Monday, 31 August 2020

In a Vase on Monday - Seeing out August

My Vase to see out August, is a simple affair with just two types of flowers.  Both plants were much admired in Alison C's garden, and seedlings found and gifted.  How have I missed our visits.  I managed to take over some rooted cuttings of Chrysanthemums, and recently collected a bouquet for our gardening club to give to our Chairman.  

Cathy has props which really made me smile to go with her cheerful arrangement, together with a tune which will be popping up in my head all day long. My prop this week is a simple leaf, and the vase an old Victorian Glass Poison Bottle.

Allium carinatum  subs pulchellum is a lovely late flowering allium, which I had written about for our Six on Saturday gardening group. I found a small later flowering clump when doing some tidying, aka early autumn cutting back.  

Teucrium hircanicum has lovely arching flowers and has stood up to the sun, drought and and rains.

Yesterday, Mr S and I followed the path of my last Geology Field Trip, where there were some different views of the Cathedral, with Glastonbury Tor beyond.

On our way back down Walcombe, which I had learnt was the remains of a waddi , we walked through the orchard, where strangely Mr S spotted some apple blossom, and The Combe, which is a beautiful arboretum.  I found the grass covered with Ginko leaves, still green so probably blown off during the stormy weather earlier in the week.  The leaves are a lovely shape and texture, and very tactile.  

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Six on Saturday - 29 August 2020

 With strong winds and lots of rain, it feels as it Summer is drawing to a close. Non the less, I am still hoping this is just a blip, and that there will be more sunny and balmy days ahead.  One thing that won't change is the shortening of the days.  I am an early riser, often before six, and enjoy my little trip around the garden, which inevitably leads to changing the water in the bird bath, and slaying a few slugs on their way home from a hard night of nibbling.  Soon there will be no time for this without delaying breakfast.  My dearly beloved is usually still in bed until he hears the kettle being turned on!

This week the succulents, which have been spending the Summer in the garden, have been the focus of my attention.  On sunny days, it is still too hot to have them in the conservatory, but it is also too wet for them outside.  Earlier this year I passed on duplicates, or triplicated, and ditched all my larger specimens, whittling down the numbers so that I can handle them safely,  making moving them around so much easier.

(1) The 'Crown' of the last year's large Aeonium Velour , is already growing well, and is just about the right size for me to carry comfortably in and out of the Conservatory.  It has a special table!

A couple of neighbours had kept their Aeonium Schwarzkopfs in their open porches quite successfully , so I am going to risk those and some of the other succulents, and only bring them indoors, if temps are forecast to drop too low.

(2) A new small allium  is flowering in the gravel garden: Allium senescens montanum var glaucum.  When I saw the plants earlier this year, I just had to buy the pot of 'curly whirly spirally blue green leaves' the flowers have arrived, I am really pleased I did get it. 

The rains have brought on the cyclamen hederifolium in the garden, and also my specials in pots, into flower, and strangely several of the coum are in leaf too.

(3) I decided to plant the pot grown Cyclamen cilicium album, straight into the gravel garden, with two small corms that I had grown from its seed. At the base of a rock for shelter and warmth they are flowering for the first time.  The mother plant seem to have 'melted away'.

(4) Last year Cyclamen hederifolium Lysander mainly gave leaves, but this year it is flowering very well. At first the flowers were growing from a central point straight up, unlike the others, but in the last few days, more flowers have been coming from deeper down or along the edge of the pot.  

(5) Polypodium cambricum 'Richard Kayse: a week ago I cut back the old growth to better admire the newly emerging fronds.The bright fresh green is indeed a treat at this time of the year.

(6) Rose Open Arms looking suitable refreshed with rain and lower temperatures. I picked up the original plant when visiting Rob Cole,.  I visited his and Diane's garden several times, on the occasions he welcomed fellow members of the Warwickshire Plant Heritage Group, to his garden at Meadow Farm  in Worcestershire. Over tea when I was chatting with Diane Cole, and explaining that Mr S loved simple flowers, she showed me her Rose Open Arms, and I knew I had to get this one.  She even talked me through how to propagate it by cuttings.  Luckily she had one plant, and when we knew we were going to move, the cuttings were taken. 

Monday, 24 August 2020

In a Vase on Monday - Simple

 After rains and strong winds the garden is looking as if Autumn has arrived early, but with temperatures still more towards warm rather than cool, as yet there is little sign of colouring.  

The very large blooms of one shrub have stood up reasonably well.  I am hoping these will dry gracefully in situ, and form a nice arrangement for the sideboard in the dining room.  I've taken the opportunity of throwing out all the dried flowers which have been quite wonderful over the last year.

Here are the stems of Hydrangea paniculata Vanille Fraise, on the side table in the conservatory.

Close up there is just a hint of the Strawberry coming through...

When the ones in the garden start to turn pink, I'll pick some more and see how they dry compared to these ones.  Isn't it strange how each year plants behave differently: last year these turned pink far earlier than this.  I prefer these paler cream versions....

This week Cathy is showcasing a beautiful small embroidery as well as her Miniaturist penchant is far miniature vases on the whole, since I love to grow small things.  This week my Vase is quite a contrast to hers.

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Lemon Project Box

 I'm very lucky to be able to pop up to Wells Fruit and Veg to pick up top quality green grocery items.  Recently my friend Maggie has been phoning me when she is up there at the stall, and suggesting 'project boxes' that we can share.  I had mentioned lemons but Maggie already had many left over from a previous purchase in her freezer.

Mr S needed a change, and was showing signs of cabin fever, so I persuaded him to accompany me up to Rocky Mountain, on Thursday.  Whilst I looked around the lovely fruit and vegetables and made my purchases, he went off to explore the nearby disused railway, afterwards we went for a walk around Rocky Mountain Plant Nursery.

Amongst this and that I picked up a box of lemons. These were smaller less than perfect lemons from South Africa.  When I say less than perfect, I mean they were not the uniform glossy ready for the market Class I fruit, but at £2 a box., it would have been wrong not to get one, and use it as an opportunity to try all sorts of preserves.  I had wanted to try making my own salt preserved lemons, which I use so much in my tagines, roasts etc...


A trial of making home made Lemon Cordial turned out so successful that tomorrow I shall be making more...

I shall be using this to add to the second ferment of the water Kefir.  

In dealing with so many lemons, I realised that my zester which I think I have had forever, is quite past it.  Tomorrow I am off  to see if either of the two hardware stores can come up with the goods.  If I draw a blank, it will be on line shopping, but I am giving the local shops a chance....

Another Saturday Project was turning my surplus garden grown cucumbers into dill pickles, again a first for me. The prepared pieces had been resting overnight, having been salted, and were ready to be packed into jars, when my friend Jayne, a friend from years ago called me...she of the pickled gherkin loving brigade.  I hope there are some left for when we are welcoming house guests once more.

The cordial has given me the inspiration to try making my own limoncello. I shall just have to imagine the lovely drinks we enjoyed on our holidays in Sorrento.

 This evening I shall be sitting down with all my books, and the internet open, searching for recipes to use up the large bowl of lemons which remain.

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Pizza Blonde

 A couple of days ago I was commenting on Jane Mason's post on Virtuous Bread, where she had been making gnudies.  I have yet to try those, but this did inspire me to make some ricotta.  With the heat, we had not been having our usual afternoon 'weak teas'.  Instead of having tea, when we have about a third of a mug of milk topped up with boiling water, we were having glasses of water.  The result is that I had spare milk on Monday, just before my weekly delivery of goat's milk from Wookey Farm.

With tips from Jane about using use the whey in my dough, and also about making making sure that the cheese is well drained so that it bakes well, after a night in the fridge, draining through a muslin lined conical strainer, this is the result:

Goat's milk ricotta
Goat's milk ricotta

Gnudies will need to wait for another day.  I just had pizza on my mind:  Pizza Blonde, without the tomato, using my little small pattipans, some onions, and walnuts.  I made the pizza dough with the whey, taking inspiration from Linda Collister's recipe, which includes Herbes de Provence in the dough, except I used some of my own dried marjoram!  I have used Linda Collister's 'Bread'for many a bake!

Ever since enjoying my first 'professionally baked Pizza Blonde in Sicily' and also baking Jane Mason's Alpine Pizza from 'All you Knead is Bread', I realised that my 'tomato less' pizzas were very nearly mainstream.

So for supper yesterday we had some of this Pizza made with loads of onions, a few steamed Pattipan slices, walnuts, which I had steamed along with the pattipans, so that they were damp and didn't get burnt, topped with my home made ricotta.  There was a little nub of other sheep's feta, which got grated and added.  Final topping was shredded fresh marjoram and a little olive oil just before serving.  I find Marjoram Nana the best for flavour.  

With all the whey I had from the 1 litre of milk, I also made two spelt loaves, and a couple of rounds of cinnamon whirls, one of which is being taken to our gardening club committee meeting this morning.

Should I ever have a spare litre, I'll be making ricotta again.  I have even more admiration for the cheese makers, and uped my milk order for next week to include some of Sarah's lovely cheese which she makes on the farm.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Six on Saturday - 15 August 2020

 For most of the week we were told we were in a 'tropical' weather moment, with night temperatures here not falling below 20 C.  The Prop who is the 'keeper' of the Six on Saturday has 'tropical plants' such as canna in flower grown by him from seed.  Do go and have a peer.

Both I and many of my plants were more that relieved when we had an overcast day, and some rain starting Thursday evening.  Temperatures today are in a much more comfortable zone though the pots will still need attention.  

Here are my Six and please do leave any of your thoughts, advice etc...always appreciated.

(1) Filipendula vulgaris multiplex is a little treasure.  Its fern like leaves splay out from a basal rosette, are attractive as a fern.  Unlike the wild Meadowsweet growing in ditches around here, this one appreciates less boggy conditions, which is probably a very good thing considering the very dry and hot conditions over the last few weeks. Its flowers rise no higher than 20cm.

The double flowers are almost white, held in panicles on up right stems, which are thin and strong, with no staking required.  It does need its own space and light, which I can vouch for, having very nearly lost it when it became overshadowed by a Phlomis, which is now moved to the sunny and very dry front garden.

 It is quite slow growing, and I am just waiting patiently for it to throw up more rosettes, so that I can try splitting it to place some elsewhere int he garden.  

I grew this years ago, and was so pleased to have found this growing in my friends' garden, after I had seen it again in 2018, when our gardening club visited Hillier Gardens.

(2) Too many males....still waiting for my three pattipan plants grown from seed to start producing the delicious fruits.  

I like to eat them at the young and tender stage.  I am getting impatient, waiting to enjoy them lightly steamed, or sauteed, served still slightly warm, with a dressing of roasted walnuts and a lemon juice and olive oil dressing, with a scattering of my favourtie herb of the moment: oregano/marjoram. A few thinly sliced spring onions, also growing in my little veg patch may make it too.   I was eyeing the 'pattisons' up in the market this week and am definitely going to buy some if these do not start to fruit.

(3) Clematis orientalis Bill MacKenzie is one I have admired for years, and finally planted it against the fence last Autumn.  I bought it at a Hardy Plant Society talk given by a local grower: Marcel Floyd.

I'm not too happy with where I have placed it, as I have to tip toe across the wide border, to be able to peer into its lovely flowers. Either I have to place some stepping stones, which means less areas to grow things, or move it somewhere, but where?  

(4) Baby elephants in the garden?  Just teasing...well it was hot enough, and the heat was sending me crazy. When watering my potted fuchsia on Thursday morning, this big caterpillar peered out at me.  Then I realised these were the markings, not eyes. Apparently they have very good eyesight!  It is the Caterpillar of the Elephant hawk moth....It got moved to a fuchsia at the back of the border, when it can munch on the leaves to its heart's content.

 (5) The small pink one: Stachys?  Bought from another member of the HPS.  I posted this on the HPS facebook page, and with the wide range of members comes varied interesting facts and comments: Stachys are now reclassified as Betonica.  The opinion from the group is that this is Rosea which one member had bought some time ago from Beth Chatto.  

Betonica officinalis Rosea
Betonica officinalis Rosea

It reminds me very much of Stachys Monieri Saharan Pink which I grew in my previous garden.

Recently on a walk on the Mendips, not far from here, large patches of B. officinalis were growing amongst the other varied herbs and grasses....

(6) The tall lilac plant is a Monardo, at over 1 metre, is not quite right for that place, so after flowering it will be moved.  In the meantime, it is useful, even though it is hiding other plants, making a good long lasting cut flower.

Although not strictly a gardening book, I would like to recommend:

The Secret Network of Nature by Peter Wohlleben, which I picked up from the library on the last opening day before lockdown. 

Monday, 10 August 2020

In a Vase on Monday - The theme was set

 The theme was set early this morning, when the I set out the picking from the beans on the kitchen worktop! Purple and Green. This mornings's runner bean harvest was divided between two neighbours, and the purple french beans will be eaten here today.

A quick trot round the garden, a speedy set up and photograph followed.

Hydrangea Paniculata Vanille Fraise, still in the creamy white phase, Linaria canon went, Centaurea montanan alba, Monarda, Verbena rigida, Salvia Amistad. Fuchsia Hawkshead make up this week's bouquet.

Why the hurry?  I was scheduled to meet up with five other fellow WI walkers for a walk up on Mendips.  It was a walk through a pine forest plantation called Stockhill Woods, easy walking, and with loads of chatter.  The forestry tracks were edged with lovely flowering herbs amongst which this Mint, most probably Mentha pulegium aka Pennyroyal. It is much cooler up there, and only five miles away.

Our Leader  too has used a colour theme, so I could be said to be following in her footsteps this week, as we all did in our walk, where the paths were sufficiently wide to be able to pass walkers coming in the other direction keeping our social distance.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Six on Saturday - 8 August 2020

 During this week, we have had a few Ash Trees felled quite close to the garden, and already more light and breeze is coming our way.  It will be interesting to see what effect this has on the garden.  

Popping over to the Prop's anchor post, it was quite reassuring to find anguish and joy, something we all feel over our garden plants.

(1) Beans:  As the runner beans are coming to finish bearing beans on the flowers that came in the axils on the main leaders, lower down where I cut off the whole flowering stem as the last bean was harvested, new axillary shoots are forming, and these hopefully will provide a good harvest once more up to the frosts. These beans have several shoots growing up from the tuber which overwintered without any forethought.

Just in time the climbing purple podded French Bean Cosse Violette are coming into production. 

(2) Hydrangea paniculata Vanille Fraise
Hydrangea paniculata Vanille Fraise awaiting the strawberry blush, which should start to appear soon.

(3)  Fuchsia Happy Wedding Day

Back in March, when our gardening club meeting was cancelled, the chairman left a few plug plants on my step.  All members were to have been given one.  As they developed, following a couple of potting ons,  and were looking good, I gave all but three away.  Two petunias in tubs are magnets for some chewing foe which I am yet to identify, catch, dispatch, but here is the Fuchsia, which has been quite immune.  Would I have stood  a reasonable chance on the bench for our competition, had it taken place?

(4) Astilbe chinensis  var. pumila has to be amongst my top 10 favourite plants in the garden.  I've had it for years, bringing it on through to its fourth garden.  Its flowers are just starting to open.  The sad thing is, I very nearly lost it last year, as it was choked by surrounding plants.  Imagine what it is like for me, trying to shoe horn plants old, and new ones.  This taught me a lesson, and now I am in the middle of revamping the Conservatory Bed.  This means the removal of some plants, repositioning of a few, watering and mulching.

(5) Grown from my own saved seed, I now also have several clumps of Allium carinatum  subs pulchellum  flowering in the front garden.  The early flowering alliums are over and these dainty heads are taking their place in the annual allium parade, but not easy to catch with the lens as they sway in the merest of gentle breezes, or if a bee swings under its blooms.

(6)  Origanums

Origanum laevigatum  Herrenhausen with its stiff stems and dark stems

and Origanum Bristol Cross has intriguing flowers, and the bracts make 'chains' that continue to grow longer.

Both much beloved by bees, bumble bees etc.  Hope you have a good week's gardening, and find things to keep your mind off the greater world beyond your boundaries, even for just an hour or two.


Monday, 3 August 2020

In a Vase on Monday - Singular Beauty

Have I been trying to incorporate too much variety in order to compensate for the restrictions we are under?  During the week, I came to a feeling of contentment enjoying the simplicity that life has to offer.  Cherishing what we have now in plenty is the theme of my vases.

Yes there are two vases, simply because this is a 'use up'.  The two Grace rose bushes were 'summer pruned' and the stems of flowers were languishing in a bucket overnight.  Catching the early morning sunshine in the middle of the dining table, Grace's singular beauty could not be bettered with any additions.

Alongside the bucket of roses was another one with all the prunnings from Pelargonium Pink Capricorn which was threatening to grow well beyond a reasonable size. 

This week our book club made up mainly of gardening lovers, which does not happen to be theme of our reading, but simply a group of friends who also happen to go to the same gardening club, are meeting up for the first time since the big P, in a beautiful garden.  Our book this time has been The Glittering Hour' by Iona Grey.  

Normally I like to read hard copies, but this time, I downloaded it to my phone. I had my little pad where I could write down the character names, and their links to one another: that is the way I have to read these days.  It has been a lovely read, and would recommend it.

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Saturday walk on the Mendips

Once again we headed for Draycott Sleights with the majority of our walking visiting the tumuli, and Rodney Stoke National Nature Reserve.

I wanted to walk into the Draycott reserve just a short way to see how the wild flowers had changed since we went about a week ago.

On top of this the thin soil supported a 'host of blue scabious'

On the Rodney Stoke side of the reserve, the scabious continued to colonise the limestone 'rockeries'

We explored the grasslands over the settlement and then descended into Rodney Stoke Nature Reserve.

Here the Dolomitic Conglomerate was covered with grassland with many different wild herbs and flowers.  The Marjoram was in full flower, and there were healthy areas dominated by the Betony: Stachys officinalis.

There were lots of different sized blue butterflies, but all too fast for me.  I just about managed to get a shot of this one, which I found out later, is called Marbled White.

Down at the start of the woods the first hint of some of its specials: Nettle leaved Bell Flower

There were some wood ant nests as large as any ant nest I have ever seen, but there were so many ants milling along the path, that I chose to move on swiftly.

I wonder if animals or insects come to drink from this little pool nestling in this oak tree?

Once out of the woods, we took a path up a hill where sheep quietly grazed.  We were really pleased that there was a bench, put there by the farm, which we took full advantage of for five minutes, admiring the views.