In a Vase on Monday: Scented Sweet Peas

assorted sweet peas

Sweet Peas in Assorted Glass Jars

I’m joiningThe Cathys” once again for their weekly feature, In a Vase on Monday.

My swoon-worthy sweet pea jungle has returned. It’s colorful and wonderfully scented. Sweet peas seem to remind every one of their grandmother’s garden. They evoke a wonderful nostalgia.

This year I’m seeing more variegated colors including lavender with white and pink with white. That’s new and fun.

sweet peas front garden

Sweet Pea Jungle

I save glass jars throughout the year, and sometimes supplement with a few jars from a local craft store. I found some this year on clearance for fifty cents.  I cut flowers for my Pilates classmates, a group who loves to chat about gardening, and for my neighbors and friends. Last week I cut some flowers for a woman walking her dog and she said I made her day. I got to pet the puppy and she went home with some sweet peas. It doesn’t get better than that this time of year.

assorted sweet peas in glass jars

Sweet Peas Arranged by Color on my Potting Bench

sweet peas and nigella

Sweet Peas with Some Nigella Sprigs

We’ve had a mild May so the flowers have lasted longer than usual as well. Sunday was the start of our first heat wave with temps in the mid-eighties or (30C). I’ve really enjoyed the cooler temps.

sweet peas near Little Free Library

Sweet Peas Growing Near the Little Free Library * Mouse the Cat on the Path

Click on over to see some of the other beautiful vases featured on In A Vase on Monday.

Anna at GreenTapestry

Christina at Creating My Own Garden of the Hesperides

and more.

Thank you Cathy at Words and Herbs and Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for your ongoing inspiration.

I think I’ll celebrate my WordPress anniversary with some freshly cut sweet peas.

WordPress 7th anniversary

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

My Miniature New Zealand Garden

My miniature New Zealand garden started with a sheep.

New Zealand glass sheep

Glass sheep, crafted in New Zealand

Wooly sheep are an iconic Kiwi symbol of course, but this glass sheep sporting a charming grin is a gift from our gracious New Zealand hosts.

Pauline and her daughters presented each of us with a bag of New Zealand goodness at the start of our visit earlier this year. In case you missed it you can catch up here and here. Among the treasures were Pauline’s hand-made cards, delicious, local chocolates, and the sheep that launched my miniature garden.

Part of the fun of pulling together a miniature garden is using items you already have. If you can pick something up from the garden floor, that’s even better. The challenge is finding small-scale plants and flowers. I wanted to keep this miniature garden water wise, so I used succulents and drought-tolerant herbs. Dried moss defines the grassy area, so it looks like grass but doesn’t need watering.

Miniature New Zealand garden plants

Small-scale, water wise plants

I’ve found from experience that shallow planters dry out quickly. I wanted to find a container that would allow for deeper roots, but one that would fit nicely on our back steps. I combed several nurseries and garden centers and in the end, I found what I needed in our back yard: our hose bowl. Serendipity!

Hose bowl with hose

Hose bowl with the old hose (and Mouse)

I put up with our ornery garden hose for several years, so when it finally broke, I happily replaced it, this time with a retractable one. They don’t get tangled or require taming like the typical garden hose, especially when cold. Further, they shrink into a small space. I store my new hose in a much smaller pot and I repurposed the hose bowl into the base for my miniature New Zealand garden.

Hose bowl with plugged hole

Hose bowl hole plugged with perfectly sized jar; lava rock for drainage

What separates a hose bowl from a regular pot is the hole for threading the hose. I easily solved that problem by blocking the hole with a perfectly sized jar, (more serendipity) then lined the bottom with a layer of lava rock. I filled the rest of the bowl with planting mix and then could get started on the garden.

You may remember this photo from Hobbiton the Movie Set.

Yellow Hobbit Hole, New Zealand

Hobbit Hole, Hobbiton the Movie Set

I used this image as a starting point for the garden. In addition to the glass sheep, I made a walkway using Pāua shells gathered along the beach. I bought a few more packaged shells in Wanaka. As serendipity would have it, I’m growing New Zealand flax in our back garden. I used that as well.

Here is my miniature garden homage to New Zealand.

(Click each gallery photo for details)

To create a grassy roof, I removed the bottom of two plant cell packs then placed them on the soil in the back. I left the sides of the container in place. The roots can grow down into the pot, but the containers will hold their shape. The glass sheep “grazes” along the roof.

Miniature kiwi garden

The Hobbit hole’s hilly roof

I used a small wooden stepping “stone” from one of my fairy gardens for the door. I glued a couple of embellishments from my scrapbooking supplies for the door handle and knocker.

Hobbit hole door

Hobbit hole door

Just like the movie set, the frame of the Hobbit hole is a facade. Pieces of a broken desk-top fountain create the foundation. “Lumber” across the top and sides are twigs dropped from a neighboring pine tree, pruned branches, and detritus from the garden floor. The lower half of the house is covered with dried New Zealand flax.

Broken fountain pieces use to frame Hobbit hole

Hobbit hole facade

Hobbit hole facade made from slate, flax, glass, wood, and recycled plant stakes

Hobbit hole window

Hobbit hole window (photo taken before the glue dried, now clear)

The Hobbit window “reflects” a piece of plastic from the bag of soil. The crossbars are yellow toothpicks cut to size with a small plastic clip in the center. Getting the plastic and the glass to stay put till the glue dried proved to be a slippery affair, but I finally got it to hold.

Hobbit hole window

Hobbit hole window

My friend Kelly sent me the small chair and the lantern you see hanging from the house. Aren’t they cute? Believe it or not I had a small, rusty watering can, once planted with a tiny succulent. The scale is off, but I love it there anyway.

Finally, a pair of spotted red and white fungus, similar to what we saw growing in Wanaka. I’ll say it again: serendipity!

More of the natural beauty of New Zealand

I can see the miniature garden from our bedroom and our living room. It’s another beautiful reminder of an extraordinary trip.

Miniature New Zealand garden and flax

Miniature Kiwi garden in the foreground. New Zealand flax growing at the corner of the house

Spring Colors: Cool as a Cucumber*

Spring Colors: Cool as a Cucumber*


Can you imagine a world without color?

Not me!

There’s room in every garden for the full rainbow spectrum. In my post Some Like it Hot, I featured many of the vibrant red, orange and yellow hues of my garden.

The cooler range of a primary rainbow includes blue, green, indigo and violet. They’re also my favorites.

In addition to providing a cool and lovely contrast to the heat of the garden, the cooler colors serve an important purpose. Green of course is the very backbone of plant life.

Plants derive their green color from a pigment called chlorophyll, literally translated as “green leaf”. This allows the plant to draw light and energy to thrive.

 

While the bright flowers get center stage, green is working hard in the wings to keep the garden healthy and strong. Green leaves also serve as excellent camouflage for beneficial insects such as praying mantis. Earth tones of brown and grey, provide birds with cover from predators.

Purple, violet and blue-like blooms attract bees, hummingbirds, bluebirds, and jays. Perhaps I should add “and gardeners” as green and purple are my two favorite colors.

 

I recently learned that

Purple is common in plants, largely thanks to a group of chemicals called anthocyanins. When it comes to animals, however, purple is more difficult to produce.

Source, Natural History Museum

I read years ago that there is no real blue when it comes to flowers. According to Mother Nature Network

There is no true blue pigment in plants, so plants don’t have a direct way of making a blue color,” Lee said. “Blue is even more rare in foliage than it is in flowers.” he added. “Only a handful of understory tropical plants have truly blue foliage.

While I’m on the subject of cool colors, I forgot to let you know the answer to the quiz on my Hobbiton Movie set post. I posed the question, “which of the three trees picture below is a fake?” The answer is The Oak Tree

From the blog The Curious Kiwi

The large oak tree above Bilbo’s house was cut down and transported to Hobbiton where its branches were bolted back in place. Thousands of artificial leaves were wired to the branches, all for a few seconds of filming.

*Cool as a cucumber – Bloomsbury International. Extremely calm, relaxed and in control of your emotions. This phrase may have originated from the fact that even in hot weather, the inside of cucumbers are approximately 20 degrees cooler than the outside air.How cool is that?

Spring Colors: Some Like it Hot

Orange nasturtium

This orange nasturtium has a banana-yellow center and a lovely pair of eyelashes

Nature always wears the color of the spirit.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Unless you’re an allergy sufferer, you probably love spring. It’s a magical time in the garden when spring colors emerge from winter’s slumber while the birds sing their happy tune.

Red and Pink

 

After years of planting assorted bulbs and spring-mix seed packets, it’s fun to see the color assortment burst forth. Wrapped around the perennials, and sometimes hiding below, touches of spring color emerge. To be fair, many of the weeds are colorful too. You just have to decide what stays and what goes.

Orange

 

According to birder Melissa Mayntz of The Spruce:

Different birds are attracted to different colors. Individual bird species may see the “best” colors as indicating a food source. Other birds may be more attracted to the colors of their own plumage as those could indicate a potential mate or another bird that is surviving well.

Most bright colors, however, can be used to attract birds, with certain bird species being more attracted to particular shades.

Red and Pink: Hummingbirds
Orange: Orioles, hummingbirds
Yellow: Goldfinches, warblers, hummingbirds

Yellow

 

Interesting that red, orange and yellow are the first three colors of a primary rainbow. I think nature is on to something, don’t you?

Not to be undone green, blue and violent show up every spring as well. They’re the cooler colors, providing a lovely contrast to the heat of the spectrum. Stay tuned for their turn in the garden.

In a Vase on Monday: The Colors of Spring

In a vase on Monday

Ceramic chick filled with yellow and white Freesia, Salvia and purple Anemone

I’m joining “The Cathys” once again for their weekly feature, In a Vase on Monday.

I look forward to filling this pink ceramic chick every year. The vase is a gift from Nichole, a family friend and our go-to babysitter when our boys were young. She’s always been a wonderful presence in our lives.

Pink Ceramic Chick in a vase on Monday

Pink Ceramic Chick

Today’s vase features yellow and white Freesia, purple Anemone and sprigs of purple Salvia.

Spring colors

purple Anemone in a vase on Monday

Purple Anemone ready to open

These blooms have had the benefit of the loveliest, late-season rain here in San Jose. After an unseasonably dry winter, March arrived with a series of storms dumping much-needed snow on the Sierras and bringing gentle rain to the garden.

wooden Easter eggs

Wooden eggs and Freesia

Tessa smelling flowers in a vase on Monday

Tessa smelling the flowers (I thought this might be the end of the vase, but she treaded lightly)

Click on over to see some of the other beautiful vases featured on In A Vase on Monday.

Thank you Cathy at Words and Herbs and Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for your ongoing inspiration.

in a vase on Monday

The cutest little end

A Time to Remember

Our time in New Zealand has drawn to a close, but the memories of this extraordinary trip live on. As Pauline notes “we never know what might happen when we start to blog.”

Her lovely post follows.

The Contented Crafter

I know many of you have followed along with my recent adventures courtesy of those more organised bloggers, Laurie over at Life on The Bike and Alys at Gardening Nirvana who put up posts of such loveliness all I could do was hit the ‘Re-Blog’ button and call it done.

Feb 27 selfie

We had talked about a reunion ever since our first meet up in 2015 and seriously planned this adventure for a year.  It seemed a comfortable way off, but fortunately, at the six month mark I had chosen the holiday stay venue, booked the house and settled in to start making ‘welcome to New Zealand gifts’.  Two months later of course various accidents pulled me up short and curtailed my arty crafty activities and then time curled itself into a ball and hurtled past me into the future.

dav

And suddenly there I was standing early one evening at an airport…

View original post 768 more words

Hobbiton Movie Set: A Gardener’s Delight and a Movie-goer’s Dream

Yellow Hobbit-hole, Hobbiton New Zealand

Cheerful yellow Hobbit-hole, Hobbiton, New Zealand

“In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a Hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”-J.R.R. Tolkien

Adding to my list of reasons to love New Zealand is the joyous Hobbiton™ The Movie Set.

Mike and I spent our last three days in New Zealand on the North Island. We used Auckland as our home base, then ventured out on a couple of tours. Hobbiton was at the top of our list.

Director Peter Jackson filmed the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the Hobbit movies throughout New Zealand, but he also created a gorgeous movie set on a 1,250 acre private farm in Matamata.

Hobbiton movie set and Alexander farm

Hobbiton in the foreground, Alexander farm in the back

wooly sheep New Zealand

A wee wooly sheep

In 2010, the temporary movie set gave way to permanent structures and Hobbiton now draws tourists from around the world.

The 12-acre set captures the magic of the movies and books. The walking tour fully immerses you in the experience.

curving path in Hobbiton, New Zealand

Meandering paths are a hallmark of Hobbiton

Hobbiton yellow house and wheelbarrow

Charming village with cleverly aged fence

For this lover of books, movies, theater and gardening, Hobbiton has it all. If I could wave my fairy wand, I would take the tour a second time, but in slow motion. There is so much to take in and so many exquisite details.

Here is a taste of some of the movie magic:

  • The Hobbit-hole facades are in different scales. Scale varies from 30 to 80 percent. A full-sized actor in front of a 30 percent scale set looks huge. This allows for the use of forced-perspective.
  • In order to age the materials, set designers soak the wood fence posts in vinegar, then splatter the planks with blue paint, yogurt and wood chips. Soaking the wood in vinegar causes it to expand, then contract with a slight warp. Flecks of blue paint add to the aging process and the yogurt, a natural bacteria, allows lichen and moss to grow along the boards. Magical!
  • Each Hobbit-hole has its own garden along with props to indicate what the Hobbit does for a living. We meandered past the Hobbit holes of farmers, bakers, and homemakers. I delighted in the wee washing hung on the line, and the charming mailboxes, wheelbarrows and wind-chimes that make a house a home.

What I didn’t expect and absolutely loved were the individual gardens. Hobbit-holes face out of the hillside with sloping, earthen green roofs. Flowers grow along the fence, up the side of the house and in planting boxes.

Some of the holes have real vegetable gardens and in the middle of the Shire, pumpkin vines give way to magnificent fruit. You all know how I feel about pumpkins.

 

Hobbiton employs dozens of landscapers and gardeners to keep things looking authentic. Maybe we can get jobs here, too?

Since the gardens are real, so are the visitors. I spotted bees, butterflies and birds throughout the tour.  Aren’t they magnificent?

As the tour drew to a close, we learned that one of the trees pictured below is a fake. Can you spot it?

three trees in Hobbiton

Three trees in Hobbiton

Updated April 23, 2018. You can learn the answer by following this link.

Our tour ended as we crossed the bridge leading to the inn. The barkeeper offered us a choice of local ale or ginger beer, then we had lunch in a big tent.

The Mill House, Hobbiton

The Mill House, Hobbiton

The Green Dragon Inn

The Green Dragon Inn

Could it get any better than this?

Oh yes.

I almost forgot to mention Pickles the resident cat. We found him like this, eyes closed, paws outstretched, resting by a warm fire.

Pickles the cat at the Green Dragon, Hobbiton

Pickles the cat at the Green Dragon, Hobbiton

Pickles the cat, Hobbiton

Kitty nirvana

Truly nirvana.