The Creation of Idris the Dragon

So last year my dear friend in the UK, Liz, finally was forced to comply with an old crochetey neighbor’s request to cut down an heirloom ash on their property line that apparently was somehow bothering him. Determined to have something good come of the sad situation Liz read about a local who was known for his wood sculptures, a guy named Mick Booth of Cosmick Carvings. She contacted him and gave him this simple direction: “I don’t want a friendly Disney dragon. I want a fierce guard dragon.” And Mick agreed to do the work.

The above four meter ash trunk was dispatched to Mick’s workspace with no further discussion, and the work commenced!

This is the drawing Mick drew as he imagined Liz’s dragon, whom she had named Idris. She never once saw the drawing until Idris was delivered. When asked why she chose the name Idris she said that it is a Welsh name, her maiden name is Welch, and it was also the name of a dragon in Ivor the Engine, a children’s tv cartoon she watched as a child in the UK. I had to look him up! I found him quite charming!

First cuts began in Mick’s workshop.

Idris’s face begins emerging with serious tools! And that process is followed by his body, wings, tail development. How exciting! One cannot help but think of Michelangelo chipping away at his marble, allowing an angel to perfectly emerge!

This is Idris’s being set free. How wonderful to have his emergence documented! Bravo, Liz, for envisioning him into existence.

And now he’s going home. The day arrives and Mick and his friends bring Idris to Liz’s lovely garden, where he will live atop his very own nest of rocks. He will survey Liz’s teahouse and pond and be enjoyed by those who are lucky enough to visit this lovely garden.

Have I mentioned Idris weighs over 1100 pounds?? That’s 1/2 tonne, 3 metres long in UK system. And he had to be hauled 100 metres up into the garden!

Liz and her husband had placed a foundation of flagstones down where Idris could land. And then began the work of building the rock nest where he could appear to be perched. UK wet weather has allowed mosses to begin filling in the nest, and Liz plans to include more plants to give Idris the proper home he deserves.

Mick with Idris!

Liz spent hours and hours finding the right rocks on her property, and placing them to her liking. This involved her husband splitting some to make them fit just so!

And now nature lends a hand and helps create the green rockery on which such a fine creation can call home. Isn’t he marvelous? Well done, all!

Now, I asked Liz for a pic of her and Idris, but at the moment that would involve her going out into stormy weather so I am including this one of her for the moment. (She loves the snow!)

I’m hoping Idris has inspired some of you to think of creations you might include in your gardens!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxox

UPDATE: The sun came out in the UK and Liz popped out for a pic with her guardian dragon!

Liz with Idris!

Book Notes: First, many thanks to those of you who purchased copies of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden during the Christmas holiday. It’s gratifying to know some of your loved ones will be reading my book this winter. Also, very exciting to announce I will be doing a Skype session with Liz’s Book Club participants in February and I’m realizing this is something I am looking forward to expanding! If you have a Book Club that might be interested in reading Plant Whatever Brings You Joy and would love to meet me as author via Skype (or whatever else might be suitable), let me know! I am happy to arrange! Thank you!

Perfect time of year for persimmon bread!

Just before Thanksgiving I took advantage of our last warm weather and hosted a Neighborhood Potluck on a Sunday afternoon and invited my dear friend, artist Eta, up from Marin to join us. She arrived with this in hand–a lovely gift of persimmons from her garden! She had tucked them into a simple basket, nesting in blue tissue paper and popped in some sprigs of nandina berries and some little autumnal mums, making for a delightful presentation. Lucky me! I told her I planned to make persimmon bread and she asked for the recipe, so that request is prompting this post, which I think both she and all of you will appreciated. This recipe is a keeper and has served me and my family over many years.

A word on persimmons! There are two kinds which we see in California this time of year. The hachiya, with which this bread is made, and the fuyu, which is smaller, is not elongated underneath, making it kind of squat, and much firmer. One does not bake with it, to my knowledge. You simply munch its yumminess down once it’s ripe. Seen from above, they look the same.

Rich Persimmon Bread

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 C. loaf pan.

Whisk together:

1 1/2 C. unbleached white flour
1/4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. cinnamon
1 1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cloves

Measure 1/3 C. milk and add 1/2 t. vanilla.

In a large bowl beat 8 T. unsalted butter (i.e., 1/4 lb. which is one stick).

Add 1 C. sugar and 1/3 C. brown sugar and beat for at least 3-4 minutes.

Add two eggs, one at a time.

Add 1 C. persimmon, which you have dug out of its skin.

Now add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture.

Then fold in 1/2 C. golden raisins and 1/2 C. chopped pecans.

Spoon batter into your loaf pan, and spread evenly. Bake about one hour. You will know when it’s done when a clean fork comes out clean after puncturing center top. 🙂

Allow bread to cool for at least ten minutes prior to cutting.

I love this bread and so does everyone I share it with. It’s rich and deeply satisfying. I hope you will make some and enjoy!

Love and holiday warm wishes,
Kathryn xoxo

Kathryn and Eta

Book Notes: A bit of exciting news: in January I will be doing a Skype session with a book club in the UK who has chosen to read Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden together organized by dear friend Liz Watkin, whom I know through the gardening blogger community! I am thrilled with this opportunity to connect with readers abroad! I think it’s going to be great fun. If any of you belong to a book club and are interested in doing one of these I’d be happy to discuss with you! Lastly, I hope you will consider a copy of my book as a Christmas gift for anyone you think would enjoy. Thank you so much. XOXO

The Hollyhock Hotel

Hollyhock collection courtesy Jonathan Sheppard of Sheppard Seed Company, UK

Hollyhock season is nearly over as we enter the fall season. I have enjoyed immensely their soft beauty in my garden. They now bloom annually along the side fence, bringing charm, grace, and color to what used to be a long empty stretch of nothing of much interest. And what I find particularly enchanting about them are the pollinators who flit among them, beginning early in the morning. The bumblebees are always the earliest to arrive and the last to leave in the evening. If they leave. For there are always, happily, those who never bother to return to their hives or nests, but opt to simply spend the night tucked into the beauty and comfort of a bed of soft petals. Finding one of them curled safely around a yellow center is always an exquisite delight only to be found at the Hollyhock Hotel.

Sound asleep inside the Hollyhock Hotel

California carpenter bee

The mother loved them years ago;
Beside the fence they used to grow,
And though the garden changed each year
And certain blooms would disappear
To give their places in the ground
To something new that mother found,
Some pretty bloom or rosebush rare–
The hollyhocks were always there.

~Edgar Guest

California carpenter bee and honeybee at work

Red hollyhock from my garden…

Hollyhocks, as you most likely know, take time to cultivate, though they are easy enough to grow. Seeds that sprout will not flower the first year. But once established they will readily self-sow. I do not find them fussy, though I know not to water them if there is not time left in the daylight hours for their leaves to dry out, as they will rust. If you do find yours have developed rust (which will most likely appear on lower leaves first), cut those leaves off and get them off your property. I personally have the practice of looking at each stalk every morning, cherishing their beauty, and pulling off the leaves that have gone yellow. I then shower them at that early time of day so there is plenty of time for them to dry out in the sun. I am grateful that once established they will generously offer their beauty and charm for years to come.

Here’s another of mine along the redwood fence with the Neighbor’s Cat keeping me company.

And I will close this post with another special photo from Jonathan Sheppard, which I am using with his permission. So pretty! He is making it his mission to have hollyhocks acknowledged and protected in the UK. What a gift to gardeners.

I do hope you have tried hollyhocks in your garden and are enjoying them as much as we do!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Blog and Book Notes: I must share that this post honors 12 years of posting on Plant Whatever Brings You Joy. Many thanks to my many longtime subscribers! I also want to thank the many folks who have read my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden and posted their loving reviews on Amazon. There are now three dozen and nearly every one is 5-star! How gratifying for me as an author that you love what I have written. Thank you!
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