The Real Pemberley

It is widely believed that Pemberley from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice was based on Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The architecture, landscaping and vistas are simply breathtaking and as the House is approached it’s easy to see why this could be Pemberley:

“They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills;—and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place where nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in her admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” Jane Austen (1813)

The original house dates to the 16th Century and the gardens the landscaping designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown. On this occasion we didn’t tour the house but concentrated on the gardens and landscapes. Chatsworth manages to blend both grand and informal design beautifully and throughout the gardens there are various sculptures which I believe only enhance the space. I’m not sure what Capability Brown would have made of the sculptured hares… but I loved them!

Chatsworth has a lovely gift shop partly set in the old stables which is filled with unusual gifts and books. We bought a Christmas reindeer (nicer than it sounds) a rustic heart (because a girl can never have too many hearts in the home) and lots of pretty ribbon. It’s always nice to bring home ideas so this trip was no different!

1. Plant some box hedging and keep it clipped.

2. Buy a sculpture for the garden (it doesn’t have to be a hare!).

3. Continue with the house renovations (Chatsworth was probably built in less time than it will take us to renovate!!).

4. Read Pride & Prejudice again (and again, and again…).

5. Get my own Mr Darcy to help me with some digging this weekend to put the garden to bed!

Advertisements

October Bouquets

Once the mists cleared the sun actually shined through and the flowers looked so bright. There are quite a few seed heads now, which have a beauty only suited to Autumn, and the bees are making the most of these rare sunny days.

When I first planted the kitchen Garden in Spring I never imagined that I would still be picking flowers in October… Dahlias, Scabious, Lavender, Cosmos, Rudbekia and Burpleum. I confess that I have probably had more enjoyment from the flowers than the vegetables so I’ll have to rethink the way I use the space next year.

September Glow

The days are now much colder, so much so that the log burner is already earning it’s keep and the woolly jumpers are back out! The garden is looking battered due to the high winds and persistent rain but I must say that there are a few flowers that remain resilient. The Agastache (above left) is a firm favourite already and the bees can’t leave it alone. Despite being a fairly tall plant it hasn’t required staking and it will be planted again next year. The Black-eyed Susan (above photos, bottom right) was very slow to take off this year but seems to making up for lost time now. I’m not sure about the name of the orange flower (top right) so help is needed please! It’s been flowering prolifically for a couple of months now but requires regular dead heading.

I’ve confessed previously that I have an unfathomable attraction to dahlias. These have been grown for cutting and are looking beautiful (and the slugs think that they taste pretty scrummy too…). The varieties above are all from the Venetian Collection from Sarah Raven (a Gardening Goddess!) and I’ll definitely be ordering more tubers from her again next year.

I love these words from Susan Branch!
There is a wonderful website that I have recently found that has the most delightful artwork and posts. There is an example (left) of Susan Branch’s work and I love it! I’ve always been interested in decorative words and I’ve toyed with calligraphy and watercolour paints in the past but Susan’s work really speaks to me. Her words dance and her art is simply beautiful.

It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly October and thoughts are turning to the Autumn and the cooler weather.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be putting the garden to bed and tucking it up nice and tight ready for winter. I love this time of year as it holds great anticipation for the  next growing season and allows me time to reflect on the work already done… it’s been a great year so far despite the horrendous weather in the UK. I just hope that we have a few fairly dry weekends so that I can get some jobs done as it’s no fun digging in mud with my wellies filled with rain water!!

Sniffles Away!

It’s that time of year when the nights start to draw in and thoughts turn to becoming prepared for the chillier days ahead. Colds and Flu symptoms are tedious so it’s good to be armed with a recipe that Mary Poppins would be proud of! There’s certainly more than a spoonful of sugar in this recipe but it’s required to preserve the fruit mixture. Some of the documented benefits are:
1. Immune system booster
2. Powerful Antioxidant
3. Helps to relieve coughs, colds, sore throats & Flu
A spoon can be taken once a day to prevent Winter sniffles or 3-4 times a day if symptoms suddenly appear. There are thousand of recipes on the internet (I recommend that you research this for yourself) but this is the recipe I use and it tastes delicious!

Firstly, you need to locate and properly identify the Elder Sambucus nigra and collect only the fruit that is plump and really dark. We have an Elder bush that lives by the shed (that was helpfully planted by either a bird or squirrel) and luckily there are quite a few Elders down the Lane too.

The Elder is an amazing plant that not only produces pretty and useful flowers (although a little whiffy for my liking) but it also has the most amazing jewel-like berries on colourful red stems. It’s important not to strip the plant completely as many birds rely on these berries for food… and it’s also nice to leave some berries for fellow foragers! The great thing about this recipe is it’s adaptable depending on how many berries you have. If you don’t like the spices below then you can omit or replace as desired.

RECIPE
Ripe elderberries
Sugar (equal amount in weight compared to elderberries)
1 Lemon
2 Star Anise
20 Cloves
Thumb of fresh ginger
Lashings of good intentions 😉

It’s important to only use the ripe, black berries. Those that are green or dark pink could make you ill… as do the the stems or bark so it’s important to prepare these little rascals properly! My preferred method, whilst sitting at the table with a cup of coffee, is to gently hand pick each berry off the stem. If the berries are really ripe then a fork can be used to ease them off the stalks but this can result in extra stems being added too!

It took about 45 minutes to obtain a decent bowl of elderberries and it’s slightly more interesting than podding broad beans (but not much). The berries need to be washed well – and if an earwig runs out try not to have a screaming fit and throw the berries everywhere.

1. Put the washed elderberries in a large pan
2. Cover with just enough water and put on the stove until boiling
3. Add the lemon and spices and stir well
4. Cover and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Sterilise the bottles in readiness
6. Mash the mixture to release the flavour, carefully remove the large pieces of lemon and ginger and carefully strain into another container (I used a cafetiere as my sieve wasn’t fine enough!)
7. Measure this liquid, return to a clean pan and add equal amounts of sugar*
8. Boil for approximately 10mins and ensure that the sugar has been dissolved.
9. Let the liquid cool a little then decant it into the sterilised bottles.

* some recipes recommend 3/4 amount of sugar to the full amount of elderberry juice. It’s important to remember that the sugar is there as a preservative so your juice may not stay fresh without sufficient amounts!

The containers I used were anything from old whiskey bottles to recycled glass herb pots (which are a great handbag size for taking to work!). They also make thoughtful gifts for friend or family who become ill… or those who can’t afford to be!

The spices give the syrup a lovely, mulled taste and it’s very like blackcurrant cordial. Some culinary uses are:

– Poured over pancakes or vanilla icecream
– In a favourite cocktail (eg with champagne as an alternative to Kir Royale)
– Hot Toddy
– Added to fruit crumble or fruit pie instead of sugar
– Added to sparkling water for a refreshing fruity drink

I maybe should have mentioned at the beginning of the post that these little beauties stain so protect work surfaces and wash your hands well. I still have a black stained thumb that looks like I was fingerprinted at the weekend!

Winter Breaks for Insects

The mornings are darker, the air is cooler and there is definitely a whiff of Autumn in the air. With the success of the Nectar Bar this year I’m already thinking of expanding my interests into insect real estate….

There is already a simple insect dwelling like the one below by the front door. The Lacewings and Ladybirds love it and there are a few crafty little spiders who act as security guards. It’s easy to maintain, looks attractive and provides good shelter against the elements. Unfortunately, it gets a little cramped over Winter and there is only one bathroom so it’s time for an upgrade.

Okay, I need to source various materials such as bricks, drilled wood, pallets, tiles and pipes… thankfully I have a huge heap of these in the paddock and, once the thistles have died down, I’ll gather these up. I just need to think about what style to have. I like the thought of a country retreat for them but, as many of the insects around here already live in the country, they may wish to try something different.

Maybe I could build them a town house….

… or a whole metropolis! The nightlife is certainly going to be more vibrant and they’ll meet all sorts of interesting multi-legged friends. The only problem is that it took us SO long to get planning permission for the outbuildings that buiding an insect city may not be worth the stress!

On reflection I’ll probably build a simple pallet structure that is tucked away in a quiet corner similar to the one below! As an organic gardener I have to take care of the friendly bugs so that they can scare away the nasty ones (I was once told that they eat their enemies but this is too gruesome to contemplate).

Ever since I saw Malc’s insect hotel over at Green Bench Ramblings I have been mulling these ideas over so watch this space in a couple of months and you may just be surprised (hopefully in a good way!).

Saving Seeds

Today has been really sunny but the trees can’t be fooled and have started to gently let go of a few leaves. After the awful Summer I’m surprised the trees aren’t hurling their leaves in disgust! The flowers in the Kitchen Garden are still plentiful but do need to be deadheaded more often and I’ve noticed that the vibrant colours are slowly becoming sepia tinted. I’ve started to collect some of the seed heads in paper bags and really hope that I can enjoy these plants again next year… it would be fab to have enough to share with others too.
I’ve been reading Carol Klein’s Grow Your Own Garden book in hope that it will make me more successful with propagation (don’t worry Carol, I won’t blame you if things go horribly wrong!). I really enjoy her easy going, chatty style of writing which mixes common sense advice and with realistic expectations. I plan to collect much more seed next week.

This weekend I collected seeds from (left to right) Scabiosa, Geum and Allium Atropurpureum. The main photo at the beginning of the post is Allium Sphaerocephalon. There is so much seed around the garden and, unfortunately, so many plants that I don’t know the names of yet. For now I’m happy collecting seeds from the “Furry Leaved Magenta Flower” or the “Looks Like an Orange Geum But Isn’t“. I have a feeling that I may be brushing up on some plant identification and learning Latin over the winter… or posting the John Doe’s for virtual identification!

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

I’m Rooting For You!

I’ve been toying with the idea of taking cuttings for a little while now but, being such a newbie, I thought I’d do some research first. Wow! There are so many different ways and times to propagate… my brain started to whirr and I felt trepidation (not good) so I decided to keep it simple.

For hundreds (if not thousands) of years people have been taking cuttings, saving seeds and dividing plants to make more. They didn’t have fancy equipment, hormone rooting powder or the internet to help them so… deep breath… I decided to give it a go!

Various of prunings from around the garden

The selection of plants above all grow easily in my garden and have, so far, survived my attempts to prune them.

Experienced Gardeners – Look away now!

All I did was cut the stems with clean secateurs just below a leaf node and removed most of the lower leaves and top growth.

Prepared for potting in compost

The prepared (very loosely used term) stems were then planted into a mixture of fresh compost and fine grit, put in a sheltered, bright location, watered and misted with water. They were then all given a little chat about “you may feel worse before you feel better” and I guiltily left them to it! I hope that they won’t die but the Smoke Bush cuttings are already looking sick.

The Usual Suspects: Hydrangea, Viburnum, Smoke Bush, Rosemary & Thornless BlackberryT

Dana from Mom in the Garden recently recieved some cut hydrangeas from her friend and noticed that roots had appeared at the base of one of the blooms. She successfully potted this on and she gave me an idea to do the same. Her garden blog in Ireland is well worth a visit 🙂

Cuttings of hydrangeas in the kitchen window

So, I now have 3 small hydrangea cuttings in the kitchen by the sink and I’m impatiently waiting for the first little signs of roots.

Come on!! It’s been 12 hours already!!

A letter to my blog…

It’s been just over six months since you were born. It was a cold, dark day on the 8th February and small love hearts were strewn around ready for Valentine’s Day. It was a surprisingly easy birth, mainly thanks to the WordPress Midwives who helped immensely with the delivery! As soon as I saw you I fell in love…

Before you arrived I’d spent many long, enjoyable hours drooling over seed catalogues, reading blogs and researching planting methods. The Kitchen Garden garden was everything I dreamed of and once the raised beds were completed it seemed the most natural thing in the world to want a blog of my own.

Brand new and ready to plant!

It wasn’t as scarey as I thought. My main reason for bringing you into the world was to leave a little piece of me behind. I wanted to record a small part of my life, not for glory or recognition, but just so I can look back and smile at all the good times. None of my family or friends know that you exist… your my perfect secret. Only my gorgeous husband is aware. I think when you’re a little older I’ll introduce you to the clan but, until then, I’ll nuture you some more and enjoy our secret.

Six months on and look how much has grown!

The best thing about you being in my life is that we are in touch with people from all over the world… when things have become a little strained (you are good most of the time but occasionally I wonder what I’m doing) a comment pops up, warms my heart and I’m ready to carry on. What a lovely bunch of people. Here’s to your next six months dear blog!

All is calm

The garden feels calm and quiet at the moment… it’s as if the plants know they’re at their best, and rather than shouting about it, they’ve decided to take a bow. If this was the Gardening Olympics my plants wouldn’t have a chance at a medal… but I’m sure they’d have the best fun taking part and partying with the big guys!

The applause would be coming from the bees – deafening at times but certainly most encouraging. My biggest joy is seeing the huge variety, as well as large numbers, of bees and other wildlife in the garden.

In the quietness I think about how my home has continually had cut flowers since February when the Hellebores were abundant and how I’ve been eating, and enjoying, broad beans! My garden is my meditation and it’s whilst I’m in this chilled out mood that something hisses and spits at me – I nearly jump out of my skin….

It’s a Farm Kitten. He’s adorable, so fluffy with the bluest eyes I’ve ever seen but when you get too close he’s a little firework! This is a bit of a problem as he’s taken to hiding behind plant pots and under the hedges. He’s definitely feral and not to be trifled with… he’s also a ninja in training. His mum must have jumped over the fence with him and she keeps popping back to make sure he’s alright – we’re hoping that he’ll jump back out when he’s old enough!

I’ve named him Womble 🙂

There are scarier things to worry about though – the thistles were left to flower as the birds (especially Goldfinches, Linnets, Bullfinches and Siskins) love them so much.

Look at all the thistle down! If Womble is as hard as he looks I’m sure that he will eat thistles for breakfast 🙂 Otherwise my weeding regime may have to triple next year.