Tuesday, 16 August 2016


image via saga.co.uk

Last week I decided that I would divide and repot the Auriculas.  The ongoing care for these amazing plants is, quite frankly, laborious!  They have a reputation for being difficult to grow,  reluctant to flower, and they simply conk out for no reason.  Auriculas are demanding rather than difficult because they need alpine conditions and only do well if placed somewhere cool and airy away from the midday sun.  
Mine flowered too early last year as they were situated on the Northern verandah in full sun to keep them warm during a cold winter.  Instead of that perfect single bunch of flowers poised above the leaves,  most plants had numerous single flower stems flopping about the pot and so I decided to divide them this year so that the offsets were limited. 

One of last year's flowers 
I removed the plant from the original pot, and gently pulled it apart before planting them in two separate pots into which I had added pebbles which I hope will assist in the drainage.

Pressing down the potting mix around the Auricula

After adding pebbles to cover the soil
Some of the re-potted Auriculas

The greenhouse is brimming with pansies and foxgloves that are just about ready to plant out into the garden.
John and I comparing our handy work

I've been picking lots of Violets for my bedside table and just adore their fragrance.
Gorgeous Gladioli in the hall - store bought flowers at this time of the year are a necessity.
This is the first time I have put Wattle into a vase and perhaps the last!... They dropped within two days!
I had a group of lovely ladies over for lunch on Friday
The first tulips I have brought inside this year and I'm hoping they will flower..
I've also fed all of the indoor plants
The Hellebores are all in flower now

English Galanthus which was given to me by a friend

Delightful snowdrops dotted all over the garden
The Auriculas are doing well
The Pelargoniums are beginning to flower
My Hydrangea cuttings have all taken

The Hydrangeas cuttings beneath a cloche.
An unusual double Daffodil which was given to me by a friend

After a day in the garden,  soup for supper is usually the easiest.

The soup was delicious and so was the boiled egg on toast.

Happy week everyone!

ps - since posting this, I have read that the best time to divide the Auriculas is just after they have flowered... oh dear... fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Diana Watson
An artist that captures the true essence of nature

Sunshine in the Winter

Diana Watson knows her way around flowers.  It is almost as if she has climbed inside them.  She paints her flowers as though she were Thumbelina,  looking deeply into the blooms, taking note of the detail,  marks and imperfections of each petal.    As flowers unfurl, they reach a point of perfection and then slowly begin to deteriorate the more they open.  The petals become more fragile, look slightly bruised and the stems and petals start drooping.   It is this process that Diana captures so well.

We discovered Diana some 10 years ago when we bought a big glorious rendition of waxy orange tulips on a black background.  This painting lived on my balcony in Paddington for many years and it never failed to bring us pleasure.

Diana’s  still life paintings are also wonderful.   She recently received the exciting news that Rick Stein had purchased one of her still life paintings of lemons.  This painting is hanging in one of his restaurants in Padstow in the UK.  The Stein group have now asked her permission for copyright to use the image of her painting on their new menus! 

I chatted to Diana Watson earlier today and asked her a couple of questions:

What time of the day do you paint?  

DW:  I paint all day really - off and on - I start at 9.00 and usually end at 4.30.  

Are you disciplined to paint every day?

DW:  I guess I am,  yes - I am driven!

Were you a keen drawer as a child?  

DW:  Yes I was.  I remember sitting on my father's knee and I remember him teaching me how to draw horses.  We lived on a horse stud in Perth. 

Where do you find the flowers that you paint?  

DW: I pick them walking around Kirribilli and also sometimes buy them from the florist.  I photograph flowers and have a huge library of photos.  I sometimes wish I had access to a big country garden!             

Is the painting of flowers your ultimate genre or do you think you might move on to something else?   

DW: I love painting fabric and I guess that's always been a challenge for me.  One can view these works on my website  under the heading 'Nova'.  I had an exhibition showing these works in Perth a while ago.

What do you do to relax?  

DW: I love sewing!  Anything from wedding dresses to linen kimonos which I have made for the girls in my family.  I have managed to source some amazing linens and have  made an entire summer wardrobe for myself!

I loved chatting to Diana and found her to be a really inspirational woman!

Her forthcoming exhibition entitled "Campo de Fiori" is in Double Bay at The Frances Keevil Gallery  and opens This coming weekend…. beginning 6 August.  

Showing the huge scale of some of Diana's artworks


White lace

Summers end

Wild Flowers

Her paintings in real life are incredible!  If you have time over the weekend do stop by and have a look!

Saturday, 30 July 2016


A gentle place, where time stands still

This great photo was taken by Nicolas Neyret, a photographer living in Boussac whom I met on the day I left!

What is it about Boussac? ... I have asked myself and others this question so often.  Boussac is a small market town in the Creuse - a rural Department slap bang in the middle of France.  It is a town that is difficult to get to.  There are numerous ways to get here, by train and plane, but there is always a drive involved and it does become tedious!  We have been wondering whether the TGV will, in fact, be routed nearby as was once suggested... 
  Of course,  this also ensures that Boussac remains in some sort of time warp as tourists seldom choose Boussac as their destination.  

We have loved our quiet holidays here and this time was no exception.  I love to cook when I am in France.  There are the markets where locally grown fresh produce is beautifully displayed in colourful wooden crates.  I love Thursdays in Boussac when the markets come to town.  I normally sling the basket over my shoulder and take the short walk up to the square where the hustle and bustle of the stalls going up begins at 6.00 in the morning.  

My first stop is usually the  mobile Poulet Roti van where I buy a farm reared, roasted chicken or poulet fermier.  There is usually a queue and it is always good to get there early!   Predictably, Thursday lunch is cold chicken and a salad!   Poulet au Pot, seen below, is one of my favourite things to cook in Boussac as the chickens in France are so delicious, always tasting like 'old-fashioned' chickens!  This dish is so easy to prepare, so hearty and comforting on a chilly evening.

My preparations for Poulet au Pot

This year, we arrived in Boussac just in time to catch the last of the white asparagus season.  I adore the subtle flavour of these ivory spears.  The photo below was taken just before I cooked them.  I usually add the white spears to a salad or alternatively, serve them with lashings of butter and lemon juice!

Although I love cooking in France,  I also like to prepare dishes that are easy and summery.  Loads of roasted capsicum,  grilled zucchini, green salads, gently saute'ed fennel and new potatoes, always accompanied by plenty of fresh herbs.    Duck breasts, cooked on the BBQ, beef fillets, veal cutlets and fresh fish are our favourites.

Our beautiful 14thC church square.  There are sometimes wonderful concerts held in this church - piano recitals and opera are delightful to experience inside these ancient walls.  Sometimes, we loiter outside enjoying the sounds drifting out of the doors and windows...

When the weather starts warming up the doors on the small balcony off my bedroom stay open all day.

The warm sunlit evenings means eating in the garden which is such a pleasure.  We have an old Tulip tree sitting in the middle of the parterre garden and the table beneath is in the shade all day.  

I also took to walking each evening at 9.00pm with my neighbour and dear friend Deirdre.  We were grateful for the street lights which guided our return as the evenings grow dark around 10.00pm.  
The 15thC Chateau de Boussac which we pass by on our evening walk.

One of the little cottages which nestle on the flat area beneath the Chateau.
The little river and waterfall beneath the Chateau is always such a lovely sight.
Some random photos of the house and garden follow.
The seating area in the library

View out of the library window onto the garden

The other side of the library
The Long room early one morning

The table in the dining room before lunch, when the weather was chilly.

Taken early one morning with the first rays just touching the house. 

We get exciting electrical storms in Boussac and the two photos above show the build-up.  There was lots of thunder and lightening and hail after this particular storm!
View to the dining room from the tiny kitchen

One sweet corner of the garden

View from my bathroom window

The tiny kitchen where everything is possible!

Happy weekend everyone!

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