lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday (not) – luscious lavender and jam at Christmas 

As Rosemary is to the Spirit, so Lavender is to the Soul. Anonymous

Merry Christmas everyone – I’m late to the party as usual for in A Vase on Monday; I’ve been wiped out with flu all week confined to bed, which messed our Christmas plans a bit.

It feels a bit odd writing about lavender at this time of year – it has been a very odd year in many ways – and I don’t just mean the weird weather.  I’ve been back at work over a year, in a new role too, but it takes just about all my energy to do my job and run the basics of life – hence my rather intermittent blogging.  Thank goodness for my Chap who is truly wonderful and takes care of me every day.

Lavender is one of my favourite plants – I adore its scent as well as the flowers.  I have about 15 plants around my sunny, front garden – varieties include Munstead, Hidcote, Vera (White) – They thrive in the fairly rubbly soil.  I’ve got some other lavender in the back garden in pots on the deck – under the conifers that overhang from my neighbour’s garden.  So as you can imagine I was thrilled to find some still flowering in  December – despite the very wet and windy weather we’ve had in Manchester.  I picked these on 23 December 2016.

lavender in pinkster gin bottle with autumn fruit jam

In a Vase on Monday – lavender in v small gin bottle with my prize winning Autumn fruit jam

I’ve written about lavender quite a few times on the blog, but I think this is the first time the flowers have appeared in a vase alone.

As usual, I am joining in with Cathy from Rambling in the Garden who hosts this link up – she has a simple, beautiful, vase of snowberries and rosehips – it looks very wintry and festive.  I do love looking at flowers, plants and vases from around the world – it definitely brightens by days – and my mission for next year is to pick, photo and post more often about the plants from my garden – and be more prompt on Mondays even though Cathy says it doesn’t matter if I’m late.

Women’s Institute prize winning jam – yes really
My jam won ‘tastiest jam’ at our  Women’s Institute weekend away in September.  I am staggered still, as it’s only my second attempt at jam and there was ALOT of competition. We had a wonderful time in the Cheshire countryside at a Scout camp at our Big Weekender – do have a look at the photos :-). I was very chuffed to win this badge 🙂

apple blackberry raseberry jam

Autumn fruit jam (blackberry, apple, raspberry, blueberry, red currant) – a prize winning jam


Recipe – Autumn Fruit Jam

I used 900g mixed soft fruit which included:

  • about 300g v tart blackberries from garden
  • two big Braeburn apples – cored, peeled and sliced
  • about 200g blueberries – only about 20 from garden, most were from a well known supermarket 😉
  • about 250g frozen raspberries from the garden
  • handful v v tart red currants from my garden

and 800g  jam sugar (this has more pectin)

Method

  • I put blackberries and apple in first in my maslin pan, added the raspberries and blueberries and topped up with redcurrants.
  • I added the sugar slowly and ensured it melted first, then added a bit more.
  • I simmered and stirred, everything slowly stunned to mush.
  • Keep going til you get a ‘rolling boil’ – the liquid went darker and the bubbles look thicker.
  • To check the jam will set I used the frozen plate method
  • put plate in the freezer – take plate out when ‘rolling boil’ – splodge a blob of jam on the plate – push it to see if jam wrinkles then it’s ready
  • I’ve also got a jam thermometer but i prefer the plate method.
  • My chap ladled the jam into the jars – jam funnel much easier.
  • Jars and lids were washed and ‘cooked’ in oven to sterilise them.
  • pour the jam in when still warm 🙂
  • I’ve made chutney for years but jam is MUCH quicker to do.
lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a very small Pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle

lavender in a small pinkster gin bottle 

If you’re wondering why I picked a Pinkster gin bottle – it’s because it’s flavoured with raspberries 🙂 and these bottles are from gin explorer boxes that come monthly for my Chap from me. It’s a really great way to try out new gins.

The Christmas gin fairy might just have brought a full size bottle too – shame I’m still feeling far too rough to drink anything apart from peppermint tea.  But it’s not all been bad, I’ve been checking out wedding photographers. I’m on the mend slowly, but that’s been the recurring theme of 2016.

I hope you’ve all have a lovely, relaxing Christmas break and that 2017 is a really good year for you.

Carpe Diem

Love Bec xx

 

*I wasn’t asked to write about ‘gin explorer’ and I pay full subscription price for each box.

In a Vase on Monday – first and latest fuchsias

In search of my Mother’s garden, I found my own. 

Alice Walker, writer (1942- )

Hardy fuchsias are tough – mine have been flowering well, despite very wet and windy weather in Manchester.  By the time I got outside, in daylight, to pick the fuchsias the rain had pulverised the flowers on two of the three bushes I have planted around the garden.  These are picked from the bush outside the kitchen window, as it’s more protected from the elements.  I took the photo at 2pm with a flash, as it was so gloomy.

pink and purple fuchsia, pink dianthus and cotoneaster in hand painted lavender pattern vase

21 Nov 2016 – fuchsia, pink dianthus and cotoneaster in hand painted (by me!) vase at 2pm in the gloom.

Fuchsias are the first flowers I remember in my Mum’s garden when I was very little – I thought they were like ballerinas.  My Mum adores fuchsias, and has always had lots of hardy and tender ones all around the garden in pots.  I grew up in Berkshire and our garden was heavy London clay so many of her favourite plants were in terracotta pots on the patio – I learnt to garden with her.   My Mum is  nearly 80 now (please don’t tell her I said that 😉 ) and still has many pots filled with fuchsia, around her large patio – and often brings another fuchsia for our collection.  My Chap just smiles and finds another space for them.

I’ve cut cotoneaster too, which is next to the fuchsia by the front door, the bush is covered in red berries and the leaves are turning red – it looks glorious – I don’t know the variety as this was one of the few plants in the garden when I arrived. The cotoneaster is proping up the fuchsia stems just like it does in the garden. The dianthus  was a gift and this is the very last flower – the plant never really got going this year as it’s been so wet.  I bought the fuchsia in Morrisons of all places and it’s tom thumb (or a relative) – It grows to window hight which makes a lovely view when I’m washing up.

21 Nov 2016 - cotoneaster, hardy fuchsia and pink dianthus

21 Nov 2016 – cotoneaster, hardy fuchsia and pink dianthus

I decided to take a photo indoors too – I rarely do take indoor photos of anything as my house is quite dark (north facing) and small so there’s always something in the background.

21 Nov 2016 - cotoneaster, fuchsia and dianthus in my hand painted lavender vase.

21 Nov 2016 – cotoneaster, fuchsia and dianthus in my hand painted lavender vase.

I painted the jug at ‘Pottery Corner’ in Chorlton*, Manchester in March 2016, using glass paint.  It’s just one of the many things I’ve done with my WI pals from Cottonopolis WI www.cottonopoliswi.com, in Ancoats in Manchester.  I was really pleased with how well they came out, as I’m quite clumsy and not much of an artist.  Do come along if you’re local or look out for a WI – it’s not what you think it will be like 🙂

purple vase and jug - hjandpainted by me at Pottery Corner, Chorlton

March 2016 – Painted vase and jug – I painted at Pottery Corner, Chorlton, Manchester with the lovely Cottonopolis Women’s Institute.

Looking back – first fuchsias (and first terracotta pots) 

I looked back on Facebook and found some photos of the first pots I had in my garden.  My Mum came up to visit in May 2010, bringing some spare terracotta pots, and we spent a happy few hours planting them up.  The number of terracotta pots has grown rather alot since then 🙂

Pink, purple fuchsia, petunia, lobelia' helicrysum, pelagoniums in Pots. Copyright R Jones

First pots in my garden (with fuchsia, petunia, lobelia’ helicrysum, pelagoniums) – August 2010

hanging basket and pot with pink petunias, fuchsia and lobelia - orange rose

19 November 2016 – Flowers from my garden in Summer 2010 – my first pot and hanging basket,  with my solitary rose

In August 2010, I wrote  (on facebook),

more pots in my garden – I had such fun planning these… could be turning into a closet gardener…

In fact, I’ve always been a gardener but I lived in flats in Manchester for over 20 years, so had no opportunity to do much.  I’d garden when I was at home at my Mum and Dad’s house down South.   A small garden was the number one priority when I was looking for a house to buy.

I wrote about my Mum and her love of gardening in one of my early posts in February 2015 and fuchsias get a mention too.   Considering how many fuchsias I have around the garden, and how long they flower for, I’m really surprised how rarely they’ve appeared in posts or in Vases:

I love fuchsias and have plenty of tender ones which live in the garage over the winter (as we don’t have space for a greenhouse).   I really must remember to pick and photograph more fuchsias next year.

I’m dreaming of Spring and planting bulbs in pots in the porch where it’s dry and my Chap is distributing the pots around the garden.  This week Cathy has a very zingy pink Chrysanthumum which is making me think of high summer.  Do have a look at her post on Rambling in the Garden, where people from around the world post pictures of flowers from their gardens and localities.  No matter how grey and wet the weather is, these beautiful photos and descriptions lift my mood.

Have a lovely week and I hope it’s dry where you are.

Carpe Diem

love Bec xx

* I paid full price for my painted vases and wasn’t asked to write a blog post about Pottery Corner.

 

Wordless Wednesday – renewal, regrowth – one year on

sycamore tree with regrowth after felling - copyright R Jones Nov 2016

16 November 2016 – Sycamore at the end of the street – so much has changed for the better in a year, this tree reminds me to keep going 🙂 #365selfdaysofselfcare