Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Baking for Halloween

Last year, our first Halloween in Somerset was marked with utter disappointment by general malaise on lack of preparation on my part.  We nearly had tears from a little girl...but remembering this, I am prepared.  

Ghosties with a sprinkling of frost  icing sugar following my recipe previously used.  These are rather short and then I realised that they have ground almonds, so will have to check with visitors that they do not have allergies.



and Bourbon Bats...Ice crystal eyes need to be added before baking, I discovered this in time for the last batch!  This recipe has given a more robust biscuit, so next year will made bats for everyone!


Last week, we had one of the most amazing sunsets...wouldn't be great if we had one again this evening. 




I have carved out the pumpkin, and checked that the flashing cycle lights are charged, ready to set by the front door this evening.


Monday, 29 October 2018

Pelargonium Coriandrifolium update

After a year this 'lacy' leaved Pelargonium has put on growth, but hasn't flowered at all this year.



This Pelargonium myrrhifolium v coriandrifolium did flower last year with about a six individual single large blooms 


Pelargonium ardens

I have a couple of recently acquired Pelargonium ardens growing in free draining medium in terracotta pots.   As I helped set up the website for the Henton Gardening Club, and then the Facebook group for members, I was impressed by the photograph by one of our members of Pelargonium ardens which we used as the banner picture.

At the Kenilworth gardening club, each year we had a growing a plant from a small plug challenge, and when I suggested this to Sally, she bought in some recently propagated Pelargonium ardens plantlets.  Some of the members bought one or two...I had two.




My two plants, now that they have regrown their leaves,  are slightly different as to their leaf arrangement.  On one plant they are well balanced, on the second the leaves have varying length stems, and each has yet to flower.  However I was not even put off as during the very hot period this summer, they shed their leaves. I have read that they can have a dormancy period, and when a few weeks ago the hot temperatures abated, and I had moved the plants to a cooler area, fresh leaves started to grow from the small surface root crown.  With cooler night time temperatures at the moment, should they look like falling below 5 C I shall move them to a sunny windowsill.  They will not doubt go into a 'winter dormancy', requiring a little less watering.

They are quite tricky, but I shall nurture them in the expectation of flowering when they are ready!  I shall 'injure' the growing point of the less well endowed plant and hopefully this will encourage branching.

Pelargonium sidoides

In the conservatory there are three species or near species, is there a term for this, pelargoniums:


I've placed the pot in the shade in order to get a better picture



I have been 'nurturing' Pelargonium sidoides' which I first acquired from my friend and plantswoman Janet a few years ago.  I have two plants in the same pot, and this year it has been outside, until recently.




In the conservatory, sitting on the side table, with its silvery grey green velvety leaves, it shows off its long flowering stems along which the very dark crimson black flower clusters grow sequentially along the long lax stems. 

To get the detail of the blooms, I set the flash, which shows up the black markings near the centre.



Finding out more about this plant has been interesting...the best part is that they can tolerate low temperatures if kept on the dry side.  Unless it is going to get very cold, I feel happier knowing that they will not suffer if left in the conservatory overnight.


In a Vase on Monday - M and XCII

When I see an Iceberg Rose it reminds me of my mother, who grew this in difficult conditions in the tropics.  The long pointed rose buds were the brides' favourite.  The button holes and brides bouquets would be kept in the fridge until the last moment, and often taken straight to the Church.

In two of my previous gardens I had a very floriferous climbing Rose Iceberg, and it amazed my mother when she counted the number of blooms on her visits.  Its not surprising therefore that one of the first rose trees I bought for the new garden this year was a climbing Iceberg rose tree.  I hope it does as well as the wonderful specimen I saw in full flower the week before Christmas when I first moved to Somerset.  The french name for this rose is Fee de Neiges, which mean Fairy of the Snows.





During the Summer, when I was first setting out the back garden, I bought a couple of Grace Roses, and they are already establishing themselves very well, and both currently have around fifteen rosebuds each.  In my last garden I used Grace for a Vase on Monday in mid December.



According to the BBC, Friday was the coldest October day for 10 years.  We did wake up on Saturday to find the top of the car covered with a wonderful ferny pattern of crystals, but the back garden protected by the stone wall, still has the nasturtiums in full flower, and nothing else hit down or blackened by frost.

As a result of this, I am able to pick a stem of Fuchsia and bronze fennel leaf for my vase today.  The cyclamen leaf, itself a frosty silver colour, finishes off this end of autumn arrangement.



The reason why I have called this vase M, is that M is the Roman Numeral 1000.  As I enjoyed counting the Iceberg Roses, I find other numbers, figures, counting, and statistics interesting.....I love probability too....On Saturday I bumped into a friend coming out of the Cathedral and one the topics in just five minutes that we touched on was that I wanted to brush up my Roman Numerals so that I could quickly read the dates on monuments.  So it was highly probable that I would choose M as the title of my post this week.

This is my 1000th post on my blog. With over 141 thousand visits, and one post alone getting nearly 25 thousand hits, all I can say is that I can't admit to the time I have spent writing since this blog started in 2007.  I wouldn't even want to calculate that.  All in all it has been a lovely experience, to keep records, share and explore interests, and along the way make friends, and reconnect with ones made years ago. Here is to the next M posts!!!!

This is my ninety second In a Vase on Monday....XCII

In her post Cathy explains the festival of All Hallows.  In Mauritius for "La Fete des Morts" people remember their loved ones who had died, visit their burial plots and place flowers on them.  I remember it to be a rather sad quiet day as a child, a day of mourning or of quiet reflection.  Maybe with changed times, there is more of a festive air, and like many places, commerce has made this into an occasion where consumption is encouraged.

In some countries there are festivals full of joy and merriment:  On a more joyful and coloured theme,  and for a glorious seasonal pumpkin coloured display do go and see what Cathy has posted, and other links to this week's IAVOM contributors.


Saturday, 20 October 2018

Knitting and Baking

Its been a quiet few months as far as knitting is concerned.  Other things have been taking up my time.  I finally finished my Paulie Cardigan:  this is a free pattern and if you are on Ravelry you can see just how many variations there are of this pattern.This is a lovely seamless garment, knitted from the top down.  I had planned on knitting this several years ago and had some lovely baby alpaca yarn in one of my favourite colours stashed away in a gauze bag. 




I started this project at the end of January and called it 'Spring Fever', as it was green, and I thought it would be finished in time to wear out as a 'Spring Jacket'.  I have picked up the project from time to time.  With everything knitted on circular needles, with the sleeves 'in the round', the only sewing up were a few ends, and the buttons.



The buttons came from the local haberdashery shop, and with the jacket washed and blocked, it is now ready to wear.

Feeling much better today after a few days of coughing and spluttering...well enough to walk into Town, and pop up to the market.  Maybe it was the sunshine that helped me recover. It is the 20th October, and only one week till the clocks change, yet it has been warm enough to sit out and eat lunch in the garden, with bumble bees still dipping into late flowering nasturtiums.

To remind us that it is indeed autumn, I have just baked Apple Buns.  The buns today are one day late, as when I started them yesterday, which is our normal bun day, I saw that the recipe required a 24 hour autolyse of part of the flour and liquid.  This technique develops flavour in the bun, and makes the dough easy to handle and shape.  This must be at least the third time I have baked these buns...


Monday, 15 October 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Salvaged Flotsam

I devise my arrangement and write the main body of my  In a Vase on Monday post before I go over to Cathy's Blog called Rambling in the Garden to see what she is posting and graft in the links.  I usually put the link to Cathy's post either at the bottom of my post, or at the top, as I am doing now.  I love to find links in the contents of our posts.  Cathy's vase entitled 'What goes around' has similar themes in that sharing plants with friends brings lots of joy. 

This week my arrangement is benefiting from material from Kay's garden, and my garden and vases in coming years will benefit and be all the richer for the gift.  I shall call this Anemone Florist Kay, as Kay and her family were Florists in London, to distinguish it from Kenilworth Kay cultivars

Many of the plants in the garden are associated with friends, and though I may not always remember the long name of plants I always remember the donor:  such as White Pulmonaria Sissinghurst as Pulmonaria Kenilworth Kay!  Which if it was a seedling and was not exactly the same as its parent deserves to have the new name.

In each of my previous gardens, I have planted different varieties of Japanese Anemone, enjoying both pink and white ones.

Florist Kay very kindly offered me a clump of her Honorine Jobert  Japanese Anemones earlier this year.  As the weather was so hot and dry during early summer, I left digging them up.   Then as Summer progressed  they started putting on a fine display, so I kept putting off digging them up.  Yesterday evening seemed the ideal time, with a little respite in the rain, to dig them up, and get them into still warm earth the 'other side of the fence', with the comforting knowledge that they would still have rain for a day or two to help settle them in.  All the flowering stems were cut off, and as I piled up the prunnings, I stopped to admire the stem and seed head structure, and then decided to include them in my vase this week.

With Autumn beginning its steady hold on the garden, I have been  getting it ready for the cold and wet months.  Its the time for moving plants and planting new ones.  With prunnings piled up like some flotsam ready to rot down, invariably my eye is caught by the beauty of fading blooms.

The blooms of the Hydrangea Vanille Fraise were being buffeted by the windy gusts so had to be cut.  I kept two that had not turned brown and added them to the stems from the Anemone.  The Vase is not really quite the right size......Its a question of salvage this week!!




Flotsam is usually associated with things to do with the sea and shipwrecks as in the term flotsam and jetsam, but I love the use of the term flotsam meaning

.........things that have been rejected or discarded as worthless.


synonyms:rubbishdebrisdetrituswaste, waste matter, discarded matter, drossrefuseremainsscraplumberodds and ends;


Saturday, 13 October 2018

Holiday in Laugharne

When we watched the Series Keeping Faith, in English, on iplayer before it was aired on standard TV, we were captivated by the beautiful scenery.  That's where we want to go for a holiday, and almost straight away we book an Autumn Break.

We had some very good weather, and the house we booked just close by the Church in Laugharne was a perfect place from where to explore this delightful corner of Wales.  The Castle perched on a rock outcrop seems to hover over the estuary, with small boats sheltering in the shallow Coran Stream which winds its way into the Taf Estuary.



There are the most wonderful views from the battlements


In the late September the weather was fine and the  skies streaked with wonderful clouds.  Some days there were row upon row of vapour trails from planes crossing the Atlantic, which made me wonder just how much these affected weather and climate.  Of course not all the cloud formations were vapour trails.


Within the Castle Walls is a fine 'knot garden' or rather garden of boxes....edged with box.  The paths as I remember particularly by the ramparts by the estuary and made up of crushed cockle shells.


We also enjoyed sitting in the sheltered gazebo with fine views of the estuary.

Here by the 14th Century Church of St Martin's, for most of the week, we were entertained by all the comings and goings of the large vehicles which had taken over this little village, where the second series of Keeping Faith was being filmed.

Our neighbour Marjorie was a Key Holder for the Church, and we enjoyed our private little tour.


There is a beautiful path flanked on both sides by some admirable large unclipped yew trees.  Of course here people on a Dylan Thomas themed visit would visit the graveyard where his resting place is marked by a white wooden cross.


The center of the Village is well worth while wandering around.  The Town Hall, with its clock tower topped by a gilded Cockerel Weather Vane is a very fine 'Municiple Building'.  There are many layers of history to be discovered in this small town.  The Town Hall is important and Laugharne is one of the last medieval corporations, dating back to 1290 when it was  granted a Royal Charter.


There are many other fine well maintained homes, such as Sea View House, one of the places lived in by Dylan and Caitlin Thomas.


Another of the houses where they lived was the Boat House.  This one is open to the public.  We didn't do a 'tour', but we enjoyed a delicious 'Welsh Tea', which is quite delicious, and sufficient to share between two, if you order an extra drink.  We sat in the sunshine, on the back terrace, enjoying watching the effect of the incoming tide as the sea raced up little inlets in the estuary.


A walk along the Clifton Street and High Street which is the Main Road, there were many fine large 'Residences', beautifully restored...one of my favourites being Ty Mawr.  It looked as if noone was at home with the internal shutters closed.  It is in fact a very beautiful house which is available to rent. 


Just a short drive away are the Pendine Sands and Cliffs at Dolwen Point were particularly interesting.




When we wanted to travel a little further afield,  top of my requests was the National Wool Museum.  Everything here was well set out, but I would have liked a little more information.


There were some beautiful old stockings, dated 1874 for these white lacy ones...  probably knitted on a sock loom.  If anyone knows more about these, please do leave a comment.


The following alone will make your visit to the Museum a must, that is if you are a Millionaire's Shortbread fan.  The Cafe where all the baking takes place on the premises is a delight.  Mr S says that the very best Millionaire's Shortcake that I have had is a 'figment' of my imagine.  But I do protest, since I have yet to find anything to match the piece I had on Holy Island in Northumberland many many years ago.  Even when we visited a second time, it was not up to scratch at all.  I really ought to get round to baking a pan of this...maybe for my birthday.  Chocolate doesn't agree with me, for I do make an exception for very very special occasions.

The ladies who make this confection assure me that they use real butter etc...and I just had to leave a note of thanks in the Visitor's Book.

Close by is Newcastle Emlyn Castle, and the walk along the serpentine river there are beautiful views not only of the castle but attractive countryside.



On my wish list was a visit to Colby Woodland Garden.  They are delighful.....


The little rhyll tumbles down the slope on tiles.  It is narrow and flanked each side by a ribbon of  Astilbe Chinesis Pumila and Black mondo grass: Ohhiopogon planicapus, recognising them as they are two plants I have in the garden.


We had a walk along the leafy trails admiring some of the cyclamen, but didn't have the time to walk down to the shore, as our aim was to make for Tenby just a short way away.



We found the Tudor Merchant House interesting...admiring some of the reproduction furniture...of course this is what it would have looked like then.


This 'draining bowl, and fine woven willow spoon were beautifully made.


As always we can't resist looking at some of the commemoration plaques in churches.  The one celebration the Mathematician Robert Recorde who invented  the = sign.  I had not realised that the equal sign as we know it today dates back to 1557!





Equally amazing, forgive the pun, is an encounter on the beach.  Just as we were walking round Castle Beach and heading up to the steps, we heard someone call hello.  An Architect whom Mr S had interviewed for a post, was on the beach with her delightful daughter, and husband.  We spent a few minutes catching up with the holidaying family...and then continued on our way.


Another day we had a delightful drive to visit Newton House and Grounds.  Not only is the house really interesting, but on a fine day we had a lovely walk along leafy paths.  With well padded trainers I was walking the furthest I had since my serious foot trauma in Crete.


We decided to walk along the beautiful wooded paths up to Dinefwr Castle



With wonderful views over the surrounding Countryside, and only being accessible on foot, there were very few visitors.  In the peace we heard a strange bird call, and then spent several minutes enthralled by a pair of Ravens flying around us.  They were enjoying themselves calling to each other, these are very large birds with characteristic wedged shaped tails, totally mastered the air around the turrets.


The parkland has a deer herd, and I managed to get this picture of a deer, only metres from where we were walking along the path.



In an old stump: little fungi fruiting.


The Old Oak Tree plantation was very impressive.


On the homeward journey we popped into Tyntesfield...we shall be visiting again soon...in the meantime a reminder that it is Pumpkin time!  Here is a display of fruits ripening in the sunshine...all grown in the walled garden.


Monday, 8 October 2018

Nut and Date Traybake Recipe

Mr S from time to time,  goes off to play trains.....model trains....and sending him off with a box full of cake or biscuits to sustain the gang has become part of the routine.  Each time I opt to bake something different.

On this occasion I wanted to bake the Date and Walnut Loaf recipe which I had devised many years ago for a baking category for the Autumn Shows of two gardening clubs.  It was always a hit, and  many people entered the standard recipe, and said that they had baked it many times since.  I just couldn't find it...having spent nearly two hours trying to find it, and finding other things I didn't know I had misplaced, gave up, and felt rather despondent.  (Today I have found the recipe by trawling through my computer files and finding it on the Show Schedules....)

However comparing the loaf recipe with my adaptation of a previous Date and Walnut tray-bake, they are really quite different.

This recipe inspired by one of Mary Berry's recipes, makes a large traybake.  This cake is best left a day or so to mature before cutting and eating.

Mr S took a section, and I took some to share with with Alison.  There was still another section left over!  However each time we are cutting smaller slices......



Nut and Date Traybake 

250g stoned and chopped dates...I prefer the hard dried ones for baking
50g butter, I used goat's butter, but any good butter will be fine
350 ml boiling water
2 large eggs
150g ground almonds
150g chopped walnuts...I like to lightly roast the walnuts for about 7 mins at 150 c, then soak them for a couple of hours in water, which is then drained off with water discarded.
150g dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp finely grated nutmeg, you could use another spice if you prefer, or none at all
350g wholemeal spelt flour, sifted with,
4 tsp baking powder, to mix and add air, putting all bran etc back in.

Pre heat the oven to Fan 150 c, and grease and line with parchment a 30 cm x 23 cm traybake tin.  I use a deep Silverwood traybake tin a loose bottom which makes removing the cake for cooling easy.

If baking in a standard tin increase the temp to Fan 160c

Weigh the dates, chop them if necessary and put them with the butter in a bowl and pour over the boiling water, and any spice, stir, and allow this to cool...

Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl then add the cooled date mixture, and the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well then pour carefully into the prepared tin.

Bake in the preheated oven.  Test after 50 minutes.  It may need a little longer, checking with a toothpick or skewer to see if it is ready.  The cake should be golden brown.  Allow to cool outside the oven in the tin for 15 minutes or so, then remove from the tin, and place it on a cooling rack till completely cool.

For the topping I made a simple butter cream using 100g butter, 200g icing sugar, with a little apple juice and my favourite panetone flavouring the main note being bergamot.  Any topping of your choice would do.

It freezes very well, but like most cakes, best stored only for up to six weeks.

In a Vase on Monday - Down the garden path

I totally agree with Cathy who hosts this IAVOM group, that there are many benefits of gardening...such as learning perseverance.  Having persevered and overcome her association of her choice of the week with earwigs, she has discovered the greater delight of Dahlias.

When Alison asked if we had had a frost, I knew by looking along the garden path, that we had not yet had one,  as there were no tell tale signs of limp and blackened flowers on the tender annuals.  

The nasturtiums, the few that I had not pulled out, left for the remaining bumble bees, are still attracting several species.  I too have overcome my association of nasturtiums with blackfly.  This late in the season there are very few, so many much have been eaten by other bugs in the garden.

This morning I went down the garden path to pick a few.  The vase is a pressed glass vintage affair with its own glass frog.  What a palaver: there were really insufficient holes and they were also not large enough for  thick shoot stems.  However without the frog, the vase would be better off as a bombon dish.

Having finished the lovely alpaca cardigan, which has taken me all summer, I am back on one of my favourite small knitting projects: socks.  How could I not choose to knit this pattern:  Garden Path.  They are top down socks, for which the pattern, like the vase/bombon dish is frustrating.  There are errors in the chart, which I luckily spotted straight away, and for ease some of the stitches not correctly described, but with adjustments I am enjoying knitting these socks.  No wonder my favourite knitting site shows only a few members have tried this one.  I wonder whether 'the not fit for duty' design of the frog is why the little pressed glass vase ended up in the Charity Shop, and I wonder just how many times it has changed hands?  



As I transcribe and correct the pattern and get on with knitting the Garden Path socks this week, I shall have my little arrangement of nasturtiums to look at.  In this low autumn light, this colour looks very cheery.

Inside the lipstick plant that Sandra, a regular IAVOM contributor,  brought earlier this year, is blooming beautifully.  Suddenly as Winter looms, my taste for bright zingy colours is emerging.


I've just finished the following beautifully written book: Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty.  I picked it up on a stand of newly acquired books at the library.    They had set up stands with books with opposing themes: hot and cold!

A few tears were shed....I would definitely recommend this one, but do read the reviews as it touches on several sensitive issues.  Having been on holiday with a friend to Amsterdam during cold weather, MacLaverty captured the feeling of the City as well as the story of two people considering their past and future lives.  But if you are resilient, DO NOT read any reviews, other than the synopsis on the flap of the dust-cover if you must...the unfurling of the story as one reads is part of its charm.


Sunday, 7 October 2018

Discovering new plants and introducing friends

Last Friday I spent time in the company of two friends who particularly enjoy plants and are great gardeners.  From time to time I visit Alison who I first met shortly after moving to my new home, through IAVOM.

This time, I asked Alison if I may bring another friend along to visit her.  I took cake, but first we had to have a tour of the garden, and along the way admire ducks and hens.  Alison has many interesting plants in her garden, and since I feel that she would want to show case her garden herself, which is now extending itself to be the Home of Floral Acre: a commercial British Organic Flower enterprise , I did ask her permission to show Top of Pops new to both Jean and I this one....These blooms were a real zingy addition to her patio, and formed a spectacular display.


This was a new one for Alison too this year.  It is Bessera Elegans.  The colour of the blooms, with the contrasting cream markings make the pot sing out in the autumn light.  I'll be looking out for some corns to try in a pot next year.  As this plant hails from Mexico it is not surprising that it is on the tender side.  Once it has finished flowering I read that the pot can just be dried off, and the corns stored in a frost free place like the shed.