Dahlias

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This year I thought I would try to grow some dahlias because I know that my Dad particularly likes them.  I knew absolutely nothing about them – and I mean NOTHING – apart from the fact that their flower heads looked pretty in a photo.  So I bought some seeds and planted a small number.  Five seeds germinated, I transplanted them, and they flourished into the small plants you can see on the bottom shelf in the photograph above.

 

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The weeks passed, the dahlias grew larger and I transplanted them again, this time into large pots, as you can see in the photographs above.

 

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It’s lovely to watch them growing ever taller and bushier.

 

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It will also be interesting to learn how much they do or do not thrive in pots.  One of the bonuses is that when we have had windy weather we have been able to move them to more sheltered spots temporarily.

 

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False-Bottomed-Seed-Tray

Floor space is at a premium in my greenhouse, and since that is where the majority of my plants’ containers stand I have to be a bit creative about how I use that space. (Hence, me trying to train pumpkins and the like to grow vertically!) Obviously some plants last longer than others so a certain amount of juggling is required not only with the space but with the containers themselves, too.

I love those window-box style troughs you can get, and I’ve been making use of several of them this year, both outside and on my greenhouse floor where I have some filled with dwarf sunflower, carrot and salad plants. With the troughs all full and the floor a bit crammed, but wanting to keep some continuity with my salad planting, I needed to come up with another alternative. Since my seed trays are so flimsy they nearly split if you look at them, I decided they might be my best bet for a bit of improvisation. So my “False-Bottomed Seed-Tray” was born!

DSCF8067Dwarf sunflower plants in a trough inside my greenhouse.

I filled one seed tray with compost. Then I cut most of the bottom out of a second seed tray, leaving a rim around the edge inside (though I must say it left some sharp edges – Ouch!). Having watered the contents of the first tray, not least to find the compost’s level once it had settled, I placed the cut away tray on top. With a layer of compost in the “bottom” of the bottomless tray, to hold it in place, I sprinkled a thin, discreet layer of potting compost on the top and watered it. Though it took a bit of careful handling, my False-Bottomed-Seed-Tray sits on the staging nicely, so it doesn’t take up any more floor space.

Having scored myself an extra container, however makeshift, I sowed my next batch of “Rondo” carrot, “Scarlet Globe” radish, spring onion, salad rocket and “Green Salad Bowl” lettuce seeds into it. My thinking was that this arrangement would give enough depth for these plants to grow in, and I could have a small number of several things in the one “container”. This seemed to me an easy enough process to repeat a couple of weeks later, or whenever suitable, in order to have a constant supply of these types of plants. Providing, of course, that all grew well. An added bonus was that nothing got wasted! The piece I had cut out of the original seed tray is now indoors on my windowsill, awaiting some damp kitchen paper and cress and mustard seeds!

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As the days and weeks went by, I watered the “top” tray whenever it looked like the compost and seedlings needed it, but I only watered the “bottom” tray a couple of times a week, or more if it was particularly hot. While wanting to keep it moist enough to maintain a deeper but united seedbed, I didn’t want to saturate it and hamper any drainage from the top layer.

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Thankfully, a handsome number of seeds came through and developed. We’ve eaten rocket and radishes from the tray. The onions and carrots have come through but are still maturing. However, the lettuce seedlings never came through. Though I’m disappointed about that, I don’t think it is down to the nature of the container because I’ve had problems getting these seeds to germinate in the past. Sometimes it has worked, sometimes it hasn’t.

Continuity continues!

Customized Dungaree Shorts

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For years I have liked the idea of having a pair of dungaree shorts.  Last year I saw some I liked but they cost more than I wanted to pay so I kept waiting, hoping they would be reduced in a sale.  But they weren’t.  When the exact same ones reappeared this year I thought I’d got a second chance with them.  There they were in my virtual shopping basket, but those numbers kept dancing around in front of my eyes.  It still felt like too much money to pay.  Also there was something that was a little contrived about a decoration on them and I thought that would either date or I’d get fed up with it over time.  These doubts were all the justification I needed to choose a cheaper, plainer option.  Not least because I prefer to add my own decorations to the denim items, in particular, in my wardrobe – a little habit I’ve had for over twenty years.  My latest acquisition merely became my latest victim!

The denim has stretch in it, so I had to be a bit careful I didn’t end up with bulges or wrinkles when I sewed on the patches I’d made.  Then I put together a pair of patchwork borders and joined one to the bottom of each of the legs.  Since I attached them on just above the hem that was already there I wasn’t as concerned about the stretch issue in that area.  The borders have added a few inches of length to the legs, which I’m pleased about because they were originally shorter than I wanted them to be.  Before I’d bought the dungarees, I had had my heart set on adding a bit of embroidery to them.  When I realised the denim was stretchy I thought that might not be possible.  Until it occurred to me that the “lazy daisy” embroidery stitch allows for flexibility.  So I scattered my “lazy daisies” over areas of the front and back of these dungaree shorts for the finishing touch.

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Now I’m just waiting (again) for the hot weather to come back (again!)! 😀

Glass Jars

One evening a few months ago I was struck by the reflections and shadows a group of empty jam jars were casting on the surface of my white desk and the off-white wall behind it.

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So much so I decided I wanted to capture the little scene straightaway.

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Grabbing a sketchbook, I made a quick sketch using biros.  Then I decided I’d like to turn it into a painting.

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The scene was not completely black, grey and white, as there were also some subtle hints of other colours visible.

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Not wanting the painting to look solely like a tonal sketch on this occasion, I was keen to add these tiniest accents of colour.

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That said, because I usually love to employ lots of bright colours, I did like the idea of having a very scaled down palette for a change.

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As a result, there are just a few vague yellow, green and blue highlights seeping into the glass and the shadows and reflections.

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Acrylics on 9″ x 12″ canvas.

Peeping Tomatoes!

In recent weeks the tomatoes have been ripening and more have been burgeoning in their wake.  Now they peep at me through their plant’s leaves.  There are the “Beefsteak Costoluto Florentino” tomatoes which are very juicy, full of flavour, have a high flesh to skin ratio, and are gorgeous sliced in a bap or sandwich.

 

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Then there are the cheeky little “Garden Pearl” tomatoes, cherry-like in size and ideal for growing in a pot.

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And last but not least there is my Identity Crisis Tomato Plant!  This one masqueraded as a rosemary plant for a little while, following a seed mix-up.  After a little while its leaves started to look like those of a tomato plant.  It wasn’t long before it started to have the distinct whiff of a tomato plant.  Hey presto, it is a tomato plant!  Yet because this discovery was a little late coming to light, I had already transplanted all the tomato seedlings I wanted for this year.  So the plant stayed in its smaller pot.  And stayed.  But it looked so sturdy and robust!  It seemed a crime to just throw it away.  Besides, the other plants in the greenhouse were looking on, wondering what I might do with it, weren’t they?  I couldn’t be seen to be mistreating one of their kin, could I?  There was no option but to transplant this tomato plant, too, albeit several weeks after I’d transplanted the other ones.  Could this delay account for the fact that the tomatoes – alleged cherry tomatoes! – on this particular plant are larger than those on the other “Garden Pearl”* plant?  I wouldn’t be surprised.

*I did get the seeds mixed up previously, but I do know for sure that this plant could not be a “Beefsteak” tomato.

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Camper Van Shorts

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“It’s all in the preparation,” they say.  Well, sometimes there’s nothing quite like a trial run.  I have been wanting to make myself a new pair of trousers.  The material is within my possession, as is a new pattern, but I hadn’t made the leap and gotten on with it.  So I thought I’d try to make a pair of shorts, what with it being summer and all.  That way, I thought, I’d have a bit of an idea about what I was doing before I begin making the trousers.  Which is just as well, given that I bought an assortment of themed material for the trousers but not a very large amount, so I doubt there will be much surplus.  Nothing like leaving little room for error! 😀

I am crazy about old campers, and would you believe that I came across all sorts of camper themed material?  Loving bright colours, as I do, I opted for two pieces of the same patterned fabric but with two different background colours.  For the pockets and part of the waistband I have used some lovely bright stripes which pick out some of the stripes on the fronts of some of the vans nicely.

Now I just hope there will be enough good weather to wear them in before this summer is out! 🙂

Spring Storm Brewing Beyond Oilseed Rape Field

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On Easter Monday morning I awoke, sat up, and was struck by the vivid colours I could see outside, framed by my window. A brooding mass of threatening clouds amassed towards the horizon. Between my vantage point and there the oilseed rape, growing in the field rolling down the hill outside, was on bloom. The bright yellow flowers looked like a sea of sunshine, in spite of the moody sky.

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Immediately, I knew I wanted to try to capture those colours, that scene, that moment. So I rushed to collect my colouring pencils and started sketching away, just enough to gather the information I wanted to remember before the wind would disturb the formation in the sky. And it wasn’t long before it was all different, sunshine peeping through certain crevasses in the clouds and hiding behind their bulges elsewhere.

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No matter. I was able to record enough to help me to create the little painting that I had in mind – another small snapshot on canvas of a fleeting moment.

DSCF7797“Spring Storm Brewing Beyond Oilseed Rape Field” – acrylics on 7″ x 5″ canvas board.

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Jack Be Little, Jack Be Large, Jack Be Ornamental!

It seems to me that I do have a bit of a fascination with pumpkins.  Perhaps it is their gorgeous fiery colour – orange being one of my favourite colours.  Or maybe it is that they have come to be a favourite representation of autumn, a season that could be sad, for saying goodbye to summer and hello to winter, but for the gorgeous colours it wears.  So for the second year I have been trying to grow pumpkins in containers.  This year I have moved them out of big pots into big bags, I have used new seeds instead of seeds rescued from the previous year’s Jack O’Lantern, and I am trying to grow two different varieties.  Anxiously I watch their progress, cheering each little success, obsessing over any failings, and generally hoping for a better result than last year’s string of ever decreasing, ever mouldering leaves and no pumpkin!

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It’s a joy for me to see the luscious leaves of my “Jack Be Little” plant sprawling across the shading inside the greenhouse.  They took it upon themselves to climb that way.  As long as they don’t pull anything down, I’m happy to let them.  😀

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A tiny little pumpkin is on the way.  Already I picked one a few weeks ago that was maybe a couple of inches wide.  It was orange and stayed the same size for a while so I didn’t think it would become the hand held size the seed instructions suggested.  Thinking it might only sap the plant’s energy and deteriorate, itself, I thought it best to pick it.

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I love it when the big bright flowers bloom, like this one on my “Jack O Lantern” plant.  They hold such hope and promise.

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This is the beauty that caused my whole plant to slide and slump the other week!  It’s getting larger and heavier and darkening up a treat!

And to add to the family…

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…here is an ornamental eggplant.  A dear friend of mine sent me some seeds from Canada and this is the result so far.  I transplanted the plant into this pot last week but I think I will need to transplant it on again into a larger pot very soon.  Unfortunately something has decided to treat one of the leaves as a snack bar, but I’m hoping the hover flies might help remedy that.  Fingers crossed.

I can’t wait to see how they all turn out!

April Early Moon Chases Set Sun

Back in April I looked out of the window one evening and saw a quite new moon on its slide down to the horizon.

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There was a pale blue sky, deep enough to remind me of the vague warmness that the early spring day had possessed, yet icy enough to hint at the cool night to come.

DSCF7766The sun had gone down only minutes before, leaving the moon to gleam ever so slightly above where the sun had appeared to be, and casting a spectrum of violets and pinks in its wake.

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The land below was already starting to look dark in the fading light, as were distant trees, scratching up at the sky.

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Bobbles of blossom, full of their spring promise, fluttered in the still near bald hedgerows and trees as the evening breeze breathed through them.

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That evening I felt inspired.  Inspired by the light, the moon, the sky, the sunset, and most of all by the unfolding spring.  Another beginning had begun.

And so I painted this painting, “April Early Moon Chases Set Sun”.

DSCF7793Acrylics on 12″ x 9″ canvas board.  Original and prints available.  Please contact: fidgetybutterfly@outlook.com