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IMG_0390Flip to the Bee Side – Paul tells his tale about his bees

As I walked past my five hives of bees this evening, not paying much attention, I heard a deep buzzing noise coming from one of them. I bent my ear close to the hive entrance(there being no flying on this damp dusk) and the buzzing increased as if they were being disturbed. I glanced up and realised that I had failed to observe a medium sized swarm of about 5000 bees, clustered on the outside of the hive 6 inches from my face. Yikes! I thought, along with some other less Enid Blyton like curses!!

Have a Go Beeman.

My challenge, I decided, was to find a way of collecting, hiving and feeding the swarm, within the twenty minutes of daylight left to me. I had to think quick, and this is what I did.

Cakus Interuptus

Firstly, interrupt Pauline making Rhubarb cake in the kitchen to boil the kettle and make some sugar syrup. Then search for a suitable way of scanning the  bees off the flat wooden exterior of the hive. My eyes alighted on a box of 12 Schweppes tonic waters. The empty cardboard box, with it’s end cut off made a perfect scoop for bee collection. So I hoped.

Job Done!

I trotted off to the bees in the field, got my kit on, and slowly slid the tonic box, whilst holding it tight, flat against the hive, until all the bees slipped into the box. Amazingly, I collected all but three bees in a matter of seconds. Two minutes later they were in the new hive with a feeder full of syrup and a reduced entrance to discourage other bees from robbing.

Moral of the Tale 

a swarm in the hive is worth two in the bush !

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IMG_5005Sarah Raven Made me Do It

It was Witchcraft !

It all started this week when the temptress Sarah Raven sent out a missive that she was offering cut price dahlia tubers. It was one quick sidestep to her website and I was hooked and drawn into that one click wonder of purchasing a little clutch of dahlias which will be added into our existing dahlia meadow in our garden.

Don’t get me wrong – I love and adore Sarah and will sing her praises and admire her endlessly . She fills up my senses with gorgeous catalogues and aspirational visions of delight ! she cannot go wrong .. so nor neither can I !

So what have I chosen and why ?

Thanks to the Sarah Raven website we have all the pictures to see what was in my basket (a basket which could have been added to many times over .. but rare for me , I was reasonably restrained and stuck with five favourites ! )

  1. Dahlia Magenta Star

dahlia Magenta Star

Love made this choice happen ! Paul and I treated ourselves to a night at Gravetye Manor for our  wedding anniversary last year  .We saw this dahlia planted en masse there and utterly adored it.Tom makes a spectacular display by threading it through his borders and with its glowing , luminous flower and very dark stems and leaves it is stunning. So that one was a must !

2. Dahlia “Blanc y Verde”

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its always a good idea  to have a white dahlia for cutting and adding into bunches . This one has a luminosity and delicate verdant green within it which sings out to me . Also a perfect single open flower will be super for our bees. Its a cool , calm and collected sort of dahlia !

3. Dahlia “Waltzing Mathilda”

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Not only was the colour combination within the flower beguiling – pink and burnt orange is thrilling to me- but it reminded me of that song and then I couldn’t get it out of my mind .. you won’t either.

4. Dahlia “Burlesca”

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emm again .. it seems to be that orangey pink colour way which has caught me in its clutches.. but obviously that tight perfect form of the flower shape is wonderful and will add flower shape interest to bouquets .The name conjured up that whiff of the nightime and the fascinating intrigue of burlesque nightclub burlesque !

5.Dahlia “Darkarin”

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oops .. that colour again ! well I really loved the name of this one .. a hint of mystery , mood and magic and brooding jewel box velvet.

Now Waiting for Despatch

phew sorted ….order is in , free postage and packing applied, we are on our way . More soon once the tubers arrive.

What happens next

Once the tubers arrive I will show you how to plant them , and then the magic will start ! I will then reveal to you how one can become two and two four (I will for the first time ever do the math !) and we can make a meadow with the few becoming many ! Dahlia cuttings – we love them ! so easy to do when you know how !  and soon you will !

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p1010561Sampling Hot , cold, or sparkling Sake is a Japanese must. So we did indeed do some of that !

Sake  is made from rice and water, which are fermented together then pasteurised to create a wine-like drink.

p1010564Taruzake (cask sake)is matured in wooden casks made of cypress . These casks are often presented to Shinto shrines as offerings and can be beautifully decorative as the images below may well bear out !

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I love the immediacy and very graphic content of the designs . Black and that orange red certainly catch the eye visually.

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p1000797Pathways , bridges and ways of walking to places are particularly significant in Japan.so it seemed only right that I should talk a bit about these .

In the gardens we visited ,the pathways (often out of bounds it has to be said ) tantalisingly led away up hillsides and out of view .But the construction was so beautiful, exact and precise with just the right sized stones and composition fitting together perfectly.

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larger stones formed the main path way with all the smaller stones fitting in around it to make the perfect route directing your eye down the slope. And then when you intersperse with plants and water the pathways become that much more beautiful.

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there is a sparseness and an equanimity of detail that also appeals to me .

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simple stepping stones also take on a rare beauty of their own.

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but the mystery of a pathway that leads away into  plants is ever tantalising to me and is maybe what makes our Sussex Prairies so enveloping and welcoming !

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and who also doesn’t love a lush planted pathway inviting you into a house ?

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img_1367The aim :

to make the longest strip of denim in the world , or certainly in Sussex to support the Jeans for Genes Charity – Genetic Disorders UK. the charity that aims to transform the lives of children with genetic disorders.We shall create denim covered collecting boxes along the trail around the garden !

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How will it work :

Running as a trail from our entrance right through the garden , sinuously weaving through the borders. Stitched into the piece will be tabs dispensing information and facts about the process of making denim (the good , the bad and the ugly facts ) facts about indigo seeds and the dyeing process , and the story of the wearing of denim work pants by north american pioneers etc… zips, button flies , tags and pockets will create the joints along the way and will add to the fabric wonder.Have calculated the trail will be at least 1km long.Yikes !

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The First Rules I have set myself

  • only to use orange cotton to stitch it all together (Levis used orange stitching which was originally designed to match the copper rivets first used in jeans by Nevada tailor Jacob Davis).
  • the strip will be kept at 7″ wide
  • vow to go and see the  Ian Berry exhibition Gallery Different at Catto Gallery- Ian is famous for making photo-realistic pictures in denim

img_1378Day 1 – Friday 18th November 2016

I make a start with three of our lovely volunteers starting to cut up the first swathe of jeans and a big learning curve begins !

  • The difficulty of cutting up a really tough fabric – you can see why it was the workwear fabric of choice (first casualty -brand new pair of Japanese scissors !)
  • The realisation that I won’t be able to actually use the zips for linking the strips !
  • The discovery that the button waistband fasteners will have to do the job
  • The obvious discovery that bog standard machine needles are not up to the job (second casualty – 2 broken machine needles)(note to self – order denim grade needles for machine )

to be continued……….

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p1010748Its not just size that matters – Space matters in Japan .Finding that luxury of an inch  is precious, so making that every inch count in gardening terms is crucial. And so it is with squeezing your green spaces into an urban environment.

p1000632Looking for a leaf- squeeze it in a brick-thick slither of ground next to your front door.But it has to compete with all the other paraphernalia of life at the same time.

p1000690Looking for that green gasp of texture – shoehorn it into a pot or container artfully cramped on the threshold.There is rare beauty captured in a second.

p1020166Collections of pots seems to work as well to build up a range of textures and variations on a theme – very much a theme of -green.

p1000651And there is of course the very essence of the thing which is all about control and discipline.An ikebana of a paring down to what is essential and what can be taken away until all you can see is the chosen plant or planting. The bare essentials of a garden.

p1010298I admit I feel like I am in a bit of a strait jacket here in this place.Straining against the constraint .Japan – This place of extreme control.I long for our wide open space of Sussex Prairies. I yearn for that voluptuous exuberance of planting again .. oh for that luxury of space.

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Pushing to the Peak

dsc00272a crescendo of awesomeness  is here to greet everyone who is bold enough to visit a prairie garden like ours in the autumn. This is the time when the metallic sheen of the grasses shimmer above the perennials blitz of late colour and the soft subtlety of autumn invites one and all to run tentative fingers through the grassy seed heads.

DSC00372.JPGFrankly this is one of the highlights of the prairie style in our garden where the grasses seem to lend an ethereal wispy beauty above the garden . And there is a special kind of colour and softness added to the borders. This is when everything seems to come together is a final moment of magic. The flowers are on the cusp of falling away with a burst of brilliance caught in low level sunshine , the seed heads are crisp and tight, stems still taut and straight . There is an amazing contrast between the dying and the living and the battle is worthy of a look .

dsc00243It’s all about getting to the summit of spectacle. Many of the big grasses are colourful in the extreme .. dark purples,golds and silvers shimmer high over the tops of the leaves . Many are still yet to flower and wait the perfect moment to do so. Perennials that have spent their energies on achieving a peak of floweriness will continue to do so until the first frost .The garden is awash with colour even now . Blues, golds,purples,fuchsia pinks, deep amethyst colours . Banks of asters explode into a million flower heads catching the sun on their petals .

img_9768Is it because people just seem to give up on garden visiting in the autumn .. what is so important in their lives that visiting a garden just falls off the agenda ? is it the hassling chill of autumn ? is it the threat of  a rainy or cloudy interlude ? is it because the sandals are packed away for another year ? Dew on your boots ? what is it ? why don’t you come and catch beauty’s last breath ? Start in the foothills , and make the bid for the summit , you won’t be disappointed !

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