Back to Scotland

fernWe have a plan (subject to change) to visit the UK every other year, and this was the year.  We wanted to go back to Scotland, and after our visits to Neolithic sites in Ireland and Malta, we were interested in more.  Plus, Alison has always wanted to see Balmoral, the queen’s summer residence, and visiting times were limited.  So it evolved:  Edinburgh to revisit museums and St. Giles (Dunnett alert!), Royal Deeside to visit castles and see beautiful country, and Orkney for Neolithic stuff (and more Dunnett).  June of 2017, here we go!

Our Aer Lingus flight took us to Dublin with an early morning flight on to Edinburgh.  We had an empty seat on the way over to Dublin, so we both slept better, but it’s still no fun.  On the other hand, you wake up and you’re in Scotland, always a plus.  It was cool and rainy when we arrived. We took a taxi to Castle View Guest House, just a few streets over from our old haunt,  Frederick House.

The entryway was not inviting, with bags of laundry and groceries piled on the stairs.  But our room was a good size and the bathroom was modern and spacious.  Since we could not check in at 10 a.m. we simply dropped our bags and began walking (stumbling) along the street.  castle2We loved revisiting the views of Edinburgh castle and other memories of our previous trip as we walked along Princes Street to the National Gallery.  We were drooping but stopped to look at the skating minister skating ministerand the Stag at Bay Monarch of the Glen, a famous Scottish picture that we had missed last time around.  Ford, James, active 19th C; Stag at Bay (Monarch of the Glen)(Thanks, ArtUK.org, for the link).  He really is quite magnificent for all that he’s a Scottish cliche.

Outside the museum we came upon a piper, touristy but still fun to see (with the Scott monument in the background, just as grimy as ever).

 

We had a quick lunch at the gallery cafe, and finally it was time to go back to the hotel, where we had two hours of sleep before dinner.  We defaulted to the Mussel Inn on a busy street on a Friday night.  Deep fried whitebait, our starter, luckily turned out to be tiny little fish, eyes still intact, crunchy and delicious, followed by something fishy and washed down with wine.  Sitting outside, we watched the light on the grey stone buildings mussel innand the people going by.  We saw at least two “hen parties” complete with sashes declaring the mother of the bride and the maid of honor, et al.  Lots of drinking seems to be involved.  We found our way back home and slept like the dead.

Market and churches

(Note:  written last fall but never posted.)

We had a leisurely start to the day, with no tours booked, so we took our time with coffee, news and breakfast.  Then we walked through the Campo to buy dinner for this evening – eggs, sausage, bread, arugula and a strange green called puntarelle that the nice vendor taught me how to cook  with garlic, oil, anchovies, salt, pepper and aceto (vinegar, pronounced ashetto, not achetto).puntarelle

There were lots of other delicious vegetables we could have bought,

but we tried to keep it simple because, by the end of the day, we have no energy for major cooking.

Today is a church day, because churches are where the art is.  We started with Bernini’s famous St. Teresa in Ecstasy in the high baroque church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.  The sculpture depicts the moment when the saint was pierced by the sword of an angel as she was overcome by the love of God.  Whew!  Tucked up in a chapel, it was not as visible as I had hoped but still filled with delicate tracery, a gold smile and throbbing joy.  st-theresaI can only imagine that the photo is a bit blurred because of the ecstasy.

The baroque ornamentation is just as gold and frou-frou as can be, as you can see from this view of the ceiling.della-vittoria

Dazzled but not tired, we walked on quite a way to the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.  The highlight here was seeing a few planks from Christ’s crib – just imagine!  cribYou can see the humble planks behind all the gilt.  It was right up there with the holy blood that we saw in Bruges.

Other highlights were Bernini’s tomb berninis-tomband more beautiful tile work.  Roman tiles really deserve their own post, but here’s a good one for now.  star-tilesAfter so much art and religion, we were ready for lunch.  We stopped at a cafe just across from the church and enjoyed watching the clericals go by – men in robes, women in habits, the real significance lost on me.  Oh, that Uncle Buzz had been with us to explain it all!  We enjoyed our delicous salads and for me a Campari soda, for Alison an Aperol spritz.  Refreshing for the weary art-lovers.

We had stopped earlier at a mosaic tile shop near our apartment, and the artist there told us that if we liked mosaics we should visit St. Maria in Trastevere.  We taxied over to the other side of the Tiber and enjoyed a very old church trastevere-churchwith beautiful gilt mosaics above the altar.  You can also spot them above the portico outside.trastevere-mosaicsMuch as I love the baroque, a little bit of sparkling mosaic was refreshing after our morning travels.  

Walking back home across the Garibaldi bridge we had a great view of St. Peter’s looming above the river.  We’ll be there in a few days…st-peters-and-tiber

Dinner was our market catch.  I have to confess that this picture makes it look slightly disgusting.  But in real life it was warm, fresh, and comforting.  Yum!dinner-at-home

Hope springs eternal

I’ve been wary about growing roses.  Their reputation is for finickiness and the prevalence of diseases that call for chemical sprays.  The plant itself is not lovely, at least not usually.

But when a friend brought me a blossom of “Zephirine Drouhin,” I fell head over heels in love.  That color!  That scent!  Plus, it is almost thornless and can tolerate shade.  I must have one.

But the first one died.  And the second one, found at Roxbury Mills and planted in 2009, did well for a while.  zepherineThough I only got a few blossoms, I was in love.  But sadly, I had an infestation of voles (I’ve since learned that the vole population waxes and wanes.  It’s on the wane now, for which I’m grateful.)  The voles ate the roots and it was adieu to Zepherine.

Undaunted, I bought it again from White Flower Farm in the spring of 2015, and this year it just went to town.

Here is the current, third attempt.zepherine2

As you can see, the plant itself is not handsome, but those blossoms!  You should have smell-a-vision to get the full glory.

On a more serious note, here is a list of its potential problems:

Aphids, leafhoppers, spider mites, scale, caterpillars, sawfly larvae, cane borers, Japanese beetles, rose stem girders, rose midges, rose slugs, rose chafers, leaf-cutting bees, black spot, rust, powdery mildew, crown gall, canker, dieback, downy mildew, viruses.

You see why I was reluctant?

But then I learned from a rose-growing acquaintance about Earthkind roses, developed by the Texas Agri-Life Extension Service.  The Earthkind designation is only for “those roses demonstrating superior pest tolerance, combined with outstanding landscape performance.”

I knew I wanted a rose with fragrance, not too big, either yellow or pink.  The Earthkind site led me to a small shrub rose, Souvenir de Ste. Anne.

“This sport of Souvenir de la Malmaison was bred in England by Thomas Hilling. It was found in St. Anne’s Park, Dublin. The pale pink petals glow with translucent beauty and are very fragrant. It is an excellent choice for mass plantings and borders. Few hips are produced. This cultivar is so outstanding that it was named “Earth-Kind® Rose of the Year” for 2009 by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service.”

Since I had not only culled the columbines but dug out the problematic Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen,’ I finally had some space for a plant that likes sun and good air circulation, so I placed my order with the Antique Rose Emporium.

Well, after all that build-up, here’s what I got, earthkind rosebut remember!  This had been in the ground less than a month when it bloomed, so I give it props.  (It would also help if I could figure out how to capture pale pinks, yellows and creams without washing out all the color.)  I’m feeling quite hopeful.

Spring sowing

Poppies, both buttercream and the classic WWI variety, were a great success, sowed in late February and blooming in mid- to late May.red poppies

buttercream poppiesMeanwhile, as you can see from the fallen petals above, the columbines self-sowed with great vigor.  You would hardly know that the great culling of 2016 had ever taken place!  Here’s the sunny garden, still chock full of blue columbines (plus the purple allium ‘Sensation,’ I think).blue columbines I am continuing to pull them out once they’ve seeded, so I’m probably not making much progress…  I do try to shake the interesting colored ones, like this white one, in hopes that they’ll spread and grow next year.white columbine

Additional seeds are sugar snap ‘Anna,’ doing very well this year after a slow start (I sowed them in February but they didn’t do anything for about a month); zinnias and cosmos; and some vines for the trellises.  They’re up but not doing much yet.

April 15 and all is well

As you can see by this video:

 

Spring Bulb Recap…

…which is a nice way of saying that I have neglected this blog in favor of the faster blip of Instagram posts.  The original purpose of the blog was to document my garden so that I could learn from my mistakes and notice changes.  Of course, over time I’ve included travels and quilting, but in the original spirit of things, here’s a whirlwind tour of what happened this spring.

When Your Plan Actually Works

The ‘Tête‑à‑tête’ daffodils did just what they were supposed to: add color to the early spring garden in front.  As a bonus, they bloomed with the grape hyacinths, great color combo.  These were perfect and I may get more to add under the maple tree next year.  tete-a-tetes

I love the English bluebells with the pale yellow daffodil ‘Sun Disc.”  Every few years they actually bloom together the way they are supposed to, and this was one of the years.bluebells and daffodils

When You Had No Plan and It Still Works

These pink tulips (French single late from WFF?) beautifully echoed the pale pink viburnum ‘Judd.’  I did not realize I was doing this but will take all the credit for it anyway.  Will they bloom at the same time next year?  We’ll see.

Viburnum and tulips

The yellow hostas and yellow ‘West Point’ are another striking combination for which I will also take )unwarranted) credit.westpoint2

Old Favorites Do Well

These are Tommy crocuses caught in just the right amount of sunshine.Tommies

And these are my favorite lily-flowered tulips, ‘West Point,’ that go on year after year.  I hope these do the same even though they’re in a pot.Westpoint

Echoing Ruth Krauss, daffodils are to give everybody enough.daffodils for cutting

Sometimes There’s a Mystery

The ipheion in the walkway bed seem to have petered out, so I ordered more.  Here is one, looking a bit different from the originals, in the bed by the sidewalk.  So I think it’s ipheion ‘Constellation of Blue Stars’ but maybe not?Ipheion maybe

For next year:  more anemone blanda, especially under the maple tree.  I also added more trout lilies and English bluebells under the oak tree, and that was a Good Thing.

The show

Wow, so much to see that it was overwhelming.  I had to intersperse looking at quilts with visiting vendors and attending demonstrations.  Here’s some of what I saw.

Political quilts by Thomas Knauer, Chawne Kimber and Colleen Molen.  Notice how each one inserts text in a different way.

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Churn Dash quilts, an old favorite reinvented.  The top two are traditional, the bottom four are all taken from the Charity Challenge  exhibit.

The Modern Traditionalism category:  the top one is by Virginia’s own Mary Kerr.  I loved the detail of the old-fashioned print used in just a few triangles in the second quilt. The last one (salmon-colored) was upcycled from thrift store shirts.

salmonThese next few caught my eye because of playfulness or use of color.  The “lobstah” quilt is by Shelley Brooks, one of our founding members before she moved away.  Well done!

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Minimalism along with spectacular quilting:

square-countpersistence

My two favorites were both low volume.  This is “I Know the Stars are There Beyond the Clouds 2” by Heidi Parkes.  It was huge, beautiful, detailed, and it gor my vote for Best in Show (though it didn’t win).

heidi-parkes

Here’s a closeup of the hand quilting and her use of red thread which is almost invisible until you look closely.heidi-detail

My other favorite is this one, which won first place in the Quilting category:  Ode de Yoshiko by Marilyn Farquahar.ode

and a closeup: ode-detail

Wow, so much inspiration!

Quiltcon challenge quilts

In between classes, and all day on Saturday, I wandered through the exhibits.  So much caught my eye, but I promise you that this is not nearly a majority of the quilts on display.  First up, a challenge taken up by a number of modern quilt guilds.  “This year’s challenge requires participants to work collaboratively to create completed quilts using a predetermined color palette while crafting a design that plays with scale.”  As you can see, the palette leaned heavily towards blues.  The playing with scale was particularly fun to see.

I’ve always been intrigued with this “Comb” effect, sorry I didn’t record which guild made it.  Nice quilting, too.

combs

The Lancaster guild played with the classic Amish bars quilts found locally and created this.  Again, the quilting is striking.  modern-bars

A couple entries played with the word “scale.”  This one is entitled “I thought you said scales!”

scales

That finny fish at the bottom intrigued me, and I think I can see how she did it.  Lots of pleats and carefully placed stitching.  scales-detail

Finally, quilt playing with flying geese.  This is called Migration.migration

Love the flying geese in the left-hand yellow section.

QuiltCon 2017!

The modern quilt movement has  been on the scene now for at least five eight years, and it’s going strong.  The annual conference/show, QuiltCon, has been a smashing success, and members are alerted that if they want to register, they need to have their hands poised over the keyboard the moment registration opens.  Yes, it’s like getting concert tickets.

I was obsessed enough to do just that last June and ended up registered for three classes at QuiltCon to be held in February in Savannah.  I was a bit relieved that one class was eventually cancelled, because it gave me a full day to explore the exhibits and vendors.

Jennifer and I rented a house in Savannah on the edge of the historic district.  Crape Myrtle was perfect for us;   two bedrooms, two and a half baths, kitchen, porch, high ceilings, on a quiet side street.   crape-myrtle

We started off Thursday morning with an architectural walking tour, which I can highly recommend.  The tour guide, a young architect, seemed to know everything possible about the history of Savannah as well as the provenance of the buildings we saw.  I realized afterwards that “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which I was reading on this trip, never did come up, but some of the history he told us helped me to set the scene. Note to self:  find out more about  James Oglethorpe, colonizer of Georgia and an Enlightenment philanthropist who founded Savannah as a utopian community.

oglethorpe

Then it was off to the show, which we got to by walking down to the riverfront and taking a ferry across the Savannah River, a trip of about five minutes.  Savannah River Waterfront

You get a nice view of the riverfront from the ferry.

My first class was “Sew All the Curves” with Jen Carlton Bailly, aka BettyCrockerAss.  She is known for her curvaceous quilts, one of which I spotted in the exhibits.  This is her “You and Me” quilt, created with what she calls “chubby squircles.”  curves-quiltThis was entered in the Piecing category.  Here’s a closeup that lets you see how she constructed it with a combination of curved and square blocks. curves-closeupAnd yes, we learned how to do this!  I bought her templates for the larger circles and made an imperfect set, but I think I can do better.  The key is glue, people.  She was a very engaging instructor and I enjoyed her class and her quilts.  Here’s a slideshow of a few she shared with us in class.

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The next day was a class with Alison Glass, a designer whose fabrics I love.  You can see from her shop that she loves saturated colors.  You can also see from this photo, taken from her site, that she has a strong sense of design.  Just yum.sunprint-2017-swatches-web Her class was about translating a photograph into a quilt, and I wish I had taken pictures  of her examples.  Starting with a fairly simple photo of her daughter standing against a plain gray wall, she made three different versions in fabric, the first fairly realistic and the succeeding ones increasingly abstract.  She encouraged us to divide our photos into blocks or strips and work on one at a time.  She came around to critique and offered insightful suggestions.   I was so absorbed in the class that I didn’t even visit the mini-shop she set up in the back and wish I had picked up some of her gorgeous fabrics on the spot.

So here is my original photo, taken in the M’dina in Gozo last fall.  mdina

She encouraged me to straighten the bottom edge to give a the viewer a better way to see the curving street.  She also emphasized working in vertical strips so that I could piece in the windows.  Boy, did I struggle with this, but it was totally engaging.  The result so far is below, but I have since decided that I want to play with constructing the buildings out of pieced fabric strips to add more interest.  As it stands, I find the batik too massive.  The hardest part was getting the street to angle correctly, but I think I’ve got it.mdina-block

In process, not finished!  More to come.

Spring blooms

I first noticed some blooms at the end of January.  I still remember (or think I do) when seeing winter aconites in February was unusual…

January 25: yellow crocuses under the oak treefirst-crocuses

 

January 29: winter aconite (in bloom for a week or more by this point) and crocuseswinter-aconitestommy-crocuses

February 6:  white crocuses (and notice how dry the soil is)white-crocuses

And today, February 19: Tête-à-tête dafodils in the front garden, hellebores front and back (in bloom for some time), and more of the delightful Tommy crocuses.

These crocuses, opening up in sunshine, always make me think of Sara Teasdale’s poem “Barter,” invoked by a long-ago children’s librarian about storytime: “children’s faces looking up/ holding wonder like a cup.”