Thursday, 30 January 2020

Seville Orange Marmalade

January is when we can buy Seville Oranges.  Our Wells Wednesday market had one of our Vegetable and Fruit Stalls with boxes of the fruit.  Often I make a huge batch and also freeze the oranges for use later in the year.  This year I want to explore new marmalades and revisit some of the others such as Pink Grapefruit, Lime and fig, Lemon and cardamon with pistachios etc...

Just seven large jars this year in the cupboard, and easily marked up rather than making up printed labels. 

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Six on Saturday - 25 January 2020

The Prop is living up to his reputation this week with lots of seeds sown.  Posts shared on his Six on Saturday certainly inspire us keen gardeners to find things to do. After reading his post this week, I shall be off to buy some fresh compost for sowing some seeds which arrived in the last couple of weeks.

(1) Inspiration 

 At Henton Gardening Club in January we were fortunate to have as speaker Paul Cumbleton.   Now living in Somerton, having retired as Team Leader at the RHS Alpine Section at Wisley Gardens, Paul has spent his efforts creating his own crevice garden.  He introduced us to the concept of Crevice Gardening which can range in size from large beds to a crevice type construct within a broken pot.

I have added 'Create a Small Crevice Garden' to my project list....thanks for the inspiration Paul.

I have always been drawn to rockeries and cannot understand why they fell out of favour.  In the wild in the Mediterranean plants growing in sunny and arid areas amongst rocks always entice me and I am frequently the last to catch up with parties of 'walkers'.  In my mind a walk is just a good excuse to explore the plantlife.
Wild Origanum in Crete at Lato amongst ancient stones

(2) To become beguiled by the beauty of a plant

It is no wonder that I was also beguiled by some of Paul's plants: Origanum 'Emma Stanley' was alluring.  Last week I contacted several of my preferred nurseries who visit local plant fairs to see if they were growing this one. Sadly they were not.  This made me into a 'internet plant hunter' resulting in discovery of  UK grown ones. I am building up a little collection of origanums.  Here is Origanum Bristol Cross, acquired last spring,  in flower during the summer.

(3) Latest receipt of plants

During the week I received a small consignment of plants from Pottertons, after all it would have been rash not to acquire a few other special small plants. In addition to Origanum Emma Stanley, I had to get Origanum dictamnus which I saw growing wild in Crete.  This one will be a challenge as it needs to be kept dry and will need very good drainage.  Other plants are Phlox bifida 'Ralph Haywood', Phlox douglassii 'Ice Mountain', Erodium 'Frans Delight, and Diascia vigilis McB 2903.  I was very much impressed by the quality of packaging and the effort to make sure the plants survived their journey.

(4) Market purchase

Although I had made myself the sort of promise which I thought I might be able to uphold which was to limit myself regarding plant buying, I non the less acquired just one little plant at Wells Market this week:  Eryngium varifolium.

Eryngium varifolium 
(5) Roses sprouting

Nothing quite like a picture to show how not to prune.  Rose Open Arms has not in fact been pruned yet...these were cuts made last summer.  I wonder whether these were some of Mr S's efforts last year to cut back along the path?

(6) Slugs

With the cold snap, several plants joined the relay in which some plants from the garden came into shed and some which had been in the shed moved to the conservatory, and some of the conservatory plants came into the house.  Of course it is much warmer in house.  During the week I found the little trail in the shower room left by one of the slimy gang.  I had to take the bowl containing the plants and examine it, to find the little blighter...

Leopard Slug Limax maximus
Until now, no slug has been knowingly allowed to slither away, but in one way or another been despatched.  Having flitted very quickly through The Garden, Febraury 2020 which arrived this week, I recalled there was a short article about slugs.  Thinking simply that this would be an easy way of identifying the slug, I went on to read the article which explained the sole of some of the slugs we find in the garden.  Limax maximum has been released unharmed into the garden.

Leopard slug (Limax maximus)
"Popular with gardeners due to aggressive behaviour to other slug species. Feeds mostly on fungi, dead plant and animal material". Feb 2020 The Garden

The slug survey was mentioned on Friday morning on Radio 4 news, was it a no news days?  If you wish to take part in the survey, here is the link:

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Six on Saturday - 18 January 2020

 The Prog who leads us and several other keen gardeners has some interesting items this week, so whether today or some time in the week, it is well worth going over to have a look.  We all realise that we may have been thinking or even writing up about our six items at some stage during the week. I did my 'desk work' yesterday and in the evening read a little in the book mentioned at six about frosts....this morning breakfast in the conservatory was taken under beautifully frosted glass. Each panel had a variation of this one but the pattern overall on each was similar...

Frost pattern on Conservatory roof 18 January 2020

(1)Pelargoniums in the conservatory

Pelargonium ardens

Last spring I cut down the P. Ardens almost down to soil level when I repotted them.  It was well worth sacrificing the one year's flowering potential as I now have two plants with multiple roseettes.  Four leaf rosettes on one and seven on the second plant, Pelargonium ardens promises good flowering this year.  I think the slow release Osmocote may have a little too much nitrogen, as the leaf growth has taken off in the last couple of weeks.  I'm taking this one to the HPS for the show and tell table today.....

Multiple leaf rosettes on Pelargonium ardens

Pelargonium coriandrifolium and cuttings are doing nicely.  During down time from gardening the other possibility is on line research.  The internet can lead a 'humble' gardener with an interest to learned and well set out articles such as in the 'Species Pelargonium - wild and unsual' which with a click of a button can be translated from the original Russian to English.

(2) Plants brought back from the brink

If the brink is the third week languishing bare rooted in wind and rain in large tub waiting to be emptied into the Green Compost bin, then this Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow has indeed been brought back from the brink.  It had been dug up to make room for Pear Beth.  I just noticed it when I was clearing the side when plant pots and compost sacks were waiting to be cleared.

Euphorbia x martinii Ascot Rainbow

(3) Caterpillars in action

A week ago, I caught a caterpillar on the apple tree, and placed it on the bird table, but no birds visiting the feeders took it, so it was squashed a couple of hour later.  This one was despatched immediately, and so will all others until the birds become interested.

Caterpillar on Mount Aso

(4 ) Red Primula unknown variety but likely a heritage one as bought at The Vyne NT several years ago.  This has been flowering for at least a couple of weeks and is worth walking along the path to peep should the downpours stop.  In view of Jim's comment below, here is a link to Barnhaven's site.

(5) Weeds

Weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place?

Side border April 2019

One of the garden projects in the autumn was sorting out the small side border.  A very old  'thicket' of hebe which has suffered during the summer drought was removed, the Spanish bluebells removed etc...or so I thought

(6) Weather

Yes we have had a lot of weather this week: storms with strong gusts of wind, heavy rain, but the 'traditional' winter season has yet to arrive here.  In the meantime I am enjoying reading The Weather Detective by Peter Wohlleben.  Guiding the reader in 'Rediscovering Nature's Secret Signs' in the garden, Peter Wohlleben informs, explains and educates in a very readable form, appropriate for European and British gardeners. (Another book borrowed from my local Library)

"Wohlleben explains how to read many aspects of nature's signs, from being able to tell the time of day from birdcalls or flowers, to knowing the type of soil from the weeds or understanding the weather and how to predict it. He also looks at climate change and its effects, and ways, as a gardener, to adapt to a warming climate. He explains how to build resilience in the garden, both for food production as well as ornamental plants and developing habitat through interconnection and managing pests. Much of the way to read nature comes through information from all the senses, and he outlines a sensory approach to encountering nature, and if nothing else, as a way of becoming closer to it and more in touch with it, both for health reasons - physical and mental - and simply for enjoyment."   an extract from David Fonteyn's full review on Good Reads website. 

Friday, 17 January 2020

All good gardeners need warm socks

Extra long wool socks with wiggly path pattern are just the ticket for keeping me warm.  I've been knitting these over the Christmas Period, and are now ready for the sock drawer.  It is a lovely pattern and looks great in a solid colour.  Yellow for cheeriness even when it is cold and damp.

Garden Path Socks

Monday, 13 January 2020

In a Vase on Monday - January winds and rains

Just when I thought it could not get wetter, Storm Brendan is starting to do its thing, with gusts through the evergreen oak sounding like the surge of large waves breaking on tropical reefs.  Had I a rain gauge, I feel that this winter we would have broken records for rainfall.

I wasn't going to post today, but I had to go out and move potted plants into safe positions, and my eye was caught a few blooms.

A couple of small creamy veined leaves of  Arum Italicum  nicely sets off the rich fuchsia pink of the cyclamen coum.  With its kidney shaped deep glossy green foliage this cyclamen with its pretty patterns are a delight this time of the year. An added bonus is that slugs and snails avoid these.  A couple of sprigs of Erigeron karvinskianus finishes off this minute arrangement in an old ink bottle.

Cathy has three ink bottles with some rather lovely winter blooms, with the Hamamelis vernalis 'Amethyst' being rather fine.  Cathy is the creator and host of this weekly IAVOM get together.

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Six on Saturday - 11 January 2020

Six on Saturday club with pack leader The Propagator helps us to keep track whatever the season of garden on this to get the link.  These are other links too within this and other posts which are as much to help me remember points of interest.

One - Early Snowdrops

"The merest change in temperature now, the slightest spark of light, would fire the green fuses.  The snowdrops were amazing, gorgeous white bells, fat as pearls in the moment of their perfection, hope incarnate.....Today the snowdrops have begun to open their petals, slowly lifting white arms from their sides like ballerinas. " 
The light in the Dark: A Winter Journal on 19 th February' by Horatio Clare

I have read that their leaves have specially hardened tips to help the snowdrops break through frozen soil and their sap contains a form of antifreeze to prevent ice crystals forming.  The soil here hasn't frozen once, but the snowdrops now in flower are early types.   They were newly planted last year.  The year before that I found out that Anna loved snowdrops and socks so I had sent her a special pair that I knitted in the softest yarn, and these were a present from Anna the following year.

Galanthus Lapwing

Galanthus Lady Beatrice Stanley

The special snowdrops are all planted in the 'Conservatory Border'.  I love to be able to sit in the conservatory and look at some of the little plants emerging in early spring.

The standard singles and doubles in clumps further away in the garden are just showing their tips.

Two - Herbaceous Plants cut back

Some of the herbaceous plants in the Conservatory bed have been cut back, such as this Lysimachia candela, so that the Spring beauties can have their moment. 

Three - Attempting control

In the middle of the bed is Salix gracilistyla Mount Aso,  It was newly planted last year and featured in my first SOS post.  I'll be removing the bamboo canes which I had used in an attempt to encourage more upright growth.  What I like is that within a few weeks it too will be cut right down and other plants around will have room to unfurl and do their thing.

Four - Control Required

Planted Autumn 2018 this Fuchsia Hawkshead is definitely  in need on control.  It needs a firm prune.  However in this mild weather these are precious blooms for any garden visitors.

A view of the conservatory border.I need to work on my technique and quality. Technique I can work and there is the question as to whether my little camera is up to it.    I have a target to spread all the mulches I have amassed along the 'hidden side of the house' and this has taken priory over reading the on line manual.  My camera is several years old now and fairly basic but I want to get the best out of it.

Five - Bumble Bee Garden Visitors in January

I really thought it was too late for bumble bees, which is why I cut a couple of the penstemom blooms for last week's IAVOM.  During the week, as I was attending to the border, and spreading 'muck', I began to wonder whether my tinnitus has reached ridiculous levels.  Looking up I saw this bumble bee on the Fuchsia and by the time I returned it was on the Rosemary.  Its pollen sacks were full.  Apologies for the quality of the picture, which was to record its presence rather than a fine close up...again more work on the manual required!

Six - Morrison Bargain

After having a less than satisfactory experience regarding buying a 'prized?' Blackberry by mail order on line, , I have opted for a cheap and cheerful solution.  Milk and butter were on the list.   I also came home with Blackberry Thornfree, which was planted on the same day on Wednesday  with a good mulch of compost to see it on its way.

Blackberry Thornfree : " A good cropping variety that is completely thornless. Blackberry Thornfree is very easy to train. Pick large fruits that ripen in late August to September. Leaves have good autumn colour. Ideal for planting against a wall or a fence or growing in a container."

They had some other fruit, so I may just find room for a loganberry.  

Monday, 6 January 2020

In a Vase on Monday - Mid Winter Really?

I was going to peel the outer papery covers from the Honesty that has been hanging up in the shed to use for a Vase just about now, when I had anticipated everything to have closed down for the Winter.  This afternoon on entering the shed I found the stems and surfaces were mildewed, so that is not now a possibility.

A few days ago I posted about the Penstemom that is still in bloom.  You would think that it would have given up it being Mid Winter.  I had left it, as up to Christmas, in the isolated dry periods there were bumblebees visiting the blooms.  Not having seen any bees for a few days, its time to use the two flowering stems.  The light is so poor that the picture is not great.

Making up this Mid Winter arrangement with everything cut straight from the garden after lunch today:

Two Penstemom probably Rich Ruby, Fuchsia Upright Delta's Sarah, Persicaria Red Dragon, Pittosporum garnetti, a leaf from Cyclamen hederiflolium Lysander, a fern leaf, and a stem of Solanum Laxum 'Album'.

Here the flash lights up the Penstemom.

Having had this book recommended, by Anna I think, it made for a quality read over the holiday period.  Do please correct me if needed! There are some grim bits such as the damage to sheep by dogs etc..  Horatio Clare captures the feel of Winter, and is a careful observer of weather, plant life and his own struggles with coping with his mood and energy swings.  Parts are so deliciously written that they require rereading in order to take in and enjoy the sheer poetry.  Many thanks for the recommendation, and again thanks to our Library West ordering service.

Hope Springs eternal over on Cathy's Post this week with more 'unseasonal flowers'.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Six on Saturday - 4 January 2020

The Prop has some seeds, some bulbs and other things of interest:  with gems of information from his post and others:  here is my Six on Saturday.

With short days, and less suitable weather for gardening, I indulge myself: loosing myself in books. 

We have had dark and dank days, days of rain, and finally a little dry weather....

"A mist day, a moss day, a day of rain that never quite fell." 
'The light in the Dark: A Winter Journal' by Horatio Clare

1 Moss growing

Moss is feeling quite at home on the top of pots 

The Sphagnum moss used to decorate the surface of the Sarracenia is also thriving...does it look as if it needs repotting?

Little patches of moss picked off the roof by birds need picking off the drive most days, or else they take hold on the tarmac and help it to break up.

2 New Gloves

For the first time in years I have reached mid winter without cracked fingers.  I have been wearing gloves inside and out..  They were my special present: warm, comfortable, and a joy to use even in the damp and cold.

3.  Planning ahead...

I have a little pile of reading and this is one of my current books borrowed from the library.  The topic seems perverse given how wet it has been, but last summer it hardly rained at all here.  I really do like to establish borders that require little watering.  I am sure that I shall find some inspiration in Beth Chatto's Book for the gravel area...

some summer bulbs are already emerging such as this Allium Schubertii

and the Cyclamen cilicium grown from seed are sheltering under a rock overhang

Leaves appear in autumn with or after the flowers, dependent on the amount of rain, oval to heart shaped, sometimes with shallowly scalloped edges, with a green ‘Christmas tree’ centre surrounded by a broken paler green or grey-green area, underside reddish-purple, 1.5-6cm long, 1.5-5cm wide.

The seed was gathered from the side of the plant bought last year, but I wonder whether they are a resilt of a cross, or whether they will develop the patterning as described above on the Cyclamen Society webpage.  I must check the mother plant!

4 Still in Flower

A Penstemom but which one? Rich Ruby?  It has lovely red stems

5 Reds shine out in this weather

I've cleared away the old tatty leaves on this Poutlon Pride Rhubarb bought last year from D T Brown.  They describe it as the longest cropping rhubarb.  I've allowed it to build it during its first season, and given the mild weather it doesn't apear to have stopped producing new leaves yet.

The other Rhubarb Poulton's Red has 'disappeared', hopefully to reemerge in a couple of months time.

6 Sheltered Spot - Temperature above -3 C

Here is the much posted Fuchsia microphyilla 'Silver Linings'.  Through this weekly gathering under the Prop, contributors' generously share their knowledge, I now follow several and read their regular posts.  In his blog: Garden Ruminations,  this week Jim explained that several groups of Fuchsias go on flowering so long as the temperatures don't fall below -3C.  It must be mild indeed at this end of the garden.  On boxing day these was a small bumble bee visiting this bush.  It then went onto the flowering rosemary bush nearby. Note the little pink primula first collected in the wild about forty years ago!

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Vintage buses

On 1 January vintage bus owners and enthusiasts run buses between Bristol, Wells and Street.  Last year we took a trip to Bristol.  This year we enjoyed looking around a series of old ones at the Bus Station....

As we looked over different buses we started to notice small details such as the step to reach the handles to change the information panels, and the radiator cover....

Leyland Lion dating from 1934
Crank ready.....

On reflection the yellow bus did not quite meet our criteria as being vintage, but it was a eye catcher to many young children for whom of course it was definitely vintage!

Have I bitten off more than I can chew?

Back in October I felt the rush of 'love' when I spied a pumpkin at Queen Street Deli.  Having been a lovely 'decoration' so far, I decided it was time to enjoy it.  However I ought really to have a waited a day or two, after all are we not still in the end of year festivity period?  Not a time for a dedicated Kitchen session?

By searching on my blog, I can find all sorts of things to use the baked pumpkin for.  However the whole prep was a little too the pulp has all been frozen for now.