Delayed Autumn Chores

It’s hard to believe that it’s the middle of October already! The Summer seemed to last for ages, probably due to the constant rain, and now we’re having some sunny days it’s difficult to find time to squash all the chores in. I’m resisting the urge to tidy the garden up too much as there are still quite a few butterflies and bees relying on the nectar. The bumble bees are looking a little tired now and it’s taking them longer to warm up – maybe I should suggest that they do some extra star jumps before starting work for the day?

Agastache

The Agastache is still performing really well and has even started to send up new shoots with the recent sunshine.

Even the Lavender is looking happier – it’s hated the wet soil beneath it’s feet this year…

Beds To Clear

… although, judging by how much the herbs have grown you wouldn’t know this. If you look at the photo above you will notice that I have cleared one bed already. This had the sad remains of the sweet peas and courgette plant. There are also some asparagus crowns that did spectacularly poorly so I’m hoping that next year they will show a little more appreciation in the spears department! I gave them a good stern talking to whilst tucking them up in a duvet of mulch. There’s a ground frost in the mornings now so it won’t be long before all these flowers are gone.

Still going strong

September Song

Red Admiral Butterfly

One of the best decisions I made with the garden was to plant a Nectar Bar to attract the pollinators and beneficial insects. It has surpassed my expectations and it’s an absolute must for my future planting schemes.
Today was a good day as I even managed to photograph one of the butterflies that have eluded me over the last few weeks. A longer lens on my camera and a tripod were key – but balancing on one leg whilst the tripod was in mid air probably wasn’t that helpful!

Bees on Agastache

There were a huge variety of bees out today and I noticed that each species seemed to have their favourite flowers. The Agastache, Scabious and Coreopsis were the favourites today and I noticed that whilst most bees were methodically working the blooms others zoomed around them as if the Bar was about to close!!

The Nectar Bar

The Bar is open as usual my little buzzy friends… and hopefully will be for a few weeks more! Come on in, have a good time and bring a friend too x

Magic Beans

One of the best things about gardening are the lessons that Mother Nature teaches us each day. Broad Bean FlowerOne of my challenges in this new garden is to grow something I dislike each year in the hope that I will be inspired to eat it… and, who knows, even enjoy it! Broad Beans (fava beans) have always been my nemesis so these had to be my first choice to grow this year.
There are three wonderful things that I have discovered since growing these plants. Firstly, Broad Beans have the most beautiful, delicate perfume that fills the air with loveliness and when I first noticed this I was amazed! The smell came wafting over from the vegetable patch on a gentle breeze and it took me a long time to identify that it belonged to the bean plants. My brain would not, could not, believe what my nose was telling it. In fact, I initially started to sniff all the pretty flowers in adjacent beds as I really couldn’t quite believe that these sturdy looking plants could smell so good… and I don’t mean just plain good, I mean “put it in a bottle and wear it as a perfume” good! None of my garden books seem to mention how beautiful these flowers smell and, to be fair, I think that I would grow them for this fact alone! I must say that the garden books in question did worry me silly about swarms of blackfly and also stressed the important of proper support in windy weather.
The second wonderful thing  (probably related to the first) is that the bees absolutely love these flowers! The big, fat bumble bees seem to particularly enjoy them and they can’t seem to get enough! I’ve grown lots of plants to deliberately attract bees and butterflies to the Nectar Bar but the Broad Beans seem to be doing a better job and our buzzy friends just can’t stay away.

The final amazing lesson that I have learnt is that Broad Beans grow upwards! Not down towards the ground but actually up towards heaven!! I know you’ll probably be laughing at me for being so naive, but I’ve never grown these before and really thought that they would grow down! So, I have either a)  acquired magical, gravity-defying beans, b) I have been extremely ignorant and have managed to overlook this simple fact or c) I actually planted them upside down! Ha ha… Let me know which it is (and if they’re really magic… what shall I do with them?).  I’ve always had a sneaky belief that Broad Beans Are Evil so I’m only growing them as an experiment anyway! Wouldn’t it be funny if I went from a hater to a lover? It would be especially funny if I marketed a new fragrance based on Broad Bean flowers… called “Implausible – A Fragrance For Her”

Red, White and Blue-ish

One of the simple pleasures in life is having fresh flowers in the house and it’s even nicer when these have been brought in from your own garden! I prefer simple posies in pretty containers – I haven’t got the patience, or artistic ability, to arrange flowers properly (but I certainly envy those that do) so forgive my wonky efforts!

With the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in mind I chose a red, white and blue theme. The red flower is a Geum that I rescued from my old garden and I love it’s hardiness, long bloom time and small nodding flowers. The little white flowers are from an alpine plant and I have no idea what they are as I found them in a bargain bin! As for blue… blue is always such a difficult colour so I chose a bluey/purpley anenome called “Mr Fokker” from Sarah Raven. I find that this is much easier to spell rather than pronounce!

A couple of days ago I blogged about Fairy cakes and said that I would try and decorate these before going to work… I’m pleased to say that I did manage to decorate these and let them in the coffee room at work. They went down a treat! I thought people would wait until mid morning but most of them got scoffed at breakfast! I mixed some icing sugar with double cream, whisked it up and topped it with strawberries and blueberries – the cool, tanginess of the fruit really complimented the sweet cake and topping.

It’s been raining for most of the day, which usually happens when there is a holiday weekend! There’s no point heading out to the garden… but at least there’s no need to water the plants later.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is rain again and we’re going to the Picnic in the Park! Ha ha, I’ll have my wellies at the ready and waterproof sandwiches!

Rhubarb ♥

I planted some “Champagne” rhubarb this year and I was prepared to patiently wait until next year before our first harvest (which is so unlike me). I was delighted when a clump of our old rhubarb, against the odds, started to grow. You see, this rhubarb has been trampled on, dug over, excavated and finally compacted as part of the ongoing building work. We were sad about this as it had come from a neighbour’s garden, who sadly died a couple of years ago, so this has always been known as Fred’s Rhubarb.

Fred's Rhubarb

I’ve always loved Rhubarb… the fact that we use it as a fruit but it’s actually a vegetable and it has delicious edible stems but it’s leaves are poisonous means that it’s as contrary as I am!. One of my earliest childhood memories is eating rhubarb in the sunshine whilst sitting on top of a Rabbit hutch, with a small teacup of sugar in one hand and a freshly picked, pink stalk of rhubarb in the other. The combination of sweet and sour tastes kept me quiet for a while! Not good for the teeth but it was an occasional treat that gave my lovely Mum some peace!

My tastes have changed a little, and whilst rhubarb dipped in sugar is safely consigned to my happy memories now, I have a few more favourite recipes. My first choice is rhubarb crumble… especially when the crumble is made with plenty of cinnamon and toasted hazelnuts. I prefer vanilla icecream with mine – but what’s your favourite?

Rhubarb & Cinnamon CrumbleI also love iced teas – have you tried the rhubarb ones? Wow! Zingy and refreshing! I usually have some frozen rhubarb in the freezer and so this is a great drink to make in the Summer. This particular recipe is from Martha Stewart and can be tweaked according to your tastes… how does a little added Cointreau and slices of orange sound for a special occasion?

Rhubarb Iced Tea

Old fashioned Rhubarb & Custard sweets…

…and a great cartoon from the 1970’s called Roobarb and Custard! To be honest I can’t remember the cartoon very well but always LOVED the theme tune!

Roobarb and custard 1974- YouTube.

I was hoping to spend sometime in the garden but the weather has been awful – high winds, constant rain and it’s so cold that we’ve had to put the heating back on! The wettest drought on record I should think!!

Healthy Weeds

I’ve had such a lovely morning – even the subsequent housework hasn’t dulled the pleasant post-gardening feeling that I’ve been left with! Many of the plants in the small greenhouse were taken out for a taste of fresh air and a good watering of rain. There is likely to be a good frost again tonight so they’ll be nicely tucked up again before night fall. It’s good to know that happiness can be found in such simple things – a cup of tea, a radio and a little shed of tools. Most women treat themselves to a regular manicure… I treat myself by getting soil under my nails!

The Hen House looks lovely through the trees and I can watch the chickens without them realising it! Usually, as soon as the Girls see me approaching they come charging to the gate, flapping and clucking, until they are either fed or let out! The new Girls are settling in well and, although there are two separate groups, there is peace in the Hen House.

The Strawberry Pot is enjoying it’s sheltered location and I’m looking forward to all the lovely Summer recipes. Mmmm…….

Broccoli & Figs
These are both new to me! I’ve grown the Broccoli from seed and I’m so pleased… I hope it survives to adulthood as it’s one of my favourites. The fig tree was bought a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure whether to plant it against the South facing wall or keep it in a pot so that it can be moved in severe weather. It’s a “Brown Turkey”, so is suited for our climate, but advice would be appreciated from those that know what they’re doing!

I love this little sign and I wanted it the moment I saw it on Etsy.com!

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if every visitor removed a few weeds whilst waiting for you to answer the door? Or, would it tempt you to delay your welcome until a whole patch had been done? Ha ha ha :-)

On second thoughts… cancel the sign! I would probably lose a lot of valuable seedlings and special plants too! I have to confess that I sometimes have to let weeds grow a little before identifying them properly. This is because I’ve recently been guilty of removing perfectly healthy little plants thinking that they were buttercups and daisies! It’s all part of the learning curve x

Looking Forward to April Showers

What a busy month March has been – where has it gone?!? It has been unseasonably warm and the pyjamas were swapped for shorts last week. Unfortunately, the down side of this is that the reservoirs are low and there are many parts of the country that already have water restrictions and hose pipe bans! Thankfully we’re unaffected at the moment but it’s only a matter of time I suppose.

The seed trays and plants were making it difficult to get into the utility room so we bought a cheap plastic greenhouse which has been invaluable! It doesn’t look very pretty, and once we have saved some money, we’ll be getting a wooden framed greenhouse but unfortunately this isn’t near the top of our essential list yet!

The good news is that our rabbit friends have stopped getting into the kitchen garden… the “Keep Out” sign obviously worked wonders (…the perimeter fencing may have helped a little too!).

This month I’m looking forward to April showers, Easter and fetching some new chickens… I’m loving the new garden and catch myself smiling for no other reason apart from being outside with the plants and seeds :-)

 

Espalier Apple Tree

My first espalier 

The term espalier refers to the way fruit trees are trained to grow against a wall. It looks stunning and makes the tree easier to prune and the fruit easier to pick. I love this decorative method and it’s often seen in traditional walled kitchen gardens – luckily it’s also perfectly suited to smaller gardens too. This fellow looks quite wimpy at the moment but in a few years he’ll look fabulous hopefully!

Espalier "Laxton's Superb"

I’m thankful that I was able to buy a ready-trained tree – getting the shape right initially is the hardest thing apparently and I’m not sure whether I’m brave enough to start one from scratch yet. The espalier tree has two tiers of branches trained horizontally on either side of the stem. My husband fixed two horizontal wires into the wall and secured them tightly. We ensured that the tree was planted at the same height as the soil mark on the stem, it was firmly heeled in and then watered well. The branches were then secured to the wire with soft ties.

Apple BlossomThe blossom is really beautiful and I’m looking forward to the next few weeks. This dessert variety is from the late Victorian period and it apparently tastes very “appley” which is somewhat reassuring!!

Disorganised fun!

In November I planted three different layers of bulbs in terracotta pots. It was really cold outside, we’d had a long day and the light was fading… I was desperate to go indoors and have a hot bath so, in my haste, I forgot to note which bulbs I’d thrown in which pots! Four months later… surprise! I still don’t really know! Ha ha ha x

Tulip Leaves & crocus

The days are definitely getting longer and I’m amazed how much life there is in the garden. Each evening after work I make a cup of tea, put on my boots and go and say hello to the plants. The recently planted Polka raspberry canes are starting to produce leaves now. I have to constantly remind myself about their shallow roots so that I’m gentle with the hoe… I’d hate to chop their little toes off! There’s not a lot of finesse to my style of gardening so anything that survives is generally recommended!Raspberry "Polka"

I’m just so excited about seeing new, fresh green things that I even snapped a picture of a dandelion! I will regret this very soon as these horrible little weeds torment me beyond belief throughout the Summer… I’m sure that they even duck when the lawn mower skims over because when I look behind me all that is left is a manicured lawn and several dandelions laughing heartily!

Dandelion

The dandelion bud that is just coming into flower above looks a little strange, almost like it has been edited, but that is how it was opening (I’m not clever enough to edit my photos yet!). I’m doing quite well with my Broad Bean aversion so, who knows, I may learn to love these little fellas too in time!