Monday, 31 December 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Memories of the past Year

It may be that some of us have overdone the richness of Christmas and would benefit from more 'greens'....for greens go to Cathy's post.  I love greens in the garden and to eat...and there are some fine examples there.

My posy IAVOM this last day of 2018, because of the usually mild weather this year, is made up of blooms which normally will have been over by now, but remind me of arrangements during the past year.

Fuchsia Hawkshead, Jasmine Nudifolium which flowers throughout the winter, Fuchsia hemsleyana 'Silver Lining', Lophomyrtus ralphii Little Star,  a flower from Heuchera americana, and the spot of blue is from Salvia Corrugata, which is growing well in the open ground but sheltered by a stone wall and under the overhang of the Holm Oak.

Salvia Corrugata

Looking back at where the garden was this time last year, I can see that it had advanced well.  For gardeners, this time of year is the one for planning, with high expectations for the coming year.  Catalogues and wish lists are frequently referred to and updated.  The difficult part is working out where to fit plants in.

Wishing everyone joining in with In a Vase on Monday, and here I certainly include the lookers on....a Happy New Year

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Somerset Levels Willows

Each landscape has its iconic trees, and on the Somerset levels in the area surrounding Godney, I would say they are the pollarded willows.  I stopped at the edge of the narrow lane, which was subsiding slowly into the soggy ground, along which pollarded willows stood sentinel along a flowing rhyne, to allow a car to pass.

  Here stood two willows whose main trunks survived sufficiently to support numerous small branches which sprouted following pollarding maybe three to four years ago.  If they are not pollarded when this old and hollowed out, they collapse into the soft earth.

What starts off  as a road, becomes a lane as it drops to the levels from the Mendip slopes, and it soon straighten out to become a network of narrow droves that crisscross Godney Moor. Only drivers trying to reach one of the small hamlets or farms ought to venture on these narrow lanes, but for the cyclist they are a pleasant way of viewing the wildlife, cattle, hills, skies and flocks of birds. With the ever present Glostonbury Tor giving a marker and aid to orientation, if the sun is hidden behind a low blanket of cloud.

Pumpkin bread sticks recipe

A few weeks ago I made some bread sticks for a buffet meal at our local gardening club, and found the technique so useful for keeping bits whole and interesting, but within the confines of the dough.  Here I offer up a savoury pumpkin dough finger bread, which can encapsulate various bits and pieces.  The possibilities dependent on ingredients available and your taste.  I do like the taste of Nigella Seeds, and with the pumpkin dough they work very well.  The addition of coriander is a great taste, but for those who dislike that herb, may I suggest oregano, or sage?  Roasted red pepper scattered over grated goat's cheese is also an excellent filling.


300g Roasted pumpkin
50g good olive oil
1 egg
12g salt
2 tsp nigella seeds
100g polenta uncooked or maizemeal
550g white bread flour
20g fresh yeast mixed with 50g water

 200g of your cheese of choice, I used strong local cheddar the real Cheddar Cheeese from Cheddar
A good handful of coriander leaves
50g sunflower seeds, set to soak just before kneading the dough, to prevent scorching
Egg wash
Black sesame seeds
Cayenne Pepper

First wash and chop, and cook your pumpkin by baking it in the oven in even sized chunks.  Then as it is cools enough to handle, cut off the peel and remove the seeds.  You can freeze any left over, or keep it in the fridge ready to use another day.   I like to bake my pumpkin the previous day, and mix the dough in the morning, then bake by lunchtime.

Into a large bowl, sift the white flour and the polenta to incorporate air, tip anything left in the sieve into the bowl.

Add 300g of the prepared pumpkin to a small pan, add the olive oil, and warm gently to about 40 C.  Either mash well, or if you have a hand-blender, reduce it to a smooth-ish puree.  Add the salt, and the nigella seeds, then add the egg, and mix well.

Add the contents of the pan to the wheat and maize mixture, then add the fresh yeast and water mix, add a little more water to bring everything together to a kneadable dough.  Knead for about ten minutes by hand, then leave to rise for about 1.5 hrs.

Roll out the dough to a long oblong.  Here it was about 80cm x 30cm.  You will need to keep the work-surface lightly floured to prevent sticking.  Scatter the toppings as per the picture, then fold the bottom third up, then the top third back over.

I use my steel scaper, or you could use a knife, but be careful not to damage your work-surface.  Cut thin strips.  This quantity yields about 36 bread sticks or finger rolls.

Have two or three baking sheets, covered with baking parchment, ready to receive the twisted sticks.  As you twist them, you may stretch them to the length that suits you.  Place the the tins covered, to rest, for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 220 C.  Brush the sticks generously with egg glaze then scatter the sesame seeds on half and cayenne pepper on the rest.  The black sesame seeds give a good colour contrast with the yellow pumpkin dough and green herbs.

Bake for about 15 minutes, then place on a cooling rack.  They freeze very well, and are lovely served warmed up.

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

When a Panettone can be a brioche

For some of our breakfasts over the holiday period we usually enjoy a large Panettone.....

In more recent years, I have 'tampered' with the recipe and have come, for the moment, to prefer a pumpkin based panettone dough.

However this year, I felt that with just the two of us being around for breakfasts, a different option was called for.  Since the dough is veering towards an enriched brioche dough, why not bake the mixture in brioche molds:

Since I am also continuing in 'my use what we have' phase rather than stashing a yet greater variety of ingredients, for the dried cranberries I used some dried dark cherries than I had been macerating in calvados, some local somerset walnuts, pistachios, raisins that had been soaking in marsala wine, and my home made orange candied peel which I now find much better stored in the freezer.  Next time I ought to glaze them with egg wash.  These were made a few days ago and were frozen ahead of time, and have been warmed up each morning, after being taken out of the freezer the previous evening.

The tins were a gift from my sister Lizzie many years ago, and they are just the right size for a nice generously sized breakfast treat.

Other bread baking was a sourdough bread enriched with egg...which has worked amazingly well, and was delicious with the pate I made.  Again just a use what we have...I had bought some pheasant and apple mincemeat from the game keeper at Well Market.  Having first lined the tins with streaker bacon, I then half filled them with the seasoned mincemeat, added a layer of soaked dried cherries, completed the filling...and baked the pates in a bainmarie in the oven.

I have refined my canape sticks and will offer up the recipe in another post.

Anaphalis margaritacea 'New Snow'

In my last garden, one of the plants which I liked very much was Anaphalis margaritacea.  I had grown it for several years and it had established itself in a large clump.  Its leaves are wooly and grey and its flowers charming in every way.  They worked very well as dried flowers too.  I have just the spot for it.....

It was only today as I read through the blog of a fellow IAVOM contributor who hails from New England, that I was reminded how much I miss this plant.  Joanna's web page is well worth exploring, and she has done some research on this and other plants from her area of the US.

I have even put up a request on my Gardening Club facebook page to ask if someone has this in their garden, and are willing to have a swap.....plants, home made bread, preserves etc on offer!!

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Three Christmas Rings....

To wish everyone a Merry Christmas I have not quite five rings to post.......

Wreath base woven willow kept from my wreath making last year, and simple ivy from the garden...Christmas ribbon which has been round my Panettone for at least ten years!  Little light up balls, new this year.

Most delicious and aromatic biscuit wreath made by my Grand daughter Izzi.  Its now half way demolished after our long walk around Wells and out along the stream....

The little Christmas Tree is a box I made a few years ago, guided by our sewing queen bee at Kenilworth WI.   The beautiful embroidered white table cloth and large napkins are from my mother's linen treasures.  The red edged napkins is Swedish a present from my nephews Grandmother many moon ago, which has an outing each Christmas.

Our breakfast made by Mr S was my favourite: boiled egg, with sourdough brioche and plain sourdough break and preserves.  A 'stasher' bag yet to have its first use.  A present from the Ws...and Mr S laughed, well we both did, as we recalled the day a few months ago, when I found out that my blog had been knocked off the top spot when you type in the manufacturer of these alternatives to plastic bags. 

In the middle of our breakfast little ode to nature's beauty.......

Monday, 10 December 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Party Games

 Firstly:  here is my vase this Monday.  I watched the strong winds and rains bash the garden, and like Cathy last week, I decided to go out and cut all the flowers off my two new rose bushes during a lull in the rain Sunday morning.  I have had so many blooms this autumn, there were just a few blooms left this month, and I had been hoping to keep them a little longer.

  This week again Cathy too has picked roses from a December garden and celebrates 'getting to know your garden'.  With our paths now complete and being free draining I can venture out between showers and being a small garden and see almost to every tiny bit of the garden.  An alternative is of course to check out via Cathy's blog the lovely blooms and foliage from other contributors from around the World.

The foliage is left over from a party game.....

It was Henton and District  Horticultural Club's Christmas Party last Wednesday.  During a committee meeting a few months back when we were discussing ideas for the party, I put forward the idea of a game which I had first experienced a few years ago at the Warwick Tree Warden's party.  There we had far more twigs of trees to identify in the ready made arrangement.

With all the weeks of In a Vase on Monday under my belt, I worked out a slightly different format, and the practicalities were discussed and fine tuned over the last couple of months during committee meetings. 

Sally Gregson and I walked round her winter garden , trying out material and by the time we arrived at the potting shed I had a rather lovely arrangement of items in my hand.  We took these to the committee meeting to which all of us had brought interesting foliage and berries, if we could spare about ten to allow for all the tables to have one stem. My contribution was variegated Ivy.  I thought it would be a good idea to whittle down the numbers to the best twelve representing the 12 days of Christmas.

Here are just the left overs crammed into the handiest pot on my kitchen counter.

We decided to decorate the tables in the Hall with the material loose laid...of course our members had no idea that we were have this game, but in the meantime admired the novel 'not in a vase' decorations which even in this state would have been quite lovely as they were,  for any party or meal.  We did give out the warning of no eating of berries, and please wash hands before supper!

With one of each of the items, the table as a whole were asked to make up an arrangement...ribbon,  raffia, and tall empty jam jar provided. (Hartleys Jam jars saved over from the Harvest Festival Party arrangements).  The second part of the game was for the table, working as a team, to identify and  name the items.......They all laughed when I said that more than four or five latin names meant they we would have some candidates to act as substitute speakers in the situation that one of ours doesn't turn up or is late.  

Golden Privet: Ligustrum ovalifolium aureum
Pittosporum Tenuifolium Variegatum
Wisteria Seed Pods: Floribunda Alba...
Rosehips Rosa Seagull
Rudolfs Antlers     Horse Chestnut Aesculus Hippocastanum
Hazel: Corylus Avellana 
The black berries of Winter Box: Sarcococca hookeriana humilus
Pine Pinus Wallichiana.........................which is with Grace in my arrangement
Salvia seed heads
Cotoneaster: Aviestdonum Diana (Bird's Gift to Diana)...a seedling arrived you know how Thanks to Google for the Latin!
Variegated Ivy Hedera Helix Variegata

The following day a couple of members living locally took all the arrangements to Wells Nursing Home in the Village.  Another excellent idea which came about as a result of pooling ideas during our committee meeting.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Loosing a Good Friend

Earlier this week a brave daughter called to say her Mum had passed away.  Mr S took the call...I was resting, but the pain of grief only allowed for those few words, and it was up to Mr S to break the news to me.  Somehow I had a feeling from the previous day that my dear friend was more unwell than she had been letting on to me.  Last week, she was just waiting for a Macmillan Nurse to visit to discuss various options.

Since visiting Penny last month, again with the help of a friend here who was giving a lecture in Warwick with an overnight stay there, and the rescue of tea and rest with Janice in Warwick, I was able to spend some precious hours with my friend.  It was just a flying visit and even though weakened, Penny really wanted to spend time making a few almond biscuits for me, and had recently found a few items to give to me.  What was lovely was to see her eat the  brioche plait that I had made specially for her with some preserves I had taken.  It brought back many memories which she and Q shared with me of buying similar bread in London when they were young.

Here we are a few years ago....Ladies who lunch, it was Penny's treat and we drove out to celebrate her 'windfall' when I did my usual thing...persuading and cajoling her, and everyone else by the way, to trace pensions and also claim State Pension, both of which she thought would be worthless.....

Penny first turned up on my door within days of our first moving to Warwickshire, picking up an item I had posted on Freecycle.  A few question later, establishing that she had caught buses and walked to the house, Penny was invited in for a cup of tea etc., and an invitation to return again led to a wonderful friendship.

Penny was a doer not a preacher, it was in her actions not her words that she expressed her being. She was very into the environment, and was a leading light and coordinator of the Warwick Tree Wardens and was very much involved in Friends of the Earth.  Penny even managed to get me involved in planting then checking up on trees planted in grass verges in Kenilworth.  Penny gave me much support in my activities and my blog, but preferring to talk on visits or over the phone rather than leaving comments, but often sending personal emails etc.

It was Penny who introduced me to the NCCPG: The National Council for the Conservation of Plants and Gardens, at first because she knew that I loved old buildings and the meetings were at Lord Leycester's Hospital, and by then after only a few get together, that I also loved plants and gardens.  Penny often volunteered at the Hill Close Gardens in Warwick, and we met there from time to time.  Together we went to visit Rob and Diane Cole on a couple of occasions, and spent time together in their wonderful garden.

Here is proud Grandma with little Daniel ready for his lunch.  Coming on the bus they both regularly visited.  From a shy toddler who first clung to Grandma's legs, he soon came to feel at home, running down the garden, and picking little strawberries.  Often we would go together for walks to the Castle, visiting swings etc en route.  I even bought, second hand which I knew Penny would approve of, a huge bag of wooded brio layout, which we would set up across the living room floor for Daniel to play with.

I was amazed and overwhelmed with gratitude when Penny decided to come and check us out in our new home, taking several bus journeys, during a week off of her treatment, to travel cross country to us.  We took her for drives to view the Somerset hills, and also visited some of her places she remembered from years ago, and always the 'explorer' here is Penny the other-side of the gate that says Private.

Penny was interested in the culinary arts, and we often shared a bag of 'unusual' herbs and spices, and I very much appreciated the quinces which came from her garden.  Once she brought me a little box of white-currants, which, pending inspiration went into the freezer, only later to be combined with Mulberries from Janice's garden into three little pots of special Jelly.  One for each of us.  I  kept my little jar to have with my Christmas morning breakfast, when it is customary for me to remember friends and give thanks for friends and friendship.

Mulberry and White Currant Jelly

On one of Penny's volunteering sessions at a recycling centre, she found this little ceramic pot, and instantly thought of me.  We pondered on what they were used for.  I was delighted and said I would give one of the 'self germinated' wild ferns from the garden a special position in it.  Here it is posing with some socks I had knitted.

A few weeks later she found a further two for me.  When it came to my knitting, Penny would never accept any, saying that she knew just how long it took me, and as she would be afraid to wear a shawl in case she lost it on her many journeys!  However some months ago when she explained to me just how cold she felt...I didn't ask I just sent her something warm and woolly from my Stash, by post.  

I am sure that all Penny's friends have wonderful memories of her, and I cannot start to imagine how sad all her family are at the moment.  

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Primula alpicola var alba

Despite the mizzle and drizzle I just had to get into the garden today.  By the time I had got quite muddy it seemed a good idea to move some of the plants I had placed in 'temporary' spots.  I remembered from last year that Primula alpicola var alba completely disappears during the depths of winter, as once the leaves have yellowed they seem to dissolve into the soil, and as some of the leaves were still visible, this was the moment.  This is a plant for a growing shady border where I have also improved the heavy clay with a thick top layer of compost earlier in the year. 

I first saw this plant growing in the walled garden at Alnwick Castle...but I had failed to post about this back in July 2015.  I was going to write a part II but never got round to writing about the garden.  This is a picture I took that July of this lovely clump.  The stems are tall and the nodding heads held well above the foliage, give off the most delicious scent.  

Later I picked up a 'souvenir' at the Castle Gardens Gift Shop.  Just before we moved I took a piece to bring to Somerset.  I found the plant label buried by the plant.  It is now washed off, and will shortly be put back with markers to show the position of the plants.

Primula alpicola var alba photographed at Alnwick Castle July 2015

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Pan de Camote and beyond

Pan de Camote in Jane Mason's Book of Buns is one the recipes for which alone I would say the Book is worth buying.  There are many others recipes of that caliber too, and I have baked nearly all of them.    When I baked and posted on my first bake of Pan de Camote,   I put up a picture and a short piece about the flavour.  If you want the whole recipe it already is out there and is just as per the book.

Recently one of the 'friends' of the Facebook Page Perfecting Sourdough, having now finished bakes from that book, discovered that there is also a group for The Book of Buns, and has joined. There again we have gone through all the recipes, but that would be no reason to join if you have recently acquired a copy of The Book of Buns.

Since 2014, I have revisited this recipe, changing the flour for instance in October 2016 a combination of Einkorn and stoneground white flour, before that in January 2016 a mixture of millet, maize, spelt and white wheat, it has become my sweet potato and whatever ends of bags of flour I want to use bun!  I usually write a note on the recipe of how I adapted it.

This time, I used roasted some sweet potato with fennel seed, and having weighed it just prorated everything else, and used a combination of whole wheat, whole spelt, a little dark rye and white get it, all the ends of bags of flour.  I love sweet potato and tend to roast a whole kilo and use it several with our meal, cold  a day later with salad, and of course in in Pan de Camote

After bulk fermentation, approximately half was made into buns for breakfast with the addition of raisins that had been soaking in Marsala...I have a kilner jar of steeping dried fruit ready for such eventualiites!  Try them in a home made rice pudding!

I was in a bit of a creative mood and wanted to make some savoury buns too.  Having flipped through the book, and catching sight of Bastounakia, came up with the idea of the incorporation of a few savoury bits and pieces, and the rest was a question of playing!

On went sliced green olives, fried red onion, finely chopped rosemary from the garden, and then a sprinkling of grated Pecorina Romano...

Folding over  like paper ready to go in an envelope

Then cutting along in fine fingers 

The twisting came about because the slices were too thin to move whilst maintaining their stacked format...well necessity was the mother of invention here...Well brushed a couple of times with beaten egg, and a sprinkling of Pecorino and little fronds of purple leaved fennel from the voila.  All the (remaining) bread fingers are now frozen, and ready for our gardening club Christmas Party bring and share supper.

Just how many variations of these can be made and will be by me at the very least, is just a question of imagination!  Next time blue goat's cheese and walnuts for sure.  We did have some with our Cauliflower Cheese Supper...

Monday, 26 November 2018

In a Vase on Monday -Scrabbling about

I wasn't going to post today, but if everyone did this on the same week, it would still be Cathy with her lovely arrangement that keeps things going....

Scrabbling  around the plants looking for a pewter leaved cyclamen corn to give to a friend this afternoon, the sun came out and a few of the shy beauties shone out.

Two leaves from the pewter coloured Cylamen probably heredifolium, with a marbled one for contrast, which I found when I was searching below the minutely flowered Fuchsia microphylla 'Silver Linings'.  Through a few clicks I found that this plant was introduced by the Wynne-Jones from seed they collected on the Cordillera de Talamanca in Costa Rica at 2800m in 2004. they call it 

Fuchsia hemsleyana 'Silver Lining'

 I then found a link to their nursery: Crug Farm  in North Wales......Again, I had not read the growing instructions, and it seems neither has it, since it is flourishing in the new garden in full sun.  

Just close by, sheltered by the stone wall the Salvia Corrugata is putting on a good show.  

Its strange how descriptions of a shrub or plant and its tolerances to weather conditions can vary.  British sites say tender, the Australian site to which I linked Salvia Corrugata above gives a very good description.  My shrub spent the winter well outside in its sheltered spot but it is late to flower. 

The final element in the arrangement is a twig of Lophomyrtus ralphii Little Star.  This is very slow growing where it is and again there is confusion about where it is best to plant it.  At present it is in a sheltered mostly shaded position where it shines out with its evergreen cream and pink margined leaves.  If anyone has experience of growing this shrub, it would be interesting to have your views as to its performance.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

A few days break near Lyminton

Mr S quite rightly thought a few days break whilst the paint dried and hardened would do us good.  Its quite a strain being without a living room for so long.  We had got on much better with the decorations, and its still a week before the carpet is due to be fitted....and I have a birthday coming up.

He spotted deal for a mid week three night break, booked our hotel and off we went.  The weather  was about as good as it can get for this time of the year.  On the way we stopped at Shaftesbury, and after a walk around, including up and down the famous 'Hovis Hill' and a coffee, we started on the last leg of our journey.  The hairpin bends up to Cranborne Chase were magnificent and we shall certainly be returning to explore that area soon.

The New Forest was just perfect.  The low sun highlighted the warm golden colours of the oak tree leaves, and dotted around were some lovely pine trees.  As usual the ponies ambled along, grazing patches of bright green tightly cropped grass on parts of the moorland.

Our hotel was just across the estuary from Lymington, and had had quite a varied history...for now it is a hotel.  We had a spacious room in the grounds in modern two story blocks.  You can guess...our cheapest rooms were up the wooden stairs which lead to pairs of rooms.  The room however was large, neat, clean and quite satisfactory, and importantly had a sofa and TV.  We have been without sofa and TV for what seems like ages.  The Spa: swimming and whirl pools,  steam room and sauna were enjoyable and not at all busy...but I could just manage it just once, as on the other days I didn't feel well enough.

The grounds were wonderful and each morning we would walk down the large lawn bordered by well clipped hedges to admire the views across the sea.  We ended up taking our binoculars as there were so many birds on our side away from the busy little marinas on the other shore.  We even saw a little egret within twenty yards!

The trees were bent over maybe growing away from the salt air.

We enjoyed a day browsing around Lymington, which has some handsome old houses, and an interesting High Street.  Not surprising we headed for the St Barbe's: the Museum and Art Gallery.  There was a special Exhibition on Wood-block Prints by Allen W Seaby and John E Platt.  I recognised the style and also many of the Seaby woodcuts of animals and birds from early Ladybird Books.

The adjacent Museum was well put together and these are some of the displays which caught my eye:

So we thought flash cards were something new?  My mother loved to quote the rhyme about the months of the year, and I loved to listen and imagine what snow and ice and changing seasons would be like.  Its quite probable that she would have learnt using aids like these strips of fine wood with poetry lines on them:

January brings the snow,

Makes our feet and fingers glow.

February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.

March brings breezes, loud and shrill,
To stir the dancing daffodil.

April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet.

May brings flocks of pretty lambs
Skipping by their fleecy dams.

June brings tulips, lilies, roses,
Fills the children’s hands with posies.

Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots, and gillyflowers.

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit;
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

Fresh October brings the pheasant;
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.

Dull November brings the blast;
Then the leaves are whirling fast.

Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire, and Christmas treat.

I wanted to be reminded of the whole poem and have found that it was written by Sara Coleridge.

The Boldre Hoard

This display reminded me of the series we enjoyed watching: The Detectorists.

We knew we wanted a rest so stopped for lunch in the Cafe, best meal we had all holiday!!!!  We went for the Vegetarian Option of dahl and rice.  It was a brown lentil dish with balanced spicy flavour with added sweet potato on top of a spicy rice.  I complimented  the staff thinking it was pretty good for a 'boil in the bag', as I had not seen any cooking.  It was explained that the owner makes these dishes fresh off site, and brings in the dishes each day for the varying menu.  Its not surprising that the cafe filled up to capacity as local people came in for lunch. 

Our lunch at the Museum and Art Gallery cafe trumped the highly rated Pebble Beach Restaurant at Barton on Sea, which we had booked for the following day..  This was to have been my early Birthday Lunch.  However we were disappointed: parts were good, such as the bread, scallop starter, but the mains were a let down, as was my dessert.

On our way home we spent the morning at Buckler's Hard where some of Nelson's ships were built.

The little Chapel dedicated to St Mary is set in the row of Georgian Cottages, and has a beautifully embroidered Alter Cloth.

Ever since I worked for my tying knots badge at Bluebirds...that is what Brownies were called in some parts of the Commonwealth, I have been intrigued by them.  As no children were watching, I  worked at tying a bowline.  Have you ever tied a bowline?

There was a wonderful little glass display with many different types of knots....

I didn't feel at all well for part of the break, so could not really take everything or even much in.  We could have spent a whole day here.  I wondered what was must have been a virus, as last week once we were home, Mr S felt many of the same symptoms.

Monday, 19 November 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Unseasonal collection

After the excitement of last week's IAVOM's fifth anniversary, Cathy's New Dawn arrangement is rather lovely.  Do go and have a peek.

Whether it is the weather tricking the plants into flowering after a dormant period due to heat and drought, or whether it is simply because here in my new garden new plants are enjoying sheltered and frost free conditions...I have been able to collect a few flowers this morning for our IAVOM.

With the sun shining this morning, the Winter Flowering Jasmine nudifolium on the shady side of the fence is a bright accent which is repeated further down the garden by the still flowering nasturtiums.  In China where is originates Jasmine nudifolium's Chinese name means Flower that Welcomes the Spring.

The white starry flower with small yellow centres is Potato Vine  Solanum laxum 'Album'. I picked up a small plant last year at Morrisons, and planted it out this spring after some tlc.  Its doing nicely, and is part of my creating some shade plan.  

The blue is from a little low growing campanula which my neighbour gave me.

The bronze fennel after a close cropping is flowering on low may not last the day and end up chopped up on my lunchtime salad!

Fuchsia Hawkshead is proving a good addition to the border, and is teeming very nicely with some 'supermarket cyclamen', a present from a lunch guests.  These are the larger indistinct blob at the back, the leaf is however from one of my species cyclamen.  

I love cyclamen, and on holiday in the various Mediterranean Islands and also in Italy, I enjoy looking out for them on my walks.  Recently in a garden I found some seeds beneath a well patterned plant, and guess what?  They are now sprouting in a little pot of compost.  

 Some people love cyclamen, others dislike them.  How do you feel about them?

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Apple D'Arcy Spice

People who know me well will understand why I chose this apple to grow, and believe me it has proved right on so many levels.  It will be one of my little 'projects' over the years to come.

They say never go shopping when you are hungry, I was 'hungry' or rather lacking ( I was missing our garden terribly), with no trees, very few shrubs and smaller area too in this garden, I was in mourning for the plants I had left behind.

We visited Glastonbury for the first time when we first moved to Somerset, it was just during the weeks before Christmas 2016, we still hadn't unpacked and the gardening tools were somewhere behind packing cases in the garage.

I loved the small market we came across based around Glastonbury Cross, and I was naturally drawn to a stall with plants.  It was a young gardener tending the stall.  It was cold, her hands were cold, but she lovingly tended her young apple and fruit trees, with their root ball covered in sacking.  I had not intended buying an apple tree...the garden was not ready at all.  I looked over the saplings, examining the names...and should one buy a plant based on only its name?  D'arcy Spice...both names significant to me....I just had to have this apple. I had never heard of its name, it was an old variety etc etc...

It had to come home.  Mr S was miffed.  I explained that I was buying it with 'my money' and that it was a My Christmas Present to Myself.  Although not a gardener he knew we should prepare, and had also thought I would grow the apple Scrumptious.  We had a tree in our previous garden bought at An Apple Day at the Hill Close Gardens in Warwick.  Its a sweet and delicious apple cropping very early in the season. 

Back to D'Arcy Spice: a patch was dug, the one year old bare-rooted tree planted, had been standing in the lee of the house for a few days, its roots cocooned in compost which had been pre-innoculated with mycorrhizal fungi, was ceremoniously planted.  I had decided to put no stake as the garden is sheltered, and it was very small...just one stem, a Maiden Tree.  It grew slowly during 2017 and I was beginning to wonder at my folly.

This spring 2018, there were flowers, and whether I was right or not, I decided to remove all the blossoms as soon as the petals had fallen, leaving only two fruit to swell.  Its only during the last two months that I have got round to learning more about this cultivar.  

I have read that it is an old variety, it is slow growing, it is a late cropper, it is is dual purpose, has spicy flavours...oh dear I ought not to have picked the first fruit so early.  But I did, as it looked so large for the little tree, and I decided to leave the smaller one.  I read that it should be stored, and for a small crop, well two counts as a small crop, a fridge would do.  The first fruit has been sitting in the fridge since the start of October.

Today mid November with the low sun, the leaves on the apple tree are turning a golden yellow, and even the fruit with its very short stem is flushed with colour, unlike the first one which was a matt green with patches of roughness not unlike a russet.  I have decided to pick this second and last apple and store it ready for our Christmas Day Treat!  Next year, hopefully I shall allow just four or five to develop, and harvest these and test which are best.

The first fruit was 155g, the second 195g, therefore not accounting that it was the smaller of the two, it has gained at least 25% in weight over six weeks.  It was still very firmly attached to the tree and I wonder whether it could have been left even longer.

It is only today when looking for dates of planting, that I came across the card given to me by the grower, and that I have learnt more about the variety and the wide range of trees grafted and grown by Steepholding.  They grow a variety of Heritage Fruit Trees, grafting and growning them organically:

Shame I had not found out these growers earlier, as they do grow Mirabelle de Nancy and would have loved to have bought it from there.  That is the second fruit tree that I had sourced and planted this autumn.

Descriptions of Apple D'Arcy Spice

D'Arcy Spice is an old English variety originating in Colchester, Essex in 1785. Staying true to its name it possesses a spicy, nutmeg flavour that sweetens with age. It is an excellent heritage apple for eating and juicing and will store well into the following Spring. The tree itself is tough and hardy and though fairly slow growing, it will often do well in less than favourable conditions. It offers good disease resistance too and the apples hang well on the tree, so good for more exposed sites. Walcot Organic Nursery
'D'Arcy Spice' is a light-cropping, late-season, dessert apple requiring lots of autumn sunshine to develop its sweet, spicy flavour. It is in pollination group 4, partially tip-bearing and erratic to crop. The fruit is green, flushed with red, sometimes purple, and with extensive, fine russetting.  RHS

Not in a Vase on Monday

Its the fifth anniversary of Cathy's In a Vase on Monday.....As soon as Cathy had set us a challenge for the Anniversary post, my mind was in a whirl.  Its 'Not in a Vase on Monday'.

I've spent almost all week thinking about it, even when I was lying on my side, on bare concrete floors, painting skirting boards.  It did make the painting more interesting!

I chickened out, I felt I could not take the stress.  The armistice, news of loss of so many lives lost in the fires in California, the get together to 'celebrate the life' of a friend last week, had all left me in a pensive and sad mood.  Additionally I fell over whilst trying to carry a very large and heavy ceramic plant pot filled with succulents back into the conservatory, insult was added to injury in that most of the contents fell on top of me.  I really thought I had broken something at first...thankfully pride, and  soft tissue bruises and broken plants were the only injuries.

Today I plucked up courage, and took a peek at Cathy's post.....and over the next few days when I feel like some 'shed time', I'll explore others' posts.

This is not Monday, so if I were to post a vase today it would be 'A Not on Monday Vase'.  I have been known in the past to post late, and was accepted and forgiven by Cathy!

I had thought of not using a vase but something like a jug, or a bowl, or floating blossoms in a dish, or even lying down material on the table, similar to the Mandalas that Wild Daffodils makes..  I have been looking at collected acorns arranged around a circular slate in the middle of our table, which have been building up over the autumn, along with other seed pods.

Some dried flowers on the table besides a vase came into my mind as a possibility, whilst I was writing a birthday card for my friend Marie-Claire.  Guess what: I remembered that once a friend had enclosed lots of little 50s in a birthday card, and it was a few months before the very last one was found.  Several birthdays have passed since then!  Instead of numbers I added some lovely coloured dried 'flowers' from the Hydrangea Paniculata Vanille Fraise in the envelope.  So the challenge inspired me to do something I would never have thought of.

Even with the frosts round about, the back garden is still showing no sign of damage, and I had been thinking of the possibility of putting some of the Nasturtiums in a a vase and calling the post:  Not in a Vase on Monday Again?  Mainly because that would have been boring as I have already had recourse to using them more than once before this year.  Here is a picture of the bottom of the stone wall taken today, best left for the last of the season's bees and insects.

The joining in of this meme has proved an interesting way to share and learn about each others' gardens, and also note the effect of the seasons on our gardens, whether it is snowdrifts in the US or searing heat and drought in South Africa.  This meme has widened my horizons.

What is new for this week is a peek at the Lysimachia candela plant which is just starting to display its autumn colours.  I am not cutting this to put in a vase, as it was just planted a few months ago, and it is probably best left to 'feed' the plant ready for a stronger plant next year.  This is Not in a Vase this Monday.

I had been not particularly impressed by its blooms, which were somewhat disappointing compared to Lysimachia Clethroides which I grew in my previous garden.  However if the rest of the plant colours up like this stem, it will have redeemed itself.  For cut flowers I am still on the look out for Lysimachia Clethroides.  I joined Cathy for the first time over three years ago, and on the way have made some lovely friends, and enjoyed the beauty of their arrangements.

Just as a little encore...a very funny and entertaining read: Rhapsody in Green by Charlotte Mendelson

Thank you Cathy.