Tuesday, 23 April 2013

St George's Day

Happy day - here he is, St George, a little faded from years of doing battle with the dragon!

Carvings at the entrance of Kirkham Priory, North Yorkshire

Sunday, 21 April 2013


Along with the butterflies, bees and other insects, I certainly want to attract Ladybirds to my garden, and not only because they feed on insect pests, especially aphids, but because they are so colourful and it always makes me feel happy when I see them.

Stone mini pot with ladybird

Attracting them into your garden requires some planning - it is a matter of planting the types of plants that they like.

Apart from aphids, ladybirds also require a source of pollen for food and are attracted to specific types of plants. The most popular ones have umbrella shaped flowers such as fennel, dill, cilantro, caraway, angelica, tansy, wild carrot and yarrow. Other plants that also attract ladybirds include cosmos (especially the white ones), coreopsis, scented geraniums and dandelions.

Gardening organically helps.  Not only are ladybirds sensitive to most synthetic insecticides, but if the majority of their food source is gone, they won't lay their eggs. Allowing aphids to live on certain plants is necessary to ensure that there is enough food for ladybirds and being careful not to squish the bugs and eggs will be beneficial too.

Ladybirds have adapted lots of ways of protecting themselves as well - their colouring helps signal warning to birds 'not to eat'.  In fact the blood of a ladybird has caustic properties and is discharged in small drops when the creature is seized.  This peculiar attribute, which is termed reflex bleeding, is due to the blood oozing from around limb joints or elsewhere when the insects are attacked or molested.  I hope not to see this!

Here's to a summer full with ladybirds in all their sizes colours and spottyness. 


Thursday, 18 April 2013

Harrogate Spring Flower Show

I was amazed to see the date so fast approaching for the Harrogate Spring Flower Show on my wall planner - one of my very favourite flower shows.  I know everyone is planning and pulling everything together for the opening on 25th April and it will be interesting to see what miracles the growers have performed after the poor start to Spring and then the destructive winds.

Beautiful unfurling leaves and blossom despite the cold and winds.

I have so few plants growing at all, though in the last day or  two some little shoots are showing and little green bursts of growth and even budding.  A small cherry has just begun to flower.  Poor thing, I have it in a pot in a bit of a corner at the side of the shed and really it is a bit too shady - but it has sprung to life!

My little flowering Cherry bursting into flower

I especially like seeing the show gardens, so it was interesting to read the progress garden designer Mary Elliott is making on her show garden, which she is calling 'Sanctuary Yorkshire' designing with a theme of the garden as a tranquil refuge.

My large stone urn - this is the pot I plan to release from its dark corner 

Do you like her idea of the focal point, of a sculptural pot? I thought it looked just like my pot with the determined cherry in it.  So I feel rather inspired by this and look forward to seeing the garden completed in all its glory on the show days.  Hopefully I will be able to transfer some of these ideas to my little area at the sheds.  And I can make a lovely stone bench too, to sit quietly and admire the pretty pinky white blossoms.

Design sketch by Mary Elliott for her show garden 'Sanctuary Yorkshire'

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Drawings from Nature

I don't know anyone who does this better than Milly - her drawing is sensitive, intelligent and beautifully styled and intensely conveys the natural world through her superb draughtsmanship and instinctive use of colour.  Actually,  Milly is a nickname and the lady who is, happiest when drawing, is Eileen Postlethwaite - owner of the wonderful blog Drawings from Nature.  I adore her posts about local walks, collecting items to bring home and draw - whatever medium she uses, and she uses many, she masters with delightful results.

Recently Eileen had a give-away on her blog, and miraculously I was pulled out of the entries as a winner (thankyou Mr P).  Today I received a parcel from her - it is best if I show you what a pleasure it was to open.

From its brown outer wrapping came these two packages with beautiful tags, tags with a hand printed Hare and illustrations of a feather.

The parcel with the Hare tag I had expected, but this was an extra gift, and I couldn't wait to open it.

But first, the reason why I entered the giveaway in the first place - because I could not resist the possibility of owning one of Eileen's beautiful Hare pin-cushions.

Pin Cushion by Eileen Postlethwaite - Drawings from Nature

If you visit her blog, she details how she made it, and printed the Hare image - in drawing - printing - sewing.  I'm really lucky, because I won mine - but I know she is making some more for her shop if you'd like one too.

Eileen even included a pin for me, to start me off using the cushion, but I'm not sure I have the heart to push pins in - perhaps just round the edges!

Then to the second package - it contained this beautiful folder.  The back of which was just as exquisitely illustrated.

But inside!  It contained a host of large cards of Eileen's drawings - leaves, shells, acorns, feathers and more.  I'm examining each and every one in minute detail and marvelling!

Thankyou, Thankyou and Thankyou Eileen - do keep Drawing from Nature and delighting us all!

PS:  I just wanted to add Eileen's note on Copyright - Drawings from Nature
  • All the drawings are copyright of Eileen Postlethwaite, owner of all the drawings. Please do not use or copy without asking my permission, which I usually give. Respect my ownership. Thank you.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Delamore Arts

Delamore Arts and Sculpture Park is based at Cornwood in South Devon. Each summer, during the month of May, they bring art and the public together in the Estate's idyllic setting on the fringes of Dartmoor. 

The imposing house was built in 1859 and the gardens, which are rarely open to the public, were laid out at a similar time with plantings of newly imported rhododendrons and magnificent trees. Seen at their best during May, they are an ideal backdrop for sculpture large and small, from Henry Moore Foundation prize winners to emerging artists. The light rooms in the house make a superb gallery for paintings and indoor sculptures.

Wonderfully, last year over 8,000 visitors came to see the art, sculpture park and gardens. They are open every day in May to view over 120 paintings in the ballroom and over 100 sculptures around the park and garden and down towards the lake.

Sculpture all packed up and ready for collection for onward delivery to Delamore Arts

This year I am showing a few pieces and today they set off on their voyage to Devon.   I always find this a rather anxious time - as the sculptures are loaded onto the carrier's transport and disappear on their journey.  Until I know they have arrived safely I will have a niggling worry. 

You are, of course, all invited to the exhibition, and to the preview, which is on Sunday the 28th April between 2 and 6 pm -  if you would like to visit on this day please let me know and I will send you one of these beautiful cards.

Can't wait to see my stone pieces in estate's beautiful garden setting - it will be a wonderful treat to view my sculpture (well, all the sculpture) outdoors in the landscape, amongst established planting, greenery and flowers. 

Monday, 15 April 2013

Pied Wagtails

For those who have read my blog for a while, you'll know that I love these little birds.  Each year a pair of Pied Wagtails have nested at my workshop and raised successful broods.  Their first job seems to be a thorough clean-up of old nests and possible nest sites, and then bring in fresh material.  They are quite messy with this, and drop bits of hay, feathers, moss and dried grass, so I know just where they have been.  They seem to know I am watching them though, and try to keep their chosen spot a secret and don't generally go to it until I look away, or carry on with what I am doing.

Last week a pair returned, flitting and chirping and home making, which made me very glad.

So often bird movement is highly localised, so I was wondering if you  have any birds beginning their nesting, and if you have a favourite visitor?

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Lunch in the Greenhouse

Over the last few weeks of freezing cold, with intermittent sun, I've found the very best place to be is the greenhouse.  As soon as I step inside, the bitter, heat sapping wind is absent and the sun sufficient to make for a really cosy temperature.  So, I've taken to having lunch there each day.  Somehow my food tastes especially good!

It has been a great opportunity to do some tidying, pottering and planting and have a really good check on all my plants.

One of my favourite small plants are auriculas, and it pleases me very much that my little pots seem to be happy. I'm so excited this one is coming into flower!

Further down the bench a little forest of purple/blue welcoming the sun, straining, pushing and reaching towards its brightness.  The whole greenhouse was full of their gentle scent.

Sempervivums are endlessly patient, I cannot resist poking, potting, re-potting, taking chicks and re-planting in smaller pots, re- arranging colours and varieties - nitpicking and nurturing!

There are those who have not survived the winter along with a few of my lavender plants.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Geese and Curlew

The pair return, or perhaps new Greylag Geese coming in to feed and check out the local nesting site potential.  The fields have been busy with geese, ducks and Curlew, all calling and talking over each other - a hauntingly beautiful sound-track and my 'background' music whilst working!

The Curlew's call particularly is a wonderful sound - just pierces the air and builds up in a huge warbling, ringing scale, leaving you feel elated.

They are clearly pairing up and I've seen what look like squabbles (I imagine over females or territory).

It doesn't take much before they're all up into the air, taking flight for a reason I cannot see, but something spooked them.  The geese fly a short distance and then land and resume feeding.

Something I've never seen before when geese are in flight is whiffling.  This is when they come in to land from a great height and involves the bird twisting and turning to spill air from its wings and thus lowering its speed prior to landing.  

This is a beautiful image of a Greylag Goose whiffling!

Image courtesy Brian MacFarlane

It is so whiffled that it looks like it is flying upside down - an incredible display of mid-flight acrobatics

Friday, 5 April 2013

Easter Island Heads

On this day in 1722 the first recorded European visitor arrived at Easter Island - the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen.  Actually he was looking for somewhere else and found it by mistake!  In that year Easter Sunday was the 5th April - so he called the Island 'Easter Island'.

We now know the statues so well now - but I am trying to think what it must have been like to come across them for the first time.  They are incredible.  It must have been rather daunting, and maybe a bit frightening.   I think it is still a bit of a mystery as to how those great lumps of carved stone were moved.  There is a lovely story about a woman who lived at the top of the mountain, and she ordered them to walk wherever she wanted!.

Most of the heads are carved in a stone which is compressed volcanic ash (the island is a volcano) and though now weathered and eroded by time, when newly made, the surface would have been burnished and smoothed.  The carvers finished the heads by rubbing them with pumice.   Many stone tools have been found on the Island, and we know that the statues were carved with different types, big heavy picks and finer basalt and obsidian tools to finish details.  

Just the same process I use in my workshop here - but they were working blocks of stone measuring 30 feet or so, and weighing 80 tonnes!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sunshine Walk

It is ages since I set off for a walk - I've thought about it, but then it hasn't happened - too cold, too much snow, too much to do, after I've ... and so on!  A few rays of sunshine did the trick.

What a lovely time - the beginning was marked out for me by many previous feet - I love the twisty tree roots exposed by the wear and step over them carefully.

There's further evidence of others having come this way too.  Though it was sunny, there was a biting wind and it flurried and swept at the captured wool, teasing the tufts.

I can tell which flock grazed here and to which farmer they belong by the red wool caught.

And evidence of another squeezing under the barbed wire fence.

Out into the open grassland, there are many small feet walking, underground.

I move to the field edge, to the shelter of the hedgerow.  My eyes and nose are streaming from the stinging, icy wind and my cheeks and ears burn.

A skin like this is good protection.  It offers me respite.

How beautiful wood is, alive or decaying.  Twists and knots, whirls and marks of growth, wounds and wonders of shape.

I've written another post about the woodiness on my walk.

The hedge petered out and I was left with an old fence.

It got very boggy and I was brought to my senses by the upflight, from only a foot away, of a curlew - which must have been feeding in the soft, wet ground - proddling with its beak in the easy going soil.  Then moments later another, its mate?  How I wished I could be less threatening in the landscape and to have spotted them before I caused alarm.  Along the way I scattered a number of rabbits too, and pheasants.

The sight of an old hen-house signals I'm close to the overgrown path back home.

Quite the most wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

I glance back at the lovely time I've had and promise it I'll be back very soon.

Woodpecker and Wood

The soundtrack to my recent walk was rich in curlew calls, occasional lapwing, distant sheep and the drumming woodpecker (oh, and the wind!).

The wind I heard in the trees too, creaking, twisting and bending of wood fibre and the whip and clash of branches together.  Some of the wood was silent, perhaps torn down by previous winds and I spent some time looking over the beautifully textured knobbles and fissures in the fallen limbs.

Where the bark had fallen away, the wood was making more skin like surfaces.

I'm not sure what caused these pimples.

But burrowing insects made these little drill holes.

I came across a tree, dead, but still standing, which was the home of the woodpecker and full of the results of all that drumming.

This tree was riddled with the workings and markings of the woodpeckers, with many holes, new and old.

And beautiful fungi.

I heard woodpecker, drumming and calling, but didn't see any until, after having walked some distance from the dead tree, I heard the distinctive, loud, almost laughing, ringing woodpecker sound, and turned to see the undulating flight and a Green Woodpecker returning to the tree.

No wonder they've made home here, they feed on the grubs of wood-boring beetles and moths which they remove from the bark of trees with their long sticky tongues. They also love to eat ants which they will take from the ground as well as from the trees.  This would appear to be perfect habitat.  This one is possibly marking territory or making a new nest hole - egg laying time is in April or May, when between 5 and 7 are laid and only take fourteen days to incubate.  It is a long way off, but this is a female - the males have a red stripe, rather than black, under their eye.  Happy nesting Mrs Woodpecker.

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