27 April 2010

blossom bounty

The blossom in Teddington is fabby:

But I'm more excited about the blossom in our apple orchard...

and in our fruit cage, where after weeks of worryingly bare branches, the cherry trees have finally turned up trumps:

Because while not so showy as the blossom down the street, hopefully it'll be productive. Unlike myself at the moment. Better get back to the plot!

25 April 2010

other people's gardens, part three

On Friday, G and I played hooky to spend more time in other people's gardens: this time our old favorite, Petersham Nurseries. There were trays and trays of bedding plants in the central greenhouse,

and the outside beds were bursting with blooms:

After a good wander round, and a long pause for coffee and slices of crumbly-syrupy lemon-almond-polenta cake,

we headed into the shop, where we discovered even more spectacular species:

The central urn had been planted up with strawberries,

foretelling good things to come:

And not a moment too soon, as I've had just about enough of rhubarb: bring on the berries!

21 April 2010

other people's gardens, part two

Yesterday, Tracy and I met for our long-planned rendezvous at Kew.

We were meant to be crocheting in the cafe, but we couldn't resist the lure of the sunny blue skies,


and magnolias, including this spectacular specimen:

With Heathrow closed on account of ash, the gardens were blissfully quiet. That must be a bird or bug in the corner...

because there wasn't a plane in the sky.

And as for crochet in the cafe: we've both taken out memberships, so we can try again next month. Perhaps it will be gray and rainy then!

20 April 2010

other people's gardens

Saturday dawned so bright and sunny--the sky such a deep cobalt blue--it seemed an ideal morning for exploring. So we headed to Savill Garden, a woodland and ornamental garden created by Sir Eric Savill in the 1930s.

There were still a few daffodils blooming,

plenty of frothy blossom,

and some magnificent magnolias:

After a leisurely wander, we had lunch on the terrace of the Savill Building, just beyond the shade of its wonderfully wavy roof:

this image: Savill Garden website

The garden is part of the Royal Landscape, which is in turn part of the Crown Estate. As our allotments are also owned by the Crown, I was thinking they could perhaps lend us a gardener to help with a bit of plot beautification...hmmm!

19 April 2010

spargelfest, part two

The bulbs may be more photogenic, but these were the real highlight of our weekend:

Our first asparagus spears of the season--hooray!

16 April 2010

bulbs and a book

Much to the dismay of some of the old-school allotmenters, we have three beds of bulbs on our plot. While the beds aren't as full as they used to be (must replant this autumn), the muscari are still going strong,

as are the tulips, purchased ages ago from Sarah Raven:

And they coordinate so nicely with the cover of my current book:

Not that I'd ever be caught reading on the allotments: what would they think? Back to work!

11 April 2010

ginger & white

Ali once joked I knew all the best places, but this is completely untrue: it's Miranda who knows all the best places! And she's just introduced me to my new favorite cafe, Ginger & White, on a quiet side street in Hampstead:

image: Ginger & White

Seated at the rustic communal table, we've enjoyed tea and coffee, served in Poole Twintone, with the fabbiest elevenses. The peach and pecan muffin I had on my first visit was the best muffin I've ever had--ever!

image: Ginger & White

And as the loyalty card says, they 'don't do Grande':

The coffee is strong and dark, brewed using beans from Square Mile Coffee Roasters in East London. I think even G would approve!

But it's not just sweet treats and hot drinks. They serve wonderful breakfasts and lunches featuring ingredients sourced from British farms. On our most recent visit, Miranda had boiled eggs and soldiers, her eggs arriving lovely and warm in tiny knitted bobble hats.

Now I'm wondering if we should set the knitting group to work. Tiny bobble hats in exchange for coffee, tea, and treats? Sounds good to me! Do you think they'd be interested?

08 April 2010

go to van gogh

I thought we were the only Londoners who had yet to see The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters at the Royal Academy. But judging by the line outside and the hustle-and-bustle inside, we weren't alone. Thank goodness for G's Friends card!

There were some old favorites, including a painting owned by my former employer and another I remembered from school trips into the city,

Vincent Van Gogh, Roses, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1991.67.1

as well as paintings entirely new to me in the most brilliant colors:

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheat Fields (The Plain of Auvers) July 1890, oil on canvas, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, 68.18

But what made the exhibition truly extraordinary were the letters and sketches displayed alongside the paintings. The RA exhibition is actually a small part of a larger show organized to celebrate the new edition of Van Gogh's letters published by the Van Gogh Museum last year:

This is the first time I've ever coveted an artist's complete correspondence. But, as revealed by the exhibition, Van Gogh was as much a genius in language as in paint. He cared deeply about writing and chose and used his words to great effect:

'There are so many people, especially among our pals, who imagine that words are nothing. On the contrary, don't you think, it's as interesting and as difficult to say a thing well as to paint a thing.' (letter to Emile Bernard, 1888)

I found myself lingering over each and every letter, reading the English translation, scrutinizing the sketches in the margins...

Vincent Van Gogh, Letter 783 from Vincent Van Gogh to Theo Van Gogh: Cypresses, 25 June 1889, Van Gogh Museum

then comparing the words and sketches to the painting described:

Vincent Van Gogh, Cypresses, June 1889, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 49.30

Simply brilliant and most definitely worth a go! But alas my silly puns only work when his name is pronounced in the American way. Sigh.

06 April 2010

ministry of food

This weekend, G and I visited The Ministry of Food exhibition at the Imperial War Museum London, organized to mark the 70th anniversary of the introduction of food rationing in Britain:

While smaller than I was expecting, the exhibition was wonderfully presented, with a garden greenhouse (that I'd give nearly anything to have on our plot), a 1940s grocery (stocked with many brands still recognizable today), and a wartime kitchen (in which G immediately spotted his grandmother's old gas cooker).

It was interesting to see how many of the issues being addressed by the Ministry of Food then are still talking points today: growing our own produce, eating seasonally and locally, recycling and reducing waste, and maintaining healthy nutrition.

Hans Schleger ('Zero'), Eat Greens for Health--Feed Right to Feel Right, poster, 1939-45, Imperial War Museum Cat. No. IWM PST 3454

The old newsreel footage was fabulous, on its own worth the price of admission. And we're still giggling over this photo of children eating carrots on sticks:

But seeing as the alternative was ice cream made from wholemeal flour, I think I'd stick with carrots, too!

04 April 2010

midwest modern knits

My favorite fabric and pattern designer, Amy Butler, has taken up my favorite hobby, knitting!

G picked up a copy of Midwest Modern Knits for me yesterday, and the patterns are fab: straightforward yet fun, just as you'd expect from Amy.

I'm head-over-heels in love with the Pretzel Scarf,

but I'm rather worried by the fact it requires 20 balls of yarn. Yikes!

While I quite like the Sleeveless Butterfly Jacket, too, which has a lovely folded collar and funky lace-up detail in back,

I'm also inexplicably drawn to this:

Though I have absolutely no idea what I'd do with it. Then again, practical considerations have rarely stopped me from undertaking a crafty pursuit!