In a Vase on Monday. Daylight photos

I feel rather guilty for the dark, poor quality photos posted last night. I shouldn’t have lingered on the footpath, looking at the wildlife. It was dark by the time I reached home.

So today, I rushed back – and it was still daylight! It feels as if it is getting lighter. It’s a month past the shortest day and plants in the garden are moving. The sap is starting to rise.

Anyway, thank you for your kind comments on all my photos – even when the quality leaves a lot to be desired.

Here’s the same flowers that were posted yesterday for IAVOM – in daylight conditions today.

The “workings ” are a willow heart with a kokedama vase tied on with string. I’m not using florists foam as there’s growing concern about it polluting water courses and not being recyclable. No one would ever know that the vase is a jam jar covered in moss from the garden, with green twine wound over and over to make the kokedama “nest.”

It’s easy to top up the water every day, and the flowers seem to last just as long. In fact they probably last longer, because each day you can fish out the posy and trim a tiny amount off the stems. Refresh the water, and all’s well.

We are all trying to find our way through the new circumstances we find ourselves in. No one can ”un- see” David Attenborough’s Blue Planet programme. The film of the whale carrying its dead calf will stay with us always. As will the pictures of the beeches and ocean polluted with plastic. I for one will find alternatives for florists foam, until a recyclable ”green” alternative is produced. I’m using test tubes and mini glass vases, hidden in moss. I don’t feel as if my flower arrangements are suffering.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting IAVOM at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/.

In a Vase on Monday – flowers from my garden

I should have taken my photos in daylight. But a last minute walk around the fields won instead. We were just in time to see a buzzard swoop from the bottom field oaks across to the lane. By the time we’d walked around the margins of the field, the buzzard was on the move again. It flew overhead. We could see it was a young bird, one of last summer’s fledglings. Three quarters of young buzzards die before they mature at three years old. We are lucky to have them here. Every day we look for them. Often we hear their mewing cry before we see them. The sound carries into the potting shed where I’m working.

On the potting shed table today, I’ve a few stems of alstroemeria and some paper white narcissi. I’m growing alstroemeria in the unheated poly tunnel, protected under two layers of fleece. There’s a few stems with buds which I hope will open.

I spend a few minutes separating the layers from the honesty seed heads. A bit of silver is more than welcome in the winter gloom.

There’s a few sprigs of chrysanthemum White Stallion, and a halo of dried gypsophillia saved from the summer.

Emerging from the potting shed with my posy of flowers, there’s just enough light to follow the garden path home.

I’m joining with Cathy for this week’s IAVOM. Why not go over and see what everyone else is growing and cutting for their vase of flowers this week.

In a Vase on Monday https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Here’s this week’s links to find out more. RSPB on buzzards: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/buzzard/breeding-nesting-habits/

RHS growing Paperwhites : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/48820/Narcissus-papyraceus-(13)/Details

Alstroemeria from http://www.postalplants.co.uk/

RHS advice on Honesty https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/98034/Lunaria-annua/Details

Six on Saturday- Photos from my Garden, 19th January 2019

Is there anything more beautiful than a January rose.

One of favourites is Rosa Pearl Drift. Rarely out of flower all summer. Throws out the occasional joyful surprise through winter. We had a posy of blooms for Christmas. Disease resistant and low maintenance. I can highly recommend this beautiful, hardy rose.

Picked at 4.30pm today: Paperwhite Narcissi from the unheated poly tunnel, black hellebore bought last spring from Ashwood Nurseries. Similar varieties are Hellebore Black Pearl. Partnered with blue green eucalyptus stems and jasmine. A joy for my potting shed window. I love fresh flowers in winter, probably more than in summer. There’s more need for cheer in the dark days of January.

Planted broad bean De Monica in my new hinged deep root trainers from Haxnix.

I planted Aquadulce in October and overwintered them in the greenhouse. They’ll be planted out next month for an early crop. De Monica will provide a successional crop later in spring.

I’m trialling a new peat-free potting compost from Westland being launched this year. I’ll report back as plants start to grow over the next few months. So far, so good. It’s nice to use, free draining, and consistent. There are no large lumpy bits in it. And it doesn’t grow a green algae on the surface of pots, like some of the compost I’ve tried in the past.

A view of the wild garden, taken from the summerhouse. I’ve been planting 200 foxgloves, grown from two packets of seed, sown in mid summer. It would have been expensive to buy ready-grown plants. These cost £4 for seed, and a few pounds for compost. It’s a good way to create a maplanting effect, on a budget. You can start sowing seed now to catch up. Plants grown this spring should provide some flower spikes late in summer. They will bulk up and provide a real show the following spring.

Scattered all around my garden are piles of twigs and logs, covered with leaf mould. Homes for invertebrates. Beetles, bugs and insects mean food for hedgehogs, frogs, toads and birds. My army, all ready to munch on pests such as slugs and snails. It’s a fair exchange, I think. I give them a home, they look after me.

And finally a day-time view, past the summerhouse, down the field to the woods where our tawny and barn owls live. At dusk we sit in the summerhouse and watch them glide by, silent as the night. The emerald green field is a joy in January. You can virtually see the crop growing! It’s almost a month past the shortest day, and the sap’s rising and plants are getting going.

I’m joining in with for Six on Saturday. Why not go over and see what others are posting for their six photos today. Here’s the link : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/19/six-on-saturday-19-01-2019/.

LINKS:

I wrote about John Massey and Ashwood hellebores here ; https://bramblegarden.com/2018/02/26/in-a-vase-on-monday-ashnurs-gdnmediaguild/

Hellebores: https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/plants/hellebores/helleborus-xhybridus-single-black-pearl.html

Paperwhites came from Gee Tee Bulbs https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/ and were planted in October.

Vegetable seeds / foxglove seeds from Mr Fothergills http://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAiAsoviBRAoEiwATm8OYG3vsJS9JxyNd2rIPtJ1lZ4saSuPRVFTatI-9eqArW1r61_7P6cLbxoCQygQAvD_BwE

Deep root trainers for sweet peas and broad beans https://www.haxnicks.co.uk/deep-sherwood-rootrainers

Westland composts https://www.gardenhealth.com/product/natures-haven-multi-purpose-compost

Leek and Potato Pies -Veg from the Garden

I love the quiet time after Christmas. It’s so peaceful here. No rushing about trying to keep up with the world. I hold on to that feeling of calm for as long as I can. I’m reluctant to drive to the shops. So I look about the house and garden. Leeks and potatoes are plentiful, so I make one of my favourite recipes, Leek and Potato pie. They are easy to make, and it’s lovely to come indoors from a session in the garden and find tasty little pies for tea. Dashing about, dealing with shopping, parking and self service tills that never seem to work, can all wait for another day.

INGREDIENTS

A quantity of shortcrust pastry, or 2 rolls of filo or 2 packs puff pastry, rolled out and cut into approx 12cm squares.

800g potatoes, chopped into approx 2.5cm chunks

2 leeks

2 red onions

25g butter

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

200ml milk

130g cheddar cheese

Pinch of salt/black pepper

Optional. If you have them:

Pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper

Half tsp Lea and Perrins Worcestershire Sauce

Pinch of mustard powder

Chopped chives, sage, thyme, marjoram, parsley.

1 beaten egg for glazing

METHOD

Boil the potatoes until they are just cooked, but still slightly firm. Drain and set aside to cool.

Melt the butter and add the leeks and onions and cook gently until soft.

Add the flour and cook gently for 2 minutes, stirring the mixture so it doesn’t burn.

Remove from the heat and add a few tablespoons of the milk and stir well to incorporate. Add the rest of the milk, a bit at a time, stirring well.

Return to the heat and cook for a few minutes until the sauce thickens, stirring to prevent burning.

Remove from the heat while you grate the cheese.

Add the grated cheese, the seasoning and optional ingredients.

Gently fold the sauce mixture into the cooked potatoes.

Divide the mixture between the pastry squares. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking tray.

Pull the four corners inwards to meet in the centre, folding one corner over the other like closing an envelope. Pinch along the folds to hold the folds together. Some beaten egg will help the pastry to stick together.

Brush the pies with beaten egg.

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and the filling is piping hot. The parcels may open up a little as they bake.

Sprinkle over some reserved fresh herbs.

TIP

Make picnic versions by using silicone muffin trays.

Vary the recipe by adding whatever vegetables you have in store. If you eat fish, you can add tuna. If you are vegan, use soya margarine, soya milk and brush the pies with almond milk. Add chestnut mushrooms and chopped nuts instead of cheese.

PASTRY RECIPE

300g plain flour

1tbsp or 15ml baking powder

150g butter or margarine

3-4tbsp or 45-60ml water.

METHOD

Put the flour and baking power in a basin. Rub in the fat until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add sufficient water to give a soft but manageable dough.

Note: use warm water if using wholemeal flour.

The photo below shows filo pastry pies, made in muffin trays.

They don’t have to be perfect shapes. Enjoy!

Six on Saturday. What’s in flower today.

Enjoy a tour of my garden on a rainy Saturday. The temperature feels mild at 8C. I can hear a woodpecker in the orchard. Our farming neighbour is cutting the field hedge across the lane. We’ll be able to see the cows more clearly in spring. Speaking of spring…I was surprised to find so many flowers today.

Calendula Orange Flash. Grown from seed last summer. Supplied by Mr Fothergills. I’ll be growing these again in the cut flower/ veg patch. They last a week in a vase.

Calendula Fiesta seedling. Mr Fothergills again. Fades from lemon to white. Very pretty. The edges of the petals look like they’ve been cut with pinking shears.

Snowdrops. Earliest they have ever flowered here. Galanthus Elwesii variety. Originally from snowdrop festival sales at Hodsock Priory, Nottingham. It will soon be time to make a visit again. I always take my Mum, and we usually stay over in the converted stables. A little bit of luxury, midwinter. Does you no harm at all.

In my unheated poly tunnel, Chrysanthemum White Stallion is providing a few flowers for jam jar posies. Bought as tiny £2 cuttings from Chrysanthemums Direct at the RHS Malvern Show three years ago. The weather is so mild, the plants are starting to shoot early. I’m taking new cuttings today. Well worth growing. I also recommend Arctic White and Lollipop. They produce masses of blooms. All grow in 10″ pots, John Innes compost. Stand them outdoors all summer. Take in before frosts, to protect flowers. My father in law used to stand the pots in a glass-roofed corridor between the kitchen and the garage. A cold frame would also be suitable.

Alstroemeria from the poly tunnel. Just keeps on flowering. To force them into growth, pull all the flowers and leaves in September. Stop watering for three weeks, then feed and water well. The dormant period seems to encourage them to flower from November to February. Just when we all need something cheerful.

I love growing cut flowers for friends and family. I learned how to grow -for all seasons- on a course at Common Farm Flowers. Never has £100 been so well spent. I learned which varieties to grow and how to get the best out of my poly tunnel and greenhouse. I grow cosmos and sweet peas in the summer in 10 3m by 1.2m beds with little herb-edged paths in between. This year I’m growing love-in-a-mist, chrysanthemums, carnations, ammi majus, cornflowers and poppies.

And finally, I love green flowers and Helleborus foetidus is a favourite. I was just about to pick some flowers, when I spotted these ladybirds. Just shows how mild the weather has been recently. I left them undisturbed.

I’m joining in with Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/12/six-on-saturday-12-01-2019/ . Thanks to the Propagator for hosting this meme. Please feel free to join us.

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Houseplant Trends – talking on the radio

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06vgzy9

I took part in an interview for BBC local radio today. I’m live from my greenhouse at home at 1.47.39 on the timeline. Talking about youngsters getting involved in gardening by growing houseplants. No one would know, but there’s a disgruntled robin flapping around my head. He obviously considers my greenhouse his territory. I fielded him off with a spider plant. Quite funny now. Slightly off putting at the time. Do have a listen in when you have a minute. And you can laugh if you like. I won’t mind.

Houseplant Trends

I like to keep an eye on trends. I might not join in, but it’s good to know what’s in fashion. I want to keep up with the conversation. Growing houseplants is one trend I approve of.

Plants are big news on Instagram right now. Millions of people are posting photos of plants and how they are using them to enhance their homes. The hashtag #houseplants has 287,000 posts. #Plantsofinstagram has 2.2 million posts.

The RHS says social media is one of the driving forces behind the houseplant revival.

Matthew Pottage, curator at RHS Wisley, says millennials who perhaps don’t have a garden, but have a window or a windowsill are behind the latest trend.

He appeared on BBC Breakfast TV this week to talk about the latest craze. He says lots of people don’t have their own gardens, but houseplants are one way of getting involved in gardening.

Matthew suggests the spear-shaped mother-in-law’s tongue would be the best plant for a beginner. It’s virtually indestructible. Other plants showing a revival right now are indoor ferns, Swiss cheese plants, and devils ivy (Epipremnum.)

The houseplant revival is just one aspect of young people getting involved in gardening. Matthew says they are growing salads, herbs,tomatoes and micro-greens on windowsills and in window boxes and balconies.

The RHS Wisley plant shop has seen sales of salad and vegetable seeds overtake those of flowers. And conifers are also on the rise, with Wisley seeing a 50% rise in conifer sales. People are looking for low maintenance structural plants- such as conifers.

I had a look at Instagram and the trending hashtag #plantsofinstagram which has 2.2 million posts.

The hashtag #plantshelfie also has 65,700 posts.

Matthew says houseplants are good for cleansing and purifying the air. He recommends the devil’s ivy plant, which takes quite low light levels. Photos on Instagram show the plant being draped over curtain poles and along book shelves.

Pollution levels are often higher indoors than out and contain a mixture of substances emitted from furnishings, detergents, paint, carpets, and also dust, fungal spores and bacteria. These are thought to contribute to the condition known as “sick building syndrome” where people suffer from a range of illnesses; eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, fatigue, and breathing difficulties. Scientists say plants have the ability to clean up our air to a certain extent by absorbing and capturing harmful substances.

Plants have been shown to contribute to improvements in mental and physical wellbeing. Reduced blood pressure, reduced fatigue and headaches, and patients in hospital report a decrease in post-operative pain where they can see some greenery.

In my home, I’ve bought a peace lily which has white spathes and green spear-shape leaves. I’m hoping it will work hard, capturing pollutants in the air, helping us to breathe more easily.

Science shows our homes, workplaces, schools and hospitals can be better places to be with the addition of plants. In some studies scientists found plants helped towards an improved mood, reduced stress levels, increase in work productivity, an increase in speed of reaction, and better concentration spans, as well as increased pain tolerance in hospital settings.

What houseplants are you growing right now? Are you joining in with the # hashtag craze on Instagram. I tried it last night to see what would happen. I didn’t quite get the 5,000 “likes” one instagrammer received for her houseplant post. I’ll have to keep trying!

* Just discovered it’s #HouseplantAppreciationDay. Well, why not join in.

Winter Walk at Melbourne Hall.

Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire will be open this Sunday, January 13. It’s a rare chance to see the house and gardens in winter. I usually post reviews of gardens I’ve visited. But this time I’m giving advance notice as it’s such a lovely opportunity to see behind the scenes, out of season.

Photo credit : Andrea Jones.

Lady Ralph Kerr will host the event between 11am and 3pm. There will be a guided tour of the house, accompanied by classical guitar music, after which you’ll be able to explore the gardens. The special opening coincides with a feature in the January edition of Homes and Gardens Magazine.

Tickets cost £10 and include a glass of mulled wine and a slice of apple and pear pie provided by Master Chef professionals finalist Sven-Hanson Britt.

There’s also a tearoom just outside the garden gates which will be open for lunch, teas and cake. I can vouch for the cake. It’s absolutely delicious. And there’s usually a log fire to sit by.

For more information, the website is http://www.melbournehallgardens.com. Tickets are available on the day. Note: There’s no card reader, so payment is cash.

The magazine article was by award winning photographer Andrea Jones. I reviewed Andrea’s book, The Garden Photography Workshop, in a blog post here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/workshop/

Six on Saturday – My Tribute to David Austin

I’m ignoring the sudden plunge in temperatures. Instead I’m dreaming of summer- and roses in particular. This is my tribute to the wonderful rose grower David Austin who died last month aged 92.

My first roses planted here were David Austin’s. Constance Spry, a glorious old fashioned-looking rose, drapes along the 40 foot pergola. A wonder. Such beauty when it’s in bloom. A fleeting glory, gone in just a few weeks. But the anticipation, waiting for the scent, is worth it.

I gather a basket of blooms. Soon the scent fills the potting shed. In a few moments, I’ve wound the roses into a mossy ring. A halo of elderflower completes the wreath.

I always prop up flower arrangements in the potting shed window to look for gaps, and to add finishing touches.

Then it’s on to the summerhouse. The evening breeze sends the scent through the open doors. A perfect place to sit and contemplate the day’s work.

You can read more about David Austin here https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/01/david-austin-obituary. A life- and work which brought so much joy to so many people, including me. My garden wouldn’t be the same without my David Austin roses.

Joining in with the Propagator for Six on Saturday meme, https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/05/six-on-saturday-05-01-2019/ . Why not go over and see what others are choosing for their six photos today.

What roses are you planning to grow in your gardens this year?

A walk around my garden 2nd January 2019

Cyclamen Coum. A cheering sight in a quiet corner of the wild garden. Perhaps I’ve missed my chance to clear away fallen cow parsley stems. They will just have to compost down naturally with the autumn leaves- which also didn’t get raked up last year. Time just evaporated.

I found hibernating ladybirds. They are welcome here. I hope they’ll munch the greenfly in the summer. I left them undisturbed.

And early snowdrops. Mrs Macnamara, bought from a sale at Hodsock Priory a few years ago. There seems to be an early flowering seedling too. I wonder if it’s a new variety.

Hellebores seem to get earlier every year. A sign of our changing unpredictable seasons.

Algerian Iris unguicularis suddenly flowers. Baked at the base of a south facing wall, it’s always a heart-sing moment. Such delicate blue flowers. How can they survive the cold.

Vinca, periwinkle is rarely out of flower. I love the sky blue hue – against a grey sky.

By the front gate, and all along our hawthorn hedge, there’s violets. Such a joy on a cold day. The scent is something you’ll never forget.

Thanks to Helen for hosting #EOMV meme at https://patientgardener.wordpress.com/. What’s flowering in your garden at the start of the new year?