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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Compton Verney and Dan Pearson's 'William Morris Wild Flower Meadow'

Compton Verney was originally built in the early 1700's by Richard Verney ( 11th Baron Willoughby de Broke) but it was George Verney (12th Baron) who had the house greatly extended to what you see today. The estate stayed in the family until 1921 when it had to be sold. Compton Verney was requisitioned for the war by the army and was the base for the 'Royal Pioneer's Smoke School' where they experimented with smoke-screen camouflage.

After the war, like many grand houses and estates, Compton Verney lay empty for some time but unlike the nearby Morton Paddox where the Czechoslovakian army was based (demolished 1959) Compton Verney was lucky not to have been pulled down.

So many beautiful houses were lost to us for ever in the 50's and 60's which wouldn't be allowed to happen today thanks to the many charities who help restore and preserve places like this for future generations to enjoy. I for one, am so grateful to all the historical charities for what they do. I am a lover of history and I like nothing more than walking around these grand old houses, wondering what it would have been like to live there in times gone by and enjoying walks around the gardens, wondering who had walked these paths before me. Yes I am a dreamer too :)
Here is a link to show you just how much of our heritage was lost.....

Even though much of Compton Verney estate had been sold off over the years, the house and park you visit today was saved from ruin in 1993 when the 'Peter Moores Foundation' bought it and then gifted it to a charity created to save Compton Verney called 'Compton Verney House Trust'. It cost a grand total of £45 million to restore this mansion to it's former glory and to add an extra wing which is where the visitors facilities are now, including exhibition rooms, a shop and a lovely cafe.

Compton Verney is now a well known Art Gallery which sits in a majestic Capability Brown Landscape, created in the 1760's.... which brings us up to date and follows on to what we see today. Dan Pearson, an English designer of gardens and landscapes was given the challenge of turning the West Meadow into a piece of art itself and this is exactly what he did. He created with the help of the staff and volunteers from Compton Verney, the 'William Morris Wild Flower Meadow'. This Meadow has been designed around the 'Arts and Craft' 'Here and now' exhibition with mowed areas to look like a Parterre but a Parterre with a difference and a little wildness to it.  The design is better seen from the air which this video from Compton Verney's you-tube channel will show you.

At the moment you will notice small areas of different wild flowers amongst the elegant long grasses around the meadow but as time passes, these flowers will re-seed themselves giving you a meadow full of the most amazing mixed wildflower collection which will look just totally stunning. The flowers look beautiful already but I can just imagine it in a year or two. I absolutely adore wild flowers. I don't think you can beat a meadow full of them so I was very happy to see this one develop and I will be back to watch how it changes. Here are just some of the photos I took on Sunday.

I really do love poppies, aren't they beautiful? 

There is such a variety of plants in this meadow, enough to keep a lot of wildlife happy never mind us! 

The elegant long grasses, golden in the sunlight.

The view on Sunday was just perfect against the deep blue sky. When taking photos of flowers, you have to weigh up the pros and cons, bright days are not the best for close up flower pictures as they can make the picture look a little harsh......but stand back and take a photo from a distance with a lovely sky like this and it makes a perfect picture.

Poppies and cosmos flowers in all colours adorn this meadow.

 Delicate flowers are always the most beautiful.

I only spent an hour or two at Compton Verney this day as it was a quick visit on my way to Charlecote Park just five minutes down the road but I will be back very soon, especially now I have bought myself a Season Pass :) For more on Compton Verney, here is the link to their Website..

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed my blog.

Photos copyright Jana Eastwood

Friday, 26 June 2015

A special cake for a special girl

This week I have been busy baking and making all sorts of things out of sugar.
I wanted to do something special for my daughter on her 18th birthday as she has been home-bound for the last 3 years due to health issues. she has missed out on so much and I knew this would be yet another birthday spent at home.

 It's taken me all week to do the preparation work around caring for her and the rest of the family but I managed to finish it just in time. I am so pleased you can prepare for most cakes ahead of time. Here is some of my prep work. Lots of sugar but I know it won't all get eaten. This cake is all gluten free too as my daughter also has Coeliac disease.

The finished cake all came together for her birthday. It's nowhere near perfect but my daughter was happy so it did what it was supposed to do. It is designed to lean like this as it's inspired by Alice In Wonderland!

'Drink me' and you will be transported into a magical topsy turvy world!

My daughter has autism and ME/CFS amongst many other things but she is also quite eccentric in her ways. This cake sort of suits her personality and the world she lives in most of the time.

My favourite part of this cake has to be the cup and saucer which I made from flower paste so that I could make it thin enough to look like china. I used a small china coffee cup and saucer as a mould and then rolled some of the same type of icing between my hand and twisted it a little to make the handle. 

There is no front view to this cake. With all the  topsy turvy layers I had to take photos from all sides. My daughter asked me to take some photos of her cake so that she had something to keep forever. I thought that was rather sweet but to be honest, I would have taken some photographs anyway but just with my mobile phone as I had the prep work.

I wasn't going to make the caterpillar with his hookah pipe but I was told by my son that I had to!

Alice in the daisy field.

I made four layers, all at different angles to make it different, a little like my family :) In a good way of course :)

The soldiers.

My children came up with many of the ideas you see on this cake. I just had to try to make them happen. It was decided that it would be nice to make both white and red roses as the Queen in the story wanted red roses and ordered them to be painted. On the left side of the picture below is a paint pot and brushes. Another idea thanks to my children. Mind you, son No. 2 was no help at all as he kept telling me everything was the wrong colour! Autism......nothing is ever perfect!

I will remember this day not for the cake but the look on my daughters face when she saw it complete. That is priceless and made it all worthwhile. 

Copyright Jana Eastwood 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Charlecote's gardens bursting with colour.

With all this beautiful weather we are having the gardens have had an explosion of colour and everything is growing so fast. 

The Woodland Garden has something to see around every corner. 

Here there are a lovely selection of Foxglove in white, pink and purple.

This is the 'Canary Bird Rose' which is a shrub rose which flowers late Spring and early Summer. It really adds that something special to the Woodland Garden.

There are a mix of Irises and Foxgloves all around the Woodland Garden. The name 'Iris' comes from a Greek words for rainbow. It was named rainbow because it comes in so many lovely colours. The blue irises are the most common type to be seen around gardens but Charlecote have 3 different colours that I have spotted so far, blue, lilac and white.

The picture below shows the 'Solomon's seal' which grows very well in shaded areas. This too will be at it's best through late Spring and early Summer.

Deep purple Aquilegia. 

Gardens are for dreaming in and these gardens are just perfect for that! You can forget your daily troubles and just enjoy the moment.

The Tea Garden is just stunning right now! There are bright colours popping up everywhere and the wildlife are loving it, especially the bees. 

It won't be long before the Foxtail Lilies are in full flower. They are a lovely golden yellow spike when in full bloom. 

This next picture from last year shows you them flowering. The Foxtail Lily is a hardy perennial and will brighten up any border.

This flower is beautiful and so perfect. It is called 'Camassia leichtlinii alba'.  Blue Camassia can be found around the croquet lawn at certain times of the year. 

Here is the blue one which is 'Camassia leichtlinii caerulea'    

The next plant has that look of lavender in this picture but it is called 'Nepeta' . It comes in many varieties and is native to Europe, Africa and Asia. One variety of Nepeta which has pale pink flowers and which many of you will know, is the 'Nepeta Cataria' commonly known as 'Catnip'. 

The Osteospermum daisy also known as the 'African Daisy' which belongs to the daisy family as you can tell by it's name :)  Daisies are a great flower to have in your garden as they come in many colours,can flower all through Summer and into early Autumn and are so perfect.

The tea garden really is looking splendid right now.

The next two pictures show the Nigella growing and then fully open.

I really like this flower. I remember it from when I was a child. It is also known as 'Love in the mist'

I really like the way these flowers are all mixed together. It gives a real cottage garden feel to this section of the Tea Garden. Beautiful.

Granny's bonnet                                                  Irises Sibirica


Anthriscus (Cow parsley) mixed in with 'Love in the mist'.

This time of year is a great time to walk around the Gardens at Charlecote Park as there is always something new to see.

I often sit in this garden and just relax looking at all the flowers or watching the busy insects as they fly from one flower to another collecting their nectar. Luckily most of the honey bees who visit these gardens belong to Charlecote so the honey that is sold in the shops comes from the hives inside the park itself. Have you ever tried Charlecote's own honey? It's really good!

The yellow flowers in the picture below are Hemerocallis and can be seen around the Croquet lawn and along the long border too.

Lovely Lemon Balm, I have this growing in my garden. There are lots of other herbs mixed in with the flowers and in the tubs in the Tea Garden. I am a lover of fresh herbs and my garden is full of them. It is such a lovely feeling to be able to walk out into the garden and pick something fresh to add to your dinner while cooking. It is something I really enjoy, especially when the fruit trees are ready to pick. My cherries and redcurrants will be the next fruit to pick.....if the birds don't get to them first that is! I have had so many birds nesting around my garden the last few years that these lovely red fruits just disappear sometimes. Luckily they don't take everything!

Walking around the gardens at Charlecote is always such a pleasure. Beautiful flowers, singing birds, peace and tranquillity. What more can you ask for?

The staff and volunteers have been working very hard in all areas of the gardens making them look stunning.

If you catch this border at the right time of day with the sun rays shining on it, it makes it even more perfect.

I love watching flowers open. This is when you need to do a time-lapse and record it growing and opening to it's full glory.

Astrantia 'Sunningdale Variegated' which is also know as 'Hattie's Pincushion' . The flowers on this plant are really lovely. They are like miniature bunches of flowers wrapped up in pretty paper and one I love in flower. There are some darker pink ones already flowering around the croquet lawn.

'Hattie's Pincushion' in flower last year shows you what I mean when I say they look like small bunches of flowers wrapped in pretty paper. A very pretty plant.

I wasn't the only one enjoying this beautiful display, the bees were having a great time!

Allium Summer bulbs are beautiful ornamental flowers that brighten up any border. These flowers grow well in sheltered and sunny areas.

A white 'Allium Giant' close up

Aquilegia, also known as Granny's Bonnet grows in many areas. It grows very well in woodlands and shaded areas which makes it ideal to add a little more colour to those normally 'hard to grow' areas of your garden. It comes in many vibrant colours.  

In the long border that runs along the Woodland Garden I have found two different types of Poppies.
This red one which is one everyone thinks of when you say Poppies.

      And these beautiful giant peach poppies which are so beautiful and delicate.

My favourite flower of the week has to be this perfect velvet red rose. It is stunning!

 The Paeony is such perfect flower. This one is growing in the borders around the Croquet lawn.

The beautiful border around the Croquet Lawn is just starting to take off. Give it a couple of weeks and it will be lovely with lots for me to photograph.

A lilac iris along this border. There are also white ones which are really nice to see.

These next flowers I found as I walked around the house to the Parterre.

The roses growing up the Gatehouse are a lovely peach/pink colour. They are called 'Gloire de Dijon' and are also known as 'Old Glory Rose'.

Ceris Siliquastrum' also known as the 'Judas Tree'

Look at the little flowers on the Judas tree. They are like mini orchids.

The wisteria has faded now but it put on a marvellous show this year.

Here it is in front of the Orangery.

I haven't included the Parterre this time as last week it was being cleared and prepared for the new Summer bedding which will be going in this week. After such a stunning Spring display with the beautiful tulips, I am really looking forward to seeing the Summer one develop over the coming weeks. .

A BIG THANKS to Mary Gleaves who helped me to name many of these beautiful flowers and who is also the lovely lady behind Charlecote Park's own excellent website. A big thanks also to Paul, Matt and the rest of the gardening team for making these gardens so beautiful and giving me so much to photograph.