Tuesday, 28 June 2011

A Postcard From France

X IS FOR?


EXTRAORDINARY! - so has been the heat we have encountered here in France where we are spending a few days. We are hoping that tonight's thunderstorms will mean that the temperature has peaked. It was even too hot today for me to explore the greenhouses at the local nursery - now that is an extremely serious state of affairs.

For more on the letter X take yourself to ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

" Small Is Beautiful"

W IS FOR?
WHAT A WHOPPER!

When it comes to the world of fruit and vegetable growing I find that there are constant sources of wonder. The above strawberry to which himself's finger points was certainly a winner as far as size goes. I was almost lots for words when I saw it. I picked these at the weekend with a few raspberries and they were a most welcome addition to our tea. Not surprisingly though its wee companions were much more tasty.

Why not wither over to ABC Wednesday for more on the letter W?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Shed


Whilst southern family and friend talk about drought conditions, it seems to have done little else but rain here in the north west of England for the last month or so. Not only rain but there has been wind too - in fact May bought more typical autumnal weather than it did balmy spring days. Progress at the allotment seems to move at snail pace this year. I seem to have spent much time in my shed peering out in vain for gaps in the seemingly endless procession of rain clouds. This last Saturday afternoon was no exception. I arrived at the allotment just after 3.00pm with a specific action plan in mind. Despite the promising forecast I clocked some ominous looking clouds so made strawberry and raspberry picking my priority. I am glad that I did for within an half an hour or so the skies opened, unleashing what turned out to eventually be some very heavy rain. Slowly my fellow plot holders drifted off until there were only a handful of us left on site. I was stuck having arranged for himself to pick me up later in in the afternoon. So marooned in my shed I made the most of the time listening to my tin pot radio whilst doing some more tidying up. I don't think that my shed has so been so spick and span ~  tools all in order, pots stacked in order of size, carpets swept and shelves tidied. Eventually the rain eased enough for me to venture out where I managed to complete a couple of jobs one handed whilst the other held up my umbrella. Time to exchange a few words with my previously invisible fellow plot holders who had also taken refuge in their respective sheds, time to take some sambucus cuttings generously offered by another plot holder and then home clutching strawberries for a sticky evening of jam making.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

'"What's In A Name?"

V IS FOR?


VRAIMENT! ~ the potatoes that I picked at the allotment this afternoon were veritably delicious when cooked and  served with a frittata and green beans. They were the very first pickings of the season and I had to have a good furtle underground to find enough to dine on. These spuds go by the most dull name that any potato could have the misfortune to bear ~ 'BF15' which makes me think of laboratory experiments. The variety was bred in Brittany, France being the offspring of 'Belle de Fonteney and Flava.' The valiant Monty Don describes 'BF15' as the best boiled potato he has ever eaten. I'm not sure about whether I would say that but there were decidedly good.

You will find more on the victorious letter V over at ABC Wednesday.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

'The Twilight Zone'


There is something special special about pottering about in the garden on summer evenings staying out until as late as you possibly can, until you can almost no longer see the end of your nose but before you snip a finger off with your secateuers . However I must admit that until now I have never consciously given thought to planning any aspect of my garden with the lateness of the hour in mind.  I may well be having a rethink on this score.

Lia's  Leendertz's latest book 'Twilight Garden' presents a compelling argument to make your garden somewhere 'that comes into its own at night', so that for many busy people, gardeners or not, it becomes more than a chore to be fitted in between the demands of work, parenting, traveling, shopping, cleaning, and cooking etc. After all as many people only see their garden in the evenings, we should keep this in mind when planning this extra room in the house ~ for some it can become somewhere special to provide quiet sanctuary and breathing space to be themselves, for others a place to entertain family and friends and for others that cherished gardening space.

First impressions ~ calling into my local library to pick up my reserved copy of this book 'Twilight Garden' the librarian commented on how inviting and attractive the cover of the book is. The above photo does not pick up on this but the illustration of silver and white foliage on a blue background shimmers most reminiscently of a moonlit evening. 

Part One ~ 'Making Your Twilight Garden Reality' covers planning and design including using colour, scent, lighting and water. There is also a section of wildlife in the garden, tips on using space and a section which ponders on what style of night- time garden you might want to achieve. It rounds up with a section on entertaining. I must admit that I only skimmed through this. It contains 'recipes' for various outdoor themed parties and to my mind seemed almost to belong somewhere else.

Part Two ~ 'Plants & Planting' was the section that I lingered over and I am sure I will return to. There are what Lia describes as the 'star plants', 'the supporting cast' and 'backstage beauties'. There is basic information on the ideal growing conditions for each plant, their height and spread, how to propagate them and an indication of their flowering period. This is further supplemented by an explanation of why Lia has included them as candidates for the twilight garden. Many of these plants have not surprisingly white or pastel coloured flowers or silver foliage so they are more visible as darkness falls. The majority of them are also highly scented and in some cases their aroma intensifies as the clock ticks on. There are many useful ideas and suggestions to be found here, which you feel are inspired by both personal observation and practice. One or two that I have taken particular note of ~ 
  • I have realised for some time that petunias, especially lilac and purple ones are scented but I am not always able to readily get my hands upon them. Lia suggests that if that's the case that you could consider growing either the more highly scented 'Tumbelina' or 'Wave series from seed and she provides detailed sowing instructions. Result ~ definitely a must have on next year's seed list.
  • The ultimate test of how hardy you are ~ yes ~ the plant to tempt you out on a dark winter evening ~ the snowdrop. Lia suggests that this might be the ultimate magnet to pull you away from the warm indoors so that you spend some time, albeit a brief few minutes savouring the twilight winter garden. It will be interesting to find out whether their honey scent is discernible on a cold evening. Result ~ I will report back but should I disappear come one freezing February evening please launch a search party in my snowdrop patch.
  • Zaluzianskya ovata ~ yes that plant with an unpronounceable name although its common name of night phlox is a lot easier to get your tongue round. This is one of those plants that I have often considered sowing but have never got round to it, mainly because I was under the impression that it is an annual. Thanks to Lia I now realise that it is a South African perennial so half hardy in our climate. Although it is short lived it can be propagated from cuttings. Result ~ an experiment. I have bought some seed and will be sowing some later today. It is possibly too late in the season but I might get some plants sturdy enough to overwinter, which will provide me with some delicious scent next summer. Nothing to lose as I will only so a few seeds so if it does not work I can try again come spring.
I must admit that I was surprised by the inclusion of some plants such as phyllostachys nigra or black bamboo. I was initially flummoxed but then all made sense. As well as providing a dark background to illuminate paler flowers, Lia points out that this is a 'noisy' plant ~ not in an offensive way but one that might block out less desirable noises floating in from outside the garden. In a similar vein she also mentions how the sound of the trickle of water from a fountain can have a similar effect. I can certainly vouchsafe for the latter technique. We have a trickling water feature outside the front door which masks the noise of the nearby busy main road.

In conclusion I thoroughly enjoyed the unique subject of this book which other books touch upon but have not gone into such depth, as far as I am aware.  I can certainly say that you can ignore that familiar adage of "never judge a book by its cover". This book starts with elegant style and continues with thoughtful content. My only slight criticism is that I would have welcomed the inclusion of a bibliography or some links e.g. the sections on wildlife and using scent left me wanting more. Some references for further reading, details of wildlife organisations etc, websites would have been much appreciated. I only wish that the book had come out sooner, whilst I was still working as I would have definitely given more thought to my own twilight space. I have since received a review copy of the book from the publisher and am delighted to now have my own copy in my bookshelves to refer to again. 

'Twilight Garden' by Lia Leendertz is published by Pavilion
IBSN : 9781862059115. 
Details of other books written by Lia can be found here
You can also enjoy Lia's writing on her blog ~ 'Midnight brambling'.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Simple Pleasures

U IS FOR?


UTILITARIAN! ~ but still a undeniable source of pleasure this last week or so has been the beanpoles which came home with me from the Malvern Spring Gardening Show. This is a product which I am unable to find locally. I only wish that I could have made off with more than the two bundles that my hands could cope with at the time. One lot is providing excellent support for my clematis 'Petit Faucon' whilst the other bundle will soon be put into use at the allotment. I am hoping that if I take the beanpoles up at the end of the season and overwinter them in a cool dry spot that they should last a few years. Meanwhile guess what's at the top of my shopping list next time I visit a horticultural show?


Why not visit ABC Wednesday now for the ultimate close up and personal on the letter U?