Finding work for idle hands: making, baking and more.

Summer Colours Week June 26, 2012

Filed under: Flowers and plants,This and that — lauravw @ 10:41 am

Thanks to Ali for pointing out that it’s Summer Colours Week on Flickr. As a result of reading her post, I decided to take part. So far I’ve added this picture of the gardens at Hampton Court Palace for the green day – yellow is today, then pink, red and blue take up the rest of the week.

Whether you are taking part or not, I highly recommend having a look at the Flickr group – I really enjoyed looking through all the green photos from yesterday, and found it’s relaxing to look through lots of pictures of the same colour (particularly true for green, I suspect). Thanks to Poppytalk for organising it!

Now I’m off to find something yellow to photograph…


Just add water June 10, 2012

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 3:35 pm

We are going to add a pond to our garden! A pond! I’m very excited about this, as you may have spotted. I don’t do gardening as such, but I take the Don Draper role in that I creative direct the process: put one of these there, add more purple plants, that kind of thing.

And while I love for our garden to look beautiful, which it does, for me the main goal is to encourage wildlife. So we have plenty of birdfeeders, a birdbath, shrubs that have berries on them, and parts of the garden that are left somewhat wild and untidy. We have two compost bins, and we don’t use pesticides, much to my father’s disappointment – he would love us to do something about our lawn, but for me the fact that it is made up of all sorts of clover and mosses and daisies is a much better thing than if it were grass alone.

We’ve had regular visits from foxes, and on warm evenings at dusk you can see bats flying around. For an all-too-brief period last year we had a hedgehog (who sadly has not been seen this year – we suspect a new fence that was put up two doors down may have blocked his route to our garden. I’m still looking out for him though, and it would make my year if he reappeared).

Even though we don’t (yet) have a pond, we occasionally see frogs, and I have a little ceramic house for them to shelter in. It’s tucked inside a flowerbed and there is greenery growing over it, so I like to think it’s a nice environment for them.

But we’ve decided we can do better, and so a pond is planned. There is a good spot for it go in, away from the sort of trees that will drop leaves into in, and with a good amount of sun reaching it. We read that wildlife ponds don’t need mechanical aeration in the way that fish ponds do, which is good news. We found some pre-formed pond shells that you can buy, and then you simply dig the right shape of hole and put the pond into to it. (When I say that you simply dig the hole, I expect there’s a lot more to it than that – but happily this bit of the project will not be falling to the creative director…)

Then you need plants, ideally native ones. I found a supplier online who does starter kits for ponds containing native species, and I think that’s what I’m going to order (they’ve won awards at the Chelsea Flower Show, an event that unfortunately passed me by this year).

Ideally a wildlife pond needs to be 40cm or deeper, but unfortunately the space we have available limits the pond size we can use, and the smaller pre-formed ponds are less deep than the larger ones. We could build our own pond, but the pre-formed ones are appealing to us (we’re new to this, and so don’t want to take on too much), and they have a couple of features that I think will be really useful. One is a wildlife ramp – a sort of sloping bit that provides an escape route for any animals who are unlucky enough to fall in. The other is the fact that the pre-formed ponds have several different levels within them, which is useful for planting on – some plants are better suited to the shallower part of the pond, while others float on the surface.

We hope to get everything ordered in the next two weeks, and then work can start. I’ll be taking plenty of pictures – I’ve already taken a few showing the spot the pond is going to go in. And if you’re thinking of creating a pond for wildlife, there is an excellent (and free) leaflet available on the Natural England website.


In miniature May 21, 2012

Filed under: Flowers and plants — lauravw @ 5:15 pm

We went shopping to buy a new kettle last weekend (ours have a history of leaking, making dangerous electrical noises, and generally giving up the ghost).

We didn’t buy a kettle. But I didn’t come home empty-handed: I bought a small glass house to go in the bathroom. One of those things you don’t know you need until you see it. It was a bit of a worry bringing it home on the bus, but it made it here intact, thankfully.

The we decided it needed tiny plants to go inside it, so it was good timing that there was a plant sale in our little town this weekend. We found a couple of stalls selling alpine plants and cacti, and the cactus man was very helpful. So we bought these three, and now we’ve got to try to keep them alive. (Like kettles, house plants don’t do well in our home. Other than orchids, which are much hardier than they appear.)

He says they like the sun, so that means we have to keep moving them into the sun every day. In their fragile little glass house. Very carefully.

You can see the little house here – we got it from Debenhams, should you be in the mood for making such a frivolous purchase…


A loveliness of ladybirds April 1, 2012

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 2:27 pm

We’ve had a lot of ladybirds in the garden so far this Spring.

The pictures here show three different kinds, which I found this afternoon – all pottering around in the same plant.

The one at the top is a black harlequin – and the one at the bottom right is a red version of the species. They are persona non grata at the moment, having arrived on our shores and swiftly started to take over from one of the more beloved varieties – the seven spot, pictured bottom left.

“The harlequin is an Asian species brought in for pest control, but which has now become a pest itself.” BBC News.

In our garden, I think the native species is winning at the moment – I’ve seen far greater numbers of the seven spot than I have of the harlequins.

If you’re feeling brave, you might like to watch this video on the BBC, which shows some trees absolutely covered in ladybirds – to the point where the trees look like they have red bark. Yikes. This video was where I learnt that the collection noun for ladybirds is a loveliness – a fact I will try to remember in case I ever end up on Mastermind…


Fieldfare January 15, 2012

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 8:01 pm

I didn’t make a new year resolution to not post here, it just happened that way.

I thought you might like to see this picture of a fieldfare in our garden, brought here by the sudden change in the weather. They don’t live in England year-round, and it’s rare that we get one in the garden. We could see a few more of them a few gardens away, in a large tree that was providing a perch to plenty of fieldfares and redwings, who seem to travel round together.

While the cold snap has brought us these welcome visitors, it’s also done a number on my daffodils, which had bloomed rather early, fooled by the mild weather we’d been experiencing. If I’d known how much damage the frost would do to them, I would have harvested them and put them in a vase. A lesson learned for next time.


Nottingham’s secret gardens June 27, 2011

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Places to go — lauravw @ 8:42 pm

On Sunday afternoon, in the sweltering heat, I went with a friend to another open gardens event.

This time, it was in The Park, a prestigious, partly gated community right in the centre of Nottingham. It’s an interesting place: it really is right in the heart of the city, and yet it’s full of mature trees and open spaces.

Houses in The Park are some of the most expensive in the region – here’s a four bedroom, semi-detached house for £1.5million. Here’s a slightly less pricey one, complete with turrets. The houses sit in what used to be the deer park of Nottingham Castle, and many of them are Victorian (though over the years some modern monstrosities have been built alongside them!).

We enjoyed pottering around the area and seeing inside some of the beautiful gardens – many of which are so surrounded by mature trees that they really don’t feel like they are in such an urban area. As ever with these events, we would have loved to have seen inside some of the houses. A few in particular really captured my attention and seemed like amazing places to live. There were children on duty selling drinks and ice creams* in a few of the gardens, and it made me wonder what it must be like to grow up there.

In other Nottingham-related news, Wollaton Hall and all of its grounds are currently closed to the public, while they film the new Batman movie there. I imagine filming anything was rather a challenge today, since it has been sweltering all day long. Even now at almost 10pm it’s still hot and humid.

*I had ice cream in one garden, and strawberries and cream in another. It was so hot that I think I could have happily eaten an ice cream in each and every garden we went into.


The great outdoors June 12, 2010

Filed under: Flowers and plants — lauravw @ 4:26 pm

There’s a serious counterfeiting problem in the Leicestershire countryside – this picture was taken in my mum’s garden. I’m not sure what Orla Kiely Inc would think about it!


Thank goodness for spring! March 19, 2010

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Nature and wildlife — lauravw @ 2:16 pm

It was a long, snowy, icy and sometimes gloomy winter, and so the arrival of spring feels even more special for me this year.

Today I took a walk through our local park with my camera, to try to capture a little bit of what it looks like covered in a carpet of crocuses. There’s one patch of the park that is completely covered in them, and it looks wonderful this week.

Other signs of spring are all around: we’ve had a daffodil bloom in the garden today, and there are one or two bees buzzing around out there. I even saw a little butterfly – the first I’ve seen this year. And a week or so ago there was a thrush singing in the same tree each morning as I walked to work.

You can see more of the crocuses here.


Floral flavours July 22, 2009

Filed under: Flowers and plants,Food — lauravw @ 6:37 pm

Yorkshire Lavender FarmEven if you don’t have a vegetable patch, you might still find something edible in your garden: flowers.

The Cafe Flora cookbook details the many kinds of flower that are in fact edible – and I was surprised by just how many there are. The one that jumped out at me was lavender – I love lavender, and have all sorts of lavender-scented goodies around my home (lavender cleaning products; home-made lavender sachets; Botanics lavender room spray…). The picture on the right was taken when I visited the Yorkshire Lavender Farm.

I have even eaten lavender – while on holiday I tried lavender creme brulee at Cafe Flora in Seattle, and I was interested to read about the lavender waffles they serve there. I don’t have a waffle-maker, and so lavender-infused pancakes were the next best thing I could think of to try.

Lavender pancakes


  • One batch of pancake mix (using Nigella Lawson’s recipe)
  • A few stems of fresh lavender from your garden – English lavender will work best
  • Honey to serve


In creating a recipe for ready-made pancake mix, Nigella Lawson has saved us all some trouble: you make up a batch of the dry ingredients, and then when you wake up on a weekend morning you simply have to mix in a little egg, milk and butter.

It’s at this point that you can add the lavender: use around one teaspoon of chopped lavender for every 150g of pancake mix. Remove the flowers and discard the stalks – you may also wish to chop the flowers into smaller pieces (this will make them easier to eat, and it will also release more of the lavender fragrance into your pancakes).

Cook your pancakes according to Nigella’s instructions, and then drizzle some fresh honey over them when you serve them – if you’re lucky you’ll be able to find some locally-produced lavender honey.


Passion flowers July 19, 2009

Filed under: Flowers and plants — lauravw @ 10:41 am

Passion flowerThis morning I was lucky enough to be out in the garden just as a passion flower was opening. I’d been out there for a few minutes and noticed that only one was in bloom today, but when I glanced over at the plant a few minutes later, I spotted that a second flower was opening up. The petals unfolded slowly – you couldn’t quite see them moving most of the time, but occasionally there was a little jolt and you’d see the petals and stamens moving into place. The whole process took perhaps five or ten minutes, and a bee was very quick to pay a visit to the newly-opened flower.

I’ve looked at these flowers a bit over the last few weeks – they each seem to be open for only a day, which is amazing when you see the amount of detail and effort that must go into producing each flower.

I took this photo yesterday, so this particular flower has already completed its work and the petals have folded back up.