Monday, 30 July 2012

Rooftop Gardens



"The farmyard, which was surrounded by trees, seemed to be asleep. The tall grass, among which the dandelions rose up like streaks of yellow light, was of a vivid green, a fresh spring green. The apple trees threw their shade all around them and the thatched houses, on which the blue and yellow iris flowers with their sabre like leaves grew, steamed as if the moisture of the stables and barns was coming through the straw"
~ Guy de Maupassant  1850 -1893

I am so glad that I looked upwards and not just ahead on our recent holiday in a small village in Normandy, France. I was totally smitten with the planted roof tops of these thatched cottages. From what I can gather the irises are planted on a bed of clay along the ridge of the roof. This helps to ensure that the ends of the thatch are secure. As well as serving a practical purpose this looks most attractive too. As you can see there were other plants sprouting from the thatches, including sempervivums or houseleeks. These are often found on roofs both thatched and tiled, as a charm to ward off thunder and lightening.

My French vocabulary came up with a blank when it came to the word for a roof but that information was most conveniently supplied by Rob in his recent post about green roofs over at 'Our French Garden In The Dordogne' Thanks Rob. Roof = toit.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Introducing 'Socrates'


Not the philosopher but the cucumber. I have never had much joy when it comes to growing cucumbers, usually managing a paltry few cues each year late on in the season. This year though looks as if it going to be different.

I sowed three varieties in  April - 'Crystal Apple', the usual 'Burpless Green' and the new to me 'Socrates'. I have ended up with one plant of each. 'Crystal Apple' is growing outdoors - somewhere along the way its label got lost. Initially there was an id problem - I thought it was some sort of squash but it has turned out to be a cucumber. Planted out in June it has not really flourished but finally there is a small lemon golf ball sized cucumber forming.

The other two plants have been planted into containers, which are living in the community greenhouse at the allotment. Normally I grow my tomatoes and cucumbers in lean to at the allotment, which is accessed via the shed. However a blackbird took up residence in the spring and decided that she liked the feel of the place enough to nest there. I did not have the heart to disturb her and her young, so ended up taking my plants into the community greenhouse, where they seem to have flourished so far, especially 'Socrates', which you can see in the above photo.

I was tempted to try this variety after reading this post in Graham Rice's excellent 'Transatlantic Gardener' blog. Not only is it high yielding but it produces mini cues, which as this household's only cucumber fan is the ideal scenario. I picked the first one at the end of June but then quite a gap until the last few days. They must have responded to the increased temperatures and have swollen overnight. I picked one at the weekend and another one came home with me yesterday.There are at least half a dozen waiting in the wings which will need picking in the next few days. I detect a surplus coming on and am off to investigate recipes other than chilled cucumber soup and cucumber raita. Do please share if you know of any.

Update - 26/07/11 - another two picked yesterday. Meanwhile one of my allotment neighbours has told me that pickled cucumbers are delicious in the middle of winter.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Meanwhile At The Allotment .....

Just getting to my plot is in danger of becoming an extreme sport as you can see from the above photo - maybe slippery, squelchy mud sliding could feature in the imminent Olympiads. Last Saturday though a few of us plot holders ventured out away from our plots. I have mentioned in an earlier post that our allotment association has been successful securing funding towards the purchase and instalment of a composting toilet on site. Between submitting our bid and hearing the outcome, prices rose so we were left with a shortfall. Various fund raising ideas were discussed and inevitably selling plants and produce came up. We were not keen to organise our own plant sale but were quite happy to attend local events. We have been quite fortunate and three such opportunities came our way, the third being last weekend.
After a day of non stop rain on the Friday I must admit that I was not looking forward to braving the elements and being outdoors for a good part of Saturday. However although rather breezy (the gazebo protecting the stall next but one to us blew away mid afternoon) the rain miraculously held off. We had a busy but enjoyable afternoon and were delighted to sell as much as we did. The fresh produce - punnets of strawberries, rhubarb, broad beans, spring onions and new potatoes flew off the table. Made up bunches of flowers - crocosmias, cornflowers, marigolds and little white daisies which we sold for a pound a bunch were popular. Plants were in demand too especially pots of rhubarb, clumps of day lilies, lilies as well as our collection of fifty pence pocket money plants. We tucked in little slips with suggestions of allotment growing reading matter and relevant websites into our customer's bags.


As well as raising money for our funds we were also able to make a contribution to the charitable trust that invited us to have a stall at their annual fun day. This is held in a local green space that was going to be sold for building in the late '90s until a group of residents got together to make sure that this did not happen. The land was bought and has been managed since by volunteers who maintain the green, cut the grass, have installed paths, picnic benches, dog bins etc. as well as developing a wildflower meadow. A free fun day is held each year. They have recently achieved Fields In Trust status but maybe that and the story of our composting toilet are both posts for the future. What was most enjoyable about the afternoon was spending it in the most pleasant company of fellow plot holders - we usually chat on the hoof as it were, so it was great to be able to spend some time together away from homeground. Meanwhile back at the allotment the toilet has been installed and awaits a few finishing touches before it is officially opened.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - July 2012

Despite the copious rains June's pastels are giving way to warmer, richer shades of purple, violet and deep pink. This month I have especially been enjoying old and familiar friends in the shape of various hardy geraniums. The double pratenses (middle row right and bottom row left) have been appreciating the cooler weather. At the moment there does not seem any danger of them being bleached or scorched by warm sunshine. Newer acquaintances are the day lilies which are all gifts from my friend D. I am sure that they came with labels but they have seem to have gone walkabout so sadly at the moment are all nameless. If you read this D. perhaps you might kindly come to the rescue. I have been waiting until late in the day for my favourite to open another flower but it has not obliged. No doubt it will unfurl tomorrow. I am really quite taken with day lilies and will be looking to add more to the garden in the future.

More July flowers can be lingered over via May Dreams Gardens.

Monday, 9 July 2012

A Postcard From Normandy

I have slowly been coming down to earth with a bump since returning home from a weeks holiday. We stayed in the picture postcard village of Le Bec Hellouin, which is one of 'Les Plus Beaux Villages de France' (The Most Beautiful Villages of France). The village gets its name from the stream (bec) which runs alongside it and from Herluin, the founder of its eleventh century abbey.

Not only oh most pleasing to the eye this was a most tranquil spot. We stayed in a house on the outskirts of the village - you can see the view from our bedroom window in the middle photo of the bottom row. From the house it was but a short distance along the road (middle top row photo) into the village. Traffic was extremely light so it was a most pleasant walk. The only noise (if you can call it that) we heard all week was the regular pealing of the abbey bells, bird and cricket song and the neighing of the horses from the nearby riding stables. Like most places large or small in France there was a fine restaurant, which came across on the first evening and where we had a delicious meal. We managed to be restrained and returned only the once for lunch on the last day. We were in easy reach of some delightful walks including access to a Voie Verte (Green Way), which from what I could gather, followed an old railway track for some 26 miles, with Le Bec Helloin being one of the settlements en route.

Sadly we did not manage to fit in any garden or nursery visiting but as usual French roadside planting lived up to my expectations - if only you could stop the car at roundabouts to take photos. However we did get to see more chateaux and of course eat more gateaux so more to come shortly from Normandy.

Monday, 2 July 2012

"July She Will Fly"




"April come she will 
When streams are ripe
And full of rain
May, she will stay 
Resting in my arms again
June, she'll change her tune 
In restless moons she'll prowl the night
July, she will fly
And give no warning of her flight
August fly die she must
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold
September I'll remember
A love once new has now grown old"


- lyrics by Simon and Garfunkel

I've been rather silent on the blogging front recently both posting and commenting. Initially major, major problems with my computer kept me away. From working at snail's pace to the email programme totally disappearing the machine annoyed and thwarted me throughout June, to the extent that I was almost "prowling the night". Then a week's holiday, during which time sadly the computer did not miraculously come to rights in my absence, so I am now borrowing himself's laptop which is not as user friendly and does not have access to my photos. On a happier note the holiday bought us some welcome sunshine, plenty of time for reading and pottering, good food and wine in a little village in Normandy.

I'm not planning to disappear altogether but just in case here is warning of a possible "flight"! Blog posting may well be sporadic for some time. Hopefully I can get to grips with this computer's erratic keyboard though, so I will soon be visiting and commenting over at my favourite haunts.