In a Vase on Monday: Lemon Star

When I walked into my dining room this morning I knew something was not quite right. It was only later, while having breakfast, that I noticed that the first of my Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) to flower this winter was bent over at a dangerous angle threatening to uproot the bulb and put the second bud at risk. So I cut it immediately and put it in a tall vase. Then I realised it is not only Boxing Day, but also Monday – serendipity! I have a vase to share with you after all!

‘Lemon Star’

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A neighbour gave me this bunch of red Amaryllis which are also lovely and cheerful on my windowsill.

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Do take a look at some of the other festive vases posted for Cathy’s meme on Rambling in the Garden.

🙂

A Very Happy Christmas!

The beautiful countryside around us has been shrouded in thick fog and covered in layer upon layer of frost for most of December. When I heard the lovely carol “In the bleak mid-winter” the other day I found it quite apt to describe our surroundings here – the earth is hard as iron (although it has thawed a little in places in the last 24 hours) and the water in the bird bath is hard as stone again. But no snow still. (Sigh)

So I’m afraid I cannot post any pretty photos of frost covered pine trees, glittering in the sun with a blue sky beyond…. but I can offer a glimpse of our black and white world instead.

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And I can wish you all a very Happy Christmas too!

I hope you have the opportunity to relax over the holidays, spend time with loved ones, read a good book or just chill out in front of a warm fireplace with a hot mug of tea…

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Many warm wishes to you all!

😀

 

In a Vase on Monday: Angelic

A small offering today, for the Monday meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

A couple of pinky brown Heuchera leaves, a hazel twig with tiny tightly closed catkins, one sprig of Miscanthus Adagio, a Fennel seed head, two Clematis tangutica seed heads, and a single white Cyclamen flower trimmed from a new houseplant. 😉

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The Cyclamen smells delicious – I have never had a scented one before which is why I chose this one to brighten up the winter days.

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Please forgive the grainy photos… light is scarce at the moment!

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The angel with the spade is a Willow Tree figure called ‘Angel of the Garden’ – a gift many years ago when these angel figurines first became popular. She stands over a small fossil I found in my rockery one day. And the plate with the seed heads painted on it was a gift to myself. 🙂

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The garden may be sleeping, but there are still remnants to be found… and still no sign of snow, despite the cold. Hope you are all staying warm and cosy!

Christmas Cashew Shortbread (Vegan)

I have been experimenting a bit with my Christmas cookie recipes again, and after discovering a bag of cashews were coming up to their  ‘use by’ date I decided to incorporate them into a cookie recipe instead of the more traditional almonds or hazelnuts.

They are just how shortbread should be – slightly salty, buttery, sugary and crunchy!

So if you are looking for a shortbread recipe with extra crispness and flavour this Christmas, here is my recipe.

Cashew Shortbread

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  • 115 g (1 stick) vegan butter
  • 75 g (2 1/2 oz) raw cashews, ground to a fine powdery ‘flour’
  • 125 g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
  • zest of an orange
  • 2 tsps cardamom (optional as the flavour was sadly lost during baking)
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and work the butter into the mixture with your finger tips until it is nice and crumbly. Bring the dough together into a ball, adding a drop of non-dairy milk or water only if necessary to make it stick. Then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350°F and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out your dough to about 4 or 5 mm (about 1/6th of an inch) and, using a very small cookie cutter (mine was 4 cm, or 1 1/2 inches), cut out your shapes. Place on the baking sheets and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Carefully move to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before storing.

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This is definitely my second favourite after my vanilla cookies. (By the way, I have updated my original recipe for the Vanillekipferl here, so they are also vegan now and just as good as ever too!)

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Are you doing any special baking this Christmas? What is your favourite sweet Christmas treat?

The Rocks in the Rockery (and the Tuesday View)

If you have seen summery pictures of my rockery in this year’s ‘Tuesday View’, you may be forgiven for wondering why I call it a rockery… Apart from the large rock in the foreground on the right there is hardly a rock in sight.

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The rockery in early August

But when you see this view in December it is quite a different story, and the rocks become a focus when the plants are no longer able to provide interest.

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Shapes, shadows, moss and wintergreen ground cover create a very different feel to the summer abundance of flora… especially on a frosty day like today.

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When I first cleared this area, which was covered in thick layers of ivy, I remember smiling as each rock was revealed. I particularly like this one with the little ‘window’, and try to keep it free of growth for most of the year.

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And this one too…

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Others vanish completely in summer, and in the shade of the perennials moss gains a grip, becoming more and more visible in the autumn as the surrounding plants die back.

Even on a grey day I can take pleasure in the rocks themselves. But when the sun shines on them they are even more attractive.

If we get snow in winter it can turn the rockery into a moon-like landscape for weeks. However, in a snowless winter I often look at it despairingly, convinced everything has died and it will never be green again! Do you get that feeling too?

And then I need to look at some of the photos taken in summer, to remind me on a dreary winter’s day of what it will feel like to step outside, barefoot, and walk across the warm patio paving to the steps – those steps from which photos of the Tuesday View are always taken – and sit down with a cup of coffee and look and dream and listen to the sounds of nature.

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The rockery in June

To finish off, a short video from June last year at the bottom of the rockery…

Both summer and winter views are lovely in their different ways. But I know which view I prefer… 😉

What is your favourite feature in your garden on a dreary grey winter’s day?

In a Vase on Monday: Recycling

This second week of December I am once again joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with a Monday vase. As it is very cold and very frosty I decided to just add a few snippets to the remains of last week’s vase with the lovely Mahonia at the centre.

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I added some Hypericum and some sprigs of lavender, box and pine. The grasses and seed heads from last week were also reused.

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A Christmas tealight holder was used as a container and all the other paraphernalia is my seasonal windowsill decoration. (Elvin the Elk is making his annual appearance on this blog!)

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If you think there is nothing to pick in your garden, why not go and take a second look… it is amazing what you may find! 😉

P.S. I have also got a few small branches of Forsythia in a jug, hoping they will open by Christmas Eve… if you have already had a cold spell and cut a sprig from spring-flowering shrubs or cherry or apple trees now, they should flower indoors within 3 -4 weeks. 🙂