Summer Breeze (makes me feel fine)

I’ve been busy lately. Too busy to blog.

I’ve been drawing. Creating things. Creating dreams, making plans.

I’ve been off being unfaithful, with my new blog #mybeautifulmidlifecrisis . I felt a bit guilty.

I realised that if I didn’t blog again sharpish on here then I may never blog about,and from, The Welsh Garden again.

So back I came. We’ve decided to give it another go.

It’ll have to be a quickie; like I said, I’m busy. That picture book won’t write itself.

But I wanted to show you these pictures.  Many,many flowers this year. A success story.

The blue flowers – a 99p scatter box of wildflower seeds from Home and Bargain – results: fabulous. Bees everywhere – we’ve never had so many bees in the garden.

Poppies – wild. All appeared in one of the veg beds. I havn’t got the heart to pull them up, Guv. There are onions in there,somewhere,underneath. I’m sure they’ll be fine. We’ll soon find out anyway.

And the marigolds – again,wild. Again,everywhere. Sprung up.

Love them all.

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In The Night Garden Live family tickets – and The Winners are …

 Manchester Trafford Centre : Katherine Grieve

Cardiff Bute Park : Jim Osman

Congratulations to Katherine and Jim who both win family tickets for four people to see In The Night Garden Live at Manchester Trafford Centre and Cardiff Bute Park respectively.   Katherine and Jim – I will be in touch via email within the next few days. I hope that you enjoy both shows!

A big Thankyou to everyone who took the time to enter – I wish that I had had enough tickets for everybody!

If you want to find out more about In The Night Garden Live, please visit www.nightgardenlive.com for further information.

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As I walked out

of the back door yesterday morning I was greeted with a glorious sight

Anathema to anyone of the weed-banishing school of gardening,but beautiful to me. 

I don’t really ‘do’ weeds,to be honest. I’m of the ‘a weed is just a plant in a place that you don’t want it to be’ school of thought. I actively like a lot of supposed weeds and leave them alone to get on with it. But then we have that kind of garden. I like dandelions and buttercups – they’re pretty and they add colour. I like to see daisies covering the lawn although they don’t last long before they take a hit from the lawnmower. I leave areas of nettles and we get plenty of butterflies visiting the garden because of it.  The only weeds that I can’t abide are bindweed and ground elder which get short shrift from me. I curse at the binweed trying to strangle my flowers. Evil plant. And ground elder is the bain of my life - I do not think that we will ever be truly rid of it in this garden. It lives here, it has put down roots. Literally. 

There are flowers here that have just arrived from nowhere,plonked themselves down and made themselves at home. I like that. Put your feet up. Do you fancy a cuppa?

The pink ones above,they arrived.

And the cornflowers,that aren’t actually cornflowers as such,but are centaurea montana,a relative of. They pop up in gardens, so I am told. Well they’ve certainly popped up in ours this year. They are beautiful,a blinding indigo blue.

So that’s it really. I just wanted to show you our weeds. I hope you enjoyed them.

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I shouldn’t … but I will

I shouldn’t but I will:  blog about Eurovision.

I shouldn’t because: I probably won’t bring anything of any note to the Eurovision (buffet) table.

But I will because: I love the Eurovision Song Contest with all of my heart.

I *heart* Eurovision.

I *heart* Eurovision in the same way that I *heart* fairylights.

My love affair with Eurovision started in 1976 when as a five year old I watched Brotherhood of Man storm to Euro-victory with the dodgy ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’. They were all flares and dentures and Tommy Steel-esque toe tapping. I thought that they were Fab. And that Eurovision was Fab. And there and then my fate was sealed.

There have been many memorable years since my induction into the delights of the Eurovision Song Contest.  We all remember the year that Bucks Fizz won with that nice Cheryl Baker and that slightly slutty Jay Aston getting those dirndl skirts whipped off by those two bottle-blonde perma-grinned moptops. Don’t we? 

And the UK’s return to glory after a fallow spell with Katrina and The Waves lovingly shining their light in every corner of the world? But my favourite Eurovision year has to be 1998 – a vintage year that saw not only the born-to-win-Eurovision Dana International seize the Euro crown for Israel but also the fabulous Guildo Horn telling us how much he loved us all, in German,with the aid of a fine set of cowbells. If it had been any other year Guildo would have been the rightful winner of the Euro- crown.

But Dana won it,and it felt only right that she did. Eurovision had come home, and Dana had won it for all of us Song-Contest-Glitter-Loving Freaks. Viva La Diva indeed Dana, You Go Girl. And she did.

After Dana it all went a bit off track. A couple of hundred new Euro-countries joined the contest and all proceeded to vote for each other. Sir Terry of Woganshire left. That was a sad day for us all. But this year they’ve changed the voting. Half panel half public vote. There is hope that a rogue Western European country may sneak through the Eastern European blockade and once more claim the Euro crown.

My money’s on JedWard, and they are representing Ireland, which historically helps their chances a fair bit.

So we’ll have to see,anyway,won’t we.  It’s on tomorrow night, Saturday 14th May 2011. I’m so excited. We have flag bunting. We have hats. Eldest helped with those. We have score sheets. We have the components of a Euro-buffet sitting waiting in the fridge. I’m about to sort out a few spot prizes. And get my stash of Euro-kitsch down from the attic. I might do a photo montage or two of Sir Terry, to grace the loo seat.

 Ooh I love Eurovision, I do.  Do you love it too? Do You? Do tell. Please. You know you want to.

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Our Lady’s Tears

It’s amazing where a simple flower will take you. 
 
Around two weeks ago our Lily of the Valley flowered up in the front garden. They come  every year without fail. There is a blanket clusteration,a botheration,of Lily of the Valley in between the lavender and the daffs. I didn’t plant them; they’ve been there since we moved in ten years ago. I’m not sure if they were ever planted, or if they just appeared there,multiplied,and grew.
 
 Lily of the Valley – Convallaria Majalis.  They hit the news last week.
 
The Bouquet. Much was made in the press of Kate Middleton’s choice of lily of the valley for her bridal bouquet;and of ‘the language of flowers’. Very Victorian. Lily of the Valley is such a Victorian flower. I like that.
 
 According to ‘The Language of Flowers’ Lily of the Valley symbolises ‘A Return to Happiness’. Also: ‘Purity of heart’,’Sweetness’,’You’ve made my life complete’,’humility’,’happiness’,’Love’s Good Fortune’ and – very Catholic,this – ‘Our Lady’s Tears’. It is also known as ‘The flower of May’.
 
 
‘ The Flower Of May ‘. Hmm. That takes me right back to my Catholic upbringing. May processions,grotto’s,plaster statues of The Blessed Virgin – ‘Our Lady’. We used to sing this hymn at school:
 
   ‘ The lilies of the field,
     they do not spin or weave,
     yet solomon was not
     arrayed like one of these.
     The birds of the air,
     they do not sow or reap,
     but God tends to them,
     like a shepard tends to his sheep.
 
   ‘Do not worry over what to eat,
   what to wear or put upon your feet.
   Trust and Pray, go do your best today,
   then leave it in the hands of the Lord,
   leave it in the hands of the Lord. ‘
 
I can hear it now. If I look down I must be wearing my ‘Jesus Sandals’. They didn’t let you wear your outdoor shoes in case you wrecked the parquet floor. The sixth formers were allowed to wear stiletto heels though.
 
According to legend the Lily of the Valley sprang from Eve’s tears when she was kicked out of the Garden of Eden. Bad Old Eve.
 
It is also said that Lily of the Valley protects gardens from evil spirits. I do hope so.
 
Mostly though,Lily of the Valley reminds me of my lovely Nana.
I like Old Lady flowers. I’m glad they’re back in fashion. Thanks Kate. Nice one.   
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COMPETITION NOW CLOSED – winners to be announced shortly – Win Family Tickets for In The Night Garden LIVE!!!

I’m VERY excited. 

Those of you who are familiar with my witterings on Twitter may have caught my weekday,mid-morning updates as to the current state of play In The Night Garden.  I do like to keep you all informed - When the Tittifers have sung their song; What Mr Pontipine’s Moustache is up to,and if MakkaPakka’s OggPog has turned up yet – that kind of thing.  I feel that I am providing an important public service.

Those of you reading this who have very small children or grandchildren will know exactly what I am talking about. 

11.05 a.m, BBC2,Monday – Friday (well,that’s in Wales anyway). Also known as my In The Night Garden Window.

I know somebody who ADORES ITNG.  I am pretty much guaranteed a free run to get a few things done for the 30 minutes that In The Night Garden is on. 

But I don’t get anything done. Because I adore it too.  So we watch it together. And we do the dance at the end.

So. Imagine our excitement when we heard that In The Night Garden LIVE was wending it’s merry way over to our neck o’ the woods! I feel that I should tell you all about it. But it gets better. Read on…

Two Family Tickets for In The Night Garden LIVE to be won!

IN THE NIGHT GARDEN LIVE UK TOUR 2011 - A treat for all In the Night Garden fans! To celebrate the 2011 tour of IN THE NIGHT GARDEN LIVE, In a Welsh Garden and the show’s producers are offering 2 lucky winners a family ticket (for 4 people, minimum 1 adult) as follows: The Trafford Centre, Manchester: Wed 1 June at 11.15 a.m. Bute Park, Cardiff: Mon 11 July at 11.15 a.m. No cash or performance alternatives and no accommodation provided.

For further information on the tour please go to http://www.nightgardenlive.com or call 0844 581 1251

Popular children’s TV characters Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka and their friends make a much anticipated return this summer in the magical nationwide tour of the staged production IN THE NIGHT GARDEN LIVE. One of last year’s top-selling children’s theatre productions in the UK with extended runs and sell-out performances, this much loved show takes to the road again to seven new UK venues from 14 April to 3 September in its custom-built showdome. This all-weather showdome will take up temporary residence at The Trafford Centre (28 May – 11 June) and Bute Park, Cardiff (9 – 23 July). With rave reviews from young fans and their parents and carers alike, IN THE NIGHT GARDEN LIVE is a true spectacular theatre experience and a wonderful opportunity to see the iconic In the Night Garden and its much loved characters in a live event. The characters are brought to life with full-size costumes, enchanting music, magical puppets and spectacular panoramic projections, creating an immersive theatrical experience to make audiences feel they are actually entering the magical world of In the Night Garden.

IN THE NIGHT GARDEN LIVE is produced by BBC Worldwide, Ragdoll and Minor Entertainment.

To enter please leave a comment answering the following question: 

Q: What colour is Igglepiggle’s blanket?

Please state which venue you would like,Manchester Trafford Centre or Cardiff Bute Park.

Cardiff Bute Park entries shall be placed into a Tombliboo spouty cup and Manchester Trafford Centre entries into a Pontipine puzzle cup, and the winners drawn at random. The closing date is midnight on Wednesday May 18th. 

Good Luck!

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Pink Bluebells,Blue Comfrey and Easter eggs

Hyacinthoides hispanica Pinky Woo

Symphytum 'Hidcote Blue' - Comfrey

I’ve always loved Spring flowers,especially wild ones. Daffs, Cowslips,Primroses,Forget-Me-Nots…Bluebells. When I was little  there used to be plenty of bluebells growing around our rather wild garden. I can still remember the pink blubell that used to grow at the side of the driveway, surrounded by blue ones year on year.  It was my favourite.I loved the craziness of a bluebell being pink. It seemed like magic had been at work.  We used to get a few white bluebells too. I quite liked these, but not so much as I liked the pink ones. They were rare and precious treasures amongst the blue.

There are lots of bluebells in the Welsh Garden. Every year,after the riot of yellow daffs and Grape Hyacinths (Muscari) have died back, we get the carpets of blue. Bluebells and Forget-Me-Nots. There is a reassuring predictability at work. Every year it’s the same.

We have Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica)in the Welsh Garden. Not native (English) ones. Introduced onto British soil in 1680,there is a lot of fuss about genetic pollution between native bluebells and Spanish ones. It’s a bit like the thing with grey squirrels usurping the native red.The squirrel thing isn’t good but with bluebells it doesn’t bother me much. Perhaps that’s irresponsible. But they are all beautiful to me. I can’t see the harm in a bit of inter-mingling. Having said that I wouldn’t go and dump a load of Spanish bluebell bulbs in the middle of an indigenous bluebell wood. No guerilla gardening warfare for me.

It is supposed to be some kind of intermingling that creates the pink bluebell – a misnomer if ever there was one. I tried to find out about the wierd alchemy that throws up the precious pink ones but the general consensus seems to be it’s just one of those things that happens sometimes in nature. Thanks for that,Google. If anybody reading this knows more than this please do tell me, because I’d love to know. And I can’t be bothered going past the first page of Google to find out.

Thanks to the previous custodians we have an abundance of Comfrey growing in the Welsh Garden. We use it to create a ‘green’ fertiliser – chop the leaves,throw into the barrel,drain the juice and add 20 parts water,then chuck over the ground.Our Comfrey has pink flowers. I thought that this was usual until I spotted comfrey with blue flowers at the weekend - absolutely gorgeous, thought that you may like to see it.

And finally…. Easter Eggs. Eldest = Busy. And Gets Bored Easily. Hence,painted eggs. Easy to do – we used clear wax to draw images upon hard boiled eggs and then dipped the eggs in food colouring,leaving them for around ten minutes in each colour,and layering the colours as we went. Eldest loved it, I loved it. Win-Win. I recommend. Right Pagan. Happy Easter.

Posted in '' Bath Bombs'' ''Make your own bathbombs'', '' Family'' ''Childrens Activities'' ''Green Activities for Children'' ''Nature Children'' ''Wild Child'' ''Children & Nature'', Artist Blogs, Eco Living, Environment, garden, gardening, Sustainability, sustainable living, Wild Flowers | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Den

A few years ago I was co-ordinating the Children’s Area at a local gardening show. I wanted to create a space for the younger visitors that was accessible,welcoming and inspiring.

I wanted the children and younger visitors to feel that it was their space and that they had contributed to how it looked and evolved. Before the show had started I had created several site-specific willow pieces that were deliberately left unfinished. I left plenty of spare willow lying around and over the next two days the young visitors added to the pieces.

At the end of the last day of the show there was the usual end-of-show plant sell off. Inspired by the previous two days and by the enthusiasm that I had seen amongst the children working on the willow pieces, I bought a young willow tree,very cheaply indeed.  I was used to working in willow but I usually bought my willow ready harvested – I had never grown any myself.I planted the young willow tree in the garden.

The first year it died. So I dug it up,replanted it in another spot, and kept my fingers crossed.And it grew.

Three years later and it was ready for a spot of pruning. We did it a few days ago. Yesterday I made this

I thought that it was ok, nothing great. But today it came to life.Some little visitors did a spot of interior design on it.

And spent a lot of time in there,having fun. And like most special places,it was the people that brought it to life and made it special.

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Spring has Sprung

Spring has spring. Hallelujah! I couldn’t resist showing you a few pictures from the Welsh garden,compliments of the season.

Magnolia Stellata

And in case you’re wondering, I havn’t given up on The Book.In fact I’ve started it.

But it’s so hard keeping out of the garden at the moment.Lots to do of course,at this time of year,but mainly it’s just so damn infectious being out there,in it, in Spring

The signs of Spring are all around.  The beauty of nature. Or as Mr In a Welsh Garden’s South Walean Nain used to declare in her strong Swansea accent ’The Booty of Nature’. Indeed. She was so right.

Galanthus (snowdrop)

The Snowdrops (Galanthus)have died back now . But a good picture.

 

 

We leave a lot of nettles at the bottom of the garden. We get a lot of butterfly visitors.Cabbage Whites and also Red Admirals.  Bees too. Today I have seen some fabulous, HUGE bumble bees in the garden (Bombus Terrestris,I do believe).

There are ladybirds again sitting it out on the connifer tree and these do not look like the dreaded Harlequin, although I am fully expecting their return. The indiginous ladybirds  appear to be holding their own in the face of the Harlequin Advance. 

There are clusters of naturalised Grape Hyacinth (Muscari)(Hyacinthaceae).The Cowslips (Primula Veris) are newly arrived. The Primroses (Primula Vulgaris) are following in hot pursuit.

Muscari (Hyacinthaceae) (Grape Hyacinth)

Daffodills (Narcissus) have been with us for a week or two now but I am sadly anticipating their inevitable demise. Forget-me-not’s (Myosotis)(Boraginaceae) and Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) (sadly not the English ones) shall take up their places.

Spring has most definately Sprung.

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… and right here is where you start paying..

 

Have you ever had a dream? Something that you are almost too scared of doing in case it doesn’t work out, and you care too much, or in case it does work out and Then What?!

I was around twelve years old when Fame hit our TV screens. Do you remember that crazy dance teacher who used to bang her cane on the floor screaming ‘YOU WANT FAME? Well Fame COSTS! And Right Here is where you start PAYING!’?

I used to love watching FAME but I hadn’t thought about it - or the crazy mad cane-bashing dance tutor – in a long time. Until this afternoon when those ‘Quit moaning and just bloody well get on with it’ words shot across my thoughts.

I recently blogged about how blogging has really changed things for me,about how it has really helped me to get with it again on the creative front. Also about what this has done for my confidence. And that, finally, I think that I know where I want to go.

Today I cleared my desk of everything that shouldn’t be there. And left what should - art materials, laptop and printer. I’m on a mission. I’m going to try and write and illustrate a children’s picture book. No, Seriously, I am.

A picture by me.Not a picture from said book,I havn't done those yet. And when I have I won't be putting them on here..

You at the back stop laughing. There. I’ve said it now.It feels important to say it. It’s a commitment. To doing it and also to myself. And I’ll have to do it now because I’ve told you lot and I’ll look really stupid if I don’t. I’m not daft you know. I know how to give myself a metaphorical kick up the backside. They don’t call us Librans lazy for nothing. We need a regular and well placed prod, ideally with a very long stick.

I’ve been avoiding this kind of commitment for way too long. If I’m honest it is scary to say that Yes, I am going to try and do this. Properly try,not half-arsed trying.

It’s interesting how much we can hold ourselves back isn’t it. And how much we can let other people try to. Sometimes in obvious ways, often in subtle,less obvious ones. We all get scared of change ; we’re all human. Combine that with a lack of self-confidence and you have a recipe for – well,nothing,in particular. Nothing gets done.

For years I lacked confidence in my abilities. I was unable to make a creative commitment. I lacked the self belief to say ‘I want to do this’. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t have a clue. 

I had the raw materials but I never had the confidence.

Yeah another one.Copyright:Me 2010.Use without my permission at your peril..

I didn’t see any value in what I could do. I didn’t see much value in myself. I am shocked that I have typed this. I am shocked when I hear other people speak about themselves in this way. I find it easier to extend compassion to others in this situation than I do to myself.

It’s strange really, because in some ways nothing has changed. I havn’t suddenly got hoards of admirers telling me how much they love my work. In fairness there isn’t much there to love;I’m not published or anything. Yet. #optimistic

Nobody is beating a path to my door with words of encouragement or support (well maybe one or two, and they know who they are) but something has changed. It used to matter to me that people liked what I did. I needed the praise. I mean I do still love it when people are vocal in their praise of something I’ve done. Who wouldn’t be, I mean it’s lovely isn’t it, and on a bad day it can really lift you up. And we all need that.    

I do wonder though how much of that needing praise thing is a girl thing,how we are brought up to please and to care so much about what people think of us? It used to matter so much to me that without that potential for praise there I had no desire, no drive,to do anything. It was as if doing it just for me,because I enjoyed it, was pointless, a waste of time. The truth is that I just didn’t care enough, about doing it. Or about myself. It was Creative Apathy.

I still cannot quite believe that starting a blog can have had such a profound effect. This is an alien confidence. I’m not used to it yet. It isn’t dependant upon anybody else believing in me,or what I do, or in liking it. Or of their being vocal in their praise of it. This is new to me. But I like it.

I think that actually getting on with doing something,and doing it regularly,rather than fannying about, or not doing it, has had an unexpected outcome. 

Of course, it isn’t lost on me that if I’m daft enough to try and write and illustrate a children’s book then this new found self-belief will come in very handy. Lets hope it has legs. I shall have to look out for a thick skin to go with it when I am next clothes shopping.

Maybe this has all come at the right time. I’m expecting rejections, lots of them. And closed doors. And ones that won’t even open in the first place. I’m expecting – go on, admit it, maybe you’re doing it now,reading this – people to say ‘yeahyeah she thinks she’s going to write a children’s book and it’ll get published straight away - she hasn’t got a bloody clue.’

You’d be right about me not having a bloody clue. I’m on a learning curve. But that’s ok. We’re all on a learning curve. Some are just further along their particular curve than others. I’ve only just hopped onto mine. I’m a late developer.

It doesn’t matter. I’ll just keep trying. Because all of the other people who’ve done it,they were once at this point too weren’t they? Where they made a decision to commit to an idea, a plan, a dream. And that’s all I’m doing.

The discipline side is going to be interesting. I’m going to set aside time each evening to get busy with the pens and the crayons. Once I get started I’ll be fine. I might blog about it. I might not. I don’t know yet. Some days I’ll probably go back to blogging about wonky parsnips.  

So. Today has been a bit scary and I’ve had a crazy dance teacher ranting in my head. I don’t know what the fame bit was all about. I really,really don’t want to be famous. I’d hate it (too much attention)and anyway that’s not going to happen. 

As for ‘ ..and right here is where you start paying..’ – well, maybe it is. Everything has a price. Who knows. But you know what? I’m going to do it anyway. So wish me luck. And please, somebody, give me a prod with a very long stick if I havn’t got anything done by this time next year.

So that’s my dream. What’s yours? And are you scared of following it? Or excited? What would happen if you, you know,started following it. Now there’s a thought…

Posted in Children's Illustration, Children's Writing, Illustration | Tagged | 12 Comments