Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year. All the best for 2019.
IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/ . Enjoy your garden x
Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year. All the best for 2019.
IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/ . Enjoy your garden x
In haste. As I’ve just found another Christmas present to wrap. I bought it months ago and stashed it in a “safe place.” I’ve only just remembered where said place is! If ever I give the impression of being well organised, don’t take any notice. I’m running round in a panic half the time. Anyway, for my last IAVOM of the year, here’s some photos of my front door wreath. I’ve run round the garden and collected evergreen foliage. In the poly tunnel I found white alstroemeria, cut back in August and forced for December. White Stallion chrysanthemums have been flowering since October. They are just going over, with a pink tinge to the petals. A perfect match for pittosporum. There’s two sprigs of scented freesia left over from a birthday bouquet. They last for ages in a cool place. I always prop everything up in front of the potting shed window where I can see if there are any gaps.
My favourite hedgerow ivy and bits of conifer set off the flowers. Silk tassel bush and Scots pine add a Christmassy note. And there’s always rosehips in everything I make.
Meanwhile, all our five bar gates have been draped in willow hearts. Something to cheer the walkers as they pass by.
Wishing you all a wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas. Thank you to Cathy for hosting my favourite meme, IAVOM. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/. I’ve enjoyed joining in this past year. Looking forward to seeing what you are all growing in your gardens in 2019. I’m excitedly perusing the seed catalogues already! And hoping to be more organised in everything I do.
I should be making mince pies. Or cleaning the house. Instead, I creep outside and lose an hour or two, messing about with twigs and foliage. I am happy.
This simple wreath is made from silver birch twigs, twisted in a circle and bound with twine. It’s an ever-changing scene. Ephemeral. A fleeting beauty. Blackbirds feast on the rosehips. Gusts of wind carry off the old man’s beard, back to the hedgerow where it belongs. It mirrors nature. Nothing is static. I add fresh ivy leaves, Scots pine, crab apples. Dried hydrangea flowers amongst cow parsley “stars.”
For the front door, I’m copying an American idea. I’m mocking up a container. I cut some branches of blue fir and pine and stand them in a favourite terracotta plant pot.
Scrunched- up newspaper holds everything in place. I add coloured willow and dogwood stems. In front, I place a potted skimmia, as a focal point. You could add a white hellebore, or white cyclamen if you wish. A few hazel branches with cheerful early catkins complete the display.
A collar of moss hides the newspaper. It’s a cross between gardening and floristry and no one will know I’ve just used twigs and not splashed out on lots of new plants.
As a final flourish, I add mouldable fairy lights with thin copper wire. They cost £2.50 from Wilkinson’s and can be used with rechargeable batteries.
I’m joining in with Six on Saturday, https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/six-on-saturday-22-12-201/. Why not go over and see what others are doing in their garden at this time of the year.
As it’s Christmas, I’m sure no one will mind if I add a bonus photo. I made this heart from two willow stems. Hold them both in one hand, bend the first one over and then hold in the middle. Bend the second one over, and secure with twine. Easy, and costs nothing to make.
I’m heading indoors now to make those mince pies! I feel so much better for spending time in fresh air, and the house, garden – and me – are all ready for Christmas!
Have a wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas. Try to make some time to “escape” to the garden, when you can.
Here’s my last minute recommendations. I would love to receive any of these. They all last longer than Christmas Day. Prices vary, depending on special offers and discounts.
1. Vouchers for a course at Common Farm Flowers.
I joined the Grow Your Own Cut Flower Patch course a few years ago, and I’m self-sufficient in flowers for my friends and family. There was enough information to grow plants commercially, if I had wanted to. I’m delighted to be able to wander about my garden at any time of the year and create beautiful hand tied bouquets and pretty jam jar posies. There’s something special about home-grown flowers. It’s all a matter of planning and knowing what varieties to grow. Georgie is an excellent teacher. After attending one of her courses, you feel as if you can conquer the world. It’s a rather wonderful feeling!
Courses on offer range from £15 for a garden tour to £290 for a painting course.
Courses: Flower Farming, encouraging wildlife, social media for small businesses, starting a kitchen table business, grow your own wedding flowers, hand tied bouquets.
2. RHS Membership. From £61.
Develop your gardening skills with an RHS membership package. Membership includes unlimited entry to RHS gardens, discounts for show tickets, personalised advice, and entry to 200 partner gardens. The RHS magazine,The Garden, is worth the membership price alone. It is packed full of inspiring ideas and information. Written by experts we all trust. I always look forward to my copy, and it keeps me up to date with new plants, ideas for recycling, using less plastic in the garden and information on the latest research into plant diseases. It’s great to see The Garden magazine will be delivered in recyclable paper packaging instead of single-use plastic next spring.
3. Support the Woodland Trust with a membership package. £48.
Explore 1,000 Woodland Trust woods. A walk in a wood lifts your mood and re-energises you. It will do you a power of good.
4. Membership for St Tiggywinkles wildlife hospital. £36.
We all rely on our wildlife, hedgehogs in particular, to help us combat slugs. This is a wonderful way to support wildlife and learn more about them.
5. Join The Hardy Plant Society. £17 a year.
A great way to discover more about hardy plants, find like- minded gardeners and join in with events such as talks and slide shows, conservation and plant sales. There’s two issues of the The Hardy Plant magazine a year, free advice and a chance to take part in the free seed distribution scheme.
6. Charles Dowding No-dig course. Various prices. Approx £150 a day.
Learn all about growing all kinds of vegetables and fruit, productively and with less effort. Charles has helped me to garden with a poorly back. I fractured my spine in a car crash 15 years ago. Without his advice, I would probably have had to give up my one acre garden. With his no-dig techniques, I have managed to keep on top of weeds, and grow all the fruit, veg and flowers I want to, without aggravating my spinal injuries.
I hope these last-minute suggestions have been useful. If not for Christmas, they make a lovely birthday present.
What’s the best course, or membership, you would recommend? Let me know so I can share your ideas too.
Coming up in the new year, I’ve been invited to try out some weekend holidays for gardeners. I’ll let you know how I get on. I’ll be taking my Mum with me, of course. Something to look forward to in 2019.
230g 8oz plain chocolate
60g 2oz raisins
1 tbsp rum (optional)
60g 2oz Stem ginger, finely chopped
Melt 110g 4of of the chocolate in the microwave. Mix the raisins with the rum and ginger. Stir into the melted chocolate. Shape into small balls the size of a walnut. Leave to set on non stick paper. Melt remaining chocolate and dip the clusters in it. Keep in a cold place until required.
I’ve used Waitrose crystallised ginger and chocolate buttons from http://www.chocolate-alchemy.co.uk/ . These are very gingery. Adjust the amount of ginger to taste.
Midwinter. I love saying the word. It’s like a sigh. Midwinter. Dark and gloom until 21st of December – and then the days get lighter. Hurray! Meanwhile, to bring some cheer, there’s fairy lights.
It’s mild today, 9C but windy, so I wrap up warm and head off down the lane to forage for foliage. Sound seems to carry further in winter. I can hear our neighbouring farmer calling his cows. They are as tame as pets, and well tended. The calves line up along the hedge to watch me.
I find willow stems; soft grey catkins breaking through already. There’s plenty of twigs with dried oak leaves. On one side the hedges have been trimmed. But across the lane, the hedges are high. Dog roses wind around the trees and mingle with wild clematis. I have a basket to carry the findings home. There’s fluffy seed heads from Clematis vitalba, and rosehips as red as sealing wax.
Scott’s pine and trailing ivy will be useful evergreen. Above my head, a robin sings, quite unconcerned by my intrusion. It’s good to see a young hare in the field. He crouches down in the long grass when he spots me, but I can still see his ears.
Back through the field gate. A pheasant has taken up residence in our paddock this winter. He’s a joy to see, strutting around and flying into the cherry trees to roost at night. I hope he survives the winter – and evades the hunters. We can hear the guns from our garden. Glad to provide a sanctuary to any creature needing safety.
I’ve decorated the five bar gate with a circle of dried clematis stems. Not a perfect circle. Not a perfect gate. We’ve had it since we moved here. It’s covered in moss and creaking loudly, but I can’t bear to replace it. I get attached to old familiar things. Dried hydrangea heads make a focal point, and there’s always rosemary for scent.
Back to the potting shed to make my arrangements.
I’ve saved some Chinese’s lanterns, physalis, from the garden. It’s hanging from the rafters to dry, along with hydrangea heads. To add a bit of glitz (unusual for me, I know) I give the hydrangea heads some silver spray. It highlights the delicate flowers of hydrangea Annabel. So beautiful in summer, and winter too. It’s a favourite of mine. The fairy lights are mouldable wire florists lights from Wilkos. You can use rechargeable batteries.
I turn around and there’s a robin and two wrens in the potting shed roof. I shall have to leave the door open for them. They can stay, as long as they don’t eat all of my rosehips.
Luckily there’s a kettle in the potting shed. Time for tea, and a piece of Mum’s fruit cake. I hope you’ve enjoyed this ramble around my garden and down the lane. I’m joining with with https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/08/six-on-saturday-08-12-2018/ for his SixOnSaturday. Feel free to look around at my other posts while you are here. Catch up with you next Saturday.
When I started this blog, my intention was to write down all our family favourite recipes in one place. It occurred to me that our much loved recipes exist on tatty pieces of paper. My children might want to find Aunty Betty’s toffee apple recipe, or the Gimson Christmas trifle. Stained and ripped pieces of paper might be difficult to find. So recipes are deposited here for future reference. Today I’m sharing my home made cherry chocolate recipe that I make every year. It’s a money saving recipe if you use your own fruit. And it’s simple to make. Even little children can have a go.
Home grown cherries, preserved in brandy. Choose good quality fruit that is slightly under ripe. Only preserve the best fruit, and none that has any blemishes.
200g glacé cherries
200g good quality dark chocolate.
Soak the glacé cherries in cherry brandy overnight. Drain and reserve the liquid for adding to cakes.
If using your own preserved cherries, drain and gently pat dry with a clean tea towel.
Break the block of marzipan into four, and microwave for a few seconds to soften.
Take tablespoons of marzipan (about 13g).
Roll into a ball, and then flatten to enclose a cherry. Roll gently in the palm of your hand to smooth the marzipan. Leave to dry for a few hours.
Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Drop each marzipan cherry into the chocolate and use a spoon to roll them about to coat.
Stand the chocolates on foil until set.
Keeps for about 1 week in a cool dry place. If you can resist them that long!
I made mine in the summerhouse, with the radio on and sunshine streaming through the open doors. It’s amazingly mild for December. We’ve had 12C for days, although last night it was -2 and we woke to a frost.
Here’s the ingredients. It’s a really simple recipe. Wonderful if you have a cherry tree in the garden.
I used white marzipan, but you can use golden if you like.
Drop into the chocolate. Make sure you don’t get any water in the chocolate, or it will go dull.
They take about an hour to set. The recipe makes about 35 cherry chocolates. There’s enough marzipan and chocolate to make another 30 if you buy more cherries. Or make 30 almond marzipan chocolates.
Simply enclose one whole blanched almond in the marzipan as above, and coat in the chocolate. Delicious! You can also use whole Brazil nuts and use milk or plain chocolate.
How to Preserve Cherries
2 drops almond essence
Remove the cherry stalks and stones and prick all over with a sterilised needle or cocktail stick.
Layer the cherries with the sugar in a large sterilised preserving jar, fill to within 2.5cm of the top. Add almond essence.
Pour the brandy to cover the cherries. Seal the jar and shake well.
Keep in a cool, dark place for at least three months to allow the flavours to develop. Shake the jar from time to time.
Strain the cherries through a funnel lined with muslin. Put the cherry brandy into sterilised bottles to give as presents. Use the cherries in the chocolate marzipan recipe above, or in pastries, ice cream and other winter treats. Enjoy 😊
It’s been a good year for new books. One of my favourites recently arrived in the potting shed is The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty.
The publishers kindly offered one free copy for a prize draw for this blog. I’m always grateful for a chance to pass on goodies to readers. And I’m delighted to announce that the winner is June at https://thecynicalgardener.com/ .
Please take a look at the discount code on my review which gets you the book for £16 including postage. Here’s the link for the review https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/
I’m making peppermint creams for Christmas presents using Stephanie’s idea for mint sugar. The kitchen smells divine, and the mints look really pretty.
Thank you for reading this blog. Keep popping back for more news. A whole pile of books have just arrived in the potting shed and I’m just starting to work my way through them, so keep an eye open for more prize draws and offers.
Are you making any Christmas presents this year? Get in touch and share your favourite recipes and ideas for gardeners and cooks. It’s great to share hints and tips with each other.
I always look forward to your comments. Please also feel free to share this blog on any social media platform you like. It all helps to spread the news.
A slide show of flowers from my garden. Paperwhite narcissi, Hellebore Jacob Royal, white heather, Ice Princess. Variegated pittosporum, hebe, juniper, ivy, conifers, Mossy green apple twigs, woven in.
It’s 12C today. No wonder the Paperwhites won’t wait until Christmas. I’ve planted more, a fortnight apart in 10″ pots in the poly tunnel.
There’s still some bees and hoverflies about. But the wasps have stopped coming. They left an empty paper nest in the long grass in the wild garden. We knew they were there and kept a respectful distance. We’ve had no trouble with aphids all summer; wasps have zoomed in and feasted on them with relish.
Dusk seems to descend all of a sudden. One moment I am mooching in the greenhouse, the next I’m plunged into darkness. I’ve strung some mouldable wire fairy lights through the lemon trees. They make little heat and will only be left on for an hour or so. Enough to cheer me through the gloom of December days to come.
Winter sunsets are glorious though. I stay out until the very last minute. Hopefully, I’ll spot a tawny owl before it’s time to go indoors.
Thanks to Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/ for this IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and arranging this week. Let me know what’s looking good in your garden at the moment too.
On such a horrible wet day, the only place to be is in my greenhouse.
Cacti and succulents rule on the top shelf. They virtually look after themselves. I won’t water them until the end of February. Perfect for anyone with a busy life.
There’s always baby plants to pot up. I’m using these in a Christmas wreath next week. I’ll make a circle of willow, cover it in sheet moss, and wire in the succulent cuttings. They’ll soon root into the moss and grow on. I’ll post some how-to photos as I go. The wreath can hang on the front door, or become a table setting with a candle in the middle.
The temperature in here is 10C today. A Parwins electric fan heater is set to 5C. Providing I keep the plants on the dry side, they survive the winter. It’s the wet that kills more plants than the cold. This pinky orange bougainvillea remains colourful right through until spring. I’ll prune it right back next March and it will produce fresh bracts on the new season’s growth. This one is being trained into a pyramid and I’ve also got a purple one trained into a ball.
Down the left of the greenhouse is a row of potted citrus plants. These are fabulous for making cakes. I never use chemicals, so the zest is safe to use. There’s oranges, tangerines, lemons and limes. I’m searching for something called a Buddhas Hand which apparently produces large quantities of peel for jams and marmalade.
I bring pots of herbs and annuals into the greenhouse in October to overwinter. My nasturtiums are still flowering. I’ll use the flowers and leaves in salads. Anything to cheer up dark and rainy days of December.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of my greenhouse. I love to have somewhere to mooch when it’s horrible outdoors. What’s growing in your greenhouses, coldframes or porches this winter? Get in touch and let me know what you are nurturing, indoors.
Joining in with https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/01/six-on-saturday-01-12-2018/. Why not go over and see what the the others have chosen for their Six on Saturday slideshow photos.