27 Mar 2013

The City Botanical Gardens in March

crocuses, cowslips and planting out in the Victorian Garden
Over the last month or two I've been enjoying more walks in the Botanical Gardens. It's fascinating watching a garden change through the seasons and the Botanical Gardens is no exception.
There's so much to observe in the many areas each with a different emphasis in planting and following the original vision in the early Victorian period of creating a place 'to promote healthy recreation and self-education'.  In 1834, the Sheffield Botanical and Horticultural Society appointed Rober Marnock, a well-known gardener, (who later on designed Regent's Park in London).
At Sheffield he acted as curator and designed the Gardens in the fashionable Gardenesque style of the day where plants were displayed in scattered plantings.  You can just imagine the members of the Society promenading through the grounds and along the Long Walk to take a look at the various botanical specimens.  In those days the Gardens were only open on Gala days until they were eventually bought for the benefit of the general public.

The last couple of times I've visited the gardens some of the borders were being cleared ready for the new season and the Victorian Garden was being planted out with pansies and daisies. Crocuses were in bloom in the grassy areas and there were more flowers out in the woodland such as cowslips.
All these lovely flowers so typical of Springtime are now under a blanket of snow and ice and one wonders whether they will survive in such cold conditions?    

Palms, mimosa. Purple flowering Bengal clock vine ( Reinwardtia indica),
yellow flax (Thunbergia grandiflora)

Another enjoyable aspect of the Gardens are the glasshouses that are divided into rooms containing  plants from each continent.

Camellias from South Asia. The pink one is called 'Mandalay Queen'

25 Mar 2013

Monday Miscellany

More snow and ice in the middle of last week
left us more or less housebound.

It was cheering to see some of the vegetable and flower seedlings
popping up...tomatoes,cauliflowers, onions, sweet peas etc.
The peach that was grown from a stone and the Christmas Rose 
are also blossoming and budding again in the covered yard.

The snow had fallen and had frozen and we had been looking forward
 to going to a concert at the City Hall where our youngest grandson
was taking part in the choir. It had been organised by a project
 that encourages music making in the city for every child and young
 person in partnership with families, schools and other organisations.

It wasn't easy getting there in the bad weather, but either by
foot or tram friends and families managed to gather at the venue
and we enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of different styles of music
 from the children, young people and professional educators and musicians.

22 Mar 2013

A beautiful garden

One of my brothers-in-law has a beautiful garden.  He constructed a pavilion and a bar-b-q area which has a wood oven to cook breads and pizza.  As well as the flower borders with raised beds there are lawns, fruit and olive trees. Below the terrace the land stretches down to the river and there are vines, a fenced-in orchard of fig trees where a few sheep graze and an allotment. Right at the bottom of the land are the outhouses for the chickens.

The land is kept watered regularly because there's a huge storage tank filled with rain water.  Yes, it does rain heavily during the Winter months and, in fact, there's been a lot of rain there over the last few months.   Nevertheless, we enjoy gathering there (when we are over in Italy) and sitting in the pavilion during warm evenings.
I always think that this garden has an English influence as my sister-in-law grows many flowers that we would have in our own garden in England, especially rambling and standard roses, Sweet Williams, petunias etc. and I think this is because she lived in England for many years.
She and her husband have been our good friends after I met my husband at their wedding, married a few years later and our children grew up together.  When we are over in Italy and all together we have some wonderful parties in the garden.

This is a rather grainy black and white photo of my sister-in-law's wedding.  I'm standing at the back by the glass door with my future husband next to me (second right).  Last year my sister-in-law and her husband celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, so it's 'a sort of anniversary' for ourselves when we first met and now my husband and I have known one another for fifty-one years.

We have heavy snow here again and we've just heard that the schools are closing early so we are on stand by again.

20 Mar 2013

Another visit to a garden centre

We woke up to another sprinkling of snow this morning.  However, my husband wanted to go to the local garden nursery to get a certain type of lettuce seeds for his sister's husband who used to grow them when they lived in England. He has requested them as he can only eat the more delicate type of salad leaf.
A look around a garden centre with a coffee and cake break in the cafe is always welcome, so off we went....

Plants had been potted up ready for Easter
and the displays were colourful....

...in contrast to the countryside around the centre.
The sheep were not in the fields.
The farmer was a solitary figure putting up a wire fence.
The land that's now a golf course was white
with snow and, of course, empty of golfers. 

We found the type of lettuce seeds needed and also purchased
 some flower seeds as well before returning home.
Just an hour or two out and about, but seeing
 the bright flowers in the centre was good for the soul.

18 Mar 2013

Italy - Market place happenings

Caius Marius, the Roman statesman was born in Arpino,
 but he had a villa in the countryside near the old settlement of Casamari.
 Some of the Roman ruins can still be seen near the abbey and the river,
which is a conservation area and remains undeveloped.
However, the weekend market is always busy as visitors    
stop by the stalls to buy snacks of nuts, 
olives, pastries, biscuits and cakes.

When we were there last year we suddenly heard cars hooting
and this usually means that a convoy of wedding guests
are following the wedding party to the reception.
 Instead, it was a number of vintage Fiats passing by 
on the way to a rally. 

15 Mar 2013

Italian hill towns: Arpino

Arpino is one of the hill towns is in the Ciociaria region south of Rome.
It's the birthplace of Cicero, the orator, the Roman statesman, Caius Marius and was the home of the painter, Giuseppe Cesari,who was also know as the Cavaliere d'Arpino, so there are many reminders of these personalities and their life and times in the area.  The town also has personal associations as my husband's two younger sisters were educated at a convent boarding college there.  Whenever we drive there I think of my late mother-in-law, who was then widowed, who used to walk there and back home so that she could see her daughters. Half the distance there was uphill, but that was normal for any country person not so long ago.

The town buildings are built on the two hills and we've walked with our family to the highest point, been there when there have been cultural festivals and markets in the Summer and, as in this photo above, during the Spring break.


                                Lemons growing in the drive of the town police station.

14 Mar 2013

A gift

I'm enjoying the gift of flowers from
the three children and the grandchildren 
and the way the sunshine highlights them.
Roses, freesias, daisies... they are all beautiful.

  In our parish churchyard there's
a thought-provoking reminder of the spiritual season
and journey towards Easter when we can rejoice
in life in Jesus because of the Cross.

13 Mar 2013

Just looking

On Sunday afternoon our daughter had intended to take me and our grand daughter out for afternoon tea after our walk.  Unfortunately, by the time we got back to the area of town near the Botanical Gardens it was getting late and it was very cold.  We've decided to make a date and return another time to one of the many tea shops there.
There are lots of small, independent shops in this particular high street and we had a quick look at the window displays before returning home for a cup or tea.

There's something for everyone in this corner of town and another reason to return another day when these shops are open on a weekday.

12 Mar 2013

Sunday afternoon outing

On Sunday afternoon we went out with our daughter as she thought we would all enjoy the drive and walk followed by tea-time refreshments.
The snow that we've been experiencing again had already settled on higher ground and the parkland of Whirlowbrook Hall estate looked beautiful.

Whirlowbrook Hall was built in 1906 and owned by a local industrialist.  In recent years the Hall had been used for various functions and also had a cafe which was open to visitors.  Apparently the hall and cafe was closed last year, but the grounds of the estate are open to the public and as there are acres of land to explore it's another popular area for walking, especially as it's on the edge of Derbyshire countryside.  I'm sure we shall go there again and take a longer walk through the woods.

10 Mar 2013


Today is a day for celebrating motherhood,
 so happy Mother's Day!

 In the Christian liturgical calendar this day
is called Mothering Sunday.
It falls within the Lenten period -
a time of reflection before Easter.
 The word 'lent' comes from
the Anglo-Saxon for the lengthening
of daylight hours around about the month of March
after the dark days of Winter.

In some churches there's a custom of handing
 out bunches of Spring flowers at
the Mothering Sunday service.
It originates from the days when
girls who lived-in as domestic servants
were given the time off to return home
and usually take a small gift of flowers and maybe
the traditional Simnel Cake

It's good that the church service is inclusive
and bunches of flowers are given out by
the children to all the ladies. 
Mother's Day can also be a poignant one
as we remember our mothers
who are no longer with us.

Later today I'm going out with our
younger daughter, grandchildren
and husband for tea and cake so
I'm sure there will be more photos
to share another time!

Yesterday, I went to the International
Women's Day Conference in the city, which
this year highlighted women's health issues

8 Mar 2013


This friendly robin visited our third oldest 
grandson who spends a lot of time down by the local lake.

6 Mar 2013

Italy: Garden maintenance

As I've often mentioned, we usually go over to Italy in February or March to do some work in the house and garden and generally take a break.  This year the trip has been delayed and we are looking forward to getting there soon especially as the weather here in the UK continues to be cold and dull with the occasional day of sunshine which teases us into thinking that Spring has come at last.
Not that the weather in the mountains in our region of Italy is always warm and sunny at this time of the year.  There have also been some other strange happenings recently. My sister-in-law phoned the other day to tell us that there had been strong earth tremors one evening in February which had been felt throughout the area from south of Rome to Naples and the 4.8 magnitude quake's epicentre had been near the two local towns of Sora and Isola del Liri.  Although there had been no injuries and little damage to old, vulnerable buildings it had been a frightening experience despite these tremors being felt from time to time, which we have experienced ourselves when we have been on holiday or living in Italy.
Anyway, being the time for pruning trees, vines, cutting the grass, painting and cleaning,  I'm posting some photos of our life in Italy when we are there in the early months of the year with apologies for revisiting a subject that I posted on my old, deleted blog.

Lambing time - views of the top field.

A few of the jobs that need to be done outside while I'm relaxing...no, not really.  I'm usually doing some cleaning etc. inside.

Of course, the time away is also an opportunity to relax, see family and spend some time out and about in the locality.  This is a view overlooking the town of Isola del Liri where the quake was felt the strongest which is about 10 kms from our home.