Book review: Giftwrapped by Jane Means

If you are anything like me, you probably take a lot of time deciding what to buy someone as a gift, whether it be for birthday, Christmas or just to say thank you. However, do you spend as much time in selecting the wrapping? I know I don’t always do this and just use any spare paper I have in my draw at the time.

There is something almost breathtaking to receive a gift that is beautifully wrapped and this gift will give as much pleasure on the giver’s behalf to see the recipient’s response. Why not, therefore, go that extra step and spend a little time in turning your simple gift into a glorious gift? Even the most plain present can be transformed into a sensational gift when wrapped in interesting paper and tied with an intricate looking bow.

Jane Means is a professional giftwrapper and has a fabulous blog full of ideas to wrap even the most intricate shape, as well as a website which sells a myriad of ribbons, tissues and papers to name but a few items. Jane also runs courses across the country on giftwrapping. You can even buy course vouchers to give as gifts, and I bet if you look on the website you will find an interesting way to wrap the voucher!

Can’t afford a course, or find the time? Then all is not lost, Jane has written a book called ‘Giftwrapped’ which is due to be published by Jacqui Small LLP on 20 November 2014.


There are no end of suggestions on how to wrap the oddest of shapes. One particular idea I love is for a magazine subscription. Choose your magazine, buy a current copy, roll it into a tube shape and wrap it up in a vintage scarf.


The book provides detailed guides on wrapping, tying and great ideas for special occasions, accompanied with wonderful photographs.

At this part of a book review post I usually give away the book in a competition. Sometimes, I find it hard to part with a book I particularly like, and this is one occasion where I am going to disappoint you as I am going to keep this one for myself!

I thoroughly recommend Giftwrapped which is published on November 20th and retailing at £20.   The publishers are offering a special discount at £16 including P&P to the UK  . Telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG252.  Please add £2.50 if ordering from outside the UK.

Autumn Colours – NT Property: Sheffield Park East Sussex

I am over a week late in posting this but several boxes of tissues, copious amounts of Vicks Vapour Rub and cough linctus I am now back in action.

Sheffield Park, East Sussex, is a National Trust property near Haywards Heath, West Sussex.   With its four lakes, Capability Brown and Repton influences and the River Ouse running through, it is a magnet at this time of the year for photographers.   The trees turn fabulous russets and on a still sunny day the reflections in the lakes are magnificent.

To appreciate it to the full, you really need it to be clear, no wind for the reflections and a blue sky for the contrasts of colour. Saturday the 1st of November was one such day when I went with my friend Kate to view the autumn shades.  We were there for several hours drinking in the views and colours, and in particular the Swamp Cypress which adds fabulous tones of rust and orange throughout the estate.

Rather than post a number of photos I have decided on this occasion to make a small movie for you to watch.  Somehow I believe it gives more of a feel of being there for you.   It’s just under 3 minutes long, so sit back and please enjoy.

The music is from the Ultimate Wellbeing Album and called “Fluorescent Glimmer” by Floetry Faction.

End of Month View – Oct 2014 : Surprises in the Garden

One of the greatest things of working part-time is having Mondays and Fridays at home and today the last day of the month, I have been able to take photos of the garden and write my EOMV post on the day it is due.

This morning the garden is green, lush and damp, also it is unseasonably mild.  I love it when it looks dewy and green, it has a particular smell about it which I can’t describe but am sure you will know what I am talking about.

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There are strange things going on.  Rather than dying down and getting ready for winter, some plants have been duped into thinking it is spring.

The Cleome and Penstemon are flowering again.


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Even the gaudy, blousey, magenta dahlia is still producing flowers.

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The Agapanthus, which died down really quite early this year, is throwing up new shoots.  I will have to make sure that I mulch it well before the frosts come.

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The aquilegia are coming up all over the garden with the promise that spring comes after winter.

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The raspberries are over and I have cut these down, but in order to prevent the local cats using the bed as a toilet I have had to put lots of sticks and paraphernalia to make it more difficult for them.   At this point, although I won’t show a photo, one particular cat, took no notice of the chicken wire I have over the raised bed, and has poo’d on top of the wire, so later today I will have a nasty mess to clear up.

DSC_0036 (1024x683) I am going to have to move the flower pots into a more sheltered spot shortly.   The stocks, which you can see in the foreground,  I grew from seed and was looking forward to some wonderful scented flowers, didn’t flower at all, which was really disappointing.

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The passion flower, growing over the side garden water butt is looking really good still, but is also a haven to the snails.  Last year when I finally cut it down, I had to wash the wall down as it was covered in mess.

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There are even some very tiny olives on the olive tree.

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At the end of September I planted up several pots of “lasagne” bulbs with tulips, daffodils and dwarf iris, topped off with pansies.  Details of this is in my post called “Getting Ready for Spring”.

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Finally, guess what??!!!   Some of the bulbs are coming through all ready.


So there we are a brief round up of my garden on the coast in West Sussex at the end of October 2014.   As always, thank you Helen from Patient Gardener for hosting this great diary log known as the End of Month View.   Visit all the other contributors HERE and see what is happening in their gardens.

Digging into the October Archives

I took some photos of roses, scabious, and Dahlias this morning, all still blooming the garden.  This was with a view to a weekend post of photos to share with just a little writing.   To my great annoyance, and disappointment, something has gone wrong with the memory card and my PC wont read it.  Even worse when I put it back in my camera, a message flashes up “No SD card inserted”.  This is an 8GB memory card with loads of photos on it, so feeling pretty fed up as you can imagine.

It is a dreary, dank, damp day and has been like this on and off for a while now, however it’s not cold and we haven’t had any frosts yet in this South East corner of England.  Geared up to writing a post I thought I would look at October posts from earlier years and check out what the weather was like, amongst other things.

Blogs make a fabulous garden diary, as well as events and places I visited and this is an ideal opportunity to revisit posts I have published this time of the year.

25 October 2011

Post entitled:     An Almost Emily Pankhurst Moment (Click HERE to read)

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Oct 2011 – one of several trees in my street following a visit from the Councils “Arboriculture Department”.

I am delighted to say that three years on, this and the other trees in the road, survived their drastic treatment.  As I write this I am looking out of the lounge window and can see the tree is still covered in leaves and looking healthy.

23 October 2011

Still with trees, post entitled:  In Search of Autumnal Colour  (Click HERE to read)

Oct 2011: the slow start of autumn at Sheffield Park, East Sussex

 Sheffield Park is a National Trust garden in East Sussex.   From this time of year until all the leaves have fallen, you will probably have to fight your way through the other photographers to gain access for good photography material.   It is a breathtaking place to visit at any time of the year but autumn is exceptional

27 October 2012

Post entitled:       A Saturday Morning Woodland Walk Beats Housework  (Click HERE to read)

Fungi found in the woodland on the Angmering Estate West Sussex

Oct 2012: Fungi found in the woodland on the Angmering Estate West Sussex

Oct 2012: The Woodland Floor

Oct 2012: The Woodland Floor

Until I read this again, I had forgotten about this walk.  It was a lovely day with so much to photograph.  What rounded it off so well was a mid-afternoon pub meal in front of a roaring fire.   As for the housework, well who wants to re-arrange the dust when you can spend the day outside in the beautiful Sussex countryside.

21 October 2013

Post entitled:     A Visit to the Cotswolds and the Prettiest Villages  (Click here to read)

Oct 2013:  This is Castle Coombe.  A very pretty village which is used often for films and advertisements.

Oct 2013: This is Castle Coombe. A very pretty village which is used often for films and advertisements.

I didn’t write a later post in October 2013 after this one, but it’s only a week earlier.   This was a lovely, very special holiday and I was still having chemo so, not knowing what was in store for me, I was especially appreciating everything I could see and do.

25 October 2014

So here I am, almost two years on from being diagnosed with bowel cancer, and a sarcoma tumour in my stomach, two operations on and the accompanying chemo.  I have just had a CEA tumour marker blood test which has come back clear.  I can’t believe how very lucky I am when there have been many I have met who have sadly passed away through the evil that is Cancer.   I am acutely aware of others who are very sick bowel cancer and, of course, it brings me up short when famous people such as the actress Lynda Bellingham die all too soon.

I am pleased to be able to share the last three years with you and look forward to being able to write posts for many more years.

My mother always used an expression that I frequently repeat to myself these days:

There but for the grace of God go I.”

RHS Companion to Scented Plants : Book Review & Give Away

There is nothing more evocative than a scent, it will remind us of people, places and events.   Our olfactory senses work overtime with recognised smells.  They can bring back a flood of memories, affect our mood and even help us relax and sleep.   Some of us can’t abide the perfume from lilies, chlorine from swimming pools but I think we would all agree that there is no point of a rose without a scent.

I believe that the majority of gardeners take scent and colour into the equation when choosing plants for our gardens. It is absolutely wonderful to walk into a garden in the evening to be met with heady aromas wafting in the air.   To help us select the ideal plants, be they trees, shrubs, perennials or roses, it is always helpful to have a book to refer to and give us ideas and planting information.

Frances Lincoln Publishers released the RHS Companion to Scented Plants on 16 October 2014. The author of this book is Stephen Lacey is a well known garden writer and the book is complimented with photographs by Andrew Lawson.

RHS Companion to Scented Plants lrThis is a large hardback book with 320 pages, measuring 250 x 190 mm.  The first chapters “Scent & the Gardener” and “The Nature of Scent” cover the basics of planting in sun and shade, the types of floral scent and even covers unpleasant odours, such as the flowering currant Ribes smelling like cat’s urine, which is always an issue I have with my Ribes.  At least I was sensible enough not to plant it anywhere near to my Jasmine!

I always like a gardening book that provides planning ideas and there is no disappointment here.  We are given four plans, all with interesting scented plants.

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Most of the chapters are set out in the form of a catalogue, broken down into trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials and herbs to name but a few.

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The chapter on roses is detailed with beautiful photographs, and the roses are categorised into the type of rose, Gallica, Alba, Bourbon etc. with information about each type before listing what I think are probably the popular varieties with the strongest scents. I couldn’t find the two roses I have in my garden, Compassion and Peace which is sad because they have beautiful perfumes also.  I have learned that Buff Beauty is a Hybrid Musk and Charles de Mills is a Gallica rose and where they grow best and the size they are.

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I can do no better than quote Frances Lincoln Publishers who, quite rightly, describe the RHS Companion to Scented Plants as “An authoritative guide to creating beautiful, well designed gardens that are highly scented and shows how scent can turn a good-looking garden into an unforgettable one.”

Win a copy of this beautiful book by entering into the Book Give Away competition.  You can do this by leaving a comment to say you wish to be entered into the draw.   As usual this is open only to those with a UK address.


I will announce the winner on Saturday 25 October 2014.  If you are unlucky in the draw or live abroad all is not lost, the lovely people at Frances Lincoln have a readers offer for you:

To order RHS Companion to Scented Plants at the discounted price of £20.00 including p&p* (RRP: £25.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG238. 
*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Are You a Starter or a Finisher?

Some people are natural “starters.” They live for the creative beginning of projects, but not the day-to-day execution or the follow through. I start things but don’t always finish. My energy comes from seeing new ideas and kicking things off. Apparently Starters love prototyping an idea, but once they’ve figured it out, they’re ready to move on to something else.

That definition makes me a Starter, especially when it comes to knitting. Although there is an enormous sense of achievement when I do finish a project, I have several projects waiting in the wings along with some collecting dust because I just lost interest.

Knitting yarns are a draw to me like a bee to pollen. I can spend as long in a wool shop as many do in a book shop. Online wool shops are also my downfall and I have boxes of wool and half made projects. I suppose strictly speaking I should refer to my stash of wool as a ‘stash of yarn’, not all is actually wool, a lot is a mixture of acrylic and wool and some is 100% acrylic. I do have some skeins of alpaca because I love the feel of it but don’t actually have anything in mind to use it for – yet.

This is my stash of yarn. If you look carefully you will see an unfinished crochet Minion, which seemed like a good idea at the time and I hope to have finished by Christmas. In fairness there are a lot of odds and ends following the actual completion of projects.

There are three parts to every project, starting, finishing and everything in between. It is the everything in between bit I stumble over.

My problem is that I see a pattern I like and order the yarn without really thinking things through or taking into account what else I have on the go. A good example of this is when I saw an attractive and different cardigan pattern by Bergere De France with the wool on offer and rashly bought it. This was about 4 months ago and I am yet to start it, so on this occasion I am not even a Starter.

The other issue is my liking for unusual random dyed wools, such as Sirdar Crofter DK. Having never made socks before I bought some of the Crofter wool and pattern. I did actually finish soon after I started, but only one sock and that was at the end of August. Yesterday, the beginning of October, I started its pair. Silly really as they don’t take that long to knit.

I suppose I could call myself a procastinating finisher, I need to set myself goals. Spurred on by my imminent stay with my daughter and grandchildren, this cardigan for my granddaughter, also knitted in Sirdar Crofter, which I started in July, was completed a few days ago.

Around about the same time I was carried away with the idea of a cable jumper for my grandson, that way they would both have something knitted by Grannie given to them at the same time. You can see how far I have got with this one. I have set myself a goal for completion – It will be a Christmas present for him, that is December 2014.

I don’t always buy wool for new projects I do start things using yarn from my stash. There are some great and quick ways of using up leftover yarns, such as tea cosies. This is one I finished recently, despite the fact I am not sure what to do with it. I just liked the pattern, which was an on-line freebie. I can’t even make them to sell and recoup some of the cost of the wool, as patterns like this one specifically state they are only be used for personal use and not for commercial purposes.   I suppose I could give them away on the condition that a donation to a charity such as Macmillan is made, that’s an idea!  Anyone want a tea cosy?

Then there are the red mittens I decided to make last night for my grandson to go with his Bristol City football scarf, which I gave him last Christmas. Just one mitten to finish by Thursday but as it only took one evening for one mitten this will be achievable.

Not everything I make is knitted, I do crochet sometimes. This last photo is not only a great stash buster, jargon for using up yarn, but also started and finished with everything in between done without a break. My eldest daughter saw this on Kirstie Allsopp’s Fill Your House For Free and asked me if I had time would I make one. I did on both counts.

If this post manages anything it will succeed in prompting me into finishing my outstanding projects, whilst I wait for my next purchase of exciting wool to be delivered.

Are you a Starter or Finisher?