The Carterton Monster Annual Book fair was held last weekend.
I own a high number of books, gave away a lot when I moved out of Auckland and am weak-willed and best to avoid book fairs, especially when the books are $1 and children’s books 50cents. The second day - Sunday’s sales were ‘$5 for a bag of books’. Open slather for me!
I seemed to have a fabric bag in my pocket when I called in to the library to return a book and DVD. The library happens to be in the same building as the events centre. There was a queue at the Book Fair door in waiting for the 10AM opening. Well that made me justify entering ‘in case I missed something’. The hall was heaving and at 5’2” height, and shrinking, I’m at a disadvantage. I headed straight for the gardening books and engaged my elbows. This fair - It’s not like Harrods’s sale but there are determined buyers there who are not to be crossed.
I know who Roy Strong is (now Sir) but have not read any of his garden books and have sadly never been to The Laskett, his garden and creation of his late wife Julia Trevelyan Oman and himself. Roy Strong isthe ex-director of the National Portrait Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum, and now has a freelance career as writer, consultant and broadcaster and continues an active role in overseeing the gardens.
‘A Small Garden Designer‘s Handbook and ‘Creating Small Gardens’ by Roy Strong were certains. My garden is small and open to Roy’s suggestions, so these two books went straight into my bag.
I have old books ‘Colour In Your Garden’, ‘Flower Gardens’ and ‘The Flower Arrangers Garden’, by Penelope Hobhouse and Rosemary Verey - they are classics and worth a look by my friend Claire Bennett who is designing a new post-earthquake garden. I visited Barnsley, the Verey garden and was shown around by Rosemary herself, when the laburnum arch was in full bloom). Easy to justify those so into the bag. And how could I resist the cover of ‘The Gardener’s Companion’ with the strange subtitle of ‘A Think Book’?
The floristry book ‘’The Constance Spry Handbook of Floristry’, by Harold Piercy, my principal at the Constance Spry Flower School, London, where I trained, went into my bag. I already have a copy so it’s for old time’s sake. Some of the floristry methods may be dated but my training at this school and employment in their Chelsea and Mayfair shops set me up for a life of skilled floristry. Constance Spry whom I never met – she died before I attended her school - may turn in her grave if she saw some of my creations post her exclusive school but thanks to her I learnt basics I adapt still today.
Peter Dunnachie thinks I have ‘a taste for the absurd’. ‘FOOD’, by Ogden Nash and fabulous illustrations by Etienne Delessert was too good to ignore.
The parsnip, children, I repeat
Is simply an anemic beet.
Some people call the parsnip inedible;
Myself, I find this claim incredible.
Two Dvd’s, for friend Maggie, on ‘fibre craft’ may or may not hit the mark? Books on herbs will go to the sales table of the Wairarapa Herb Society if they are declined by the society’s library. Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ seems like a good idea for someone like me who’s not great on history unless it’s on specific subjects that I like.
I bought five books written by myself. I am not keen on seeing my own tomes in bargain bins despite the fact that those I bought are out of print and out of date – except to me of course. Pathetic eh? I used to look in those bins of remaindered but new books on trestles on pavements for my own recent books and was pleased never to find any.
Now, where to put all this treasure?
My New Garden
I bought a lucky dip punnet of mixed heirloom tomato seedlings and planted them in the garden. Once fruit developed I noticed that one plant had huge green tomatoes that did not ripen. Then those huge numbers began to rot and liquid dripped out of their bottoms so I took a bit more notice. The non-rotten fruits were on the brink of pulp and only then did it dawn on me that they may be a green tomato variety.
I took a photo and put it on an plant ID page on Face book and someone quickly came back with some photos of toms that looked familiar, plus a name - Aunt Ruby’s German Green Tomato. It’s one of the largest green beefsteaks; it won 2003 Heirloom Garden Show's taste test. I don’t know where this show is but probably USA. The yanks don’t seem to register that some of the rest of the world’s population look at Face book too.
Kings Seeds, New Zealand say – ‘Botanical Name: Lycopersicon esculentum. In 1997 when Ruby Arnold of Greeneville, Tennessee passed away at the age of 82, a variety of tomato that her grandfather had brought over from the old country was passed on to the Seed Savers Exchange. It is described as a beautiful green beefsteak with lime green gel and Chartreuse gold centres weighing up to 500gms each. The texture is tender and the flavour delicious. The plant is large and prolific.’
I rushed outside and picked both the ripe and the rotten fruit. The rotten ones were already shrivelled and leaking and are now fermenting in a jar of water – a successful method to save tomato seeds.
Thanks to Digby Law, that night I made a dish with olive oil, thick sliced potatoes, salt and pepper, thick Aunt Ruby halves, Mitsuba chopped, more oil and seasoning. Baked 200deg. 30 minutes.
I am now a convert and Aunt Ruby will be welcome in my garden every summer via my saved seeds.
Fionna Hill and Craig Thorburn have Christmas in their blood.
Do you have a copy of ‘The Christmas Book’ published in
1990? That was the work of Fionna and Craig along with Jo
Seagar, Lynn Bryan and photographer John Pettit. It’s a bible
that’s still returned to every year for design ideas and favourite
That was how Craig and Fionna first met and their paths have
crossed many times since in their work. By chance Craig and
Fionna have now each settled in Greytown and have put their
combined energy behind styling a house for the Hospice
Wairarapa Country Christmas.
Based in Auckland Craig participated in major projects throughout
New Zealand (including Louis Vuitton Cup Promotions, staging for
major functions at Villa Maria Winery, Huka Lodge, Arrowtown
Winter Festival, and Ellerslie Flower Show to name but a few.)
He has now opened a wonderful garden and interiors shop in
Greytown called ‘Grand Illusions’ and it’s also a base for his
design services and community work.
Fionna decided to leave the hustle and bustle of Auckland,
yearning for her own garden after many years of apartment
living. She chose Greytown for its trees, mountains, foraging,
the seasonal plants that will grow there, friendly rural lifestyle
and a chance to continue her writing in tranquility. Luckily for
us, she still wears her floral design hat. She trained as a
professional florist at the Constance Spry Flower School London.
The Christmas book led Fionna to write several more books
which have won international acclaim. They include Country
Style Flowers, and Celebrations, Stylish Food & Decorating
Ideas (this was collaboration with Jo Seagar).
Book subjects changed course when Fionna grew edibles -
including microgreens - on her small city balcony. Her popular
book, ‘How to Grow Microgreens, Nature’s Own Superfood,’ is
now in five languages. A Green Granny’s Garden, a Year of the
Good Life in Grey Lynn, is a diary of her first year as a novice
Now Fionna is working on her eighth book, this time on
foraging and Wairarapa is the perfect province for inspiration
with its defined seasons and rural roadsides.
In Auckland, she ran Fionna Hill, Floral Design in Parnell,
Auckland – a stunning lifestyle shop.
Fionna and Craig are both planning and looking forward
to creating Christmas designs in the interesting home they have
been allocated for Hospice Wairarapa Country Christmas.
Back, Craig Thorburn, Jo Seagar, John Pettit. Front, Donna Hoyle, Fionna Hill. 1989.
At present I’m focusing on bare branches from deciduous trees which I’m making into round wreaths and tepees to dry and store until Christmas. Willow, silver birch and grape vine prunings are all good choices. Branches are supple when picked and provided you don’t pick stems that are too thick are easy to form into circles. Try to cut as many long stems as possible as these will tangle together more easily than short stems which can spring away from the wreath while you’re trying to bind them into a circle. It’s important to bend them to the shape you want as soon as possible after pruning as they will be brittle and easily snapped after they have dried. Sometimes I mix the types of stems and sometimes I create a wreath of just one kind. These shown in the photos are both and some are still a work in progress in my car-port.
It’s hugely different to forage for your own materials outdoors instead of scrutinizing shop aisles of identical, fake sprigs of materials meant to look real. However there is no reason not to add man-made decorations and ribbons to your designs later. It’s important to do your homework before heading out with your clippers. Make sure you harvest in areas that are ethical and safe to take from. Keep an eye open too to help clean up after storm damage too.
Creating your own home decorations from objects found in nature is enjoyable too - some of the appeal of gathering natural materials is the outdoor experience plus its low cost and an organic way to decorate. At this time of year – winter- there are fresh evergreen branches, berries, nuts, bare deciduous branches and twigs to create a pure style of expression right now.
Fionna Hill creates a colourful winter wreath from mostly foraged materials when there are not many garden resources to choose from.
You will need
The owl and the pussycat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat...
...they dined on mince and slices of quince which they ate with a runcible spoon...
Attempts to define the word runcible
Edward Lear does not appear to have had any firm idea of what the word "runcible" means. His whimsical nonsense verse celebrates words primarily for their sound, and a specific definition is not needed to appreciate his work. However, since the 1920s (several decades after Lear's death), modern dictionaries have generally defined a "runcible spoon" as a fork with three broad curved tines and a sharpened edge, used with pickles or hors d'oeuvres, such as a pickle fork. It is occasionally used as a synonym for "spork". However, this definition is not consistent with Lear's drawing, in which it is a ladle, nor does it account for the other "runcible" objects in Lear's poems.
It is also sometimes used to mean a "grapefruit spoon", a spoon with serrated edges around the bowl, and sometimes to mean a serving-spoon with a slotted bowl.
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines a runcible spoon as: "A horn spoon with a bowl at each end, one the size of a table-spoon and the other the size of a tea-spoon. There is a joint midway between the two bowls by which the bowls can be folded over." The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as "a sharp-edged fork with three broad curved prongs". Neither dictionary cites a source for these definitions.
The "Notes & Queries" column in The Guardian also raised the question "What is a runcible spoon?" The fanciful answers proposed by readers included that it was a variety of spoon designed by Lear's friend George Runcy for the use of infants, or that it was a reference to a butler named Robert Runcie whose job included polishing the silver spoons. The final contribution pointed out that neither of these explained the runcible cat in "The Pobble Who Has No Toes" and simply suggested that "runcible objects (spoons or cats) exist no more than pobbles or feline-hiboutic matrimony".
The Straight Dope, while treating "runcible" as a nonsense word with no particular meaning, claims that an unspecified 1920s source connected the word "runcible" etymologically to Roncevaux — the connection being that a runcible spoon's cutting edge resembles a sword such as was used in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The Straight Dope adds that "modern students of runciosity" link the word in a different way to Roncevaux: The obsolete adjective "rouncival", meaning "gigantic", also derives from Roncevaux, either by way of a certain large variety of pea grown there, or from a once-current find of gigantic fossilized bones in the region.
A dibber or dibble or dibbler is a pointed wooden stick for making holes in the ground to plant seeds, seedlings or small bulbs. Dibbers come in an assortment of designs including the straight dibber, T-handled dibber, trowel dibber, and L-shaped dibber.
I seem to have become a collector of dibbers. The large dibber in the photo was made long ago by my dad from a recycled spade handle. I think he liked it for potato planting. The classic T shape dibber is my most useful; it’s useful to have a handle to grip onto to make it easier to apply pressure and create consistent hole depth, the wooden ones without handles are good for ‘up close’ planting although a pencil may be almost as appropriate as the tiny one. The tin one is most appealing to look at.
The dibber was first recorded in Roman times and has continued mostly unchanged since. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, farmers would use long-handled dibbers of metal or wood to plant crops. One man would walk with a dibber making holes, and a second man would plant seeds in each hole and fill it in. From the 14th to the 17th centuries dibbers became a manufactured item, some made of iron for planting in harder soils and clay.