In a vase on Monday: Pure gold

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The homeslip on Sunday morning, after our first frost of the season.

It was important to me to join in today and celebrate with Cathy, and other blogger friends, three years of In a vase on Monday. I started posting my Monday vases in May last year when I was very new to blogging but I became derailed when we bought the cottage and my focus shifted to making an 18th century cottage habitable and then saleable. Thank goodness that is all in the past.

Today I spent a couple of hours in the garden planting the remainder of the Angelique tulips and ‘Sailboat’ narcissi. I waited until after our first frost  as I needed to plant them in the only free space in my garden around the collapsed peony ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ which has been cut to the ground and mulched with home made compost. The soil here is beautiful – dark and crumbly and sweet-smelling and exactly as you would expect after 25 years of home composting. It wasn’t always like this. At the beginning even digging the smallest hole for a bulb meant excavating demolition and builders’ rubble and compressed blue clay, not a job to look forward to.

Bulbs planted I whizzed around the garden with the lawn mower spreading the grassy leafy mulch directly on the woodland border. I also did a little bit of cutting back, not too much as I like my garden to decay gracefully and gradually.

What did I find to bring inside?  A flowerhead and bud from Clematis ‘Marie Boisellot’. She was cut to the ground after her May-July flowering period and now she’s back up the fence and flowering again. I love the almost linen-like texture of her petals. In the smoky glass posy vase there is the last Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’. Dare I say this plant is losing her vigour. She shares a bed with the equally ‘intent on garden domination’ Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’. I usually cut the cornus hard back in the spring but I missed the moment so the cornus is top dog(wood) this year. Also in this vase is a white cyclamen (I have a lot of ants in my garden and consequently I have cyclamen popping up everywhere), a few daisies from Erigeron which had its annual hair cut today in a probably futile attempt to stop it self-seeding everywhere and a stem of sweet-scented lemon verbena. I thought about cutting a stem of white-flowered nerine, but as I see them from the kitchen window and I only have three flowers they have all kept their heads.

There is also a bowl of Lord Lambourne apples which have been so good this year. I picked the apples from Chivers Delight a fortnight ago as we were going away and I was concerned that an October gale might strip the tree for me and they too are delicious. We made a flying visit to Canterbury on Saturday so I took my daughter a basket of apples. We had a very good lunch in The Goods Shed in Canterbury which uses local and seasonal produce to mouth-watering effect and afterwards visited Grayson Perry’s ‘The Vanity of Small Differences’,  currently on tour in The Beaney.

Our holiday was spent on the Cotehele estate as I was  interested in seeing the orchards in fruit, especially the mother orchard which was planted in 2007 to help preserve the old Cornish apple varieties. We had marvellous weather and walked for miles in golden sunshine every day. One day we had a birthday lunch at Endsleigh and explored the Repton landscape garden (the acers were on fire) which surrounds the early 19th fishing lodge built for the Duke and Duchess of Bedford high above the river Tamar. The day was crowned by the most spectacular sunset viewed from the top of Kit Hill.

Heading home we crossed Dartmoor and walked up a tor or two. The sky was blue as blue can be but it was ear-numbingly cold as we climbed high. We also made a pilgrimage to Sanders at Lettaford and when I pinged a photo of this unspoilt Devon longhouse to our children our son replied “Heatwave”and we remembered the May half term when he swam in the freezing river. Our final night was spent at the newest Pig hotel near Honiton. We have had several nights staying at this small chain of hotels and always had a great experience. The food isn’t fancy or trying to be faultless as all the vegetables and fruit are grown in the garden, they keep chickens and pigs for a home-grown breakfast and everything else comes from within a 25-mile radius. They describe themselves as a ‘kitchen garden with rooms’ and that is exactly right.  It was very lovely mid-evening having a star-lit walk around the garden before coming back to cheese and pudding in front of the log fire.

We were lucky to have an open fire (and no wifi – hooray) in our Cotehele holiday cottage so I took a small crochet project for the evenings and enjoyed making up my own design for a cushion cover to sit on the Nordic-style (well it has a star pattern punched in the seat hence the need for a cushion!) white-painted chair in my daughter’s bedroom.

I just made it to the brilliant  Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition at Tate Modern and as a birthday present to myself I decided to join the Tate as a member. On the same day I caught the boat to Millbank to look at the artwork of the Turner Prize finalists at Tate Britain. In contrast to Tate Modern which at times is unbearably busy I usually  find Tate Britain a quiet haven of contemplation. I especially like the walk through British art from 1500 to the present and have my clear favourites. Outside Tate Britain I hopped on a bus to Westminster, walked across Westminster bridge to Waterloo and then home.  I am planning a year of culture … but before that I have to see what vase of delights Cathy has posted today.



17 thoughts on “In a vase on Monday: Pure gold

  1. A really charming post and so good to catch up on all your news. Cothele is such a beautiful place, I loved it when we visited in June. I love the fact you took your daughter a basket of apples, what a wonderful gift. And I am hugely encouraged by how you’ve turned your soil around. Just goes to show what is possible with the right care and attention.


  2. Oh, such a delightful, beautifully written post : your descriptions are so very engaging. I gasped when I saw those golden trees, their combined shapes perfectly mirrored by the fallen leaves in your opening image. Fabulous, thank you.


  3. My goodness, you have had a busy period and, as Kate said, beautifully written too – I feel quite unadventurous after having read it! Thanks for finding time to show us your blooms – the clematis bloom in particular is beautiful, and having read your description I can really sense how tactile it must be


  4. The photo at the top of your post is heart stoppingly beautiful, Sarah. A belated happy birthday and congratulations upon working out things with the cottage. (My husband and I have enough trouble with a 60 year old house – I can’t even begin to imagine the difficulties in dealing with one from the 18th century!) Your holiday sounds absolutely wonderful.


  5. Those golden trees took away my breath too! I love your still life, so delicate and simple. How I wish I could go and see the O’Keefe exhibition, it must be stunning. Still some bulbs to bury in my garden, after that it’ll be hibernation 😉


  6. There may be hope yet for our soil, reading your post suggests that we just need to persevere and be patient. You describe your holidays beautifully, I have a longing to visit the places you visited and stay in a pig hotel. The photo is breathtakingly beautiful. x


  7. Such a gorgeous photo of the homeslip, Sarah. It sounds as though you are having a lovely autumn. I must remember to go and see the Grayson Perry exhibition. Thanks for reminding me! A year of culture sounds like a fine idea – enjoy 🙂


  8. Oh it certainly sounds as if your days are full Sarah in the best possible way. A fabulous frosty photo – we are still waiting for our first one of autumn. That clematis looks rather special.


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