Saturday, 28 May 2016

Special day out with friends to Bourton House Garden, Blockley, and Cotswold Garden Flowers

Last year at the annual prize giving for Kenilworth in Bloom, several of us bid up the prize offered by John Taylor Funeral Sevices, and it was Janet who scooped the least Caroline and I chicken somewhere beyond £100 when we wondered what we would use a Jaguar limousine for!  I think Janet did too when she outbid the rest of us.  Just in time, before the expiry date she came up with the bright idea of sharing it amongst some of her garden and plant loving friends.  With several rounds of consultations, the trip and date was set for Thursday.

We all convened at 10 am outside John Taylor, and met up with our lovely driver Max.  Here we are: Janet, Caroline, and Liz at the back...and Myra, myself and Madeleine in the front.  Each time we stopped, we moved around so that we managed to have a great trip with discussions of plants etc.

First stop was Bourton House Garden...and several bottles of fizzy were waiting in the boot!  First one was cracked open before the visit.

The borrowed landscape was superb with early bright green colour and an abundance of flowering hawthorn.  The gardeners were out trimming up the lovely topiary.

We would have loved some labels...but between us we seemed to come up with some names for some of the plants.  We had dressed appropriately for the day, with the ability to get down on hands and knees to admire plants.

Here are some plants which caught my eye..

Euphorbias both! As always I got up close to some.....

For lunch Janet had chosen a village cafe run as cooperative in the really picturesque village of Blockley, and our table booked ahead was waiting for us.  The way Max managed to drive and manoeuvre the large car was truly commendable.  To think I had been so close to this village and never visited...Mr S and I are sure to go there before we move away, and visit this lovely eating place once more.

My choice was a skillet of eggs on spinach covered with cheese and cream, with a hunk of bread, and Caroline and Janet chose macaroni cheese....good lining ready for our second glass of bubbly!

With coffee and almond and orange cake for most of us, it was time to set off for Cotswold Garden Flowers.  Luckily I had been before and realised that there was a long rough road leading to the nursery.  We had a great time...and I could not contain myself...I could not buy any plants on account of the forthcoming move, but at least that meant there was just about enough room to squeeze in plants for all the others!  This time the plants in the garden were mostly in flower.  The Tulipa Sprengeri 'Trotters Form' were stealing the show.

and when I saw this lovely specimen of Budleja Globosa it brought back great memories...I planted it in my first garden in the UK, and I had grown it myself from a cutting....

already I am forming an idea of what I want to plant in my new garden.  To have such a plant the form and little orange pompoms during early summer!

We had our second little glass of bubbly here, but decided the remaining bottles could go to another charity event for their auction!

This day out ranks really highly for me and will be remembered for a very long time.  Many thanks to Janet for arranging this and for the delightful company of fellow gardeners.

Lemon & ginger teacakes for Friday Bun Day

Yesterday was quite a Friday....the house was clean and tidy and ready for the second day of viewings.  Yes we have found a new house and this one was on the market.  I cleared all out the litter bins, washed out the waste food bin, and just as I was selecting some fresh newspaper to reline it, came across an old weekly Waitrose Paper, and glanced at a recipe for a bun.

I am such a fan of buns, and this being Friday I thought I would bake some.  I made the cardinal mistake of putting the milk on to heat, forgot about it, and then it boiled over!  Burnt milk smell when you are trying to sell a house is not the best idea.  All the windows were opened, and soon with the extractor fan on full pelt the house was back to normal.

After the third and final visit I started to make up the buns.  The recipe is really worthwhile making and can be found on the Waitrose site if you search for

Martha Collison's lemon & ginger teacakes with honey butter

I had no mixed peel in the cupboard, but found a little jar of my home made attempt at candied lemon peel, and used 50g of that instead.  I had no ginger in syrup, but soaked some candied ginger in water until it swelled up.

As I was kneading, the phone rang, and we had our first offer for the house.  During proving we had a second offer from a different person...and before the time for the buns to go in the oven, the sale was agreed, subject to contract of course.

Martha's recipe is worth baking and these buns are really delicious.   Her recipe gives 8, but they would have been huge...I made buns of around 70g each.

When Mr S came home from work it was time for tea and buns, and lots of talk about the day's events.  Ought these to be the first buns I bake in the new house with a different oven?

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Pan Chancay Buns from Peru

This is the mid May bun bake from our Face Group baking our way through The Book of Buns.  We were out of 'breakfast buns', so I was delighted that I would be baking some slightly sweet buns.

As for the Chancay Buns with their flavour from raw cane sugar, powdered anise seed, and ground cinnamon, these will most definitely be baked again.

Yesterday I had 'struggled' with baking a sourdough loaf, and this was as a balm to my soul.  The Pan Chancay buns are lovely and light, delicious, fragrant and the little seeds on the top are a bit of a tease.  As they are held on with a melted butter glaze, they are apt to fall off, but what is a finger for but to pick up these toasted seeds from your plate.  All I can think of is how my baking has progressed as I have baked for nearly two years from this Book, and how my sourdough will improve in the next two years.

I have several tips regarding the sourdough from fellow bakers on the Facebook Group working through Jane Mason's new book: Perfecting Sourdough.   

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Bluebells and just a few white bells

A short walk from home brought us to some lovely bluebell woods.

Mr S and I frequently have a little walk there at different times of the year.  It was here that my sister Jenny was enthralled by them, so when we see the bluebells we are reminded of taking her there.

Just a few photographs, and some of the wild white wood anemones.

 And I just opened the window on this lovely sunny afternoon to listen to the newly arrived swifts and house martins, as they circle over the garden.  I'll get out the binoculars and see if I can spot some swallows too.  Hurrah, hopefully dreary winter is over, we have some nice warm weather set for the next few days.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Primula Auricula Nessun Dorma

There is just something about Auriculas that I love.  Maybe it is because there is so much variety, there is something about the shape of each individual flower that I like.  I find the plants quite difficult to grow.  I have lost many, bought many, but for now, I am staying with what I have left about six plants in pots and will hope to enjoy them.  Its been a strange growing season.  In fact despite the mild winter, they are later to come into flower compared with previous years.  Non were ready for the April Show.

This is Primula auricula Nessun Dorma, the first to flower this year.  In order to enjoy it I have brought it into the conservatory, though I am attempting to keep it as cool as possible.  When I took the following picture yesterday, where the plant usually sits, so that I can have an eye level view, I realised that there is a metal flower on the shelves very similar in shape to an auricula!

When I checked the photograph close up, I realised that greenfly were starting to emerge, and unlike my garden where I hope birds and other insects help to maintain an equilibrium, house plants need to be defended!

Yesterday I went to St Nicholas Church to a lovely birthday concert given by my friend Vita, in which she sang some lovely songs with friends.

Needle Crafts

A project which I finished just before Easter at our regular WI craft groups is this 'sewing box'.  There was much cutting, gluing, and sewing with a curved needle.  For the top, I made a dorset button inspired handle, and have started to gather a few things to put in it.

When you take the lid off, the box opens up to reveal little areas to slip in tools, and threads, and a little pin cushion in the middle.

A few years ago, at the same group, led by Kay the leader of our branch of the WI, and amongst other things a wonderful needle woman, who has been known to haunt many a Goldwork course at Denman College,  I made the large 'house wife roll', and needle case.  Luckily I had quite a large amount of the fabric in my stash.

Our very latest project is just starting off, and I am coming to grips, with not letting my threads twist.  So if anyone can give me any tips, I shall be pleased to hear from you.

Orange Tip misidentified by me as Dappled White Butterfly

A couple of days ago, as I went out to hang out the washing, I loitered in the garden as I do, and on the lovely tulips saw an unusual insect, I wasn't sure if it was a butterfly or a moth, but I know I had to try and capture it with my camera.  I had not seen one of these before, and understand that they are not at all common.  But I was wrong...this is an orange tip with its forewings folded back.

I have been trying to find out what it is,  and jumped to the conclusion that it may have been a  Dappled White.  I probably thought it might be as it mentioned Warwick, and we are about five miles from Warwick.

I didn't quite get the quality of picture I would have wanted, but did not want to scare the butterfly off nor trample on my emerging herbaceous plants.  Since looking up this butterfly, and seeing what it looks like with its wings open, I feel sure we had them flitting around the garden last year.  This one looked as if it has just freshly emerged and was drying out its wings in the sunshine.  It does say that the last butterfly was caught near Warwick in 1948!

I had excellent feed back from David Moore, from UK Butterflies.  This is what he wrote:

Your butterfly is not a Dappled White though. It's an Orange Tip (there ARE various species of 'Dappled Whites' but none are found in the UK).

The male of this species has unmistakable orange patches on his wings which, when seen in flight, rule out every other British species. The females are identical except they lack these orange markings, and at first glance could be mistaken for one of the other 'Whites'.

Orange Tips are common butterflies, widespread throughout the UK, but they prefer damp areas where their foodplant grows - Cuckoo Flower or cardamine pratensis. If you have this flower in your garden (or you have the close relative - Honesty) then this might attract both male and female Orange Tips.

The butterfly will tuck its forewings behind its hindwings when at rest so it's hard to tell which sex it is, but if you saw it in flight and didn't see any orange then it was certainly a female.

Coincidentally, I photographed a roosting male Orange Tip this afternoon, and have attached an image for you to compare it. You can find out more about this beautiful species of butterfly here:

A very nice visitor to have in your garden!!

Each year we have orange least the males visit the garden..but we don't have any cuckoo flowers or honesty.  I shall have to grow some for them!

Spring Prizes

April is the Spring Show at the Kenilworth Gardening Club, and now being Show Secretary, gives me very little time to put up my exhibits.  Also I have 'bowed' out of the preserve section, giving other the opportunity to 'win'.  This also now allows me to help with the judging in that section.  After several jars of marmalade and jellies, I really felt like a drink and a slice of plain toast.  One of the finest flavours was a pineapple and grapefruit marmalade and I am looking forward to trying my hand at making that one.

Of course we love to have as many exhibits as possible, so having come back from holiday it was a quick search for possible entries to swell the numbers on the bench,  without trying too much.  I was non the less pleased to get a couple of placements:

Fushia Flowering Gooseberry

A few weeks back we drove out for a quick visit to Coughton Court.  The visits to the house were timed, and since we had about half an hour before our entry time, we had a little tour of the garden.

Just look at wonder I was drawn to this little beauty, its flowers were like little fushia blossoms, but the leaves were really shiny and looked like tough gooseberry leaves.

There was no name label, and I was really pleased when I entered: gooseberry with flowers like fushias into my search engine I found the name.  Ribes speciosum or Fushia Flowering Gooseberry.

With great spines, and my hatred of being lacerated by thorns, I don't think this one will be in my garden.  Had the flowers been followed by large delicious berries, I may well have been tempted, since I love gooseberries.  The two gooseberry plants, which I have growing in tubs are now in flower and my mason bees are doing a fine job of pollinating them.