Sharing a love of Dolls House Miniatures - and making time for other creative crafts and the garden.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Then Someone Brings You Flowers.....

Although I have been reading your blogs I've not posted for a while...life's been a bit fraught lately.



When there are days that are difficult, sometimes just a smile from a lovely neighbour, a phone call from a friend or a bunch of flowers from a special friend, makes everything so much better.

Aren't these fabulous daffodils? A gift from a lovely friend; my other half immediately decided we must grow some next year.  Rushed to online plant sales and we reckon they might be 'Tahiti'. Made a note for the autumn ordering.

As things go - not too well this year - we have loads of planting space in our garden.....  The awful storms earlier in the year ripped off some huge tiles from the roof, smashing through a velux window in our dining room!! Horrors!  The next morning we found that our 150ft garden fence was mostly flat in our and a neighbour's garden.  To be fair it was pretty ancient and my other half and our lovely neighbour had been propping and patching for a few years. You can probably imagine the devastation..........so much smashed.  So many plants demolished by the fence and the big boots of the (wonderful) chaps who replaced it for us.  I have discovered though that hellebores in full flower can cope with an overnight move to the veg. path and back again a few weeks later...who'd have thought it?

This is Exochorda 'The Bride'  which escaped.

To compound our woes a very serious illness in the family has brought us pretty low. Then there was the horrific news of the war in Ukraine.  Keeping busy and distraction is the only way to go!! Let's face it we have a garden to bring back to life which we are determined to view as an 'opportunity', not a disaster!  And the bluebells have forced their was through the hard baked ground to cheer us up and bring hope.


I might not blog for a bit, but I do read yours, even if I don't comment.

Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin
 




Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Is It Really Nearly Spring??

Here in Oxfordshire the first snowdrops are out, daffodils are pushing through the soggy or frozen ground and finally in our garden the primroses are raising their delicate heads.  At last!!

 

Every year I buy the first English daffodils which are such a cheery herald of spring.  They are likely to be Cornish from a county I love and lived in for several years.  Late winter or early spring brought forth daffodils in abundance; from gardens, the foot of hedges and verges to glorious golden fields of them.
The story goes that during the second world war the daffodil fields were dug over to grow  much needed produce but rather than throw them out the growers poked them onto any verge, foot of hedge, nook or cranny where they might survive.  And they did!  I'm told that in more recent years it has meant that old cultivars were rediscovered and brought back into culitvation.

In my conservatory hangs a (amateur I think) watercolour of round cottages in Veryan, another lovely Cornish reminder, bought for next to nothing at a local Car Boot Sale near here.   Legend has it that 'back in the day' the local vicar worried about the lack of work for the men in tough times,  paid them to build these cottages and a few others.  Round, so that the devil couldn't hide in any corners, and with crosses on the roof-tops to signify their link the The Church. The cottages inspired me to handbuild a number of my own in 1/24th to 1/12th scale.  'Blackberry Bottom' pictured is in 1/24th scale.



Back to the conservatory which comes into its own at this time of year.  Once again our wonderful Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise) is coming into bloom. I've made my own attempts in miniature but you can't beat the original which is now 40 years old and ...can you believe it.....grown from seed.


In the background of the picture you can just see a miniature 'Willow Man' which I made some years ago from an armature fashioned from a wire coat hanger and wrapped in raffia painted (many times) with wood stain.  We used to drive past the original just outside Bridgewater in the West country on a regular basis. Created by Serena de la Hey  in 2000 and standing 40ft tall in open fields it has always seemed to me to be as iconic as Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North, which is truly awe-inspiring.  Sad to see it is deteriorating and no longer in open fields - I hope it can be saved.

Also tucked up on the shelf are a couple of Flower Fairy plates - crab apple and hawthorn.  I had more, but downsizing meant relocating some to the charity shop, but I kept these two favourites.  My plant- loving, gardening Mother loved the books and passed it on to me and then the next generation of girls.  How lovely to see that they are still so popular.

Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin x
 




Monday, December 20, 2021

Wishing You All A Very Happy Christmas

 

Once again it will be a difficult Christmas for many  but I hope that you will find some joy and happiness, however you celebrate it.

I sincerely hope that 2022 will be a much better year for us all, and thank all the very many people who are doing all they can to keep us safe, and hope that they too remain safe.

Children bring fun and happiness at this time of year so I hope you like this little card  made by  lovely little girl.

Robin xx

Monday, November 1, 2021

First the squirrels...now the fox!

 Oh my word...my last blog was back in July.....so without actually meaning to, I've taken the summer off.
The ongoing covid pandemic still affects the lives of most of us, of course, so like everyone else we've seen less of our extended family and missed regular 'outings'.....but Hey! We've got a super garden and that's where we've been.

You might remember my moan earlier in the year about the local squirrels 'out to get me', digging up my bulbs and burying nuts - hazel, horse chestnut, almond and walnut - which they forget, so consequently sprout like mad all over the garden.  A couple of weeks ago I was happily pruning (hacking back) one of the willows when I turned to find a beautiful young fox gazing at me, as bemused as I was!
We chased each other around the garden for a bit and he vanished.  He obviously liked the place and came back that night to dig a humungous hole and tunnel right on the edge of my lovely wild patch.

Beautiful as he was and a delight to see, I don't want him living in my garden so I hopped to Google and found that preventative measures include lion poo, male predator urine and jeyes fluid. Not having a handy lion I resorted to used cat litter (well, while not an obvious fox predator, our cat Sammy is male...) and we had jeyes fluid in the shed.  Great! That worked. So he dug another hole.  Tried it all again and that worked too.  So he dug another!! Then I bought some expensive anti-fox treatment and grabbed some bits of smashed up concrete from a neighbour who was conveniently digging up a path.  Lobbed the concrete into the holes, sprayed it all with the posh stuff, raked back all the spoil and stood back.
 
So, far so good!!!! Such mad fun in gardening!

We've spent a lot of time cutting stuff down and have enough sturdy hazel poles to build several natty pergolas, and shredded lots.  It gave us room to create a new wild patch and enjoy the tiny cyclamen coming out now.  Our old rusty owl has moved into it, having been buried under a bush for at least a year.


The garden isn't big enough - no garden ever is if you're a keen planter - so I dug up a bit more lawn.  Very satisfying. Plants have moved, bulbs are in, the (outside for the summer) indoor plants are back in and I just need to rescue geraniums before the frost comes.

Meanwhile I see suspicious holes just where I planted bulbs...those pesky squirrels again....


Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin
 



Sunday, July 18, 2021

It's Been Ages.....

.....since my last blog, but I see I'm in good company because it does seem that many of us have been taking a mini break.  So I don't know about everyone else but I've been gardening - for weeks - avidly watching Wimbledon tennis and the wonderful England fotball squad....and.... well just messing about I suppose!

With nothing vaguely interesting to report - covid has meant we're all missing family and friends and trips to the cinemas and theatres, I shall fall back on the flowers that always lift my spirits. The following pictures are of the garden over the last few weeks.


 
 









And finally - Mother Nature does do it best! Hollyhocks have escaped from a nearby garden and wonderful wild Willowherb make such a beautiful combination at the back of a car park.

 Thank you for looking. Stay safe in these difficult days.

Robin 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

The Squirrels Are Out To Get Me!

I do enjoy seeing the cheeky little squirrels running around, scrambling along the fences and tight-rope walking the telephone wires.....but....I wish they'd stay out of my garden.

Early in the year we spotted, to our great surprise, three very healthy broad bean plants coming up in the front garden. It didn't take much working out to figure the squirrels had buried them as they do nuts - and forgotten them.
So I dug them up and replanted them in the back garden where we planned to plant a row, and they are thriving. In a rare moment of assisting the vegetable chief (husband) I actually planted the bean seeds alongside for him.  Eventually up popped three shoots.  They didn't appear to grow - someone - which had to be a pesky squirrel, had dug up the beans and left the now wilting shoots.
No more shoots appeared....because the little blighter had dug them all up!!!  We've planted some spare ones in pots to plant out when they are actual plants - we'll beat them yet!

I don't have a nice patch of newly planted daffodils....or tulips either!  Two years ago they robbed me of 25 new frilliary bulbs!  Every time we dig we find lots and lots of walnuts, and conkers (horse chestnuts) neither of which we  have in our garden.  We do have little hazel nut trees - but never can never find a nut on our own tree (and small walnut and conker trees) and we have to be really quick to grab our almonds before they do. I'm told that scattering polo mints deters them - I'm not convinced.

As I say, they're fun little animals to watch but I wish they'd stay out of my garden.


They didn't spoil Mum's basket though and once the crocus had faded, up came these lovely miniature 'Tete a tete' daffodils. Thankfully the frillaries already established in the wild patch are spreading naturally and they obviously don't like bluebells.



At least there is one garden that the little pests can't get to - the 1/24th Herb Garden Celia Thomas and I created as one of our workshop projects a few years ago.


Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin
 
 





Thursday, April 1, 2021

HAPPY EASTER

Wishing you all a very Happy Easter - wherever you are and however you are spending the weekend.

Stay safe - take care.

Robin x
 

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

The Unconscious Gardener

It occurred to me when I was planting up my Mum's old basket, pictured below, then again when the first crocus began to bloom that I don't ever remember learning about gardening...somehow or other it led me to being a really keen gardener.  It got me thinking...



Back in the day when I was a girl in the 1950s/60s - SO many years ago now!!! - most families had a garden and gardened - fruit, veg and flowers...the old cottage garden principle.  A little of what you fancy does you good! As a product of wartime austerity and make do and mend principles, as well as her own upbringing it was second nature to my Mother to plant seeds, take cuttings and split plants - garden centres didn't exist until well into the 1960s, although specialist nurseries did exist, and I learned grafting from my rose grower Uncle.
As soon we were judged safe in charge of an old kitchen fork we would be pricking out seedlings and planting them into wooden trays cadged from the greengrocer or market and lined with newspaper (plastic mushroom boxes are a wonderful modern equivalent). When they became too ancient they went on the compost heap or provided kindling for the fire. I suppose we must have just been talked through the names of the plants, and wild ones when we went for walks, and it has stayed with me.

I have to say I am amused to be 'lectured' on recycling, upcycling etc.....it's second nature and I'd hazard a guess our generation have probably always done it quite automatically. Plastic pots were 'new' - then we used and still use clay pots, some of mine must be 90 years old - because we were making our own from old tin cans, cut down plastic bottles and newspaper twisted round a wooden block. It would also have been a heinous crime to throw a sweet paper onto the street!

So - from an 'unconscious gardener' to a full time miniaturist - but we are all doing the same aren't we?  Thinking 'outside the box'...how can I turn this into that? How can I make a chair/bed/washbasin out of....all these bits and pieces?
 
If you don't have much of a garden how about making your own miniature version (it will never need weeding) or a greehouse or a conservatory?
With a little imagination and practice, super flowers and plants can be made from paper or the many great kits available and it is surprising how much dried real plant material can be used. Of course as we all know, tea leaves and coffee grounds make great soil and cardboard, paving stones  - polystyrene packaging can be carved or indented for walls and all sorts of small containers covered in glue and sand to make authentic looking planters.

 The following pic. is part of  the back wall of my mini conservatory.  The wall itself is simply polystyrene indented to make 'stone' and liberally painted.  Most of the plants are paper, some  printed and some real leaves copied and reduced. There is some dried plant material in there too...and the pots are purchased, home-made from paper and clay, as well as beads and even a cartridge case.  Following is the conservatory itself.  Everything is possible!



This year for the first time in ages I've been planting flower seeds and having been given lovely flowers for Mothering Sunday, carefully removed side shoots from the carnation stems which I've planted as cuttings.  It's been successful in the past and as my Mum would say, 'they've got two chances!'

Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin
 



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Spring Is On The Way!

At last I feel that Spring is coming - the garden, emerging from its frozen weeks, is waking up at last and it's a delight to walk up there each morning and see what else is flowering.  It has even been possible to start a little proper gardening again - although it remains very soggy.

The miniature iris (Katherine's Gold) are just lovely as are the purple Reticulata just beginning to emerge in another pan, alongside is a pot of tiny hoop daffodils which I've planted in with Ophiopogon (Black Lily Grass) which still looks good with tiny purple flowers and then black berries, when the daffodils die back.



In the wild patch snowdrops are finally flowering and more primroses are out.  The little 'wild' crocus are spreading all over the garden which is wonderful. Some plants are naturally promiscuous, seed and spread like mad  - miniature cyclamen are another also hellebores which, when they eventually flower are full of surprises as the colours and markings vary so much.



When I retired from full-time making miniatures I finally found time to create a few projects for myself that first spring, inspired by the primroses, I created 'Alice Down the Rabbit Hole' and it is still a favourite.  The idea had been in my head for years and when Sandra Morris of Towerhouse Dolls created 'Alice' it was just a question of 'when'.  I found the perfect plastic rabbit, which afer several coats of paint, some clothes, spectacles and watch became my White Rabbit.



The Primroses, ferns and ivy are all made from paper and of course I'd lots of bits and pieces to make the bank and hole.


I hope you'll enjoy seeing it again - or perhaps for the first time.  After a lifetime of creating and making I confess my mojo has waned somewhat and my passion for gardening, which had had to take a back seat, is my current obsession.....there again, the ideas don't just go...and I do stll have lots of bits and pieces.....but not much shelf space left.

Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin
 







Friday, February 12, 2021

What a Picture...What a Photograph!

Does anybody else remember Tommy Steele in Half a Sixpence....or am I just the oldest?  Anyway, that phrase from the song in the musical of the same name, came to mind at crack of sparrow when my lovely other half woke me up to see the most stunning sunrise!  It was worth it!!

 




Moving on....sad I know, but I don't feel I've had a winter until I've seen a proper bit of snow. Here in Thame we've had the odd flurry...not a lot.  I appreciate that elsewhere you've probably had too much and are heartily sick of it.
Illona has posted some lovely pics of hers in the Netherlands.

https://minimumloon.blogspot.com/2021/02/sneeuwwit-en-bloedrood-snow-white-and.html

This is my offering - pretty though. Poor old owl is beginning to look quite vintage, although he isn't, as his paint gives way to rust. I like it!



In my very frozen garden the helibores are slow to come into flower, but I do love them and I'm indebted to the lovely blogger who, a couple of years ago told me how to ensure they lasted in water.  I'm so sorry that I've forgotten who that was, but I thank you once again.  So, pick the flowers and split the stems longways from just below the first bud. They last for ages.  Before that wonderful tip I'd snipped off individual flowers and floated them on a shallow dish of water - and they do look lovely.  I had to stop that as my daft cat assumed I'd decorated a water bowl just for him and drank the water!



If you read Celia's story of the miniaturists Ralph and Bertha Wright Part One you'll be happy to know that Part Two is up on her blog now, and it's just as fascinating.

http://ktminiatures.blogspot.com/2021/02/part-two-story-of-bertha-ralph-wright.html.


Stay safe, and thank you for looking.
Robin