Saturday, 18 December 2010

Whiteladies R Us

Just back from a really lovely day at the Whiteladies Road Farmers Market.    WRFM was where greengarland really started and we have been making regular December appearances there since 1996.  Its just a really lovely space to be in, great food, local pottery, fairtrade baskets and fresh organic cake, fish and veg and also lovely bread from Bordeaux Quay.    Here is Helen from BQ (right) with Liz of greenbaskets (centre) and chief greengarland elf on the left.  Charlies' Angels, indeed...

We were entertained by Tom, on double bass....  And the weather was very kind.  We had had a snowfall overnight but the sun shined on the market and the snow was dry and lovely.

 Here's one of Rob minding the greengarland stall.  Flatly refused to were a gg apron but very useful all the same.

Many thanks to Robin Haward and everyone at the market for their continued support.  Go check out to see what they are all about...

Friday, 17 December 2010

Whiteladies Farmers Market

Its the Whiteladies Farmers Market tomorrow and all the greengarland elves are very busy in the yard making wreaths to sell there.  We wil be taking some lovely traditional wreaths, the Orange and Cinnamon wreaths that everyone has been so keen on, and some mini wreaths for table decorations and memorials.  I have a few hydrangea wreaths that I might take too..

I really enjoy being part of  this market.  Its full of lovely foodie things, greenbaskets and Tom, my twelve year old son, will be adding to the atmosphere by bringing his double bass to play carols for his adoring public (?)  I have even roped in Rob, my fifteen year old, to work with me on the stall this time. 

The forecast keeps changing but I will settle for one that involves nothing but a sprinkling of snow about lunchtime.  Anything else just wont do.   Come and do some Christmas shopping, buy a wreath, listen to the music.... See you there...... :)     

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Another lovely afternoon in the Botanic Gardens Potting Shed...

Back again for the second of our University of Bristol Creating Christmas Wreaths Workshops at the Botanic Garden.  We were working with some beautiful fresh cut local greenery including rosemary, juniper,eucalyptus, some fabulous Welsh pine and decorating with cinnamon sticks and kumquats.  The smell was absolutely gorgeous.  We had a fabulous afternoon and all went home happy to decorate our doors with our new wreaths full of cake and refreshments kindly provided by the Botanic Gardens team.  I have posted some of the finished results on the greengarland flickr site for all to see.  Go to 

Thanks again to Nick Wray, Judy Preston and Simon Levison of the Botanic Gardens for such a warm welcome.        


Sunday, 5 December 2010

In the Botanic Garden Potting Shed

Yesterday we ran the first of two new workshops at the Botanic Garden. The University Botanic Garden was created in 2006 within the grounds of The Holmes at Stoke Bishop.  As well as enhancing the teaching of Plant Sciences within the University, this garden provides a unique research and teaching resource and a new major cultural attraction for the City of Bristol. 

It also runs a really good selection of short courses all year round which can be viewed at  We are very proud to be associated with them.

We spent a happy afternoon in the warmth of the Potting Shed creating some really fabulous fragrant christmas wreaths using traditional techniques.  We have put some pictures of the finished wreaths on the flickr website  We were really impressed by the quality of work produced.  

Thanks very much to Nick Wray, the Curator of the Botanic Garden and Judy Preston for inviting us into this wonderful and unique environment.   Many thanks also to Andy Winfield, one of the team of gardeners (who probably has the best job in the world..) who allowed us to borrow his wheelbarrow and made us all feel so welcome...  The opening times of the Botanic Garden can be found at tp://  It is well worth a visit at any time of the year.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Yesterday's workshop at the Zoo

We kicked off the season yesterday in sub-zero temperatures and even a sprinkling of snow at the Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project at Bristol Zoo.  Mandy Leivers, the education officer, kindly hosted the greengarland workshop "Creating Christmas Wreaths", and we spent a lovely day making some really beautiful wreaths and walking on the Downs learning about the history and folklore that surrounds them.  Then we ate cake.   We even were lucky enough to get a visit from Santa's Elves on their way to the Winter Grotto at the Zoo.  They were much better looking than the greengarland Elves, and much better behaved...

This is the second year that greengarland have worked with the Project and we are very proud to be associated with them. The Avon Gorge and Downs Wildlife Project will be in its tenth year in 2011 and is a collaboration funded  by Bristol City Council, Bristol Zoo Gardens, Natural England, University of Bristol, Society of Merchant Venturers, the Downs Committee and the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation, and work in partnership with the National Trust (phew). Their work celebrates the outstanding wildlife interests of the Avon Gorge and Downs and works to secure its future.

Mandy has inspired almost a whole generation of children (including mine who are now in their mid-teens) to appreciate and enjoy the diversity and uniqueness of the Downs.  My garden is full of insect hides and bird boxes that my boys have made on some of Mandy's courses when they were younger, and we have as a family spent many happy hours listening for birds, hugging trees, hunting for rare moths and identifying some of the unique species that grow there on the wide range of walks, talks and courses that they run all year round.  More details of their work can be found at

As last year, Mandy, Catherine and I were amazed at the standard of work produced and the variety of different wreaths created by everyone that attended. I have put photographs of their work up on Flickr for everyone to admire.
It really was a lovely day.  Thanks again to Mandy..... I even got to pay a visit to my very favourite tree. Here it is..

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

a transatlantic collaboration...

I had a message from Wendy in New Jersey today.  We have been sharing ideas for a while (it was Wendy who had the greengarland elves hand-stitching kumquats to wreaths last year).  We were working on some proto-types last week that sadly did not get further than the lab.     However, the gauntlet was thrown down again from her side of the pond and off I went into the dark today to collect materials for this little beauty.

Its about 15 cms across and has mini cinnamon sticks and dried orange segments, juniper, ivy and wrapped with a lovely textured burgungy ribbon given to me by Wendy when she came visiting earlier this year. She brought books, ribbons, lovely jelly and some bases that I have not seen around these parts, and we had a nice time chatting, shopping and  pootling around at the allotment. 

 It is more a Falstaff than a Titania.  Will be taking one of these along to my workshop on Saturday to get some feedback from the folk there.  I rather like it.  Thanks Wendy.  Happy Thanksgiving (here it's only Thursday...)      

Thursday, 18 November 2010

getting ready for the workshops...

...  Today I was following the tree surgeon, Luke Taylor and his team while he cut down a (very) large, overgrown eucalyptus tree and cut some hedges near here.  They were very kind, allowing me to follow them around like a little dog, taking choice bits of lovely fresh foliage and stuffing them in the boot of my car, while they swished around with their chainsaws.  It was a hard hat sort of a day...

I collected some lovely materials which we will be using at the greengarland wreathmaking workshops which begin on 27th November.  There are a few places left on the course on Saturday the 4th December at The University of Bristol Botanic Gardens.  For further information contact The Courses Administrator on 
or check out the link via  

Here's  one that I made with some of the foliage today.  Just a bit of string and some lovely eucalyptus. 

Thanks again to Luke.  No koala bears were harmed while making this wreath....



Saturday, 13 November 2010

thanks to you all...

..for braving the foul weather and falling masonry to drink, talk and shop with Gabriel, Jenny, Judith,  Liz and I on Thursday.
So now we are all stocked up with bling, baskets and cards, and our table decorations, garlands and wreaths are ordered to help us celebrate the Christmas season. 

This new design looks as though it is going to be this year's big seller.  The Orange and Cinnamon Wreath.  Smells lovely. .It's now just down to the greengarland elves (me..) to make them and deliver them to you all. Thanks again to everyone for attending, and for your orders -   and especially to Karen who ran the show for us.  Much appreciated.  Sue

Sunday, 24 October 2010

We're having a party....

Judith Hodges, Liz McDougall and I are having a little event here on Thursday 11th.

Judith's bringing lots of  contemporary silver jewellery from Bob Adams Designs - new designs just in from his travels, at discounted prices - Bob himself may even join us. Liz is bringing some of her lovely new baskets, fresh in from Morocco and Ghana - check out her site  Jenny Williams will be bringing some of her great range of Phoenix Christmas Cards and Advert Calendars. And me, well... I have made some things from stuff I have grown in the garden and will be ready with some new designs for Christmas Wreaths for mail order and home-delivery using local, compostable materials.   We are all really looking forward to it..  Wine, chat, old friends and new.. Come and join us.... 

Saturday, 23 October 2010

I went to a meeting last week with a load of editors (something to do with the dayjob..) and one of the breakout (aargh...) sessions was about social networking media and its applications to academic publishing.  Yup. It was that interesting.  However, I picked this up along the way.  Just about sums up this game..

Christmas is coming...

as the Mahonia Japonica by my kitchen door is in flower.

It smells good (especially at night). It attracts pollinators like fury (note bee on the right hand side really going for it...) I make Mahonia Berry Jelly with the lovely blue berries that follow in the spring.  I took this picture during a short burst of sunshine between the showers today.  It is definitely half-term as the weather has taken a turn for the worst.. ho hum...


Friday, 15 October 2010

..hydrangea danger...

it's the floral equivalent of taking a motorbike apart in your hall.. There are trays of hydrangeas drying everywhere.  They go out in the morning into the garden to get a bit of sun but the rest of the time hang around the house getting in everyone's way.   

I have got some lovely bright red local ones, some really great ones from Cornwall and also from Glastonbury.  Have some more to collect but fear that the frost may beat me to it.  It has gone VERY chilly in the last few days .

The hearts are really coming out well but also working on red and green hydrangea balls on ribbon hangers.  Will get them photographed soon but now need to find some boxes to put them in...  I wonder how we managed to do anything before google....

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

a good day at the office..

..or rather up the willow trees at the end of my mother's garden cutting whips to make some bases. These trees are quite old for willow and the trunks are splitting and the foxes are burrowing underneath them.  They were the trees we used to climb as children, and we used to use the branches to make bows and arrows.  They regularly got wasps nests in them and were full of caterpillars in the summer, which used to add a bit of excitement.

Mike, my elder brother, once got up into the tree above the nest hole with a broom and whacked the tree very hard,  holding a can of silver spray paint in the other hand so he could spray the wasps on the way out (why?why?)  I watched out of the window from the house.  He got quite a few before the whole nest turned on him.    I've never seen him run so fast, up the garden back to the house tearing off his shirt as he ran, to get them out of his clothes. Hur hur.  So getting up there today brought on a bout of nostalgia..

Here is the cut willow, and below is the bases I made with them. 

All in all, a very good day...and not a wasp to be seen...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Its all a bit harvest festival

... the pumpkins finally succumbed to the mildew so they got picked.

Here they are with some various other squashes from this year's crop sitting pretty in a fabulous multi-purpose basket that I got from
Monstrous, and they weigh a ton.  Also grew some weird gourds again this year, but not so many - I guess something to do with May and June being so dry - they really didn't want to get going.  Last year I used some saved seed for the pumpkins and know now quite how promiscuous the squash  family are.  The plants had a very  pumpkin-like sprawling habit, and the pumpkins (were they pumpkins?) turned orange like pumpkins do, but they were the shape of enormous marrows and very hard inside. We took them to London for the Halloween weekend with Julie and Nick and carved them there.  Here they are spooking up Julie's kitchen..

The kids like the gourds.  Tom says its ninja gardening but I am not entirely sure what that means.  He likes the ones that look like hand grenades. I think its just great when they start heading off at their own will.  Last years took off over the fence in to next door's garden.  They hung like lanterns in the hedges..

Sunday, 26 September 2010

hot from the workshop...

I have started using some of the lovely red hydrangeas collected earlier in the week.   This is on a wire and virginia creeper base.

this one is finished with a Petersham hangar.  I think it sort of works.  Will make some more.. 

Monday, 20 September 2010

See you in the potting shed...

as ours has a new roof.

This is what is says on the door. We inherited this beauty when we took on the allotment and it is now in full working order.  After Steve mended the holes in the roof we emptied it out and took all the years' worth of junk and old DDT/Agent Orange that had accumulated inside to the tip (but first banged hard on the sides with the door open to get the rats out before we ventured in). It was a good day (!)

Its probably about fifty years old.   Its just brilliant.  Just in case you were thinking that this is a very knackered old shed take  a look at this one below which lives nearby.  It may well have been F Pratten and Co's finest hour but I think that  at some point some kids got in and blew it up from the inside.  See - organic gardening IS the way forward.  You couldn't have done that if it was full of beer traps and old eggshells.  
The picture IS straight. This shed is not. 

All it needs now is a nail on the door and I can hang a wreath on it. Something rustic, perhaps..

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Wombling free...

Well its been that sort of a day.  Went to Westbury Veg and begged some wooden boxes from Phil.   Then to Redland to prune a hydrangea in return for a bunch of sunflowers from the garden and the promise of a comp.  Here they are (in the boxes drying outside). 
Will also use these boxes to store the heart and hydgrangea wreaths in order that I can transport them around to the markets later on.  

Also trying to dry some Echinops from the garden to use on the hearts.  Not sure whether they will fall apart as they dry so going to try giving them a blast with a old can of Elnett to see if I can fixed them in place. Worth a try...

Saturday, 18 September 2010

this is what you get..

when you soak your vines for longer than you anticipatIed.  Urggg...  However, all well in the end and my little wreathy world has turned heart shaped.  Had a lovely time in the sunshine at the bottom of the garden listening to the squirrels having punchups over the horse chestnuts and made about a dozen of these.  When they are dry I will try to do something nice with them.

I did mean to make these hearts last weekend but it was the Cranleigh Gardens Annual Street Party on Saturday.  I think it went rather well. Unfortunately there was gin, loads of ice and very little tonic.  I felt no pain but had to have a little lie down before sundown.   Couldnt do a lot on Sunday apart from groan so my punishment is fetid decomposing leaves in with the vines. Blurgghh.  I may have given up drinking.  I blame the neighbours.

Friday, 17 September 2010

with love from Inner Mongolia....

Well, it might say that but I am not 100% sure.      Just received this picture from Alison, who is living and working in China.  She has said that this is written in  Mongolian (not Chinese) and I am very impressed that she knows the difference.   Really pleased to be able to include China on greengarland's list of international customers and will be sending wreaths at Christmas from her with love to her family in the UK, France and Norway.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

One for the Koala Bears....

.. made with some lovely Eucalyptus from the tree next door and a bit of string.  No base, nothing.    This tree grows like you would not believe.  It puts on about 6 or 7 metres all over in the course of one summer season.  It wants to be about 25 mtrs tall but is pruned hard about now.   I was around when I heard the loppers at work.  Mark and Linda, who planted the tree many years ago and have been wrestling it under control ever since, have said that I can have some lovely fresh stuff for the workshops at the Zoo and the Botanic Gardens.  Also hoping to do something with roses and herbs with a bit of this too..   

Friday, 10 September 2010

a good day for drying...

...some of the bits and pieces I have grown this year with wreaths in mind.   And the virginia creeper that was cut about 10 days ago has now shed its leaves and has been soaking for a few days in the paddling pool at the bottom of the garden. Later I am going to make some more heart bases and hope to use some of these seed heads and dried flowers in them

Just heard from Wendy in New Jersey who is a long-standing greengarland customer and who I met for the first time this spring.  She is coming over to the UK within the next few weeks to settle another of her boys into University here, and has lots of ideas for different wreaths that she has seen on her travels.  It was Wendy who started the kumquat fetish last year which turned into one of my big sellers...

We are going to spend some time together sharing ideas and techniques with the idea of Wendy starting a greengarland offshoot in New Jersey.  Looking forward to that. 

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

morning glory....

..okay, so its lunchtime.  This one seeded itself from last year which is pretty amazing.  I think that the really dry spell at the beginning of the summer kept all the slugs out of harm's way.  However, they have made a come back... there was one making its way across the lawn earlier that you could  ride on...

Monday, 6 September 2010

this is what happens....

...when you don't dig your Charlottes until September.  So much for new potatoes.  We planted so many this year at Easter we have been digging them since June.  They started off really small but these are whoppers.  Reallly good tho'  Going to try to store them this year in the shed.  Bill, who has the allotment next to ours, says that we should put them in those cardboard carriers you get from the supermarket for half cases of wine.  Our allotment motto is "do it like Bill".  Bill knows a few things and is happy to share the that's what we are going to try.  In the dark. Away from the mice.. 

  As long as no one wants to ride their bike until about February that should be just fine..  

Sunday, 5 September 2010

my hydrangea obsession...

..and here it is finished.  Edged with some lovely bright raspberry pink hydrangeas from the farmhouse around the corner.  The first one of the year.

As usual for this time of the year I am driving around being very distracted by the hydrangeas in gardens here in Bristol.  Its nearly time to start collecting.  Vanessa, who owns the lovely Periwinkle at Towan Beach on the Roseland Peninsula where we stayed this summer, has very kindly offered to bring up some of the hydrangeas from around their holiday home.  Cant wait to get my hands on some lovely Cornish hydrangeas - they really are the best down there.  Thanks Vanessa...  

Saturday, 4 September 2010

jam today


and a lovely rolling boil to you.  Made some summer fruit jam with blackcurrants, raspberries and tayberries from the garden.    Set first time.  ha.

For the record

1lb blackcurrants, 2lbs mixed raspberries and tayberries. 1 pint water. 4 lbs sugar. No lemon juice. Soften the blackcurrants in the water, simmering for about 45 mins. Then add the other fruit and soften until bursting -then add the sugar,boil, bingo.

Also started the first hydrangea wreath as the first heads I cut are now dry enough to work with.  I think I am going to try to finish this one with some really deep pink heads from last year if they aren't too dry.  Will keep you posted. 

Friday, 3 September 2010

drying in the garden

full of earwigs but nonetheless lovely.  Here are some of the artichokes that we let flower so we can dry them.  Have also cut some in bud and will try to work into one of the heart wreaths.


have also picked a load of these golden hops and brought them in to dry.  Not looking hopeful at the moment (they are beginning to go brown).

I am starting to cut and dry the hydrangeas and took this in the fireplace.  I am also importing lots of snails and spiders into the house with them.  Hmm.. snails on the skirting boards, not a good look...  

Thursday, 2 September 2010

heart shapes...

this one is made from twisted willow and virginia creeper, with some rather nice poppy heads.  Looks good on the back door with the Hand of Fatima, polished for the occasion. 

well here we go......

and why not. Welcome to the greengarland blog. Here's one I made earlier with some hydrangeas from the garden.