Sunday, 13 October 2019

Visit to Wells Food Festival

Its been a dreary few weeks, with lots of rain.  If local Farmers and Producers can turn out, then it is only polite to make an effort and get on my bike, and go.  There is always something new and interesting to learn.  Things to be tempted by, and things to be admire but resist, and things that can give one that 'yuk' moment...with a good turn out for locals and visitors, there was a very healthy crowd.

Except from some exceptional sausages hiding in the fridge, bought from The Thoroughly Wild Meat Company...all their Salt Marsh Lamb having been sold, here is my stash from my first visit.  Later I cycled back to buy a large pot of Foxtail foxes have been harmed!

Another lovely wooden board from Hamwood Crafts to join my little  presentation board bought from them previously.  This one is long enough for cakes from my longest tins and loaves from my long oval banneton.  I had to have a good search...but after explaining what I was looking for, some were found under the display...just right, not thick and heavy as for chopping up meat, and made of Olive Ash with lovely colour...

Some delicious very fatty organic free range etc bacon with proper fat which I shall use in dishes that call for pancetta..

There is always that moment that makes the day...There was a lull and this stall was I admired and dreamt of those years when my favourite breakfast at the weekend was a serving of newly opened cornflakes packet topped with fresh gold top milk and of course the cream first!  The helpful assistant asked if she could be of any help.  I replied sadly that these days only goat's or sheep's milk  agrees with me.  She then explained that if I could tolerate goat's milk, then I could have products from Guernsey cows..and explained the science.  We do have a little standard milk when we are away from you can guess what we shall have for breakfast tomorrow!  I bought a 'real glass bottle' of their milk and some sour cream...and was told that there will be milk dispensed at the farm soon....Won't it be wonderful if we are fine with this. 

A2 Dairy products suitable to us to have!

And why should I take a picture of the Pickled Egg Bar?  I had my first and last taste of one at our 'friendly' WI skittles matches recently.  As I can't make the first match of this year's league tournament, I am going to send them this picture with a message of support!  I took this one as the festival was closing down, having gone back for my plant.  I am sure they would have been nicer...but once bitten twice shy....


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Excluded by the Drawbridge

Swans are yet to
Disturb the scum

Beauty on all sides of the moat
Scum collecting and wind and current shaped

Feathers Conkers Leaves Scum

On Reflection

Short poem/musings interspersed by pictures taken on a brief visit to the Bishop's Palace, Wells on Saturday 12th October.

Pumpkin alert

So it is Pumpkin time again...any bigger and heavier and I would not have been able to carry this back from Queen Street Deli.  Similar to the one I got last year:

Marina di Chioggia Pumpkin.

This is grown by one of the Deli's customers..any surplus are brought into to sell.

Cinnamon and Mace Babka

With a clear weekend to myself, I had the space and time to concentrate on a new technique in my baking journey.  I had never tried a Babka before.  I started the dough on Saturday, and it seemed to be on a slow rise journey, and baking would be a little too late.  I chose to do all the rolling, spreading of butter and spices etc., late evening, and then a morning bake.  After an overnight cold rise in the fridge, the two loaves still needed more time at room temperature, three hours to be precise.

The recipe was altered and became an amalgamation of Martha Collinson's recipe, but not wanting to use chocolate, baking times syryup and filling from Shannon Sarna's recipe for Cinnamon Babka.  A few tweaks of course, and all along being inspired for the next batches.

I enjoyed making this...and the smell when baking was wonderful.  Brushing it with its sugar glaze was just an excuse to have a close look and smell.

As our neighbours had just come back from the holidays, I thought a little welcome back Sunday bake would be welcome...still warm, and requiring the cooling rack to taken out the cupboard, I am sure their home too would be smelling delicious.

Once back, the paper was removed...and promise, I haven't cup into it, and will wait for Mr S's homecoming this afternoon.

I just had to leave the house before I to the Wells Food Festival!

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Six on Saturday - 12 October 2019

Its been one of those weeks when I have been busy moving plants out of the rain!  Those small seedlings would just get washed out of their pots, so they are moved to the best light on a windowsill.  Thank goodness all the front garden is how planted up and mulched with bark....

The Cyclamen hederifolium are the stars at the moment..and who needs flowers when you can have leaves like these.  Yes I know some of you will be shouting out..yes you do need flowers: flowers means seeds, seeds mean the possibility of propagation etc....  These are the leaves fully unfurled after flowering, of (1) Cyclamen hederifolium 'Lysander'! It was the leaves with its angular serrated  paler margins which were the pulling feature!

Cyclamen hederifolium Lysander

I can show cyclamen with flowers too: (2) Cyclamen hederifolium with silver arrow head shaped leaves with green margins and fine deep pink flowers:

I have a shelf where choice plants are placed on the outside of the there is every possibility of my being able to admire the blooms in a pause between heavy showers.

(3) Japanese grass Hakonechloa Macra Aureola is just coming into flower...I love cutting it and putting it in arrangements.  I have three clumps growing in pots,  I find their rounded graceful shape looks good in many spaces...I move them around....

(4)  The seasons are playing tricks again with the Rosemary in flower. Bumblebees are still visiting flowers around the garden when the rain stops.  I have been  experimenting  with using edibles from the garden and have been adding flowers to salads...just pull the flower away from the green bit and you are left with soft blue petals.  They are quite tender, sweet, and tasty for for fruit or vegetable salads.  We had a Hummingbird Hawk Moth in the garden over the last couple of nectar of  choice being from the flowers of  Linaria pupurea 'Canon Went'.  That was an 'aside' maybe a (4b)

Rosemary in flower in October 

(5)  The Runner Beans gave a little spurt of growth with flowers a few weeks back, after the very first of the rain...I think we have two more pickings before it is time to chop down the runners, and store the canes until next year.

(6)  Chillies are turning red....grown outdoor in the open ground all summer from seed saved from a chilli grown four years ago in my last garden!  I am thinking of digging up a plant, potting it up, and growing it on for another year.  I managed to keep a plant going for three years doing saves growing from seed each year.  Although I grew two plants this plant is quite sufficient for us.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Amsonia hubrichtii

Newly planted in the garden is Amosonia hubrichtii or Hubricht's blue star....

Bought at the Rare Plant Fair at the Bishop's Palace in early is now planted in the Conservatory border in the space vacated by the Sedum Purple Emperor.  Two of the three plants are now out in the front garden.

This Amsonia hurichtii has very finely cut leaves growing up the whole stem, and I am promised clusters of indigo blue buds, opening to grey-blue starry flowers in June. After that the consensus is to cut back to 25cm to encourage fresh growth which will then continue to offer a soft foil for other plants.

I have the autumn butter yellow colour to look forward to in the next few weeks, which will come once we have some frosts.  After that it will die down and then emerge in the Spring time.  In the meantime in that area are other winter and early spring beauties: snowdrops, cyclamen coum and corydalis Beth Evans etc

This plant, also known as as The Arkansas Blue Star  is native to the Ouachita Mountains of central Arkansas, and named after American biologist Leslie Hubricht, who first dicovered it growing in the wild in the 1940s. The whole genus is named in honour of 18th century Virginian physician Dr Charles Amson.

Chicago Botanic Gardens report has a good guide to the American Amsonias.

Tanacetum densum ssp amani

Tanacetum densum subs amani

The plant, also known as 'Partridge feathers'was first planted in the back garden, as soon as a space became available, as we were working on creating the back garden from scratch.  It has flourished there for the past couple of years.  However during the last very wet spell its leaves became a little soggy and it seemed to fall out of my favour: plants were encroaching, or was it encroaching other more choice ones?   Also I learnt today that the conditions there: rich moisture retentive soil, some shading less than favourable.

Beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder, and I decided something else would do better in its place.   I dug up the plant this afternoon...and brought up the plant label so that I could make a note of its removal from the garden.  The Tanacetum desum subs amani had been planted before I had started my plant database, which was why I could not find it I looked on my blog and found it!  The label at the time of purchase misidentified the plant, but I must have found this out at the time of writing the post.  I do remember growing this plant is a previous garden.....

On reading further about this plant, I've learnt that it comes from hot dry rocky areas in southeastern Turkey....a perfect plant for my newly created front garden...which is following the theme of Mediterranean planting as far as possible...since it is very sunny and hot in the summer, and well drained....I am going for a garden with very little watering.

The plant has been rescued and has now been planted in more favourable conditions...and I hope it survives its trauma, and thrives there...If not a new plant will be have to be sourced!

Monday, 7 October 2019

Visit to Derry Watkins

I first heard Derry Watkins talk at Wells gardening club about two years ago.  We had had snowfall the previous week, and even though the snow had melted elsewhere, her lane was still snowbound, but non the less, she had walked across fields, before being able to get into transport to bring her across the Mendips.  We chatted, and brought up the subject of my hobbies...

Derry said in her typical friendly way: 'Well if you ever come to visit, do bring some of that lovely bread!' How could I forget that!  

Sally Gregson has been suggesting an outing there, and we had been considering this on and off over the Summer...then she received one of those special invitations to Sunday tea.  As Peter was not going, she said that I would love this as there would be other well known people from the gardening world there too....Naturally I baked a good Sourdough and took a jar of Lime Marmalade too.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit...and just 'au hazard', I mentioned this to another friend, and she had been invited as 'companion' to by another of Derry's friends...and since we four live within minutes of each other...I suggested going together.  A foursome of plant lovers...a dream excursion, to a dream destination.  It was however a blisteringly hot day.....

This was a proper afternoon tea party..a private affair.  I did not feel that taking many pictures of either her home, garden, or friends was quite in order!  However I shall be sure to visit on an 'Official Open Day', and pictures will be taken under the different circumstances.

Derry was the kindest and most attentive of hosts as was her husband Peter.  He cracked open some of his home made apple juice from their orchards, when I asked if there was anything cool to drink, like water...super delicious, Peter..and Derry had baked a couple of gorgeous cakes.  I was most impressed by Peter's work studio in the garden, which of course, had its roof fully planted!

 Scree garden in late summer

 Grass with reflections

 Shady view point on a sweltering day

 Full sun terraces

Some of the tools of the trade - Just because I love baskets...........

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Six on Saturday - 5 October 2019

In a week that has seen heavy downpours and glorious autumn light, it has been a joy to get out into the garden, and work on tasks that must be completed before the winter sets in, as well as stop to observe the subtle day to day changes.

(1) A plant that has performed right up to its reputation is this Chrysanthemum Dixter Orange Completely hardy.  Its leaves are a wonderful strong green colour, and so far it has been untouched by any insects and is free from mildew, without any intervention. Intervention these days in my garden means a squishing of slugs or caterpillars on the worst affected of plants.

(2)  A little clump of self seeded nasturtium has been a source of young leaves and flowers for salads, as well as late season eye catcher or the other side of the border, wanting to join the other herbs so scrambling through the lower branches of the rosemary.

(3) Another little splash of yellow brightness is Rudbekia Goldstrum.  During the hot dry weather it seemed to go into 'dormancy', and in reality I had decided to remove it and set it going in another part of the garden.  It got some watering to soften the earth ready for this, and suddenly put on a spurt.  Following on from the rain, it is flowering nicely: a very late performer.  It is still probably due for relocation, but in the meantime......

(4) Late to make its mark this year is Fuchsia microphyllia  subsp hemsleyana 'Silver Lining'.  This is a fine leaved plant with a delicate silver metallic sheen on its leaves, and the smallest of magenta blooms.   It is sometimes described as being half hardy, so I shall be sure to mulch it well.  It emerged from its central crown late, so is the ideal succession plant in the Acer bed.  It has a gentle open shape with low growing red stems: this is all this year's growth

(5) Just in front is Cyclamen hederifolium silver leaf form. It is now in full flower, and throughout the long winter this will form a pool of 'light' in that bed.

(6) Finally a view of the Androsace sarmentosa Watkinsii. Its whirls of summer green leaves are changing in anticipation of the winter.  This year the plant was helped by having its 'runners' pinned down and a top dressing  of grit and leafmould applied.  It is at the edge of the Acer bed, with shade for part of the day.  As the winter approaches, it is developing the hairy central boss, which becomes an interesting feature as it turns more silver.  

Earlier this year the little pink flowers held on short stems above its woolly leaves stood out along the edge of the path.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Plant of the Month October 2019 - Chrysanthemum Great Dixter

Its is not a surprise that Brian has pipped me to the post this month and also that he chose Asters.  Just to offer something a little different the Plant of the Month, for September here in my garden, and still going very strong now, is Chrysanthemum Dixter Orange.

The two pictures taken early this morning, show all the blooms facing the rising evening they face towards the conservatory, and look magnificent in the Autumn sunshine.  

They made very good cut flowers as evidenced by some of my recent In a Vase on Monday vases.

Earlier this year in January, a plant in a small pot arrived from Ballyrobert Gardens.  Yes that is early but I have to do a little post Christmas shopping!   I made two further plants from cuttings of the newly emerging shoots.  By mid August they were flowering.

The flowers hold well in both sun and rain, and only the first to emerge have gone over, been cut out, and there are still many more buds ready to open to keep a fine display for the whole of October.

Monday, 30 September 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Gleanings

At this time of year I find myself tidying up the garden, and making the most of gleanings.  Annuals are being cleared in advance of heavy rains.  Being outside, even if gardening in the drizzle, the different quality light makes different colours sing......

Gleanings:  pot marigold and cornflowers.  Cornflowers are a native and once grew in corn fields in England, and although not a field marigold, I can imagine people may have put a bunch of gleaned flowers in a pot  for centuries.  I've saved seed from the cornflowers to grow again next year.

Tomatoes red and yellow from the garden are gradually being eaten up with late salads which include nasturtium leaves and flowers, and petals from the cornflowers and dianthus.

Cathy has riches in comparison...pop and see what she is showcasing this week.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Six on Saturday - 28 September 2019

It has been a busy week, working on the garden in between all the showers, so that I won't need to walk on the claggy clay, and also empty the many pots of plants which have been holding plants for the new front garden. Autumn is on its way....The propagator who hosts this meme is of the same opinion.

(1) Bulb planting this week:  Puschkinia scilloides var libanotica planted when I dug up  Crepis Incana, and many alliums in the front garden, in the gravel garden, and daffodils towards gooseberry corner.

(2) You may well ask why I dug up Crepis Incana.  It happens to be one of my favourite plants particularly as it flowers in July.  However it does not set viable seed in the UK according to various sources, and the seed I did save and sowed came to nothing.  I lost my first plant after I thought it had flowered its socks off but was able to source a second one.  On this one I did not let it flower itself to death...and has survived several weeks in flower and now has good leaf formation.

I did however read that it can be increased by (3) taking root cuttings.  I love propagating, but have never tried taking root cuttings before.  I dug up the whole plant, my heart in my mouth, and looked at the roots...I wish I had taken a picture at this stage.  I would normally have made a division at the crown, but thought the plant more like to survive with a root or two taken off rather than the central stem cut in half.  Off the main roots there were small fibrous roots covered in nodules.  I have no idea whether this is standard for Crepis Incana.   The plant is now in a sunnier position, with good drainage, and hopefully it will make some new roots in time for next year.  I have moved the pot of cuttings out of the rain, as Crepis Incana suits drier well-drained conditions.

(4) Just how many bricks can one dig up in a space 40cm square?

They say it is all in the preparation, that it is giving the plant the right conditions, looking after the roots, the bits you can't see.  As plants are moved out of pots, they do need to have the best conditions. (5) Viburnun plicatum 'Mariesii' is one of those shrubs that looks gorgeous in the spring time.  This spring the shrub bought from Rocky Mountain nursery  had its second year in a pot....

now in its position in the border adjacent to our neighbours

(6) Tidying the garden and getting some of the many pots planted out invariably means making room by cutting back and the inevitable seed saving.  I use an old stash of dinner money envelopes, but have to stick them down as the glue has disintegrated! one of the blue cornflour seeds is starting to germinate!

Finally Kay, a good friend from Kenilworth who reads my blog, emailed me and I am sure she won't mind my sharing this

I have also been spending more time in the garden trying to catch up on potting up all the lovely little self seedlings in the gravel.  I don’t have the heart to green bin them.  I will have to stop pushing odd pieces of pruning’s in pots as I now have quite a few rose prunings’s which have taken and are more than ready for new pots.  I am being very careful and taking lots of breaks to enjoy the garden.  I have been told to stop buying plants by ‘him indoors’ as we have no more space.  I buy them for one space, try it for a few days then decide it will look better somewhere else.  He’s very lucky I leave them in pots until I am happy otherwise he would be digging holes we didn’t need."

I own up to many of these qualities.....except I do all the planting and Mr S asks when am I going to reduce the number of pots as promised...they are going down fast this week.....

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Late August Break

Right at the end of August we had three nights away, taking ourselves away from bare floors, and the smell of fresh paint.  The weather was still ridiculously hot, dry and sunny, and a little rest and recuperation was needed.  I was a little below par and was not in the mood to take many pictures.  

However there were some lovely moments.  Our drive down to Topsham entailed a drive through glorious quiet Somerset and Devon countryside.  Our first stop was at Illminster, where we stretched our legs, had a little look around some antique shops, and admired some of the local architecture, built in honey coloured limestone, of which this is an example.

Fairly centrally placed was 'Ilminster Art Centre' called the Meeting House. We approached  the building as it looked open, and enjoyed looking round their gallery.  Here I found the book set for our reading group, right in the middle of the book selection, so bought it!  It was a strange moment, I wasn't really looking at the books, they were set out randomly, and I hadn't any idea what the book looked like, and my memory for names and titles of books is such that I have to write things down, yet my eye caught it.  I felt it was a moment of serendipity.   It was order from the library, so later went on line and cancelled it.  

At Topsham we soon settled in our very large room at the Globe, overlooking Fore Street. From our comfy chairs in the bay, we had good views out towards pretty buildings and trees and the Church. Streets with fine merchant houses, meant evening and morning strolls were a sure success, and at one stage we were followed by a cat for several streets.  We enjoyed watching the sun go down along the shore front as we decided what to do for dinner.

Towards the south part of Topsham, walking out along the Strand past the excellent Museum, at which we spent a lovely afternoon, no photographs allowed, we came on a circular walk.  I love peering over walls, when they are sufficiently low, and was delighted to see the little copse full of cyclamen.

Mr S fancied taking the train from Topsham to Exeter.  The station was easy to walk to, and we could spend as much time as we wanted to in the City.  There was a little rain at first, but it was lovely for a change!  We had a walk down to the Quay and mooched around Antique shops etc, and bought some local honey from a friendly very elderly gentleman sitting by his table.  What a lovely person, we heard his story of how he had retired and moved down many years previously and had several beehives on his flower rich meadows jjust up the valley, and just loved coming down to meet and chat with people.  His honey is lovely by the way.

In Exeter, the Cathedral green has a low wall by Cathedral close...Mr S was walking slightly ahead, when I decided that I would stand on top of it, to take this photograph.

But with shopping bag, camera, umbrella and handbag I felt hesitant about jumping down.  A gallant Japanese tourist, out with his young family, came to my aid.  I wonder whether he has a mother who does the same sort of thing?  Anyway he bowed as he let go of my hand, and I bowed too in thanks.  What added to the moment was this inscription at our feet.....we both smiled.....

I think I shall have to read again,  a few more of his poems, and a little more about William Blake.  A few years back I had a little period of reading some novels in which William Blake featured. 

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

After a good lunch, we set forth in search of the 'Turkish Deli' to get some Turkish Delight...the sort I had at the Cafe at Bideford Pannier Market on our holiday in the Summer.  The owner has given me a piece, but only bought to give out with coffees, he did not have any boxes for sale, but he was happy to tell me where he had bought Exeter!  Of course there was Pomegranate and Pistachio Turkish Delight, and we added some large juicy dates to our basket too.

The Museum in Exeter is another must, and after a little while there, decided to return another time, out of School holiday time. It was packed with families. 

On our home-bound journey we stopped off at Bicton Botanical Gardens.  Maybe it was the time of the year, or our moods, but we were on the whole underwhelmed by the Park.  Yes, it had its long vistas and is well set out with the Italianate garden.  The tree collection is worth walking around.  The iconic silhouette of its curved roofed glass house with its palms is fine, but I felt the planting in the borders rather lacked luster, and the collection of Pelargoniums meager and plebeian.  The place seemed to concentrate on being a 'Venue', and a place to take children for things like soft ball, train rides etc, and the Museum needed a good clean and dust....

We stopped off at Ilminster again and had a nice lunch set in the garden area of the Meeting House..and then off home.  Back home I spent a couple of days resting........feeling much better at last.