Saturday, 26 July 2014

Late Summer Garden

 We've been sitting in the Gazebo at the end of garden, with cool drinks.  Under the large conifer it is about the coolest place there is.  In a pot theHydrangea Paniculata Vanille Fraise has excelled itself.  I think I shall have to put in some stakes to help take the weight of the large inflorescences.

I bought this plant about three years ago.  I do keep some plants in pots, planting them into larger pots each year, and moving  them around the garden.

Up against the conservatory this Clematis Viticella Purpurea Plena..the name says it all:  purple full flowered clematis is the best it has even been.  Each morning this week, as we breakfast, I have watched a large & fat light brown slug slither on the glass or eat round a leaf just close.  This morning, we were a little later, or maybe it knew I would be out with my slug catcher hat on!  And each day the squirrel manages to enter the net and get more pears!

The little chilli plant found it just too hot, so it is now on the table in the shade.

It was the leaves which attracted me to this Stachys 'Sharan Pink', and now it is looking really pretty in flower.  I think this will one which I shall try to propagate.

Close by another pink flower is flourishing in the heat: Achillea Lilac Beauty.  Again I bought just one plant last year, but will be sure to divide this up and have more repeats throughout the border.

One plant which I have had for many years, and which I think is so very useful as it can be planted at the front of the border, with pretty leaves from early spring, and now at this time sturdy but still delicate flower spikes, and later the seed heads covered with frosts seem to glow in low winter light.  Although Astilbes generally prefer damp conditions, here they are getting a good baking.  But we do have a heavy clay soil.  This dwarf chinese astilbe:  Astilbe Chinensis Pumila is one that I get down to admire...and cut to use with a mixture of other flowers and foliage for my posies indoors.

Another plant which ought to be in the soil, but which I potted up into a larger pot a few weeks ago, is doing well:  Leycesteria Formosa Golden Lantern.  I used to have a good clump of the green one in our last garden, and our bantums used to love the berries and Jet use to manage to fly up and bring branches down, whilst the plumper bantams used to peck at the berries.  They used to do this with the grapes too!  This and several other shrubs including Gerturde Jekyll has been used by leaf cutting bees.  A couple of weeks ago I watched a bee flying with a large piece, but did not manage to find where it went to!

The agapanthus, well the blue one is flowering, and the white one is still in tight bud

and under the purple acer I found the first of the cyclamen poking up, quite early this year...maybe some will be falling down the large cracks!

I normally keep my geraniums in pots, but this year put a few into the border.  My camera seems to cry shy of showing just how vivid these blooms are..I'm not sure of the name, which I have lost, of this one which I bought as a cutting a couple of years ago from one of the many 'Open Gardens' which we visit.

Bringing this picture up reminds of some of the plants which I shall be getting rid of, because they just do not perform and one of them is the day lily behind the has never flowered in its three years there, and another on still with full sun, which is too much beloved of slugs!

This week's posy

Sempervivums in flower

Its too hot to garden..well it is for me.  When it is a little cooler later on, and if I am not too full after dinner, I shall go down and prepared some pots with a well draining mixture ready to replant some sempervivums.

Maybe its the hot weather, or maybe its because they are three years old, but many of the sempervivums have flowered.

The flowers are quite varied

I've even picked some to bring inside

I like the variety of colours and form

And even the bees love visiting the flowers, but its ready to catch the little plants and push them into gritty soil.  I've some 'new' old bonsai bowls to plant up like this little one, which I tried to make into a miniature landscape.  Penny came round with one as a present and I picked up another one in one of the many local charity shops.

Khorasan and ginger cookies

What does one do when it is so hot?  Baking maybe, but only first thing in the morning.....

I haven't done much baking recently, except of course for the weekly loaves. A slice of melon, some yogurt laced with delicious compotes, fresh berries from the garden, that is all that is required this hot weather.  But then one starts to get used to the heat, and Mr S just remembers things like biscuits, cakes etc....I happened to leaf through Short & Sweet by Dan Lepard last night with nothing particular in mind.  Something must have worked in my mind overnight, and I woke up at 7 with a fancy for a ginger biscuit.  There was a recipe for Spelt and Ginger Cookies.

With all my stash of flour, I was surprised that I had no spelt flour left, but I did have some of my Kamut/Khorasan flour left after making a sourdough a few weeks ago. To think of it, I have been making quite a bit a spelt bread recently!  This is from my recent order from Shipston Mill.   I adapted the recipe.  Also I only had 25g stem ginger in syrup and made this up to 50g with crystalised ginger.  The goat's butter I use is salted, and with the mixture being a little dry after mixing, I added a tablespoon of the ginger syrup from the bottom of the jar.  The proof of the 'pudding' is in the eating, this comment/cliche slipped out of Mr S's lips as he glanced at the biscuits as we prepared breakfast together.

The biscuits were delicious, and very quick to make and also bake.  They are more cookie than biscuit, as they have a softish texture in the middle, unlike the well know make which I would rather dunk than worry about cracking front teeth!

We had a couple with coffee after a salad lunch.  The flour has a nutty flavour and a pleasant texture and I read that it has more proteins, lips, amino acids, vitamins and minerals than modern wheat..but how much more?  well with the internet, we can get these much information!

Here is the recipe:

Khorasan and Ginger Cookie Recipe 

Set the oven to Gas Mark 6, 200C, line 2 large baking sheets with baking parchment.

Put a small pan onto the digital scales, with a tablespoon in it.  Zero it, then you can weigh exactly

50g golden syrup

Add 50g ginger either preserved in syrup or crystallised or a mixture
and 50g of any butter you have

Warm these gently until the butter melts

Pour the lot into your mixing bowl, and onto the scales

Add 50g golden caster sugar, and
50g light soft brown sugar

Add one yoke from an egg, and beat the lot

Put the bowl on the scales again, with the sieve, and into this measure
150g kamut flour,
1tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of ginger

Sift the lot, and chuck back in any siftings of flour.
Stir to a smooth dough, I needed to add some liquid as the mixture did not stick together, so I used the syrup from the ginger, about 1 tbsp.

Put small balls, about 15g with space to spread.  I got 12 on each tin, and then also 5 on a smaller tin.
They need space to spread.  They puff up as they bake for about 8 minutes, and then collapse leaving a crazed surface as they cool.

Leave them on the tin for a few minutes, then move them carefully with a palette knife to a cooling rack to finish cooling off.  They are soft when they come out of the oven and firm up as they cool.

What I like about Dan Lepard is that in his book, he explains about techniques and gives little snippets of information, which makes good reading even when it is too hot to bake!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Savoury Friday Bun Day

As I bumped into a local baking buddy:Tony, in Town at the weekend, we talked about our baking, so have posted this up for him.  If you wish you could have a quick look at  my sourdough made with Khorasan also known as Kamut Flour made a few weeks ago, which I wrote about in May.

Fridays are usually 'home' days.  Baking is often top of the list, and fits round other activities pretty well.  Sometimes thinking ahead to the weekend leads to inspiration.  I knew that the current week's bread loaves would not be quite the right thing for Saturday Lunch, so started early with a long process focaccia.  By using my rye sourdough starter and white flour, the dough ended up a nice golden colour.  As it was rather warm, after the first rise, I set the dough in the fridge so that I could bake it more conveniently later in the day when it was cooler.

I've made sage and hazelnut focaccia from Ursula Ferrigno's The New Family Bread Book, on a number of occasions, and being a 'nutty' person, love the flavour combinations.

I used the oil I had left over from baking the peppers to dress the top of the bake before going into the oven.

Which gave a good colour and delightful taste.

I tried three flavour combinations for the 'buns':  all with a base of braised red onions, then two with roasted red & yellow peppers and tomatoes, another with spinach, and a third with baby courgettes from the garden.  I suppose these are a type of calzone.

This just shows that one can grown vegetables in a couple of pots:

So from the pots to the pan in seconds

Then onto 'squares' of dough layered with red onions, and slices of goat cheese,

finished with with an egg glaze, fennel seeds and rock salt.

The roasted pepper and tomato were sealed in as I thought the juices would be contained.  These would be great for a picnic, and certainly we had an easy supper in the end, as I made us up a large plate of various salady things and we had a courgette 'slice' with it.

As D usually hopes for a sweet bun when he comes home from work on Fridays, I made a batch of scones, so could have one with some of the blackcurrant jam I had made that day with berries from the garden.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Bright Flowers

I did not expect the Grevillea Canberra Gem to flower this year...but maybe the weather was just right.  The plant is flourishing in its pot.  The flowers with its intricate shape is beautifully contrasted against its sharp green foliage.  I read that Phosphates are a no no for these types of plants, so wonder what I ought to feed it with.

Another bright flower in the garden is from some self seeded hardy geraniums, again no name.

We spent the morning, until it got too hot, pottering at the end of the garden under the shade of the tree.  Well not quite pottering, the lower branch of the large conifer which was brushing against the shed roof was looped off.  This needed D to climb up on a ladder, so first we cleared all the 'potting' area, swept up etc.  The Bamboo behind the gazebo also got a good cutting back and thinning.

A quick shift around of a couple of plants, with a big root ball and plenty of water, as I thought my new Knautia Macedonica Thunder & Lightning would look better behind the  ophiopogon planiscapus niger, yes that the name for the little purple grass like plant.  I had to look that one up!  I had a lovely clump at our previous home, and brought a few pieces here, and now have a good patch.    I love the shape of the serrated green and cream leaves, and hope it will prefer this site with full sun.


A few years back I bought a bush in a pot, which had no name, or maybe I lost it.  I bought it from a good nursery, and really just like the pot and the lovely leaves.  Its gets moved around the garden in its pot, and this year it got repotted into a larger pot.  It survived the very cold winter when temperatures dropped to around -17C.  It is relatively slow growing, and each spring I give it a little trim.

From somewhere towards the back of the garden, I moved this to the patio last week, as it is covered in flowers.  With its young stems a maroon colour, its evergreen leaves with creamy white margins is a looker even without the flowers.

The central part of the flower I believe called the stigma is square at its base.

The reason I am writing up about this now, is that I think I have name.  It may be Luma Apiculata Glanleam Gold.  If anyone has a differing view, please add this to the comments.  July's edition of The Garden has a very good four page article on this group:  The Myrtles, with close family members Luma and Lophomyrtus.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Knitting the Maluka Shawl

Some time ago I thought it would be nice to knit something for a cousin.  I managed to catch up with this cousin through face book, or some such forum.  Since then we have communicated and I have gradually got to understand some of my early history, with aunts, uncles etc.  My father was the youngest in a large family, and when I was young there were only a couple of aunts and uncles left where we lived.  I feel a lovely connection through our common grand parents, and have enjoyed learning about her life.  She moved to Europe and our lives separated.  I had met her a couple of times at Aunty Suzanne's who lived opposite us in Mauritius, when I was about 8 years old, she was a very glamorous older cousin.  It was Aunty Suzanne who taught me to embroider.

Well I saw just the pattern on Ravelry.  This is a world wide forum and fantastic facility for knitters and other wool and stick crafts aka as crochet....I read all the useful comments from fellow knitters on how to tweak the pattern, which was written by Bea Schmidt.  I think it is a German Pattern and translated into English, which is where a little help in interpreting the pattern notes comes in helpful.  Usually I work from a chart, but in this instance wrote down the stitches line by line for the 12 row repeat lace border.

In my stash I had a lovely ball of pale pistachio green baby alpaca and silk yarn.  I have cherished this for years, having bought it at the same time as I was being mentored by my great friend and knitter Judith.  So when I was knitting this shawl I enjoyed many happy memories as well as thinking about my cousin.  The other item I knitted from this was for my friend Marie-Claire.  What a coincidence, both ladies from Mauritius!

I also managed to use one of the lovely stitch markers made for me by Sue to mark the middle of the scarf.

Washing and pinning out the shawl takes a little time, but I was listening to some lovely music at the time.  I use a couple of 'discarded' pilates mats from my Pilates Teacher Jane Bilsborrow, and remembered to do a few stretches during the process.  I like to take a picture of the blocked shawl, as it is easy to see where little adjustments have to be made.  A few after this photograph was taken made sure the scarf was symmetrical and even.

Picked this little posy in the morning, and thinking of my sister in Australia....

Monday, 7 July 2014

Busy as a bee

I've awarded myself this lovely Busy Bee Badge, by Debbie Colby.  My very dear friend Jayne came down for the day, and on our travels around various open studios in Kenilworth, also popped into Sew Arty to get Jayne some crochet hooks.  Its green, its got a lovely bee on it, hand made, so I just could not walk by and not get this.

Yesterday I made a whole lot of delicious apricot jam with Kernels, which I have written about on my other blog....

During the evenings when it has been a little cooler, I've been tidying up in the garden, and weeding the stones.  Germinations of the Carex Comans Bronze Form needs to be kept in check.  A bonus is that from that level, I can see all the bumble bees on the new and old thymes, which make them worthwhile growing.

Last week, I was in a particular rush on the Wednesday of the Kenilworth Horticural Club Meeting, and very nearly decided not to go.  Meeting up with Knitting Friends in the morning, then a visit to my Uncle and Aunt to take honey to them, then back to cook, and then out early to stage entries....But my conscience pricked.  I 'volunteered' for the Committee, after I stepped down from being Chairman of Kenilworth in Bloom, and felt that the rest of the committee would complain that I was not supporting the club!  So very early as I went for my usual tiptoe down the garden, I cut a few blooms, and put them in a bucket of water.  They were not as good as I would have liked, and almost all the roses were resting.  Its been a strange growing season, flowers coming earlier than usual then all the heavy rain...but it is the same for other gardeners.  Here is the outcome, with the shield for best in show for the white pinks!  No the judges do not know the name of the entrants...and then only judge when the room is empty!  I had popped in, then gone to do the shopping with the car on the way back, then quick dinner, then back to the club.

I was really pleased to receive the well rooted plantlets of Phuopsis Stylosa which were potted up immediately, before I took the flowers to the show!  

Looking particularly good at the moment is this Silver Jade succulent which has spent the last couple of months baking on the patio...I have five magnificent stems in flower.

and Super Excelsa on the pergola by the shed.  This is now blooming after the other roses have finished their first flushes

Also in full flower is a big clump of alstromeria, growing in quite the wrong place, but which yields plenty of cutting material.  It was given to me about six years ago by a fellow Kenilworth in Bloom Committee Member, and which was unnamed.  Its large enough to need splitting and replanting in a better place, so that is now on my list of jobs to do, when the time is right.  

I was cutting out the seed heads on the Iris Sibrica and think they make a nice addition to this bunch, but already hints of autumn are creeping into my bouquets.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Green Presents to myself

This is my new hat, it is broad and beautifully made.  It is totally reversible.  One side has ferns and dragon flies and the other is plain green.  This hat was made for me whilst we were on holiday in Frome.  There were some lovely hats in a wonderful fabric shop, but all were too large.  My luck, which I have ample, had it that the hat maker was in the shop collecting fabric, and took my order.  When I went to pick up the hat, she had made me two...the other one had ferns and moths!  Too similar or I may have had both.  I already have a summer hat which must be over ten years old, and there is still a lot of life in it yet.  It has been washed several times, and is the ideal hat to keep the sun off my face when gardening.  Now I have another one for best!  Both Mr S and I had been looking for new summer hats for some time...I have a head which is rather small, and he has one that is rather large.  He got his Panama hat in Frome too!

From Marmalade Yarns in Frome, stocked with all the sorts of yarns I like, but of which my stash is 'over full', I bought some sock wool with flecks of green, and again for the same reasons I only came away with two balls on Angora Merino Sock Yarn in a perfect shade of green, from Wool Bath.  After all one cannot spend time ogling at yarns, feeling them, squeezing them, sighing oven them, and then leave the shop empty handed?  All shades of green whether in the garden or not, are amongst my favourite colours.  I also love blues, browns, oranges....lots of other colours, but not black...

My June Garden

I love roses, and this year have a few more, as a result of planting some bare root bushes from David Austin last November.  I don't feel that they have all done that well, but with the very heavy rain, lack of frosts, and hot weather, I shall forgive them.  A couple have yet to flower, but buds promise some later flowers.  The first flush is well and truly nearly over, helped by the exceedingly heavy rain storms over a couple of days.  Of course we needed the rain but even the carnations had their buds whacked off by heavy raindrops.

This is the first flower from Crown Princess Margareta, it is very similar in colour to the much smaller Ghislaine de Feligonde nearby.

This is Gertrude Jekyll, the scent is heavenly, but the bush is a little small, so I have removed all the flowers, and hope the plant will grow more strongly.  I think I shall move this a little nearer the front of the border .  I envisaged it growing into a shrub/climber, but I wonder whether it is grafted onto different root stocks.  I now know the answer as I broke from writing this to phone up David Austin, and the rootstock is exactly the same.

This is a close up of the climber A Shropshire Lad.  It has made some strong shoots and the flowers are really fine, and were not much spoilt by the rain.

Munstead Wood has the deepest red flowers, and a very good scent.  The bush is clean and very healthy.  Sadly the climber Etoile de Hollande is covered with black spot, and also Grace is looking a little poorly.  I hope a feed and some Epsom Salts will help them continue a little better this season.

Princess Anne with its shinny glossy leaves, but with lots of thorns, is a real show stopper.

I've had Open Arms for a few years now, its towards the end of the garden, and with its single flowers, a favorite for the bees and hover flies.

My clematis Comtesse de Bouchard is in full flower

This morning during a couple of hours weeding I had time to consider some of the changes I want to make to the garden for next year.  I was on my hand and knees on the stones preparing some patches to plant out some new thymes.  We had been to the National Herb Centre on Sunday, and I bought three plants as 'consolation' for not getting some ferns when I ought to have done from Upton House.  The Herb Centre is not far from Upton House, and we had toured the garden which was looking superb, but did not feel like walking back after our picnic to tour the house.  I enjoyed looking around, whilst Mr S looked over the various vintage cars parked up, and then a snooze!  If I enjoy looking around a nursery, I inevitably end up spending some of my pocket money, even though the garden is really overstocked.  I am sure that I am not the only one who plays little games to validate their spending...mine is that each time I pick some flowers for a little posy, or an arrangement or give a bunch of flowers to someone, or give a present of propagated plants, I offset this against my treats of new plants!

I already have a couple of very low growing thymes in the stones, and some others in the borders.  They do well here, and again loved by the bees.

The garden is well sheltered, and as I worked a wonderful smell was wafting around.  I traced it to a small clump of Valerian.  I bought a small pot a couple of years ago from our Kenilworth in Bloom Sale, and the rain seems to have brought it on.  I've read that it is apt to attract cats, can't say that I have seen any, though they would be shooed out of the garden it they did come.  And some say that the scent is not too pleasant, and elsewhere that extracts of the flowers were used as perfume in the sixteenth century.  Isn't scent such a personal thing?

In the more shady area of the garden I have a few ferns coming on: Athyrium Niponicum, which I bought on holiday to Frome

A small fern, the name is lost, which I bought when on holiday in the Lake District.  It has faltered for a couple of years in the ground so I have put in a small pot..

This one just grew in a pot which was planted up with succulents.  It was 'under' a suspended fern which had long hairy roots, name gone, plant gone.  I've separated it out, and planted it in a very characterful pot which Penny brought for me recently.  We could not work out what it was used for, but it had looked as if candles had been burnt in it.

For some reason only the white love in the mist plants  seem to have germinated from last year's seeds, and there were no white flowers last year...often the little pops ups around the garden give me great delight...if they do not. they get pulled out!