Saturday, 7 December 2019

Six on Saturday - 7 December 2019 -Answers and Question

This weekly post is linking in with The Propagator who gathers a few similarly enthusiatic plant and gardening bods.  I spied a good close up of a thorny stem for example.

My answer to planting more trees this week, as we are all being urged to do, has been to plant fruit trees in the garden.  I love fruit trees on several counts, visually at blossom time as bees visit and pollinate fruit when it also gives me the hope for fruit later in the season.  Last week I was inspired by another Six on Saturday contributor and finalised my choice of trees which I had been pondering throughout the summer.

I poured through the online catalogue of Chris Bowers as they are suppliers of Supercolumn Trees. using M27 rootstock  The garden is small, but that is not stopping me from fitting in more fruit.  The upright/columnar type plants, will take up less space and give that vertical element I am looking for. The order arrived amazingly quickly, and were planted out the same day.

Supercolumn Pear Beth takes the place of Euphorbia

Pear Beth

"The texture of the fruits, with their white melting flesh and excellent flavour, has assured Beth of outstanding popularity. A very regular and heavy cropper. "

The Euphorbia was past its best, and was ditched.  A well rooted cutting taken Spring 2018 is now planted up in the front garden.

Pear Concorde - Supercolumn
Two Pear Concorde

We had Concorde in our last garden.  It was a magnificent pear we both found to our taste.  It is also a 'pollination partner' for Beth.  The Pears are in the borders fairly close to the sitting circle on the same line and one each side.

Apple Scrumptious

We grew this one in our previous garden too, and it was one of Mr S's favourite, so much so that when I bought Apple D'Arcy Spice, he was most disappointed. 

Apples Sunset and Scrumptious in 'Potager'

Apple Sunset

Scrumptious is an apple which can be eaten straight from the tree, so to prolong the season I felt  that Sunset would store quite well, and is similar to cox but is easier to grow.

Julian, a great gardener in Kenilworth, used to bring me bags of a delicious apple called Crispin, a good tasting dual purpose apple. That is on my list for when I get round to planting a row of cordon's against the house wall.

Karaka Black Blackerry?

"A re-introduction to our range and an extremely popular newcomer owing to it's 6-8 week cropping period. Karaka Black produces long, cylindrical, shiny dark black fruits which have a wonderful aromatic true blackberry flavour. Very heavy yielding, out cropping Sylvan and Waldo in trials. Bred in New Zealand, the plant habit is only moderately vigorous and, although spiny, is less so than most thorny cultivars. A spacing of 5-6' between plants is ample. Can be grown as a trailing plant or traditionally, along posts and wires. Reliable, very productive, packed with flavour and with an extraprdinarily long picking period, Karaka Black is a top rate new variety."

This description is taken straight off Chris Bowers' website. Of all the above plants in the delivery,  this is one that I had a question about, and mailed the company with photograph, as I did not feel that the plant looked very much like a blackcurrant:

From me to Chris Bowers

Tried to call but message box was full

Four trees and Karaka Blackberry received. Transaction 128500188

The query is about the Blackberry.  

The plant I received has leaves that do not resemble that of a blackberry or any of the Karaka plants I have seen on line.  Could there have been a mix up with the labeling?  If this cannot be guaranteed as being Karaka, please send me a replacement. 

Please let me know. 

Answer from Chris Bowers 

Thanks for your message.
The plant you received is typical of our Kotata stock and we haven't had any queries regarding this before, however you are welcome to return the plant as per our t&c's.

My second email 

Hello Robert

Four trees and Karaka Blackberry received. Transaction 128500188

Further to my earlier querry you kindly replied promptly that

"The plant you received is typical of our Kotata stock and we haven't had any queries regarding this before, however you are welcome to return the plant as per our t&c's."

However I ordered a Karaka Blackberry, the vine you sent does have the Karaka label, see below. Can you confirm that this is the growth typical of the plant I should have received?

To date no response.  I am trying to be kind, realising that they are having a big rush, that they are probably up to their knees in mud...I'll plant the 'blackberry' and see what it grows into.

Question: Will this plant produce the lovely long fruits of Blackberry Karaka I hope for?


Aeonium success

This summer my Aeonium Velour grew to about the maximum size I could cope with.  It was just not worth overwintering it one more season.  Many of the side shoots were taken off.  Three individual shoots were planted and have now taken.  The very top piece with its several side shoots just stood in a vase for a couple of weeks.  Instead of throwing it away, I thought I would try and see if it would take.  I how have a well rooted multi side branched plant ready to  bring on and have as my main specimen of Aeonium Velour next year.  This time I shall turn it regularly to help with a balanced form.

Aeonium Velour spending winter on a windowsill

A couple of frosts this week, and I am discovering well protected areas of the garden.  The jays continue to collect all the fallen acorns....

Monday, 2 December 2019

In a Vase on Monday - First Hard Frost

I've let myself off today.  Early on it was obvious that there had been the first hard frost, even without stirring, I knew this as I could hear a windscreen being scrapped of ice.  Sunrise was colourful, and as we sat having our breakfast the colours were being reflected off the tessellated  icy surface of the birdbath.  First time this year there has been frost in the back garden, and still it has not reached under the shelter of the Oak.

Ever since the summer an arrangement of Quaking Grass: Briza Maxima, in a cloisonne vase, has been floating around the house.  For the moment it is in the dining room and at last it has its place on IAVOM.

The reflection is of a Wild Australian Cockatoo.  I bought a pair of prints some time ago and love the saying on the leaves:

This is an extract from the The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám.

I could be going down the garden path later, instead I am working on my socks the pattern is called Garden Path Socks!  This isn't the first time I've knitted this pattern.

After reading some Musings by Alan Titchmarsh

 I am still waiting for my Book-club's next read for December to arrive, and during that wet weather felt in need of a little escape, and found a novel by Alan on the shelves.  I have enjoyed both books.  With the Grand Tour, it got me looking up old photographs from our first Grand Tour of Italy over 25 years ago, and then checking out places Mr Gandy visited on the internet...I enjoyed this 'no air miles' holiday.

I wonder what Cathy will have posted this we go: yes it is something small and sweet, and also linked into Cathy's post are comments and contributions from myself and many others.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Six on Saturday - 30 November 2019

The propagator who planted the seed of this weekly gathering of plant lovers has thankfully a brief post, unlike mine.  This week I have a resume of the development of the back garden with particular reference to the gravel garden over three years....

"Your use of gravel makes everything stand out. Is it hard to work with on that scale?"  Since Lorna asked this question last week, I could use pointers as part of my SOS this week.  

One -Layout end of November 2019

Yes everything seems to stand out well.  With the backdrop of the evergreen oak, we chose pale coloured local  stone to help with light conditions in the garden, and form a contrast to plants.  It also helps with access and drainage.  The rotary washing line fits in a pipe buried under the circular slate stone in the area closer to the house.  

The area 15cm beyond this grey stone is my true gravel garden area where I am planting bulbs and other low growing plants that will thrive in these conditions without watering etc.  Apart from the veggie area which is bordered by chives along one edge of the gravel garden, I aim not to do any watering except for newly planted items  or plants in pots anywhere in the garden.  

All the cardboard has been absorbed, as I found out when I started to plant into the gravel garden this summer.  When planting small plants or bulbs the gravel is moved well aside from the planting hole,  a hole just large enough to accommodate the bulb or plant is made and a little bone-meal in scattered at the bottom and a little soil tumbled in before planting. The soil is leveled and the plant watered in, then the grit is swept back round the plant.   Seeds such as the Eryngium Silver Ghost were just scattered on the surface of the gravel early this year, worked their own way down through the gravel and seedlings emerged within a few weeks.

On a very modest scale as can be seen here, we did it slowly the easy way all by hand and we did it all ourselves.  If you let your mouse hover over the pictures you will get an idea of dates,

Two - There was lawn

This is what the garden looked like in June 2017 when the builders had just finished the conservatory and the grass just starting to recover.  We moved the position of furniture several times, sat in different areas etc. We knew that we didn't wanted any grass/lawn in either front or back gardens.  

Hot Summer 2017 - Conservatory completed

Three - The waiting game as plans are hatched

For the  winter of 2017/2018 having bought the seating area stones, the outer slabs of the seating circle acted as stepping stones through the grass.  The circle was temporarily sited, but eventually moved in the final plan onto a properly prepared level area.   I just had to get some of my plants into the ground, which had been been in the main untouched since the house was built.  More compost than I can imagine went to topdress the soil, and much cardboard was used underneath to smother the weeds.

Four  To dig or not to dig - conserving and moving soil

No soil from digging out the gravel area between the conservatory and from under the new shed left the garden, as it was used to adjust levels towards Gooseberry Corner.  The land sloped down towards the right quite steeply and moving barrowloads left a more gentle slope.

In this picture Mr S is fixing the edges on top of the turf.  I had also been reading up about the no dig gardening system.  Under the paths with the stepping stones we used a plastic weed controlling membrane.  In hindsight I wished we had not used this, cardboard from packing cases would have been quite sufficient.  Of course, being able to call out instructions from an upstairs window is a great advantage.  We often had days without going further, and looking at the layout and adjusting curves and the width of the path and position of the stepping stones.

Five  Gravel Garden Area 

For a person who loves plants the aim is to have as much growing space as possible.  However we thought a gravel area would give that flat area across which to enjoy views of the Acer bed were needed, and be reasonably free of plants to walk across to get to the 'Potager'.  We always have a smile when I say this out is a tiny patch for growing a few things for the kitchen, but since it is in full view from the conservatory like to keep it looking nice.

We had gravel areas and no lawn in our previous garden but not a specific planned gravel garden for planting into.

For the gravel area which I wanted to plant into, the grass which had been burnt dry, and the ground fried up hard as terre battue, was covered with a good double layer of cardboard.  All of this was saved from  our delivery of  bathroom fittings, kitchen cupboards etc..It was held down with stones waiting for the delivery of finer grade of stone than the one used on the paths.  CRS our local buidlers' merchants sent a lorry with a long arm and the large cubic metre bags were lifted over the back fence...and we moved barrow loads using an already battered wheelbarrow kindly lent to us by neighbours.  The difference in gravel size does add some interest and a good foil for some of my geology specimens.

Testing out the new seating area

At least a seating area for us to sit and chat during my sister's visit

Planting areas without gravel were topped with compost, and I started to pray for rain.

Six - Planting in the gravel garden 

2019 has been the year of planting into the gravel garden.  2020 will see a variety of bulbs emerging.

In conclusion this was a very effective way of preparing the garden.  When planting I can see that the ground in the beds and under the gravel is in excellent condition.  We have an army of worms, beetles and other creatures who have taken down the compost, we have had no compaction issues, and the drainage even with the heavy rain has worked well.  As I am the gardener the digging in the conventional way would have meant delay and frustration as on this clay soil it is often too wet or too hard and dry to be able work it.

Monday, 25 November 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Still flowering

Just like Cathy who hosts this weekly gathering, it seems to have become a habit to mention the weather: low light, a gentle stirring insufficient to dry anything off  but frost free, is what we are experiencing today and it seems set in ,with the 'promise' of rain for a few more days,

The front garden is only just past 'the twinkle in my eye' stage.  All of the components this week are courtesy of plants from there.  Agapanthus Charlotte which I featured on SOS continues to amaze.  Only planted out in September, they have continued to flower.  The flowers on Agapanthus Charlotte do not set seed, but we shall see how the plants perform next year.  The downside is that already the pollen of the agapanthus is affecting me, so this is probably the one and only time it will be picked for IAVOM.

A few stems of Lonicera nitida 'Baggensen's Gold from plants I established two and three years ago, and a leaf of a hardy geranium which had blue flowers complete the small arrangement. I found this hardy geranium growing amongst bluebells in the front side border, growing very poorly, and over the last two years moved bits.  There are nice clumps now established between the Lonicera which border the parking space.  I have spent a little time trying to identify it, but have now given up.  Gold star to anyone who helps identify this geranium.  Whilst trawling different pictures of autumn coloured leaves of hardy geraniums I came across Geranium 'Orion', which I have now added to my list of plants to look out for next year. 

Sunday, 24 November 2019

A Bird in the Hand - Chicken with prunes in red wine

I'm often inspired by friends' recommendations, so when Mandy revealed her 'presents to herself' and one of them was 'A Bird in the Hand' by Diana Henry, I added that book to my Libraries West list.  I had an email this week to say that it was in.  Having brought it home, I have been dipping in and reading recipes during the waiting for the coffee to cool times etc.

Before I go farther, I must say thank you to Mandy and other friends real and blogging ones too who share their finds, through a conversations caught when meeting up with friends in the street or at other gatherings etc.

I've cooked with prunes before, usually a gamey affair, and also cooked with red wine, but I wouldn't have considered using these with chicken.  As the chicken went through its various stages, layers of flavour were added.  The final touch was the herb crust.

The only thing I added was some lemon thyme from the garden, just because I had it and love thyme and chicken.

I'll be ordering this book...and removing a couple of older books from the shelves.  The only recipe so far that I probably won't be cooking here is the 'ginger beer can chicken' as we don't barbecue, but it sounds fun and maybe I would like to try it. I may suggest we cook this during the Summer as part of our WI gourmet club.