Tag Archives: Spring

Crochet jute and willow garden screen - crochet close-up

Abstract views for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Spring is always the ‘busy’ season for those of us who enjoy gardening and for me this week has flashed by in a whirl. To capture my Spring ‘busyness’, I decided to browse through all of the photos I’ve taken this week and create an abstract vision of my week.

Abstract - crocus in Spring greens
Crocus in Spring greens

This image contains some of my Spring favourites. Some milder, sunny days have encouraged our crocuses to bloom this week. I love the contrasting colours – the purple and orange of the crocus against the new season’s greens. I love the heart shaped ‘wild food’ leaves of the Garlic Mustard with their energy-rich texture of veins. I noticed in my image the triangle shape of the crocus is enclosed and echoed by a larger green triangle, both pointing upwards in this picture as if towards the source of their renewed vitality, the sun.

Abstract - willow weaving
Willow weaving to tidy up my willow garden screens

My willow garden screens have survived well over the cold and windy Winter but before I put them to use again as climbing plant supports I decided they needed some aesthetic attention. Some readers may remember me writing about creating my willow and crochet jute garden screens last Summer. When I originally made the willow screens I left the tops quite wild-looking and unfinished but this year I’ve gone for a neater cottage garden finish.

In this project I have also been using some of my home-grown willow that grew on from last year’s willow cuttings. This week I have turned the tops of my two garden screens into willow arches and bound them in place with the home grown willow. I’m sure there will be a gardening post or two to come on this project 😉

Abstract - rustic wooden planter
Turned wood pegs in our rustic wooden planter

My plan from last Spring to build a wooden planter trough for my willow cuttings has finally reached fruition this week. The wooden planter has been a woodwork project that my son has worked on with me over the past few weeks. The idea was to build a rustic planter entirely from locally available raw materials and I have been really pleased that this was possible. The logs are pegged together with turned wood pegs that my son made on his pole lathe.

In my abstract image of the new wooden planter I have exaggerated the contrast to show the turned wood pegs in the hand-hewn timber.

Abstract view - solar eclipse
Friday’s partial solar eclipse – our pinhole image at 9.40am

The partial solar eclipse on Friday was one of those phenomena that should not go by unnoticed. We have been preparing for the eclipse during the week and then on Friday we were ready with our pinhole projectors to observe the moon passing between Earth and the sun. For us this was between 9.15am and 10.00am. ‘Pinhole projectors’ sound very scientific don’t they? Actually, they were simply small squares of cereal box card, about 8cm (3″) across, with a pinhole approximately in the centre. Whilst we didn’t enjoy constant clear skies during the eclipse, there were enough sunny spells to be able to observe the moon’s movement. The sky noticeably turned darker and the air colder during the eclipse.

The abstract image I have chosen of this event is one of my son’s photos of the eclipse projected onto another piece of card.

I hope you have enjoyed my week in abstract images. For more abstract images please do take a look at other entries for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Woods and Spring for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Springtime in the Beechwood
Springtime in the Beechwood

Spring is one of my favourite seasons of the year. It’s the season when everything bursts back into life after a Winter rest. Walking in the woods is a real treat for the senses in Spring as the trees are developing their fresh green leaves and the Springtime flowers begin to bloom. I know I’ve said before, but you can smell ‘green’ in the air! This is a time of renewal, a time for making new plans. Spring is full of promises to be fulfilled.

Waterfalls tumbling over ancient sandstone rock
Spring leaves stretching out across the busy burn

I’ve chosen beechwoods in Spring for Cee’s Wood and Spring Foto Challenge. I love the way the sunlight filters through the the new citrus-green leaves.

We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
Beech bark showing network detail and green algae
Beech bark showing network detail and green algae

The bark on this Beech tree really caught my eye. Beech trunks are usually quite smooth and grey – they always remind me of elephants! But on some trees, like this one, the bark develops into a network pattern. When it rains the rain runs down in rivulets and the algae on it glows an irridescent green against the dark tree trunk. It’s beautiful to see.

J Peggy Taylor

Bluebells are blooming in the woods

Will You Walk this May?

Here in the UK the season of Spring comes into full bloom in the month of May. For me, May is THE month to get out for a healthy and enjoyable walk in the countryside.

We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds

I do most of my local walking in woodland where I find there is so much to see in Springtime. In some of my recent posts I’ve been sharing my Spring walks and the delights that are out there waiting for us. If you want to find out more about woodland walks you may find the Woodland Trust’s ‘Visiting Woods’ pages useful.

Living Streets - National Walking Month May 2014
I agree, walking really can make you feel better 🙂

The month of May also happens to be National Walking Month here in the UK. The Living Streets charity is one of several organisations involved in promoting events during this month, including Walk to Work Week (12-16 May) and Walk to School Week (19-23 May). You can find out more from their website http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/national-walking-month?

Why not walk this May? It’s an excellent and FREE way to enjoy the out-of doors and it’s good for the body, mind and soul 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Native UK Bluebell in public woodland

Beautiful Bluebells!

Just as I was eagerly anticipating in my last post, we haven’t had to wait long to enjoy the carpets of native Bluebells blooming in our local woods. There are certain parts of our woods where the Bluebells really make themselves at home during May.

The Bluebells are here! Our native UK Bluebells flowering under a beech tree
The Bluebells are here! Our native UK Bluebells flowering under a beech tree

Across the forest floor amongst the feet of beeches, sycamores, rowans and oaks the luxuriant green foliage of Spring flowers provides the backdrop for the beautiful Bluebells themselves. Native UK Bluebells Hyacinthoides non-scripta are a much deeper blue than the Spanish Bluebells. The rich blue sometimes adopts an almost purple hue in the dappled woodland light.

Deep blue - native UK Bluebells bursting through the blanket of last year's bracken
Deep blue – native UK Bluebells bursting through the blanket of last year’s bracken

The native Bluebell’s slender stem hooks over to one side, like a shepherd’s crook. The slim blue blooms hang beneath the crook, turning up the points of their petals when the flower fully opens.

In our woods Bluebells are joined by the clean whites of Wood Sorrel and Greater Stitchwort, the deeper purple of the Dog Violets and the occasional flamboyant yellow of Dandelions. The acid-green of the Wood Sorrel’s fresh trifoliate leaves provide another luminous blast to the woodland floor. For me, these are the colours that I really associate with Bluebell woods at this time of year.

Blooming Bluebells in our woods, with Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Dandelions
Blooming Bluebells in our woods, with Wood Sorrel, Greater Stitchwort and Dandelions

Today we saw Bluebells everywhere we walked. They are certainly one of my favourite flowers and just one of the many reasons that make protecting their endangered ancient woodland habitat here in the UK such an important task.

Long may the Bluebells bloom!

J Peggy Taylor

Our first flowering Bluebells of 2014

Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: SPRING!

Here’s a photo challenge I couldn’t resist! What makes Spring for me?

Well, as my regular readers will know, I have been carefully recording my own experiences of Spring’s progress here in the UK for a couple of months now.

But then this week I saw it! For me, it is the very epitome of an English Spring … this beautiful carpet of wild Bluebells … in a wonderful Welsh woodland 😉
… and Suzy Blue’s fabulous photos really are a treat.

If you’re in the UK this is certainly a great time of year to get out for a woodland walk. And we even have a Bank Holiday weekend just waiting to be enjoyed! If you aren’t sure where to find Bluebell woods near you, you might find some ideas on the Woodland Trust’s ‘Visiting Woods’ Bluebells webpage.

The true wild Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta is a flower of our precious and endangered ancient woodlands. This irreplaceable habitat now covers only 2% of the UK and we are constantly fighting to preserve what is left.

Here in the woods on our northern hills, we’ve seen one or two welcome spots of blue beginning to show here and there.

Recent footpath renovation work has not deterred these Bluebells from bursting through the bare earth.
Recent footpath renovation work has not deterred these Bluebells from bursting through the bare earth.

I’m sure it won’t be long now until our woodlands too will be blossoming in carpets of blue.

J Peggy Taylor

Wood Sorrel flowering on the woodland floor

Nature Notes: Woodland walks in Spring

Having the woods right on our doorstep makes me rather like Mole in Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. If you know this classic children’s story you may recall that Mole is drawn from his chores by the temptation of the outdoors. “Hang Spring Cleaning!” he exclaims before setting out to explore Springtime in the countryside. Just like Mole, I find sunny Spring days hard to resist … who wants to be stuck indoors when there’s so much to enjoy outside!

Mole, Spring cleaning - The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.
Mole, Spring cleaning – The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.

For us, woodland walks in Spring bring the exciting prospect of foraging for fresh wild food. Spotting the first ‘munchies’ of early Spring is something of a family ritual. The wild food we fondly refer to as ‘munchies’ is Wood Sorrel Oxalis acetosella. Once the Wood Sorrel’s new acid-green citrus-flavoured trifoliate leaves begin to brighten up the forest floor we can’t resist picking a few as we meander on our way.

Picking tasty new Wood Sorrel leaves in Spring
Picking our first ‘munchies’ of this Spring … that’s Wood Sorrel btw 🙂

Whilst on the same walk, as well as finding this year’s first ‘munchies’, we also spotted the feathery leaves of another Spring flower of old woods, the Pignut Conopodium majus. The chestnut-type root of the Pignut seems to be quite a well-regarded wild food though I must say I have never tried it. The digging up of any wild plant is not legal in the UK unless you have the permission of the landowner. I forage out of interest rather than necessity so I tend to restrict my wild food foraging to leaves and fruits, making sure that the plants retain the ability to thrive and re-grow. This photo shows the Pignut in its classic habitat – growing amongst the Bluebells.

The feathery leaves of Pignut growing through the Bluebell leaves
The feathery leaves of Pignut growing through the Bluebell leaves.

Some of the woodland flowers are among my Spring favourites – I find I have ‘favourites’ for each season! Spring finds me combing the sunny banks for the first Violets and Wood Sorrel, or taking certain paths through the woods to seek out keenly anticipated patches of wild Primroses or Bluebells.

I have been eagerly watching out for the Primroses in one of our woods in particular. The area where they grow had been under conifer plantation for some years but has recently been part of a programme of ancient woodland restoration. Now that there is more light reaching the forest floor, it is wonderful to see those sleeping seeds that have been waiting patiently in the woodland soil for years taking their chance and bursting into life.

Primroses in Spring sunshine
Primroses in Spring sunshine

This week when we visited the wood we found the Primroses had sprung up in lots of lovely patches of yellow and green. They looked wonderful! We also discovered this lone Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa nearby. I love the way my son has managed to capture the silky texture of the white petals in his photo. The flower was popular with insect visitors too – there’s a small cardinal beetle making a cautious entrance in this shot! Hopefully that will mean there will be more Wood Anemones here next year.

Shimmering white petals of a lone Wood Anemone in the woods
Shimmering white petals of a lone Wood Anemone

Here is another fascinating flower that I watch out for each Spring. This is Moschatel Adoxa moschatellina. It grows on a sunny bankside beside an old road over a Victorian railway bridge in our woods. I have seen it described as the ‘Town Clock’ flower and when you look closely, it is easy to see how it came by this name. Each flowerhead is held on a tall stalk (approx. 5-10cm high) and comprises five yellow-green florets with yellow stamens. Four of the florets form a square with the fifth one facing upwards. The three-lobed leaves at the base of the stalk are a darker green than the flowers.

The intriguing 'Town Clock' flower - Moschatel, growing on a sunny bank
The intriguing ‘Town Clock’ flower – Moschatel, growing on a sunny bank

On one of our sunny Spring walks this week we saw the promise of the first fruits of this year – the bilberry, that’s the UK’s own wild ‘blueberries’ which grow quite prolifically in our local woods. The pink berry-like flowers are just beginning to open. Although we have hillsides growing thick with the low-growing bilberry bushes, these berries do take a bit of picking when they ripen in late Summer.

Pink and green berry-like flowers on low-growing Bilberry bushes
Pink and green berry-like flowers on low-growing Bilberry bushes

The berries grow singly and are often tucked away out of sight so keen eyes are needed to hunt them out. Equally keen eyes are needed if I am hoping to make sure any of these tasty purple-blue berries actually make it back home rather than being enjoyed straight from the bushes 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Rocket seedlings, sown early March

Spring seedlings – home-grown and wild

There’s always something magical I think about seeing tiny seedlings sprouting through the earth in Spring, whether they’re out ‘in the wild’ or if they’re just regular domesticated seedlings I’ve sown myself.

First salad seedlings 2014
First salad seedlings of 2014 on my window ledge

My first sowing for this year was a tray of mixed salad leaves that I started off early in February. I grow most of my ‘eating’ leaves on a sunny east-facing window ledge so they can get plenty of daylight … without the having to compete with my slimy mollusc friends who frequent my back yard! This first sowing of leaves is now just about large enough to begin picking.

February-sown salad leaves almost ready to eat
February-sown salad leaves almost ready to eat

I find it very convenient to have fresh salad leaves to hand so I tend to choose the cut-and-come-again varieties. Another thing I do is to make regular sowings to provide an ongoing supply. My second sowings went in early in March and are showing good progress already. Our recent prolonged spell of Spring sunshine has certainly helped them on their way. These leaves are another variety of lettuce and my first sowing of rocket of this year. I like to add rocket and some wild leaves usually too to my salads to give a bit of extra flavour and bite.

As well as salad leaves I also like to grow a few fresh herbs. My mint cutting is still thriving as it sets down its new roots in its new ‘big’ pot – it looked a bit lost when I first planted it out, but it is beginning to spread out now, as mint likes to do. And this weekend I was delighted to see my first parsley seedling hook its tiny pale crook through the compost and open its seed leaves to the light. Now it has been joined by a number of others too.

First Parsley seedling2014
My first parsley seedling of 2014

I sowed the parsley in early March at the same time as the lettuce and rocket, though the parsley has been residing on a different window ledge that has the benefit of sunlight from above and a central heating radiator below. This is my special seed-sprouting and cutting-generating window ledge for those plants that need a greater level of warmth to work their magic.

Bitter cress rosettes
Rosettes of bitter cress – my first edible ‘weed’ of the year

In my back yard, my self-seeding wild salad leaves are making progress – garlic mustard and bitter cress. Both of these wild plants grow easily I find. The bitter cress arrived of its own accord and is happy to make a home in any of the pots where I allow it to. I originally harvested some local wild seed for my garlic mustard and it has continued to self-seed each year since. I also have two tiny plants of wood sorrel that emerged from some mud cleaned from walking boots! I am hoping they will grow on – perhaps a little rich leaf mould will help them on their way – I shall try.

My next sowing will be some more thyme as that’s another herb I find extremely useful. More time would be good too … I wonder if I can find some seeds in a catalogue for that …. 😉

J Peggy Taylor

Upcycled Message Mat of Hope

The arrival of Springtime sunshine started something of a creative cascade for me. I described this creative wave in an earlier post and this has combined with the additional seasonal inspiration of Nature waking from her winter slumber and showering us with new shoots and blooms from the warming earth.

One of the projects that has so far evolved from my kinetic Springtime spree of creativity has been my upcycled supermarket carrier bag rug. In my last rug update post I was interpreting my design as a mirror of how we make use of the world’s finite resources – a message in my mat.

The white section of my upcycled crochet mat
The white section of my upcycled crochet mat

As I crocheted further on my mat I began working on the white section. It is not pure white, as you can see, but is laced with red and blue. Sometimes these colours are clearly seen, sometimes masked. The mat’s message here is the influence our one small country, Britain, has had on industrialisation both here in the UK and throughout the world, particularly since the period of time we call The Industrial Revolution (during the 18th and 19th centuries). This influence has left its legacies everywhere. Like the red and blue colours, sometimes these legacies are very evident and sometimes they are masked by more recent developments.

Victorian railway bridge, North East England
This Victorian railway bridge spans a path where we often walk. The path was once a mineral line, busy with steam trains hauling coal to the River Tyne.

North East England, where I live, was renowned for the coal production that powered the Industrial Revolution. Our local environment is full of remnants of this industrial past. The very house and village in which I live was built for mine-workers. In creating my mat here I feel this represents a link between the past and the future. Just as mining families would have created their old rag mats that I talked about in my first post on this project, I too am now crafting my mat from upcycled materials.

Upcycled Crochet bag mat close-up
Upcycled crochet bag mat – a closer look

It is important to me to try harder to use less of the earth’s resources – though I do not claim to be perfect by any means! Most of us accept that fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are not good news for our planet’s future. I think we can all try and play our part by reducing our own consumption and carbon footprint and by encouraging each other in our environmentally-aware endeavours. There is so much we can do ourselves but also by spreading our ‘encouragement’ in the direction of our governments we can try and use our collective powers of persuasion to convince them that our one and only planet is certainly worth caring about.

To reflect in my mat these feelings of hopefulness and of actively encouraging environmental awareness, I chose to finish it with a strong green border. You may notice the border is deeper on two sides. These deeper sides will eventually lie east to west in my porch. This final part of my message mat is to say that from east to west, around the world, we can all play our part in protecting our planet.

My completed upcycled crochet mat
My completed upcycled crochet mat made entirely with supermarket carrier bags and a hand carved hazel hook

I’ve enjoyed creating my upcycled message mat – both the crochet part and thinking about the story that belongs to this mat. On a practical level, I’m happy with the way my mat has worked out. It is nice and thick and is quite soft too.

The construction method I chose involved simply knotting each strip of carrier bag to the next. I realised this was obviously going to leave a lot of loose ends but rather than try and hide them all, I thought they resembled carpet pile so I decided to leave them showing. I think they add to the texture of the finished mat too. I am also glad to say the mat fits just nicely in its intended destination, my front porch.

J Peggy Taylor

My Blooming Back Yard

I try to grow as much as possible in my very tiny back yard – from herbs to flowers to numerous small trees. My yard faces west and only benefits from a little afternoon sun in Springtime so this tends to mean my early flowers take their time to bloom. But our recent mild and sunny days have persuaded some of them to start the Spring Show.

Blooming Purple Crocuses
Blooming Purple Crocuses

Our purple crocuses have now opened their glorious eyes to reveal their white depths and vivid orange stamens. The seedlings underneath the crocuses are the beginnings of a favourite wild salad leaf of ours, Garlic Mustard Alliaria petiolata. They’ll grow on after the Spring bulbs are finished.

Our mini daffodils are doing rather well too. I originally rescued a pot containing three rather sad-looking specimens from a plant stall two years ago. Now we have a pot with four healthy flowers and the promise of more, judging by the additional greenery striving to put in an appearance around this year’s flowers. I can see they will definitely need lifting and repotting after this flowering season.

Mini daffodils in bloom
Mini daffodils in bloom

The Washfield Double hellebores I have on my doorstep do appreciate the indirect light and have been quite successful in their large pots for several years now. I love the under-stated pink of this hellebore. My other plant has subtle yellow-green flowers with maroon markings. I usually feed these plants with home-made garden compost in early Spring when I finish trimming back the old leaves. So that’s another job to get done soon.

Pink Washfield Double Hellebore - flower
Pink Washfield Double Hellebore – flower

I planted some new willow cuttings a few weeks ago and they seem to be doing very well. I’ve a few more cuttings to find homes for too – more willows (but with a reddish tinge to the stem) and a few sprigs of Common Mallow Malva sylvestris I rescued from a plant that had been strimmed down on some council-owned land nearby.

Rather like my love of upcycling with other materials, I’m a bit of a regenerator of plants as well! I discovered the wonder of cuttings a number of years ago and have found this a great way of generating more plants. Some plants such as willow, mint and lavender I have generated entirely from cuttings.

I also like to seek out those sad-looking plants on plant stalls that look like the-dog-that-nobody-wants. Then I find with a little bit of tlc these plants can be brought back to their blooming best. My mini daffodils are one such success and now I also have some tulips that I ‘rescued’ on my last town trip …

J Peggy Taylor