Precious Peonies

IMG_2910The Peonie Girl resizeThe Peonie Girl Illustration by Rachel Thornton

I want to talk more about peonies, undoubtedly my most favourite flower,  but shall leave that until next week when energy levels replenish.

Thank you to everyone who visited us at Culverden yesterday and for you amazing feedback.  What a beautiful setting for a country fete.  Will be posting images next week for anyone who couldn’t make it.

We’re taking bookings now for our Christmas Workshops too so contact us for more information.

Culinary Bouquets & Wreaths for Culverden

photo 2Wild thyme gathered from Diamond Harbour

Only 24 hours to go until the Culverden Fete.  Our make-shift studio is resembling a Chinese sweat shop with boxes containing wreaths, wire hearts and stationery piled almost to the ceiling. The floor is littered with offcuts of camellia, eucalyptus, grapevine and holly.  We’ve enlisted the help of a dear friend Andrea (our herbal specialist) who is packing up box after box, attaching hook after hook,  at the same time as giving us a wonderful insight into the medicinal uses and benefits for the ingredients we’ve gathered.

We’ve added a culinary wreath to our range this Christmas for all those foodies out there and feeling inspired by these fragrant materials (bay, thyme, rosemary & pepper berries) we’ve made up culinary bouquets too which look and smell wonderful hanging in the kitchen.

The wild thyme is fast becoming our ingredient of the moment.  Not only because of  its heady scent but more so for its elegantly-curved natural form.   We strung bunches of the flowering thyme onto a wire garland to dry which prompted the idea for these giant bouquet garni that we’ll have on sale tomorrow.

Reinventing our baby for Culverden

photo 1Final preparations continue for the Culverden Fete.  The giant wreath we made for the Festival of Flowers back in March has had a make-over;  blue gum removed and replaced with glossy dark green camelia.  We wanted to create a wreath with a  less dense appearance and by weaving stems of the foliage around the outside and inside edges we defined the wreath’s shape leaving lots of breathing space within the design to enjoy the wire frame too.

These large structures can be used time and time again.  We love them for weddings and special events as they really create the wow factor from a distance as well as close up.  Contact us if you’ve got a special event planned and would like a floral statement of some kind!

Flowering vine wreaths

Rachel gathering honeysuckle resize 300 Honeysuckle Vine Wreath resize blog

Honeysuckle Wreath created by Carousel Flora Design

There are about 80 varieties of honeysuckle and we’ve used two in this simple unstructured wreath, stripping away some of the leaves to expose fleshy fuchsia pink stems within the design.  These younger stems are supple, almost rubbery in texture and ideal for weaving into a wreath.

Flowering vines like honeysuckle, jasmine and clematis are fragile so don’t over-handle and have a bucket of water right by your side to sink stems into  after cutting.

The honeysuckle flowers don’t last long out of water,  but it  is definitely worth whipping up a few of these wreaths – I  prefer an odd number, say 3 and slightly different sizes – just before guests arrive for dinner as they look quite beautiful grouped on the table with tea lights twinkling amongst the vines.    Don’t over think these wreaths;  their intrinsic beauty lies in the casual nature they’ve been thrown together.

Pliable young Pussy Willow, scented trailing sweet peas or arching stems of wisteria  would work equally well too.  Have a look in your garden and see what you’ve got.

Launching our Carousel Girl stationery

Horizontal view of Carousel Girl cardsRachel and I are thrilled to announce the launch of our brand new Carousel Girl stationery range, available to purchase right now.

This series of 5 is just the start.  More to come later in the year as Rachel creates a whole new range of these beautifully-attired girls who love nature and love gathering.

Individual cards are priced at $5.50 each or packs of the 5 designs are available at just $25.00.  Contact us to make an order or come and visit us at Culverden on 31 October, where we’ll also have beautiful cotton tea towels with the same designs available.

photo 1 photo copy photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

Giulio’s Crab Tofu

Giulio gathering blog resize b&wGiulio gathering snowpeas in the Lyttelton Community Garden – photographer Sabin Holloway

Now I know what you’re thinking.  This recipe seems fiddly and rather complicated and whilst I admit it’s not a dish you’d whip up for a midweek lunch or dinner, I think part of its pleasure lies in its unhurried preparation.  Oh and planning an occasion to test it out.

A Gathering perhaps with friends in the garden at the weekend.  Once I’m back in my kitchen and not cooking over a one-burner stove camping style (earthquake repairs continue) I’m definitely going to try this out.

Giulio Sturla, the Lyttelton chef / owner of Roots has kindly given us this recipe to try.  He is a true gatherer in every sense and not only of the culinary kind.  Anyone wandering into his restaurant will see materials he has gathered or uncovered being used or displayed in innovative and resourceful ways.

Ingredients for Tofu:
170g soy beans (NZ grown)
Water for soaking
1 litre water
1.5 tsp calcium sulphate

Soak the soy beans overnight.  Strain the water the next day and put the beans in a blender with 500 ml of water.  Blend until you have an homogeneous paste.  Add 250 ml of water to a big pot.  Bring the water to the boil then add the soy bean puree. With the remaining 250 ml of water wash up the blender and mix that it all into the pot so you get every last bit.

Simmer this mixture for about 5 minutes.  Keep stirring to avoid burning the paste,  then strain the mixture through a muslin cloth.  Let the milk go through, pressing the muslin to extract most of it (be careful with your hands, it could be hot). Heat this milk again to cook for another 5 min to make the protein of the soy beans more digestible. Now you have soy milk ready to drink or to make silken tofu.

When the milk cools down, measure 700 – 750g for the tofu. Dissolve the calcium sulphate with 2 tsp of water then add the soy milk and mix thoroughly. Prepare containers to make the tofu.  You can make single portions in ramekins or in a tray  with 3 cm depth.

You will need to prepare a bain-marie container big enough to sit the ramekins in.  Place these ramekins with the milk into the simmering bain-marie water and cover with a lid  but allow for the steam to escape to avoid dripping into the containers. After 5 min the milk starts to solidify, and it is now ready. Remove the ramekins from the bain-marie and let them cool down.  Now they are ready to eat.

Crab salad

100g fresh crab meat
Honey vinaigrette (1 part honey, 1 part olive oil, 1 part apple vinegar, salt to taste)
Young broad beans
Coriander leaves and flowers
Sorrel leaves
Borage flowers

Mix all the ingredients and arrange them over the cool silken tofu, decorate with leaves and flowers. Enjoy!

Crab Tofu

Wire Heart Designs for Culverden

Wire Heart with Spring BlossomLarge Wire Heart  decorated with Mock Orange Blossom & Flowering Griselinia

Our  Wire Workshops have proven extremely popular in the past so Rachel and I are designing a range of these hearts to sell at Culverden.  All the hearts are hand-made by us using salvaged wire we collect from farms and skips.  These structures offer a simple way to display fresh or dried flowers and the contradictory properties of the industrial wire and delicate, fragile roses or blossom seem to enhance both materials quite beautifully.

photo 3

These ever-lasting hearts, hung on walls, gates or fences make a rather romantic statement, wonderfully suited for garden parties, weddings or events.

We will have a selection of hearts available at Culverden, or can make a larger one to order.  Prices range from $120 – $350 depending on the size required.

Chicken wire & pearl heart resize blogWire Heart with Pearls