Monday, 29 April 2019

Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'

On Saturday I spent the morning at a Hardy Plant Society Spring Sale.  As I was with a friend and there also to help a fellow member load and unload plants, I had plenty of time to visit all the stalls, and spend ALL my pocket money on  plants....more of those in another post.

One of the advantages of spending time looking at stalls is that suddenly one sees a plant that one has enjoyed for years....but there is a name!   It is Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon'.  Also the stall holders know a lot about their plants and are mostly very helpful.

Here it is, in the new garden.  It has sprouted from seed which had been lying dormant in my old garden soil, tipped in this area from tubs. It had the habit of popping up around my old garden.  I first acquired a small seedling of Euphorbia dulcis Chameleon,  a little gift from  the lady running a B & B near Rosemoor back in the late 1990's.   In the sun the leaves are much more purple and darker and later in the year it is sometimes prone to mildew when the ground gets really dry,  but within a few days of taking the shears to it, new clean growth emerges.

Its soft textured bronzy burgundy leaves emerge on fast growing stems from the winter dormant crown,.  The stems are fine and wiry and the whole plant is about 30cm high and wide when fully mature.  This plant is only in its second season of growth.

I'm delighted to have the plant and also now know the name!  Had it not grown 'voluntarily' in my new garden, I would have been delighted to have bought the plant at the HPS sale.  I am on the look out now for new seedlings, and transplant them to other areas of the garden.

I have since read Beth Chatto's opinion of this plant:

"E dulcis 'Chameleon' is remarkable from the minute it pushes through the soil low mounds of bronzy, beetroot-red leaves.  Seedlings come true.  Their intense dark colour, scattered haphazardly, creates a patch-quitl effect among bright, open feathery stands of love-in-a-mist, succulent pewter leaves of Sedum telephium subs ruprechtii and low cushions of Saponaria ocymoides already embroidered with tiny pink campion flowers. "

In a Vase on Monday - Contemporary Floral Design

Like many gardeners, I anticipate the arrival of my monthly magazines.  One of the ones that arrived a couple of days ago is Garden Illustrated.  I do read all my magazines otherwise why get them?

It was therefore with great joy that, in the May Edition of Gardens Illustrated, Freda Kim Flowers has a full page picture of an arrangement of two Solomon's Seal Stems and some buttercups.  The new book: Blooms: Contemporary Floral Design is reviewed and sounds very interesting and maybe our Regional Interlibrary lending platform will hold this at some time in the future!

 I do enjoy looking at flower arrangements at festivals and exhibitions and making simple ones for our home, but I have never been drawn into attending classes or imitating the wonderful arrangements my mother and her florists used to make.  I have gained so much inspiration from Cathy's group In a Vase on Monday, and from looking to see some very good gardeners and 'Contemporary Floral Artistry' so do go and explore if you have time.

Today's simple arrangement has just three elements...please do say what the term is for different types of plant material.

White flowers are Centaurea Montana Alba
Tall Blue flowers are from Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'
New plant in the garden Corydalis flexuosa Purple Leaf - Blue Dragon had blooms removed and fitted in with the composition.

Nice weather so its back to the garden...this afternoon he who is currently out with pals will be helping me to 'unturf' the front lawn.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Six on Saturday - 27 April 2019

What a week it has been:  Sunny and hot at the start and temperatures falling by 10 C within six days!  Overnight into this afternoon, we have been experiencing strong winds that have resulted in apple petal confetti and young green leaves off trees, and unstaked plants flattened.  If there is a bright side to the weather this week it that there has been sufficient rain to help replenish the water butt, and water the garden.

Many gardeners including The Propagator who runs this weekly review will see their plants rush along you and see what he is showcasing, and then through the comments and links, those of other people who love their gardens and plants.

From the conservatory which is my favourite place other than the garden, immediately and close by is this lovely Clematis Moonbeam.  As I write this I have searched the web and found that it is said to be tender, but I have had it now over two winters.  I liked it so much, that I bought a second plant in 2018.  Here one plant sprawls over old stems of a honeysuckle.  I love to collect old twisted pieces of plants and keep them to use as supports.  The clematis is evergreen, but is not needs to be trained and tied in.  It has lovely cream anthers but being male produces no seed heads.

My second item is another clematis: Clematis Montana Warwickshire Rose.  Just like the Propagator who hosts this weekly meme, mine was a bargain from Morrisons.  It grew away very well, but earlier this month is had to be dug up so that the rotten fence post could be replaced.  Out of the ground for less than a few hours, a few of its longer stems trimmed back, with good watering, it went back in.  A couple of weeks later it appears to be thriving.  This is the alley of 'shame'  where bags of compost, old plant pots and plants in pots are kept....just a narrow sunny cul-de sac of a patch.  Hopefully the clematis will cover the fence in time.

Whether Hakonechloa Macra Aureola will ever get into the soil is anyone's guess.  I turn the pots every few days to give an even round shape, and they usually group around larger pots.

So long as Jack Frost keeps away I shall be pleased, but we are sheltered here.  In the shady border the hopefully hardy Brunnera Jack Frost is looking fresh with it silver leaves edged and ribbed in green.  It was given to me by one of my new neighbours.  In my last garden I had tried it, but the Midland slugs unlike the ones here found it a delicacy of choice, so much so, that it never survived the onslaught.

Another plant doing nicely in the Shady Border is this one...the one peeping up amongst the ferns, (click on this to find out more about the fern in the foreground), the one with lovely two toned leaves: Epimedium versicolor sulphureum grown as much for the lovely leaf which starts out with the bronze shading.

For my last of the six this week, over towards the acer corner, this little geranium glows in the morning: Geranium Blue Sunrise.  I suffer from Winter Blues...and back in 2015, whilst in the Midlands went to seek the cure:  a day of indulgence at Cotswold Garden Flowers.  Without any growth showing, I gave total confidence in Bob Brown's nursery, by buying this geranium...a piece of which I brought to the new garden.  Looking out for this to emerge from its winter slumber always gets me peering at the space allocated to it.  At it starts to flower probably in three or four week's time it will be less golden.

I'm posting this late because I have been spending the morning at The Hardy Plant Sale....such lovely plants and people!

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Achard Revisited

Now a 'new' member of the Wells WI gourmet club, for my first evening I have made some preserves for our 'Curry Evening'.  As achard tends to be unknown in this area my host was keen for me to make some.  It is ages since I last made it.  It takes a lot of preparation if you are chopping my hand, and there have been many other jams, pickles and chutneys made and eaten.Many of them posted are posted my other blog: Mrs Mace Preserves.

Having to provide a  recipe sheet for each of the members of the club, I opted for a manageable amount of Achard, and  fine tuned quantities, and developed my own spice blend.

Achard using the salting method with cider vinegar giving a twist of Somerset

The following are prepared weights and is based on a small whole cabbage and cauliflower.  Weigh the ones you have, and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

575g hard white cabbage, chopped into julienne sized pieces
500g tight cauliflower, subdivided into tiny florets which will look good in the pickle
200g carrots cuts into fine julienne about 5cm long
150g fine french green beans, cut on the cross into fine slivers
200g shallots or pickling onions, cut through the root end so as to keep pieces together

300ml cider vinegar
50g  unrefined sea salt

4 large garlic cloves
50g crushed fresh ginger

125g cold pressed virgin rapeseed oil

Olive oil to dress the tops of the jars

Achard Spice Mix

3 level tablespoons ground turmeric, 1 tablespoon dark mustard seeds, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, one or two small dried chillies or to taste.  Put the spices all except 1 tsp mustard seeds and put through a spice grinder...not over fine. Mix in the whole mustard seeds, and set aside until needed.

Pack the prepared onions tightly  into a kilner jar or similar, cover with all the vinegar, cover and leave steeping at room temperature overnight.

Prepare all the other vegetables, except for the ginger and garlic,  the afternoon of day 1.  Place them in a large strong plastic bag, toss in all the salt, and turn with your hand.

Squeeze down the bag, to exclude as much air as possible, and shut it tightly with a clip.

Move and turn the bag around a few times over the next two to three hours to distribute the brine.

Place the bag of vegetables and brine in the fridge overnight.

 Overnight, the vegetables in the bag 'wilt' visibly as water is removed under osmosis.

 After 24 hours, cut a corner off the bag, and drain off the fluid, squeezing the bag. Then in a colander, quickly rinse the vegetables in very hot water in batches, then squeezed them very thoroughly in clean kitchen tea towels, to dry them as much as possible.

In a large pan heat the oil , then added all the spices, ginger and garlic, and cooked these gently stirring for five minutes on a gentle heat...taking care as they should not scorch or stick to the pan.

Add the drained onions, and cooked these for a couple of minutes. Add all the vegetables and  toss and turn these in the oil, with the heat still on.  Add as much of the vinegar from the onions to give a good coasting to the vegetables.  Stir for a minute or two...that's all the cooking done!  Taste and add a little salt according to taste.  Take care, it is better to add salt at the serving stage later, when you have tasted the mature achard.

Pack the pickle very tightly into sterilized  jars, pressing layers with the back of a strong spoon or similar.  Run a spoonful of oil over the top to form a seal.  Close the lids.  As soon as the achard is cool, store the jars in the fridge.

This achard needs at least a couple of weeks to mature in the fridge, then ought to be eaten within the following six weeks.

To serve, place in a bowl, and flick through with a will look like a dressed salad.  Do not return to the jar, but keep and eat within a day once taken out of the jar.

In Mauritius this sugar free pickle is traditionally eaten as a side dish to curry and rice, and great in crunchy sourdough type rolls with cheese.

Its interesting to ponder the history or origins of the Mauritian Achard.  My father was born to French and Portuguese settlers to the Island and the family were great entertainers having the whole extended family for 'banquets' where over 50 fifty people would congregate for New Year's day lunch.  I am sure Achard would be on the table. 

My father explained that before refrigeration, and particularly when there was a glut of vegetables, it was an effective way of preparing in advance and preserving  large amounts of vegetables.  The jars or most probably large stoneware jars of pickles were also easier and safer to transport.  In the heat of tropics a cabbage or cauliflower can go to seed in just a few days, or even when picked, without refrigeration will be spoilt in less than half a day.

The pickle also adds that tang which aids digestion to plainer dishes of rice, lentils, and meat or fish curries.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Six on Saturday - 20/4/2019

Being one of the several people who join up with  the propagator most Saturdays, here I go again.  During a week that started with cold weather with a stiff chilling breeze, and is ending with temperatures warmer than the Mediterranean, it is not suprising that the garden in some areas is putting on a real spurt.

For the first of my six, one of my favourite small plants which now grows along the dried clay 'path' is in flower.  Androsace sarmentosa Watkinsii in flower is delightful, but believe me I bought this plant a couple of years ago simply because I fell in love with the wolly rosettes of its leaves.  I search through my photographs and was amazed than I had not thought to photograph it, even though it is probably the most looked at little plant in my garden.  I bought it from Graham from Tadham Nurseries who has a pop up stall at Wells most Saturdays. Here is a link to a photograph...and I shall be sure to picture and follow this plant through the seasons and post more about Androsace.

For my second item here, growing away well are my own grown from seed Lychnis coronaria.  I received these as seeds from Cathy of  In a Vase on Monday, another meme that I love to take part in, and again these were seeds that originally were sent to her by another friend Sandra.  I feel that for me, the most successful method on the last few perennials I have grown is to use a little seed bed in the garden.  Sow last May, they formed nicely and were transplanted at the end of October.  These were probably set out a little too close!  I don't know what colour they will be as I am unsure from what colour plants the seed was collected from

My third entry is my little Apple Tree D'arcy Spice.  This is its second flowering.  As you can see it is most probably a tip bearer.  The two apples it bore last year were probably the best apples I have tasted.  

My fourth of six this Saturday is a view of what I have done to my two Pelargonium Ardens.  They started as two plug plants last spring.  I featured them in full leaf on a previous SOS.  Having taken out the growing tips, I could see several small shoots lower down, but no diminution to the strength of the growing tips.  I decided to repot them, found the roots strong and very thick .  I cut off the tops, and replanted in fresh medium all in the same pot.  Updates will follow  and whether or not this was a rash action or a breakthrough on achieving a multi stemmed Ardens only time will tell.

My unnamed Tiarella, brought to the new garden from the old one as a small piece, has grown into two nice clumps, whereas Tiarella Mint chocolate seems to be fading away, with no obvious problems below soil level.

My final and sixth item this week is my tray of newly emerged seedlings.  The runner bean comes up with a cotyledon, but the french beans show the cotyledon...just noticed this.  The french beans are same climbing french bean that I grew last year: Fasgold.  The Runner bean is Moonlight which is said to be self fertile.  Last year the bees were getting the nectar somewhere round the back of Runner Bean Desiree , which meant that they only set if I used by little paintbrush to fertilize the flowers.  It is alleged that Moonlight is more weather tolerant.  My two wigwams are up, but I'll wait a little while longer before setting them out into their sheltered positions in the 'potage'...the 'poshness' of the name is in inverse proportion to the size of the veggie bit of the back garden.

I shall be out at the crack of dawn to water some of the new plants.  Any views as to whether one ought to water in the evening or the morning.  If in the evening maybe it may attract slugs and snails? 

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Inspired to bake Moroccan Anise Ksra

One of the blogs I receive announcements from regularly is Karen's Kitchen Stories.  Sometimes they inspire me to try something out.  When I saw her version of Ksara Moroccan Anise and Barley Flatbread, it reminded me of the wonderful cart loads of bread we saw when we were on holiday in Morocco.  

Loaves for sale in Morocco

Adapting Karen's recipe in several ways...using chickpea flour in place of barley flour since I had non, kneading a I love kneading...leaving in the fridge but not overnight, here are my two loaves.  The texture is soft and it is hard to believe that there is no sugar or honey.  The anise seeds give a lovely flavour...just right for mopping up meat juices.    Perhaps they are not quite flat enough...a sure reason to try this again soon.

Monday, 15 April 2019

In a Vase on Monday - A rolling stone.....

Yesterday I spent an hour or so trying to judge what I would cut for a vase.  There is not much during this in between time in the garden.  One little job I had been meaning to do is make up some little Kokedama balls with some of the rooted cuttings of Crassula Ovata Gollum.  With their moss these little balls roll around...but you can squidge them into standing uprightish!  It was another IVOM contributor who first tickled my interest: Sandra D of Wild Flower.

 Crassula Ovata Gollum as Kokedama

The rolling stones posing alongside on my stone top table, are true volcanic bombs from a Volcano that was active during the Silurian period.  I collected these from on bench in Moons Hill Quarry where they had rolled down after the last blasting.

On a previous geology field trip we explored a cutting where the moss laid thick.  A few handfuls were gathered to make the Kokedama.

Further along on the walk we came across a 'prehistoric' cliff along which the sea used to lap....the fields have long been managed organically, and although this was a geology field trip, I was on the look out for emerging wild flowers.

Yesterday I did cut and stage three stems of Daffodil Hawera at the Annual Wessex Daffodil Show.  Our gardening club helps out with the show, and there is a section for the 'local amateurs'.  My three stems were rewarded...but even after a short trip in the car journey, the pollen seem to attack my the flowers were left with a neighbour.  I was very generously given lots of tips for as to what makes a show worthy daffodil

Cathy who hosts this meme has a much more airy fairy arrangement this go and see...well worth it: first sweet pea flower of the season!

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Six on Saturday 12-04-2019

For my first of Six, I am asking advice regarding the cultivation of perennials from seed.  In this case a Thalictrum.  Started in the Autumn of 2017 from fresh seed, and good germination and growing on in 2018, I have placed two patches of three plants.  I  was really happy to have grown Thalictrum delavayi from seed, and must have had over 25 good plants.  The nice thing about growing perrenials from seed is that there are usually plenty to share.  This spring growth has emerged with two or three leaves, and the plants in the last couple of weeks sent up what a small taller shoot that looks as if it will be a flower shoot.  The points  I would like help with are:  Is this standard?  Should I leave this spike or remove it to help bulk up the plants?  Any further advice on ensuring some good plants in future years would be very helpful.

A little pot of dainty but triumphant Narcissi hawera flowering late in the season when all other daffs in the garden are over.  Planted from new bulbs last September.

The third item this week is a view of Saxifraga 'Aureopunctata'.  I've had this plant for years and years, moving a small clump each time we have moved house.  The flower spike  holds well too in a vase.  It sulked after the move, but this spring it is looking healthy.

Last week Anna asked what I had growing in my shade border.  This question prompted me to check my plant list...which is still being worked on.  Plants have yet to be added...and I am growing ashamed to just how long the list is and I have such a small garden!!  

Several of the plants are in the wrong place, but have been performing fairly well.  My fourth item this week definitely is happier now it is on the shadier side of the garden.  I had nearly lost it last year as I had planted it in the first corner of the garden to be cleared: the sunny side.  I had brought it on the removal van in a long trough filled with bits and pieces from the old garden.  In part shade it is making up and putting on some quality leaves.  Another favourite of mine: Saxifrage stolonifera looks rich as if from the floor of a tropical forest yet it survived the very cold winter several years ago.  Even in deepest winter the pretty evergreen leaves with the little plants growing on the end of the red stolons is enough to make you want to venture out to take a peep.

Saxifraga stolonifera

Saxifraga stolonifera flower closeup

The front garden is ready for a complete revamp...on one side of the drive a huge clump of Spanish Bluebells quite out of control.  I thought I had dug up loads and disposed of them....but they are up non the less.  Today on a cycle ride I see that the banks are showing both the native and this bolder stronger bluebell...

The last of my six this week are my two Pelargonium ardens.  Despite having been kept very dry and also in a coolish but bright conservatory, they did not go 'dormant'.  I have just taken out the growing point in the hope of encouraging branching.  They went completely dormant during last summer but sprung back into leaf a few weeks later.  Katherine the Tea Break Gardener who showed this plant last week may have suggestions of how to encourage it to flower this season. 

Just joined the HPS and off to my first meeting this morning as a 'Member'...hope they are all just as friendly....for sure!

Monday, 8 April 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Blue and White

For today's vase I have chosen the perfectly white Pulmonaria Sissinghurst.  To 'bulk out the arrangement I really had to hunt around.  There was a little patch of wild forget-me-nots in the yet to be mown front lawn.  Then across the other side of the drive the patch of 'wild' bluebell was just starting to open.  

The little blue vase is standing on a really old napkin.  This is part of a set of four with a small tablecloth which is dark blue with white lines.  This is a set which is probably now in the region of 35 years old.  Oxfam used to 'commission' beautiful cotton wares and other handicrafts made around the world which they sold through their special Christmas catalogues.    I can just imagine someone working hard at a loom, and for this reason, cannot bring myself to ditch them.  It has probably been washed over 2000 times.  The table cloth has faded but is still beautiful, even though it is frail.  The napkins were used to wrap packed lunches on workdays.

The white of the pulmonaria is a clear white....

This is the Spanish Bluebell: Hyacinthoides hispanica, which has not scent at all, not at all like Hyacinthoides non-scripta which is the true British bluebell.  These are just coming into bloom, and soon the woodland floors will don their springtime haze of sweet smelling nodding heads.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Sourdough rules OK

Yes Sourdough still continues to be a bread of choice.  However when I am busy, and have my creative efforts concentrated in other directions, I opt for easier solutions, such as using loaf tins.  I have gone back to using my Silverwood Baking tins.  I add between 650g and 700g dough, with one slice being perfect for a portion.

Another time saver is reducing or even cutting out 'messy' toppings which are apt to fall off and means saving on more Kitchen Floor washing than I have time for.  Here all the flax for Sourdough Flax Prairie Bread was ground and added with the flour.  Not quite as pretty a loaf, but wonderfully tasting nonetheless.

Last night, these two loaves came out of the oven more or less at bedtime, so they cooled off on the rack covered in linen.

This morning, this loaf was perfectly fresh and tasty for our boiled egg breakfast.

Six on Saturday - 6 April 2019

Continuing on the theme of picking six themes/items/ plants etc from the garden, which The Propagator leads, here is my contribution this week.  Isn't it soothing to know that other gardeners are working hard.  The propagator has raised at least three items this week which have been on my mind too...and there is far more when have a look at what other contributors will be posting.  
The first of this week's six is a Lunaria Annua Chedglow....Honest(l)y I think it is Chedglow.  Last week the leaves were the deepest purple, bu after several days this week of heavy dark skies, and more rainfall than we have had for months, falling in the space of just a few days.  With bright sunshine this morning, the plant may darken up over the next few days.  Three little seedlings, passed on from a friend at about this time last year, were carefully planted.  All except this one was eaten by slugs or snails.  Comments on whether this is Chedglow will of course be most welcome.

Close up the leaves do show some green with spots of purple, overall the camera is not showing quite how dark the plant is.

The second item is this little Pulmonaria...sure most of you will recognise 'Sissinghurst White'.  This again was a well loved plant from my last garden, given to me by Kaye.   I love Pulmonaria and had started to assemble a few varieties.  I was really happy when this appeared in the tub.

The third item is a shrub planted out in the garden last year.  It is Exochorda Macrantha The Bride.   This is a shrub I am constantly attracted to when it is growing in front gardens....  I would have liked to have had Exochorda giraldii var wilsonii, which I had left in my previous garden.  Its flowers are much larger and more prominent, but since it grows into a much larger shrub, perhaps I am better off with 'The Bride'.

The fourth item is my newly planted Dicentra Eximia.  I bought this plant only a couple of weeks ago at the HPS plant sale down at East Brook Manor.  The leaves are a little greyer than the strain I had in my previous garden, however I look forward to seeing it fill out in the shady border. I read that it is probably the most heat tolerant of the Dicentras, so it would be helpful to hear is anyone has grown this in sunnier locations in the UK.  When it bulks out, I shall try some in a sunnier position.

Two other favourite plants were bought.....

The fifth item(s) is tulips.  Here is a bright tub of Tulip Greigii Czaar Peter, which arrived as a little packet of bulbs from my neighbour last year.

Acting as an 'insurance' to the small plants dotted in the ground around the garden, here Tulipa Sprengeri Trotters Form is bulking up in several pots.

On the whole I have not been particularly successful over the years with tulips in the garden.  Perhaps I have not really tried.  Next Autumn I hope to get some different species planted up and will start a list if any suggestions are forthcoming.

Finally my sixth item is this little native cowslip. It came up where I tipped the remainder of pot of plants with garden soil, brought from my last garden.  I was delighted that seed had come with the soil, and that having been simply strew between plants rather than buried deeply, it has managed to get a toe hold.  Ever since the flowers have started to open, about two weeks ago, the local bumble bees have been making a bee line for it.  I first grew these from seed many years ago, and have just enjoyed the way they stake their little space in the garden.  They keep on flowering for a long time, and I shall be noting the length of the flowering season this year.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019


I'm awaiting New Rhubarb Plants.......there will be a wait of a year of two before I have garden grown rhubarb, as they are special new cultivars with no 'Summer dormancy'..but they will arrive in small pots: Poulton's Red and Pouton's Pride.

In the meantime I 'picked' up some beautifully pink and long and tender stems from the Rocky Mountain Fruit and Veg the same time had a saunter round the Nursery, and bought a potted up Gooseberry Invicta from the Nursery, which is already sprouting, and has been planted in 'The Gooseberry Corner".

Rhubarb Gin

Rhubarb, Rye and Almond loaves...with more than a passing thanks to Dan Lepard having a type of template in His Rye Apple Cake in Short & Sweet, page 136.