The power of three

Have you ever stopped and thought about the number three? No, neither have I much, but if we do stop to analyse, it is actually quite an interesting little beast.

While that old saying ‘Two’s company, three’s a crowd,’ has a negative slant, the fact that three can be a crowd is actually very useful when it comes to arranging flowers and planting in the garden. It’s also a very important number to remember when you’re writing…

In appearance, an uneven number of things, three, five, seven and so on, always gives a more random, ‘natural’ look. A farmer friend of mine planted all his daffodil bulbs two by two in a regimented march across his lawn and, oh dear, did it look odd! If he’d done little clumps of three it would have looked much better.

I always plant my perennials in clumps of at least three, and the same goes for bulbs. Flower arranging, which I am trained in and did a very great deal of earlier in my career, works a lot with threes and the triangular shape, and the science behind it and how our brain sees things is very interesting…

The ‘Rule of three’ is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes will be funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things. And that sentence was itself an example of it!

Apparently, we are more likely to absorb information if it is written in groups of threes. From slogans – the Olympic’s “Faster, higher, stonger!” – to films, many things are structured in threes. Examples include the Three Musketeers, Three Little Pigs and Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

When I’m busy writing – whether it’s an article, a book or this blog – (that’s another three!) the rule of three does come to me quite naturally after all these years. At the moment, as some of you will know, I am working on a novel and, when I am trying to create dramatic, impact I do sit and chew my pen – well actually my finger nails as I type everything – and put a lot of effort into producing the most concise, clever and crafty sentences that I can. A series of three creates a progression in which the tension is created, built up, and finally released.

Will I succeed? Or will time, tiredness and tedium get the better of me…? Only time will tell. I’ll keep you posted on the novel’s progress…!

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Secret gardens just waiting for you…

Spring is so slow to get going this year that I am trying to convince myself it will be doubly good when it finally does arrive!

In eager anticipation of this, I thought that I’d mention the National Garden Scheme in this week’s blog. Some of you may already know it – it’s often referred to as ‘The Yellow Book’ scheme – if not, you are missing out on a real gardening treat. The National Garden Scheme (NGS) is a wonderful idea that not only raises lots of money for charity, but also allows you to visit some absolutely stunning private gardens.

Most gardens that open for the NGS are privately owned and open just a few times each year. Some gardens open as part of a group with the whole community involved. The gardens give all the money raised directly to us (including from the sale of teas and plants); the only exceptions being in some cases they ask that a small proportion goes to a nominated local charity.

When a garden is open, it puts out a distinctive yellow poster – look out for these! A few years ago, I had a wonderful afternoon wandering round a garden that was right next to somewhere I’d lived as a child. It had been home to Enid Blyton many years before and the current owners had done a fantastic job restoring the garden. I had been visiting the area and drove past the end of the road and saw the sign – pure chance. Sadly, that particular garden isn’t open this year, but there are no less than 3,700 across England and Wales that are, and some of them are bound to be near you. 

Buy a copy of their ‘Yellow Book’ Guide and it will tell you all the gardens that open, and when. There are some absolute gems! Their website is also very useful and includes details of when you can stay near particular gardens, details of plant fairs and nurseries etc.

 

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Flowers in a box

I am always looking for a more unusual way to give flowers to my Mother and this was my solution this Mother’s Day.

The circular hat box is not too expensive and can be bought online or from a local craft store. Line the hatbox with some polythene and then pack with soaked Oasis. Then you have an easy container to fill with flowers. Add a satin ribbon at the end and there you go!

The papier mache containers that are available, range from very large to very small and cover such a wide range of ideas. I sometimes paint and crackle finish them, or you can use them with napkin craft, traditional flat decoupage, painting and stamping or just plain colour them with your promarkers.

I will be writing more blogs for you in the coming months to show what imaginative things you can do with containers… and maybe I can add the finished result of my Mum’s hatbox as you can be sure she will be decorating and playing with it the moment the flowers have gone!

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The start of a new year…

Once Christmas is over and we’ve all seen in the New Year, things can feel a bit flat. Thankfully, December and the first week or so of January have been very mild down here in Devon so there are some uplifting and very welcome signs of life on the garden.

As many of you will know, hellebores are one of my favourite flowers. I think they are beautiful in both their range of colour and also in their slightly spiky architectural look. But I love them probably most of all because you can be sure that, even in the darkest, dankest January day, if you have hellebores in your garden, you will have flowers!

In fact, the whole of last autumn was relatively mild and wet. The ground temperature has remained warm and, as we know, plants like plenty of rain, so now they are probably thinking: “Hmm, winter must be over, let’s start to flower.”

Lots of shrubs are sprouting in my garden and I noticed a neighbour’s rhubarb was already sending out new bright pink shoots.

As it’s been so mild, snowdrops and primroses are already making a show – I have heard that in some areas, snowdrops were out before Christmas! Such delicate flowers, they are really beautiful if you stop and take a moment to look at them in detail. A cluster of snowdrops pushing through a mossy bank is a delight to behold.

The primrose is the flower of Devon and, believe me, they really do flourish down here! Because of Devon’s climate, soil and geographical position, the wild primrose can be widely found in woodland and countryside right across the county.

I read recently that, in past centuries, Devon’s old paper mills used to send primrose blooms to customers because the flower was seen – even then – as a symbol of a breath of fresh Devon air.

In a month or so, the banks of our steep Devon lanes will be smothered in primroses, and then I will know that Spring really has arrived.

 

 

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Cross-stitched herbal sachets

These pretty little sachets are made from a cross-stitch kit we sell, I wish I could say that I had stitched them but sadly … no time … but they were beautifully made for me by Gladys Dorr and don’t they look lovely!

I love having fragrance around the house and sachets and little bags of goodies feature heavily in many of the rooms here. Some I fill with lavender, little sachets for example in drawers and with the linen and towels in the airing cupboard. But sometimes I want a different effect, which is where making your own pot pourri comes in handy!

It depends what type of smell you enjoy the most – some people are very flowery, others prefer clean piney smells – I am very fond of citrusy smells and often use oranges and lemons for these projects.

This is a recipe for pot pourri I have used for many years:

Strawberry and orange preserve pot pourri

  • 2 cups chopped dried orange peel
  • 2 cups rose hips
  • ½ cup black peppercorns
  • 1 cup white peppercorns,
  • 1 cup strawberry leaves
  • 1 cup orris root soaked in 2tsp strawberry oil
  • 1 tsp sweet orange oil
  • A few drops of black pepper oil

Combine all the ingredients and leave to mature in a sealed ziplock bag for 3 weeks. Then display or fill little sacks like these.

Another idea is something much more feminine –  and dating back to Elizabethan times

Spiced roses for your linens

Rose petals dried in the shade with cloves ground to a powder and some dried mace.

As the recipe is so old there are no quantities but I used a large spoon of mace and clove combined with every cup or so of quite tightly packed rose petals. In Elizabethan times I am sure the rose petals would all have had a lovely smell, whereas today they rarely do. So add a few drops of rose essential oil before mixing everything together. Leave it overnight and then fill little bags.

Have a look on Google for a supplier of orris root or essential oils, they are fairly easy to find!

 

 

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