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  • Roses, Crystals and Glass

    glass and crystal ornamentsAs the weather gets cooler and the last scarlet leaves are blown from the trees, thoughts turn toward the holiday season which, believe it or not, is just a few short weeks away! It is fun to think out of the box when decorating the home or a tree, and one of my favorite ways to do so is to use what nature provides to add color and interest.  This year I dried a couple of bunches of roses and used the dried roses as ornaments to compliment the Windrush Crystals and Glass Teardrops. The crystals and glass teardrop ornaments can be used to decorate a bare branch or small tree outdoors on the patio or balconey not just in the home,  brightening up a dreary winter's day with color and sparkle.

    christmas wreath w berriesOther flowers that, once dried, that make a stunning winter decoration are hydrangeas, especially the dusky, rose colored ones. They look soft and dreamy on the mantle piece, placed within strands of ivy or fir garlands. A touch of old England is the effect, and I confess I saw this idea used in an old stately home one Christmas long ago.

    2014-11-12 16.45.07It is especially nice now to think about elderly neighbors who may not have space for large holiday trees or displays, or who may be frail and can't put up festive trimming. It is the perfect time of the year to offer a hand in making their homes or apartments cheerier and more festive with just a little table top tree or bare branch festooned with natures berries and bounty, and maybe a little sparkle of crystals too!

  • Berries are the Best!

    berry pickingAs summer turns to autumn so do my thoughts of cooler nights and shorter days. This is the time I love to pick the last of the summer berries in the hedgerows that grow all over the English countryside!   Now that I am re-located to the coastal area of California, the berries are not so plentiful in the wild, but I can still hunt for my favorite blackberries at  the farmers markets that are so popular here.   Nothing tastes as wonderful as berries that are sweetened and warmed by the sun and popped into the mouth right there and then, but still the delight is palpable even if the berries have traveled some distance to reach my mouth!

    bowl of blackberriesNot only are berries just plain good fun to eat, they are one of the healthiest things nature provides for us. According to Dr. Gary Stoner, Director of the Laboratory of Cancer Chemoprevention and Etiology at Ohio State University, berries should be included in our diets three to four times a week. Berries contain an abundance of phytochemicals -micronutrients found in plants that help our bodies fight off disease. Berry researches around the world unanimously agree on the potency of berries in their protective powers in keeping us healthy.

    blackberry hedgeAlthough it is true that 90 percent of berries is water, the fact is the juice is loaded with anthocyanins, one of the most important groups of phytochemicals, out of 50 fruits and vegetables that Tufts University researches measured, berries ranked the highest in levels of this disease-fighting chemical. So berries play a truly vital role in maintaining our good health, and remember to keep in mind that the darker the color of berry, the greater the anthocyanin level is and therefore, the greater protection they will provide! I would also add that it is always best to make sure you are buying or picking organically grown berries. Best idea going forward is find an area, if there is space in the garden, somewhere at the back or along the sides that gets full sun, and grow your own wild berry hedge.

    crumbleOne of my favorite dishes to bake using the berries picked, is a Blackberry Apple Crumble! The warm, and homey scent of baking apples and blackberries, tinged with cinnamon is what heralds in the changing of seasons to me.  Nothing seemed to cheer a wet Sunday afternoon in England more than a delicious Sunday roast dinner, followed by a "warm from the oven" Apple Blackberry Crumble, with  a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting over it!  There are many ways to create this humble dessert, so many variations, it would be nice to share other's recipes too, for now here is my favorite way to prepare it!

    Ingredients

    For the crumble topping

    • 120g plain flour
    • 60g light brown sugar
    • 60g  butter at room temperature, cut into pieces
    • 1/4 cup of chopped pecans
    • 1/2 tsp of Cinnamon

    For the fruit compote

    • 300g Braeburn apples
    • 30g unsalted butter
    • 30g super fine sugar
    • 115g blackberries
    • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • vanilla ice cream, to serve
    • Method

      1. Heat oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. 350 degrees  Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture. Do not overwork it or the crumble will become heavy. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 mins or until lightly coloured.
      2. Meanwhile, for the compote, peel, core and cut the apples into 2cm dice. Put the butter and sugar in a medium saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for 3 mins until the mixture turns to a light caramel. Stir in the apples and cook for 3 mins. Add the blackberries and cinnamon, and cook for 3 mins more. Cover, remove from the heat, then leave for 2-3 mins to continue cooking in the warmth of the pan.
      3. To serve, spoon the warm fruit into an ovenproof gratin dish, top with the crumble mix, then reheat in the oven for 5-10 mins. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
      4. *Note I LOVE the crumble topping best, so I double the amount of topping!

       

     

     

     

     

     

  • Colorful Garden Accents

    Planting up the garden with annuals every year produces a fantastic display of brightly colored flowers in every hue. They are so easy to pop into the soil in and around the perennials and shrubs, keep them watered and off they go filling gaps and spaces all around the garden.

    staked hummingbirdSometimes though, the outdoor space is just too small to plant a lot of flowers. If you have a patio, a deck, or balcony, you can still adorn the potted plants or small flower beds  with nature inspired colorful ornaments creating eye-catching  color splashes here and there that will last well beyond the seasonal flower blooms and into the drearier months of the year. Colorful garden ornaments and accents made in glass, acrylic, nylon, and painted wood can turn any  setting into a a cheerful retreat, the stimulating effect of color is well known for it's use in healing and sensory gardens. A child who has been kept in a hospital bed for long periods, experiences being taken out for fresh air, in a different way when the enclosure or green area is dotted with colorful ornaments. Color stimulates the senses and promotes a sense of cheer.

     

    Caption Caption

    There are so many choices when choosing colorful touches to add into your garden landscape however big or small that is. Probably one of the most enduring garden ornament is the little gardengnome that is still so popular around the world, most especially in the UK. But there is lots out there to choose from, I am especially taken with some of the lovely acrylic hummingbirds and dragonflies as well as the hanging disc of candy colored infused glass that changes color as it turns in the breeze! Just stunning!

     

    staked dragonflies

     

    If there is an idea for adorning the garden that you have thought of that hasn't been seen before please share it here, and  perhaps it's an idea whose time has come and we can make it a reality.

     

    One woman I know started a trend for Garden Jewelry, where she created the most stunning tree trunk necklaces and branch bracelets as well as little earrings for smaller branches! It was such a unique concept that it won the award for  Best New Product at the San Francisco International Gift Show a few years back!  It is exciting to bring new concepts and ideas into fruition. If you have photos of your own colorful garden or outdoor space, please share here, love to see all the color and imagination!

     

  • Garden Centres of England

    Having just returned from a month's stay in the UK, I was able to visit some of my favorite garden centres that over the last decade and a half, sold many of my products. When I first started my company in England in 1996, garden centres were invariably small family owned operations nestled deep in the countryside or along the fringes of bigger towns.I would set off for the day or three, to visit these outposts selling my giftware, delighting in being able to drive across the most green and picturesque land, over hills, through the Welsh mountains, Scottish villages and down to the Cornwall coast. I saw more of the UK than the average Brit on my sales expeditions and delighted in making friends as well as creating accounts with all of the garden centre owners.

     

    Ttrentham 2 Trentham Gardens UK

    As the years went by gardening became a multi-billion dollar industry as the passion for gardening and outdoor living seized the imagination of the public.  Now the garden centres are big and encompassing. Cafe's, organic delicatessens, clothing outlets, huge gift sections, steam train rides for the children, all surrounded by acres of flowers, plants, and trees for sale. They have become a destination outing for families with some centres even have their own motorway exits!

    Bridgemere Garden World

    Trentham Garden Center

     

    For those who might be visiting the UK this summer, it is well worth making a journey to visit a British garden centre, it will be a revelation! Not to be outdone, many stately homes have garden centres attached to them so both can be visited on the same day, places like Hatfield House, Hertfordshire or Stanstead house in West Sussex.

    hatfield Hatfield House Hertfordshire

    The big flower and garden shows are also taking place this spring and summer, two of the most prestigious right in and near London, Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace. Many garden centres create beautiful displays for these events as well as garden artists and designers showing their talent and selling their wares.  

    Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Palace Garden Show

    This is truly the time to be in England and experience the passion and enthusiasm that encompasses the whole country for everything gardening and gardens, from the grandest stately home gardens to the wee cottage gardens overflowing with beloved old species of flowers. I look forward to our garden centers here in the United States taking our nurseries and modest garden centers, to the next level and becoming a place one can sit and enjoy a lunch and  browse through gift, book and food sections as well as choosing some beautiful plants and flowers. There are some places open already like that, Rodgers Garden Center in Newport Beach Ca. which would be considered a destination garden center!  There are others across the country that are close,  but if you want to experience gardening taken to a whole other level, you will find it across the water - in England and the UK!

  • Delicious, Nutritious Dandelions

     meadow of dandelionsAs it is the first days of springtime, I wanted to celebrate dandelions! Much maligned as weeds, dandelions are, in fact, one of the great treasures that Nature has bestowed upon us! The years I spent living in the English countryside, brought me close to nature and the bounty of forageable delights growing in the hedgerows and meadows that were all around me. Come the Spring, it was time to gather dandelions and nettles (nettles need handling with garden gloves) and bring them home to create delicious soups and salads. I was fortunate to have nearby, a watercress farm, the last in the Chess Valley still growing cress by the same family for over one hundred years! These three ingredients, watercress, nettles and dandelions,  thrown into a a pot with a braised chopped onion and a few cups of vegetable or chicken broth, simmered and then blended produced my favorite spring cleanse.  All three are powerhouse providers of vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants.

    Watercress is a particularly potent lung cancer fighter. http://bit.ly/1f0sHlt

    Dandelion saladToday though, is Dandelion Appreciation Day! According to the USDA Bulletin #8 "Composition of Foods" (Haytowitz and Matthews, 1984) dandelions rank in the top four green vegetables in overall nutritional value. In "Gardening for Better Nutrition" the dandelion is ranked 9th out of all vegetables, including grains, seeds and greens. Dandelions are natures's richest source of Vitamin A of all foods, after cod-liver oil and beef liver! They are also particularly rich in fiber, potassium, iron, calcium magnesium, phosphorus, the B vitamins, Thiamine and riboflavin and a good source of protein.

    dandelionNow is the time to start plucking dandelions, while the leaves are young and the flower heads (the crown) are appearing. The crown before blossoming is at its most tender and sweet. Young dandelion leaves are tender and can be added to salads and sandwiches for a super boost of nutrition. The leaves can also be sauteed or steamed like any other greens and added to all sorts of recipes. Always forage away from roadsides, areas treated with chemicals or places popular with pets.

    There is a traditional soup in France, creme de pissentlits (cream of dandelion) that is delicious and wonderful dinner party fare because it is a delightful talking point when it is pointed out that one has gone out and foraged the main ingredient! It combines the dandelions spiciness and subtle bitterness with other savory flavors. Here is the recipe:

    Ingredients:

    6 cups of dandelions greens trimmed and washed

    1/2 onion chopped or 2 leeks (white part only)

    2 clove of garlic (minced)

    2 tablespoon butter or olive oil

      2 carrots, diced

    4 cups of vegetable broth

    2 1/2 cups milk

    1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard (optional) it adds a bit of spicy depth

    salt and lots of fresh ground pepper to taste

     dandelion flowerhead or sprig  for garnish

    cream of dandyHeat the butter/oil in a large pot over medium heat and sautee the onion, carrot, onion or leeks, and minced garlic clove for 15 minutes. Add the stock and simmer for about 15 minutes. Reduce heat and add some of the milk-not all, stirring until slightly thickened. Add the mustard.  Puree mix in a blender, until smooth, then add the rest of the milk to your desired consistency. I like a thicker soup so tend to add less. If you want to enhance the sweetness of the greens, adding a taste of honey will do the trick!  Serve in bowls and garnish with dandelion sprigs .

    So before you get out the weed killer and eradicate the humble dandelion from your life think about becoming its friend instead!  It will give to your life and taste-buds the health giving bounty that mother nature had intended for us to use and enjoy. 

  • Spring is around the corner

    IMG_0115Although it may be hard to believe, Spring is not far off now. Here in California, we finally have desperately needed drenching, replenishing rain filling our rivers and reservoirs!  Soon we will  see the hills and mountains turn that lovely shade of spring green and wildflowers will pop up, seemingly overnight! Even if we in California, are ahead of the rest of the country in seeing signs of the coming Spring, it should not stop you from preparing, for it shall soon be upon all of us before we know it. Now is the time to think about how you would like the garden to look this year, what wonderful flowers and vegetables to grow. There are some great catalogs to peruse, with so much choice it is overwhelming, I want everything!

    79a84d9833ba4a37296fcdaaed03bf06There are ideas galore to incorporate that can be found, especially on Pinterest. I especially love the re-purposed garden containers such as taking an old chest of drawers and turning it into a cascading planter.  The imagination displayed on Pinterest is astonishing and so enjoyable to see. I have pinned some of my favorites on my Windrush Gifts Pinterest board, and would love to add any you have seen that are just out there wonderful!

    Right now the ground outside is soaked but as soon as it drys out it will be time to sow seeds directly into the ground. Colder climates have to wait, but  here in Southern California there are so many easy flowers to scatter and which will be up in no time! Nasturtiums, Moonflowers, Chives which grow so easily and taste so good!

    726134474db4b1ea5ef54bc59dc3bb96Here are some guidelines for the month of March. Cool-season annuals should be at their peak bloom now. Maintain top performance by monthly feeding and pinching off dead blooms. Be especially vigilant in cutting off faded pansy flowers. Except in the hottest climates, you can still plant cool-season annuals. In warmer climates, such as southern California and inland valleys, this month begins the planting time for warm-season annuals. Make sure that frost danger is past and weather is heating up. Prepare flower beds for major spring planting this month!  

  • Pocket Gardens

    IMG_2836On a quiet Sunday morning I went into the heart of downtown LA with my friend Tracy to hunt for and discover the small transformations that are taking place in cities across the world; pocket gardens! From concrete to greenery, the nooks and crannies that dot our streets with rubble, weeds and dirt are being transformed into little patches of flowering plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It is a growing movement to change and transform the cityscape by creating minature herb gardens, wild gardens and play gardens from areas previously neglected. These grubby, overlooked bits of dirt next to sidewalks were generally thought to be too small to be useful for anything other than collecting debris from careless people.

    IMG_2831Then, a few short years ago, community groups, residents and restaurant owners, that shared the city streets, started coming together to change those little spaces.   Starting with the bare area at the base of a lone tree, they filled it with greenery and flowers.  The transformation was so pleasing, that a movement was born.

    IMG_2850The effect is a growing sense of pride in our urban streets and a desire to change what can be changed into a positive for all.  Tracy and I delighted in the boxed gardens filled with veggies and herbs that edged a cafe where we sat, enjoying the fragrance of sage and thyme wafting across our table as we sipped our lattes. We meandered along the street and came upon a restaurant owner planting kumquats into his garden out front along the sidewalk.

    IMG_2840Last week's blog was about transforming the unwanted and discarded into useful, decorative accents for the home and garden. It is the same concept, only on a bigger scale, to look with new eyes on those precious but unwanted bits of land and create an oasis of regeneration, color and nourishment.

     

    We had a blast looking for and finding these city gems.  Is this happening where you live?  If so, share some photos as we would love to see them! 

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Imagination!

    Bronze and Copper Tree Fountain Bronze and Copper Tree Fountain

    The amazing creations that are to be found browsing the internet are mind-boggling in their ingenuity and imagination, especially relating to garden decoration and enhancement. From magnificent, giant tree fountains handcrafted of bronze and copper, to bird houses made from pieces of driftwood, there is a cornucopia of gorgeous photos to feast your eyes on, thanks to Pinterest and Flicker and other photo-sharing media.

    Especially fun are the ways people are up-cycling products, making bird baths and bird tables from cut bowls and lamp shades, flower stakes from glass and ceramic dishes which can be found in thrift stores or flea markets. There is something so satisfying about taking bits and pieces that have been discarded as rubbish and transforming them into something visually pleasing, turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.

    Up-cycled glass platter as bird feeder Up-cycled glass platter as bird feeder
    The discarded, distressed beehive box The discarded, distressed beehive box

    I have always loved discovering forgotten, no longer loved items and finding a way to use them. The other day as I walked along an old fire road, I came upon a weathered, wooden beehive box, dumped on the verge of a steep mountain side. I stopped and examined it, intrigued by how it came to be there. The wood was sun bleached and worn and the white paint peeling off. It was too sweet to pass up so I scooped it into my arms with the intention of giving it a new lease on life.

    It is now a rustic flower box, cheerfully adding color to the garden!

    What once was drab and discarded, has a cheerful new lease on life! What once was drab and discarded, has a cheerful new lease on life!

    Taking it to another level, I love the idea of pocket gardens in the city where residents are taking weed-choked or forgotten spaces and turning them into pockets of greenery. What once was an eyesore, becomes an island of prettiness where herbs and flowers attract the bees and hummingbirds! We just need to open our eyes and look around at that which we might once have passed by. Discarded objects, weedy patches along city streets can, with a little imagination become something that cheers and invigorates us and the environment. Check back next week as I will be sharing photos of the pocket parks and gardens that I have discovered in L.A. The dull and forgotten become new treasures with just a little vision and creativity.

    What sort of things have you found that you have given a new life to? Share your photos of them here on the Windrush blog or on our Facebook page so we can all enjoy what the gift of imagination can bring!

  • December Winds

    Choosing colorful herbs and flowers

    As the year draws to a close, the days here in Southern California have been an ongoing delight of blue skies, warm temperatures and desert winds we call  Santa Ana Winds. The winds bring everything alive, the last lingering leaves of autumn are finally pulled from the tree branches, beach grasses undulate gracefully, and the sky is swept so clear, one can see the detail of canyons on the dry hills in the far distance. In the garden here on a ridge above the city, the wind spurs all the wind dancers and wind chimes to come alive, bringing an extra sense of vitality and liveliness to the garden, it sweeps one up into a sort of dance of life!

    There is a downside though, to all this lovely dry weather and that is the lack of rain that has fallen over the last year. To date from last December we have had barely 4 inches of rain and so the hills - which normally start turning a soft emerald  green by now - are still brown and bone dry. So many of our front and back yards are still planted up as if they were an English garden which requires lots of rain to stay so lush and colorful.  The outlook for next year, if we do not get substantial downpours over the next few months is pretty dire! Changing our perception of how a garden should be planted to accommodate the actual conditions in this part of the world is the first step in helping to conserve the little water we are all using. This would be a great time to research and plan a change in your own landscaping that will delight the senses as well as cutting down on watering and water bills!

    There are so many imaginative alternatives to traditional planting and landscaping using native plants, river rocks and grasses. What ideas or tips can you share that will help our gardens to harmonize more sympathetically with our dry landscape and the need to preserve our precious water resources?

    River stones

    River stones
    Colorful use of rocks and succulents Colorful use of rocks and succulents

     

     

  • Healing Gardens

    In the last couple of decades, gardens with therapeutic qualities have begun to appear in US and UK facilities. Now, gardens with "healing" aspects are being designed to support the treatment of patients with specific conditions.

    The understanding that Nature has a soothing, restorative effect has been known throughout history. From medieval infirmaries to nineteenth century mental asylums and sanitariums , it has been recognized that access to the outdoors and outdoor places for contemplation has a healing effect on a person's mental and physical health.

    This understanding about the interaction between the human condition and the happy effect Nature bestows on our mind and body has changed the way modern day hospitals, rehabs and  hospices are designing their outdoor spaces, however limited .

    A Healing Garden will provide a multi-sensory experience. An inclusion of shades and textures of green, vivid floral color to excite the eye, the sight and sound of water, ornaments that come alive to the slightest breeze, the sound of wind rush through grasses, Pines and Aspens invigorating the senses.

    Even the smallest area, whether in a private home setting, or institutional, can be transformed  to a place  that will delight the senses using simple changes, such as creating a pathway around the area to walk, or push a wheelchair.  Along the path there should be corners to sit and listen to the sound of breezes rustling the leaves of trees,  a forager corner where scented herbs can be crushed and smelled, wild strawberries can be eaten as well as chives,  nasturtiums, and other edible plants. In the center of this area, a water feature, where  water can be touched from the wheel chair. The music of a burbling fountain fills the garden with a pleasing and uplifting sound.

    Adding wind sculptures that catch the breeze, garden accents such as glass bubbles and gazing balls, crystals that catch the sunlight and turn to rainbows are the finishing touch. We really want to help create  these healing gardens and provide the finishing touches with our products.  We were asked to do this for hospices in the UK and are eager to get started  on serenity corners for hospices, children's homes, nursing homes, hospitals here in the US.

    Donating some of our wind sculptures, and decorative garden accents, to make these spaces appear where they would be appreciated and enjoyed is one of our highest priorities.  Any suggestions as to places that would benefit from a corner or a garden of healing, please email us and we will strive to help make that magical transformation!

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