Thursday, 14 August 2014

The story of a quilt

I guess every quilt has a story, reflecting what is happening in the quilt maker's life at the time.

I turned 40 in July ... eight years ago! My Mum said she'd make me a birthday quilt.

A pattern was chosen: a simple design called 'Coventry' by Brenda Riddle, from her book 'Comfort and Joy'. I am a sucker for star blocks, and that double border of tiny red squares was calling me.


The fabric was chosen: the same fabrics used in Brenda's quilt, 'Roman Holiday' by 3 Sisters for Moda.

But in May 2006, my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. The quilt was shelved, and the next nine months of Mum's life were focussed on caring for him. He passed away in February 2007.

So now, eight years later, my 40th birthday quilt has been dusted off. In that time, a background fabric was chosen, a dusty blue sprig on cream, from the 'Rural Jardin' range by French General for Moda.

In the last school holidays, Mum and I worked together on my quilt. Mum sewed, while I cut and pressed. 

When Mum and I sew together, we get places! We had 36 star blocks whipped up in no time. Admittedly, we had some help. Inspired by Rita in this post, I invested in a set of Bloc Loc rulers to help with our flying geese blocks. 

While these rulers are expensive, I would highly recommend them. They made an enormous difference to the speed and accuracy with which our blocks came together. 

So my birthday quilt is well underway. The blocks are all done, and pinned to our design wall (aka red fleece blanket). Mum has rolled it up and taken it home to finish piecing the top. I'll keep you posted on its progress. Mum? ... Mum? How are you going with it?!

This is a favourite photo of my Mum and me, taken about 1985 when Mum was 40! Yes, we were milking sheep ... but that's a story for another day.

Monday, 4 August 2014

In my winter garden

I don't know if every gardener would agree, but for me, winter is the busiest season. I have been lost in the garden; busy with pruning, mulching and generally tidying up. 

A winter garden is often dull and uninteresting because so many plants are in dormancy. Over the years, I've intentionally searched for winter-flowering plants to brighten up the dull spots and challenge the gloom. I found this sweet little gem, unlabelled, in a toss-out bin and it has become a winter favourite. I think it is a cuphea.

Cuphea hyssopifolia 'Rob's Mauve' (below) is as common as muck, but it earns its place in the garden for its prolific winter flowers. It is a great filler for arrangements too.

While I'm not a huge fan of pelargonium/geraniums, Perlargonium hortorum 'Rose Mega Splash' is very pretty right now.

Euryops pectinatus 'Little Sunray' is true to its name, radiating cheerfulness with its simple yellow flowers ...

... As does this little yellow buttercup that pops up out of nowhere at this time of year. I don't know what this plant is. It came from my Mum's garden, and dies back for most of the year until its fleshy foliage emerges in the winter. Please tell me if you know its name.

Even some of my verbenas are holding up to the cold weather, and sending out defiant blooms. This is Verbena 'Twinkle Crimson'.

Of course, some of the winter bulbs are starting to flower, with the appropriately named Jonquil 'Erlicheer' leading the charge.

I've recently discovered that what I've always called snowdrops, are actually snowflakes! I know, earth-shattering and all! I have Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake or Loddon Lily), while a true snowdrop is Galanthus, quite a different plant all together. It's OK, I've been called a botanical nerd before :)

I am very excited about seeing the blooms of this little plant for the first time. It is Leucospermum glabrum x tottum 'Carnival Red', planted last September.

While I continue to search for winter blooms, it is this time of year when foliage can take more of centre stage.

I love this variegated euphorbia and how it contrasts with the dark green of the oyster plant.

Sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’ gets to strut its stuff, with its tiny burgundy leaves.

I've tried over the years to create contrast in plant colour and form in my garden. (Yep, more garden nerdiness right there!) I feel like I'm slowly getting somewhere.

Even after the winter pruning, I am starting to see different shapes emerging;  spheres, cones, spikes, etc.

Any gardener will tell you that a garden is never finished. It is constantly evolving, as plants grow too big, or die, or clash badly with others around them. This isn't a failure on the gardener's part; merely an opportunity to plant something else! The garden below is 12 months old. We had to pull down three enormous Leighton Green conifers because they were diseased. They left a gaping hole in the garden, but with it, a whole lot of new sunshine and a chance to plant new things.

My garden is a source of constant pleasure to me, and I am forever looking at it and analysing how next to make it better. I know you gardeners out there will get that! Best wishes, Bloom x
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