Sunday 30 September 2012

Hello autumn, my old friend

2012-09-30 16.19.14
Chinese lanterns, chrysanthemums, crocosmia, raggy purple dahlias, hypericum berries, bells of Ireland

Shape and shadow are candied citron
as lanterns turn bitter yellow. Autumn
is a red fox, a goblet filled with dark wine,
a hot chilli pepper with smoky eyes.

Autumn by Mary Hamrick, 2009

A morning in the flower market and the bunting-bright shades of summer have given way to fat berries, fiery chrysanthemums and boxes of papery-skinned bulbs. Trays of summer bedding are replaced by pots of sweet cyclamen, winter pansies and blowsy mums.

I’ve bought thick socks and pulled cosy scarves from the drawer, brushed last year’s dried mud from my boots and paired up a tangle of gloves and mittens. I’m ready.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Book party

Lump in throat time.

Last Thursday evening, I was almost sick in my handbag. Despite being quite grown up, with the crow’s feet, RHS membership and drawer full of useful bits of string to prove it, I have managed so far to avoid doing the thing I most fear: speaking in public.

But I could avoid it no longer. Last Thursday, my book Gifts from the Garden,  was published and Jo, the owner of my lovely local bookshop, offered to host a party for me. ‘Just do a little talk, perhaps demonstrate a couple of the projects,’ she said gaily. ‘Yes, that’s a great idea!’ I said, hoping I could stave off the dry heaves until I hit the pavement.

I asked my pal, grower of delicious things, writer and all-around good egg, Mark Diacono  for tips. He’s done loads of personal appearances, and if his career as a Bradley Wiggins lookalike takes off I dare say he’ll do a lot more. ‘Give them something to eat, something to drink and get a joke in fast,’ he said. As this is the philosophy I’ve adhered to all of my life, I started to think perhaps I could do this.

Courgette muffins

Carrot Cake

So I pitched up at the bookshop with a boot full of platters, snacks and drinks, ingredients for my demonstration and, tucked into my handbag, hastily typed notes for a speech. People came. Quite a lot of them. They drank, they ate, they laughed. They also bought a huge stack of books and I got to sign them in a slightly demented scrawl.

I didn’t throw up. I loved every minute and couldn’t sleep until 2am from the sheer exhilaration of it all. Now I know how rock stars feel. Hit me if I become unbearable.

My friend James and I. I post this picture not just because he bought the first book, but also because he’s so damn handsome.

A great crowd at Stoke Newington Bookshop

Thursday 20 September 2012

Publication day


So it’s been a busy old time. My book is out today.

It’s called Gifts from the Garden and is the reason I seldom left my kitchen and garden for the first few months of the year, my hands either muddy or floury depending on the day. It was a dirty, fragrant, delicious form of house arrest.


Cooks and gardeners are generous people. (Or that might just be bossy.) You seldom leave their homes without a few tips, advice, some seeds, a hastily-scrawled recipe, a slice of cake or a piece of pie. Taking what you’ve grown and transforming it into a present takes that generous (bossy) instinct and wraps it in all up in a big bow.

In pursuit of great gifts, I spent the winter and spring scrabbling around for out-of-season pinks and cherry tomato plants, marigolds and blackcurrants and crossing everything for sunny days to shoot the jams and jellies, liqueurs and chutneys, face creams and room sprays that make up the projects in the book.


And somehow it all came together on some of the calmest shoot days I’ve ever known. This might have been due to the presence of lavender in many of the projects. But it was also most certainly due to the presence of Yuki Sugiura, who took the beautiful pictures, my pal and super-stylist Tabitha Hawkins, ace editor, queen of lists and living embodiment of patience, Sophie Allen, and designer Helen Bratby, the font-and-woodcut wizard.

That bit of making the book was great fun - a whole gang of us standing around a bowl of sugar and collectively deciding to move a spoon a tad to the left while the dog snuffled around our feet and the cats got tangled in the box (many boxes) of ribbon.

But then when the book comes out, it’s sort of just you, blinking in the sunlight, checking your nails for mud. Tonight at 8pm at my local bookshop, it’ll be just me, attempting to talk and make things at the same time and serving drinks and food from the book. If you’re local and free, do come. It would be lovely to meet you.


Stoke Newington Bookshop
159 Stoke Newington High Street
London N16 ONY
020 7249 2808

I spent some time in the past few weeks stitching hessian bags for catnip mouse kits (one of the projects in the book) to go out with advance copies to journalists.

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