WIP Wednesday…

I am delighted to have reached the mid-way point of my WIP, The Mystery of Folly’s End, considering what kind of year we are all having. Despite everything, I have found so much comfort lost in the storyline.

The tension has gone up several notches as the characters struggle to get their bearings. I know where they are heading, but it is a constant strain for some of them. I find it fascinating to watch how they try to figure it all out, especially the ones who think they can get away with murder. (no spoilers here!)

Everything else falls by the wayside, as these chapters are the most important, in my humble opinion.

The tone of the story rests on a good middle, leading to a satisfying ending, at least for me!

Thinking about how different things come to fruition, made me think of our new apple tree. It’s one of those dual-fruiting ones with two kinds of apples. You will be pleased to hear that it did flower this Spring and for the first time, these flowers did not fall off. Looks like we will have fruit, but which ones?

Autumn promises to produce all manner of goodies, a new book and new apples!

Healing Magic… #Poetry

Image by André Santana AndreMS from Pixabay

Healing Magic

I trust in the man who stills the dark waters of my mind
Steering my falling body past the rocky outcrop
Placing me gently on the warm rock
A seat to sit, to think. 
Look back at the spot where I stood on the edge 
Thinking dark thoughts, tilting my body forward
Waiting for the cold dark water to take me
Wash my sins downstream
I lie with the warm rock against my back
Soft breeze lifting the leaves above my head
Making their own kind of music to dance to
How did I get from that side of the gorge to this?
Watching, listening to the sound only water can make
To soothe my soul
White foam blanket of forgiveness over dark water
A hidden place I can return to, 
wondering whose hand had saved me
Placing me beside the image of a wise owl 
In this hidden place of gentle healing magic 
I am home...


Hawthorn Research… #Bonsai

This article focuses on the subject of encouraging Hawthorn bonsai to flower, however, the basic principles can be applied to flowering bonsai of all species.

Maturity and Reproduction

All trees are genetically predisposed to be dominant over surrounding trees and plants in an effort to reproduce. The most successful specimen (of any one species) are those that are able to outgrow their neighbours in an effort to gather as much light, water and soil-space as possible.

Once they have grown to their fullest extent (as high and as wide as they are able, given their local environment and circumstances, (whether that be 100 metres or just 1 metre tall) they then begin to try and reproduce themselves by flowering and spreading their seed.

These two different phases, of gaining maximum height and then of seed-production, are known as immature and mature growth.
In the immature phase of growth, a tree will put out predominantly (or exclusively) vegetative growth in order that they can ‘outcompete’ its neighbours by growing as tall and wide as possible, commonly known in most tree species as apical dominance. This is a pre-disposition and it does not matter whether the tree in question is growing wild or in a bonsai pot.
Conversely, during the mature phase of growth, the tree reduces the amount of energy put into growing new vegetative shoots and begins to try and reproduce by flowering.
This mature or flowering stage of growth is triggered when the tree can no longer spread upwards or sideways and continues the process of dominance by trying to reproduce itself.

These same events occur with a bonsai; a bonsai will continue to grow vegetatively in an effort to grow taller and wider until such time that it is unable to grow any bigger and begins to enter a mature, flowering phase. Ergo, in order to encourage a bonsai to flower, first it must be encouraged into maturity.

Encouraging a Hawthorn to flower

Trees need to reach a certain age before they will ever begin to flower. The age varies according to the exact species; some species will flower after just a couple of years, while others, such as Hawthorn need to reach 15-20 years of age before they will begin to flower.

Feeding regimes high in phosphorous can help encourage more flowers on a tree that already produces flowers each year, (do not feed high nitrogen as it will encourage vegetative growth), but will not make a tree enter maturity and start flowering.

The procedure is first to gently slow the vegetative growth by allowing a Hawthorn bonsai to become on the rootbound side, if repotting and root pruning is absolutely necessary (for the health of the tree), only root prune lightly. Newly available space around the rootball encourages new root growth and therefore new vegetative top growth. A confined rootball dissuades the tree from trying or being able, to spread itself and remain immature.

Do not prune the tree hard, reduce the trunk or remove heavy primary branches. Doing so will result in vigorous vegetative growth, very much at the expense of flowering. New collected yamadori (wild trees) that may have flowered well for many years in the wild, will frequently stop flowering for many years after being chopped or pruned hard, until they re-enter a mature-growth phase. When a previously mature tree is in a vegetative/immature stage of growth, existing flowering spurs will simply open a rosette of leaves in the Spring but will neither flower or extend. Occasionally they will produce a vegetative extending shoot but this cannot be relied upon when trying to develop the branch structure of a bonsai. Bonsai that are still having their branch structures developed or are poorly ramified, should be ‘completed’ before encouraging flowering.

(On bonsai species that flower easily, the reverse is true, remove flower-buds to encourage more vegetative growth on trees in development)

Once the vegetative growth of a well-ramified and pot-bound Hawthorn bonsai slows down, pruning to contain the size of the tree naturally becomes more gentle. The tree begins to produce a new type of shoot that contains flowering ‘spurs’. This is mature growth and is subtly different than immature, vegetative growth.

Two new shoots on a Hawthorn bonsai during the Summer. On the left a mature flowering spur, on the right, a vegetative shoot carrying just leaves.

Flowering shoots on a Hawthorn will have a thorn at its tip, as shown in the image above. These shoots should not be pruned, if possible, otherwise they may become vegetative. Flowering shoots that are left unpruned will produce flowering spurs from which flowers will emerge sometime in the future. Unfortunately with Hawthorn bonsai, encouraging flowers can take a few years to achieve. The thorn itself should not be removed for the same reason.

Importantly, vegetative shoots (without a thorn at their tip) should be pruned by pinching out their tip as they extend to stop them becoming too long rather than allowing them to extend fully and then pruning them back (which encourages further vegetative growth).

A flowering spur on a Hawthorn beginning to open in Spring and revealing a cluster of flower buds…….

4-6 weeks later, the flower buds are about to open……..

The Hawthorn bonsai finally in flower

Some of the research was initially a bit confusing, as bonsai are usually trimmed all year to maintain the shape of the tree, and one source recommended only pruning flowering bonsai in the winter. The article I have posted today, at least explains it a little better.

It has been suggested that the best course of action for all flowering bonsai, is to find out whether they bloom on new growth or old, as this can differ, depending on the species. That way you can at least try to keep them in shape.

So far so good, now I need to research crab apples…

Power… in waiting…

Image by Miran Lesnik from Pixabay

I couldn’t resist this image this morning… the powerful majesty of that incredible sky, and the brooding patience of the waiting boats…

In a way, this image reflects the state of my mind at the moment. Hopefully, I can sort it out to start the week with a clean and possibly happy slate…

#Friday Flowers… Not Mine, I’m Afraid…

Image by Ilona Ilyés from Pixabay

I would love to be the proud owner of this beautiful Azalea bonsai, but for some reason, flowers are proving impossible to get in my collection. I do have the white azalea, but it has never looked as good as this. I am reading up on the techniques needed before frustration drives me crazy!

Image by Ronaldo Akallél markes from Pixabay

This amazing specimen is a pink Hawthorn. I have had one of these for several years now, a present that had flowers when I received it, but has never flowered again.

This is my Hawthorn sans flowers. It is a strong, healthy tree, fed and watered well, so I have no idea why it refuses to bloom.

I also have a crab apple that has never bloomed. Hopefully, my studying will enlighten me…

If I learn the secret, I will share it with you…

Throwback Thursday: Not My Life… #Mystery #Fiction

Dreaming sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?

All too often, it can be anything but. Not exactly nightmarish, but many weird, confusing images that can make you feel uncomfortable.

You find yourself worrying about them; what do they mean? Is there a message there somewhere? Why do we dream?

Doctors and psychologists have come up with some interesting theories over the years, but do they really know?

Common sense would seem to suggest that it is just the brain sorting through the day’s images when we are asleep, and most of the time, it does sound likely. But what about all those dreams that seem to mean something? Or those that seem to warn us of danger?

Then there are those that appear to predict the future, which then come true. What are we supposed to think about those?

Personally, I don’t dream much, not that I can remember anyway. The odd romantic fantasy about whomever I fancy at the time, but these are getting rarer. (unfortunately!)

Sarah Curtis, the lead character in Not My Life, is being driven slowly insane by upsetting and confusing dreams where she seems to be someone else entirely. Someone very real and in a lot of trouble.

This excerpt picks up the story when Sarah has wandered into the woods and gets lost…

I didn’t know where to go, so I let fate lead me off towards the woods. I walked for a while, trying not to think of anything. I told myself I should be feeling the beauty of the place.
The trees in their splendid autumn colours. Leaves fall here and there, making little drifts under the trees. I had heard somewhere that catching a falling leaf was supposed to bring good luck. I tried, but it was impossible. They seemed to fall gently towards you and then, at the last minute, darted away on a capricious breeze.

Trying to catch one frustrated the hell out of me. I gave up and sat for a while on a dry log, eating some chocolate I found in my pocket. Then I realised I had no idea of where I was and it was getting dark. I should have brought a loaf of bread with me to leave a trail, like Hansel and Gretel.
I didn’t feel too afraid; they would find me sooner or later. And later might be better. I walked on between ever-thicker undergrowth, hoping it was the way out. That a path, any path, would appear soon.

I found myself in a clearing with a pool, large rocks and slow-running water. My throat was dry enough for me to scoop up a handful, and it was surprisingly good. Deciding I was definitely lost and too tired to walk any further, I gathered up as many fallen leaves as I could to lie down in and buried myself for the night.

The temperature had dropped considerably, and my bed of leaves gave little warmth. I slept fitfully, dreaming of who I really was. A girl called Kelly. And Tommy, my four-year-old brother, who once again had been sent to the coal cellar as punishment for wetting his bed. It wasn’t his fault. Father had made him drink far too much water; he must have known he would wet the bed. And mother, she did nothing to stop his cruel games.
There had been times in the past when she did, only to be cruelly beaten herself, without saving Tommy or myself from whatever punishment he saw fit. I knew the house I was in, these people, my parents, as well as my own skin. Yet there was another place with gentle people I could sense but somehow couldn’t reach.

Soft cold rain washed the dream away, and I awoke alone on a bed of wet leaves. Lost, waiting to be found. Too tired to move. Too dark to try to find my way out. Morning couldn’t be too far away; I would try again then…

We would love some feedback for this book…

Grow Damn It! The Feeding and Nurturing of Life #Review #Parenting & Family Humour @CherylOreglia

Grow Damn It! is a captivating work by Cheryl Oreglia, who uses uncommon honesty and arresting humor to draw you into her cantankerous life, forty-year marriage, and revolving empty nest. She claims the space between past and future is where our potential is created or destroyed.

If you don’t like where your life is going, dig deeper, and write a new story. By weeding out the things that clutter her life, she invites you into a refreshing space with some of her most popular posts from her beloved blog Living in the Gap.

She surrounds herself with a gaggle of intriguing friends, along with a large and rambunctious family who challenge both her and the reader to live fully in an ever-changing world. Her provocative writing dares us to confront our lives not only with optimism, but courage, and uproarious laughter. Oreglia uses her experience to explore what matters most in life… the degree to which we love and are loved.

About the Author

Born and bred in the San Francisco Bay Area, Cheryl Oreglia hosts a lifestyle blog called Living in the Gap, which appears weekly as she corrals the time to write and reflect on the mundane. Oreglia says, “I do have a life outside of my head, and it squeezes between me and my keyboard like a frightened child. What can you do? On the surface, my life is common, I’m married with children, even grandchildren, a retired educator who lives for weekends at the lake, but just below the surface is a unique voice, one that I hope will resonate with you.” Grow Damn It, is a customized, over-the-hill, gritty, compassionate view of life. Oreglia says, “we’re not going to bloom where we are planted, we’re going to break the damn pot.”

Cheryl Oreglia is in the prime of her life, she claims this is not up for debate, a recently retired educator, married for forty years to the guy she met in high school. Together they have raised four exigent children, along with a couple of dogs, and one sassy cat. Oreglia entered a masters program as she was entering menopause sweating her way through a MA and into a second career. She has been hosting a blog entitled Living in the Gap that was acknowledged by Krista Tippett and five thousand followers on Twitter.Grow Damn It is a compilation of her most beloved essays tackling not only the frivolous, but the more challenging aspects of life. Oreglia lives in California with her husband. 

Our Review

The introduction to this book could have been written by me.

All of my thoughts and feelings from the last few years were all there, written with humour and more than a little chagrin. Cheryl Oreglia’s sense of humour shines like a beacon throughout.

I loved the chapter about Cheryl’s relationship with the magnolia tree. To realise that trees probably know us better than we know ourselves was enlightening. How many of us regard the trees in our gardens as treasured members of our families?

I love all trees, and this chapter moved me to tears.

In short, this is the story of one woman’s life, beautifully and insightfully written. It will steer you from laughing uncontrollably to emotional wreck status several times over.

I know I will read this book again, as in not so small a way, it makes sense of all the chaos in the world…

#Macro Monday…

Badly damaged by the late frosts, but this proud fuchsia is proud to be here…

Image by Gabriela Piwowarska from Pixabay