Monday, 18 August 2014

In A Vase On Monday - 'Accidents Will Happen' - 2

Another accidental vase from me. Amongst the occupants the tiniest snippet from one of my new purchases from the Southport Flower Show last week, namely kalimeris incisa "Charlotte', which I bought for its late summer colour. It has dainty daisy like mauve flowers which apparently flower from June - October and it suffers little in the way of pests. Unfortunately the poor plant suffered slightly in transit back home but hopefully normal service will resume next year. Next the victim of the recent unseasonable strong breezes, a flower from my one and only 'Vanilla Ice' sunflower. I grew a few of these for the allotment this year but all came to grief bar one. They were munched by molluscs as soon as they were planted there having been grown from seed at home. The sole survivor has sulked at the allotment and no sooner than there were signs of flowers the stem bearing them snapped and is hanging on by a thread. I'm not sure whether the remaining flowers will go on to open, so bought this one home with me to enjoy at close quarters. I will definitely attempt to grow this particular variety again next year hopefully with better results.

The sunflower needed some help to prop itself up so the other occupants of the vase have a supporting role and were not arranged as such just plonked. Also coming from the allotment some stems of fennel with their yellow flower heads and some oregano flowers. Both are prolific self seeders so I must soon be quite ruthless and chop their heads off to save me from more weeding next year. Another prolific self seeder and also scented a couple of flowers from a buddleia which is located in the garden. The final touch was the inclusion of some clematis jouiniana 'Praecox', (the colour of which Cathy and I just can't agree on) to wrap itself around and hold up the sunflower.

Kalimeris incisa 'Charlotte' with a flowerhead of fennel

I'm fairly sure that the vase is one that my mum gave to me after a clear out.

Although I'm not often here with a vase I do enjoy seeing other blogger's inspiring and colourful creations as they are generously shared each Monday, courtesy of the lovely Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden'.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Furry Caterpillars ~ GBBD August 2014

A large pink furry caterpillar has been following me about the garden this afternoon. It came back home with me yesterday from the Southport Flower Show, where I spent a most enjoyable day in the company of a fellow plant addict. I was particularly looking for late flowering colour which at the risk of boring myself the garden needs an injection of.

It is a sanguisorba without a label but my guess is that it maybe sanguisorba hakusanensis. It's a most tactile creature which has been swaying gently back and forth in today's breeze. I was pleased to read that it is relatively easy to grow and apparently suffers from little in the way of pests and diseases although vine weevils can be attracted to the roots. It prefers a moisture retentive soil  and will grow either in sun or light shade. I think that it would look good in the company of a grass but am not sure whether the above grass is the right bedfellow. I'm still mulling over it's resting place so suggestions would be welcome.

I made one or two other purchases which I will no doubt mention sooner or later. Meanwhile I'm off notebook and pen at hand to gaze upon and no doubt covet other August blooms, courtesy of Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the home of Garden Blogger's Bloom Day.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Nursery At The Edge Of The Universe

Well maybe not quite but this one took some finding as have many of the nurseries we have visited over the years. I've come to the conclusion that there must be some sort of formula that decrees the optimum location for siting a nursery. It involves the back of beyond, narrow long bumpy lanes with few passing places and more than often than not a seemingly ferocious large dog or two to contend with when you when you finally put a foot out of your vehicle. On this occasion my phone came to the rescue just in the nick of time, as we had wandered up and down a lane and back again for several miles, with himself muttering and chuntering at the wheel. Modern technology considerately suggested that we should be the other side of the junction back on the main road where soon all became abundantly clear. Then in a jiffy or so it seemed we turned into the entrance to  'La Jouberie'. 

I had seen a little advert for this nursery and gardens in the spring 2014 edition of the Hardy Plant Society's magazine 'The Hardy Plant' and had clocked that we may be in the vicinity sometime when we were on holiday. So I scribbled a few details down on paper to take with us just in case and fortune duly favoured me when we visited towards the middle of July.

'La Jouberie' in Normandy is owned and run by a English woman Alison Sykes. The surrounding gardens have been created from previously uncultivated land from 2008 and are still very much a work in progress. We were greeted by Alison who gave me and another regular visitor a guided tour pointing out some of her favourite plants and combinations along the way. Talking plants as well as the very bright and windy weather conspired against taking many photos and some that I took turned out to be rather bleached. There is though an extensive photo gallery on the nursery website. Alison explained that Normandy is a windy area which can be challenging for gardeners.

Attached to the gardens is a small but well stocked nursery specialising in herbaceous perennials and shade tolerant plants. I could have bought several plants but was constrained by the fact that it would be a few days before we landed back home. I selected a little seed raised purple flowering scabious as a memento. I also added a couple of plants to my wish list - a stunning white hemerocallis 'Light The Way' as well as a highly scented phlox by the name of what I thought Alison said was 'Blue Wave'. The former looks as if it could be a challenge to find whilst I think that I might have misheard the name of the latter or it could be a very old variety, as I am unable to find any reference to it either in books or on the web. I may email Alison to enquire. I would certainly make another visit if ever find ourselves in this part of the world again.

With a special thanks to himself for providing the photo at the top of this post and for his never ending patience and tenacity in playing hunt that nursery.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Tree Following With Lucy ~ August 2014.

There was a break in transmission last month as there was a few hundred miles between willow and myself. Now into August the willow is probably at its fullest in terms of leafiness. I say probably as I've never really monitored its progress so closely throughout the course of the year. June's fluffy missiles have well and truly disappeared into a distant memory so the tree is all leaves again. I've still have to make that death defying leap to try to grab one of the leaves marked with orange blisters. This phenomenon has only appeared on a few leaves, a few more look as if they have been scorched at some point (wind maybe?) but the majority look happy and healthy.

I'm coming to the conclusion that if the willow was in another spot it would be much easier to observe. As it is I only have access from one side and then with a wall and stream in the way getting close and personal is becoming more problematic as the year goes on. I am sure that there are loads of insect visitors but I have never seem them. Time to fish out the binoculars methinks. There is a substantial thicket of growth at the base of the tree now which is partially overhanging the stream. What I can see consists of mainly ferns, brambles and nettles. Excitement though last night when I noticed that a shrub or small tree under the willow's canopy is sporting clusters of small red berries. I had barely registered this growth before now but have now a case of an unidentified mystery on my hands. Please can you help me to solve it.

Thanks to Lucy over at  Loose and Leafy who has kindly invited bloggers from all over the globe to follow our chosen trees over the course of the year.

Friday, 1 August 2014

End Of Month View ~ July 2014.

Somehow I missed posting at the end of June so it's fast forward to the end of July. My word of the month is FRAZZLE which is what garden, allotment and myself did. As it happens the one day when we got a veritable drenching I was helping to run a plant and produce stall on behalf of our allotment association. Five of us spent a most cosy few hours under a small gazebo where we managed by and large to keep dry. It's fortunate that we get on well. We sold more plants than we expected - rhubarb plants and wallflowers were the day's best sellers.

July was also a short month in that we were away for the first two weeks so by the time we were home and settled it positively raced away. The weather was more for sitting, reading and sipping something cool rather than physical exertion so I did little in the way of gardening. We returned in time to catch a glimpse of the day lilies and a couple of my favourite geraniums in flower but to find several flowers sadly well past their sell by date. There has been much in the way of scent to enjoy this months with some delicious wafts from lilies, roses and more recently from the buddleias.

A few seeds have been sown - more lunaria, sweet williams, a perennial white stock as well as dwarf French beans, beetroot and turnips. I have been excited to see that we have the grand total of four pears between our two trees! There were more at the start of June but a windy day sent them scattering to the floor. I am checking them everyday to make sure that there are still clinging on but dare not take a photograph in case it tempts fate.

Another pleasing observation is that the sedums we planted on the top of the gabion wall in May 2013 have now really started to do some serious travelling. In some places they have covered the metre width of the wall whilst they are also now beginning to stray over the edges. The wall is beginning to age too which is most pleasing.

There is never a right time to go on holiday apart from winter as far as the allotment is concerned. Fortunately we had done justice to most of the strawberries, summer fruiting raspberries and goosegogs before we left. Home to a seemingly never ending supply of courgettes. If you have a similar abundance and have not come across this post yet do have a look at Caro's signposts over at The Urban Veg Patch in the direction of some fabulous recipes. French beans are also proving reasonably bounteous despite the dry weather. This year the tables have turned and the green 'Cobra' is faring much better than the purple 'Blauhilde'. Hopefully we will have a second crop later with some dwarf beans. Broad beans and peas were picked and savoured in June.

Shallots and garlic have been harvested - the former not doing as well as last year in terms of numbers. I have grown some 'Red Baron' onions from sets and am picking them before they get big to use in salads. The first of the 'Rainbow Beet' beetroot will be sampled next week. The potatoes have struggled again probably with the lack of much rain but 'Roseval' and 'Cherie' will definitely be ordered again next year. My 'Lark' sweetcorn went in too late and I'm not sure whether I will get much in the way of cobs. I'm kicking myself as my plot neighbours have gigantic plants.

The first of my apples will probably be picked later this month. The fruits still look relatively small although I've tried to remember to water the trees at least once a week. Yesterday however I was able to pick half a dozen or so from a tree which overhangs no man's land on the allotment site, to which when stewed I added some blackberries making for a most delicious desert.

My tomatoes and cucumbers have had to take their chance at home this summer and were lobbed in to the cold frame before we went away. Here himself has rigged up an automatic watering system. The cucumbers did not appreciate this treatment and have curled up their tendrils but the tomatoes though still green are slowly getting there.

Plant purchases over the last couple of months have been fairly minimal. I ordered a collection of penstemons from Hayloft Plants which arrived in June. I have not ordered from them before and was fairly impressed with both packaging and plant quality. The plants were plug plant size so it will probably be next year before I see any flowers but I'm happy to wait. Also coming home from France with me was a little purple scabious as a souvenir of our visit to a French nursery. Finally I finished July off with an order for some dormant snowdrop bulbs which hopefully I will show in a future EOMV view.

Thanks as always to Helen over at The Patient Gardener's Weblog for hosting the EOMV which provides a most opportune chance to reflect at the end of each month.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wordy Wednesday ~ Musing in July

"Winter is cold-hearted
Spring is yea and nay,
Autumn is a weather-cock
Blown every way:
Summer days for me
When every leaf is on its tree;

When Robin's not a beggar,
And Jenny Wren's a bride,
And larks hang singing, singing, singing,
Over the wheat-fields wide,
And anchored lilies ride,
And the pendulum spider
Swings from side to side,

And blue-black beetles transact business,
And gnats fly in a host,
And furry caterpillars hasten
That no time be lost,
And moths grow fat and thrive,
And ladybirds arrive.

Before green apples blush,
Before green nuts embrown,
Why, one day in the country
Is worth a month in town;
Is worth a day and a year
Of the dusty, musty, lag-last fashion
That days drone elsewhere. "
- Christina Rossetti, 1830 - 1894.

Monday, 28 July 2014

❤️♥︎ Parks Week

'Love Parks Week' this year runs from 24th July - 3rd August . The aim of the week is to "raise awareness of the importance of parks and green spaces, showcasing the benefits they bring and highlighting the need for continual investment and engagement", especially at a time when public funding has been reduced.

I live a stone's throw from my nearest park which I am lucky enough to be able to see from my kitchen window. It isn't a huge space but is a welcome oasis of green in an area where new homes have appeared at an alarming rate in the last year or so, all swallowing up previously undeveloped land. It's a spot where children go to feed the ducks and to play, informal sporting activities take place, dogs are exercised, office workers sit out and enjoy their lunch and newly weds have their wedding photos taken. It even has its own 'Friendship Garden' (see above photo) which was created to celebrate twinning with a Chinese town. The park is also used throughout the year to host an increasing number of community events.

You can support 'Love Parks Week' in a number of ways. There are special events going on in parks up and down the country this week - see the 'Love Parks Week' website and the  'Love Parks Week' Facebook page. You can complete a park health check of your nearest park. You could also make time to sign the UK Parks Petition which has just been launched by the The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces. It aims to help makes the funding of parks an election issue for political parties in the run up to the next general election. Above all if you have a neighbourhood park please use it, don't lose it!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Afternoon Tea

An abundance sounds so much more attractive than a glut, so this year I have an abundance of courgettes. Whilst last year's crop was abysmal this year's harvest has been the complete opposite. I've been picking courgettes since the end of June just before we went on holiday. This last week has seen multiplying furiously as well as seemingly doubling size almost overnight. Although I sowed three varieties back in April I have only planted two varieties at the allotment namely the old stalwart 'Romanseco' and 'Floridor'. 'Romansesco' produces long green ridged courgettes whilst 'Floridor' sets forth sunshine coloured globes. I did plant four plants though and it's just as well that one plant is not producing at the same rate as the others. In fact it seems as if it is still in first gear which is just as well.  It's probably just as well that my 'Brice' seedlings floundered at an early stage, so did a later sowing of another round green courgette, although one plant of the latter is just about hanging on. You can have too much of a good thing.

So what to do with the half dozen or so courgettes that came home with me yesterday morning? It was way too hot to attempt any gardening activities so I decided to do some baking and made a courgette loaf cake. My brain was probably not in gear as I ended up glowing profusely in a warm kitchen although we did enjoy a slice of my creation later in the day. There are various recipes for courgette based cakes. I used this particular recipe from the BBC Good Food website. One or two commenters suggested that the cake needed longer in the oven than the time suggested by the recipe. I cooked it in a fan oven and did not find this to be the case. There were also some remarks suggesting that the cake although pleasant could do with more flavour. Himself and I agreed with this and if I try it again might well add some orange zest to the recipe. There are also versions of courgette cake which include chocolate - mmmmmmm. The recipe took care of one almost marrow sized courgette plus a smaller one so I still have three stripy green courgettes plus one yellow football to contend with. Anybody like a courgette ... or two .... or would you rather join me for afternoon tea?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Back Down To Earth

Slowly emerging from a post holiday blur of unpacking, washing and restocking the kitchen cupboard. Our vintage camper van has done us proud, with some five hundred miles or so of travelling throughout Normandy without as much as a grumble. Not bad for a 26 year old lady. Memorable sights and sounds included :
  • The wettest of imaginable days in the city of Bayeux, where we saw the fabulous Bayeux tapestry and experienced a medieval fair complete with local folk dancing and the most scariest looking of stilt walkers. 
  • Staying the night in the little port of Port-Bail on a campsite where camper vans can park up about hundred feet or so from the sea. Here we witnessed a glorious red sunset slowly seemingly dipping into the sea and we went to sleep to the sound of waves.      
  • Having our faces painted with the colours of the French national flag as we sat and sadly witnessed 'Les Bleus' premature exit from La Coupe du Monde.
  • Gazing down upon the small town of Arromanches, famous for its artificial 'Mulberry' harbour.
  • Flags flying from outside public buildings, shops and houses throughout Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of France. 
  • Shell strewn beaches and vivid red poppy dotted field edges.
  • The imaginative roundabout plantings which are impossible to photo but live in the memory.
  • Enjoying the odd dish or two of 'crevettes roses' accompanied by a small pot of mayonnaise and bread. Sheer bliss despite the rather messy process of eating them and the aftermath of sticky pink fingers!
  • Experiencing my first and probably last ever pop festival at Beauregard (way,way too crowded for me), where the music of the talented Agnes Obel was the highlight of the proceedings for me. Himself prefered the rather more loud and strident tones of Seasick Smith.
  • Drifts of lathyrus vernus on roadside verges, clumps of brilliant shining blue agapanthus and magnificent hollyhock towers.
  • A cluster of snails out for an evening constitutional and a touch of late sunshine.
We also fitted in one garden visit which I will touch on soon. Quite the best outcome of our holiday was that himself, who has been rather poorly since the beginning of April has returned home much fitter. Partly in response to medication but also partly due to the holiday I think. Now it's back to catching up with what's been going on in the allotment and garden. The weeds have certainly grown whilst I wasn't looking so I think that I will be playing catch up for some time to come.