"Wind S.W. Brisk, sunshine warm. Warm, hazy air all day till sunset. Mezereons(i) bloom. Gooseberry and Elder put out their leaves. Apricots just show their blossom buds. Lesser Tortoiseshell Butterfly appears. Single Hepaticas in full bloom. First Violets blow, and Single Daffodils and Persian Iris(ii)."
Myerson comments, "Each moment seemed to bring a new gift ... It was as if small wonders were being conjured up by a magic spell. The garden was coming back to life one flower at a time... Yet at the same time, as a promise of all that would soon come, there was also the 'full bloom' of the Hepaticas. Their cycle of bloom was completing as other plants were just beginning. Gray was looking at the wonderful intricacy of time itself in this miniature of the natural world, forever consummated and reborn."
(i) Daphne mezereum.
(ii) The pictures are of Iris reticulata 'Harmony', not Gray's Iris persica.
The paperwhites waited until New Year's Day to flower, and I saw the first snowdrop of the year, in bloom, in a nearby garden.
In other news, having Benedict Cumberbatch's real parents, Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, playing his screen ones was a lovely touch in last night's Sherlock, and I'm so glad the programme is back after such a long wait.
I'm sure that episode would have been incomprehensible to anyone who hadn't seen the earlier series, but how ingenious, and as a newspaper reviewer said this morning, "not flawless, but brilliant". I'm sorry we've lost Andrew Scott's terrific Moriarty, (the new villain is the economist from Borgen, I believe), but Mark Gatiss was on fine form, both in the writing and on screen, and the Cumberbatch/Freeman double act is superb. Do read crime writer Martin Edwards' post on it.
As beautiful and useful - for it contains planting plans - as it is fascinating, it's a perceptive account of the creation of the Woolfs' garden at Rodmell in Sussex and of its importance as both sanctuary and source of inspiration to Virginia, and for Leonard, the driving-force behind the making and tending of the "enchanted domain" (as his nephew Cecil describes it in his Foreword), a place of absorption and retreat.
The book draws extensively on Virginia's letters and diaries, but also on its author's intimate knowledge of the place, for as tenants of the National Trust, Caroline Zoob and her husband lived at Monk's House for more than a decade, and they looked after the garden, developing it with respect to the spirit in which it was created. Herself an embroiderer, Caroline has stitched plans of the garden's various rooms, and these complement archival photographs and Caroline Arber's atmospheric images of the garden in all seasons and at all times of the day.
Leonard Woolf is quoted in the book's introduction:
'... what has the deepest and most permanent effect upon oneself and one's way of living is the house in which one lives. The house determines the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute quality, colour, atmosphere, pace of one's life; it is the framework of what one does, of what one can do, and of one's relations with people.'
Caroline Zoob's sensitive portrait of house, garden and occupants illustrates Leonard's point in fine fashion.
an ashet covered with pine branches and ivy leaves, strewn with cranberries and 'snow', with three hyacinths in individual vases to add a little height and fragrance. Small white bowls of snowy cranberries carried on the colour scheme, as did the place card holders.
The napkin rings themselves took no time to make - though as the florist's wire I had was very fine, I used a thickish needle to pierce the berries first - but the hyacinths offered no resistance of course. I made them all on Christmas Eve and they are still looking as good as new today. Sarah Raven says in her video that in summer she uses cornflowers in the same way as they also last very well out of water, so that's an idea I must remember.
I ought to say here, by way of explanation, acknowledgement and appreciation, that with the exception of some canapés, Mr. C. does all the cooking of the Christmas lunch, and a grand job he makes of it, and that is why I am free to fiddle around with the frou-frou.
This is a scabious or pincushion flower, Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Tall Double Mix' to be exact. They have been flowering for months and there's more to come, and in a vase (I have them with sweet peas and cosmos) they last well, too.