Happy Christmas Everyone!

I’ve escaped from the house for half an hour. There’s two dozen mince pies in a tin. All my cooking is done. Icing sugar is liberally sprinkled all over the kitchen table. But clearing up can wait. I need to get outside into the garden. Surely, no one will miss me for 30 minutes…..

I’ve been saving crab apples for Christmas decorations. There’s Red Sentinel, Jelly King, Transitoria, and the common malus sylvestris which grows wild in hedgerows around here.

I’m trying to use less plastic and wire in the garden. So as an experiment I’m using cocktail sticks to secure my apples. I’m not using floral foam either. Flowers can be tucked into little glass jars and test tubes. Foliage can be woven into willow. It just takes a bit of forward planning. And I’m pleased with the results.

Wild clematis, old man’s beard, highlights the rosy red apples and rosehips. Such a joy to use what’s to hand in the garden. Within a few minutes I’ve gathered everything I need.

I planted dozens of rosa canina when we made a garden here and rosehips are plentiful this year. I never take all of them from one place. Always leave some for the birds. They’ll need them to get through a cold wet winter.

My willow and crab apple wreath cheers up the summerhouse for Christmas. I’ve heaped woollen blankets in there and created a little library of favourite books. A peaceful place to rest and survey the garden birds. We’ve plenty of robins and blackbirds in the garden. They will be looking for nesting sites soon. Behind the summerhouse, the fields lie fallow this year. It’s been too wet to plough and sow any winter crops. Winter barley and wheat would usually be providing bright green shoots by now. It’s sad to see the ground so waterlogged and unproductive. However, birds and mammals are finding ‘leavings’ from the summer crops. Today we saw 300 field fares land in the field. They must be finding left over seeds and grains.

This is the field gate we walk through as we set off across the back fields. There’s a footpath along the hedgerow. Usually, there’s only us rambling along, but at Christmas the lane attracts a great many walkers. I like to decorate all the garden gates with willow and foliage. It only takes a few minutes to twist six willow stems into a heart and wind in some holly and garrya elliptica. Some dried hydrangea Annabelle makes a focal point, and hides the string tying everything together. Three crab apples glow yellow in the afternoon sunshine. It’s a constantly changing arrangement as birds peck at the hydrangea and apples. I don’t mind. It’s wonderful to watch them enjoying the juicy fruit. I can easily add some more. I enjoy the birds as much as the arrangements to be honest.

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s walk around my garden. Thank you for all your lovely, kind and encouraging comments all year. Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all. See you in 2020, when there will be some exciting new developments at bramble garden to show you. Enjoy your gardening as well as your festivities. Now, back to the icing sugar and that messy kitchen table….. there’s trifles still to make. And Christmas puddings to steam.

Christmas Flowers -In a Vase on Monday

There’s something very appealing about rooting around in ditches, searching for moss covered twigs and pieces of crumbly old bark. I like nothing better than finding bits and pieces that might come in handy for floral arrangements. It brings out the inner ‘Borrower’ in me. I suppose it’s the same as beachcombing for pretty shells and driftwood. Very soothing and satisfying.

It takes me an hour or so to gather enough twigs, moss, ivy and rosehips for today’s projects. The hedges are thick with swags of ivy all adorned with clusters of glossy green berries. These will ripen and turn black in time and provide a feast for the birds. Luckily, there’s enough for everyone to share. I never take too much from any one area.

Wild roses have taken years to climb to the top of the hedges and rosehips form great cascading arches right down to the ground in some places. Meg, my little puppy digs and burrows around in the ditch. She loves this occupation even better than I do, always keen to help, emerging with mouthfuls of sticks and an eager expression. By the end of the morning, my baskets are full, and Meg is happily muddy. We head home, mission accomplished. Setting the finds on the potting shed table, I’ve plenty of red-berried plain green holly, some trailing larch branches festooned with tiny gold fir cones, tendrils of old man’s beard or wild clematis and a pile of wild cherry stems, thick with flower buds already. These stems go into water and straight into the house where the warmth will bring them into flower by Christmas, if I’m lucky. I stand and survey the haul for quite some time. Then I wind willow and silver birch stems into hearts and circles and start to weave in the hedgerow bounty, adding crab apples and dried cow parsley seed heads which remind me of shooting stars. Meg sleeps on my coat in a box under the table, satisfied with her morning’s work. Occasionally, there’s a huge yawn, but mostly deep breathing, like a well fed baby. And in the peace and quiet, I can get on with my tasks.

White alstroemeria and tiny white Stallion chrysanthemum from the poly tunnel pots, adding colour to the hedgerow greens. White gypsophila, dried from the summer.

Hedgerow finds with dried hydrangea flowers and pine.

Teasels and Garryia elliptica on the field gates.

Hydrangea Annabelle with a clematis Montana and willow circle.

Hydrangea and old man’s beard clematis catching the sunlight.

A simple willow heart and ivy.

Christmas hellebore. One of the Gold Collection varieties. A welcome addition to seasonal arrangements. Slit the stem lengthways for 4″ and stand in water right up to the flower head, before using in arrangements.

Summerhouse posy. Holly, lavender and fir.

Rosy hydrangea flowers, wild clematis and pine.

Willow, dogwoods, skimmia and conifer stems.

Potting shed window. Rosehips, crab apples and cow parsley seeds.

Links : In a Vase on Monday. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/12/09/in-a-vase-on-monday-spike-revisited/

Christmas Recipes -Chocolate Panettone

Family Favourite Recipes

The most delicious panettone you’ll ever taste. These individual tins make lovely Christmas presents. I’m sharing this recipe now, to give you time to save enough tins. These went to all the children in the family. Adults had tins decorated with sprigs of rosemary and holly leaves with tiny hand stamped labels. If you make them, do share photos of yours.

INGREDIENTS

125ml milk

125ml water

600g strong white bread flour

7g sachet of dried yeast

1/2 tsp salt

75g mixed candied peel

75g sultanas and raisins

3tbsp sweet sherry (optional)

2 large free range eggs

2 large egg yolks ( save the whites for meringues)

75g golden caster sugar

Zest of large orange

150g butter

75g good quality dark chocolate, chopped, or use chocolate buttons

1 egg, beaten for brushing the tops

Soup tins, washed and dried and lined with baking parchment, 1″ higher than the top of the tin.

METHOD

Place the mixed peel, dried fruit, orange juice and sherry in a bowl to soak for 30 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the milk and water until just warm. Not hot.

Combine flour with the yeast and salt.

Add the liquid to the flour mix.

Add the butter a bit at a time, sugar, whole eggs and egg yolks

Put the mixture into a bread making machine and set on ‘dough ‘ only. You are making an ‘enriched’ dough.

Or, thoroughly mix the dough and kneed for 10 minutes. Leave in a warm place to rise with a towel over the bowl.

When risen, tip the dough into a large bowl and add the dried fruit mixture and orange zest, fold in the chocolate. Kneed to incorporate. Add a small amount of extra flour if the mixture is too wet.

Place a circle of grease proof paper or baking parchment in the bottom of the tins. Line the sides with a rectangle of paper.

Divide the dough into pieces weighing 150g. Roll into balls. Drop the dough balls into the tin cans.

Place the tins on a baking tray in a low temperature oven with the door open, until the dough has doubled in size.

Brush the risen dough with the beaten egg.

Bake at 200C for between 15-25 minutes. Keep an eye on the dough. It should be golden brown on top.

Allow to cool in the tins and sprinkle with icing sugar, if liked. I didn’t bother, as the golden tops look pretty on their own.

Go to town on the decorations around the tin; ribbons, raffia, string, rosemary, lavender, pine or holly leaves! Enjoy!

Do you have any family favourite recipes? Let me know what you are making for the festive season.

Chocolate Fridge Bars – Family Favourite Recipes

A rather rich and indulgent treat. Perfect for Christmas. I’m decorating my summerhouse for Christmas. No doubt I’ll be serving these bars as we sit and read gardening books and chat, with warm welsh woollen blankets on our knees, and lots of hot tea. Enjoy 😊

INGREDIENTS

2 mars bars, chopped

100g butter

2. Tbsp golden syrup

5 digestive biscuits

9 rich tea biscuits

1.5 teacups rice crispies (breakfast cereal) approx

240g milk chocolate

15g cherries

3/4 teacup sultanas

120g chocolate for the top.

METHOD

Melt chocolate, butter, Mars Bars together in the microwave

Crush biscuits with a rolling pin

Add dry ingredients to melted chocolate mixture

Spread mixture in a foil-lined 9″ x 9″ tray

Cover top with melted chocolate

Score the tray into fingers

Decorate with more cherries if you like

Place in the fridge to set

When cold, cut into fingers and serve

This is such an easy recipe, it’s perfect to make with grandchildren. I have very fond memories of making this with my two young daughters. I’m recording the recipes here in case they want to make them with their children in the future. I’m sure they won’t be able to find the recipes written on tiny scraps of paper. Hopefully, writing them here records them for posterity.

To vary the recipe, you can add mint chocolate if you like. Mint Aeros are particularly yummy.

In a Vase on Monday- flowers for Christmas

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.

Six on Saturday. Simple Christmas Decorations from the Garden.

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.

Karen

Six on Saturday -Making Light

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.