In a Vase on Monday

Few words will accompany today’s IAVOM. Regular readers will know that each week I run round my garden and make a bouquet from everything in flower. Today these flowers are sent to cheer anyone who’s ill, in pain or suffering.

Today I’m sitting by the hospital bed of someone I love. Someone I’ve known all my life. The hospital staff are like angels. So compassionate, caring, patient. I’m overwhelmed by everything they do. They care for me too, reassure me, prop me up when I start to sink.

For the past few months, I’ve been visiting my relatives – I won’t name them to protect their privacy- virtually every other day, becoming more and more concerned and not knowing what to do for the best.

On Sunday, I called an ambulance. And nothing now will be the same again.

I will have to live with the guilt, as they didn’t want to go. We arrived at hospital at 4pm. They were on the ward in a bed by 6pm. So relieved the stories of lying in hospital corridors for hours on end did not happen to us.

Today, I’m on automatic pilot. Flowers are picked. There’s a comfort in familiar things. The flowers have gone on the relatives’ window ledges as usual. There’s no one there to see them. But passers-by will enjoy them. The front garden is weeded and the grass neat and tidy.

Flowers have the power to soothe and comfort. And there’s never been a time when they’ve been needed more. I’m thinking of all the years these posies have given joy to my relatives and all the carers and visitors to their home. A cheerful welcome at their front door. And flowers always on the mantelpiece and kitchen window.

Sending my best wishes to you all.

The Almanac – A Seasonal Guide to 2019

Book Review

Lia Leendertz. Illustrated by Celia Hart

Octopus Books/ Mitchell Beazley. Hardback £10. September 6 2018.

Captivated from the first page, I keep dipping into the new Almanac, published this week. I loved Lia Leendertz’ first seasonal guide created for 2018. The new version for 2019 is just as magical, if not better.

I’ve made a kind of nest in the summerhouse, heaping cushions and old quilts on a comfy armchair. It’s peaceful in here, only the sound of thrushes tap taping snail shells on the stone path. It’s just the place to settle down and delve into Lia’s book.

There’s something comforting about being in tune with the natural world around us. Checking the times for sunrise and sunset, sea temperatures, tides, moon phases. I haven’t tried planting by the moon, but there’s dates and times to get me started. It seems to make perfect sense. I love the little moments of joy. Reading that day length increases by 1 hour and eight minutes during the course of January. It gives hope when it’s needed most. Here’s the page for January. Plough Monday is included in the dates listed. I heard my grandfather talk of Plough Monday- traditionally the start of the agricultural year. The book is like a siren call leading me back through time to my farming family ancestors. A reminder to keep in my heart their customs and celebrations.

There’s recipes such as Epiphany tart, a kind of jam pastry, with a star made with overlapping triangles and each “well” containing a different flavour. I hadn’t heard of this; it sounds delicious. There’s a tradition dating back to the 1600s of creating tarts with intricate pastry patterns, coloured with different jams. I wonder if my great grandmother Annie Foulds – who was head cook at Bradgate House- would have made such a dish. She made the most delicious cakes at home at Carters Rough Cottage, Groby.

Lia’s writing is perfectly complemented by illustrations from artist Celia Hart. The prints are so beautiful they draw you in, much as a photograph of a glorious scene makes you want to step into the landscape. It’s impossible not to stare longingly at Celia’s drawings- and wish you could step into the page. I’d like to see those swifts and swallows soaring above my head and turn over the seashells she so wonderfully captures.

A mesmerising read, totally spellbinding. A beautiful month by month companion for me. For anyone, like me, who tries to weave the stories of the past into the journey to the future.

The publishers have kindly offered one copy to give away. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to be included in the prize draw. The publishers will pick a name and send out a copy. The publisher’s decision is final. Sorry UK entries only.

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Here is the Amazon Link for The Almanac.

In a Vase on Monday – cut flowers from my garden

Despite the drought, my cut flower beds provide a steady flow of blooms for my MIL Joan and my Mum Marion. Here are a few of my favourites for this week’s IAVOM.

Chrysanthemum Rainbow Mixed- from Mr Fothergill’s – were sown in March, planted out at the end of May, and flower right through June to October. Seeds cost £1.75 a packet. I’m always looking for good value for money and these fit the bill.

In this tiny posy, I’ve placed them with cosmos, fringed dianthus, and sprigs of blue agapanthus. They’ll last five days in a vase.

Colours range from white and pale pink to red, all with lovely chocolate coloured centres.

Looks good with white goat’s rue, Galega Alba from Chiltern Seeds. Pure white spikes of pea-like flowers from June to September.

With white Catanache alba from Mr fothergill’s seeds.

With fringed pinks, meant to be grown as annuals, but are in their second year. Chiltern Seeds have a pretty frilly variety here.

Add in some easy to grow cosmos. This one is Seashells from Thompson and Morgan. Ferny foliage is an added bonus and excellent for making button holes or filling out bouquets.

Looks fabulous with Verbena Pink Spires, a perennial plant from Miles Nurseries, Hoby, Leicestershire. Never seems to be out of flower.

I wrote about my cut flower garden – and sharing the plot with hedgehogs and other wildlife Here.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this IAVOM meme. Why not take a look to see what Cathy and all the others are growing and displaying. It’s fascinating to see that sometimes we are growing the same varieties in different countries all around the world.

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BBC Radio #SundaySupplement flowers/ hedgehogs/ my garden, 12 August programme

Some photos to accompany today’s BBC Radio Leicester gardening Sunday Supplement programme. It was my turn to sit in and answer listeners’ gardening queries on the phone-in today.

As always, I ran round the garden and picked some flowers for my mother-in-law Joan and my Mum Marion to take in to the programme. Despite the heat and drought, my cut flower patch hasn’t let me down. There’s plenty of colour just now.

In the pink and blue theme posy there’s zinnia, Mophead hydrangea, cosmos seashells and white wild goats rue. The green umbels are actually parsley that’s gone to seed, and the whole bouquet is wreathed with blue borage. The pink whirls are Diascia Hopleys. Plants have grown to 5ft and been in flower for 8 weeks. There’s just one glorious inky-blue gladioli, and one annual pink chrysanthemum (Tricolor Mixed) which are only just starting to flower.

In the orange-theme bouquet there’s calendula, rudbeckia, spikes of verbascum, and seed heads from love-in-a-mist. White jasmine provides a wonderful scent, even if there are only two sprigs included here. Any more would be overpowering.

I could talk for hours about flowers, but the conversation steered towards wildlife in my garden. So for anyone wondering how my hedgehogs are getting on, we have four precious babies this year, one less than last summer. They are a month later than last year, but very healthy and active. I am feeding them with Spike hedgehog food to try to build them up for the winter. Fresh water is also really important and in scare supply, so lots of little dishes are placed all around the garden.

So far these hoglets are just 5″ long. I’ll keep an eye on them to ensure they meet the target weight of 650g by winter hibernation time.

I wrote about last summer’s hedgehogs Here. There’s also hints and tips on helping hedgehogs on the highlighted link.

Radio Leicester Sunday Supplement is available on i-player. There’s a link Here. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06fs2mb . Gardening starts at 1.09.31. Put your feet up and have a listen in.

Let me know what flowers are doing well in your garden right now, and do any of you have hedgehogs nesting in the garden this summer?

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Tour of MrFothergill’s Seed Trial Grounds

Photo : Silene Blue Angel. New for 2018/19

Growing plants from seed is a passion for me. It’s an affordable way to bulk up annual, perennial and biennial displays in the garden. And each year I try something new, as well as sticking with tried and trusted old favourites.

Next spring, I’ll be adding Silene Blue Angel to my seed sowing plans. It’s one of the new varieties on offer at Mr Fothergill’s. And this week I was absolutely delighted to be invited to view the trial grounds at the company’s headquarters in Suffolk.

These are the plants that caught my eye. The silene was top of my list. A hardy annual, sown in March and planted out in early June. Plants form neat cushions 25cm tall. For a continuous display, I’ll sow a few seeds at two to three week intervals. I’m picturing drifts of electric blue flowers running through the borders and flowering all summer long.

Brachycome Blue Star is another new variety available for 2019. I’m going to partner it with this one I spotted from the Brachycome Blue/White Mix range. I’ve always loved any kind of daisy flower.

Regular readers know I also love sweet peas. I grow a range of heritage and modern varieties along a rather wonky hazel wigwam structure. Next year I will be adding new variety Capel Manor to the garden. It’s a pretty pinky blue and has a delicate, though not overpowering scent.

I always plant cosmos in the cut flower garden. They are easy to grow and provide flowers from early summer right through to the first frosts. I spotted this beautiful new white variety called Snow Puff. Bees seem to love cosmos, so that’s a bonus too. I’m always trying to find ways to help pollinators.

Here’s some photos of the trial grounds. It was fabulous to wander about amongst so many beautiful flowers, jotting down names for future planting plans. The scent in the heat of the day just added to the wow factor.

Mr Fothergill’s is celebrating its 40th anniversary. In May, the company won Product of the Year at RHS Chelsea for its new Optigrow range of seeds. Optigrow is a revolutionary non-chemical seed priming treatment that uses only water and air to get the seeds biologically ready for germination. I’ll be trying out some of the 19 vegetable varieties available – including tricky to grow parsnips- next spring. I’ll need to write another post about all the new vegetable varieties. There are quite a few I’ve made a note of. And there are many more new flower varieties. I’ve just picked out a few. I’ll definitely have to write another post soon….

Please share this via any social media you like, and don’t forget to say hello in the comments box below. Let me know what new seed you are planing to try out for the spring growing season. I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram.

Wordless Wednesday -Cosmos Snow Puff

I’ve had a wonderful day at the field trials ground at Mr Fothergill’s Seeds in Suffolk. This new cosmos caught my eye. Perfect for pollinators. More words to follow when I’ve recovered from the journey. I will be growing this and many other new seeds next spring.

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It’s hot, hot, hot….. what the garden looks like on 5th August 2018

Plants in my garden are matching the heatwave! These sunny rudbeckias were sown last summer and planted out in autumn. They make much stronger plants grown as biennials.

These are Rudbeckia hirta Glorious Daisies , also known as cone flowers, from Mr Fothergill’s Seeds. Bees and butterflies love them. They are easy to grow and last a week as a cut flower.

They remind me of sunflowers. I love the yellow petals and the deep chocolate cone centre. To get them to flower as annuals, sow seeds in a 3″ pot of good quality seed compost in February/ March. Place in a propagator at 18C. Prick out as soon as there are two true leaves. Prick out into individual 3″ pots to give the plants room to grow. Grow on in a frost free place in bright light, but not direct sunshine as the tender new leaves will scorch. Plant outside in a sunny sheltered position at end of May. They will flower all summer long.

If you have a very sheltered garden, you can overwinter them. To grow them as biennials, sow them in summer and plant out in early autumn into soil that has been well prepared. Incorporate lots of good garden compost, well rotted manure and leafmould. This will improve drainage over the winter when it’s the wet that tends to kill plants rather than the cold.

As temperatures are regularly hitting 28C to 30C these rudbeckias really shine out and match the sunny weather. I’ve not watered these, but any planted since Christmas would need a thorough soaking once a week.

To add to the sunshine look, I’m trialling the new Thompson and Morgan sunflower Sunbelieveable Brown Eyed Girl. These are making lovely short stocky plants suitable for containers. They arrive in the post well packaged and soon grow into 50cm plants.

I’m also growing various sunflowers from Mr Fothergill’s including Evening Sun which has a stunning range of colours. And bees absolutely adore them.

These last a week in a vase and make a lovely centrepiece of any cut flower posy. Calendulas are also doing well on my plot despite the heat and dreadful drought. I am only watering containers and succulent crops such as runner beans and courgettes. Everything else is relying on good winter mulching with home made compost and Plant grow fertiliser. We haven’t had any rain since May.

Regular readers know that I always cut my flowers for my MIL Joan and my Mum Marion. This summer has been a particularly difficult one, health wise, and sunshiny flowers have been much needed.

Calendula Snow White and subsequent seedlings are a firm favourite. I post photos of my posies on IAVOM which Cathy hosts on Mondays. Thanks for joining me on a ramble round my rather hot and parched garden. Let me know what you are growing in your garden the first week of August.

Thanks to Helen for hosting the End of Month View.

Summer fruit harvest and making garden jam

What a summer! My poor garden is burned to a crisp and everything’s wilting, including me. But the fruit garden is producing bumper crops. You’d think they would shrivel in 32C heat, but the black and red currants, gooseberries and blackberries are sweet and juicy.

Last night I wandered round the garden collecting a basket of fruit to make jam. I had planned to make strawberry jam from the pots of runners planted in April. But the tiny plants only yielded a handful of fruit. So delicious though. The plants only cost 60p each, mail order. I wrote about planting them Here. I’m hopeful of larger crops next summer.

The blackberries were the best I’ve ever seen though. A bumper crop and large fruit. Sometimes wild blackberries are so tiny they are hardly worth picking. But these soon filled a basket.

I threw the whole lot in a heavy based pan to make garden jam. Wow, what a scent. If it’s possible to capture sunshine and summer in a jar, this is the way to do it.

Garden Jam

To make 2 jars I used 500g fruit, 500g sugar 75ml water, juice of 1 lemon.

Method:

Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the setting point later.

Put fruit, water and lemon juice in a heavy based pan. Cook the fruit gently until soft.

Add sugar and simmer carefully until all the sugar crystals are absorbed.

Increase the heat to a rolling boil. After 10- 15 minutes, put a teaspoon of jam on the plate and gently push. If it wrinkles, it has reached setting point. If not, cook for another 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the jam.

Stand for 15 minutes

Pot into sterilised and warmed jars.

Fresh scones :

3oz butter

1lb plain flour

Pinch salt

1oz caster sugar

1.5 tsp. baking power

2 eggs and 6floz milk beaten together.

Add all the dry ingredients and rub together. Add liquids and mix carefully. Don’t over handle the mixture

Roll out thickly and cut into circles. Brush top with a little of the reserved egg/ milk mixture.

Bake for 10 mins until golden, oven temp. 230C, gas mark 8

Eat whilst still warm – or as soon as possible. Can be frozen as soon as cooled, to keep fresh.

I often ask twitter friends for recipes and gardening advice. Here’s a reply that came from Bob Flowerdew. I’m looking forward to trying his recipe.

And this came from June Girvin, which is similar to the recipe I ended up with. It’s absolutely delicious.

After all that foraging and cooking, we sat in the 1930s summerhouse, turned to face the cool woodland and pond and feasted on the jewels of the garden.

Surrounding us, there’s sounds of harvesting and baling. There’s a scent of new hay and oats on the breeze, and we watch entranced as barn owls swoop across the empty fields, like ghosts. They don’t notice us sitting quietly amongst the trees.

Here’s this week’s Garden Hour on BBC Radio Leicester where I chat away about what’s happening in my garden. Put your feet up and have a listen in sometime. The programme starts at 2.10.27 on the timeline. And the music’s not bad this week too.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06cd1bd

I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. Please share this on any social media platform you like, and don’t forget to leave a comment below. Thank you.

We made a garden for Rainbows Hospice : Belvoir Show 2018

My very wise Welsh grandmother was full of quaint little sayings. I used to laugh at the time. “Pick yourself up, dust yourself down; ” and “Something good always comes out of adversity.” But I didn’t heed them at the time. Then two years ago, suddenly, out of the blue, I became seriously ill. In the middle of the crisis, those words came back to me.

While I was lying in my hospital bed, I decided, if I survived, I would raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children. Being so ill was frightening, and it took all my inner resources to cope. How much worse, I thought, must it be for a child to be ill and in pain. Since then, I’ve been hosting garden club talks, afternoon teas and book launch events. But my biggest challenge came last weekend when I helped build a show garden.

And this is how it started. Over the bridge is the lake-side setting for the first ever Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Festival. It’s a glorious Capability Brown landscape with rolling hillsides and ancient oak plantations.

We had four and a half days to make a garden. It’s a historic site, so we couldn’t dig down or hammer anything into the ground. Everything had to be built up from a protective ground cover.

We had no budget. Everything was begged or borrowed. Any money, I thought, should go to Rainbows.

David Greaves co-designed the garden and donated all the labour for the build. While I concentrated on the plants, David co-ordinated all the materials and deliveries we would need.

First the garden was marked out. Lewis lays the foundation for the dry stone wall. Alfie’s on the cement mixer.

The first stone is laid.

The beautiful honey -coloured stone was donated by Goldholme Stone.

A lorry load of topsoil arrives, a donation from Richard Fenton.

Such a stunning setting for a garden. Everyone works at breakneck speed, in 28C heat. There’s Sam, Pete, Gareth and David cracking on, mindful of the deadline.

Parents told me being given devastating news your children are not going to live long and full lives is like a hammer blow. They feel as if they’ve been knocked down and can’t get back up. One mother said she felt like Rainbows “picks you up and gives you a hug. ” Something she said was most needed when you’re at your lowest ebb. So I made a seating area in the shape of open arms, or a hug.

This is the artist’s impression of the garden. We designed the garden in two halves. On one side is a parent’s garden with the hug-shape seat set in a woodland glade with native trees and plants. It’s a calm haven. The idea was to highlight the message that Rainbows isn’t just for children; it’s for parents, relatives and siblings who need help, counselling and support.

Parents said, when told their child had a life-limiting illness, all their hopes and dreams for the future collapse. They can’t see what lies ahead. The future is clouded. The Perspex screens puts their words into our garden.

On the other side of the screens is the children’s garden, giving an idea of what it’s like at Rainbows; an insight for anyone who has never visited. There’s a music therapy corner, bird watching hide and wildlife area, water play wall, and a quiet retreat with swing seat covered in rainbow-coloured cushions.

I’ve been going back and forth to the hospice for months, helping the children and young people to grow their own plants for the containers. I loved working with them. I wanted them to share in telling the Rainbows story. Here’s my daughter Clare helping with the planting of seeds and bulbs.

Although nothing was said, I realised some of the children couldn’t see. They enjoyed the feel of dry compost running through their fingers and they spent a long time turning over and feeling the different shaped bulbs- gladioli, lily and begonia. It was an experience I will never forget.

The containers were sited in the middle of the chidren’s garden, and also all around a fund-raising marquee set up by Rainbows alongside our garden.

All the beautiful trees, shrubs and perennials were grown by Miles Nurseries Hoby Leicestershire. Thanks to Tom, Bel and Lawson for providing such fabulous plants. And for all your deliveries to the site. We could not have built the garden without your kind support.

Our water play and music wall.

Here’s the Duchess of Rutland viewing our garden, with David Greaves explaining the design. The good news is we won Best in Show. And even better, the garden is going to be re-built in the castle grounds.

The duchess tried out the drum kit in the music therapy corner.

My Mum, who’s been very ill too this year, recovered enough to come and see the garden. That really made my day to be honest.

This little visitor to the show was enchanted by the butterflies that arrived as soon as we’d planted the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my diary of building a show garden. We raised several thousand pounds with donations, pledges and people joining the Rainbows lottery. Here’s the link if you would like to support the work of this amazing hospice.

Rainbows Hospice – Ways you can help.

With many thanks to all our sponsors: David Greaves Landscape Design and Construction for co-design and build , Miles Nurseries for all trees, shrubs and plants, Bagforce Aggregates , William Hercock Builders Merchants , CED paving and stone Belvoir Saw Mill, Chris Cooper-Hayes for artists impression, Goldholme Stone , David Musson Fencing , Motorpoint for perspex screens and leaflets, Richard Fenton for topsoil ,Melcourt for compost and bark, Burgon and Ball children’s tools and kneeling pads, Mr Fothergill’s Seeds for children’s pots, Gee Tee Bulbs for children’s container bulbs, Elho for children’s containers and plant pots, CJ Wildlife for bird and wildlife corner supplies, Cooks Lane Herbs , Sitting Spiritually swing seat, Pete Brown Carpentry, Libby Greaves for planning and co-ordination, publicity and planting.

Also many thanks to Soo Spector, Marissa Ewing-Gerrard, Clive Gimson for planting and Gary and Alison at Rainbows for helping me; Emma Scarborough for mentoring, and Sue Blaxland who taught me everything at Brooksby College.

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Winner of Dahlias book by Naomi Slade

Congratulations to June at The Cynical Gardener who has won my prize draw for a copy of Naomi Slade’s new book, Dahlias.

I wrote a review of the book Here.

I absolutely love the book, and find I’m dipping into it whenever I sit down and rest a moment in my potting shed armchair.

The book features mouth-watering photographs by Georgianna Lane. It’s easy to read and there are lots of hints and tips on getting the best out of your dahlias.

Who could resist these lovely, brightly-coloured single varieties.

Here’s some photos of my own dahlias in my cut flower patch. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the newer varieties highlighted in the book. I’m particularly keen to try the dark red and chocolate types, as well as the cheerful sounding “happy” series.

Some of mine have been grown from seed. They produce good size plants in one year.

Dahlias will be published by Pavilion Books on 2nd August, RRP price £25. Here’s the Amazon link for more information.

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