ROMANTIC LADY OF SHALOTT . . . A DAVID AUSTIN ROSE

IMG_2836

I have a Camelot garden.  In it grows a  gorgeous rose of such fragrance and beauty the  very stars  look down in envy.    Its beckoning orange-red buds open to form  a magnificent chalice-shaped bloom.  A rose that perhaps long ago would have graced King Arthur’s table.

IMG_2825

There she weaves by night and day a magic web with colours gay.”  Each perfect rose petal blushes salmon pink  then quietly reveals a secret  that unfolds to golden yellow.    This Lady of Shalott rose has an old-fashioned  fragrance that conjurers up  thoughts of  exotic tea  spiced with cloves and apples.

IMG_2844

The Lady of Shalott is a fairy tale  rose.  Eachmorning I visit my Camelot garden and gather a  bouquet of rose.   And every morning  the rose bush is covered once again with more sweet roses.  If your soul yearns for romance  whisper the words LADY OF SHALOTT ROSES by David Austin  and the glorious days of Camelot will enter your garden.

IMG_2810

The very, very best part of this unique rose is –  it is simple-to-grow.    It is highly resistant to disease and blooms with unusual continuity.  It is low maintenance  and will bloom from early spring until frost. It’s highly recommended for rose beds and border.  It would be spectacular in a flower bed with deep blue flowers.  It can be trained against a wall or trellis  or  planted in large pots and containers.  It loves full sun or a little shade.  If you are an inexperienced  gardener you will adore this  Lady of Shalott David Austin rose.

IMG_2812

The Lady of Shalott was a popular l9th century  ballad inspired by Arthurian legend.  It was written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.    Reading this poem one discovers the  words and phrases that inspired the naming of this old-fashioned rose .

THE LADY OF SHALLOT  …  Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil’d
Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower’d Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro’ a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights,
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower’d Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse –
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance –
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right –
The leaves upon her falling light –
Thro’ the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song.
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken’d wholly,
Turn’d to tower’d Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame.
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace.
The Lady of Shalott.”

 

 

 

 

 

THEN FOLLOWED THAT BEAUTIFUL SEASON….SUMMER

“Then followed that beautiful seaon…Summer…   Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood.”  (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

 

 

 

“Summer afternoon,   summer afternoon;   to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”   (Henry James)

 

 

 

 

 

The lovely lupine … a graceful wand of colour.

 

 A whisper of lavender …  the soul, the scent of Provence.

Bursting into bloom …irises.. pieces of the sky flung into the garden.

 

 

Barefoot in the park!

SUMMER AFTERNOON … THE TWO MOST BEAUTIFUL WORDS IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES . . . delicate light morsels of delight!

IMG_2742

Do we really need another peanut butter cookie recipe?  Absolutely!    When a peanut butter cookie recipe is this good it cries out to be shared.        I spent part of my summer with my two sisters in my home town,  Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.  Sister Heather whipped up these melt-in-your-mouth morsels of delight to serve during a Duplicate Bridge Tournament.  What makes these cookies more than just another peanut butter cookie is their delicate lightness.  If you are a lover of all things peanut butter they are definitely worthy of adding to your collection of cookie recipes.

The secret to good cookie  making is to always cream your butter and sugar really well.  At least five or preferably ten minutes.  Then beat in the eggs thoroughly one at a time.  Stir in the flour briefly  – just until it is combined with the flour.  In this recipe it is ESSENTIAL to refrigerator the dough for at least one hour.

These  cookies are very rich.  Roll the dough into small one inch balls and bake on a parchment lined sheet.       Then if you really want to gild the lily, and make your bridge partner happy, melt some chocolate with heavy cream.  Let the chocolate cool and  sandwich the cookies with the ganache.    Such indulgence!

The recipe makes 50 to 60 cookies.   I set up an assembly line.  I prefer to bake my cookies one sheet at a time.  I have one batch of cookies in the oven.  One batch cooling.  And a third batch waiting to be baked.     To  balance the sweetness of the cookies I listen to  Tom Watts growl his way through his newest album BAD AS ME. 

The recipe awaits you in MRS BUTTERFINGERS kitchen.  DUPLICATE BRIDGE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES.

ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN summer in a dish

IMG_2132

All through the long and glorious summer the garden  rewarded us with glorious vegetables.  I  walk from the kitchen across a long stretch of grass and into the garden.  It is another world  –  this world of vegetables going quietly about their business of growing.   Italian basil, Thai basil and parsley encircle the garden.  No matter where I am in the garden I brush against these fragrant herbs as I harvest vegetables.  My basket is filled with prickly zucchini and brilliant coloured rainbow Swiss chard.  They will be the starring ingredients of the most delicious, refined and positively addictive vegetable gratin.

Zucchini and Swiss chard gratin  takes the ubiquitous zucchini and the humble Swiss chard to new heights.  Seasoned with onion, paprika and garlic.    Enriched with Parmesan cheese, eggs and tart sour cream .  Topped with buttery bread crumbs and fresh parsley this gratin is paradise in a dish.   Served as  a  main course or as a side dish with  roast chicken  or pork it is summer perfection on a plate.

The very best of summer – ZUCCHINI AND SWISS CHARD GRATIN

IT TAKES A PIE BIRD TO MAKE A BETTER CHICKEN POT PIE

IMG_2677

My two sisters are as passionate about food as I am.  It’s in our DNA.    During my vacation in my home town we cooked for each other and we cooked together.  It is a marvelous way to spend your vacation.

My older sister has what is known as “a dab hand with pastry”.  She has a special marble counter exactly the right height for rolling pastry.  She uses lard for all her pies – sweet and savory.  Her pastry is so light and flaky it literally drifts on to your plate.  She keeps everything chilled.  Even her flour.  In her opinion using a pie bird is the secret for flaky, tender pastry.

We were making chicken pot pie.  My sister  putting the chicken filling together and rolling out pastry..  My job  – to make the béchamel sauce.  The  sauce that binds.   To add extra flavour to the chicken pot pie I used rich chicken stock instead of milk and made it extra thick. After it was cooked I thinned it with a generous amount of cream.  You do know I have a reputation for gilding the lily.

The pie bird was positioned in the centre of the filling. On went the pasty with a slit cut for the bird.    The edges were crimped.  A little egg wash and the crust was sprinkled with coarse sea salt.    The pie bird vents excess moisture from the pie filling (whether it is chicken and vegetables or fresh fruit), and  prevents a soggy pie crust .  These ceramic birds are available in most well stocked kitchen shops.

Now you know my older sister’s secret for amazing pie crust.  Tell your friends “a little bird told you”!

 

SEARCHING FOR THE RAM’S HEAD ORCHID by going back to the past.

 

IMG_2694

I grow up in Northern Saskatchewan.  My home town, Prince Albert,  sits squarely on one side of the North Saskatchewan river.  On the other side is the beginning of the dense, mysterious  Great Northern Forest .

We spent our summers  playing in the shadows of fragrant  Northern Forest.      The Little Red , with its creaking swinging bridge, was the perfect place for childhood adventures.  We explored the plains covered with tiger lilies.  Hot and tired we knew the secret location of a hill-side spring.    Water so pure  so cold  we would linger refreshing ourselves, body and mind.  The Little Red is where we searched for the elusive Rams Head Orchid, but it always eluded us.

This summer, seven decades later,  I returned to my home town .    Three sisters spending a summer vacation together.     More than anything I wanted to return to The Little Red .    Carol,  a friend from our childhood,  knew every trail in the Little Red Park.    Along with two happy dogs we walked the paths searching for the shy, tiny exquisite flower. We had a very small blooming window.    Carol had not had a sighing the previous year.  We were hopeful this year would be different.

IMG_2699

The narrow paths wound through  dense trees.   Lichen crunched beneath our feet.  The air was heavy with the fragrance of wild roses .  We had almost given up hope when Carol saw the first tiny flower.  Then another, and another.   Breathtakingly beautiful, incredibly tiny Ram’s Head Orchids.  Oh joy supreme!

I promised not to write about our glorious find until it’s brief blooming season was over.  These rare plants need to be protected, and there are those who would invade their environment and think nothing of digging the orchids up for their own use.

IMG_8379-300x200

(Phone by Scott Young  – on the Bruce Peninsula)

Rams’ Head Orchid (Cypripedium Arietinum)  can be found from Quebec to Saskatchewan.  It is difficult to cultivate and rarely survives transplantation to a garden from the wild.  It should never re removed from any natural area.  Ram’s Head Orchid has now been listed as a n endangered species in Nova Scotia.