In a Vase on Monday-February 4th 2019

I’m starting to miss sunshine and warm weather. I’m muffled up with coat, scarves, gloves, two pairs of socks, and still the cold seeps in. There’s been such a cold wind. The ground is frozen and the pond iced over. And yet, mooching about looking for something cheerful, I find chinodoxa- untroubled by the cold, the colour of Mediterranean skies. A little bit of hope.

A circle of silver birch twigs makes a pretty background for spring flowers. I just twist the branches like rope and tie the ends together. I’m trying not to use florists’ foam as it’s currently not recyclable. I’ve found a solution. A friend sent me a box of orchids, each one with a 7cm test tube of water, keeping them fresh. Recycling them, I twist a piece of wire around the necks and stick them in amongst the twiggy coils. Topped with moss, and hidden with ivy, no one will know they are there. I just have to top up the water each morning, and at the same time, add fresh flowers as I please. The wreath here was made on Saturday with wild clematis -old man’s beard- ivy and winter flowering honeysuckle lonicera fragrantissima. It survived high winds, mostly. Silver honesty lasted a day, then blew into the back field hedge where it glistens like a tiny mirror. And the star-like cow-parsley seed heads have gone. It’s an arrangement that changes with the weather. I like that. It’s real life. A reflection of what’s happening in my garden today.

So this morning, I’ve picked some snowdrops and chinodoxa and added them to the arrangement. Chinodoxa known as “glory of the snow” seems untroubled by the cold north wind. Such a delicate flower, and yet so hardy.

To add my own sunshine, I’ve found some aconites, Eranthis hyemalis. We called these gold coins when we were growing up.

Snowdrops nestle amongst the foliage. I bought the single variety , galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens. A little bit of history now growing in my wild garden. There’s been a garden at Easton for at least 400 years. A renovation project started almost 20 years ago, has rescued the garden for future generations to enjoy. The double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Another favourite place to visit with my Mum.

My wreath sits above the doors on our 1930s turntable summerhouse. We’ve turned our backs to the wind and swung the summerhouse around to face the wild garden. There’s wild garlic thriving on the right, under the willow. I’m really pleased to see snowdrops I planted three years ago starting to form little clumps. How long, I wonder, before the scene is a sea of white. I shall have to wait and see.

Links :

I’m joining Cathy for her IAVOM meme. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-skinny/

Chonodoxa https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/chionodoxa/chionodoxa-violet-beauty

Eranthis https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/bulbs-in-the-green/eranthis-hyemalis-winter-aconite

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory snowdrops http://www.hodsockpriory.com/about-us/the-gardens/snowdrops/

NGS snowdrop gardens to visit https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/snowdrop-gardens/

Lonicera fragrantissima https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/68665/i-Lonicera-fragrantissima-i/Details

In a Vase on Monday

I always seem to be wandering about in the gloom. I rush home from work just in time to check over the greenhouse and poly tunnel. It’s always a delight to see what’s burst into flower while I’ve been away. So today, I’m sorry to say, my flower arrangements are a little dark- again.

Luckily, there’s just enough light to pick a few stems of Paperwhite narcissi. The scent is such a joy in winter. It’s a little overwhelming indoors, but three stems in a posy are just right.

I’ve partnered the Paperwhites with a chocolate hellebore. I bought this last spring at Ashwood Nurseries where the owner John Massey very kindly gave our group a tour of his private gardens, as well as delicious lunch in his cosy kitchen. It’s a memory I will always treasure, thanks to John’s kindness and generosity.

My little posy came on an outing with me to Leicester for the gardening phone-in programme at Radio Leicester. After answering listeners’ questions on everything from sowing seed to pruning, I set off for my Mum’s house. The posy looks just perfect on her sunny kitchen window.

Pittosporum has a purple wavy picottee edge in winter. I’m cutting back my eucalyptus gunii this spring as it’s got to about 8ft. Trimmings make a lovely background for any flower. I’m also cutting back a giant white jasmine. The foliage is almost every green, and there are a few purple-tinged seed heads that look very pretty.

By the time I finish messing about with flowers and foliage, the trees in the back field are charcoal outlines. I stand and marvel. Is there anything more beautiful than a native oak. The farmer who planted this has long gone, and his son also. We live next to the farm. No doubt, this tree will outlive me. Meanwhile I’ll stand and gaze, and make a promise to protect it, should anything ever come along to threaten it.

I’m joining Cathy again this week for her IAVOM meme. Here’s the link to join in and read about what the others are growing and putting in their vases this week.

Links:

Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/01/28/in-a-vase-on-monday-it-makes-scents/

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

I wrote about my visit to Ashwood here https://bramblegarden.com/2018/02/26/in-a-vase-on-monday-ashnurs-gdnmediaguild/

I wrote about growing Paperwhites here https://bramblegarden.com/2017/12/01/fairy-lights-for-the-greenhouse-and-an-update-from-this-weeks-bbc-radio-programme-for-gardeners/

Visit Ashwood https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/visit-us/

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/.

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

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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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?

Last Minute Christmas Presents for Gardeners

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.

https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html .

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.

https://www.rhs.org.uk/shop/special-offers/active-offers/rhs-gift-membership-offer

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.

https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/membership/

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.

https://www.sttiggywinkles.org.uk/top-navigation/help-us/membership.html

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.

http://www.hardy-plant.org.uk/whyjoinus

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.

Family Favourite Recipes – Chocolate Marzipan Cherries.

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.

Ingredients

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.

Or

200g glacé cherries

500g marzipan

200g good quality dark chocolate.

Method

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!

Enjoy 😊

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

450g cherries

75g sugar

2 drops almond essence

600ml brandy.

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 😊