Art · Flowers · Garden · Mixed-media · Nature

Our Spring Garden

Here, in Napier, the gardens are blooming with spring loveliness. We have had an interesting medley of weather these past few weeks, with frosts, rain, thunder, lightning, and hail storms, as well as some glorious sunshine and gentle spring breezes.

Our flower garden is a profusion of colour with poppies and anemones making a welcome return.

The old-fashioned Sweet William in the planter box outside the studio has the most divine scent.

Forget-me-nots have self-seeded everywhere.

The osteospermums or African daisies flower for much of the year and do well beneath the trees.

Our veggie garden is providing us with plenty of greens (spinach, chard, and kale), carrots, spring onions, broccoli and lettuce.

 

Seeds have been growing in the greenhouse, and potatoes, carrots, and pumpkins have gone into the ground. It will be another two or three weeks before danger of frosts has passed and we can plant tomatoes and other tender seedlings. We have planted a berry patch this year with raspberries, boysenberries, and strawberries. I’m not too sure whether it will get enough sun down the side fence beside the citrus trees, but am looking forward to seeing what it produces.

Calendulas self-seed throughout the veggie garden. I dry the flowers and use them to make a herbal-infused oil for use in calendula lotion. I use the lotion recipe in Jan Berry’s book 101 Easy Homemade Products for your Skin, Health & Home. It makes a lovely creamy lotion. I only make a small amount at a time as I don’t put preservative in it.

I love to press flowers from the garden to use in my art, and there are plenty to pick at this time of the year. This little mixed-media painting was created using watercolour paints, washi tape, stitching, and pressed flowers.

Little House on the Hill
Art · Mixed-media · Nature

Dragonflies and Butterflies

This small mixed-media canvas was made with beads, ribbons, papers, fibres, pressed flowers, fabric, and teabag papers for the dragonfly’s wings. Although dragonflies aren’t around until summer, I wanted to make something light and cheerful as spring arrives in our little corner of the world.

We’ve had a lot of rain this past week, which the trees and the plants are loving, as we’ve had a fairly dry winter. Trees are in blossom, buds are forming, and signs of new spring growth are all around. We’ve even spotted a few monarch butterflies making an early appearance this year.

I hope you’re having a good spring or autumn wherever you are in the world!

Art · Art journal · Mixed-media · Nature

Tui

One of our most beloved native birds, here in New Zealand, is the tui. A medium-sized bird, a little larger than a blackbird, the tui has an interesting and varied repertoire of sounds, which include melodious ringing notes interspersed with coughs and grunts. They can also mimic the sounds of other birds. Tui live in native forests and rural areas, but can also be found in suburban parks and gardens that have flowering and fruiting trees. They are honeyeaters and love feeding from the nectar of flowering gums, kowhai, pohutukawa, flax and fuchsia.

When we go for walks, we often hear the whoosh of their wingbeats as they fly between trees. They are easy to spot with their white throat tufts and the iridescent blue and green sheen of their feathers in the sunlight.

Below are a few pictures that my husband has taken on our walks. They really show the beauty of these birds. The bottom two photos are of a tui that was feeding on nectar from the flowers of a kowhai tree, which I used as inspiration for my art journal page.

Crafts

Winter Crafts

I recently saw an online tutorial for making beaded wind chimes, and when our local craft store had a sale with 30 percent off beads, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to buy some and have a go at making the wind chimes. There were so many beautiful beads to choose from, but I knew the colours I wanted, and that I wanted them to have some sparkle so that when the sunlight shone on them they would glisten and send happy rays dancing around the garden.

For a natural element, I added some seed pods, and used a stick from our garden to hang them from. I haven’t decided yet whether to hang it from the roof of my studio,

or from a tree.

You can find the tutorial for the beaded wind chimes here.

I love to knit over the winter months and usually have my knitting bag beside the couch with a project on the go. I learned to knit when I was about ten years old and fell in love with all the different yarns. I find knitting soothing. Handmade woollen things always seem so warm and cosy and inviting. My recent projects include a scarf for wearing on winter walks…

and a jumper for Finn to wear on frosty mornings. I wasn’t sure if he would want to wear it, but he seems to love it. He is quite happy to have it put on before snuggling up on the couch…

or under the quilt when it’s really cold.

He loves to lie on the sunny bench seat outside the studio.

Happy winter crafting to all my friends in the southern hemisphere, and happy summer crafting to all those in the northern hemisphere!

Flowers · Garden · Nature

Colours of Winter

We haven’t had too many days this winter that have been cheerless and grey, with rain and wind, the sort of day when all you want to do is stay inside and hibernate. More often the days have been calm and still, with some frosty mornings that are always followed by glorious sunshine, and it is on those days that I love to spend time in the garden, enjoying the beautiful winter colours.

Calendulas among the carrots, brightening up the veggie patch.

Lovely lavender.

Orange and grapefruit trees laden with fruit.

Pots of dianthus.

The beautiful camellia in the abandoned garden next door.

The Peace Lily in our living room, illuminated by early morning sunshine.

Simply magical…

For this page in my art journal, I collaged on some scraps of paper and teabags, applied texture with gesso, stencils, and lace, and painted the background in wintery hues. I then painted the colours of my garden: the starkness of the maple tree without its leaves, the red berries on the holly tree, the bright orange citrus, and the beautiful winter flowers. Lastly I added a few pressed flowers of the pansies and violas that flower throughout the winter.

Garden · Nature

Bath Time

We love to encourage birds to our garden. Every morning, the sparrows perch on the roof of my studio and watch me through the kitchen window, waiting for their daily feed. When I go out the back door, they fly around me in a flurry of excitement and follow me to the back lawn where I toss a couple of handfuls of wild bird seed onto the grass.

Inside my studio, I have a good view of them through the French doors where I can watch from a distance as they peck around on the grass, then have a drink from the birdbath. It is fun to watch them splashing around and playing in the water. Sometimes they are joined by finches or silvereyes or starlings. Occasionally bossy mynas will come and scare them away. The blackbirds hang around on the outskirts, foraging on the grass and in the garden for worms and grubs.

This little birdbath sticker was the perfect addition to the photos in my garden journal.

Garden · recipes

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

We have just a few beetroot left in our veggie garden, which I have let become overrun with nasturtiums and violas, both of which attract beneficial insects to the garden. Both the violas and nasturtiums have come up through self-seeding and are a welcome addition to the garden until winter frosts kill off the nasturtiums in the next few weeks.

I planted enough beetroot to last us through the summer and autumn. We have enjoyed them in salads and sandwiches, in burgers and on pizzas, and roasted with other veggies. I have bottled enough to keep us going through the rest of the year, but I couldn’t let them all go without making one last cake! The beetroot gives the cake a lovely texture and flavour, as well as a red tinge.

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

1 large beetroot (about 250g)
3 eggs
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup oil (I use olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa

Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat together the eggs and sugar. Peel and grate the uncooked beetroot. Mix the oil, vanilla, and grated beetroot into the eggs and sugar until well combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa, then add to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Pour the batter into a paper-lined cake tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Allow to cool, then spread with icing.

Icing

2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
3 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, softened
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon vanilla essence

Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, then add all the other ingredients and mix until smooth and a spreadable consistency.

Enjoy!