I had promised myself a trip to Holland this year to see the tulip fields at Keukenhof but by the time I’d remembered to book, the trip I wanted to take was sold out. (By train all the way from London; I love train journeys and it’s been a long time since I travelled on one).

But I have my own nano-Keukenhof!

The bulbs I planted around the spinach last November are a joy.  And I’d even made a note of what I’d planted where so I know what to order again.

Cairo and Hermitage are the winners with Black Parrot and White Marvel coming a close second and third.

But it’s not a competition.  All tulips are wondeful and an added bonus, specially here on Bere island, they withstand wind!  I love them all.

Spring is certainly the time to visit Cyprus – there’s colour!

The hillsides are green.  Lavender blue statice flowers mingle with yellow marguerites and scarlet poppies against the  background of blue sea and sky.

Ipomea transforms ugly wire fences before being scorched by the heat and turning to dust.

And this beauty, which I have failed to identify, is everywhere.

Then there was the colour of the mosaics.

Having not done too much research, we were after all visiting grandchildren, I knew nothing about them.  After coffee and ice cream in the tourist hell, or heaven, depending on your viewpoint, of Paphos,  we crossed the road and entered the quiet and almost deserted World Heritage Sight.

They were stunning and some looked almost new.

I kept thinking of quilts, my current obsession, wondering how I could capture the designs in fabric.

A true combination of ancient and modern.

The images are locked away in my head waiting for the right moment!

But there’s only so many mosaics and underground tombs that a 2 year old and a 5 year old will put up with so the visit ended with a day on the beach and yet more colour!

Jon skiing in Oregon*

Ben cycling in Cyprus

Joe’s first Sports Day

Who would have thought it?!

*great photo by Alex K Morley

You may remember this.

Unfortunately the combination of time, wind and rain had taken its toll and something had to be done.   Once again T has worked his magic

Half the roof blew off last winter, littering the surrounding fields with corrugated plastic.  A large sheet of heavy duty plastic was lashed on temporarily but working in there in high winds was noisy and unsettling.  The front had also developed an alarming bulge.

Something had to happen if I wanted to continue growing.  Once again we discussed alternatives to a custom built.  We almost went for a poly-tunnel but the original footprint wasn’t going to fit anything off the shelf and the price for anything half decent that would stand up to Bere island conditions was just too much money.

I must admit to a moment of doubt when the old one was down.  The open space it left was tempting – did I really want a building there again?  Then I remembered freshly picked tomatoes!

So T collected up window frames, a lot bought years ago and never used, some already used in various buildings here before all the extensions were built and others so old the origins are lost in time!

Even the exterior cladding is tongue and groove, rescued from some long since up-dated Bere island cottage.

In other words, another patchwork greenhouse with each part telling a story.  And of course it’s every bit as wonderful as the old one!

The only differences?  It’s slightly smaller.  It seemed the only way to curb my obsession for growing FAR TOO MANY  tomatoes!  And it’s tidy.  I haven’t yet had time to fill it with un-necessary stuff.  And the doorway is at the other end so I walk all the way to where the door once was before remembering that the new door is closer to the house!

And already it has a varied collection of seedlings.  Sweet peas, tomatoes (just a few)! chillies, cucumbers, courgettes, lettuces  are all up and beginning to grow.  It’s been a bit of a juggling act with propagators in the house, cling-film-covered pots constantly on the move to find shelter and seed trays disappearing under demolished timber.  But, as always, things are catching up and I’m looking forward to it being warm enough to work in the Mark 2 patchwork greenhouse.  I even promise to make more effort in keeping it tidy!  We’ll see!!

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

No, I can’t pronounce it either.

But it means Happy St Patrick’s Day!

It must be something in the air – there are quilts everywhere.  Jane Brocket has a new book out about them, Charlotte has made a gorgeous blue one and Alicia has made yet another one to add to her pile.  And me?  Well, I’ve finally finished this, started in 2011.

It’s very pink for some reason, not my normal colours, but pretty all the same.  And I know where every piece of fabric came from, as I used what I had in my scraps pile.  Some are early 1900’s from France, a lot are from American feedsacks of the 1930’s and 40’s and some are old favourites left over from chair covers and curtains.  So it feels like an old friend already.

I used a light weight cotton batting and hand-stitched it diagonally in pale pink crochet cotton.

I now have a pile of quilts, well, two anyway.

And I’ve got the bug.

I’m already working on another idea, when really I should be making cushions and bags!

Thank heavens for daffodils.

and hellebores

and camellias.

That’s all.

St David’s day normally brings masses of daffodils but this year only the miniature ones in pots are flowering.  The big ones dotted around the garden are still tightly closed although they don’t take long to open in the warmth of the kitchen.

Elsewhere the garden is suffering.  The ground is sodden, too wet to work on and the lack of a greenhouse means no protection for anything tender.  ( The greenhouse is being re-built.  Slowly.  That’s another post)!  But it’s the evergreen shrubs and trees that are so heartbreaking.  The gales have burnt the leaves to shreds and some are unrecognisable.

This arbutus was doing so well

and who knows if this young camellia will survive?

Believe it or not, this is a holly bush.

The few leaves that remain on the eucalyptus are dessicated to shreds.

But it’s spring, nearly, so things will improve.  In the meantime, there’s something very special about these little iris

and struggling in a waterlogged bed of rotting plants and weeds, this forget-me-not is not giving up.

Happy St David’s Day to everyone.

T and I are still missing California and I frequently find myself gazing into the middle distance, lost in memories or wondering if and when we can return.  The must do next visit list keeps growing so it’s not if but when!

Can’t decide what the best best bit was so here’s a selection!

Driving along clear, straight roads – the place is so BIG!

Early morning start in the remarkable Barbara

to the even more remarkable Joshua Tree National Park.  As they say over there, awesome.

The Getty Centre, one to do again, next time in sunshine!

The house opposite B & J’s apartment, one of many crazy, colourful houses

and inside B & J’s bright and beautiful apartment!

A monarch butterfly and if you’ve read Barbara Kingsolver’s Flight Behaviour, you’ll know what this is

The famous deserted motel in the desert (and Barbara)!

And a beach full of elephant seals.

I could go on, and on, but I shan’t.  It’s a great place and we had the best hosts.  Thank you B & J.  We’ll be back!

It was quite a trip, our visit to Los Angeles.  The city itself is a vast sprawling place;  Sunset Boulevard, Downtown, Hollywood Boulevard, none are as romantic as they sound, but the residential areas, the surrounding towns and desert and the beaches and skies of southern California are every bit as extraordinary as you could imagine.  Here’s a taster – there’ll be lots more!!

This was the first picture I took,  sunset over Los Angeles.  It was the best!

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