In a Vase on Monday: Sugar and Lemons

Tomorrow is Pancake Day in the UK, and although the tradition of eating thin crepe-style pancakes on Shrove Tuesday does not seem to exist anywhere else in the world I have always made them wherever I have been – even when I lived in Japan I had a pancake party!

The traditional topping for these pancakes is lemon juice and sugar. Yes, there are plenty of other things you can put on your pancake, but not on Pancake Day. You can have maple syrup, nutella, bananas, etc any time of year. But tomorrow it’s simply lemon juice and sugar; the inspiration for the title for my vase this week…

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Every Monday I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her lovely meme where we are asked to find something from our garden and bring it indoors. Two days ago my first golden (lemony) crocus opened (Yippee!), so I knew I would have to bring some indoors.

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The tiniest ‘vase’ I could find was a miniature salt sellar, and since I had two I decided to pick a few (sugary) snowdrops too, which also immediately opened once brought into the warm house. There are only a few – most are still too small to pick.

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But these are not the only flowers I have this week. About three weeks ago I cut some Ribes sanguineum, remembering that when it is forced the normally deep pinky red flowers are white. In the course of the last week they have opened…

And another Amaryllis opened two days ago too – Amaryllis ‘Blossom Peacock’. A real beauty with a lovely straight stem.

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I shall do a round-up of all my Amaryllis/Hippeastrums once they have all flowered. So far I have had one or two flowering constantly since November. 🙂

Until Friday it had rained practically all week, so having flowers indoors is very cheering. I am looking forward to seeing a few more of my spring bulbs emerge this week, but first I am looking forward to my pancakes tomorrow. What will you have on yours? Sugar and lemon juice?

😉

A Very Short Day

To mark this short day I found a lovely, if somewhat sober sonnet by Edmond Holmes, from ‘The Triumph of Love’ collection, which I would like to share with you.

Like as the thrush in winter, when the skies
Are drear and dark, and all the woods are bare,
Sings undismayed, till from his melodies
Odours of Spring float the frozen air, –
So in my heart when sorrow’s icy breath
Is bleak and bitter and its frost is strong,
Leaps up, defiant of despair and death,
A sunlit fountain of triumphant song.
Sing on, sweet singer, till the violets come
And south winds blow; sing on, prophetic bird!
Oh if my lips, which are for ever dumb,
Could sing to men what my sad heart has heard,
Life’s darkest hour with songs of joy would ring;
Life’s blackest frost would blossom into Spring.

Moss

The winter solstice occurred here in Germany at 5.48am this morning. I was not up to experience the moment, although I doubt very much if anything would have marked the moment anyway. Since it is, quite simply, just a moment – albeit a moment many of us have been waiting for – and it is over in a tick and leaves that little itch of a thought behind… Yes, the days will not become noticeably longer for a couple of weeks yet, but they ARE getting longer. And do you sense that tinge of excitement at the thought of snowdrops, daffodils and tulips popping up in the garden to greet the spring?

We haven’t had winter yet though, so I mustn’t count my chickens…

I had in fact been looking forward to a snowy winter, but now I think I may be happier to forego snow and ice and skip straight ahead to the March winds and April showers! I have been reading how the winter appears to be just as mild in most of the US and UK too. And John at A Walk in the Garden in North Carolina has already spotted some daffodils in flower! Have you seen any daffodils yet?

Daffs

Whatever the weather, I wish you all a very happy and harmonious Christmas, full of all the things you wished for. And I look forward to seeing you in the New Year to share another year of my garden and kitchen with you and to be delighted by all your wonderful posts too.

Merry Christmas!

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In a Vase on Monday: Peace

I read last night that today is the UN International Day of Peace. What good such a day can do, I cannot imagine. I am sure we are all very much aware of the troubles all over the world right now, especially in the Middle East – up to ten thousand refugees (mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan) are entering Germany daily at the moment – but a day designated for thinking about the desperate need for more peace around the globe can certainly do no harm.

I therefore decided to take the theme of peace into my Monday vase this week – joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her weekly meme. Why not pop over and visit her and see Cathy’s creation and all the other vases linking in from around the world. Or join in and make your own contribution using materials from your garden!

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Cosmos “Purity” is the star of this vase – one of the cosmos that flowered well, albeit somewhat late this summer. It looks gorgeous against our clear blue sky this morning!

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I associate the colour white with peace, and another white flower I grew from seed is the Cleome. Unfortunately the flowers are now looking a bit tatty and the leaves have been almost completely devoured by caterpillars. The seeds are ripening and I shall scatter a few and save the rest for sowing next year.

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I have identified the custard yellow Echinacea above as “Aloha”, and decided to use it to contrast with the yellow centres of the Cosmos flowers.

Other flowers included are the white Achillea millefolium, which I planted last autumn and which has now got established despite the drought. Tough little plants!

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And the creamy Scabiosa ochroleuca – this sort spreads like mad in my well-drained soil and can get quite a handful, but is easy to pull out in spring.

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Various grasses fill out the vase with silvery and golden hues.

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To finish off on a serious note, a quote for today…

“I call on all warring parties to lay down their weapons and observe a global ceasefire. To them I say: stop the killings and the destruction, and create space for lasting peace.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Have a good week, and thanks for stopping by!

🙂

Happy Spring 2015!

The spring equinox occurs today at 11.45pm here and our weather has certainly been spring-like. If you are still waiting for your snow to melt then be comforted – spring will come to you very soon. Gardeners are patient souls, so enjoy the last few days of dreaming and garden inactivity before the season sweeps you away!

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My first tulips “Early Harvest” have been open for a few days now. During our partial solar eclipse this morning they actually closed up. It was amazing to watch as we had bright sunshine and clear skies. I didn’t have the special glasses to look at the sun, so I watched my tulips instead. Although there was only an hour or so when the light seemed slightly dimmed, the sun was still casting strong shadows. But the tulips closed… fascinating!

This tulip is a real winner. It opens very early, usually mid-March, on a short stem. Then the stem continues to grow as the flowers go on blooming and blooming, until April. They remain compact and sturdy, reaching about 25cm, so they would be ideal for containers too.

Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Early Harvest'

Tulipa kaufmanniana ‘Early Harvest’

The glowing mandarin orange colour may appear brash – in fact I was unsure the first few years if I really liked it. This is the spring version of marigolds! However, on an overcast day they reflect light and continue to glow even at dusk. A gorgeous splash of colour against the bare soil.

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Happy Spring!

The International Year of Soils

Did you know that 2015 has been designated International Year of Soils by the United Nations?

Logo of International Year of Soils 2015

I was a bit slow reacting to this, but then I finally got round to reading a few articles about it. And they got me thinking…

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“The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
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SOIL

DIRT        EARTH

MUD     MUCK

COMPOST

It is under our feet, maybe covered with concrete, gravel or tarmac, but it is everywhere and we rarely give it a thought. Okay, if you’re a gardener then you probably do think about it. You think about it being acid or alkaline, sandy or clay, stony, rich, poor, fertile, compact, organic and maybe a few more adjectives spring to mind. But on a grander scale what about soil erosion or desertification, contamination and pollution, soil degradation, increased salinity, soil management in developing countries…?

The aim of the IYS is to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions

Raising awareness is only the first step. After all, we are all very aware of global climate change and yet our governments still refuse to sign this or that agreement, to invest more in renewable energy, or to reduce subsidies for blatantly environmentally-damaging products and processes. But it is an important step as, at the end of the day, it is down to individuals to bring about change.

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“The fate of the soil system depends on society’s willingness to intervene in the market place, and to forego some of the short-term benefits that accrue from ‘mining’ the soil so that soil quality and fertility can be maintained over the longer term.”

Eugene Odum (US biologist known for his pioneering work on ecosystem ecology)

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The next stage promoted by this awareness campaign is to educate people about how important soil is for our ecosystems as a whole and how it affects not only our health, but also our economic welfare; sustainable soil management is the practical form of this educational process and must be invested in – worldwide – with the support of government policies and protective legislation.

The EU – after many years of deliberation – still does not have a cohesive soil governance policy, relying only on environmental policies and legislation of member states. Do we need a single policy? Or should soil governance be a regional issue? After all, the effects of poor soil management can have global repercussions…

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One square metre of rich soil can harbour as many as 1,000,000,000 organisms, including nematodes, bacteria, slugs, insects etc

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I Heart Soil English Image - Small

In Germany I have only been able to find a few events taking place to celebrate the Year of Soils – mostly rather dry-sounding lectures in distant cities.  But I have found a few links to interesting sites. In particular this one: http://saveoursoils.com/en

Please take a look at it. There is a wealth of information here, with some great short videos and a list of things you can do to help;

Buy organic

Garden organically

Eat less meat

Compost

Look out for more information and pass it on!

(e.g. Write a blog post about it, however long or short, or simply add a couple of links to interesting articles or videos)

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Did you know that earthworms can deposit up to 10 kilos per square metre per year of valuable worm droppings in the soil?

(Neither did I! 😉 )

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“We are able to breathe, drink, and eat in comfort because millions of organisms and hundreds of processes are operating to maintain a liveable environment, but we tend to take nature’s services for granted because we don’t pay money for most of them.”

Eugene Odum

Here are some other links. There really is so much information online, so this is just a selection of what I found recently:

Earthworm Society of Britain

Global Soil Week

Video “Support World Soil Day”

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification

The International Union of Soil Sciences

http://www.soilassociation.org/internationalyearofsoils

 So, have I got YOU thinking too now? I do hope so!