Home From a Great Vacation!

Apart from some oppressive heat and soggy weather this last week, I have had a great summer so far. In July, I spent a week teaching machine knitting at Telemark University College in Norway and then traveled for several weeks after that. I left good friends watching over my gardens, so I was free to travel and enjoy other people’s gardens. I took hundreds of photos of landscapes, artwork, museums, etc. but want to share just a few that you might find interesting.

So pretty, but no idea what this is!

The Norwegian wildflowers were incredible. Some, like Monkshood, cranesbill geraniums (a very tall variety) and lupine were familiar. Nobody that I asked had any idea what this pretty thing is called. I’d love to try it in my Connecticut garden. Have any of you ever seen this sweet flower?

What climbing vine looks like a fuchsia?

This lovely vine was climbing a bamboo trellis in the port in Stockholm. The leaves are all edged with purple and the flowers look something like a fuchsia so maybe it is a climbing variety?

Bamboo basket in Tivoli.

Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen is a fabulous amusement park with beautifully landscaped gardens throughout. I loved the way this clumping bamboo has been trained over a simple metal frame to form a sort of living basket.

A stack of pot feet in the botanical garden

We spent a lot of time walking through the botanical gardens in Copenhagen and I did take lots of flower photos, but I find things like things like these pot feet/risers much more interesting. They used these all through the greenhouses.

Rosenborg Palace pavement

This paving treatment at the Rosenborg Palace in Copenhagen fascinates me. These are not individual pieces of cement forming the zig-zag pattern. Rather, they were formed in strips/rows with 1” depressions between the vertical dashes. The depressions are filled with soil, grass, moss and this surface covers all the roadways in the palace grounds so it must have stood up well to carriages and horses, etc.  I’m thinking that I would like to make a version of this for a short, sloped walkway in my garden that won’t hold woodchips or gravel and gets muddy when it rains.

Lately, I am more aware of mosaic than I have ever been and we saw mosaics everywhere. These are some that I found the most interesting:

Prettier than average parking lot!

This is the surface of a parking lot in Copenhagen! Colored pavers turn something ordinary into something special and unexpected.

A beautiful sidewalk

Small cubes of granite are waiting to repair a section of Copenhagen sidewalk.

St. Albans Church, Copenhagen

Maybe not a typical mosaic, the entire exterior of this tiny church in Copenhagen is covered in small, smooth stones.

Two mosaic floors in one of the palaces or museums.

The interior of the Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg is absolutely astounding. Every square inch of the interior is mosaic – none of this is painted!

The entire interior of this church is covered in rich, beautiful mosaics.

It was a fabulous trip, but it feels good to be home for a while. I usually start making mental lists of what will need doing at home while I am still mid-vacation. This year, I managed to forget about everything until we landed at Newark (and had our connecting flight cancelled…..) so it really was a vacation!

When I got home from our travels, the garden was like a jungle. The cucumber vines covered the rustic fencing and were loaded with cukes. So, jet lagged and still needing to unpack, I spent my second day home making pickles (I spent the first day home with a photo shoot for the book from 7 AM to 7 PM!!).

Two of the six jars of refrigerator pickles. Guess what’s for dinner!

My bread-and-butter pickles are fabulous, but I still have a few jars from last year and, like I said, I was hot and jet-lagged and pressed for time. So, I opted for some crunchy, dilled refrigerator pickles. Two hours from start to finish – no processing – and I had about 2 gallons of pickles in the garage fridge. If you have never done any canning or preserving, this is an easy, foolproof recipe to get you started!

Crispy, Delicious Refrigerator Pickles

7 cups sliced cucumbers

1 cup sliced onions

1 T kosher salt

2 cups sugar

1 cup white vinegar

1 tsp celery seed

1 tsp mustard seeds

Fresh dill heads (optional)

Boil the sugar, vinegar and seed for one minute. Set aside to cool.

Mix the cukes, onions and salt and let stand for an hour. Drain, but do not rinse. Fill clean glass (canning or other) jars with the cukes/onions and a large sprig of dill if you are using it. Pour the brine to cover. Refrigerate.These pickles will last for months in the fridge – unless they are eaten first! I used 19 cukes, 4 onions and 3X the syrup recipe for 3 half-gallon jars of pickles.

About Susan Guagliumi

I am an author, craftsperson and a gardener. My proposal for a book tentatively titled "The Artful Gardener" was just accepted by Stewart, Tibori and Chang Publishers. Although this will be my fifth book, it is the first outside the area of hand/machine knitting. The manuscript is due early in 2013 and the book is scheduled for Spring of 2014. A somewhat longer process than giving birth to a child, embarking on an author's journey can be just as daunting, exciting and almost as fulfilling.
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