the light but finding a suitable backrop was stilll hard until I started using bits of fabric draped over the bench. Perhaps you could try this? A tablecloth or sheet or towel culd make an impromptu drape. This bench needs a replacement seat this year so I might need to find a temporary alternative location 😉

  8. Love the linearity (if that is a word?) of your arrangement.Blue vases with yellow flowers are a favorite of mine and the end of March is kind of the end of Daffodils? Yellow twig Dogwood is such great winter color, I don’t blame you for waiting to trim it! Thank goodness for handy men and MDF, the new backdrop support will making photography easier. Here is my vase

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, linearity will do fine, Amelia. The daffodils in the garden itself are still going strong but will soon be on the wane, as those in the Coop certainly are

  9. It’s been a while, Cathy, but at last I’m able to enjoy tripping round the garden looking for suitable vase material again – and it’s also a lovely sunny day too! There’s nothing quite like daffodils for their cheerfulness – yours are lovely and look just right with the cornus in that very nice vase. I struggle to get perfect photos so usually use our very old wall as a backdrop – weather permitting, of course. Must show my DH your solution – it’s a great idea. It’s daffodils for me too this week – here’s the link:

    • Cathy says:

      Take care with your tripping, Elizabeth!! Good to have you back today – and I agree, a wall makes a great backdrop (if there is a clear and big enough section of it!)

  10. bcparkison says:

    Great backdrop idea. That has always been a challenge with photos of my handmade cards. I finely bought a small light bos. It works.
    The last of my yellow flowers left several weeks ago and now I’m waiting for something… any thing with color. There just isn’t much.

  11. Peter Herpst says:

    Your new background contraption is fabulous and will make photographing your vases much easier. Such cheerful golden daffodils are perfect to celebrate the end of early spring. My prunings are here:

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  13. Cathy says:

    Simply lovely. Your cornus stems are an ideal companion for the narcissi as they have a golden tinge to them. The set-up for photographing is a great idea too. I like to take photos outdoors, weather permitting! The light always seems better than inside. I have a few spring offerings today:

  14. Kris P says:

    As impressed as I am by your early spring flowers, I think I’m even more impressed by your photographic set-up. Your photo is very professional! I’ve been relying on my white kitchen as my usual backdrop but, as the kitchen is scheduled to be gutted in mid-May, at the start of what I fear will be a very long remodel exercise, I’m going to have to find some other way to show (and prepare) my vases. I’m going to show my husband your contraption. Meanwhile, I went a little crazy in cutting flowers this week:

    • Cathy says:

      Yes, you have a very white kitchen, Kris with lots of clear space – unlike anywhere in our house, none of which is white nor clear! 😉 Hope you find a solution to the potential problem before the kitchen is gutted although it’s interesting that Monday vases seem to have more importance than cooking, which I expect would require some thought too…

      • Kris P says:

        Oh, my husband has designed a temporary kitchen to be installed off our master bedroom. It’s going to be truly tiny so there will be no room for me to put together flower arrangements, much less light to photograph them. The dining and living rooms will be effected too…Ugh.

        • Cathy says:

          All in a good cause though, and I hope it goes through withut a hitch ps is there something unsatisfactory about your kitchen as it is?

  15. AlisonC says:

    Ah, good idea. That will really help you with photographs. I think scarves are good as backdrops and they are cheap and easy to find. Love the colour here and the cornus looks amazing. I used to have a lovely red one but you’ve reminded me I don’t have on here. Oh, yes I do, a dark red one! But a bright one for winter would be good…Here is my link.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Alison – and I am pleased to have reminded you that you do have a cornus after all!! I can certainly recommend Midwinter Fire for glowing colour, but there are others that are similar

  16. Evening Cathy here I am
    Be back later to read your post

  17. Cathy your vase is magnificent. Narciso “Grand Soleil d’Or” is wonderful and how well it contrasts with the Cornus. I love. The wood attached to be able to put funds to photograph the vases is a fantastic idea. Greetings from Margarita.

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  19. That’s a well executed plan and your idea for draping fabrics is diabolically simple and effective! I find dogwood prunings are useful all year round for propping, staking, twining etc. Yours look striking against the narcissus stems as they thrust up and through the flowers!
    Here is my vase:

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Allison – I did toy with the idea of keeping the other stems and using them that way as I recalled another blogger (probably you!) did. Hmm, especially as we have cut down the last of the self-seeded hazels… Never mind, too late now!

  20. Chloris says:

    So pretty. I love ‘Soleil d’Or’ and it smells delicious. Do you hate cutting back your Cornus as much as I do? It always seems such an act of faith that it will grow back again, but of course it does. I am have just managed to get my vase posted by the skin of my teeth as today has been a bit hectic. .

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Chloris. The first year I cut them I was especially recultant but having seen their miraculous growth every year since then I have faith in the process – but am now reluctant to lose the impact they make in the winter. Mind you, once they start coming into leaf much of that impact is lost anyway – but it’s done now

  21. tonytomeo says:

    It took me a minute to recognize the Cornus sanguinea. It is like our Cornus stolonifera, but I think of it as either foliated or bare.

  22. I’m liking the midwinter fire stems with the daffodils and I like them against the black back drop. Now then, what happened to the bird house?

    • Cathy says:

      I was reallly puzzled when I read ‘the bird house’ but then realised what you meant. It is intriguing that you noticed this detail (or lack of it!) and I was momentarily puzzled myself when editing the photos and wondered the same thing…in fact it is the angle of the shot, which makes the post look really skinny and of course the top is chopped off in the photo anyway! So it is still there and safe but will probably never home any birds – the Golfer wanted to make a dovecot but I convinced him (well, no, I didn’t really) that it would be too big a scale to go anywhere sensible in the garden, so this is more of a decorative mini-dovecot, a folly I auppose 🙂

  23. smallsunnygarden says:

    I can see why you couldn’t quite resist using the Soleil d’Or with their sunny smiles, and the Cornus makes such a wonderful companion! I shall keep your photography contraption very much in mind as my own ‘vase’ photography for today involved moving the kitchen table into the living room… not a very long jaunt in this little house, but not exactly handy either! 😉 Anyway, here it is…:

  24. Noelle says:

    I love all the chatty bits in your post as well as the lovely daffs and cornus. I have some cuttings of this one in a pot, and hopefully have plants ready to go towards the autumn. I had this plant in my last garden which I enjoyed so much…I just had to get one or two for the new garden. Interesting ‘contraption…I ought to make the effort.

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Noelle – I suppose I write as I think, and I am always taliking to myself! How long did it take the cornus to root?

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