Monday, 27 August 2018

Perfect supper dish...

Baked butternut squash with hazelnuts, goat's cheese and herbs: we ended up with half left and reaheated next day for lunch.

I've had a comment from one of my IAVOM buddies about a recipe.  Its from Good, Good Food by Sarah Raven.  Sarah Raven is a leading light in gardening in the UK, and she also likes food, and she was a Doctor.  There are some superb recipes in the book, in addition I have found the notes on nutrition and health very informative.

I am a bit of an intuitive home cook, and am inspired by reading cookery books, but don't necessarily follow recipes.  For my version of Sarah's Stuffed Butternut Squash, I sliced it in half, left the seeds in, then popped it on a baking sheet in the oven at 180C, having first wiped some oil over the surface.  It took about a hour to get soft.  Of course, whilst this was happening, I was busy in the garden!

After discarding the seeds, I used a desert spoon to scoop out most of the flesh into a bowl.  There I just mixed in some green olives stuffed with lemons, and cubed up some goat's cheese, added plenty of pepper, and chopped and sliced rosemary and sage.  I had soaked the hazelnuts overnight, then tossed them in some ras el hanout, you could use any spice, or no spice, and dry roasted them in the oven for about 15 minutes whilst the butternut squash was roasting.  I then put the stuffing back in the shells, making sure the cheese was more or less on top, so that it could brown a little.

I had roasted 100g of hazel nuts but felt that was too many...planning to make a small batch of pesto with herbs for pasta later in the week, with the remaining.

When out of the oven, a gentle drizzle of olive oil, more hazel nuts and a sprinkling of dried ground seaweed.

The olives, spice, seaweed were my additions, and since I didn't have any soft goat's cheese at the time, used hard cheese.  You could do something similar with sweet potatoes.  Runner beans picked minutes before were from the garden.

If you make this..and love fresh tasty food you are bound to love it.  As a waste not want not...left over could be blitzed and made into a soup!  Roasted butter nut squash and cheese soup!

In a Vase on Monday - After the rain

At last it has rained...I remember reading a book as a young girl in French called: Apres la Pluie le Beau Temps.  I can't remember what the book was about...but the title in English means:  After the Rain, fine weather.....

Its not really fine yet, and  after the rain the garden all day yesterday, the garden is not at all fine.  Its all my fault as you can see from the vase this week.  All summer long, except for wilting in fierce summer sun, which was soon overcome by the plants as the sun went down, herbaceous plants stood upright.

I have not exactly had my eye on the plants which were just soldering on, and had not staked those that needed it, and hence after the rain, plants like the luscious Cerinthe has bowed over and flattened the Achillea Millefolium Lilac Beauty, and Aster Monch with its large heavy sprays really needed staking too.

The hardy fuchsia just wanted to grow.  In the spring I chopped down some of the hardy ones which I had been growing in a large tub, and used some of the prunnings to help a new clematis.  From what I thought was a dead twig, a strong and floriferous plant worthy of a proper place in the garden has sprung up.

First time in vase is the newly acquired Lysimachia candela, with naturally arching sprays, and taking centre stage is Sedum erythrostictum 'Frosty Morn' which was a gift from Alison C.

The vase is a lovely hand-painted tankard brought back many years ago by my sister who was working in France .

I waited till the mornings rain was over, and just before lunch it stopped, so the flowers haven't been conditioned, but with over 24 hours of rain, I am hoping that no more watering will be called for.

Cathy who hosts this weekly get together went out in the rain she has posted the prettiest of arrangements.  Do go and have a look, and if you do not already join in, please do so, even if it is only occasionally.

More New plants and Garden Update

After a testing couple of months, we finally had a full day of rain yesterday.  Last week, I enjoyed going round the Rare Plant Fair at the Bishop's Palace in Wells, and spent my pocket money....

With two beds to plant up, I don't have the usual question as to what to dig out, but I have moved plants and set out plants grown from seed and cuttings from the 'nursery' positions.  One of the beds towards the center of the garden  is exposed to full sun all day long and is on a slope.  This is where most of the following have been planted up.  It looks a little sparse at the moment but I have left room for the plants to grow.  In the corner is a Prostrate Rosemary,  which I bought in July last year.  It spent the winter in a pot, and the last few months in a 'nursery' position in the garden.    Three good small Phlomis purpurea shrubs, sowed on 27 March this year with seed bought from Chiltern Seeds, will provide height and memories of previous gardens and plant spotting on Mediterranean Holidays.

Another plant which I have admired on several occasions, most recently at Lytes Cary Manor, is Ballota pseudoditamum.  The felted grey leaves with small pale pinkish mauve flowers emerge from the whorls growing from the the axil of the leaves.   I've planted this just by the seating area, so that I can admire it easily, and just behind it have placed a variagated sage: Salvia Tricolor, but I am wondering whether to swap this for a purple sage growing elsewhere which I raised from cuttings from an old scraggy bush found in the garden on our arrival.

Ballota pseudodictamnus

A little rock rose with pink flowers for Mr S who likes Helianthemums....

Helianthemum Rodanthe Carneum

Missing my Lysimachia left behind in my last garden, I succumbed to this new cultivar.  The leaves are larger and rounder and I'm told turn red in the Autumn...let's see.


 Lysimachia candela

Again I succumbed to the lovely textured leaves on this Nepeta. In general I prefer to buy smaller plants and let them grow good roots into the surrounding soil, building up through the autumn, to give a good show the following year.

Nepeta racemosa snowflake

These two have been planted in the bed by the Conservatory...

Only last week I had been asking the Herb lady at the Saturday Wells Market about decorative origanums.  Bees and other pollinators spend so much time on my golden marjoram, I thought some different ones would look good.  The long stems are dark and strong, and whole plant looks right in my 'Mediterranean Bed'.  

Origanum laevigatum  Herrenhausen

Bringing a zing to the garden this month, the Tithonia baking in the heat of the sun, just keep on flowering.  

In the next few weeks, we shall be working on the gravel garden section.  In essence the area where the washing line is will be 'unturfted' and the soil prepared ready to take a thick layer of stone.  A few thymes etc which won't mind being walked over planted through the stone..and maybe a few other choice lovers of grit.

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Plums galore

No longer having a plum tree, it was with open arms that I gratefully received a bag full of Victoria Plums, when new friends came to visit this week.

Plums really don't last very long once they are picked, certainly if they have not been sprayed or washed in preservatives the following day, it was time to grade and wash them, and start using them up.

I made preserves, using two new original recipes:


The full and detailed recipes are on my other Blog: Mrs Mace Preserves, but clicking on the title of the pictures will lead you straight there.

The rest, after a handful were eaten, were slow roasted to turn them into semi-dried plums, which are now in the freezer.  

Only today I picked up an email from Jane the donor of the plums asking how to bake the plums.
Preserving the plums means having to remove some of the moisture,  As lover of plums know, they don't last long in the fruit bowl, being very juicy and prone to moulds.  

Using firm but ripe plums cut them in half , and remove the stone, and trim any little bitten bits.  Lay out the halves on baking trays covered with baking parchment.  Sprinkle gently with a little caster sugar, about two teaspoons to a medium tray of plum halves.

Bake in an oven about 140 C, or slightly lower, which will take longer...The aim if for the juice to evaporate and leave a plum that is not browned or burnt.  Until you get used to your plums, your oven, and the effect you want, just keep opening the oven and having a good peep and feel.  This also allows the moisture to escape.  It may take a couple of hours or longer.  There are many guidelines on the internet.  I end up freezing these small morsels in layers interleaved with baking parchment to keep them separate, and like to leave them soft and  looking like they do above.  

During winter months  these come out to be incorporated into bakes or to add to desserts.  The last time I had a bagful given I devised The Kenilworth Bun.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

More New Plants - Alstroemeria

Last week I acquired a pot of Alstromerias...variety unknown from the plant stand at Llewelly's which is part of the Wells Almshouses.  My friend Jane runs the plant stall and proceeds are ploughed back into the garden. 

I had a wonderful clump in my last garden, donated from a friend, from which I used to pick blooms throughout the season.  I had tried to move it, and having not the knowledge then that they went so deep, managed to destroy it...but of course, they may well have resprouted since leaving.

Here is a sample which I had picked for one of my vases back in 2014.

I get a update each time Roger Brook the no dig gardener posts, and how timely that he has just posted about growing them.  I've also found a link to Viv Marsh who holds the National Collection and from whom you can order plants.

If you have a favourite Alstromeria, it will be interesting to read your comments.

Monday, 20 August 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Fuchsia fairy

I don't believe my 'special fairy' has made much of a thing about posing...maybe just as my friend who gave this to me many years ago, she is camera shy.  Ever since Kay gave me this, the fairy has over the years been in a number of different plant pots, and its lovely to glimpse her whether she is in the garden or somewhere in the house.  She has even had major surgery, with a careful reattached  wing.

My GD's favourite fairy is the Fuchsia fairy, so just this once my special fairy has decided to perch amongst the fuchsias in my vase this week.

Only during the last week or so, with cooler temperatures and natural rain have the fuchsias started to flourish.

Unlike most of the pink, purple, red, white ones...this is a clear coral.

A little waving of Japanese Grass Hakonechloa to add a little movement.  

There is movement..trains..and Glorious blooms and a vase that is made of glass but does not look like it there is more than ample reason to see Cathy's post this week.
I even read out the post to Mr S as he too likes trains...

Thursday, 16 August 2018

In a Vase - Three Graces

Its not that roses have fallen from favour, its just that there were no roses in my new garden.  The rose I missed the most was Grace.....I have won prizes with Grace,  and even picked Grace at Christmas Time.  Of all the roses I grew in my last garden, Grace was consistently my favourite.

I also loved Ghislaine de Feligonde, and Mr S Open Arms...and I had taken a few cuttings of these two, and have one of each well rooted here in the garden now.  Ghislaine de Feligonde is a perfect match in a vase with Grace, and as I write this, I have come up with the perfect spot in the garden to plant Ghislaine which was taken out of its pot and positioned temporarily in the ground last autumn.

I had planned on ordering bare rooted plants and planting them this winter, but when I read Cathy's blog about her new roses arriving from David Austin...I knew what I had to do.  Life is too short now, and I want to get the bed by the Conservatory planted up.  It will be a mixed bed.  The plants were ordered on Monday, and arrived around lunch time Wednesday, and planted in the afternoon...probably less than 48 hours in their box...that's smart logistics for you.

This morning the small damaged side shoots were just picture perfect:  I give you Three Graces...well three stems of Rose Grace.

The rose bushes arrived by courier and here they are ready to be opened.

Cleverly packaged with just some plastic tape, to hold the plant pot steady and upright...

The two rose bushes are having as good start as possible: a large and bountiful hole was dug, with plenty of compost added, well watered, with a sprinkling of David Austin Rose Food, and some fairy dust....then more mulch all around.  

They may be small now, but will have plenty of time to send out good roots and get established well before the winter.  Then next year they will be ready to romp ahead.

A few hours later this morning, the blooms are unfurling...and outside the plants had an additional good shower of rain.

Thank you Mr Austin and thank you Cathy.

Monday, 13 August 2018

In a Vase on Monday - In or out

Cathy who hosts this group of IAVOM  has posted a colourful go over and see what she has posted. 

Each week, as I start to think about what is best to pick and arrange for In a Vase on Monday, there is the question of what to pick.  Will it be the best of the flowers?  What can be spared?  What can be to be left in the garden for another week?  Often there are prunnings which would other wise be discarded that make a good addition. Then there are definitely ones which are left out because they are not up to much.  For sure I have my failures and disappointments, sadly this year the nasturtiums are not fairing well.

A few weeks ago, we spent a lovely family day all together.  To find things my GD and I can share is a lovely way of connecting. I have loved sharing my joy in nature and flowers and IAVOM with my beloved GD.  She has even been an apprentice IAVOM contributor. Izzi is at the fairy stage and is sharing her love of fairies with me.  Over several years we have shared our love of fuchsias, which also happens to be her favourite fairy.  Until the cooler weather and rain arrives,  it has been other types of flowers fairies who have been waiving their wands in my garden.

We found that there is a  Nasturtium Fairy.  For a number of years, I have grown very easy and colourful.  I have posted and talked often of this annual.

Each year I have been pleased with the nasturtium plants and flowers...until this year.  For the first time I bought seed, rather that collected seed from good plants.  I had a lovely tray full of good strong plants although even at that stage the shape and form of the leaves did not really appeal: Jewel of Africa  and planted them out at just the right time.  But I think Van Meuwen's fairies had not spread their magic dust on the packeted seeds.

With hot temperatures I had expected the plants to do well.  Although I have had the odd plant with variegated leaves emerge in the past and enjoyed this trait, now that all of them  are two toned, I have decided I prefer the matt green of 'standard' leaves where you can really appreciate the lovely round flat structure  where its petiole in the centre.

I have also read that the leaves are superhydrophobic, which means that because the leaves contain waxy nanostructures, water is not absorbed through the top of the leaf.  Because the water drops off, it removes dirt and dust aleaving a clean surface to continue photosynthesis.  I wonder what this substance is and whether we could add it to the surface of raincoats etc?

The shape of the leaves on Jewel of Africa are bumpy, and the outline rather wavy.  Sadly there are even very few flowers...but I did want to have an arrangement this week with the nasturtiums.

Only three or four blooms from about a dozen plants were worth picking, so I have added a couple of Tithonia flowers.  Those plants have more than made up for the poor nasturtiums.  Also a few stems of rudbekia.  One bloom and leaf would just not stay in the vase out it stayed, and then three of my miniature yellow tomatoes decided the join the combination.

This afternoon, I may well uproot all the nasturtiums and use the space for plants I want to bring on.

For reading this past week I have had my nose burried in  these two, whichI picked up from the library as they were on the just arrived, brand new shelf, and I was the first to borrow these two!

I love reading about gardens, and am enjoying reading this one.

I am about two thirds of the way through 'So much Life Left Over'....loving this. I have since read that this is a sequel to The Dust that falls from Dreams.  I haven't felt reading 'So much Life Left Over' that there had to have been a previous book.

It seems strange to be adding a post-script to a post several months later.  However, it is mainly for my own use, and if you have been searching on nasturtiums, you will surely be wiser for visiting Joanna's post on the topic.  With much history and background she writes about the introduction of nasturtiums firstly to Spain and later to the rest of Europe in the sixteenth century.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

In a Vase- Eryngium Bourgatii

Its not Monday...but I wanted to showcase this one filled with my 'dead-headings' from today.

To cut these I now read was perhaps a mistake as they make a bold statement in the winter...but I wanted to give the plant the opportunity to bulk up.  Also as the flowers are over, and fully fertilized by the many visiting bees and hover flies, they made a good pollen free and low allergen arrangement.  The lovely blue cloisonne vase is one of a pair, the other is now back with Jenny in Spain. 

Eryngium Bourgatii: Mediterranean Sea Holly could well be growing wild not far from where Jenny lives, and maybe she will find some to make a similar arrangement.  It was first collected from the Pyrenees and named then...I wonder whether we saw some of these when Jenny and I took three days to cross the Pyrenees.

The Erygiums have reveled in the hot sun and not suffered for the lack of rain.  I particularly like the variegated foliage of Eryngium Bourgatii , its one of the plants I bought at the Bishop's Palace Rare Plant Fair last August.  Up close the bracts are turning silver grey...and believe me, gloves are certainly necessary.  Normally I avoid prickly plants but just have to protect myself as I love the form of these plants, and they are such an attraction to insects in the garden.

I do have another Eryngium Planum Tetre Petra in the garden, as shown in the foreground below.  Behind it next to Geranium Rozanne is Erigium Bourgatii.

Sunday, 5 August 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Delights despite the hot dry weather

If you are dreaming of delights such as Dahlias, do go and read Cathy's post for IAVOM this week.  Cathy is the lead gardener, story teller, arranger and hatched this great gathering of like minded people who like to talk about their garden and arrangements.

Here at home, Sunday saw continuing very high temperatures.  Having my gallivanting severely curtailed by a very underpar left foot, and feeling that I really wanted to get out there, the only thing on my mind as I woke up rather early, when it was still cool, was to get outside.  Even before Mr S stirred, I was out on my bicycle for a l ride onto the Somerset levels.  Some of the pastures there were rather green, and more highly populated than usual by rather fine herds of cattle.  I wonder whether prize herds had been brought for 'respite' with lovely grazing compared to some of the other areas.  We have had  no more rain but these herb rich meadows, which can spend winter months rather sodden with their rich peat laden soils, are now coming into their own.  It was a delight to see such handsome cattle enjoying their early morning munch.

Straight after breakfast I was out in the garden.  I attacked the large bay shrub, and was looking around the garden for possible material to put in a vase.  My vase this week just happens to be a cachepot which was sitting in the utility room, holding some 'dead heads' from a couple of days ago that I had found attractive.  They were from the Verbena Rigida and curly wood sage.  After their white flowers, their seed heads were looking attractive, but during a visit to Alison, she explained that the seeds sent plants that did not have the curly leaves, so I decided to cut them all off to allow the plant to throw out new growth, and also avoiding unwanted seedlings.  To bulk up the arrangement I found little bits of ivy, fern, white begonia that had survived even the snow, and nice stems of the Cerinthe which seems to revel in the heat, with a little night time watering.

I was trying to put the dark pink umbrells of Angelica as the center point.  The plant is performing well despite the dry weather, and this is but a little side shoot.  Already it has a little flotilla of  hover flies, so I did not want to cut too much.  I read that it is a biannual or short lived perennial so hopefully it will self seed.

Angelica sylvestris 'Vicar's Mead'

Teucrium scorodonia 'crispum marginatum', which also is known as curly wood sage.  

The rather round white hydrangea blob  is just one of the small pieces from the large flower on the Hydrangea Paniculata Vanille Fraise.  I've had the bush in the same large terracotta pot for about seven years.  At first I had misnamed it silver dollar, but having found the original label can confirm that it is Vanille Fraise.  Early this year, I gave it a rather too severe prune too late in the season.  As a result I had only four shoots...but the flowers are just huge!  After such a long time in its pot, it is going into one of the new beds, but only when we have had enough rain to really  replenish the moisture content of the soil.                                                                                      

Other plants in pots have had to be moved to whatever shade there is even if it is for part of the day.

The beds are all prepared and ready for planting.  Much of the gardening has been on my hand and knees, and my sister even videoed me to show her sons that Auntie is not always eating scones and cake and wearing pretty dresses!!!! 

When it is really hot, and the best way to keep cool is to remain inside and do very little very slowly, a nice gentle read can help.  Forgetting my left foot, either propped up or with an ice pack on it,  I immersed myself in several books and this one: quite a light read for me which got me turning pages...

with a visit to Bellagio, a place that Mr S and I had a wonderful long holiday, quite a few years ago, before the blogging began, to gardens that we enjoyed...a few nice quotes:  "A garden, like its creator, should have its secrets and surprises".  This rather well read copy is from my local library...