In a Vase on Monday: Diva

It’s Monday again, and time to go out in the garden to see what I can find for a vase for Cathy’s “In a Vase on Monday” meme.

The curtain rises

The curtain rises

Foliage has been catching my eye this week, especially with the heavy dew every morning. And not just the autumn colours, but also the shapes. I cut some fresh garlic mustard leaves (Alliaria petiolata) first of all, and a slightly mottleded Brunnera leaf. Then I picked a couple of Bergenia leaves that have already turned red, and some pale green aquilegia foliage too.

Autumnal background scenery

Autumnal background scenery

One piece of Sedum, which has turned a lovely deep red already, three Persicaria (Polygonum!) flowers and a few grasses were all I needed to complete The Look!

Flirting with the camera

Flirting with the camera

I love the dramatic look of this tall vase with the high collar and feathery adornment which really reminded me of a diva standing on stage!

On stage

On stage

This vase has made me aware of how leaf shape can play a role in an arrangement, as well as colour, texture etc.

Blushing in the applause

Blushing in the applause

I am also learning that the choice of vessel can add tremendously to an overall effect too

A perfect performance

A perfect performance

The Persicaria is still flowering beautifully – since early July it has been making an impact with its flowers, but the dramatic foliage is visible much earlier. The colour is very intense too, even in poor light.

Taking a bow

Taking a bow

Do go and visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, where you will find her own creation for today, as well as lots more vases linked in from around the world.

Tuesday View (7th October)

Fog and mist are common here in autumn, and today the sunshine barely made it through for more than a few minutes, but luckily I was there with my camera when it did!

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Not much change since last week, but the Japanese acer is getting prettier by the day…

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… and the rose that I wanted to get rid of earlier this year has new buds…

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I think the rose has convinced me it can stay.

:)

Do your plants talk to you?

In a Vase on Monday: Moonlight

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Last night, as I walked down the garden with a plate full of goodies for the hedgehogs, I was struck by the beauty of the night… an owl was hooting in the distance, deer were calling across the valley, there was rustling in the leaves and bushes around me, the mist and dew made everything sparkly and slightly ghostly, yet when I looked up the sky was clear and the (almost) full moon was bright. That was the inspiration for this vase, as I noticed the asters glowing with the light from the house, my torch, and the moon.

Moonlight

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So this morning I picked some of the lilac asters that I haven’t been able to name, as well as some of my Aster pyrenaeus ‘Lutetia’. Then some silvery foliage: lavender, perovskia, buddleia.

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Creamy, dreamy

The last two Japanese anemones added to the dreamy theme, and the white zinnias (they are still hanging on!) are to portray the creamy moon…

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On a whim, the Heuchera flower went in last, as I passed it on the patio.

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 The resulting vase makes me feel very calm, and reminds me that nature is my inspiration.

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, who hosts the “In a Vase on Monday” meme – take a look at some of the vases linked on her post again!

Wishing you all an inspired week!

A Butterfly Diary

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Keeping a Butterfly Diary this year has essentially been an enjoyable pastime; the waiting and watching, running for my camera, clambering through the rockery in unsuitable footwear, or thumbing through my butterfly guide while lying in the grass on a warm summer’s day…

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But it has also been very educational. I knew very little beforehand, and was unable to name many of the visitors to my garden. And reading up on certain butterflies meant I learned about their foodplants, migratory habits, number of broods in a year, overwintering etc etc. Overall it has been a lovely activity, and I hope to repeat it next year. This will probably be the last butterfly post this season, with numbers already dwindling as the nights get colder and days shorter. We often get very foggy or misty days in autumn too, which prevent the sun from warming up the garden enough for most butterflies.

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So let’s celebrate these last visitors and in planning our future plant or bulb purchases, spare a thought for the butterflies’ favourite flowers!

Early September was warm but damp, humid in fact. The only butterflies I saw were the cabbage whites, red admirals that have been around most of the summer, and still the Hummingbird Hawk-moths (Macroglossum stellatarum, Taubenschwänzchen). These creatures are fascinating to watch! Here is one I observed in the middle of September. They are pretty fast – longer stops would mean their wing muscles would cool down too much…

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They return to the same plants at the same times every day – especially on warm and sunny days.

For more pictures take a look here, and for tips on attracting them to your garden look here.

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A single Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Hauhechel-Bläuling) turned up in the middle of the rockery mid-month, also on the Centranthus ruber. Can you spot it?

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I can’t stress enough just how valuable this plant is in my garden. Not only does it flower all summer, it attracts so many butterflies and insects too! You may have noticed that many of the  butterflies I have shown over the past few months have been on the Centranthus.

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So, for a change, a different plant is the background here for the European Peacocks (Aglais io/Inachis io, Tagpfauenauge), which always turn up reliably to relish on the Sedums and Michaelmas Daisies (see the photo I posted yesterday).

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Those colours are exquisite – I wonder if they have any idea just how beautiful they are! These markings are actually supposed to make predators afraid of them… see this lovely video here for an example.

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They are our most long-lived butterflies too, surviving for up to a year if a mild overwintering place is found.

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Then we had a Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera, Mauerfuchs) visit the Sedum too. The Wall Browns like to bask in the sun with their wings open, especially on rocks or (surprise!) walls. They are typical for stony or rocky hillsides like those around us, with various grasses as their foodplant.

WallBrown

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I also saw the first Comma since spring (Polygonia c-album/Nymphalis c-album, C-Falter). I don’t know why I didn’t see any in the summer…

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It has a very intricate outline and such rich colouring on the upper wings, but the underside of the wings resembles dead leaves – perfect camouflage.

Can you see the comma mark on the closed lower wing in the photo below?

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The Comma hibernates, and can usually be seen flying from April to November.

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Sometimes the German names are prettier than the English, sometimes the reverse: in this case the English name wins hands down: the Queen of Spain Fritillary  (Issoria lathonia, Kleine Perlmutterfalter)!

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This was one of the rare occasions I have actually seen butterflies on my Verbena bonariensis, despite what a butterfly magnet everyone says it is. The silvery edges to this fritillary’s wings may have contributed to it being given such a regal name.

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One of its larval foodplants is the wild field pansy. They fly in three or even four generations in Central Europe, overwintering here in the caterpillar form, but they may also be one of the btterflies (like the Red Admiral or the Hummingbird Hawk-moths) that migrate from warmer climates over the Alps in the spring. Amazing to think of such tiny creatures soaring to heights over 2500 metres in order to cross the mountains…

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That was it for September. If I see any different ones in October I will be sure to post about them.

In the meantime I have been looking back at my photos for the year and trying to decided which butterfly I love best: probably the Peacock – simply because it is familiar, colourful, and a reliable visitor in autumn – my favourite time of year.

I’d love you to tell me what your favourite butterfly is, and whether you have seen it this summer?

Some nice links:

Tuesday View (30th September)

September was a very kind month to my garden, with regular rain, damp and (mostly) mild nights, and plenty of sunshine in between.  But today the sun barely managed to get through…

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I just noticed that the patio is visible from this angle, with my pixie – can you see him? And my newly planted patio container (see below): a bargain bin at the nursery meant the short, unnamed Achillea cost me just 1 Euro! I’m not sure how hardy the Carex will be, but sedums seem to work in most of my containers all year round. (The photo was taken yesterday – a beautiful sunny day!)

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 The dull skies didn’t stop the butterflies from making an appearance today though…

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How was your September?

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P.S. I’ll be posting my Butterfly Diary for September tomorrow, so hope you can stop by again.

:)

In a Vase on Monday: Autumn Loveliness

With it being Michaelmas today, I really ought to have used some of my Michaelmas daisies for my Monday vase.

Michaelmas

But they have featured in two vases recently, so time for something different: Euonymus europaeus, otherwise known as Spindle trees (and as “Bishop’s hats” in German!). They seem to have sprouted up everywhere in our little piece of woodland this year, and the berries are currently at their best.

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While looking for some nice Euonymus branches, I also noticed that some of the lovely creeping vine people often plant here (Parthenocissus) has found its way into the wild and has started growing up one of the bushes. (Is it called Virginia Creeper in the UK?) As I snipped a bit off I saw the seedheads of some tangled Old man’s beard – Clematis vitalba – too. I don’t cherish this plant if it invades my garden – which it frequently does – but I do love those fluffy seedheads!

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All this colour and loveliness went to my head, and I created a Haiku for today too!

Bishop hats hanging

on spindles, spinning silken

old man’s beard; autumn.

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This arrangement will not come indoors, but will brighten our patio now that there is more and more shade during the day.

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 The cyclamen was a bargain from my local supermarket and I was tempted by its deep red colour. I am pretty good at killing off cyclamens – my record being within 48 hours – so I wonder how long this one will last on the patio!

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We had another misty morning, but by midday the sun broke through and warmed me as I started emptying summer containers and washing pots. And every time I returned to the patio my vase made me smile…

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Many thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme “In a Vase on Monday“. The challenge to find materials from the garden for a vase each week has made me look at the flowers and plants around me with new eyes!

Hope you have some sunshine this week too!

Cheese, Please! : Cheesecake and Berries

Sarah at The Garden Deli is hosting the Cheese Please! blog challenge this month, and because Sarah is one of my favourite bloggers I promised to join in. :)

Fromage Homage

The challenge for September is to prepare a dish that includes both cheese and fruit. Sarah suggested a German recipe…. well, after scouring recipe books, picking people’s brains and searching online, I decided there are no typical German dishes where cheese and fruit are combined…. except perhaps cheesecake?

So that’s the direction I went, although my recipe is certainly not a German one, coming from David Lebovitz: an American living in Paris!

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies and Berry Coulis

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Brownie recipe from David Lebovitz’s “Ready for Dessert” (highly recommendable, as is his blog: www.davidlebovitz.com)

Brownies:

  • 6 tbsps/ 85g butter
  • 4 oz/115g dark chocolate, shopped into smallish chunks
  • 2/3 cup  / 130g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup/70g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup/80g dark or milk chocolate chips

Cheesecake topping:

  • 8 oz/225g cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 tbsps/75g sugar

Line a 23cm/9 inch square caketin with greaseproof paper, and grease the paper with butter. Preheat oven to350°F/180°C

Melt butter and add chocolate. Stir on a low heat unil chocolate melts too. Add sugar, then eggs. Mix in flour, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract. Finally stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared tin and smooth out. Whisk together cheesecake ingredients and put dollops over top of brownie batter. Gently swirl in a little, but don’t overdo it!  Bake for 35-40 minutes until just set in the centre.

Leave to cool completely before removing from tin and slicing. Makes 9 pieces.

Berry Coulis (my recipe):

  • 375g fresh or frozen mixed berries (e.g. redcurrant, blueberry and raspberry)
  • 100-150g sugar (start with 100g and add to taste later, as it depends how sweet your choice of berries is)
  • 1tsp cornflour

Place berries, sugar and a dash of water in a pan and heat gently. Let simmer until fruit has collapsed, stirring now and then. Strain.

Mix cornflour with a little cold water to make a paste. Return puree to the pan and add cornflour, whisking constantly while bringing back to a simmer. Strain again and leave to cool. If a skin forms you can either stir it in or remove it.

Serve the brownies in a pool of coulis. I added a white chocolate mousse and some fresh berries for decoration.

I hope this hasn’t bent the rules too far, but there IS both fruit and cheese in this recipe!

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Enjoy!

You will be able to see a round-up of all the entries on Sarah’s site soon… in fact there is even still time to take part!

Thanks Sarah!

:)