On safari

We have loved playing with all the jungly safari type dies we produced not so long ago. They make fun cards for all ages – my little Grace loves safari type programmes and I hope she gets to see some of them in the wild when she grows up. I haven’t been on a safari, I keep saying “when I retire” but that doesn’t seem to be getting any closer!

We have all seen the main safari animals in a zoo and one of my favourite visits was the Disney Animal Kingdom. If anyone has the chance staying in a hotel where, when you open your curtains in the morning you can stare at a giraffe not that many paces away, I highly recommend it. I am also very fond of Longleat. We took Grace just recently and she was squealing with excitement at the little monkey sitting on the wing mirror two inches from her face, as she sat on my lap in the front of the car. I was quite happy to have the window glass between us and the monkeys, cute they may be, but I bet they bite!

So lions or monkeys make great subjects for cards whether we have seen them in the wild or not. The animal patchwork dies we have in the series are also a huge success when you use them as backing pieces like the card on the left. They come in various animal effects – this one is the tiger – but crocodile, giraffe and zebra work just as well. The background on the right-hand card shows what fun you can have with some of the inks and pads around at the moment. I am very keen on the Tim Holtz pad ranges but Adirondack Alcohol Inks give amazing effects too. True to our craft, half the fun is just playing!

Simple effects, like cutting a circle from a Post-It note and then sponging around it to create the sun, or snipping cloud shapes again from a Post-It and sponging blue around them for clouds in a blue sky – just play and fiddle, inspiration always strikes!

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Wildflower wonderland

After a pretty fraught day, it was lovely to go for an evening stroll yesterday and to feel the warmth of the sun, listen to the birds singing and enjoy the fabulous wildflowers.

I think we all know Devon is a beautiful county but, in the month of May, it really comes into its own. The hedgerows, banks and woodlands are full of wildflowers – bluebells, red campion, stitchwort, wild garlic… the list is endless.

My own garden is starting to look pretty good, but there is something so magical about the display nature can produce all on her own. Yes, I know you can see tropical blooms and exotic birds in other parts of the world but for me, there is nothing to beat the English countryside in May.

What’s your favourite wildflower?

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Vintage Butterfly…

The Jane Shasky Vintage Butterfly Pad has been a constant companion on my desk since we launched it – such a great solution to so many cards!

This is a lovely card that looks much more difficult than it really is. It’s a quick and easy answer if you need a card in a short time!

Ingredients:

Quick ‘how to’:

  1. Either fold some card to about 8 x 6 (this is 210mm x 150mm) or use a card blank you have in stock.
  2. Cut some of the mid brown card you have chosen, about 5mm smaller than the card blank, then add a layer (again a 5mm (1/4”) border) using cream card. Cut out the border from the pad and layer onto some beige cardstock (you only need a scrap for this really).
  3. Now prepare the butterfly topper section of the card. Cut out the image and layer onto mid brown card using a double sided tape. Now layer that onto cream, this time using foam pads and then a final layer at the back of the darkest brown card.
  4. Place this almost square topper in position as shown in the picture – as it juts above the blank, make sure you stick securely NOT allowing any tape or glue on the portion that will jut over the top.
  5. Finally use the bluebell die and colour to suit – these are green and cream. Attach using quickie glue or glossy accents or Cosmic Shimmer acrylic – whatever you have in stock.
  6. Now finish the card with the little squares from the pad sheet, the sentiment again from the pad (layered onto mid brown) and add a final flourish with half a dozen pearls.
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Winter garden inspiration

My partner in crime writing, Julia, moved house last autumn and is planning how she is going to design and plant up her new garden. I’ll let Julia tell you what she’s been up to…

One of the many Cornus to be seen at Rosemoor.

I am fortunate enough to live about half an hour away from RHS Garden Rosemoor, where they run talks and courses about all aspects of gardening. My new (new to me, anyway) garden is large, relatively empty, on a very slight incline and south facing… almost the complete opposite of my previous garden that was steep, terraced half in shade, and a frost pocket! My new house is also about 700ft above sea level so I am keen to try and ensure I buy the right plants for the garden.

As well as the right plants for the setting, I also want to try and ensure I have interest throughout the year. My old garden used to be at its best from May to July and pretty uninteresting the remainder of the time. So, my first session at Rosemoor was called ‘Winter colour for your garden’.

The amazing Acer griseum, the aptly named paper bark maple.

Their course brochure says: “Winter is often considered to be a closed season in the garden, but this definitely need not be the case. Colourful and fragrant flowers, striking barks and stems and a wide variety of evergreen plants all help to brighten up the garden and provide a wealth of interest throughout the winter. On this walk we will look at a good selection of plants, all of which are star performers during the winter months, and also discuss how to care for them.”

Luckily for me, the mid-February day was sunny and not too chilly. Rosemoor has a specific winter garden, and it was wonderful to see just how much colour and interest you can create. The thing that struck me most was the scent! I had no idea a winter garden could smell so wonderful. As the air was crisp, the mix of winter sun, birdsong and floral fragrance was just wonderful. Sarcococca is not a shrub I had encountered before, but I will definitely be buying some. Compact, evergreen shrubs with simple, leathery leaves and tiny, fragrant creamy-white flowers in winter or spring, followed by red, purple or black berries they smell divine. While I am familiar with Daphne, it’s another winter flowering plant whose fragrance I had not really appreciated.

Dramatic Camelia.

As well as scent, you need colour. While Camelias are a good bet for dramatic flowers, I was drawn more towards the coloured stems of Cornus, or dogwood as I have always called it, their bright red and yellow stems looking wonderful against a dark hedge or fence in deepest winter. Dogwoods is pretty wonderful all ways around, having blossoms, berries and, when you prune back the stems, providing beautifully coloured whips that you can use to make woven shapes and decorations.

I am lucky enough to have space to plant some trees. Witch hazels, or Hamamelis to use the proper name, are a delight with their fuzzy brightly coloured flowers and attractive scent. They also tend not to grow too large so they are definitely on my list. A tree that I fell instantly in love with at Rosemoor was a paper bark maple, Acer griseum, a beautiful tree with cinnamon-coloured peeling bark. I don’t think I’d ever seen anything quite like it.

Sarcococca confusa… I think!

At the end of our walk and talk, we were given a comprehensive plant list… this is, of course, fatal, as you feel you want to rush out and buy everything on it! I didn’t and am instead trying to draw out a proper plan of what to plant where as I won’t be able to do much in the garden until late summer anyway due building work going on. As an RHS member, I receive discounted rates on any walks or courses I go on. If you live near an RHS garden, it really is worth becoming a member… or get to know someone who is as they can also get you the discounted rate!

In lieu of a holiday this year, I have booked myself on a series of these events looking at what to grow throughout the seasons and, as I am now the proud owner of a greenhouse, how to manage cuttings and collecting seeds. Planting a new garden can be terribly expensive, but if you can grow from seed and take cuttings you can keep the cost down. If you don’t live near an RHS garden, there are hundreds of videos online and hints and tips to refer to. The RHS website, as Joanna has said before, is always worth looking at, as are the BBC Gardening sites. And apart from anything else, gardening is just so good for you!

 

 

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Snowdrops – it must be Spring, surely?

I have loads of snowdrops peeping out of the grass and flowerbeds in my garden – oh how much that sight cheers me – some crocuses too. Does that mean Spring really is around the corner – ooh I do hope so!

I always plant lots of bulbs (yes I add a few more every year), mainly because they brighten my days when Winter is making things just too uncomfortable and I need a reminder that it doesn’t last forever! I hate the cold – not a fan of super tropical heat either just to be difficult, but the cold – nope not good.

This card was really designed just as a happy ‘It’s nearly Spring’ card – but obviously, it makes a great birthday card too. Or, it would be ideal for someone with a pet named Snowdrop… yes I do know a rabbit called Snowdrop!

The Spring flower dies – well all the flower dies – in the Signature range are so easy to use and bring me a lot of joy and fun. You all know how flowery I am and, if I get a chance, a card I make will feature flowers somehow, somewhere – thank goodness many of the men I make cards for are gardeners. You can see from this example that the simplest cards can be made with a repeated die design and they look lovely. This card wouldn’t take more than a few minutes to make and pow! – it looks amazing.

I don’t think you need instructions for the card – it’s obvious from the photo how it is constructed. Your choice of backing cards could be totally different, depending on what you have in your collection and it would still look wonderful. In this instance, the die has been cut out in green and then again in white and all you have to do is pop the white flower heads on – no colouring required!

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