Monday, 28 March 2022

Even better than Sticky Toffee Pudding

 I made Dan Lepard's Rye Malt Banana Cake in anticipation for a few friends popping round today and tomorrow to view the garden, and having a demonstration of plant division. The recipe came to me via Bakery Bits newsletter, but in any case I get Dan Lepard's posts of Facebook.

A number of changes to the cake were needed simply because I didn't have all the ingredients, and baked it in a 20 x 30 tray deep oblong Silverware bake tin.  I didn't have walnuts, so used pecans instead which had been lightly roasted, and didn't have any roasted barley malt, which I am sure to put onto my next order from Bakery Bits. I used 30g of malt syrup instead. I find tray bakes easy to portion up and freeze, as we wouldn't want to eat so many slices just the two of us over a couple or more days.

Tonight we had a lovely big bowl of spiced pumpkin soup with lots of chicken bits from the stock, with added lentils.  After a' soup dinner', I like to serve a pudding.

We were out of yogurt, but we had been saving the cream from the top of the goat's milk which has just started to be delivered by Sarah.

Into the small frying pan went a good desert spoon of sugar and a little water, boiled together and a dessert spoon of malt syrup, then the banana added.  This formed the 'sticky' element, then the cream poured over, and a couple of pecan nut halves for me, but none for him.  You can guess who is the nuttiest of us two!

If I had any ways of improving this, I would have warmed up the cake in some foil in the oven.  It was still delicious.  I have sixteen good sized portion, so in in effect one could make sixteen desserts for a large gathering with this recipe.  Five stars for Dan's Recipe!

In a Vase on Monday - Frugality?

I've always enjoyed the challenge of using what I have rather than discarding.  I'm not perfect but I find pleasure in using things up, for instance some of my best suppers have been finding what needs using up and making a meal of it, rather than leaving for yet another day and then having to throw things away.

Two plants were recently divided and repotted, and required removal of material, which would have ended in the recycling bin.  They looked so attractive even though still in tight bud, so decided to use the best to put in a vase.  Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' has now unfurled leaves

It ended it with two vases, one without flowers but with bark leaf and seeds which have been on the mantle piece for months.  The other one still looking very good with the Alstromeria fully opening over a few of days.  

I could have gone out and picked some lovely daffodils fresh today, but I have friends coming today and tomorrow to look round the the garden, and for now they need to stay where they are.  If it turns cool they may well last and be available for next week's vase.  

Over with Cathy to whom a band of us gardeners link in, where without doubt there will be an abundance of opulent arrangements.

Saturday, 26 March 2022

Six on Saturday - 26 March 2022

 It has been sunny, some days we have had wall to wall sunshine, warm enough to have lunch outside.  Some seed sowing is nearly overdue, but I have been out gallivanting, and also giving attention to other plants which needed it.

How many similar stories will we have from Jon The Prop, and all the rest of us that join in?  The proof will be in catching up and reading the interesting posts on things gardening.

As some of you are reading this on Saturday I shall be helping out at Yeo Valley Gardens, and I may just have acquired a few small plants, and hopefully all the plants I propagated for the HPS stall will have been sold.

Yes the plants I bought at the Bishop's Palace Fair last Sunday have already been planted out!  I do like nasturtiums and already some seeds left behind in the soil over winter are germinating. 

1. I bought Tropaeolum tricolorum from the Avon Bulbs's stand is in a pot. It is a small climbing plant related to the Nasturtiums, I have my eye on them now for several years, and look forward to nurturing them and growing it during the winter in the conservatory.  It is of course as you probably already know Summer dormant. A big plus just like the standard nasturtiums, they are edible!

2. The second plant that came home with me from The Bishop's Palace,  and it is already planted out in the shady border, is a Yellow Hellebore with outfacing yellow flowers with golden nectaries. 

 I had bought three hellebores earlier this year from the Twelve Nunns nursery but having seen the effect of a yellow hellebore at East Lambrook Manor, I was persuaded of its value to brighten up a garden. The yellow Hellebore I saw during the week at Kapunda Plants was similar but had a darker colour at the base of the sepals.

3. I bought a little Pulsatilla vulgaris in deep purple.  They are so tactile and again that is planted in full sun in gritty well draining soil. If it is happy I understand it may self-seed. I had forgotten that Pulsatillas were the topic of the zoomed talk by the AGS this Thursday, but don't think I shall be getting many more apart from this one and the two yet to flower, planted last year in the gravel bed. 

4. Lastly I bought two little pots of Crocus chrysanthus Prins Claus.  They were so crowded in the small pot, but I washed off all the compost and replanted them nicely spaced into the ground. The grower told me they were very late flowering crocus, but although these are indeed flowering late, I think it due to planting the bulbs late in tiny pots, I'm sure they will be flowering much earlier next spring..

5. Primula Port and Lemon is nicely settled in its second year in the spot. Divisions were place just alongside.

6. 'Blue Horizon' a julianae hybrid, a sport of 'Wanda' too is in full flow. This one is a little more high maintenance, compared with Wanda but a lovely blue and well worth growing.

and as a bonus just in case you were wondering what lies beyond the label of Narcissus Oxford Gold:

Friday, 25 March 2022

Kapunda Plants - A morning Visit

 We have an enthusiastic bunch in our WI gardening group, and have been enjoying some excellent garden visits, often with a good lunch stop at a local hostelry.  Maggie and Carolyn come up trumps on all accounts: venue, weather and restaurant.

Here  we are at the end for our group photo.  You can  tell how happy we were.  You'll get another at the end without me just to confirm all those in the group.

We were cordially welcomed by Juliet Davis and her husband, who served us some refreshment as the group gradually came together.  Car shares had been organised of course.  

In the front of the castellated early twentieth century house, the fountain and well clipped hedging adds a formal air to the front garden, with vertical yews giving an Italianate feeling , but with its extensive lawns very English at the same time.  The property is surrounded by mature trees forming the much needed wind break.

Kapunda Garden fountain

Juliet gave us a little background to how and why her love of gardening expanded into breeding new Hellebores, all kicking off from a couple of Hellebores which were gifts.  We walked along a 'woodland' walk  through the developing fringe of additional shrub and small trees and spring flowers which offered differing views of the garden.

We arrived at the long border of Hellebores growing under the dappled shade

A clever design of enclosed gardens with solid but not too high yew hedges offered the perfect backdrop to the long border of even more Hellebores.

All the way round Juliet was very attentive answering all sorts questions regarding the cultivation of Hellebores and several of the other admired plants such as this pretty Pulmonaria Blue Ensign

The selection of plants to selected for Juliet's crosses was evident in the glass house where coloured knitting wool was used as a code for blooms which would in the end yield seed ready for sowing as soon as they were ripe in the summer.

We picked up tips on the sowing of the seed, the pricking out and potting on of the plants as we admired the neat production areas.

As I love yellow, this one has to be my favourite Hellebore, but sadly there were non available this year.

Several plants were selected by some of the members, but having had several charity open days and groups already, there were but a few remaining plants available.

We bade farewell and made our way to The Hope and Anchor where a delicious lunch and good company was enjoyed.

Maggie couldn't quite eat her large seafood platter, and I can say that the whitebait, and squid were delicious!  One of these is ample for two sharing!  The drive back across the Mendips in this glorious weather was an extra bonus, and this time I must say that you to Sue for excellent driving.

Monday, 21 March 2022

Delights in Bath

 With a day out in Bath on a Monday, the streets were not crowded but a good range of shops were open.  We had travelled there to drop off a repair, but took the opportunity of a little walk around and lunch.  We had planned to have lunch in the pump rooms which we used to do, but now they close for lunch and only open for one of those great big expensive cream teas.  The end of an era I think where locals are excluded from just popping in for a drink and a light lunch, maybe a read of a paper, friends gather together for a light lunch whilst listening to the Palm Court Orchestra. Hello to tourist buses but I guess they want to earn the bucks that is what it is all about these days.

Lunch was from the set menu of Bosco Pizzeria with an excellent Pizza with some wood fired ovens, as second course after arancini, wine and then a little dessert. At least as good as we had in Sicily.

Of course after this lunch a little walk around attractive streets, across Pulteney Bridge and a view of the falls.

We cut back through  The Corridor a  Georgian Arcade to zigzag our way back to the bus, and came across a dream of an Emporium of Turkish Delights.  It was serendipitous moment.

LoQum Bathzaar Bath

As far as I am concerned it is the best Turkish Delight I have tasted.  The baklavas are made by the owners and Mr S had a little selection to bring home.  I bought pieces of  Turkish Delight is several flavours: Rose Petal with Pistachio, Barberry with Pistachio, Pomegranate with Pistachio and Raspberry with Pistachio. Their Turkish Delight comes all the way from Istanbul. A very little hamper of Delights came home with us.

This will be a continuing reason to visit Bath, probably as soon as my little stash of Turkish Delight is eaten up.  


Saturday, 19 March 2022

Instant Garden - In a Bowl

 I was delighted that one of my favourite stalls at the market had returned.  Graham  from Tadham Alpines often brings a good selection of alpines.  He didn't have quite the full range, but non the less I chose a few plants, and three ended up being planted in an empty bowl.

The three pieces stone was collected as samples when the Geology group visited Doulting Quarry a few weeks ago.  Saxifraga anglica Grace Farewell is the one with longer stems at the top of the picture. The one of the right with the open pink flowers is Saxifraga 'Pink Melba', I've not grown these type of Saxifrages before but I am learning. The little grey leaved plant is Anternneria dioica alba sometimes called 'pussytoes'.

I may have made a mistake with these as they all need slightly different light/sun regimes, but I'll keep a close eye on it move them out in some shade if the sun gets too hot, but it would be easy enough to slip in a different plant if necessary. 

Six on Saturday - 19 March 2022

1.  This little Primula juliae White Wanda, or Primula 'White Wanda', or even Primula x pruhoniciana 'White Wanda'  has been in flower since December and even the divisions made then have been in flower since early February.  I can now see some little patches where other divisions will fit nicely, but there are other plant fairs coming up, and maybe new primulas will be establishing themselves ready for next year! I shall be at the Bishop's Palace in Wells this Sunday, and next week at the HPS spring plant sale at Yeo Valley Gardens helping out for most of the day.

2. This week a question of the correct naming of the little primula I took to my gardening club to use to demonstrate the technique of division. I had the name Primula 'Wanda' but the speaker corrected this to Primula vulgaris 'Wanda'. That led me of course to doing some more research on this which is always interesting and found that it is not wrong to write Primula 'Wanda', but putting in 'vulgaris' is wrong. I learnt even more on the way about primroses but not nearly not enough. Any suggestions of good books on the topic?

I found out that Wanda arose as a hybrid cross between P. juliae and a crimson form of P. acaulis which resulted in ‘Wanda,’ it won the Award of Merit in 1919, and was described as ‘the most striking of the many hybrids so far exhibited’. Doretta Klaber said ‘Wanda’ is ‘bright and glowing, like a glass of wine seen against the light.’ The vigour, floriferous habit, rapidity of increase, tolerance of sunlight, and attractive colour of ‘Wanda’ led to its extensive use as a breeder’s plant, and eventually to an entire strain of plants now called ‘Wanda Hybrids.’
This is a picture of one of my plants in the garden last year.

I have blogged on this plant on my garden several times, and I particularly cherish this one as it was given to me by a very good friend Kay.

All these juliae types are very easy to divide, just lift part of the plant, break bits off, repot or replant in the garden, watering them well in.

You don't however need to know the correct botanic name to see love and enjoy a plant.

3. If that plant never had a PBR or PVR and may be propagated freely and sold, Alstromeria Indian Summer does have one. PBR: Plant Breeder's Rights or PVR: Plant Variety rights cannot be legally propagated for profit without permission. This is a link to Plant Heritage which explains the situation.

In September 2020 I bought a small plant of Alstromeria Indian Summer from the Rare Plants Fair at the Bishop's Palace and had planted it up with good compost in one of the larger spare ceramic pots. It had done extremely well supplying many flowers for friends and for vases at home. Its high price really was a bargain considering the amount of blooms which started in April and went non stop till December.

At the HPS meeting last week, the speaker mentioned this Alstromeria, and I whispered to Brenda that I had it, and it was agreed I would give her a piece when it was divided. On Thursday I decided to lay out the big plastic sheet over the gravel and get to grips.

A nice little job before lunch I thought. The plant was crammed full of roots, and with so many shoots too.

It took all my efforts just to get it out of its pot, using a large bread saw, I reserve for these jobs, it just would not get out whole and I had to carve out pieces. After a rest I found pots to to temporarily house the divisions, with good compost and feed of course. I think replanting every other year in pots is a must from now on. I was therefore very pleased I did the job now as one more season would have meant having to break the pot.

Having seen its growth in the pot I am wondering about the wisdom of growing it in the open ground, as I am concerned about it being 'invasive'. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated. I know Jim has grown this one too, so I hope you can give me and others advice on this.

4. I hadn't realised that Salvia Amistad had a PVR too: having given away all the surplus plants last year, rather than sell them at my gardening club, I am pleased to say I have not broken any law or regulation. Rather than seeing PVRs as a pain, I am embracing this drive to make us gardeners generous and just give plants away. Now could I say the the plant is free, but I would like a contribution for the pot and compost? Now that is stretching it at club meetings I think. I'll find other plants to sell and give PVRs away.

Salvia Amistad has had her trim and will be replanted with fresh compost, or if Mr S starts to count the pots, a space somewhere out in the garden may be found.

5. The plastic was out, and I remembered someone last year had much admired the
Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' and I similarly attacked that pot. I had bought this plant too from one of the Bishop's Palace Plant Fairs. It felt hard to do this when the growth was looking so beautiful.
Before repotting

Its roots had coiled round and round, with shoots coming up at intervals. This time, I just planted up one section to give away and repositioned the rest in the same pot with fresh compost and granular slow release fertilizer. I cut some of the roots, so that I could more easily repot it with the stems nicely spread out this coming autumn. This would have been its fourth year in the pot, so it was ready for a 'rejuvenation'. I've not tried root cuttings, but looking at the shoots coming out of the roots it ought to be a contender, and I may just practice on some next time. I don't think I would ever release this one into the garden either, and I have found that this is another one with a PVR!

6. Another miniature Narcissi is looking very pretty this week. Bought at the top range of what I usually spend!

Narcissus bulbocodium v. citrinus

but then I spied a 'free self seeded' deep purple violet, seed of which must have taken a ride in a pot which had some of the garden soil from my previous garden! We had a thriving Kenilworth in Bloom plant sale each year where in addition to buying in annuals and hanging baskets from a local growing, one friend used to propagate some wonderful plants to raise funds for work. This is probably Viola labradonica and probably came as a ride in the form of ant sown seed in one of those pots. It is thanks to Brian to replied to my question yesterday on the gardening Facebook page.

Monday, 14 March 2022

In a Vase on Monday - More spring dainties

 Mondays are when I look for something in the garden to arrange and to link in with Cathy who started up this group.

Again using one of the smaller vases, I have a few spring dainties mostly picked this afternoon.  I wanted to include the sprig of flower from Pulmonaria Diana Clare.  On Saturday Brenda and Peter whom I met for the first time after an Alpine Group Zoom meeting, regularly come to HPS Somerset Group meetings.  Brenda now views both Six on Saturday and In a Vase on Monday, and we have very friendly emails regarding gardening. We also have now exchanged a few plants.  This week as well as a few snowdrops, I received a side plant of Pulmonaria Diana Clare, and I took her amongst others Pulmonaria Sissinghurst White.

To enable the plant of Diana Clare to establish itself, Brenda recommended that I remove its flower, and hence in today's garden vase I have used that removed shoot and a couple of stems of Sissinghurst white.  Last year I divided the original clump of Narcissus Rip van Winkle, and and happy that I have three clumps. They are around three weeks later compared with last year! Flowers are a little on the sparse side but I have decided to cut the open ones to allow the bulbs to bulk up nicely in their first year.  Joining them are some leaves of winter green/summer dormant Geranium mlaviflorum.

Saturday, 12 March 2022

Six on Saturday - 12 March 2022


1. Last year for the first time I grew a Viola from seed. It was Viola tricolor kindly sent to me by Jim.  I liked them so much that when I was choosing send from the AGS list you won't be surprised that I selected some.  No it is not overexposed, I was sowing the seeds in the shed and the top of the table is mirrored to reflect as much light as possible.

This week I sowed five different types:

Viola cornuta - Belmont Blue also known as Broughton Blue.  This viola dies down each autumn and fresh growth appears in the spring.  This will be just the ticket to fill in gaps after the spring bulbs. 

Viola Bowles Black named for E. A . Bowles

Viola Grypoceras Exilis which is called the 'cyclamen leaved viola. This one will be a challenge, and I may keep this one in a pot.

Viola Corsica

Viola Altaica this is one of the ancestors of the garden pansy.

2. In the conservatory bed a different set of spring flowers are in their prime such as the corydalis 

Corydalis Beth Evans

Not forgetting the lovely white ones Corydalis Malkensis:

3.  Whatever lush foliage there is later, I love the stage when you are just watching the small buds on delicate shrubs opening. The Amelanchiers may well be in flower by next Saturday but I love the shape of this little very very slow growing acer. There appears to be no winter damage so it will probably be its best year:

4.  I have a little plant given to me by gardening friend Alison, that is already raring to go can you believe it? Already? It is!
Scabiosa columbaria 'Pink Mist'.  Alison did say it was hardly never not flowering!  

6. Last year I divided one of the clumps of Pulmonaria Sissinghurst white, and must have given away several good plants.  Here is one small piece at the foot of the bird table doing its thing and attracting those huge bumble bees.

Talking about bumble bees, they can't resist the large catkins on Salix Mount Aso laden with pollen. So much pollen that it masks the pink fuzziness it previously displayed.

I'm not sure if the bumblebees could fit into the tiny trumpets of the Narcissus cyclamineus, so I have had pollinated them using the flowers from the little clump growing in the garden which were dripping with pollen.  Lets hope there will soon be swelling ovaries. I'd like to have a go at growing these from seed.

Its HPS Somerset talk today, so I shall be meeting friends and enjoying a good lecture. It is going to be a fine day so my friends, many of you will be out enjoying your garden. With a little snatch devoted to checked out Jon and others from Six on Saturday.