Monday, 24 January 2022

In a Vase on Monday - Never mind the Width

 January can be a fickle month, but it always interesting to see what is growing in the coldest and darkest days.  By joining in with Cathy many of us gather what there is in the garden and post on Mondays.  

My Aunty Prue used to love watching TV and when I was young, used to have a catch phrase: "Never mind the quality feel the width".  I could never understand this having had my early years abroad, and being young had no knowledge of the many European cultures and certainly didn't understand British humour.  This was the title of a comedy series which I have just found on i-player, and really this is also now a 'historical piece' in itself and wonder whether it would now be aired given the current sensibilities.

I twisted it and as I also like small things made my own version: 'never mind the width feel the quality'.  That is why I would say when you see this very small arrangement: never mind the size see the quality and beauty.


A few of cyclamen coum from two plants growing out in the borders with one slightly lighter blooms than the other, leaves from Ophiopogan, the dark is nigrescens, the variegated is Little Tabby.  I bought this on one of my 'let's cure the winter blues outing'...and you can use the link to find out what works for me.  You'll smile for sure, a different place each year mind. The spring is from shrub is Lophomyrtus x ralphii 'Little Star'.



When I was still at school I read Vol de Nuit and Le Petit Prince of course in French, but did not take much note of this man' life or background.  I came across The Prince of the Skies by Antonio Iturbe, on the new book stand in our local lending library, and took a punt of it, grabbed it and brought it home. That was on Christmas Eve.  I had a book to finish for one of the book clubs, so this was on a back burner.  Since picking it up, I have been eager to sit down and read through two or three chapters at a time.  


For a while I shall be 'on sabbatical' from my Henton book club to pursue my own avenue of reading.  I rushed through A Net for Small Fishes which I found quite horrific in places, a little drawn out in parts, but with enlightening final chapters. I find having to read two books for clubs each month is too much at present, and may well dip in to each club, as there are now sufficient members in each to make viable groups.

Sunday, 23 January 2022

Spiced Sweet Potato and Walnut Cake

 This is not just a cake inspired by a recipe cut out of an old Waitrose Magazine, but one with a few twists and one of two special associations.

Mr S does not believe that it is a cake if it contains vegetables and always mentions this if he has to have something like carrot or courgette cake when we are out.  That is an old record for sure...I think it was the photography that got me looking twice at this recipe.  The crumbling rich brown cake full of walnuts.

On one of our last Sunday morning WI rides, I happen to stop for what I thought were mini potatoes, that given the speed I was cycling can be excused.  I was delighted that there were the gardener's walnuts, for sure, small much smaller than the ones you buy in shops, but with the outline of the tree clearly visible above the high stone wall, it was evident that these were zero miles walnuts.  I  have only recently just cracked the last lot, and this cake therefore celebrates those special things you can buy along English country lanes from wayside produce stalls.

The second special touch for this cake was provided by my last pot of Fresh Ewe's Cheese from Homewood Artisan Cheese makers, that I had bought from the Wells Food Festival last autumn.  It has been turned over several times when rummaging round the freezer and also needed using up.



I followed the recipe for Spiced Sweet potato and walnut cake except for the following substitutions:  I used half white spelt, again using up the bottom of a packet and made it up to 135g with wholemeal spelt flour, and cooked the batter in two smaller tins.  The sweet potato came from the fridge and had been roasted the previous night ready for a salad with a few fennel seeds, which were in the final sweet potato puree.




For the topping I used 150g Fresh Ewes Cheese, 50g thick sheep's yogurt, two rounded desert spoons icing sugar, and of course the lime zest.  I had a little taste of course, and shall confidently use this again. 

Saturday, 22 January 2022

Six on Saturday - 22 January 2022

 Its been wintery, no snow, but we have had good frosts and the Fuchsias have been 'kissed' by the frost, well those that we still unclipped.  I know you are meant to leave the structure there, but hey this is a small sheltered garden and I'm taking the risk.  Looking forward to seeing what Jon posts as his anchor this week, and what everyone else has been up to.

Here are Six my Six on Saturday:

1. My first miniature daffodils have been potted up.  I am trying to be patient and in the meantime found a source of articles on miniature daffodils: https://dafflibrary.org/articles-clippings-and-notes/articles-about-miniatures/. Also I came across Ian Young's Bulb Log article about similar types to the ones I now have.


Narcissus bulbocodium v. citrinus, and Narcicus culamineus.

As I have a small garden, and not much space I thought miniatures were the solution...but I read these are tricky and therefore I must pay attention to their needs and make sure they thrive to return next year, and the year after etc.  One pot of each of these has been planted in the conservatory bed, where other spring preciouses are growing.

2. When I was little I made one of those gardens in a dish, now that I am old,  I am making scenes in a Bonsai Dish.  I don't wear purple much! 


With shards of Blackstone Limestone collected during a recent Geologising Trip, giving a little height, I added two rooted cutting of Hebe Silver Dollar,  and Gypsophila tenuifolia, that had proved 'too small' for the patch where it was growing. 

It was too wet, and too cold to safely walk in the garden early in the week, but these two little cuttings were growing away in a corner of another pot, and the Gypsophila close the the path edge. 


This will make a nice shelf show item, and can be moved to the table to admire when the very small Gypsophila is in flower. I shall attempt to 'Bonsai' the Hebes.

3. Removal of top growth on Clematis Bill McKenzie has been postponed for obvious reasons...how glorious they still are against blue cold winter skies.


4. Looking down, close to where other early spring beauties have yet to pierce the surface, the leaves of the Arum Italicum are a delight.



5. The bulb bought last year as Galanthus  Jacquenetta still is not showing the green markings on the outer petals.  If I can see for myself what the real Jacquenetta looks like, I will buy it. 



This new 'imposter' is flourishing and continues with its inner three petals curving out.  I am still perplexed as to whether it is a named variety. It has now been suggested that this is Natalie Garton, though I think the three inner petals are much shorter, and the green marking on the outer of the inner petals longer.  I understand that Galanthus Natalie Garton was be variable, which for me adds interest and I shall be able to monitor this little club each year. Its stability will be observed keenly. I shall change the label and rename this acquisition Natalie Garton. I am still unsure as it is described on Judy's Snowdrops as a later flowering cultivar, but this year in this garden it is flowering early to mid January.

6. Its been strulched!  The vegetable plot with emerging garlic, awaits peas, beans etc. but it is far too early to sow these seeds.  The leeks towards the far end are growing slowly.  I don't think I shall grow these again.....



When I nipped out to take a picture of the Strulch on Friday afternoon, it was so cold, and now really too cold for me to garden outside. My attention moved elsewhere to compiling this SOS.






Monday, 17 January 2022

In a Vase on Monday - All together dried up

 After clearing away all the Christmas decorations and getting  back to unadorned rooms, it didn't take me long to realise that I had three arrangements of varied dried flowers and  those 'stag horn' branches.  I didn't participate in the anniversary dried arrangement challenge.  You could say I saved that for a time when there wasn't much in the garden.  There are a few blooms, but the coming weeks the availability will probably rise in a crescendo.  with the dried arrangement never being share. All the dried flowers except for the alliums have been brought together. Any surplus thrown away.

This will be on permanent display for several weeks all in my lovely new vase from Jean.

Honesty which is probably three years old, long dried Crocosmia seeded flower stems, poppy heads, Briza Maxima, and the old lichen twig I picked up from The Newt, all collected except the last year from the garden.



 I was starting to collect all the seeds from the poppy heads, which I shall use in bread, when it occurred to me just how pretty all the seeds heads were.  For now there are positioned in small pottery dishes.  


I'm joining in with Cathy, who I am sure will have gathered some delicate spring blooms for our 'anchor' on this weekly get together.


Saturday, 15 January 2022

Six on Saturday - 15 January 2022

 The day the sun  shone, it was as if I was a young heifer let out onto a spring field after been cooped up in a barn. 

1. The first job I saw to was dealing with the sodden compost.  It had drained quite well, but I still had thought it worthless and even a hazard if spread over the garden. On my list, I did have replanting my pots of mint into larger pots with fresh compost to give a crop this year, without the hazard of planting them in the garden and having to then dig every last bit out.  Since these mints thrive with water, they were repotted using this sodden compost.  I have Apple Mint, Chocolate Mint and Moroccan Mint which I like to use for teas.


This picture shows just how many roots can grow in one season and if in the garden would spread for yards!

2. The old brain is getting even more unreliable when it comes to remembering where or even the names of plants I have planted.  Those that come up for a few months then disappear are the worst.  The Black labels are no longer available so I have opted for green ones, and making better plans of the garden and where plants are positioned. The black labels were often broken in two when I put my foot in the wrong place: hopefully I shall see these!  Probably won't look very good, but it is my garden!


3. It is a good job I checked the cyclamen seeds: C. confusum  is up, so it has been brought into the light.

4.  Cyclamen purpurascens is sporting a little friend.  The cyclamen was quickly dug up by Jo Haynes from her garden.  I wonder what it will be. It looks like a snowdrop seedling, and it probably take another two years before it flowers.

5. In my last garden I had a wonderful Hellebore. 


It came true from seed, and had been one of the plants already in the garden.  I could 'kick' myself for not having brought a seedling with me.  The seedling all came true: I know as I used to plant them around the garden, watch them come into to flower then take them potted up and in flower to sell at our gardening club.

No point in having regrets, so I placed an order which arrived today.


6. Daisies are  enjoying the Sun too.....


It is late, I had thought to skip a week, but reading other contributors, I know their offering really point to the 'doldrums' in the garden in mid January.  We are all in this together under The Prop's guiding trowel.