In A Vase On Monday – Sweet Peas & Roses



Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join her challenge to fill a vase for the house from the garden every week.

This is a very quick post tonight as we are all madly rushing around with last minute holiday preparations – I just managed to quickly pick a bunch of sweet peas from the greenhouse to share with you tonight – I am so pleased with my indoor growing experiment. Although I have masses of sweet peas in flower in the Cutting Garden, this year I have been plagued with pollen beetles which have made the crop unusable. Very few of the beetles have ventured into the greenhouse, so although I only planted a few plants in there they are the ones which are supplying my indoor vases this year.

Sweet Peas Sweet Peas Sweet Peas Sweet Peas

I also took a few quick photos of the beautiful blush coloured rose Joie de Vivre, which is flowering this week. I had planned to make my vase today with this rose combined with alchemilla mollis, but time has got the better of me – still I wanted to share this beauty with you before the flowers fade.

Rose Joie de Vivre Rose Joie de Vivre

Rose Joie de Vivre

I apologise for the haste in which I have prepared this post, but I do not want to start my holiday without joining in with Cathy’s weekly meme – I am already looking forward to getting back to the routine of this weekly challenge later in July!

So I wish you adieu for a couple of weeks and look forward to returning to my garden and to Peonies & Posies refreshed from my summer break. In the meantime I hope that you have a very good couple of weeks and that all is well in your gardens!


Flowers On Sunday – Celebrating Independence Day


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After a very busy week I am pleased to be back to share a few weekend flowers with you.

Last night we were invited to a BBQ being held to celebrate a number of special occasions. Our lovely hosts ( an American and a Brit) are celebrating in 2014 20 years of marriage as well as a 50th birthday and the 16th and 18th birthdays of their two sons. To mark all these occasions they chose an Independence Day theme for their BBQ party last night. As it was impossible to find one card to commemorate all these occasions, my very crafty friend rustled something up.

Independence Day

As usual on these occasions my contribution was flowers – just a few as I am in the middle of preparations for our family holiday and have a house full of young people to cater for. I looked through all my floristry books for some Independence Day inspiration, but in the end made up my own red, white and blue hand tied bouquet.

Independence Day Flowers

The beautiful red gerberas came from the market – I am quite short of red flowers at the moment. To these I added white scabious, ammi majus and shasta daisies from the Cutting Garden. From my garden borders I stole some blue cerinthe major and blue geranium Roxanne. In a few weeks time I will have a fresh batch of blue Nigella and the very true blue flowers of Salvia Patens, but these were not quite ready to pick this weekend.

Independence Day Flowers Independence Day Flowers Independence Day Flowers

As our hosts are a marriage of British and American cultures the celebration included both of our flags and the bunting was perfect for for either country! An all American BBQ was followed by a Betty Crocker chocolate cake – we Brits did have a few glasses of Pimms though – do any of my American readers know if Pimms is available in the US?

Independence Day Independence Day

Luckily a very warm and dry evening followed what had been quite a wet day. We kept our eyes on the skies in case a soaking threatened, but the night stayed dry. I did capture a very dark cloud passing over which set off these moody cardoons magnificently.


As the threatening clouds moved away we were treated to a beautiful evening sky just before the darkness moved in.

Night Sky

When darkness fell a chill was in the air, but not wanting to move indoors we lit a fire in this beautiful brazier. There really is nothing like a summer evening spent outside sharing stories around a blazing fire. Many thanks to our lovely hosts for such a memorable evening.

Fire Brazier

I must say that I am feeling quite spoilt this summer – we had beautiful weather at Ascot, not one but now two evening events when we have sat outside till late, the sun blazed down on our daughters graduation and it is still only the very start of summer.

As I mentioned earlier I am about to set off on our annual trip to visit family in Florida. This year we will be a party of 7 as both my daughters have added lovely boyfriends to our family group. I hope to pop back tomorrow with a quick post for In A Vase On Monday, but I will then be absent for the next two weekends – I intend to use my break to do a lot of reading and recharge my gardening and blogging batteries. I am not taking my laptop on holiday, but I will be posting a few pictures from Florida on Instagram throughout so if you are interested you can join me on my Instagram account. When I return I am looking forward to my dahlias and maybe even a few zinnias might have started to flower.

I hope to see you back here tomorrow for In A Vase On Monday.

A Night At The Opera



I spoke last week about our plan to go to an outdoor opera on the night of the summer solstice – the shortest night of the year. This beautiful event was held in the breathtaking grounds of Culford School and performed by The London Festival Opera. The combination of the stunning surroundings and a warm summer evening resulted in an night of opera treats that could only ever have been a success.

As this is primarily a gardening blog I am going to start by sharing with you some photos I took of the beautiful parkland that surrounds the school and stunning old Georgian house that is the main school building.

Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park

As you can see from the photos Culford School is in a very beautiful and historic setting. The faded grandeur of the old Georgian house and the immaculately kept parkland combine to make an unbeatably atmospheric setting for any event.

The opera itself was a joy. The London Festival Opera relished the surroundings, which would have been around when many of these pieces of old music were written. A variety of songs were performed from a selection of composers including Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Gilbert & Sullivan. The costumes were stunning! Taking photographs was difficult as we were sat towards the back of the crowd – I have had to crop extensively, hence some seem slightly blurry – I hope they will still give you a flavour of the evening we enjoyed.

Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park Opera In The Park

The highlight of the evening for me was the performances by two ex pupils of Culford. Florence Taylor and Joseph Dodd were both at school with my daughters and were amongst a very talented group of pupils that treated us to many memorable performances of musicals and plays. Since leaving the school in 2011 both have continued to develop their musical skills. Seeing them not only performing with, but holding their own with the professional singers from the London Festival Opera brought more than a few tears to the eyes of those in the audience who remember them from their school days.  Still only 21 years old this pair are set to go a long way!

Opera In The Park

Opera In The ParkOpera In The Park

After eating our picnics and listening to the music we were, of course, ready for a rousing sing along. Readers from abroad may not be aware of the effect that the giddy delight of the long days of June has upon the usually quite introverted British. More used to grey skies and dark days, the joys of eating and drinking into the long June evenings with friends and family has some rather unusual side effects. Somehow, in June, we cannot resist a bit of a patriotic sing along. So for the second time in less than a week, I found myself exercising my vocal chords and raising a glass to Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Brittania.

Opera In The Park

At the end of the evening all that was left was to finish our drinks and clear away the picnics.

Opera In The Park

Thank you to Culford School for hosting such a perfect summer evening – I hope that it is the first of many!

As we are just about to set off on our mini break to enjoy our eldest daughter’s graduation from Durham University this will be my last post for a few days. I will be back later in the week – hopefully with a few graduation scenes. Please keep your fingers crossed for us that we have a fine day.

In A Vase On Monday – In The Company of the Bard


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Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’ when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join her challenge to fill a vase for the house from the garden every week.

This week’s flowers very nearly did not happen. I was engrossed with household chores this morning, confident that I could leave collecting and photographing my planned flowers until the afternoon. After a late lunch I had some administration to attend too and suddenly realised as I worked that the sky had grown very dark. I only just managed to retrieve the laundry from the washing line before the rain started and we were then treated to a thunder storm. I often collect flowers in the rain, but draw the line at thunder and lightening.

Having decided that a vase was just not going to happen today, I remembered a couple of roses that I had thrown into a jam jar in the greenhouse after accidentally chopping them yesterday whilst dead heading. Together with a few sprigs of lavender that I had sitting in the kitchen they made a very small vase and I searched for a few props to pad out the arrangement. This is the floral equivalent of creating a meal Nigel Slater style – from a few leftovers in the fridge and some store cupboard staples!

Rose William Shakespeare

The props that I used are yet another lace table cloth and the old book of music that I mentioned a week or two ago. I came across it in a charity shop and it is one of my favourite ‘finds’. It is called Orpheus Score and contains a number of pieces of music – I really need to find out more about what this is. Although it has a beautiful binding all the pages have come loose, so I have to be very careful when handling it.

Rose William Shakespeare

The rose is William Shakespeare by David Austin, hence my reference to the Bard in the title this week. This rose is one of my all time favourites, which I plant in every garden that we move to. It is described in the David Austin catalogue as having ‘exquisite blooms of the richest velvety crimson, gradually changing to an equally rich crimson’. It really is a truly stunning colour, although it does not cope well with very hot or very wet weather – all the more reason to cut it for bouquets! Its growth can be a bit soft so I have placed an obelisk in the middle of my three bushes and I poke the long stems through it for loose support. In my main borders I tend to plant roses in threes as recommended by David Austin – they have much more impact flowering as one very large bush.

Rose William Shakespeare

You will remember that I am taking an online photography course with Kim Klassen called Be Still 52. For week 5 of the course we are looking at using side lighting in our photography, so today I placed my vase in front of a west facing window and instead of shooting into the window as I usually do I stood side on to the window. I am impressed by how much detail this lighting angle has picked up in the rose above – you can literally count the petals.

Rose William Shakespeare

As ever I like to play with focus when I am photographing my flowers, so above I have focused on the music leaving the blooms looking blurred.

Rose William Shakespeare

In the next shot I focused on just one of the flowers, which has thrown the other details out of focus.

Rose William Shakespeare

As I have explained before, remember that when I am playing with focus in this way I have my camera set with a very low f-stop (f2.2 today). It is the low f stop that gives the blurry background.

Rose William Shakespeare

In the end I was quite pleased with my small vase and I have placed it on my piano to remind me of its musical connections. I have recently started to learn to play and I have to say that learning to read music is the hardest thing I have tried to do for a very long time!

Next Monday we will be in Durham for our eldest daughter’s graduation ceremony, so I will be taking a little break from making a Monday vase – I will still be checking in to see what Cathy and the others have made though!


Flowers On Sunday


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Welcome to Flowers On Sunday on what has been a beautiful start to the summer!

The weather has been perfect for the summer solstice – we sat outside until late into the evening at the opera last night and today I have gardened in shorts, which is very rare for me. As my beautiful June borders start to tip into disarray, with the roses scattering their confetti petals across every surface, I have my sights now firmly fixed on the long lazy days of summer. I have spent today tidying borders of the early summer growth – cutting back perennial cornflowers, pruning roses and very sadly removing the last spent flowers from my peonies. This clear out has the joint benefit of opening up the borders allowing space to add dahlias and summer annuals, as well as prompting a re growth of lush foliage on fading hardy geraniums, oriental poppies and alchemilla mollis.

To mark the start of summer the sweet peas sown back in February have decided to start flowering. The ones planted in the greenhouse are producing new flowers daily now and my outdoor plants in the Cutting garden have also started to flower, so there will be regular bunches from now on. I keep a jug of sweet peas on my kitchen windowsill, which I top up with fresh blooms picked as I take the dogs on their morning romp around the garden.

Sweet Pea

Today I cut all the blooms available in the greenhouse and made small bunches of each variety. I have used some little milk bottles to display them in. The advantage of the indoor crop is that it has not been affected by the tiny black flies that seem to have covered every bloom in my garden.

If you are suffering from this problem the best way to deal with it is to leave your cut flowers in a dark shed or garage overnight – the flies should leave your flowers in search of light. If that does not solve the problem try submerging the blooms in salt water for a few minutes (this works well with artichoke heads as well). Rinse them well to remove any salt – if left to dry naturally most fresh blooms will survive this drenching.

Sweet Peas

I used two suppliers for my seed this year. Sarah Raven and Owl’s Acre Sweet Peas. The seeds from both suppliers germinated well and have started flowering at the same time. In the greenhouse I have Matucana and Prince Edward of York from Sarah Raven. Both of these are heirloom varieties with smaller flowers and shorter stems than the florists sweet peas. The scent, however, is outstanding and arranged in these little bottles I think they hold up very well against the larger flowered Spencer varieties that I purchased from Owl’s Acre. In the photo below Matucana is the purple bi-colour and Prince Edward of York is the very bright two tone pink.

Sweet Pea Duke of York & Matucana

I have lost the label of this sweet pea in the greenhouse, but I think it is Gwendoline. This is a Spencer variety from Owl’s Acre with a very long stem and large flowers. She also has a very lovely sweet pea scent.

Sweet Pea Gwendoline

Displayed altogether on the table I set up for my Ascot flowers on Monday, I think all these varieties complement each other very well. Once sweet peas are flowering it is very important to cut them regularly – if they start to set seed it is very hard to reverse the process. I try to cut all the flowers every three days, but you should certainly aim for no less than once a week.

Sweet Pea Selection

Sweet peas will also do better with a regular soaking and a feed every week or so. I use Maxi crop for my feed – this organic plant food works well on most of my plants and really seems to boost sweet pea production. Once the plants reach the top of their supports you can wind the stems back on a horizontal and they will reward you with even more flowers.

Sweet Pea Matucana

The sweet pea below is called Eclipse and is a new Spencer variety for me. I think it is my favourite so far this year, although I have more varieties growing in the garden not all of which have bloomed yet.

Sweet Pea

I am very impressed with how well the sweet peas have grown in the greenhouse – I have never tried indoor growing before. This year I started all my seeds in February and then planted some young plants in the greenhouse bed and the rest in the garden at about the same time. The indoor sweet peas have started to flower abundantly earlier than the outdoor ones, which are still about half the height. My plan is to start a batch of sweet peas in October this year and to plant these into the greenhouse bed as soon as it is empty of Paperwhites (probably mid February). I am hoping that I will then have my first sweet peas in May, rather than in June.

Sweet Pea Selection

I have often come across the question with peonies of whether they are the last flower of spring or the first flower of summer. I think in my heart peonies provide the grand finale to spring and a garden overflowing with sweet peas is the first act of summer.

I hope you will not mind if I indulge myself with a few weeks of sweet pea fever whilst the season is young and fresh!



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