Monday, 27 June 2022

In a Vase on Monday - Are nasturtiums the new orchids?

 Now that orchids are easy to obtain and grow, can be bought as cut flowers, could they be said to have lost their cachet? May I propose that today nasturtiums could be the new orchids!  Sometime tricky to grow, can be threaten by insects, are so delicate, that if you have them delivered, it would have to be by a special courier almost holding the flowers, not in a box etc. and probably only good for a day or two.  Now that is luxury!

I'm sure that Cathy who hosts this meme and others joining in will have similar garden grown treasurers, sometimes with accompanying additions. If you are taken by Cathy's cake menu then I too am serving a Coconut and Lime cake when I have visitors to the garden tomorrow. Here is a link to a good recipe. 

Suggesting that nasturtium could be the new orchids was a bit cheeky, and said a little tongue in cheek.  Yesterday I read a headline.  I ought to have read the whole article at the time, but thought I would be able to get back to it.  That is the problem with on line newspapers rather than the hard copies which one can fold back and keep for later. I failed to read the article and it has been like a worm in my brain.  The title was 'Are peas the new Caviar?' I can't find the article to read, but having googled it I came across an old article in The Suffolk New written by Nicola Miller in 2016.   

"If you travel to the Basque region between March and June, it is likely that you will meet food-lovers making a special pilgrimage of their own, and not for religious reasons either, but to eat the tiny tear-shaped peas that are harvested from farms which line El Camino de Santiago.

The peas are prized by chefs based in the popular pintxos bars which line the streets of San Sebastian. Known as guisante lágrima in Spain, these peas sell at up to £250 a pound because they are harvested and shelled by hand and their delicate flavour is a result of the farm’s proximity to the sea which imbues the air and soil with a subtle salinity. It can take nearly twenty pounds of pods to produce one pound of shelled peas, earning them the local name of vegetable caviar."

Yes I am growing peas and mangetout this year, in my very small vegetable plot, and each little morsel has formed the basis of some creative cooking, and also often used just as garnishing sometimes with a nasturtium leaf and flower. 

On the book front, I am close to finishing another excellent book, from our Wells WI Bookclub called "The Nightingale" by Kristin Hannah.  

Sometimes the American spellings, and non period correct words jumped out at me, but on the whole a great read.  There is a scene in which a secret message was smuggled in a bouquet, and the descriptions of lack of food, far worse than the rationing my mother described to me, makes one appreciate the simplest of food such as peas... 

When we met to discuss the book, I had only read a couple of chapters, and it is certainly a book I really wanted to continue with.  What made the book particularly poignant is that recently one of the members of the group had been going through her mother's memoirs of their escape from German occupied France leaving behind absolutely everything except what their car with several adults and children could carry,  and consequently lost everything that their luxurious life had to offer. I was also very privileged to be given a copy of these memoires, and have seen a few of the precious photographs handed down through a couple of generations. 


Saturday, 25 June 2022

Six things in my garden late June 2022

We do have distant views of the Festival at Glastonbury if you stand on the sitting circle and peer to the distant hill, at night we can see the lights, and sound even reaches us.  I can't imagine a place I would rather not be, the place to be is however in the garden trying to zone in on the birdsong or even the sound of the wind in the foliage.  I am a little later than usual joining in with the weekly meme but still want to join the queue of people linking in with Jon The Propagator.

1.  Growing still in the same pot is Clematis Olympia, with blue flowers.

After it has flowered I am going to have a go as cutting it right down, giving it a feed etc, to see if it will flower a second time this year.  Last year after flowering but much later I cut it down and was really surprised at the growth.  It was too late in the season however.  I think it ought to be repotted in fresh compost for next year.

2.  Repotting was far too late for the cyclamen and after twenty minutes of trying to get the corm out of the pot with knives involved, it was either throw the whole lot away, or smashing the pot.  The corm is now planted in the garden, but for the heck of me, I can't remember where I put it.  I might as well have thrown the whole thing away!

3. Origanum 'Emma Stanley' in its third year in the gravel garden is the top plant there this week.

4. Grown from seed from the Alpine Garden Society these little Eryngium bourgatii will soon be placed in that area.  I lost the one growing elsewhere probably because it got overshadowed by other foliage, and I have realised they do need their own patch in the sun.

5.       My friend Eileen gave me a couple of tumbling tomatoes that have already set many fruit.  They are planted in the one large pot, which is now balanced on top of another inverted pot just to keep the fruit off the ground.

6.  Do you remember those little small plug plants...they are coming good, and will be a nice addition to our mini open day on Tuesday.

Hope the wind settles down, and for at least Tuesday we have a dry spell in the afternoon.  Other than that the garden could so with some rain.

Monday, 20 June 2022

In a Vase on Monday - June Roses

 Last Friday Alison and I had a very pleasant time at the Bishop's Palace Garden festival. We had a 'personal' tour by Colin, one of the gardeners.  There were few people on the Friday morning and no one else on the tour.  Alison is very knowledgeable and was able to bring to mind some names of shrubs and trees, and together we enjoyed the tour with Colin pointing out many great plant associations.

Just after lunch we went to sit in on a flower arranging demonstration by one of her friends in the floristry world: Louise Bastow .  Some of Louise's workshops take place at Alison's, from whose garden the flowers come: Floral Acre. Until she developed her flower business Alison was a regular contributor to In a Vase on Monday, and since moving to this area, we have become good friends.  I shall of course be volunteering to help should she have an open garden again after the last couple of difficult years.

I have as a result of In a Vase on Monday which is a weekly event hosted by Cathy, met some lovely people, and enjoyed arranging garden grown flowers. 

This is not the tied bouquet demonstrated by Louise, but she did remind me of the importance of putting cut material straight into water in the garden, so my bucket followed me.  Another tip that reinded me to cut material in cooler conditions, so all this was cut yesterday early, and another tip was  conditioning flowers and stripping leaves.  This morning everything in the bucket was looking fresh and lovely.

I've used almost everything before: Rose Grace, and rose Ghislaine de FéligondePittosporum Garnettii,  Achillea millefolium 'Lilac Beauty', love in the mist seed heads,  but it is the first for Filipendula Vulgaris Multiplex, or best described as frothy creamy white flower.  I think it was the conditioning that made the flower stem firm and be suitable for arranging. Even the youngish bright green bay leaves hidden amongst the roses here are excellent. I had fallen into the 'doldrums' but having met my friend for the day, and got drawn back into the love the flowers, I too feel 'conditioned' and in a much nicer place.

As for reading, I have recently finished The Fair Botanists by Sara Sheridan. Brenda brought this for me to read when we met up at East Lambrook Manor.  I would highly recommend this book which is a nice read with an excellent sense of place and time, a bit of intrigue, and suspense, a good page turner. I'll be meeting up with Brenda again when the book will be returned. It will be a chance at last to visit her garden during the Stogumber Open Gardens in its 40th Year.  

Saturday, 18 June 2022

Six on Saturday 18 June 2022

It was hotter than Hawaii, and almost wall to wall sunshine here yesterday.  Some of the small seedlings in the veggie area are covered with fleece to reduce scorching, and I am watering the cucumber several times a day.  Linking in with The Propagator and no doubt there will be a bit of a weather report on some of the post linking in, but we are here for the Six on Saturday from the garden, so lets begin! 

1. In its sixth year, top spot this week in the garden goes to the Dianthus chinensis.

I love early mornings in the garden, getting some  watering done, checking and dead heading roses, and feeling the freshness of the cooler air. Very early morning there was the slightest of dews...

2. I am not sure that either the garden or I are made for the summer: we are spring time delicates!  I am apt to get impetuous and sometimes the garden is on the receiving end.  Could it be that because of all my spring bulbs I do not plant for a true 'summer' or autumn garden.  I shall ponder that and in the meantime appreciate what is good in the garden.  My double camomile which looked lovely earlier on in its tight green lawn phase, was peeking up to be in full flower and the poor little rose Shine On, was being cast into the dark, with leaves sadly stressed and flowers struggling.   I took it upon myself to remove it all.  This is the after picture. The patch looks a little bleak at present but I am sure within a few weeks it will be looking great.  Mr S worries as again I have more visitors in a couple of weeks time.  However now I am in the phase of having recruited other members to show their garden, I shall henceforth be gardening purely for my own joy, and not worrying whether to leave patches alone or progress with my savage gardening.  At least it makes me appreciate more than ever all the efforts people go to to get their gardens in a 'show' condition.  But then I know all about the process from my times as chair of Kenilworth in Bloom.

The colour is bleached out as I can't get the colour right first thing.  You may notice some pieces of chamomile replanted, that is because someone who came to visit the garden rather liked the camomile, but I thought they would do better in the cooler ground being watered there than in individual small plastic pots.  I have another patch coming into flower across the other side of the garden.

3. Early morning dew on Rose Shine On looking a little colour faded in the early morning light.

I find myself looking at more roses and whilst searching for the rose tonic mentioned last week, came across a nice selection of smaller roses at Cants of Colchester.  Has anyone bought from them? I would love to have your feedback.

4. Collecting Tulip Seeds...This time is is Tulipa turkestanica.  I may well keep the empty seed pods for a dried flower arrangement.

5.  The Rhodohypoxis 'Pintando' came through the winter and was repotted whilst still dormant in a slightly wider pot with fresh compost. I found a good article about these plants written by Chris and Lorraine Birchall.

Rhodohypoxis 'Pintado'

6.  Last year I planted the cyclamen hederifolium seed as soon as it was harvested, and it was already nicely germinated by November as shown in the picture below.  I kept them growing all through the winter in these half pans. 

Cyclamen hederifolium seedlings
This spring I gave one of half pans to one of my local snowdrop suppliers Tryffid Nursery, and planted the second pan selecting leaves that showed some promise. of looking interesting.  The true form and patterning often become evident only in the third year.  

They continued in leaf all through and now they look like this.  They have been tucked up underneath the Pittosporum and I may have been a little negligent with the watering, but the main corms are in their dormant phase, and I am sure they will soon be in leaf again. 

If the ripening seed is not collected from the mother plant, small corms develop in the centre. Shortly I shall be inspecting the areas and harvesting the small corms, before the flowers  on the main corm emerge, the leaves on hederifolium appear later. This what you get left with after the large corm has flowered and the leaves start to grow if you do not remove the corms. If you have ants as I do, little corms can form wherever the ants leave the seeds, the phenomenon  is called myrmecochory. The ants are attracted to the part of seed called the elaisomes which are full of nutrients which benefit the ants and are not required at all by the seeds for germination to take place.

Sometimes I dig up the whole clump, select some medium sized corms and discard the old one, having 'improved' the soil underneath with a little more humous, sometimes I even relocate the growing corm.  The last one I dug up was about 15cm across!  This is just something I do in this small garden not something I have picked up from any experts.  

Of course, this is the time to repot cyclamen grown in pots, choosing a pot a little larger with added growing room, and new compost.  I do this every two to three years, and there is no need to water for the present. 

May the cooler summer days return, and a few good showers during the night would be added bonus.

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Rosemary & Sea Salt Focaccia

 I ordered Bread Every Day by 'Bake with Jack' born Jack Sturgess, way back when his book was first announced, and many months later a couple days after publication date, it arrived!

This is the first recipe from the book, and true to his many videos every step was clearly explained.  They feel as light as air..well almost, and look and smell delicious.

The mixture of 500g flour and everything else added made up a large square Foccacia, which will be frozen, cut into four ready for picnics, and the other two to go with suppers.  Each one has a different herb: Rosemary of course, and one with sage and the other with thyme. Jack's video recently released shows all the stages.

Saturday, 11 June 2022

Early June on the Mendips

 Another visit to Draycott Sleights with extensive views.  Not a long walk but a pleasant revisit to the cave and surrounding grasslands.

There were many butterflies around, but they kept on being startled as I came close. I think this is the Chalk Hill Blue.  Its sole food source is the Horse Shoe Vetch which grows in abundance.

The orchids were out, and even these were not still in the strong breeze.

Even smaller this tattered specimen of the Small Blue butterfly.  It is our smallest resident butterfly that similarly feeds solely on a different vetch.

Whilst the ant hills are veritable miniature gardens with thymes and hawkbits in flower, and yet clinging onto limestone exposures at least three different types of fern were growing in close proximity.

Amongst the other more yellow hawkbits this lighter lemon one caught my eye.

Six on Saturday - 11 June 2022

 Most people were still in bed when I took my early morning tour of the garden just now.  It would have been someone special's  birthday and I was wondering what I would have cut as a posy from the garden for her bouquet..  But this is not about posies which I could then talk about, it is not Monday for A Vase on Monday.  This is Saturday the day for Six things to write about and share with gardening friends brought together under Jon's enabling blog:

1. To start off with RosGhislaine de Féligonde  is in bloom.  Mr S, who sometimes likes a little responsibility, has been given the task of dead heading this one as often as he likes.  Being tall he can reach all the blooms whilst standing only on the gravel path, no feet on the border as it contains all manner of delicate plants and the now dormant snowdrops and other bulbs.

2 For a semi shaded area this is about my most favourite and dependable all year round ground cover plant but isn't it also pretty when in flower?

Saxifraga stolonifera

3. Who dares let the odd self seeded plant thrive can end up with a fabulous specimen. 

Love in the Mist has returned
Remnants from years past
Blue or pink hued mantels bleached
Or hidden deep in the intervening time
In this regeneration.

Why named the ragged lady?
Devil in the Bush you are not
With your green finely crafted ruff
Sometimes equaled to the Hair of Venus
Your charming beauty beguiles me.

                   Noelle Mace 2021
Even the poem has reappeared!

4. For a pop of colour at this time of the year, the  Hardy Geranium 'Ann Folkard' winding herself through everything else is hard to beat. With all the rain we have had this week, it is as if everything is on steroids.

5. Seeds are ripening and sometimes it is a race to beat the ants...

As we sat on the patio having coffee yesterday, Mr S asked if there were weeds growing in the pots of 
Hakonechloa.  We have so many ants in the garden everywhere really, they are farmers of blackfly and seed transporters.  Love in the mist, violas, linaria, etc etc all found in the pot. I hardly need to keep yet more Cyclamen hederifolium seed so if anyone within the UK who would like some seed as soon as they are ripe, let me know. (you can put up a message with your email which I shall not publish and contact you direct). I have some lovely leaf forms, but they are open pollinated and you may end up with some lovely surprises.  You can use the search button at the right hand to get an idea of the silver and various other forms in the garden of cyclamen hederifolium.

6. I love gooseberries, and this is the second bowl picked this week.  Serious PPE required for the picking!

That's it for this week, still much to do in the garden, more than I have time for really. I'll view and comment in bits and pieces and in between everything else that is going on.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Six on Saturday - 4 June 2022

 It has been a strange sort of a week, a roller coaster sort of week, with a series of ups and down, of excitement and frights. Some plants are doing well, others I have been less happy with.

Linking in as usual for our get together beneath the branches of The Propagator's leading post.

1. Let me start with the splendid.  For the second of my Gardening Club open afternoon after a grey and raining morning, the sun came out, and we were able to enjoy cake and tea in the garden.  That was splendid as were the hardy geraniums.  When I was asked about this one and said Splendid, they repeated the question and I said "Geranium Splendid, that is its name!"  as soon as the flowering one of the clumps is over, it will be divided as my neighbour also admired them and she was delighted when I said I would give her some. HOWEVER....I got the name wrong it is Geranium x magnificum!  It is just coming into flower and will make a great show for a couple of weeks, but then maybe just a second meagre flowering, and after that just leaves that often give a good autumn colouring.

2.  Another pretty Hardy Geranium which was admired was the pale pink G. sanguineum var. striatum, a Bloody Cranesbill which I am sure would have raised a certain titter, had I used that name or even remembered its name at the time.

3. The fright was real and possible serious injury was avoided due to my quick action. I had removed the black plastic Darlek shaped exterior and  had started to removed the top mainly leaves from the remains of last year's compost heap. Then the border fork went in,  to start the turning of the mass, and suddenly a large number of angry bumblebees emerged.  There must have been over one hundred.  I was not about to be stung to death surely?  They rarely sting, but you cannot imagine what I was thinking! I have worked around bumble bees in the garden, surely they see me as the person who brought all these flowers to the garden?  How deluded was I, best approach to drop everything all the tools etc, and leave the scene of my destruction as quickly as possible. A little while later, they had calmed down, I removed the tools, and replaced as carefully as possible the covering.  I didn't rate the compost much, it is too hard work sieving etc..far better that it is home to a bumble bee nest.

4. It is time to say goodbye to the Euphorbias. This is the largest one back in March this year.

Euphorbia characias subs wulfenii

It only went in two years ago 

and by the time I came to cut out the old flowering stems very very early Wednesday morning, the new shoots had grown a foot longer than the old stems, and was already overshadowing all the surrounding plantings.  At first it was going to be a removal of the old stems, but I as I got splashed a couple of times by the sap, and had to quickly go and wash it all the small patch of exposed skin on my face, it dawned on me that going forward this was not something I wanted to repeat.  I had worn protective clothing all over and maybe one of those  covid see through visors to protect the face would be useful. All the stems were cut back using long handled loppers and everything placed straight away into the recycling bins.  

The Euphorbia Ascot Rainbow which had fared poorly recently were also despatched.  The only euphorbias remaining the are dark leaved Euphorbia dulcis 'Chameleon' in the back garden, which being much smaller are easier to deal with.

5.  Mystery green eggs.  Mr S spied these tiny green eggs on the voile...

They were so small that a magnifying glass was needed to see them clearly. Then of course I had to look them up!  Had these been laid on a leaf, they would be very difficult to see.


We seem to be getting more and more shield bugs. They are already active in the garden, and from time to time we find one or two dead bodies in the conservatory. I wonder if anything predates these eggs. 

6. This morning it is a little breeze and overcast, and it is raining leaves and spent male catkins from the evergreen Holm Oaks which grow on the other side of our boundary wall. 

Zooming in you get a sense of the task ahead of me as I clean plants, pavers and conservatory so that the tannins in the leaves and catkins don't cause too much staining. In previous years we have had a westerly wind when this happens but the easterly wind blew them all over the garden this year/

For the beaded eyed, you will have noticed that this week, the superb variegated Weigela also has had its first trim  since being first planted. 

Friday, 3 June 2022

New and Old Scarves - Serendipity

 I cherish and use the lovely white raw silk scarf on the right hand side, it is as if I have the kind thoughts of my sister giving me a hug.  I don't know how long I have had it: I must ask her.  It is one of two she brought back from Nepal, the other one was a pale green.  I shall ask her about how long it is since her visit to India and Nepal.  I use it Summer and Winter, anytime I need to keep the chill off my neck or even protect it from the sun.  Each time I carefully hand wash it, I wonder whether it will be the last wash.  It washes up fairly crisp but after a little handling it softens and drapes beautifully.

Earlier this month we stayed in Dartington and walked  into Totnes along the river, and made for the market on our way to explore the town.  There was one stall which particularly caught my attention, as it was very attractively set out with merchandise of beautiful natural fabrics and yarns.  I used to buy many of my 'casual clothes' back in those days from a Company called Bishopston Trading, and found the soft Indian fabrics to my liking.  I was the only company I was aware of  selling organic cotton clothes with this 'provenance' direct from the makers.  I still have some of the cloth bags they put larger purchases in, yes years before the 'bags for life', I had my cloth bags, and lined reversable skirts, checked trousers etc.  I still have and wear and find the best for gardening now it is old, my heavy cotton Cornish Smock type top.

From Totnes, I remembered touching the scarf, still folded, admiring its quality and craftmanship.  I didn't get it at the time, but it came into my mind several times floating in and out, and the memory of the beautiful textile, if one can call hand knitting a textile, consigned to the category of 'what a beautiful thing I had seen, I did not get it at the time, but it had been created, and skilfully made, and  still as a beautiful thing which was maybe being cherished by someone somewhere.' I have a few of these...

On Wednesday, market day in Wells, we decided to sally forth together, partly just for a little 'outing' and also to view a temporary exhibition, of which more perhaps in another post. The exhibition was on the other side of Market Square and therefore we walked up one side of the market, and having seen the exhibition, walked down the other side just because it which was less crowded.   

I don't really 'browse', I'm not much of a shopper really, I see only what I want, so I usually just make straight for my usual food stalls. However I was stopped in my tracts I had a strange sense and looked to my right, and there was what looked like a very similar stall to the one in Totnes.  A moment of serendipity there was the scarf/stole.....I found out that this was the Vendor's first visit to Wells Market, and it may be the only one.

The scarf is made from Giant Himalayan Nettle  in Nepal, which is where my sister bought the raw silk scarf. To think in Nepal this plant grows to around 3 metres in one season before being harvested.

I asked my Sister about the scarf, and she had completely forgotten about it, as it is years and years since her great expedition.