Monday, 26 April 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Delicate Spring Blooms


 I've been watching the Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem', in last week's vase,  gradually unfurl and turn a pale green, the curving leaves adding a soft flowing movement.  They have been reused this week, with the addition of  a stem of Lamprocapnos spectabilis Alba, several blooms from Epimedium x versicolor 'Sulphureum', and a stem of blue forget me not looking flowers from the Siberian Bugloss: Brunnera macrophylla 'Jack Frost'

If you have ever felt the leaves of Brunnera the many hairs that cover the surface give a very rough texture.  When I found the common name Siberian Bugloss, that led me to wondering about the name Bugloss as we have a wild flower called Viper's Bugloss which is a type of Echium. Bugloss comes from the Greek for Ox-tongue .  Thankfully the Brunnera is well rooted and cannot come chasing me, as one is likely to be if you find yourself in a field with young cattle, and yes, I have felt the coarseness of a cow's lick!

On a recent walk across fields and styles, the little piece of litchen covered bark caught my attention and came home to sit on the mantlepiece.

Each Monday I join in with Cathy who rambles through her garden, and posts an anchoring vase often with stories and props.  Do go and have a peep at what other IAVOM posts there are linking into hers.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

Six on Saturday - 24 April 2021

Six on Saturday headed up by Jon The Prop  is a great way of noting down on my blog the progress or otherwise of the garden over the previous week.  We often talk about the weather too, and this week we have lunched in the garden, and I have had to move potted plants into the shade.  Fleece has been used as much for frost protection as for shading of new lettuce seedling planted out from the scorching sun and drying winds.  The rain tub is empty and and the hose is out of the shed, rescue watering has now begun.

1. Over five weeks, I have now shown all the newly planted species tulips.  Last week I showed my favourite T. Whittalii Major, and in bloom this week is T. Clusiana Chrysantha,  Mr S's favourite. It is looking quite at its best  this week in our front garden.  Later in the day when they open out you can seen into their rich yellow centres.

Tulip Clusiana Chrysantha

2. Cucumber Poinsett seedlings hold great expectations, and have just moved up a pot size,  but need to be cossetted during this chilly spell.

Cucumber Poinsett seedlings

3. 'Make your own tomato soup' update.  The variety of Tomato is still unknown!

Christmas Present from my Grand daughter

I had planted more than four basil seeds, but before they germinated I had knocked the pot over.  I'll be planting a few more of the seeds very soon, as I just love Basil.

4. First Saturday in flower for Apple D'Arcy Spice,  which is about a week later than last year.  Will the weather be kind enough, and any fruit set this year? I have to tread over too many other plants to get close enough to use any protection.

5. Bleeding Hearts or as I prefer today:  Manypeeplia  upsidedownia but for the serious lot Lamprocapnos spectabilis

Lamprocapnos spectabilis

This year it is the turn of the' Red' to be strong and full of blooming stems, and joy of joy there are little seedlings coming up in the surrounding area, both for this one and Alba too. There were loads of seeds last year, and I gathered the seeds and scattered them around beyond the area of the plants.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis Alba

Alba is a shadow of last year's self, but I just love the bright green and delicate leaves and its heart shaped pendulous blooms 'dripping' off its erect but tender looking stems.  Again seedlings have been moved to a shadier area. My cooler shadier area is really at a premium, and now that I have given away some of my ferns to a friend setting up a collection, I have a little extra of this 'premium' space.

 Edward Lear, who is better known for his nonsensical limericks, was inspired by this plant and went on to publish a drawing of a plant he called  Manypeeplia  upsidedownia in his book : Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets.(1871).

6. Yesterday I visited Yeo Organic gardens, with friends.  We moved to our home here on the southern flank of the Mendips just over four years ago, and I have yet to forgive myself for not having visited this garden sooner. It is on the northern side of the hills with marvellous views of the lakes. They have a superb 'potager', and in the true spirit of organic gardening I have just planted a few

Dwarf French Beans Annabelle, spelling on Moreveg where I bought the seeds from, but also spelt Annabel elsewhere,  in our discarded paper coffee cups.  I only grow a few veggies in a tiny patch. By the time they are up sheltered in the conservatory, and hardened off, I calculate and sincerely hope we shall not longer be having such low overnight temperatures.


Friday, 23 April 2021

Visit to Yeo's Organic Gardens

Wells WI "Blooming Fun" gardening group only recently formed.  We have already been able to meet via zoom, and discuss what each member can bring, share or would like to gain from the group. Sharing plants from our gardens, for me has been a joy.  During the recent very restricted possibilities, Wells WI has devised many solutions to bring a sense of connection and also open up new opportunities for our members.  This gardening group is lead by two members, along with input from all interested members. 

Today we had our first outside meeting. For our first garden visit the weather was absolutely glorious, if a little cold and breezy . At Yeo's Organic Gardens, blue skies, good paths  and just the joy of being able to be outside together meant that our two hour morning slot just whizzed by. We went round in small numbers, but would often call out:  " Did you see....." which meant turning back and retracing our steps and discovering little tucked away gardens easily missed.

As this was one of my first outings, with friends, since the most recent lock down, and also my first visit to this garden, I was not really concentrating on taking pictures.  At each turn were areas to beguile. 

In a small enclosed woodland,  Himalayan Birch trees grow tall and straight.  Although one's eye is drawn to the far side of the woodlands, one cannot but also pause, taking note and admiring  the large  range of spring woodland plants covering the ground, as in a Millefleur Tapestry.  

Already the fine crosiers of ferns and young leaves of foxglove plants look forward to the shadier months  when the violets, anemones, scilla, and erythroniums and many others will have fallen to their summer rest.

One cannot help but be drawn,  and then smile as with each step woodland reflections curve and shimmer. I get a sense of theatre and drama and of movement.

Today it was the reflections which resonated with me. It seems this space has its very own mood encapsulated by this figure of a man balanced exquisitely and mirrored on the calm surface as if in a trace.

On my second visit just a week later, when I complemented the owner on the beautiful Bronze and how it just possessed the space, Sarah Mead mentioned that the sculpture was by French Artist and Sculptor Nicolas Lavarenne, and that it had been a present for one of her big birthdays.  To think we all get to share in the beauty of her birthday present, just how generous is that!

Each area felt different, whether enclosed or backed by local stone walls, or hedges. Nestling within the Mendip, and  surrounded by rolling hills there is a feeling of greenness and tranquility. I don't need this Crystal Ball to foretell many more visits to these gardens.

There was a joyous display of Parrot Tulips.  As Yeo is the manufacturer of delicious yogurts and other dairy produce, this pot full certainly made me chuckle.

With feathers of colour on curved and crinkly petals

the parrot tulips both free and enclosed made a fine display on the terrace.

This is certainly a garden worth visiting several times during the year.

Balkan Cheese Bread from The Baking Book

 My kind and generous friend Mandy recently sent me a book.  It was a complete surprise and I get a smile still thinking of my reaction when I opened the posted book.  Mandy had known that I had visited Honey & Co in London, and that I had probably borrowed one of their cookery books, soon after from the library, but had yet to have my own copy.  We take it in turns to choose a recipe.  So being my turn I have chosen Balkan Cheese Bread.  When Mandy bakes hers, I shall put a link to her post here.  She is a superb photographer and has a great way with words, so it will be interesting, not just to me, but to anyone wanting to try this load, to read Mandy's post.  If in the meantime before you get your own book, the recipe was published in Delicious Magazine.

I've used local Wootton White and Milestone Sheep's cheeses which I buy from Wells Market.  The Bread was delicious, and Mr S & I both thought the dough was excellent.  With the egg yolk and the golden cold pressed rapeseed oil, the dough had a soft briochy texture, which balanced very well with the leeks and the cheese.  The Nigella seeds and the chilli flakes were a great flavour too in amongst the cheese goo.  I have made several cheesy layered breads such as Tootmanik s Gotovo Testo, a Bulgarian Bread and I recognised that Honey & Co's Balkan Cheese Bread would be excellent.

This is a large loaf easily serving six hungry people together with a bowl of soup.  We ate just a third, and there are now two chunks in the freezer.  Next time I shall make two smaller loaves from the same amount of ingredients.

Monday, 19 April 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Forced to show these

 I've come to the conclusion that on the main, as regards flowers and plants, I am a natural sort of person enjoying unforced flowers in their natural season.  In early January I brought the pot of Alstromeria into the conservatory after the growth had got frosted.  After pulling all the stems, the plant took off, and is now in flower.  

Today, I moved the pot outside and picked a few stems.  So having in effect having been forced in the conservatory, I am now forced to show the Alstromeria 'Indian Summer'.  It is not often that one has naturally growing flowers of this hue in the Spring time, which may be the reason it feel a little weird.

As for the accompanying  'greenery' a stem of of the Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' was sacrificed.

For my WI bookclub I am reading Miss Austen by Gill Hornby. For any lovers of the novels of Jane Austen, this is a 'must read'.  Mr S is already queuing up to read this.  The book is propped up against the warm and comfortable Mosaic Carpet Cushion.  I have such wonderful memories of going of a workshop with two good knitting friends.

Cathy who is the center of the IAVOM universe, has settled on The Blues this week, with of course great bits and pieces about concerts and hobbies woven in.  A good read indeed, very well done Cathy.

Saturday, 17 April 2021

Blood Orange and Pistachio Cake Revisited

 Whilst I still had some blood oranges left, I thought I would have a second try at the cake from The Honey & Co Baking Book.  I followed the recipe ratios exactly as well as the method except again I halved the quantities.  I also did not add the sugar and cornflour to the bottom of the tin, as last time getting the cake out intact was an impossibility.  Instead I made a sauce, which I poured on the cake when it came out of the oven. I still feel that the base, which of course becomes the top when you turn the cake out, is too wet.

Whether I had larger eggs this time, or whether beating the nuts into the creamed butter and sugar, before rather than after the eggs, as I did last time, I seem to have too much batter for the 7 inch tin.  I had my first stick of rhubarb and a few left over strawberries, so made three small cakes.  These were much more of a success. 

It might be that the oranges were just too juicy, and perhaps something like nectarines or peaches would suit the batter better.

Six on Saturday - 17 April 2021

Here is a link to the Prop's blog. He hasn't posted yet today, so it may be that he is somewhere on a long run.  Should he put something up later, then I'll link in to it at a later date. He has now, so I am linking here to his, and guess what it is the start of the Tulip season there too.

 1. There is nothing quite like observing new plants growing in one's garden and checking them out.  Different growing conditions, which can range from soil, climate and weather and each year seems to vary  allows us to see what plants are really like, as apposed to recollections of clever photography and over the top descriptions.  Even small areas within the garden seem to have a micro-climate and now I am getting to know the new garden, find moving plants around can be of great benefit.

I have already posted about T. Turkestanica and how I was a little underwhelmed by them, but found I had not put up a picture.  So here it is, mostly so that I can refer back to what they looked like and their position and by which I can compare them next year.

T. Turkestanica

Last week I wrote about T. Clusiana Lady Jane, which is continuing to look lovely.  In the morning they are closed with the slightest pale cream edge to their pink outer petals and then they becomes fully open in the bright sunshine.  By coincidence I received some Tulip photographs from The Somerset Alpine Garden Society and consequently on requesting names was sent an article by Christine Skelmersdale of Broadleigh Gardens.  I found I still had the full article in April 2020 of The Garden. These few words, regarding Tulipa clusiana, which had simply accompanied the original un labelled pictures piqued my interest: "This tulip spreads strongly by stolons". What an interesting feature in tulips, which explains how these types of tulips will increase and little colonies expand. Watching the tulips over a number of years is going to be interesting.

2. I was particularly pleased to read that spreading by stolens is also a feature of what must be my favourite tulip so far: Tulipa Whittalii Major. Maybe it is the self confidence it  exudes as well as its overall proportions that I find most pleasing. As for colour, burnt orange is amongst my favourite.

3. Perhaps the most disappointing of the tulips so far is Tulipa tarda.  I so hope that it improves in future years.  It is very close to the ground but this may be that we have had a very dry spell this Spring.  Hopefully next year I shall be able to change my views, as I had high expectations when I viewed all the pictures before I bought it.

4. One little plant that has grown on me is this diminutive Iris pumila Knick-Knack.  This was a plant which in its first year in the garden four years ago, was underwhelming: time and growth has changed this.

5. Astrantia major 'Sunningdale Variegated' is adding a bright splash and seems to have benefitted from its mulch.  There are several patches of this lovely foliage and flower plant.

Astrantia major Sunningdale Variegated

6. Ghostly apparitions with a cemetery just over the wall?  No it is the small Plum Mirabelle de Nancy shrouded in its frost protective fleece, with early morning mist on the air.  AS I look out, this morning, there is ice on the bird bath. We have had strong sun by day, cold nights with frost, and still no rain. This has meant watering of pots, and areas where there have been recently planted or moved shrubs and plants.  The weather forecast is fair and dry for at least a week ahead.  There are no 'April Showers' forecast. 

Just as a small extra, which at this time of the year, is so hard not to include, mea culpa it is not but it is the problem with neighbouring cats:  apparently they love Valeriana  officinalis.

Valeriana officnalis flattened by rolling cats

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Wild Rocket Salad: not just the leaves

 Thewild rocket has been available to pick throughout the winter, and now it has started to bolt, but the leaves are still tender and delicious, and there is the added bonus of flowers to give a lunch salad a floral edge:

With bright clear days, we have even had lunch in the garden.

The flowers were picked as they open, and put in a small sealed tub to use over the next couple of days.  They also looked very good strewn over a lovely green soup.

Time to sow another row.....

Blood Orange and pistachio Cake

 Thanks to Mandy who sent a 'surprise' gift of Honey & Co: The Baking Book, I set to to bake a delicious sounding recipe.  I had picked up a whole tray of Blood Oranges up at Wells Fruit and Veg, and with all the other ingredients got cracking.  

My dilemma was as a result of not having sufficient dariole molds or large muffin tins, and thought I would make half the quantity and bake it as a whole cake.  Mandy had warned that she had problems releasing the cakes, so I made sure to butter the cake tin really well and also line the base with parchment.

As Mr S said, if this had been on Bake Off,  it would have been tears!  Several of the orange slices stayed in the tin, but these were quickly put back onto the cake, and the middle was undercooked, something which was only noticeable when it was sliced.

However, it was absolutely delicious, served with more sliced blood oranges, and a dollop of yogurt. What would I change for next time?  I would not put so much sugar and cornflour on the base of the tin, but make a syrup to pour hot onto the cake when it was baked.  Bake the cake at a 10 C lower and for longer, and glaze after the cake is turned out as it is cooling.  Make two: one for now, one for the freezer.

The poorly baked middle was cut out, and combined with an egg, some milk and large raisins in marsalla, and made into a baked hot  pudding, which was absolutely delicious.

Swiss Dark Flour in a Sourdough Loaf Tin

 It is ages since I wrote about using the Swiss Dark Flour from Shipton Mill. As another bag was added to the last order, I thought I ought to get baking with it.  The quantities just fill the two Silverwood 1lb loaf tins, which are larger than similar named ones by other companies.

My refreshed starter was bubbling and vibrant and made from 80g each of healthy mother, with 80g each of White Strong Flour and water, left to bubble overnight.

The remainder of 400g Strong White Bread Flour, and 150g Swiss Dark Flour, 320g water initially, plus a little more for wetting hands, worksurface etc. and 10g salt.  I follow the kneading, and the stretch and rest methods as for Sourdough baking.  This is a version of 'Mighty White'. 

 Another time I will use equal proportions of white and swiss dark flour for a more robust loaf.

Monday, 12 April 2021

In a Vase on Monday - Somewhere these are wild flowers

" Round abouts,  along the lanes there be wild flowers a plenty" my English Grandma was a great connoisseur of them and roamed the lanes and paths of Lincolnshire, and could take one to all sorts of 'secret  places'.  Mr S & I  have been walking out and spotting drifts of primroses and also many other wild flowers. A few wild English flowers growing  in the garden and in flower at the moment are primroses, violets and cowslips.  

I post these assemblies of flowers from the garden and link in with Cathy who brings gardeners together to share similar arrangements each week. 

The little vase today contains some delicate 'wild flowers' originating from distant lands.  They retain the gentle light form of wild spring blooms and because of their beauty and ability to adapt to our climate and soils, have become garden additions, without any necessity to improve or hybridize.

The pink flowers of Cyclamen repandum with their long twisted petals is a native from the shores of the northern Mediterranean; Dicentra Cucullaria also known as Dutchman's breeches comes from woodlands in Eastern North American, and Corydalis ochroleuca aka Pseudofumaria alba with its ferny green leaves a perfect accompaniment. This last one is native to the north western Balkans and northern Italy.  It was introduced to Britain long ago, and listed by John Gerard. Alison gave me this a couple of years ago, and I am delighted to find that it is now finding its own special places in the garden.

This week, still on zoom, I am meeting up with friends to share our thoughts of  The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman.  I will give it a good rating, and loved the humour and pace, but I had better have a recap of the last few short chapters as I got carried away at the end, and may have missed some of the intricacies, in my rush to get to the end.

Saturday, 10 April 2021

Six on Saturday - 10 April

We may have had some great sunshine but there has also been hard frosts, with tender growth caught a little.  The ground absolutely sodden just a few weeks ago is now parched, so a little watering of newly planted bits and pieces and pots has taken place, and the water barrel is already nearly empty.  The propagator has been moving plants around and has some really bright blooms to share this week, I'll be tagging along there as usual.

1.  Andrew, a fellow SOSer posted about having a tortoise.last week, which reminded me of my husband's tortoise.  She is still around, and with a niece, and most probably a great niece or nephew.  We happen to have two concrete ones which are moved around the gravel garden.  Both found abandoned in previous gardens.  They are a reminder of Toby, who only after being named and after laying an egg, revelaedl her true identity: dear old Tobbie!

2.  Phlox bifida Ralph Haywood has come through the wet winter and is in flower. Buds were showing in March but it is now nicely covered in its pretty divided blue flowers. This picture shows it a little too blue, when in reality there is a touch of mauve very similar to the Foxtail Rosemary growing not far away in the same bed.

I wasn't sure when to prune it back, so it has been left alone, as I thought the growth would protect it from the weather.  The stems are thin and brittle, but I can also see tender green shoots emerging deep within the growth.  I may get two periods of flowering: early April on the old stems, continuing with a later flowering on the new stems. This plant came from Pottertons in 2019, and I have a little plant taken as a cutting last spring.  

I read In Portraits of Alpine plants: "Ralph Haywood was a tall, quiet gentleman and an expert plantsman and propagator, who once worked at Joe Elliott’s renowned nursery at Broadwell in the Cotswolds; and then later became foreman of the Alpine House and propagation departments at Wisley. Sadly, Ralph died at the early age of 42, but his name lives on in a number of outstanding plants." 

After a spending several minutes searching for more about Ralph Haywood I happen to notice that this year I had ordered another plant named for Ralph Haywood:  Silene schafta Ralph Haywood, which I need to look after well before it is featured on SOS.

3. All winter I had been looking at my wonky trellis which I had put up in haste last year.  When Mr S realised that I was planning on replacing it he said he rather liked it, so instead, I untied and realigned the bamboos, separated out the stems of clematis Sugar Sweet, tied in some stems and it is already forming flower buds.

4. The various tulips are coming up.  When I first planted them I thought the squirrels must have dug them up, or even the badgers, but having planted them deeply, it looks as if they gave up before coming across them.

Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane has long petals the outside of the outer three are tinted pink.

5. All is well with  Persicaria runcinata Needham's growth is emerging from beneath the mulch.   

6.  Impatience and disappoint are sometimes to be born.  I seem lacking in fortitude!

I am as disappointed so far in Scillia Litardierei which have yet to come in flower,  

as I am underwhelmed by the growth on the Chaenomeles speciosa Yukigoten.  However maybe it is patience that I am lacking.  The description gives time till full growth as 10-20 years, and it has only been in 2 years.  

When feeling like this ought I to turn to drink instead, but frankly I never do, plants often come to my aid:  Port and Lemon maybe?

Primula juliana Port and Lemon is a newly planted addition to the front of the Conservatory Border: intoxicatingly pretty and certainly helps to alleviate impatience and disappointment. Can't say I have ever had that combination but I do appreciate Old Port.  It is far too early in the day for Vintage Port but this Primula juliana Old Port will do nicely.

I certainly raised my glass to the dear old duke last night. He had a very good innings and what a rock! 

Friday, 9 April 2021

Echeveria Purple Pearl from leaf to flower in four years

 After setting a few leaves of my Echeveria Purple Pearl in some grit in 2017, by February 2018 these some small plants were ready to pot on.

Good light and frost free environment of the conservatorysuit this echeveria; in the summer when temperatures in there are too high, the plants get moved into the garden to form a grouped display with other succulents.  I may also place one of the plants as a houseplant on a window sill.

Now one of the two plants I kept is at its best with two flower spikes.

For the moment the plant is on our breakfast table where I can enjoy the detail of its form and flowers.

I'll be starting a few more leaves this year, ready for a new generation of this attractive house plant.