New Plants on Trial – Salvias from Middleton Nurseries

Salvia microphylla Delice Fiona

Salvias provide such a welcome zing of colour from mid summer to first frosts. In my garden, pale blue and white ‘Phyllis’ Fancy’ was still in full flower on Christmas Day. Specialist growers, Middleton Nurseries, have sent me a collection of new varieties to try out. I haven’t paid for these, but in common with other bloggers, I’m happy to trial plants and products in return for giving my honest opinion. Here’s some of the plants they sent.

Plants arrive via mail order and were carefully handled by the delivery company. I always think it’s worth giving a good report when plants and products are delivered in a good condition and the drivers have taken the trouble to ensure the contents are undamaged. The box was also placed on the doorstep the right way up! These things always help somewhat. It’s exasperating when ‘this way up’ arrow stickers are not heeded.

Plants are snugly nestled inside a sturdy cardboard box and as you can see arrived in good condition even though temperatures were very high.

The cardboard container is easily folded open so plants are not pulled about when extricating them from the packaging. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve nearly decapitated a plant trying to get it out of the box. Some thought and care has gone into the design of this one, and it’s appreciated.

Plants are carefully tied to supporting canes and plastic bags are wound around the plant pots to stop compost drying out. My only criticism would be that the plastic bags could be biodegradable instead of single use. However, I’ve reused these on top of pots of cuttings to maintain humidity. So mine won’t be thrown away, and will be kept in the potting shed and reused time and time again.

There’s a very useful plant care leaflet included in the box, and a discount code for further purchases. I’ve signed up for more discounts, special offers and gardening club newsletters.

Each plant has a label which is packed full with information. It’s great to see the Union Jack flag on the label, indicating the plants are grown in Britain. I like to support British nurseries as much as I can.

I love this pretty, pale variety Salvia microphylla Delice Fiona. It has rich green leaves, pale pink flowers with a deeper pink centre. Instructions say it can be grown in part shade to full sun, requires moderate to occasional watering and grows 60-90cm high. Can be grown in containers.

Another pink variety is Salvia greggii Shell dancer with large pink flowers with the basal tubes and base of the lower lip coloured deep rose. The outer portions of the lower lip start with ‘hot salmon’ shading then lighten to nearly cream as it ages. The label says the plant is ‘seldom completely out of flower.’ That’s my experience of salvias, they do have a long-flowering period, which makes them such good value.

If you like the paler salvias, this one’s stunning. It’s from a new ‘So Cool’ range. This one is Salvia So Cool Pale Cream. Utterly captivating. New for 2021. Compact-growing, 30-40cm tall.

The first salvias I grew were blue. I love this variety, microphylla Delice Feline. The plant label says the flowers are deep violet with a white centre, flowers profusely until autumn and grows 60 -90cm tall. A new hybrid for 2020.

Another 2020 hybrid is Salvia microphylla Suzanne which has bright red upright flowers with white markings. 60-90cm tall.

And finally, Salvia microphylla Carolus has pretty mauve flowers which look striking set against the darker almost black stems and dark coloured basal tubes. Has a smaller-spreading habit than most microphylla varieties.

I can wholeheartedly recommend Middleton Nurseries for mail-order plants. I’m delighted with my parcel of new and very pretty hybrids. High quality plants, well-grown and expertly packaged. I’ll be posting photos throughout the summer to let you know how they develop.

Here’s some more information about the nursery:

Middleton Nurseries are located in the village of Middleton in Staffordshire and have been growing plants since 1975. The nursery is dedicated to growing a wide range of new and unusual herbaceous, perennials and rare breeds of salvias. Middleton Nurseries was started in 1975 by Stephan Zako and at first grew ‘pick-your-own’ strawberries. John Zako went into the family business after leaving Pershore College with a National Diploma in Horticulture. Using his expertise he slowly transformed the business into ‘one of the leading plant specialist nurseries’ with an extensive block of greenhouses.

In April 2012, the family sold the retail/ garden centre portion of the business and kept the nursery which enabled John to focus on his true passion of growing and breeding plants. The nursery specialises in salvias which they sell up and down the country at RHS gardening shows each year. Since 2021, Middleton Nurseries has become a third-generation family business after John’s son, James, joined the business.

Here’s a link for the nursery website: https://middletonnurseries.co.uk/

Are you growing any salvias this year? Are you as passionate about them as I’ve become? Get in touch and let me know how you are getting on with your gardening and growing this summer. Thank you, as ever, for reading my blog.

The Flower Yard. Book Review and Giveaway

By Arthur Parkinson

Published by Kyle Books

Hardback, 208 pages. RRP £22

ISBN 978-0-85783-917-6

Open the pages of The Flower Yard and you’ll enter a world full of exotic parrot tulips, jewel-coloured dahlias- and flamingos…

You’ll learn much about creating flamboyant Venetian-coloured containers, but you’ll also hear about Caribbean flamingos. For the author, Arthur Parkinson, once had the choice between becoming a zookeeper and horticulture. He chose gardening, and a year’s training at Kew. But in his strange and colourful book, he says he hopes one day to go back to more zoological rather than horticultural pursuits.

To my mind, his latest book seems to combine the two loves of his life. The exotic parrot tulips, feathery grasses and plume-like dahlias are as colourful as birds. And to add to the effect, there’s often a fancy bantam – his other passion in life- nestled in amongst the plants.

Even his words have an avian ring to them. Parkinson talks about planting ‘a flock of dolly tubs’ in preference to acres of land.

“I am not, however, desperate for a larger garden. I find the challenge of conquering the restrictions of an urban environment hugely thrilling. I love small town gardens, by which I mean gardens where plants come first in abundance. I have no desire for endless herbaceous borders, which so easily become tired and full of perennial weeds. Give me a flock of dolly tubs any day, ideally on old bricks or York stone. An old orchard would be, admittedly, heaven though, for hens.”

Back on the subject of birds, Parkinson writes about his choice of colour for plants. Pink, he says can be too light and sickly: “Before you know it, pink can make the garden verge into the Barbie-doll section of Toys “R”Us, outcompeting the other colours.”

Parkinson’s garden was once described by a friend as ‘a path of pots.’ It is, in fact, only 5m (16ft) long and filled ‘cheek by jowel’ with containers on either side, leading to the front door. The book follows a year of growing to create specific displays of plants – one for each season.

One chapter is headed ‘Archipelagos of galvanised metal and terracotta’ and Parkinson says: “I garden in pots because I do not have a choice, but I rarely resent this as it is like having great living vases of growing flower arrangements. You can fill pots easily, cramming them with colour and textures, creating islands of flamboyance.”

Arthur Parkinson’s brick path to the front door features rows of galvanised pots full of seasonal colour.
Frizzle-feathered bantams feature in many of the garden photos. I believe Parkinson takes some of these with him when he travels to give flower arranging and planting demonstrations. The author appeared on BBC Gardeners’ World, and also assists Sarah Raven with her floristry. He previously worked for potter Emma Bridgewater, designing her acclaimed garden at the factory in Stoke-on-Trent.
Photo shows ‘Amazing Parrot’ tulips in full flight with tulips ‘Black Hero’, ‘Antraciet’ and ‘Black Parrot’ giving striking contrast.
Sweet peas for summer
Peony ‘Rubra Plena’ supported by woven hazel with a pigeon-sized and ‘very talkative’ little Belgian Barbu d’Uccle Millefleur bantam hen. The breed’s beard-like plumes often need to be washed!
An Instagram posting with the dahlia ‘Emory Paul’ which the author says, is “Like a flamingo wonderland croquet mallet, gorgeous in some ways but its flowers do look almost painfully ridiculous with some reaching the size of useless footballs upon what are quite tall stems.”

I’ve made lists of all the tulips and dahlias to grow for next spring and summer. I love the dark, rich colours he chooses. And now I need to nip out and find a supply of galvanised containers ASAP. Quite honestly, what Arthur Parkinson doesn’t know about planting in dolly tubs isn’t worth knowing. He’s opened a whole new beguiling world of colour, and I can’t wait to create my own ‘islands of flamboyance.’ If I can add the odd flamingo or two in there as well, I will.

The publishers have kindly sent one extra copy to give away in a prize draw. Please leave comments below and one name will be randomly selected by computer. Thank you for reading.

Please note, my I-phone photos of the pages do not adequately capture the bright colours and brilliance of the original photos which were taken by the author.

Please check back at 6pm Sunday to see who has won the prize draw copy.

Products On Trial – Weed Control Paper Mulch

I’m trying out a sample roll of paper mulch in an attempt to cut down on weeding in the flower and vegetable garden. I haven’t paid for this product, but in common with other bloggers, the agreement is to unconditionally try it out and give an honest opinion.

Monty kitten was keen to help. To be honest, he gave more help than was strictly necessary, getting in and under the paper roll. He’s such good company in the garden, always by my side, climbing in and out of my wheelbarrow and tool bag. But paper’s a new attraction for him!

Instructions say place a heavy stone on each corner as you start to unroll the paper, and toss soil along both edges to prevent wind from blowing it away. Monty jumped all over it, which kept it in place nicely until I’d sorted out stones and compost.

I used a Hori-Hori to cut the paper to length, then set out the plants. I’m trying the mulch for dahlias and cosmos in the cut flower beds , and for courgettes, squash, sweetcorn, and strawberries in the veg beds. It would be good for garlic and chard too.

These are the cuttings I’ve been taking since February from dahlias overwintered in the potting shed. They are exact clones of the parent plants, so I now have about 100 new plants for free. All my favourite varieties.

I used my Hori-Hori knife to cut a cross in the paper and then dug out planting holes for the dahlias. A new sharp-pointed trowel made the task quick and easy.

The paper is thick enough to block out light, and therefore suppress weeds, but there are microscopic holes to let air and water permeate. Plants are so far growing well. I’m having to do much less watering than usual.

This product is supplied by Mulch Organic, a family business which offers environmentally-friendly alternatives to black plastic for mulching. They say the products are natural, made from renewable sources and eliminate the need for chemical herbicides. The paper mulch is 100 percent organic and biodegradable. It should last a whole growing season, and at the end of the year, can simply be tilled into the soil to decompose naturally.

There’s also a crepe version, with expansion ribs to allow for stretch for use over mounded beds. These also work well with drip irrigation systems, and can be used in poly tunnels.

As well as the paper rolls, there’s a mulch film made from cornstarch.

Here’s one last photo of Monty. We were out in the garden until 10pm as the temperatures were too hot in the day. I’m hoping the mulch will save time – giving me more time to spend sitting in the garden reading, with Monty on my knee. That’s the plan anyway. I’ll let you know if it works out!

Here’s some of the dahlias I’m growing again this year. This one is Nuit d’Ete.

Dahlia David Howard. A lovely deep orange flower. Cut flowers last 10 days in a vase.

Eveline is a lovely white decorative dahlia with a delicate blush pink centre and tips to the petals.

Thank you for reading the blog. Have you tried any products to combat weeds? Let me know how you are getting on with your gardening projects.

Here’s the links for more information: https://mulchorganic.co.uk/

I wrote about the Hori-Hori here https://bramblegarden.com/2020/07/10/niwaki-tools-review-and-some-garden-snips-to-give-away-gardening/

The trowel I’m using is this one: https://marshallsgarden.com/products/kent-and-stowe-capability-trowel-10907234?variant=32599100424243&currency=GBP&ds_rl=1278790&ds_rl=1284267&ds_rl=1278790&ds_rl=1284267&gclid=Cj0KCQjw8IaGBhCHARIsAGIRRYoqnS-u91aeS1AJK273Nb2YXeLUfNBNiKVEBso0HNaTi-PeyK5Fiq4aAp6zEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

Visit to Goldstone Hall Hotel and Gardens – 7 June 2021

I’ve been out! Actually out in the car, driving to a garden. It’s only the second time I’ve been out for a garden visit in 16 months. A few weeks ago I visited Belvoir Castle, and this week, I chose Goldstone Hall for my floral excursion. It seems so strange to be out and about, meeting up with friends. Everyone’s experience of the pandemic has been different. Some say their lives changed very little, they continued to travel to work and managed to get out and about when lockdown eased. Others, like me, had to stay at home. Anyway, I’m picking and choosing which outings to go on, and slowly emerging back into a normal life. Here’s a slide show of photos I provide when I’ve been out. Goldstone Hall in North Shropshire didn’t disappoint. It’s a beautifully- designed and immaculately-managed 5 acre garden surrounding a pretty Georgian manor house. Although I didn’t stay overnight, (there are 12 bedrooms) I am planning to return with my Mum for a short break soon. The idea of waking up early, and quietly wandering around the masses of roses, vegetables and herbs, definitely appeals.

This Abutilon vitifolium is one of the first shrubs you see when you step into the garden. It’s a fast-growing shrub from Chile with vine-like leaves and abundant pale mauve flowers. It flowers mainly in spring and early summer, but can flower all summer long if happy in a sheltered warm position. It can easily be grown from seed and cuttings.

The main flower border runs along a sunny wall. There’s roses and clematis all along the walls, with perennials and grasses in front.

Here’s another view of the wall, taken from the front of the border. Some pretty wine-coloured aquilegias grow in patches all along the border. This one looks like the variety Bordeaux Barlow.

Lupins in the cutting garden look particularly lovely in early June. There’s masses of sweet peas, cornflowers, sunflowers and gladioli to follow.

A herb walk is a scented pathway with 100 different herbs planted alongside heritage vegetables, salads and heirloom fruit trees and bushes.

More herbs are planted within a parterre of box plants. The creeping thyme looks colourful in Summer.

The polytunnel is packed with produce. I am going to copy the idea for growing strawberries in lengths of guttering with a drip watering system attached. Would keep the plants off the ground and away from slugs- and it would be much easier to pick fruit.

Not an inch of space is wasted in the poly tunnel.

After a head-gardener tour of the grounds, we enjoyed a delicious lunch in this open-sided oak pavilion. Perfect for a lovely warm summer’s day.

We had new potatoes, freshly dug from the plot, a spinach and asparagus quiche, and salad – all grown in the gardens we had just walked around.

Here’s the recipe for the panna cotta we enjoyed.

The view of the garden from one of the reception rooms in the hotel. There’s a sense of peace and tranquility here.

More information about Goldstone Hall.

Goldstone Hall is an Royal Horticultural Society ( RHS) partner garden, and opens for the National Gardens Scheme and for garden group tours. There’s more on the website at https://goldstonehallhotel.co.uk/.

I wrote about Belvoir Castle here: https://bramblegarden.com/2021/05/21/visit-to-belvoir-castle-gardens/

Many thanks to the Garden Media Guild for organising our tour.

Thank you for reading the blog and getting in touch. Enjoy your gardens during this spell of lovely sunny weather we are having.

Lilies: New Book Giveaway Winner

Many thanks to everyone who read my review of Naomi Slade’s new book, Lilies – beautiful varieties for home and garden. I wrote the review here: https://bramblegarden.com/2021/05/25/lilies-book-review-and-giveaway/

The winner is: Darran Jaques. Names were put into a random generator and computer selected.

The next book up for review and giveaway is the stunning and unusual The Flower Yard by Arthur Parkinson. Pages are full of exotic tulips and jewel-coloured dahlias and, it has to be said, lovely little bantam hens! Coming soon…

Meanwhile, here’s some more photos of lilies from Naomi’s book, as quite honestly one can’t have enough pictures of lilies to drool over. They are absolutely glorious. Enjoy your week everyone, and thanks for reading my blog and getting in touch. It’s always appreciated.

Lilium Mascara
Lilium African Queen

African Queen
Kuchibeni

Lilies is published by Pavilion RRP £25. Photographs by Georgianna Lane.

Lilies: Book Review and Giveaway

By Naomi Slade

Published by Pavilion Books

Hardback. 240 pages. Photographs by Georgianna Lane

Published May 2021. RRP £25

ISBN: 978-1-911663-00-3

Lilium African Queen. An outward-facing trumpet lily. Suitable for large pots, planting at the back of the border, and for cut flower gardens.

For many years, all down the sides of my greenhouse, I grew tall pots of lilies. My favourites were the towering, elegant trumpet lilies, African Queen. They grew to 5ft and produced masses of rich apricot flowers with rose garnet blush shades on the reverse of the petals. Stunning to look at, and the scent was equally wonderful. That spicy, heady scent drifted all around the orchard, wild flower meadow and up through the mini-woodland. Beautiful, intoxicating and memorable.

It was lovely to stand in the greenhouse and see the flowers reaching almost the roofline. A good background for my summer container display within the greenhouse where rows of scented pelargoniums lined up amongst the citrus trees.

African Queen is just one of the many varieties featured in Naomi Slade’s new book, Lilies. The book is written in the same style as Naomi’s 2018 publication, Dahlias. I wrote a review of Dahlias here : https://bramblegarden.com/2018/06/24/dahlias-beautiful-varieties-for-home-and-garden/

Naomi’s new book is a celebration of all kinds of lilies. There’s an introduction, a section on the history and botany of lilies, followed by detailed instructions on growing and caring for lilies. Advice is given on where to buy bulbs, how to prepare the soil and plant, and how to water, feed and deadhead lilies. There’s enough information for beginners to get started, and enough detail for more experienced gardeners to have a go at propagating and preparing lilies for shows. Everything you need to know to get the best out of these lovely summer bulbs.

The lilies chosen for in-depth study are split into sections; Elegant and Dainty, Wild and Wonderful, Fiery and Fabulous, and Majestic and Magnificent.

Mascara is a black Asiatic hybrid featured in the Fiery and Fabulous section. It grows to 1m with upward and outward-facing blooms. It will grown in any good garden soil and makes a stunning cut flower.

Helvetia is in the Elegant and Dainty section. Upward-facing with reflexed petals, these lilies grow to 1- 1.2m tall and are highly fragrant. Recommend for the front of a border and containers. Would make a wonderful cascading wedding bouquet.

Another very pretty white flower is Polar Star. I’ve grown this in pots many times. 25 bulbs in a large Italian terracotta pot makes a stunning summer display. These have large fully-double upward and outward-facing flowers and grows to 70-100cm tall. Very long lasting in a vase.

lilium leichtlinii is one I haven’t grown before. It is not that common in cultivation, says Naomi. But well worth seeking out. Small pendant flowers with reflexed petals, growing to 1-1.4m tall. Unscented. Suitable for a naturalistic garden. Sophisticated in a vase.

Another lily with swept back petals is Ariadne. This Turks cap type grows to 1.2-1.8m with small pale, dusty rose flowers. Good for the back of the border and set against a foil of dark foliage, or a contrasting painted surface. Could be used for cut flowers, but you’d need a tall vase.

Georgianna Lane is a leading floral, garden and travel photographer whose work has been widely published. She captures the timeless elegance and beauty of this summer garden favourite.

Naomi Slade is a well-known figure in the world of gardening media. She writes and broadcasts about horticulture, design, environment and lifestyle. Lilies is beautifully well-written. A book you’ll delve into time and time again, and it’s so full of joy it will make you smile every time.

The publishers have one copy to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below and names will be put in a hat and a winner randomly selected next Sunday.

Thank you for reading my reviews and for taking the time to comment. The comment box is below the hashtags at the bottom of the page. Or click on ‘comments’ next to the title.

Get Up and Grow: book giveaway winner…

Announcing the winner of my prize draw for Get up and Grow by Lucy Hutchings. The winner is Kate Elliott. Thanks so much to everyone for reading my review and leaving a comment.

The next book up for review and giveaway will be ‘Lilies’ by Naomi Slade.

My review for get up and Grow is here: https://bramblegarden.com/2021/05/16/get-up-and-grow-book-review-and-giveaway/

Thank you to the publishers, Hardie Grant Books, for supplying a free copy for the prize draw. The book is hardback, 159 pages. Lucy creates 19 projects and shows how anyone can grow pretty much anything in their back garden, courtyard, balcony or kitchen- or even right by their work desk. There are unusual and inspirational growing ideas for herbs, fruit and vegetables, and all look as beautiful as any ornamental garden. Living walls, hydroponics and daylight spectrum grow lights are all explained with step-by-step instructions.

Lucy’s farm desk project
Kokedama citrus plants make a striking statement planting.
Indoor growing space, using a clothes hanger as a trellis frame.
Another indoor growing space using an adapted IKEA cabinet.

Windowsill growing space for herbs, fruit and vegetables.

Thank you again for reading my blog. It’s much appreciated.

You might also be interested in reading:

https://bramblegarden.com/2019/07/05/gardening-on-the-menu-book-review/

https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

Visit to Belvoir Castle Gardens

View of Belvoir Castle from the rose garden terrace. There’s a gorgeous new collection of tree peonies to complement the last of the tulips.

It’s 14 months since I set foot in a garden open to the public. I’ve missed getting out and about, seeing friends and taking photos. But this week I was invited to a media day for the Belvoir Flower and Garden Show, and it feels great to be back visiting gardens and getting inspiration for my own little plot.

The show, on 17 and 18 July, is held on the banks of a grand and picturesque Capability Brown lake in the grounds of Belvoir Castle. All the details are on the new show website: https://belvoircastleflowerandgardenshow.co.uk/

As part of the media day, we were given a guided tour of the castle gardens. Here’s a ‘slide show’ of photos from my first day trip out. I hope you are managing to get out and about a bit more now. Get in touch and let me know what you’ve seen and where you’ve been. I don’t know about you, but I’m raring to go!

A close up of one of the gorgeous tree peonies on the terrace. I must ask the garden designer David Stevens what varieties he has planted, and report back when I find out.
There’s a collection of wisterias all along the sunny side of the castle walls. The scent is just glorious, reminiscent of lilies and wallflowers, and drifts right down the terraces to the woodland garden.
Wisteria is one of the glories of the late spring and early summer garden. Chinese Wisteria sinensis produces flowers on bare wood, and stems twine anticlockwise. Japanese W. floribunda twines in a clockwise direction and produces flowers and leaves at the same time. Many garden forms have been developed from Japanese varieties. At college, we were taught to make the letter J for Japan with our finger, which naturally curves round into a clockwise shape. Drawing the C- shape in the air turns our fingers anticlockwise. A simple way to remember which way to train and tie in our wisteria stems!
Good varieties to look out for include mauve-purple Wisteria sinensis ‘Amethyst, and beautifully-scented Wisteria floribunda ‘multijuga.’ It’s best to buy wisteria in flower so you can see what you are getting. They will flower better on south facing walls, protected from late spring frosts.
After moving on from the rose terrace, I wandered down through the Japanese Woodland Garden. There are new all-weather paths, which makes it easier to get to the heart of the valley garden.
It’s been a bad year for camellias. Nearly all the plants in the village gardens near me have been damaged by frost. But the flowers in the Belvoir woodland garden were looking at their best, protected by a wide-spreading canopy of 400 year old native trees.
Azaleas thrive in the dappled shade and provide a gloriously-perfumed walk.
An avenue of new trees has been planted. These all seem to be types of ornamental cherry. Some were still in flower, although the trees are only a few years old.
This one had a label attached. Prunus Beni-Tamanshiki, meaning ‘spring snow.’ A Matsumae cherry with red ball-like buds opening to double white flowers with a hint of pink.
The cherry trees line a path down to a natural pond. There’s a picturesque pink cottage on the other side of the water.
In a quiet spot, I found this pet graveyard. I rather liked the sound of Perky, a grey cat. ‘Beloved friends to the manners family.’
Retracing my steps, I found these box ball shapes grown together to form a ‘caterpillar.’ Box looks wonderful with new bright green leaves catching the spring sunshine. Luckily they don’t seem to suffer from the dreaded box blight, and box tree caterpillar hasn’t managed to find its way to Leicestershire yet.
Midway along the path, there’s this folly on a mound with argyranthemum daisies at the base, and climbing roses and honeysuckle around the archway entrance.
Here’s the view from the little summerhouse on top of the mound.
Finally, I had a last look around the rose terrace where these tulips were still flowering. If anyone knows the variety name, please let me know.
These tulips look particularly fine alongside emerging pink peonies .

A particularly blowsy tree peony. Unknown variety. Much loved by bees.

Even the peony foliage is attractive.

Back past the topiary yew to the castle for afternoon tea. After all that walking, tea and cake is very much appreciated.

And the spread didn’t disappoint! we had a selection of finger sandwiches with very fresh artisan bread. Followed by plates of tiny cakes, profiteroles, strawberry cheesecakes, carrot cake, chocolate cake and chocolate pots, and to round off… some fresh scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Vegetarians are catered for, thankfully. There was so much on offer, we asked for some little boxes to take the spare cakes home to family. Nothing was too much trouble and the friendly service, cakes and tea (decaffeinated for me) were all first class. We felt it was a safe environment with covid safety taken seriously. I’ll be back soon, accompanied by my mother, to view the roses when they flower. And we are also booked to attend the Belvoir Flower and Garden Show in July.

Thank you for reading. Please search past the hashtags to reach the comments box, or click comments alongside the title name.

I wrote about Belvoir Castle here : https://bramblegarden.com/2018/07/22/we-made-a-garden-for-rainbows-hospice-belvoir-show-2018/

Get Up and Grow- book review and giveaway

By Lucy Hutchings

Published by Hardie Grant Books

Hardback 159 pages

ISBN 978-1-78488-392-8

Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs doesn’t require acres of ground. In fact, you can grow virtually anything in pots, on a balcony and even indoors- if you just have the right techniques and equipment. In Lucy Hutchings’ new book, Get Up and Grow, there’s tips on everything you need to step up your gardening to a new level and grow whatever you fancy in a fresh and exciting way. Judging by the photos in Lucy’s book, the results will not only be a feast for the table, but a feast for the eyes too. Everything looks absolutely stunning.

Here’s a selection of my favourite projects from the book:

An indoor greenhouse, made from a glass display cabinet and fitted with full spectrum grow lights. IKEA sell similar cabinets or you could recycle some furniture.
I love this idea – growing microgreens in self-adhesive window trays. These are the sort you can buy for showers. Usually they are used for storing shampoo and soap. Ingenious idea, using them for growing nutritious microgreens.
Lucy also shows you how to convert an over-door hanging storage rack into a window herb garden. These can be moved around the house, or can be hung on a sunny wall or fence outdoors in the summer. Lucy has one hanging on her greenhouse sliding door, making use of all available space.
A salad garden on wheels! It can be moved around the home to make the most of natural light, or be wheeled out on to the patio on sunny days.

More projects from the book. Lucy, a former couture jewellery designer, is @shegrowsveg on instagram and writes a blog at http://www.shegrowsveg.com

The book covers the basics of potting up, using lights, feeding, watering and trouble-shooting. Perfect for beginners, or more experienced gardeners looking for a bright and modern new way to garden. The ‘suppliers list’ at the end of the book is also quite a revelation with lots of suggestions I’d never even thought of. I can’t wait to get started on my own growing projects. With Lucy’s step-by-step illustrations and clear instructions, I should soon be growing kokedama oranges, having a go at hydroponics and making a ‘living wall.’ I’ll report back on my progress!

Thanks for reading my blog.

The publishers have kindly offered one copy for a prize draw. Please leave comments below to be included in the draw. A name will be randomly drawn on Sunday, 23 May at 6pm. There will be nothing to pay and I will contact you from my e mail which is k.gimson@btinternet.com.

Prize draw winner: ‘herb/a cook’s companion’ by Mark Diacono

Thank you everyone for reading my review of Mark Diacono’s latest book and for taking part in the prize draw.

The winner is Suzanne! Names were placed in a hat and the winning name was selected randomly.

There are more book give-aways to follow and some gardening tools and equipment too. Thanks again for reading and leaving comments.

My book review was posted here: https://bramblegarden.com/2021/04/30/herb-a-cooks-companion-book-review/

Some photos from the book: Herbs to grow. Fenugreek
Bread and butter pudding- with a herb twist to the recipe
Ice cream

Herb/ a cook’s companion. Book Review

By Mark Diacono

Published by Quadrille, an imprint of Hardie Grant Publishing

RRP £26 Published spring 2021. Hardback. 272 pages

ISBN 978 1 78713 6359

Reading corner in the orchard, currently under cherry and pear blossom

At about five or six, I was given the task of ‘collecting the mint.’ My grandmother, who was cooking lunch, had a huge patch of mint in her farm garden. Basket in hand, I carefully plucked the sprigs of mint and laid them neatly in rows, tips all the same way. No higgledy piggledy stems for me. Even at that young age, I took things seriously. Given a task, I wanted to do it right. I smile now, looking back at what a serious little girl I was. The first grandchild, surrounded by adults, there were no siblings or cousins for five years. I listened intently to all the adults talking and took in every word. Through their conversations, I formed a view of the world. Many years later I can still hear their voices quietly reporting the day’s events, whispering a neighbour’s misfortune, a sadness, a death. Murmuring sorrow for some, and joy for another- a wedding, a birth, some good fortune achieved. Conversations at the kitchen table brought the world into the home. I listened and learned, but cocooned in the routine of work, gardening, farming, cooking and eating, nothing appeared to change for us. It seemed as if everything happened to other people, but my world stayed the same, stable and safe.

The scent of fresh-picked mint still has the power to transport me back to happy childhood days. My mint was sprinkled over home grown new potatoes, tiny and white, as shiny as pebbles, with creamy home-churned butter and a sprinkle of grainy salt. Something so simple, delicious and ultimately, memorable.

This last 12 months, many of us have found comfort in baking. Focussing on the past, perhaps I’ve attempted to bring back the security and safety I felt as a child. I’ve found myself cooking hearty soups, casseroles, and vegetable pies. The spicy, buttery Welsh cakes my Welsh grandmother cooked on a griddle. Rice puddings, fruit crumbles and sponge cakes. Separated from family and friends, these old favourite recipes have been a comforting presence. Sights, sounds and scents of cooking, recalled as if they were only yesterday.

However, we have now emerged from lockdown, and I’m looking for a new way forward. I’m keen to try new recipes and new ideas. I’m eager to welcome family and friends back into my home and garden and I’m looking forward to making new memories for them- and for me. While not forgetting all the echoes from the past.

Mark Diacono’s new book ‘Herb, a cook’s companion’ is a good starting place. Recipes such as Lemon Thyme and Leek Tart have a rich butter and egg pastry base with a leek and cream filling. Lemon thyme leaves and nutmeg add a delicious twist to a familiar recipe.

Here’s my first attempt. I must admit, it’s not perfect. My pastry needed to be folded over more firmly, as the lovely egg filling escaped over the side. My second attempt was better and everything held firm. I’ve never thought of adding herbs to the pasty base before, and it was a triumph. The lovely buttery lemon-thyme pastry melts in the mouth. A perfect complement to the leek and creme fraiche filling. Again, adding nutmeg and bay leaves lifts this recipe out of the ordinary. It looks beautiful too. Presentation is something I’m trying to improve on. This looks as good as it tastes and received thumbs up from the family.

Greek Herb Pie.

Mark says: “This Greek summer favourite, aka Spanakopita, is so worth making a delicious regular. Heavy with spinach, salty feta and crisp laminations of filo, it’s as good cold as hot, early in the day as late. This version nudges the spinach (which can be a bit of a grump at times) towards the cheerful with the brightness of dill and mint in generous quantities, and parsley anchoring the leeks to the cheese. A delight.”

Herb Soda Bread

A buttermilk, oat and wholemeal flour bread, with a small bunch of chives or sweet cicely, or either of the savories, finely chopped.

Lemon Lavender Meringues

A twist on the usual meringue recipe. Between 5 and 8 lavender heads are whizzed with caster sugar in a spice grinder and added to whisked egg whites and lemon zest.

Fig Leaf and Lemon Verbena Rice Pudding.

Even my family favourite rice pudding is given a new lease of life with the addition of fig-leaf infused milk and lemon verbena leaves. Such a lovely change from the usual.

The book covers how to grow and harvest herbs and how to preserve them in sugar, vinegar, oil and salt, and how to dry and freeze them.

There’s comprehensive coverage of choosing what to grow, how to grow herbs from seed, taking cuttings, propagation and planting out. There’s full plant descriptions of many popular herbs such as anise hyssop, Korean mint, basil, bay, chervil, chives and parsley for example. Then there’s suggestions for more unusual plants such as shiso or perilla – which I’ve always grown as a purple ornamental bedding plant. Seems it can be added to salads and used with recipes containing aubergines, grilled or barbecue prawns, and with eggs and avocado. I shall experiment!

Following the growing section, there’s recipes featuring soups and side dishes, main meals, puddings, biscuits and drinks. There’s something surely to please everyone – especially people like me, looking for a special dish to make for friends and family, as we start to reconnect.

The publishers have kindly offered one copy to give away. Please leave a comment in the box below to be included in the prize draw. A winner will be randomly selected. International entries are welcome.

Please look back on Wednesday 5th May to check if you have won a copy. I’ll announce it on the blog. (Please do not give out your address or any other details to anyone. Be aware of scams.)

Have you found cooking a source of comfort over the lockdown times? Are you, like me, looking to try something new this year, as we start to feel more positive and move forward. Get in touch and let me know your thoughts. And thank you, as ever, for reading my blog. It’s always appreciated.

* comments box is right at the bottom of the blog, past all the hashtags. Or click on ‘comments’ under the headline.

Quick link for Garden News Magazine Readers – Peach Crumble Cake- and spring flowers 10 April 2021

Here’s a quick link to the recipe mentioned in this week’s Garden News Magazine. Let me know if you make my peach crumble cake. The recipe is great with tinned or fresh peaches, apples, plums, cherries, rhubarb and blueberries- anything you have to hand. Thanks for reading my garden diary column and for all your lovely kind comments and encouragement. It’s always appreciated.

https://bramblegarden.com/2017/08/22/peaches-and-plums-crumble-and-jam/

Some more photos from my April garden diary. Enjoy the spring flowers- and new additions to the garden, Merlin the cockerel, and Daphne, Daisy and Dot bantam hens.

Here they are, enjoying a dust bath. They soon found a cosy corner in the garden where I’d piled some old compost. Perfect for their favourite daily activity. I love the contented little sounds they make as they swoosh compost into the air in all directions. Hens are certainly messy creatures.

Here’s Merlin, searching for slugs, snails and grubs in the veg plot. I’m hoping they will help me with my organic gardening, no chemicals- approach.

I’m not forgetting Monty kitten, looking quite windswept as he sits on his favourite look-out post on top of the boat cover.

The greenhouse – with barely and inch to spare. I can just about still get in there.

The poly tunnel swathed in fleece as we hit -3.5C two nights in a row. It’s currently 7C at lunchtime with a freezing icy wind and sleet. The old peach trees are flowering despite the cold. I’ll have to pollinate them with a paintbrush. There’s no bees about in these cold temperatures.

Despite the cold, daffodils are looking lovely. So cheerful.

My favourite narcissus Snow Baby looking lovely in spring pots planted three years ago and still going strong.

My new spring pot with ‘instant’ plants from the garden centre. Cheering up the front doorstep.

Wild anemones flowering in the mini woodland garden. Bluebells are just starting to raise their heads above big strappy leaves and potted Lily of the Valley is scenting the potting shed.

A few flowers fresh picked from the veg plot.

My wild Tenby daffodils, flowering around the pond, still look good at dusk. These are planted in memory of my Welsh grandmother, HM Foulds. A very reliable and hardy daffodil, highly recommend.

You might like to read my last post here: https://bramblegarden.com/2021/04/08/garden-news-column-spring-flowers-and-peach-crumble-cake-april-8-2021/

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your weekend, and hopefully the weather will improve where you are soon.

I’m @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram live.

Garden News Column, Spring Flowers and Peach Crumble Cake. April 8 2021.

Bulbs and spring bedding plants are making me smile, after such a long, cold winter. I couldn’t get out last autumn to buy any plants, so I’ve reached spring with nothing to put into containers. But restrictions have lifted- and I’ve had my jab (hurray!) and I’m able to get out there! I can’t adequately describe the shear delight of actually being able to visit a plant nursery and buy a few flowers. Never in my life did I think such a simple thing as going out and buying plants would be so joyful- and appreciated. I’ll never take it forgranted again. Never.

I bought some potted anemone blanda, Bridal Crown narcissus and bellis daisies. I didn’t go mad with my first trip out. Every plant was savoured, the scent enjoyed, the colours marvelled at. I set the Bridal Crown in the centre of a favourite terracotta pot, and nestled the anemones and bellis daisies around the edge. Bridal Crown is perfect for a centrepiece as it’s multi -headed, which means it flowers for a long time. The stems twist and turn in different directions, giving a fountain-like centre to any pot. Anemones have a charming habit of scrambling between the narcissus stems and filling the gaps. Bellis daisies are just so cheerful. I particularly love the double pomponette types. All in all, my plants have provided a much-needed breath of spring, and the containers are cheering up my front doorstep and all the garden table tops, just in case we have visitors, which is now allowed. It will feel strange to have friends and family walking around my plot, after a whole 12 months without anyone visiting.

Here’s this week’s Garden News article, mentioning my treasured plant pots.

Peach Crumble Cake Recipe can be found here:

https://bramblegarden.com/2017/08/22/peaches-and-plums-crumble-and-jam/

And more photos of the containers, which have survived two windswept nights of -3.5C temperatures.

The scent is wonderful.

Just planted. Instant plants can be put together to make a colourful display. No one would know the containers hadn’t been planted last autumn.

Anemone blanda, mixed blues and whites.

I popped in two large anemone coronaria. I would usually grow all these bulbs myself, starting them off in September and October. But there’s so much choice at the garden centres, you can easily catch up now, and they don’t cost a fortune.

Bulbs and corms usually from https://taylors-bulbs.com/

Blue anemone coronaria. I love the inky black centres. Bees love them too.

Bellis Daisy. I usually grow these from seed. Mr Fothergills have this variety: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Bellis-Goliath-Mixed.html?ccode=F21PGP&gclid=CjwKCAjw07qDBhBxEiwA6pPbHkNeoDM1SLR8gcldYQP_rNdLZWfQ9HtAJHyWNs49sqz6to8sDiHbthoCV0oQAvD_BwE

Here’s the Superseed Trays I mention in the article. I’m trying to reduce my use of flimsy plastic trays which are not recyclable. The plastic breaks down to smaller and smaller pieces and gets into rivers and streams and out to the ocean.

https://superseedtrays.co.uk/

Behind them there’s a Bustaseed tray, made from recyclable plastic. Again, with divided module cells which can be lifted out without disturbing plant roots. These will be useful for taking cuttings.

https://www.bustaseed.com/

More details of Whinnypoo manure Tea. Very easy to use and it’s making my lemon trees green up beautifully after a long cold winter.

https://www.whinnypoo.com/

I love trying new products and I’m always amazed by the ingenuity of new business enterprises.

I’ve adopted a rescue cockerel. His days were numbered as there were too many cockerels where he came from. Sadly, if you hatch out chicks, some of them with obviously be cockerels and then they become unwanted. I’ve named him Merlin because he has the most gorgeous petrol -coloured feathers. And he has magiced his way into my life, just when I needed something to make me smile again. He’s now been joined by three beautiful bantam hens, so he’s in heaven here.

And finally, the latest photo of my lockdown kitten Monty. He’s been a constant source of joy since arriving here last summer. Hasn’t he grown into a beautiful boy. He’s enormous and very fluffy, but he has such a kind and gentle temperament. And he’s always by my side, keeping me company in the garden.

How are you all doing? Are any of you managing to get out and about and see friends and family again? It’s a while since I last wrote on here. We had several very sad deaths amongst friends and family. The latest being a dear friend, Jo, who died just six weeks after a diagnosis of cancer. We will be attending her virtual funeral on Friday, and I’ll be planting a tree in her memory.

Take care everyone, and thank you for reading and for your friendship and kind comments. This has not been an easy time for any of us, but there’s always hope for the future.

I’m @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram.

A walk around my garden 26 Jan 2021

I thought you’d like a calming walk around the garden today. We’ve had snow for two days now, but it is starting to melt. It’s currently 3C and rain is forecast. Snow covers a multitude of sins. You can’t see the brambles or stinging nettles. I’ve made a start on tackling the thickets- they have grown up in only three years of neglect. It’s interesting to see how nature is always trying to reclaim the garden. Always trying to take back what we’ve borrowed. We only carve out this place for a short while.

Bellis daisies. In flower despite the cold. We planted some in pots years ago and they’ve seeded about the plot. They pop up in borders, the gravel paths, and in small colonies in the lawn. I rather like them for their tenacity. Stamp on them (accidentally) and they do not flinch.

By the front door there’s a patch of Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis). It grows in the gravel spilling over from the path. There is no soil here. And yet, with minimum fuss and no maintenance, it flowers its heart out from October to March. Friends say it can be difficult to grow, so I’m grateful for my little patch of thriving iris. Last year it produced this pretty lilac sport. The mother plant is deep purple. I love it when plants suddenly do the unexpected. Don’t you?

The bank of wild cherry trees look like charcoal drawings in the snow. They are full of buds. I’ll cut a few twiggy branches and bring them into the house. They’ll flower readily in the heat of the kitchen. One way to bring spring forwards a little. It’s cheating, I know, but I can’t resist.

More trees surround the wildlife pond. It’s wonderful to think we are only four weeks to seeing frogspawn in the pond. Spring always starts for me when we see frogs again. You can learn more about frogs by following Froglife, a wildife charity dedicated to the conservation of frogs, toads, newts, snakes and lizards.

Here’s the link https://www.froglife.org/

We are seeing a lot more deer in our area. We think they might be Sitka deer. Sometimes I just catch sight of them out of the corner of my eye. They are almost like ghosts, drifting silently along the dark hedgerows. They seem to blend into the shadows and become part of the landscape. Sometimes, in spring, if we are really lucky, we’ll come across a fawn in the long grass. The mother is never far away, and we tiptoe quietly away, so as not to startle her.

We’ve turned the summerhouse towards the sun. Amazingly, it’s quite warm in there. Such a well-made building, insulated with thick, wavy-edge oak. They knew how to build in the 1930s. We are grateful for our sturdy and peaceful sanctuary. It’s the perfect place to sit for a while and read, or watch the birds. Sometimes we see a fox. At dusk, a barn owl quarters the back field. They hunt methodically, searching for prey by flying back and forth. We worry when the weather is stormy and wet, as it increasingly is nowadays. Barn owls have no waterproofing. Their soft feathers help them to fly almost silently, but it’s at the expense of being weatherproof. They struggle to hunt and find food in the rain. One heartbreaking evening last summer, we saw the female out in heavy rain. She looked off balance, her flight hampered by the wind. We watched as she wobbled and barely made it over the top of the hedge. Desperation must have driven her out in poor weather. She had two chicks to feed. Later, the farmer who checks the nests, found only one chick had survived.

I’ll leave you with two happy photos. Snowdrops always make me feel hopeful. They return every year, whatever is happening in the world around them.

And this beautiful glass ‘vase’ of flowers- a present from a kind friend. Certainly. We are all looking for anything that brings joy at the moment. Thank goodness for kindness, friends and family. And for flowers which always make us smile.

Let me know how you are all getting on. Are you managing to sow any seeds or do any gardening yet. Take care everyone. And thank you for reading.

I’m on instagram at karengimson1 and twitter @kgimson. Come over and say hello!

Herbs, cooking and reading blogs. Keeping cheerful through lockdown.

One of the ways I’m keeping upbeat at the moment is reading blogs. Barbara Segall writes about the Japanese rice recipe Seven Herbs of Spring in her ‘Garden Post’ blog. I was immediately inspired to go out into the garden and find seven herbs to make my own revitalising rice dish.

Barbara explains that the severn herb dish is a kind of porridge eaten during the first weeks of January as a way of detoxing and giving the digestive system a boost. Simple food after all the excesses of Christmas. I didn’t quite have the herbs Barbara mentions, but rather than just giving up, I searched out and used what I could find. I was delighted to discover small amounts of mint, fennel, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, Welsh onion, and chervil. Most were in self-watering containers placed in the greenhouse for winter protection. Rosemary grows by the back door, and perennial Welsh onions are in the polytunnel. They are a good source of fresh onion-flavouring when chives have died back for the season.

Just searching about the plot and discovering small amounts of herbs was a joy. The scents released as I snipped the herbs into a colander made me think of summer when I planted these containers. I perhaps use fresh herbs more in summer than I do in winter. It requires more of an effort to go out in the cold, ice crunching underfoot and wrapped up against the chill wind. Much easier to reach for the dried herbs (dare I admit to using such a thing). But the taste was worth it. Every mouthful was a burst of flavour – transporting me back to sunshine and summer heat.

I boiled some organic long grain brown rice to go with my herbs. A nice easy meal, in contrast to all the complicated, lengthy cooking of the festive season. The rice was ready in 25 minutes. I roughly chopped the herbs and sprinkled them over the steaming rice. I found some tiny emerging spring broccoli and nasturtium leaves to add to the dish and yellow broccoli flowers, which are edible and should not be wasted.

Delicious! Using what I have about the place and keeping things simple. It made me feel as if I was looking after myself. Which is no bad thing just at the moment when we are all rather stressed and in lockdown.

Do read Barbara’s blog and learn more about Japanese cooking traditions. Barbara’s writing is like silk. It’s a joy to read. And you never know, it might inspire you to grow more herbs and cook something delicious and good for you. Let me know if you do!

Thank you for reading. Take care.

Barbara’s blog is here : https://thegardenpost.com/a-new-dawn-and-it-is-2021/

January in the Garden

Here I am, pottering about in my garden again. I must say, the weeks fly by and it’s soon time to write another column for Garden News Magazine.

I hope you enjoy today’s article. I’ve had some lovely letters of support from readers saying my ‘potterings’ have kept them upbeat and busy during the pandemic. I’m pleased to see many readers have been inspired to have a go at different gardening techniques, or decided to grow something new. And many say the recipes are tasty, and always turn out well. What a relief!

Here’s some additional photos the editor didn’t use for the column. It’s fascinating to see which ones they choose. I submit about 10 for them to select from. It takes about a day to decide what to write about, take the photos and then actually sit down and compose the piece. It’s 350 words – which is actually quite a challenge. I try to say a lot in not many words. I edit it three times before I send it, taking out any spare words each time. What a luxury it is to write the blog. No one is checking the word count on here.

My hazel plant supports in the snow. New rods have replaced any that snapped, and have been woven along the centre to add strength. We seem to be getting stormier summers, so plant supports have to be extra sturdy.

Some sweet peas I grew last summer. I’ve sown some in autumn, but the second sowing now will provide plants that flower right through to November. Successional sowing extends the season.

Seeds come from https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.X_dxARDfWfA.

And https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/shop/gardening/seeds/easton-walled-gardens-mix.

Here’s a photo of ‘Sunshine’ climbing French beans. Highly recommended, easy to grow and prolific. We have a freezer full, and they only take a few minutes to cook from frozen. All the flavour and goodness is captured for tasty winter meals. I’ll be starting my bean seed in May. Don’t start them off too early as they cannot be planted out until the first week of June. If sown too early, they become leggy and weak. They are very fast growing.

Bean seeds come from https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Pea-and-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-French-Bean-Sunshine.html#.X_dw0hDfWfA

Here’s a larger photo of the willow heart flower arrangement in the potting shed window. It’s made from Paperwhite narcissi, alstroemeria from the poly tunnel and dried gypsophila and honesty seeds from summer. The foliage is eucalyptus saved from Christmas floral arrangements. Flowers are held in a jam jar covered in moss which has garden string twined around it, kokadama -style. We are all trying to do without florists’ foam, and using jam jars, and tiny glass test tubes works really well.

See more ideas, join zoom -and in person lessons- with Georgie Newbery at Common Farm Flowers : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/collections/workshops

Paperwhites came from Gee-Tee Bulbs https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Gypsophila and honesty seeds from https://higgledygarden.com/

I mention new birds boxes. I wrote about CJ Wildlife supplies here: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/01/30/nest-boxes-and-bird-feeders-for-the-garden/

The RSPB nesting material is from: https://shopping.rspb.org.uk/nest-box-accessories/nesting-wool-refill.html

And finally, the rhubarb upside down cake recipe can be found here: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/04/18/rhubarb-cakes-family-favourite-recipes/

Thank you for reading and getting in touch. It’s much appreciated. And a very Happy New Year to you all.

I’m @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Do say hello on social media.

Birthday, Christmas and Anytime-Presents for Gardeners

Just a few of my favourite things. Send vouchers if you can’t get deliveries in time. After the 12 months we have had, I’m looking through and choosing a few items for myself. But I think we all deserve a treat or two. Don’t you agree?

Feel free to add your favourites in the comments below, and I’ll add them too. I’ve not been paid to recommend anything. Views, as usual, are my own. Keep this list handy all year round. I’ll be adding to it from time to time.

EASTON WALLED GARDENS

Easton Walled Gardens. Sells lovely little tins of sweet pea seed including heritage varieties, gardening gloves, twine, plant supports and all manner of gardening treats. There’s tickets for the snowdrop festival- or why not buy an annual pass. Worth more than one visit, all year round.

https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/shop

ORCHIDS

Orchids by post. High quality plants from the UK’s largest grower of phalaenopsis orchids. I like to support UK growers and these have proved to be reliable suppliers. Plants are well-grown and carefully packaged for posting. Beautifully displayed in glass vases and troughs.

https://shop.loveorchids.co.uk/

PIPPA GREENWOOD

Why not buy a voucher for a veg patch- whatever size of plot you have. I’ve had plants from Pippa Greenwood before and they are beautifully fresh and well packaged. The best aspect of buying from Pippa is the e mail guides that accompany the kits giving expert hints and tips on getting the best out of your plants. Highly recommended. Good value.

https://pippagreenwood.com/product/grow-your-own-gift-card-pack-c/

GEORGIE NEWBERY FLOWERS AND COURSES

Photo credit: Common Farm

Floristry courses, how to be a flower farmer, growing wedding flowers, and a multitude of other wonderful inspirational floral courses are on offer at Common Farm Flowers. Georgie Newbery is running the courses in person in Somerset, and delightfully, you can now also join in from anywhere in the world, via zoom courses.

I wrote about taking part in one of the courses here: https://bramblegarden.com/tag/onlinecourse/

To buy vouchers, flowers etc : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/collections/workshops

GENUS GARDENWEAR

Cotswold-based Genus Gardenwear has been making quality clothing and accessories since 2013. Well respected amongst gardeners, the clothing helps keep us warm and dry. Well made and long lasting. Above is the women’s Eden gardening jersey. There’s also silk liner gloves, merino wool wrist and neck warmers- amongst other clothing items. Also on the website, there’s Japanese secateurs and Hori Hori tools.

Beautiful seed packets and greeting cards. Gift cards start at £10.

https://www.genus.gs/

BURGON AND BALL

Everything I’ve had from Burgon and Ball has been good quality. Tools and equipment are well made and long lasting. Something for every budget.

https://www.burgonandball.com/pages/gardening-gifts

BELVOIR FLOWER AND GARDEN SHOW

Advance tickets are on sale for the Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Show. A lovely event held alongside the picturesque lake, set in the Capability Brown landscape. Plants and gardening equipment on sale, gardens to view, and horticultural talks to enjoy. A highlight of the summer calendar. 17-18 July 2021.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-belvoir-castle-flower-and-garden-show-17th-18th-of-july-2021-tickets-131319563349

Read more about the show here: https://m.facebook.com/BFGFJuly/

AQUAPROOF CLOTHING

Warm and waterproof clothing for gardeners. I haven’t tried these yet, but they are on my Christmas wish list. One thing I hate is to be cold and wet when I’m out and about. These look well made and stylish too.

https://aquaproofs.com/

THE LAUNDRY RETREAT – NORTH WALES

I’ve followed Tom and Jenny’s progress from start to finish creating a dream retreat at their beautiful North Wales home. I’ve earmarked a visit for myself and Mum as soon as we can travel. Vouchers for a holiday would be a welcome present for anyone, particularly garden-lovers, as Jenny has a dream garden alongside the roundhouse retreat.

https://thelaundryretreatnorthwales.co.uk/

ORGANIC PLANT FOOD -RICHARD JACKSON

This is what I used for my greenhouse and cut flower garden this year, and the results were fabulous. Everything grew robustly and flowers seemed to last longer. Using organic feed is important to me. I don’t want to kill beneficial insects, or poison the hedgehogs. Because plants were well grown and healthier, they were better able to fight off pest and diseases, and I didn’t need to use any chemicals. I’ll be ordering more for next season.

https://www.richardjacksonsgarden.co.uk/product-category/planting-feeding/

THE NGS – NATIONAL GARDEN SCHEME

The NGS has had a difficult year with most garden visits cancelled due to covid. One way to help is to buy something from the website. There’s cards, notebooks, aprons and tea towels, for example. Also look out for zoom lectures of NGS gardens. It all helps the NGS support nursing charities. I’ll be giving a zoom lecture next spring, talking about how to get colour and interest in the garden 12 months of the year.

https://ngs.org.uk/product-category/merchandise/

RAINBOWS HOSPICE

Rainbows Hospice helps children and young people who have life-limiting illnesses. They are £1 million down on fund raising due to covid lockdown and restrictions. Buy something from their website, or make a donation in the name of a friend or family member. You’ll be helping a wonderful charity doing essential work.

https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/rainbowshospiceshop

https://www.rainbows.co.uk/ways-you-can-help/shop

Buttonbury Bags

I treated myself to this gorgeous bag this summer. It’s beautifully made and I love using it. It’s hand -made in Shropshire. I like to support local businesses. Good value and unique.

https://www.buttonburycrafts.co.uk/

GOLD LEAF GLOVES

I’ve found these to be the best gardening gloves available. The gauntlets protect my hands from brambles and thorns. Comfortable and hard wearing. They make gardening a pleasure when there’s painful weeds to tackle, or rambling roses to prune.

http://www.goldleaf-gloves.com/drytouch.htm

GREENWORKS LAWNMOWER

I found this small, compact and lightweight lawnmower a dream to use. No pull cord start. No electric cable to trip over. No running-out-of-petrol to worry about. Just an easy to use battery -powered machine. The 48V machine has a 35cm cutting path and a 40ltr grass collector. It has a fold-down handle for easy storage. It will cut 250m2 on a single charge. The battery can be used for 21 other tools in the Greenworks range, including a hedge trimmer, line trimmer, and leaf blower. More are listed on the website. As regular readers know, my youngest daughter is a nurse, often working on covid wards. To protect us, she could not come home at all. Luckily she managed to buy her own house this summer, and we gave her this mower to help her look after her first garden. It makes cutting the grass a quick and easy task, which is really important if you’ve spent 12.5 hours on your feet working.https://www.greenworkstools.co.uk/product/40v-35cm-lawn-mower/

NIWAKI

I reviewed the Hori Hori here : https://bramblegarden.com/2020/07/10/niwaki-tools-review-and-some-garden-snips-to-give-away-gardening/

Buy from here : https://www.niwaki.com/store/hori-hori/

Garden News Magazine

A magazine subscription is such good value. There’s often free seeds. And you get the chance to peek into my greenhouse, potting shed and poly tunnel once a month, as I write a regular column all about what I’m growing on the plot.

https://www.greatmagazines.co.uk/garden-news-magazine?gclid=CjwKCAiA_eb-BRB2EiwAGBnXXmwcVhWNwLRIEx6Z9oW6jtqzkmpWu2C4E1lgcJIoLUvkgE78yeJU5xoCBMEQAvD_BwE

HENCHMAN LADDERS

One piece of equipment I could not have managed without this year is my Henchman ladder. No more wobbling about on unsafe steps. This one is solid and stable, with wide steps, side grab bars and a platform at the top for tools and baskets. The tripod shape means you can get closer to the tree, shrub or climber you are working on. No need to stand sidewards and lean over to work. Much safer to face forwards. It means I’ve been able to reach the top of my fruit trees safely in a year when all the fruit was needed, and it felt as if nothing should be wasted. Trees have been properly pruned for the first time in years. And now we are using the ladder to put up Christmas lights. No more swaying at the top of step ladders!

https://www.henchman.co.uk/winter-offer.html?gclid=CjwKCAiA_eb-BRB2EiwAGBnXXne0Otc_s-oPnxdWoe41YfH1j3HZ4Dhv2-SOl-DgsWoChSv4tk8lgRoCg04QAvD_BwE

HEDGEHOG BARN

We love this little hedgehog house from WildlifeWorld . And what’s more our hedgehogs do too, as we have a nice plump hedgehog in residence! The hedgehog barn won new product of the year at the virtual Glee awards in Birmingham this year. It’s well-designed with FSC -certified timber, weather proof, and strong enough to keep hedgehogs safe from predators.

https://wildlifeworld.co.uk/products/the-hedgehog-barn

BIRD BOXES – THE POSH SHED COMPANY

While on the subject of helping wildlife in our gardens, these bird boxes are well-made and look beautiful.

https://www.theposhshedcompany.co.uk/posh_gardening

EDIBLE FLOWERS

Adds that special touch to your cakes and biscuits. Especially beautiful on wedding cakes (my daughters please take note!)

https://maddocksfarmorganics.co.uk/maddocks-farm-organics

BUY A ROSE.

Rose of the year 2021 – Belle de Jour

This has become my favourite rose this year. Flowers start bright yellow and fade to myriad apricot shades. There’s a lovely fruity scent, and flowers open out enough for bees to access the pollen, so it’s good for wildlife too.

Our rose came from Pococks Roses. Well packaged with eco-friendly materials. Compostable bags and cardboard. A sturdy, disease-resistant rose. Highly recommended.

https://www.garden-roses.co.uk/shop/BELLE-DE-JOUR-floribunda-M1518

CAKES AND BROWNIES BY POST

Just received a parcel (from my brother and sister-in law ) of the most delicious brownies I’ve ever tasted. Sadly they are sold out for Christmas, but keep hold of the details, and remember them for birthdays, weddings, thank-yous, friendship. Highly recommended. Ours was the classic brownie. I’m going to try salted caramel next!

https://bowlandwhisk.co.uk/

CHOCOLATES BY POST

While we are talking about food, I’ve also just received a gorgeous box of salted caramels from a dear friend. It was just what the doctor ordered today, as I was starting to flag somewhat. These picked-me-up no end.

Beautifully packaged. Wonderful ingredients. Simply delicious.

https://www.bchocolates.co.uk/online-shop

CLAUDIA De YONG

Aprons, garden baskets, trugs, garden labels, garden tools, watering cans, garden bags. Stylish and rather lovely gifts for gardeners. A range of prices to suit all pockets.

https://shop.claudiadeyongdesigns.com/product-category/the-garden/

VISIT CHENIES MANOR HOUSE

One of the UK’s finest Tudor mansion houses. Grade 1 listed. Magnificent, inspirational gardens. Gift ideas include annual membership, guided tours, afternoon tea. See website for offers.

https://www.cheniesmanorhouse.co.uk/about/

PROPAGATORS

I have a Vitopod propagator, a present from a friend. I use it with grow lights, which stops seedlings becoming leggy. I start off all my flower and vegetables seeds in it, and have never had any problems with the kit.

https://www.greenhousesensation.co.uk/vitopod-heated-propagator-bundles.html/

Do add any of your own suggestions in the comments below. This year we have all shared information, hints and tips to help one another get through. Gardening has been a great distraction from all the problems we’ve faced. And we are all looking forward to a better 2021, full of flowers, fruit, vegetables – and quite a bit of garden visiting, I hope.

Wishing you all a wonderful, happy Christmas. Thank you for reading and keeping me company this past year. It’s been much appreciated.

You are amongst 100,000 people who have read my blog posts. I’m truly grateful.

I’m @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram.

Links:

Reader Sophie Boxall recommends Hive and Well https://www.thehiveandwellcompany.co.uk/

And Nutscene twine: https://nutscene.com/collections/twines

Garden News Magazine recipes for December

If you’ve received your copy of Garden News Magazine this week, here’s the recipes I mention in my column. Above is the summerhouse where I write my pieces, and where I sit and make my cherry marzipan chocolates.

The recipe link for Cherry Marzipan Chocolates is here :

https://bramblegarden.com/2018/12/04/family-favourite-recipes-chocolate-marzipan-cherries/

They are very quick to make and children love creating them. They make tasty home-made presents for Christmas.

I also write about Chocolate and Orange Panettone. Start saving your tins now to make these delicious treats. They are very easy to make and look beautiful. Get the children to make potato stamp labels. Be as creative as you like. Everyone can get involved.

Here’s the link: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/12/02/christmas-recipes-chocolate-panettone/

I write about turning my satsumas from the greenhouse into a liqueur. The recipe comes from Bob Flowerdew, replying to me on twitter when I asked what I could do with this year’s prolific harvest. It’s been a good summer for growing citrus. Bob always has great suggestions for what to do with produce from the garden, and is generous with his advice.

Here’s Bob’s recipe for Satsuma Liqueur :

And finally, I was talking on the radio last week, when I mentioned I was making Sloe Gin. Here’s the recipe, with thanks to garden writer Barbara Segall, who inspires me on a daily basis to try something new.

Sloe Gin

450g sloe berries -or whatever you can find. If you only have 300g, use those.

350g caster sugar

710ml gin

Kilner jar or lidded jar

Place the ripe sloe berries in the freezer to break the skins. Add all ingredients to a large kilner jar. Swirl the contents every day for a week, every week for a month, and every month for a year. Strain the gin. Use the berries for cakes or trifle.

It’s wonderful to have a bottle on the north-facing kitchen windowsill. Mine has changed colour now and it’s a joy to see. Almost like a stained glass window.

Barbara Segall has written many garden books, all highly recommended. One of my favourites is The Christmas Tree. A beautiful stocking-filler. Find out more here : https://thegardenpost.com/category/christmas-tree-book/

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Christmas-Tree-book-by-Barbara-Segall-NEW-/174501320740?_trksid=p2349624.m46890.l49292

For more suggestions on books, I also recommend The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty. I reviewed the book here:

https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

Here’s a link for Georgie Newbery at Common Farm Flowers for growing cut flowers, floristry and Christmas wreath workshops and courses, in person, and on-line. Vouchers make a great present for any gardener. https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/collections/workshops

Thanks for reading! Have a great week.

Honda Cordless Lawn Mower- Product Trial

I’ll be honest, cutting the lawn is not one of my favourite tasks. We have an old petrol mower which is a bit of a beast. It has a pull-cord start, and my arms are just not long enough. After the first painful attempt, I usually wheel the machine back in the shed and wait for help. So frustrating! I hate having to wait for someone stronger to help me. I feel defeated. Then along comes Honda with an offer to try out one of their new battery power machines. I must admit, I cheered.

Honda’s delivery driver arrived promptly with two boxes containing a lawn mower and a hedge trimmer. There was also a brand new Honda racing motorbike in the back of the van. My heart skipped a beat. Sadly I couldn’t persuade him to leave it behind ….. I tried. It’s 30 years since we had a motorbike. We had a British Triumph Bonneville- which took us all over Europe, up through Scotland, and all around the Ring of Kerry in Ireland. Before children arrived. And after that, we decided we should be sensible and sell it. Couldn’t really fit two babies on the back. Anyway, I digress. Back to lawn mowers…. So we sold the motorbike and settled down in a family home with an acre garden. Since then, we’ve had a division of power here. Mr B cuts the lawns, and I plant, weed and prune, grow flowers, fruit and veg. The problem comes when Mr B goes sailing- which is very often. He and his whole family are sailing-mad. We have a nephew John Gimson who is currently World Champion and part of the British Olympic Sailing Team (NACRA) sailing a catamaran. Mr B in the past has supported John by driving the racing boats across Europe on a low loader. Something he loves doing. Meanwhile, at home, the grass get longer and longer and starts to look messy.

This autumn, I wanted to cut the grass in the orchard really short, and sow wild flower seeds in the bare patches where there’s been molehills. With the new lawn mower, I was able to do it without asking for help. Independence at last!

Here’s a run down of the things I like about the new cordless mower.

1.

To start it, all you have to do is press the yellow button on the side of the handle. No shoulder-wrenching pull cord.

2.

To make the mower go forward, you just press the bar towards the handle. As a safety feature, if you let go, the mower stops. There’s no way it can run off with you ( like my old petrol -driven monster mower.)

3.

Another safety feature is the little turn key, which isolates the battery if you need to turn the mower on its side to remove excess grass from around the blades. I would also quickly remove the battery too. Fast and simple operations.

4.

The battery slides easily into the front of the machine. There’s three types of batteries with different run times.

The cheapest, battery, number 4, cuts for about 35 minutes and takes 35 minutes to charge. To be honest, 35 minutes was enough for me. I had a cup of tea and a rest while the battery was charging, and then we were off again. The handbook says this battery covers 365m2 lawn area.

Number 6 battery covers 485m2.

Number 9 battery covers 730m2 on one charge.

The battery charger is note-worthy. It has its own cooling fan and various flashing lights to tell you how it’s doing. It looks rather impressive.

5.

There’s a simple handle to change the cutting height. Easy to operate.

6.

There’s a pressed steel powder-coated deck. This made the whole machine look robust and substantial. Yet the weight was push-able at 22.5kg for the machine and 1.3kg for the battery. I didn’t struggle at all, and didn’t feel totally worn out after ten minutes, like I do with our petrol mower. Plus, it’s clean, there’s no petrol fumes, and the mower is relatively quiet. The handbook says the noise range is 91bB(a). I’m comparing it with the petrol mower, which we wear safety ear protectors with, and battery powered is much quieter. A small thing, but important to me, the battery powered machine didn’t scare off all the birds. We have a small stand of trees, and all summer we’ve had a tawny owl fledgling here. It’s such an joy to have these birds in the garden. I would hate to scare them away.

Above: Some of the wild flowers I’ve planted in the orchard. I hope they will spread and form a golden carpet in spring.

I thoroughly enjoyed my two-month trial with Honda’s new mower. There’s two available in the range. This one, the HRG416XB, has a 16 inch cut and there’s a larger machine which has an additional mulching option. There’s also a hedge trimmer, brush cutter and leaf blower in the new cordless range- and all use the same battery.

I haven’t been paid to write anything about the mower. I’m free to give my honest opinion. But I can say, I’ve enjoyed having the freedom to cut my lawn when I want to, and the Honda mower was a dream to use. I’ve still got my heart set on test driving the Honda racing motorbike though…… watch this space!

Thanks for reading and have a lovely weekend.

Links: New Honda range of cordless machines: https://www.honda.co.uk/lawn-and-garden/products/cordless/overview.html?gclid=Cj0KCQiAnb79BRDgARIsAOVbhRpdTbjHM8G3wFtmzG8qaxoynM9oOb6lgjVh7uT99NKRN4saKFpurlYaApo8EALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

I’m @kgimson on twitter, and karengimson1 on Instagram.

A video I made for instagram :

Pear and Almond Pastries- family favourite recipes

It’s been a bumper year for fruit. There’s crates of pears in the spare room, and little piles of rosy red apples all along the windowsills. The whole house smells like pear and apple crumble! I’ve never managed to reach the top of the fruit trees before. Our old ladders were too wobbly. But this year I’ve a fabulous new addition to the garden- a Henchman tripod ladder. It’s made everything easier – and safer. All the best, tastiest fruit- always at the top of the tree- has been harvested. This year, more than ever, it feels as if nothing should be wasted. Spare fruit has been distributed to friends and family in little paper bags. Damaged, over-ripe fruit has been enjoyed by hedgehogs and blackbirds, so wildlife has not been forgotten either.

One of our favourite autumn recipes is Pear and Almond Pastries. As usual, just a few ingredients are needed, and the little parcels of tasty pears only take minutes to make. Have a go at making them, and let me know how you get on.

INGREDIENTS

1 pack of ready rolled puff pastry

3 or 4 ripe pears

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

3 tbsp ground almonds

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2tbsp flaked almonds for the top

1 egg, beaten (optional- use almond milk for vegans)

Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Baking tray with baking paper or silicone sheet.

190C oven 15-20 minutes

METHOD

Unroll the pastry and cut into squares. Lay them on the baking tray.

Peel and halve the pears. Place slices on top of the pastry squares.

In a bowl, mix the sugar, ground almonds, ground cloves, cinnamon together. Pile spoonfuls of the mixture on top of the pears.

Take the corners of the pastry and draw them together to make a rough parcel. The pastries will stretch and turn out all shapes, and it doesn’t matter. They will still taste the same.

Brush the top with beaten egg (or almond milk) and sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Cook in a preheated oven for 15 -20 minutes. Check them after 10 minutes to see how brown they are. The pastries will be ready when they are risen and light brown. They burn easily, so keep an eye on them. 20 minutes might be too long for fast ovens. Dust with icing sugar, if you have some.

Can be eaten cold or warm. Can be frozen for 3 months. Delicious with clotted cream, or custard. We also love them with home-made vanilla icecream.

Thanks for reading. Have a great gardening week and keep in touch.

Links: Henchman ladders https://www.henchman.co.uk/

Fruit trees: Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire.

Silicone sheets are reusable from http://www.kitchenrangecookshop.com/

Photos above show two packets of puff pastry.

Little Green Paper Shop- Review

I need little excuse to send cards to friends and relatives. I love keeping in touch with cheerful notes, and this year it seems even more important that usual to try to keep a connection. But I’m usually disappointed with the cards I see for sale. They are often single -use items, covered with embellishments and glitter. Not always recyclable. So I was happy to see a sample pack of eco-friendly stationery from the Little Green Paper Shop.

Founded by Ana in Cheshire in 2014, the online shop stocks a range of beautiful cards made from such intriguing substances as elephant dung and cotton fibre, and apparently, reindeer droppings. The elephant dung paper is hand-made in India and provides a source of income for elephant sanctuaries which the makers support.

Ana started by supplying wedding stationery, but has branched out to provide cards, crackers and wrapping paper for Christmas and other special occasions. Ana designs, prints, cuts and packages the items, and it’s very much a family affair with her husband and two sons helping out.

The samples I received are so delightful – and made me smile- I have placed an order for Christmas, and I’m planning to have some business cards printed. I fancy the idea of having cards made from seed paper which can be planted and will grow. Truly something earth-friendly and worth giving. Quite different from the throw-away cards you usually see.

Kitten Monty likes them too! And cats, as you know, are never wrong.

Please leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page and Ana will select one person to receive a sample pack of cards and paper.

Notes:

I didn’t pay for my samples, but as usual, there’s no obligation to write about them, and I only say nice things when I want to, and in this case, I think the cards are unusual and truly special. I’m happy to recommend the Little Green Paper Shop.

https://littlegreenpapershop.com/

Thanks for reading. I’m @kgimson on twitter, and karengimson1 on instagram, so do say hello there as well.

Book Review: American Gardens

By Monty Don

photos by Derry Moore

Published by Prestel

Hardback 223 pages

ISBN: 9783791386751

Published autumn 2020

£35

Such a lot has changed since Mum and I sat, side by side, watching Monty Don’s American Gardens television series over the winter. Little did we know corona virus was on the way, and we wouldn’t see each other for most of the spring and summer. One of our simple pleasures in life is to watch the gardening programmes mum has recorded the week before. Enjoying our home-made cake and cups of tea, we would um and ah over the gardens- much more fun than watching alone. We were unanimous in our admiration of glorious, colourful, plant-filled gardens, and sternly, dismissively critical of others. And laughter. There was much laughter. Such fun. Just watching in companionable silence too. I miss those moments. Mum has to be extremely careful. So our fledgling visits to each other’s gardens have been cautious and metres apart. Indoors, and television -watching, is rationed. I touch nothing and keep a distance. This is how it will be until we have faster, easier corona virus testing. Or a vaccine.

Just as I’m mulling over all the changes to our lives, and trying to solve a few impossible problems, Monty’s new book arrives. And I sit down and read it. From cover to cover. Monty Don asks, ‘What is an American garden.’ Well, if he can be as bold as to attempt to find the answer to that question, I’m sure I can overcome one or two tricky dilemmas of my own. I clearly remember Monty saying “The belief you can do anything, if you believe in it enough, is what defines the American Garden.” Reading his new book transports you to another place where anything is possible. And that’s certainly a message we all need right now.

Here’s some of the gardens I picked out to show you, and ones I enjoyed in his new book.

The Federal Twist garden, Stockton, New Jersey is one that stands out.

I’m still chuckling over the quote from owner James Golden, who says,”I forgot to mention that I hate gardening.”
Monty notes “It was probably a well-rehearsed line but, given the extraordinarily beautiful garden he has created and the deep pleasure that it clearly gives him, an effective show-stopper. Why? I asked. ‘I hate getting my hands dirty. I hate struggling to separate roots and then digging a hole. I have someone to do that for me. I place the plants, pull plants out. I’m constantly working out what I need and where to move things. I don’t feel it necessary to dig or plant to be fully engaged with the garden.’ I suspect that the British, and in this I include myself, fetishise the actual process of gardening too much, sometimes to the extent that the hardworking, skilful means justify the rather dull ends.”

A revealing portrait of the gardener, and of the garden visitor, Monty Don.

These are my i-phone photos of the book taken in the potting shed, and do not do justice to the clarity of the stunning photography by Derry Moore.

Federal Twist.

Federal Twist.

The swimming pool at the Bob Hope House, Palm Springs.

Inside the Amazon Spheres in Seattle.

Climbing fig (Ficus pumila) in the orangery at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington DC.

Vizcaya, Miami, Florida. The house reflected in the Tuscan-inspired pool.

Prairie Garden Trust, New Bloomfield, Missouri. A field of coneflowers.

Central Park, New York City. The two towers of the San Remo apartment building designed by Emery Roth in 1930.

Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Monty sitting under a banyan tree. He looks lost in thought. The sheer scale of the trees and the landscape. It’s mesmerising.

You’ll have to read the book to see what conclusions Monty arrives at. I found it a joy to read in these troubled times. If humans can create gardens such as these, surely it gives us hope. Anything is possible. And at the end of the day, that’s what we need most of all at the moment. Hope.

Links:

Leave a comment in the box at the bottom of the page, and Prestel will select one reader to receive a free copy. Sorry, uk addresses only at the moment. I’ll run another draw when the book is published in America. It would make a wonderful Christmas present. It’s certainly a ‘wow’ production, with glossy double page spreads of photographs and thought-provoking writing.

Prestel publishing: https://prestelpublishing.randomhouse.de/book/American-Gardens/Monty-Don/Prestel-com/e570814.rhd

Federal Twist garden: https://federaltwist.com/

I’m @kgimson on twitter and on instagram https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en.

Thank you for reading.

Talking on the radio – notes and photos for wednesday 22 July, BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour

I’m still talking on the radio once a fortnight – from the peace and quiet of my potting shed. It’s lovely to be at home rather than having to drive into Leicester. And when the music is playing between chats, I get on with a bit of watering or prick out a few seedlings, and nobody knows.

This week we talk about sweet peas. I’m growing new variety, Ripple Mixed, pictured above. It has mauve, pink, and purple markings on a pale pink background. The scent is strong, and stems are nice and long, making them ideal for cut flower posies. One to keep on my list for autumn sowing. I’m ordering seeds now to ensure I get the varieties I want. This year’s experience of buying plants and seeds – and the long delays receiving them- has taught me to plan ahead and order early.

Here’s a selection of sweet peas I’m putting in jam jars on the village green to raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children and young people. Rainbows cares for children with life-limiting illnesses and nearly all its funding comes from donations. The hospice has lost almost £1 million in fund raising this year, due to events being cancelled because of covid. I put leaflets alongside the flowers, hoping it might encourage someone to learn more about the hospice and make a regular donation. Every little helps.

Here’s the Wiltshire Ripple variety I mention, with its delicate picotee edge. I wouldn’t be without this one. Always a good strong performer.

This is Mayflower 400, another new variety, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim Fathers sailing to the New World. It’s highly-scented and a good strong grower. Long stems, and flowers last a week in a vase.

After talking about flowers, we move on to what I’m growing and harvesting from the plot. Plums are prolific again this year. This is Victoria, delicious and reliable. I’m making jam. It’s such a treat in winter to have a taste of summer. I stand the jars along the kitchen window and admire them. It’s like looking through pink stained glass. Very cheerful on a cold, dark day.

The recipe for plum crumble cakes and plum jam is here : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/08/22/peaches-and-plums-crumble-and-jam/

When my children were little, we fed them apple purée as their first solid food. BBC Radio Leicester programme host Naomi Kent is having a baby in two months, so we talk about the varieties of apple trees she might plant in her new garden.

I’m growing Spartan, a gorgeous deep red apple with a sweet honey taste. Apples are small and numerous, the perfect size for children’s lunch boxes. Lovely for juicing which is a somewhat messy process, but worth the effort.

I also grow Greensleeves (above) for cooking and eating. It’s sweet enough on its own, so you won’t need to add sugar for cakes, purée and puddings. Kept somewhere cool, apples will store until February.

Supermarkets often only sell a few apple varieties, typically Cox, Golden Delicious and Braeburn. Often they’ve been grown abroad and flown in. Sometimes they are coated with chemicals to improve their keeping qualities. And yet, in the UK, we have perfect conditions to grow your own apples. Traditionally, apple trees would have been 6m tall, but plant breeders have produced some compact varieties for small gardens and containers. Lubera have a range of ‘column’ fruit trees which have short side shoots and a narrow, vertical growing habit. I’m growing Malini Top Model which looks as if it will be about 50cm wide and eventually 3m tall. I’m growing it in a large plant pot and it has a good crop of apples in its third year. Lubera also have column types of pear, cherry and plum varieties on their website.

We had record amounts of cherries this year. I’ve been freezing them and preserving them in alcohol for winter treats. There’s a cherry marzipan chocolate recipe mentioned in the links at the end.

My cherry tree is Stella, a self fertile variety bred in Canada and introduced to Britain in the 1960s.

If you’ve got a small garden, opt for a cherry tree on dwarfing Gisela rootstock, which makes a compact tree. It’s much easier to protect trees from frost, if they are small enough to cover with fleece or an old bed sheet.

Good varieties to try include self-fertile Sunburst, Summer Sun and Celeste.

I’m fond of pears too. I have a Conference pear which provides plenty of fruit. If you are short of space, pears are easily trained along a fence or wall, in an espalier shape. Pears need more sunshine and warmth than apples, so it is a good idea to give them the protection of a warm wall. I’m going to plant a Concorde pear on the south wall of the house. Concorde is possibly a more reliable cropper than Conference.

If you have a more shadier garden, and you want to grow fruit, I’ve found success with Morello cherries, damson and quince, and crab apples for making jelly.

As well as apples, pears, plums and cherries, I wouldn’t be without my mini peach trees. I’m growing dwarfing variety Garden Lady and Bonanza in 45cm pots. We don’t get very many peaches yet, but the taste is so delicious and sweet. It’s a special treat to have home- grown ripe and tasty peaches.

I’d love to grow my own apricots. I’ve seen compact varieties Aprigold and Isabelle at nurseries. Our neighbour, Arthur, at our first house, had a fan-trained Moorpark apricot. He never did any other gardening, leaving it all to his wife Dorothy, but every day he fussed over his apricot tree, watered it and covered it up on cold nights. When it produced a magnificent crop each summer, he gave bags of fruit to his neighbours all along the little row of terraced houses. Happy memories of wonderful, kind neighbours. We have been so lucky to always have lovely people living next door.

So, to sum up, you don’t need a huge garden to grow fruit. It is possible to have a whole orchard- in pots on your patio. No need for rolling acres. Dwarfing varieties designed for growing in containers, some large pots, 45cm diameter, and John Innes no3 compost is all you’ll need. Set up an automatic drip watering system, or water the pots every day in summer. I add potash-rich seaweed feed every fortnight, and I refresh the top of the pots, taking out a small amount of compost and adding in some new compost, every year.

What fruit trees are you growing at home. Have you any recommendations for small gardens. Get in touch and let me know how you are getting on with your growing this summer.

Links:

Sweet pea seeds: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Tall_3/Sweet-Pea-Ripple-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XxrSvBB4WfA

Mayflower 400 : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Mayflower-400.html#.XxrS4hB4WfA

My plum jam recipe : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/08/22/peaches-and-plums-crumble-and-jam/

Apple and Almond Slice Recipe: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/11/07/apple-and-almond-slice-family-favourite-recipes/

Cherry marzipan chocolates: https://bramblegarden.com/2018/12/04/family-favourite-recipes-chocolate-marzipan-cherries/

BOOKS TO READ:

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade

https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty

https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

BBC Radio Leicester : https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p08jzr94. Gardening starts at 3.11.48 on the timeline.

Niwaki winner… prize draw

Thank you to everyone who read my Niwaki garden tools review. I got a message from WordPress saying my ‘stats were booming!’ Whatever that means! I am very grateful for all your support.

The winner for the prize draw for the Niwaki garden snips is Gardening Alice.

Keep an eye out for more reviews and prize draws. There’s plenty more to come…. Thank you again. And thanks to Niwaki for providing the garden snips.

You can read the review here: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/07/10/niwaki-tools-review-and-some-garden-snips-to-give-away-gardening/

Niwaki : https://www.niwaki.com/

Niwaki Jake : https://www.niwaki.com/jakehobson/

Gardening Alice https://gardeningalice.wordpress.com/

I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. And karen gimson on Pinterest.

Do come over and say hello. There’s a thriving and supportive gardening network on social media. I don’t know what I would have done without my twitter friends these past five months. They have distracted me from worrying and helped me focus on gardening-related matters. It’s been like team work.

Niwaki tools review – and some garden snips to give away

I don’t use chemicals in my garden. Some weeds are allowed to thrive, if they are useful to insects and pollinators. Dandelions are particularly good for bees, especially in early spring when pollen is scarce. There are some types of solitary bee that only feed on dandelions. I wouldn’t want to deprive them of their vital sustenance. But, I don’t want a lawn predominantly covered in dandelions. It’s all about striking a balance, so I start to thin them out in mid-summer. Niwaki sent a Hori Hori knife for a trial and It’s perfect for deep-rooted weeds such as dandelions. I was using a trowel before, which often didn’t get to the bottom of the tap root, and was hard work over a large area. The Hori Hori is sharp enough to easily slice through grass, and strong enough to gently lever weeds out of the soft wet ground. I notice, on the website, it says the knife is: “Mighty, but not invincible. It’s best not to stick it in heavy clay and yank back hard.”

When I’ve removed the dandelions, plantains and thistles, I pop a Seedball into the hole that’s left. Seedballs are wildflower seeds encased in clay. They can simply be scattered around the garden. They come in selections named bee, butterfly, poppy, urban, bat, bird and beetle. Hopefully, in time, I’ll end up with a flowering lawn, full of cowslips, self heal, wild marjoram and primroses. I’m aiming for a tapestry carpet effect.

The Hori Hori has a strong canvas holster which I think could be attached to a belt. The hand-forged carbon steel blade runs right through the handle, for strength. Tough and strong, it seems built to last. The handle is FSC beech wood and the blade is 7″ 17cm long.

As well as digging up weeds in the lawn, my knife is great for removing weeds from between paving slabs. I also spent a happy hour digging up ‘free’ plants which had self-seeded in the gravel. I found bellis daisies, perennial geraniums, sedums, erigeron daisies and several seedling trees- silver birch, maple and mountain ash. Much easier to lever them out with a sharp blade than using a trowel.

Bellis daisies seed readily around and make lovely bedding plants for borders and plant pots. Free plants are always welcome here.

Here’s a seedling mountain ash rescued from the gravel path. Beautiful spring flowers for bees, and autumn berries for birds. Great for any wildlife garden.

Erigeron karvinskianus also seeds readily between paving and in gravel. Another ‘free plant,’ dug up and transplanted into a 9cm pot.

My Hori Hori has quickly become a tool I reach for whatever task I’m doing, planting, weeding, slashing bramble roots. It’s comfortable to use and makes life much easier. And that’s what gardening is all about for me, managing the weeds, not totally obliterating them, just tipping the balance, and keeping me in charge, rather than always rushing around desperately trying to keep up.

I’ve asked the team at Niwaki to offer a reader prize. They have currently sold out of Hori Hori knives, probably due to the upsurge of interest in gardening over the covid period. So they are offering some forged garden snips instead. Keep an eye on the blog, and when they send me another item to try, the Hori Hori will probably be back in stock for a prize at a later date.

Meanwhile, to enter for the garden snips, just leave a comment in the box below and Niwaki will randomly select a name. Usual rules apply. Niwaki’s decision is final and there’s no cash alternative.

A winner will be announced on Monday. Please check back. Thank you.

Do you have any favourite garden tools. Nearly all of mine belonged to my grandfather Ted Foulds. And some belonged to his father, so they date back to the 1930s. They have certainly stood the test of time, and I wouldn’t be without them.

Links : Niwaki https://www.niwaki.com/store/hori-hori/

Seedball : https://seedball.co.uk/product/bee-matchbox/

I write for Garden News Magazine: https://www.gardennewsmagazine.co.uk/minimag

Online Hand Tie Posy Course with Georgie Newbery

Flowers for my Mum.

Finally, after four months, I can take flowers to my Mum. It’s been the hardest part of Covid, being separated from our families. It’s the first time in my life, I haven’t had her by my side. She’s usually there in everything I do, supporting me, encouraging me, passing on her knowledge. My setbacks and sorrows are hers. My successes and triumphs are hers. We are linked by invisible ties. If I stumble she is there to catch me. We are a team.

And we share a love of flowers. Mum has always helped me in the garden, bringing seedlings, divisions and cuttings from her plot. I grow them on, and take them back to her in simple bunches of flowers each week. It’s something I have really missed these past few months.

Luckily restrictions are easing and we can meet up again in the garden. And my little bunches of flowers are going with me.

And to add to my joy, I was invited to take part in a zoom lesson by flower farmer Georgie Newbery -just in time to make my first flower posy for mum.

I sat in my summerhouse with my i-pad on my knee- and just for an hour, forgot all about the desperate worries of the last few months. I’m sure I’m not alone in having fears for frail elderly relatives – and for youngsters. My youngest daughter is a newly qualified nurse, and my eldest works at a children’s hospice. No one is safe. The danger has been on my mind day and night. It’s been unrelenting worry. And yet, I’ve got through, concentrating on all the good people are doing- the inventiveness, finding ways to cope, the kindness.

Georgie is one such kind soul. I’m grateful for the invitation to join her first zoom session. She is launching online courses this summer, and asked me to be on a trial panel for the first lesson. I can’t tell you how excited I was to have something to put on my calendar, something to look forward to. It meant a lot.

Georgie, who runs Common Farm in Somerset, started the course by talking about the flowers chosen for the day’s arrangement. There’s the most sumptuous coral – pink Boscobel rose partnered with pink penstemon and a pretty mixed ‘ripple’ sweet pea. Purple fennel was added for scent. I could almost smell them from here! A dark chocolate-coloured Physocarpus Diabolo provided complementary foliage.

Georgie gave tips on harvesting flowers. They are cut early in the morning and plunged straight into cold fresh water while still out in the field. Leaves are stripped as flowers are picked. That’s a tip I’ll use to save time in future. And there’s a bucket of fresh water alongside which Georgie uses to plunge her hands and arms into. Sap from plants such as Alchemilla mollis and Ammi majus can cause an allergic reaction. Washing them straight away helps prevent painful sores.

There’s a special way to hold the flowers between thumb and finger, and something called a ‘florists twist’ which essentially means adding stems at 45 degrees and making a quarter turn with each additional new stem. The result is a posy that has flowers all the way round. And with a bit of practice your creation will stand up on its own, with all the flowers spiralling out like a beautiful layered ball gown. Georgie describes it as being a bit like “Painting with flowers.”

And here’s what I made with my own cut flowers after one session with Georgie on zoom:

The posy was swiftly popped into a glass vase of water. But I was so pleased to see my creation passed the ‘stand-up-alone’ test. The first time I’ve managed to do this.

In my posy, I have Cosmos Apricot Lemonade, a new variety I’m trying this year. The colour is a delicate pale lemon, with purple shades on the back of the petals. A perfect partner to Verbena Bonariensis.

I’m using pot marigold Calendula Snow Princess, a new variety launched three years ago. It has delicate pale overlapping petals that look as if they have been cut with pinking shears. I love the tiny stars in the centre of the flower. Beautiful in bud and at all stages of flowering.

I’m growing calendula down the centre of my sweet pea ‘A-frame.’ This creates weed-suppressing ground cover, and encourages the flower stems to grow tall, making them more suitable for floristry. I’m also growing butterfly gladioli down the middle. I tried this last year and it worked well. It saves time as there’s no need to mess about with canes and bits of string. The frame keeps them upright. They all seem to work well with sweet peas. Cosmos grows at the front of the border, tied in to the hazel frame to stop them flopping over the path.

It’s a jumble of flowers and vegetables. Not posh, or tidy, but I love meandering around the little paths, weaving in and out of the herbs, flowers billowing out of the borders.

One bed is full of wild flowers. You don’t have to have a meadow to enjoy them. My bed is 3.5m long by 1.3m wide. There’s pink campion, oxeye daisies and quaking grass.

Oxeye daisies make a lovely addition to any flower arrangements. They are good for bees and butterflies too. I like to attract pollinators to the plot.

There’s blue Campanula poscharskyana, Phlox Blue Paradise, Nigella love-in-a-mist, and yellow Verbascum in my posy.

Tomorrow, I’m attempting a much larger posy with 30 stems. Georgie advises to take flowers straight from the bucket, and not set them out on a table in a row -which is how I’ve been doing it until now. I’ve always wondered why my flowers look flat on one side. It takes some practice, but the results are amazing.

My hour or so was packed with information on growing the best cut flower varieties, how to condition stems, what materials to use, how to create everything from kitchen table flowers, to ‘all of the garden’ huge bouquets. There’s a chance to ask questions, and Georgie provides a fact sheet to accompany courses.

Georgie has new online courses on 10th and 17th July. Here’s the link to the website for more information: https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html.

David Austin Boscobel Rose: https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/boscobel

Calendula Snow Princess : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Calendula-Seed/Calendula-Snow-Princess-Seeds.html#.Xvz8kxB4WfA

Phlox Blue Paradise: https://www.claireaustin-hardyplants.co.uk/products/phlox-paniculata-blue-paradise

How are you finding ways to cope with Covid and social distancing? I’d love to know if gardening has been a saving for you, as it has for me. I don’t know what I would have done without my garden to keep me busy. Thanks for reading my blog.

Winners! Thank you for entering the prize draws on this blog. Here are the recent winners’ names:

Hydrangeas by Naomi Slade.

Hydrangeas by Naomi Slade was won by Shirley . If she would kindly e mail me, I’ll ask the publishers to forward a copy of this gorgeous new book. k.gimson@btinternet.com.

Review : https://bramblegarden.com/2020/06/05/hydrangeas-book-review-and-1-copy-to-give-away/

Blagdon Pond-in-a-box : won by Jacksb50. Who was also sent some Blagdon pond clean pods to try out.

Review: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/05/07/blagdon-pond-in-a-box-review-and-prize-draw/

Corokia -My Adventrue by Mona Abboud. Won by Suella, who also won a bundle of new products including : Activearth sample.

https://bramblegarden.com/2020/03/29/corokia-my-adventure-my-bbc-garden-hour-book-of-the-week-book-review/

https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Activearth

Hozelock Pure Bokashi composter was won by Lucy Corrander.

Review: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/03/21/hozelock-pure-bokashi-composter-on-trial-and-one-to-give-away-saturday-21-march-2020/

Hozelock Tuffhoze was won by Mary Thomas.

Review: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/12/05/hozelock-tuffhoze-on-test-at-bramble-garden/

Wildlife World Wildlife Observation Camera was won by Sean.

Review: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/03/17/wildlife-watching-camera-on-trial-and-prize-draw-for-readers/

Diary of A Modern Country Gardener by Tamsin Westhorpe, won by Cathy Lyon -Green

Review: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/02/22/diary-of-a-modern-country-gardener/

I’m very grateful to all the gardening suppliers and companies offering prizes for readers. I love trying new ideas. I’ll try anything, providing it is suitable for organic gardening and doesn’t harm any living creature. I never accept payment for trying the samples. I prefer to be free to give my honest opinion.

Thank you also for reading and for leaving comments. Look out for more gardening books on the horizon, a Hozelock liquid feed kit, some Japanese Niwaki garden secateurs and some new organic pest and weed control products. It’s interesting to see what’s available for gardeners in modern times. My grandfather would have been amazed by the wide choice of products. He would have loved trialling them as much as I do. Things certainly have changed since he gardened in the 1940s and 1950s. Many products make life a lot easier, all round.

Hydrangeas – book review and 1 copy to give away

HYDRANGEAS

By Naomi Slade

Published by Pavilion Books 9th July

RRP £25.00 hardback 239 pages

Photography: Georgianna Lane

ISBN 978-1-911641-23-0

Photo: my i-phone photo of Hydrangea Bluebird from Naomi Slade’s new book.

Having a beautiful book to read has helped me cope with the Covid Lockdown. Learning about favourite plants, and how to grow them, has given me something positive to focus on. And there is nothing more colourful and wonderfully inspiring than ‘Hydrangeas’ by Naomi Slade.

Photo: Hydrangea Polestar.

Naomi brings the subject of hydrangeas right up to date by focussing on the very latest plant breeding successes. Polestar, for example, only grows to a height of 50cm and is compact enough for a container. It’s one of the earliest to flower, and in my garden it’s in bloom from early June and continues right through to October. Even in winter, the papery, dried flower heads hold interest, as snow and frost settle on them. Truly, if you can have only one hydrangea, this would be the one. It would even fit in a window box or balcony garden.

Photo: Runaway Bride Snow White.

Runaway Bride Snow White, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Plant of the Year in 2018, produces flowers at the tips of the stems, like most other hydrangeas, and also from every leaf node along the stem. Naomi describes it as “airy and graceful, the modest green shrub adorned with pearls and strewn with confetti; a vision of purity that starts off a fresh, green-tinted white, and blushes to pink as maturity takes hold.”

I’ve always wanted to know the background to all these lovely varieties. Naomi selects the best hydrangeas and reveals how they were developed. Runaway Bride is the work of Japanese breeder Ushio Sakazaki who created many bedding plants, including the popular Surfinia petunias. He turned his attention to hydrangeas when he found a remote Asian species in the wild and, seeing its potential, crossed it with common Hydrangea macrophylla. The resulting plant produces wispy ‘lacecap’ flowers from late spring until Autumn. It makes a striking container plant, or would happily cascade over the top of a low wall.

As well as showcasing the latest hydrangeas, Naomi highlights heritage varieties such as the beautiful pale blue Otaksa. This cultivar dates back to the 1820s and was, rather romantically, named by Philipp Franz von Siebold after his Japanese wife. It is suggested the variety might have been naturally occurring and was discovered while Philipp worked as a physician and scientist for the Dutch East India Company in Japan. The couple had a daughter, Kusumoto Ine, who also became a practicing doctor – thought to be the first Japanese woman to have received medical training at this level.

It’s fascinating to learn then, that one of my favourite sky blue hydrangeas, Generale Vicomtesse de Vibraye, is a hybrid of H.m. ‘Otaksa’ crossed with H.m. ‘Rosea.’ Bred by Emile Mouillere in 1909.

The back story of how hydrangeas were discovered, hybridised, and sent to Britain as early as in the 1700s, adds interest to a plant that I’ve always loved, but rather taken for-granted. Naomi’s easy-to-read writing style carries you along and takes you on an international journey from North America, Japan, Korea, China and through Europe. And along the way you’ll learn that in Victorian times, a bunch of hydrangeas left on your doorstep implied the sender thought you a braggart! A rejected suitor might similarly send hydrangeas as a floral slap in the face and accusations of frigidity. Nothing surely would rescue the breakdown in that relationship!

Naomi captures the very essence of hydrangeas and what makes them special. I shall look at my own plants and appreciate them all the more, knowing where they have come from and what work has gone into growing them for today’s gardeners to enjoy.

NOTES: The publishers have one copy to give away. Please leave a comment below to be included in the prize draw. Names will be randomly selected by Pavilion Books.

Naomi Slade is a writer, broadcaster, author, consultant, speaker and photographer. A biologist by training, a naturalist by inclination, and with a lifelong love of plants, she writes regularly for national newspapers, magazines and other gardening media.

Georgianna Lane is a leading floral, garden and travel photographer whose work has been widely published internationally in books, magazines, calendars and greetings cards.

Hydrangeas features 50 of the most beautiful varieties from the elegant and airy to the bold and brilliant. There’s tips on growing in pots, hydrangeas as houseplants, feeding, propagating, pruning, and dealing with pests and diseases.

These are i-phone photos of pages of the book for the purposes of the review and, as such, do not do justice to the quality of the photography. Copyright of original photos: Georgianna Lane.

https://www.pavilionbooks.com/book/hydrangeas/

Naomi has a web book shop where there’s signed copies of all her books. There’s a 20 percent off offer on Hydrangeas at the moment, and books are available ahead of the 9th July publication date : http://www.naomislade.com/shop

Walk Around My Garden Saturday 30 May 2020 #SixOnSaturday

Rose Constance Spry. Planted when my youngest daughter was born. Roses speak of celebration, and this one really shouts a welcome -to-the-world for Rachel. It flowers for three weeks in early June and fills the garden with a glorious fruit-salad perfume.

Where I am today. Up a ladder. Trying to control the tangle of clematis, jasmine and ivy. This has been allowed to run wild for four years. Little and often might be my approach to tackling the problem. Otherwise, it seems an impossible task. The pergola runs from the back garden to the front drive. A shady walkway in the heat. I’m not going to rush the task. Luckily I’ve got a new Henchman ladder to help with the task. No more wobbling on unstable step ladders.

Alongside the pergola there’s a wedding cake tree, Cornus controversa variegata. Some of the layers have deteriorated. I need to take advice on pruning to try to get it back in shape. Pruning the pergola will give it more light. Behind, climbing to the top of a mature ash tree is Rosa Cerise Bouquet which flowers on and off right through the summer into October.

Another rose looking lovely at the moment is Rhapsody in Blue which has been moved three times. Just goes to show, you can move roses, despite what it says in the books. Highly recommended. Disease resistant and free flowering. Lovely scent and unusual colour.

My grandfather’s rose, Zephirine Drouhin. He gave me this before he died. It’s wonderful to have something from his garden to remember him by. I know it was a favourite of his. I’m sure he knew it would give years of joy. And especially at the moment when everything seems uncertain and Covid has caused so much stress. It is as if he is still helping me, through all the plants coming into flower now. A reminder that life goes on, the seasons keep going. So must we.

My grandfather grew all his fruit and vegetables. People did in those days. Luckily, I watched, followed like a shadow and learned. And he gave me some of his garden tools, so when I’m hoeing the garden, I think of him, working his veg plot and feeding his family. I wonder what he was thinking while he was hoeing his garden. Did he find the peace that I’m finding right now. Was it a comfort to him, as it is to me, through all the trials and tribulations life throws at you.

Foxgloves have seeded in one of the veg plot beds. I’m digging these up and putting them in the wild garden, to make room for winter greens, Brussels sprouts and kale. Flowers will be picked for jam jar posies. I’m putting flowers on the village green again this summer to raise money for Rainbows Hospice for children. There will be an honesty box for donations.

The first sweet peas. Always popular in my jam jar posies. These were sown in root trainers in October. I’ve just sown some more for late flowering through to November. This one is from a packet of seed called Wiltshire Ripple Mixed. All have speckled flowers and a picotee edge. The scent is just wonderful.

As usual, when we’ve walked around the garden, there’s a short ramble along the ridgeway path to my ‘hole in the hedge’ porthole. It’s a viewing point I discovered a few years back. I didn’t make it, nature did, and I watch deer, rabbits, foxes, birds, owls, and hares, quietly and unnoticed.

Today, the May blossom has gone over, but there’s beautiful dogwood flowers framing the view. In an ancient hedge, there’s always something of interest. A tapestry of flowers, rosehips, crab apples, and seeds.

It’s just a humble wild dogwood. But it is as beautiful to me as any ornamental and expensive cornus tree.

And finally, after all that walking, sit a while in my 1930s summerhouse -on-a turntable. In the heat, it’s turned to the shade, facing the wood and pond. A perfect place to contemplate life and all the reasons to be grateful. All the things I value are not the things that can be bought. Hopefully my grandfather would be proud of the person I have become. I’d love to tell him how things have turned out. And that I’ve been happy, thanks to his good advice.

Links : I like to read and join in with the hashtag Six on Saturday why not go over and see what other gardens look like today, all over the world. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/category/six-on-saturday/

Henchman ladders like mine: https://www.henchman.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiMj2BRBFEiwAYfTbCgG1JcfaQwtYjZ_lj7F3XBMAvXjIpri5d5vqMGjRlDY0i6E414m6RBoCRQMQAvD_BwE

Roses : https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwiMj2BRBFEiwAYfTbCtnJOqLRzmev76pY_7u5maadGtrLFXf09qHEGmx4mHw71JE0ccaxkxoClDQQAvD_BwE

Sweet peas :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.XtIkQBB4WfA

ACTIVEARTH soil conditioner – product review

I’m extremely careful with products I bring into my garden. I’m mindful of the creatures that share this patch of earth with me. There’s the obvious: birds, hedgehogs, hares, rabbits, frogs, toads, grass snakes and newts. Then there’s the less noticeable, all the insects and beetles which fascinate me and play their part in the food chain for all the other inhabitants here. So I don’t use chemicals. No fertilisers, weed killers or poisonous pest and disease sprays are used. And yet, the garden thrives and is beautiful and productive. Flowers and food crops do well.

It’s well known I’m an organic gardener, so I’m often asked to try out new products. Recently I had a delivery of Envii Activearth an organic ‘soil fertility activator.’ This contains nutrients and beneficial bacteria which helps to enrich poor soil and encourages worm activity. I care about my earthworms, so the product was ‘sold’ to me when the makers said it would benefit them.

I sprinkled the granules around in my veg plot, especially where I’m growing some beans which need good fertile conditions to do well.

The product smells pleasantly of chocolate. A small sachet goes a long way. I spread it at about 40g per square metre. I saw on the packet the product is also suitable for flower borders and lawns. It contains magnesium, calcium, hydrogen and potassium.

I was pleased to see the packaging can be composted and doesn’t have to go into landfill. Mine went into my green compost bin.

Here’s a peaceful stroll around my garden. Aren’t the birds loud this spring, I can’t ever remember so much birdsong. Or perhaps I have just always been too busy to stop and properly listen. If you love cow parsley you’ll enjoy my woodland walk at the moment. The paths are lined with gorgeous lacy white flowers. I’m planting white foxgloves amongst them just now for next spring’s display.

There’s a patch of wild garlic and three-cornered leek too. I’ve tried making soup with the garlic. Very useful when there’s little in the cupboards at the moment. I’m still not getting out and about, keeping safe and busy at home. I’m resisting attempts to call me back into the world for work. I’m quite happy mooching here in the potting shed. It’s so peaceful here.

This is the view from the potting shed. A favourite layered viburnum. Possibly Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. There were wild violets all around the base. They are still there, hiding under the stinging nettles. I’m working on reducing some of the nettles and adding wild flowers this summer.

We planted these foxgloves, Pam’s Choice, last summer. They brighten up a shady patch round the back of the pond. They stand up to high winds, which is just as well as we’ve had gales gusting 42 knots (says my husband – who is a sailor).

I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s ramble around the garden. What’s looking good in your gardens today, and what plans have you for new plantings this summer?

Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for my sample product, but in common with most other bloggers, I only accept samples for review if there’s no payment given, and I can freely give my honest opinion.

Links : https://www.envii.co.uk/shop/activearth/

Blagdon Pond-In-A-Box. Review and prize draw

The sight of goldfish takes me back to my early 20s when I travelled several times to China. I was lucky to get the chance to visit many gardens, while working for a newspaper. The Leicester Mercury was invited to send a representative to the army base of the Leicestershire Regiment, stationed at Stanley Fort in Hong Kong. Luckily, the editor chose me. And while there, I flew back and forth all over China, including to Shanghai and Guilin to view the gardens. It was the experience of a lifetime, something I’ll never forget. Some of the gardens had huge ceramic bowls of water, filled with goldfish. I’ve always wanted a goldfish pool, to remind me of those fabulous care-free days of travel. Here at bramble garden, we have a large horseshoe pond with a stone and gravel beach. But it is mainly for wildlife and it’s away from the main house, in the paddock. I thought it would be lovely to have a pond right by the back door, under the kitchen window.

I’d heard of the pond-in-a-box concept, and recently, Blagdon asked if I would like to try one of their ‘Affinity’ ponds. This has been a wonderful project to work on during the covid lockdown. It’s given us something lovely to work on together. And the calming sound of water is very welcome. We haven’t finished our project. There’s no fish or pond plants available at the moment. But I thought I would share this with you now, especially as Blagdon have offered a smaller ‘ Affinity corner pond’ as a prize.

So here’s what arrives in the post:

It’s hard to believe that everything for the pond arrives in one box! The word ‘Tardis’ springs to mind.

There does seem to be an overwhelming number of parts to start with. But if you can put together a piece of furniture from IKEA, you can manage to make a pond. The instructions are clear, and after the initial panic, sorting all the parts into little piles and working methodically through the assembly leaflet, it’s possible to make the pond in just a few hours. We didn’t have any difficulty once we settled down to follow the step-by-step guide.

We first created a framework. We did this in the lounge in front of the fire. It might be much easier to work out on the patio. And a lot less overheated! Luckily we were able to turn it sideways and get it out of the doorway, which we hadn’t thought about when we started!

The side panels slide into the frame. I’d say this is easier with two pairs of hands. But you would manage, if you were on your own. A feature of the pond is the ‘porthole’ insets. Children will love being able to view the fish through the sides.

Here it is taking shape.

When it is all put together, there’s a liner that fits inside. Then it is just a case of carefully dropping in the pond pump. There’s lots of fountain and /or waterfall options. We started off with a sort of mushroom and played around with it until I found the gentle burble effect I was after.

There’s an LED spotlight that comes on automatically at dusk. And the Blagdon Inpond filters the water and keeps it clean. You can find out more about it on the website.

Here’s what it looks like at night. I must admit, sitting next to it at dusk, watching the fountain and hearing the splash of water is very soothing, especially in these troubled, stressful times.

Like any new feature, it can stand out and look quite stark at first. But I ‘dressed’ the sides of the pond with acers, ferns, hostas, grasses and rosemary plants. It blended in with the patio furniture then, and didn’t look so harsh. This is no criticism of the product, except to say that it is very new and fresh, and therefore stands out against ‘old’ paving and walls. Foliage definitely softens the hard edges. Pond plants would also help. There are planting pockets included in the package.

Luckily, I’ve got a few large potted grasses, which match the woven panels perfectly. I must admit, we forgot to remove the protective film from the portholes. The view is much clearer now!

I’m delighted with my pond-in-a-box. It’s been a fun project to focus on during a difficult time, and I’ve got all the pleasure of choosing fish and new pond plants to come. And finally I’ll have something that reminds me of those interesting times trekking all around China!

For the chance to win an ‘Affinity View’ corner pond, similar to mine, but with three woven front panels with viewing port holes, please leave a comment in the box below, right at the bottom of the page. A winner will be randomly selected by Blagdon. No purchase is necessary, and the usual rules apply. There’s no cash alternative and Blagdon’s decision is final.

Disclosure: I have not paid for my pond, or been paid to write about it. Views are my own and I’m free to comment as I wish.

Update: Two pond skaters, a water beetle and a water boatman have moved in! Within one day of setting it up. And a blackbird has decided it is a perfect place for a dip, balanced in the planting baskets at the side.

Links. Read all about Blagdon here: https://www.blagdonwatergardening.co.uk/Products/Ponds/Affinity-Pools-Complete-Kits

Available from all good aquatic retailers and also online.

Hozelock Pure Bokashi Composter on Trial- and one to give away- Saturday 21 March 2020

During these stressful and uncertain times, I swing between trying to keep things normal, and sitting pondering the dire straits we are in.

I’ve asked all my contacts in the gardening world to supply prizes for readers of this blog. I am determined to keep our spirits up! I’m very grateful everyone has so far responded with overwhelming generosity, and there will be a steady stream of little gifts to give away.

Today’s prize is a Hozelock bokashi home composter. I’ve never tried one of these before, but it seems a great idea. We will perhaps all be trying to grow at least some food this spring and summer. The best way to feed our crops is with home-made compost. Not everyone has space for a large compost bin. This one can sit in the kitchen, porch, garage or garden shed.

Compost is made by adding bran to food waste and peelings every day. The lid is tight fitting and there’s no smells from the composter.

The lid reminds me of those Tupperware containers you used to be able to buy. It’s tight- fitting, but easy to get on and off.

Inside the composter there’s some bran, a scoop and and container to catch the liquid feed that comes from the tap.

There’s a leaflet giving comprehensive instructions. The bottom of the bucket has a colander type filter to stop waste dropping down into the liquid feed collection area.

There’s a reservoir at the base of the bin to collect the liquid.

There’s a tap at the base of the composter. Liquid feed is rich in nutrients. It can be diluted down 1 to 10 with water and used to feed tomatoes, salads and vegetables. And it’s free. That’s the beauty of composting, you are using your waste peelings and food and turning it into something useful for the garden.

All is explained in the leaflet contained in the box. Resulting compost is apparently called ‘digestate.’ How it is made is magical indeed, and I am constantly amazed by nature. The resulting compost is very high value and good for the garden.

I would use the liquid feed for my orange trees, which are starting to produce this summer’s crop in the greenhouse. Just in time for orange cakes and marmalade.

Please leave a comment below if you would like to be entered in the prize draw for a bokashi composter. Hozelock will choose a winner, randomly selected. Usual rules apply, there’s no cash alternative. Prizes may vary from the ones shown. Sorry it’s for UK entries only due to postage costs. Good luck everyone.

I realise composting might not be uppermost in everyone’s minds just now, but we have to keep going. Gardening is certainly keeping me sane at the moment when there seems to be everything to worry about. Please let me know what you are growing, and what methods you are using to keep motivated!

Lots of love, karen x

Wildlife Watching – camera on trial and prize draw for readers

One of the joys of gardening is sharing my plot with wildlife. When I see hedgehogs, it makes my day. When the same hedgehogs emerge from the shrubbery with a family of babies, well, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve given them a home, and it’s simply wonderful to see them thriving.

Today I received a wildlife observation camera to try out on the plot. It took me 20 minutes to read the instructions and set it up, and it has been a constant source of joy all afternoon- and into the evening. There’s an infra red camera to watch after dark.

I set up the camera by the horseshoe pond and placed a suet block in front. It took birds a few hours to find the food, and they were suspicious at first. Then a robin and bluetit tucked in to the treat. The picture is really clear, and you can switch on the sound as well. It’s lovely to hear birdsong while you are working indoors.

The wildlife observation camera comes from Wildlife World. Everything is packed in eco friendly cardboard. The little postcard with a ‘thank you for your order’ message is a nice touch. We enjoyed the chocolates while fathoming out the instructions.

This is what’s in the box. There’s the wire-free outdoor camera, a box with a mounting bracket, a user guide, some screws, batteries, and a USB cable for charging.

The only assembly I needed to do was screwing the mounting bracket to the bottom of the camera. The batteries were already installed. I expect the camera could be attached to a house wall to watch a bird table, or near a nest box to watch birds and hatchlings. I want to watch a particular blackbird that comes to the pond in late afternoon every day. It spends a good ten minutes splashing around in the shallows. And I’m hoping to catch sight of the hedgehogs as I know they also visit the pond at night.

Here’s what the picture looks like at dusk. If we are very lucky, we might even see the barn owl flying along the boundary. He visits us every evening, silently gliding along the hedgerow like a ghost.

These are screen shots from my i-pad. I haven’t worked out how to share videos from the camera yet, but it’s early days and I’ll have to read through the instructions again.

At about 9pm, great excitement! A grass snake slithered over the stones and into the water. I hadn’t realised they were out and about just yet. But we’ve had two days with sunshine and warm weather. All evening I was glued to the screen watching a tiny mouse dart back and forth hoovering up bird feed crumbs. I took the suet block in for the night in case it attracted rats. And also I didn’t want the hedgehogs to eat it. They have their own special meaty-type food.

Here’s a sample of the instructions for setting it up. I had to go on to the App Store, find ‘ToSee’ and download the free app. It took about ten minutes to sort that out. I was quite pleased with myself, as I’m hopeless with any kind of technology. It was fairly straightforward and the camera connected with the app first time. I then carried the camera outdoors and set it down by the pond. Tomorrow I might move it to another location. When you close down the i-pad or phone, the camera sends a signal if it detects any animal movements. It’s quite a distraction from work!

Overall, I’m delighted with the ease of setting up, the quality of the picture and the welcome little extras such as sound and night time viewing. I have no hesitation recommending the Wildlife World observation camera. It is powered by rechargeable battery and has motion detection by PIR sensor.

I’m working from home now for the foreseeable future. The wildlife camera is part of my ‘coping with panic’ strategy. Corona virus is very much uppermost in my mind, as it is for all of you, I’ve no doubt. But I’ve decided to try to think of something each day that will bring me joy and ease my worries. Concentrating on gardening and nature soothes and heals. I’ve found this to be true twice before when I’ve been seriously ill. And now, like many, I must find coping strategies again, and ways to stay positive when there just seems to be bad news every day.

Please leave a comment below to be included in the prize draw for a wildlife observation camera. Names will be randomly selected by the company. Sorry it’s UK entries only. There’s no cash alternative. Camera types may vary. Wildlife World company decisions are final. Usual rules apply. Please also comment if you don’t want to be entered in the draw and let me know.

Keep safe, and I hope you can all get out and enjoy your gardens too. xx

Links: Wildlife World https://www.wildlifeworld.co.uk/product/wirelesswildlifeobservationcamera/

Easton Walled Gardens -Open for Snowdrops Today- Sunday 23 February 2020

Last chance today to see the snowdrops at Easton Walled Gardens. Opens 11am -4pm. I visited last week for a preview and if you listen in to BBC Radio Leicester you might have heard me talking about the history of the gardens.

Here’s a slide show of my photos from the event.

There’s a link to the website for more information: https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/snowdrops

Daffodils are just starting to flower at the same time as snowdrops. It’s been very mild and wet they year.

Yellow cornus mas (cornelian cherry) and white snowdrops. A perfect combination.

The summerhouse and spring flowers. You can hire the venue for an afternoon. Lovely spot for tea and cakes.

A favourite view of the walled garden. Sweet peas will be grown along the sunny walls this summer.

Looking across the terraces for a view of the steps and topiary yew.

Apple tree pruning in progress. I love the shaped apple trees and heritage varieties at Easton. I watched carefully how the pruning is managed. Might have a go at home. Lots of inspiration in this garden.

The finished topiary apple tree. Trained around a circle. Looks architectural and productive. Very pretty with apple blossom and bright red fruit to follow.

Spring bulbs in the woodland near to the gatehouse. The hellebores are looking fabulous at the moment.

I particularly liked this pretty hellebore with a ruffled centre.

Stone troughs look beautiful planted with spring bulbs. I might copy this idea. I have a small stone sink covered in moss with nothing growing in it at the moment. Was just waiting to decide what to do with it.

I can never go home without buying a pot or two of bulbs. The cyclamen coum are looking very cheerful. I fell in love with the dwarf iris. There’s a pale blue one called Painted Lady. I couldn’t resist.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of photos. Even if you can’t get there today, bookmark the gardens for a visit in spring, and make a note of the dates for the sweet pea festival, which is always a lovely day out.

I wrote about Easton Walled Gardens here : https://bramblegarden.com/2017/02/13/happy-valentines-day-with-a-tour-of-easton-walled-gardens/

And here : https://bramblegarden.com/2016/05/20/a-visit-to-easton-walled-gardens/

As you can see, it’s a favourite of mine. Enjoy!

Diary of a Modern Country Gardener

Secrets for Every Season Straight From the Potting Shed

By Tamsin Westhorpe

Orphans Publishing ISBN 9781903360422

Hardback. 248 pages. £20

Illustrations by Hannah Madden

Book review and prize draw. Please leave a comment to be included in the draw.

We are all standing at our house windows gazing on waterlogged, storm lashed gardens, aching to be outside gardening. It’s doesn’t matter what kind of gardening, anything, as long as we can run some compost through our fingers and see green shoots emerging. It’s been a long wet winter.

Luckily Tamsin Westhorpe has a beautiful new book which transports us immediately to gardening heaven- Stockton Bury in Herefordshire. It is a very welcome and timely escape.

Tamsin is the 5th generation to garden at her family’s farm. The four acre garden within the farm has fruit and vegetable plots, a stream and pond, ‘rooms’ with different planting themes and a dovecote dating back to the time of Henry 1. The land has been worked by the family for more than 100 years, and the much-acclaimed garden is open to the public.

In her new book, Diary of a Modern Country Gardener, Tamsin lets us into her world as we see her facing all kinds of gardening challenges, accompanied by lots of laughter.

There’s expert advice on growing cut flowers, staging summer garden parties, selecting and planting trees, planting bulbs, storing produce, keeping chickens, coppicing hazel and more. I particularly like the ‘tool kit’ panels detailing equipment and materials needed for the list of jobs suggested each month. A useful reminder before getting going on tasks. There’s nothing worse than starting something, and then having to stop to search for forgotten items to complete the project.

I also like the list of ‘must-have’ plants for each month. January suggests Cornus mas, crocus tommasinianus, cyclamen coum, eranthis hyemalis, hamamelis, hellebores, iris reticulata, mahonia, snowdrops, viburnum Dawn and narcissus Bowles Early Sulphur. You can almost smell these spring delights. There’s something cheerful on every page.

As we follow her daily life there’s lots of hints and tips on what to do and when. But this is much more than a ‘how to’ book. It’s a book about solving problems, dealing with gardening conundrums, interacting with people, and simply enjoying every single moment.

I love books where you can really hear the author’s voice. Tamsin’s voice is loud and clear and full of humour. Her stories are compelling. She makes you want to jump in a car and drive over to see what she’s getting up to today. You’d have a real good natter, and come away smiling and fired up with ideas to get going on your own plot. She’s that kind of person who makes anything feel possible.

Her diary does exactly what it says on the tin; it’s a daily insight into the workings of a country garden. There are plenty of ‘secrets’ to be told. I won’t spoil them by retelling them here. But there’s a very interesting story about what she wears in the garden! Apparently her mother set the trend. You’ll have to read the book to find out more. It’s perfect escapism. And the one place you’ll all want to be is in Tamsin’s garden.

The book is beautifully produced and bound by well-respected Orphans Publishing, accompanied by truly gorgeous illustrations by artist Hannah Madden. A thing of beauty. Highly recommended. You’ll soon forget all about the weather! I promise.

Tamsin going through the proofs at Herefordshire Orphans Publishing.

Tamsin and Hannah Madden celebrating their first copy of the book.

Some pages from the book, taken with my i-phone camera. The quality of the photography is much better than I’ve managed to capture here.

About the author, taken with my i-phone camera.

Excerpts from the book for March

Excerpts for June

August

Tamsin Westhorpe’s diary was my book of the week on BBC Local Radio Gardening. It would make an excellent BBC Radio 4 read-aloud Book of the Week. A best seller, I think.

Thank you to Orphans Publishing for offering a free copy for our prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be entered in the draw. Please also comment if you do not wish to be entered in the competition, and let me know. Some of you may have already ordered a copy. The publishers will randomly select a winner. No cash prize alternative and usual rules apply.

Links: Tamsin Westhorpe https://www.tamsinwesthorpe.co.uk/

Orphans Publishing https://www.orphanspublishing.co.uk/

Stockton Bury http://www.stocktonbury.co.uk/

Garden Media Guild https://www.gardenmediaguild.co.uk/

Karen gimson on twitter @kgimson

On instagram karengimson1 and Pinterest.

Thank you for reading. I am very grateful for your 150,000 page views, all kind follows and shares. Please share this on any social media platform. It all helps me immensely.

In a Vase on Monday – Jan 6 2020

I’m back to work today, so I’m posting a review of my past #IAVOM projects, one for each month of the year.

Good luck to everyone who’s back to work, school or college today. The days are getting lighter, ever so slightly, so we’ll be able to spend our evenings in the garden again soon.

Meanwhile, enjoy my ‘slide show’ of photos from my garden, though the year.

JANUARY

Paperwhite narcissi, black hellebores, pittosporum and eucalyptus foliage. Decorating a willow wreath with flowers in a jam jar hidden inside a moss kokadama ball.

FEBRUARY

Snowdrops, crocus, cyclamen coum, puschkinia.

MARCH

Tulip Exotic Emperor, Narcissi Geranium, hyacinth, orange wallflower, and Westonbirt dogwood stems.

APRIL

Hyacinth Woodstock, pink hellebore, pink comfrey, daphne and forget-me-nots.

MAY

Forget me nots and Jack by the Hedge( Alliaria petiolata)

JUNE

Roses, Gertrude Jekyll and Constance Spry with a lace frill edge of wild elder flower.

JULY

White daisies and larkspur, Blue Boy cornflower, with a frill of Ammi majus.

AUGUST

Sweet peas, carnations and verbena bonariensis.

SEPTEMBER

Blue shades gladioli, cosmos and dahlia Nuit deEte.

October (early)

Sunflowers and calendula Snow Princess.

October (late)

All of the garden, fuchsia, salvia,rudbeckia, aster, cornflower, white anemone, sedum, argyranthemum.

NOVEMBER

Dahlia David Howard and blue borage.

DECEMBER

Sedum wreath on a moss-filled wire heart. No flower foam has been used again this year. Flowers are pressed into moss or plunged into tiny test tubes hidden amongst the foliage.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

I am on twitter @kgimson

On instagram at karengimson1

On BBC Radio Leicester on Sundays and Wednesdays

At Garden News Magazine every month.

Links: In a Vase on Monday :https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/12/30/in-a-vase-on-monday-hazel-and-hazel/. Thanks to Cathy for hosting #IAVOM

Bulbs and corms from Gee Tee Bulbs : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/

Seeds from Mr Fothergills : https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/

Sweet pea seeds: https://www.kingsseeds.com/Products/Flowers-N-Z/Sweet-Pea

Heritage sweet peas and garden to visit : https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/gardens/sweet-peas

Flower farmer courses and willow wreath-making at Common Farm Flowers: https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/workshops.html

Hozelock Tuffhoze – on Test at Bramble Garden

Prize Draw for readers.

*update: Mary Thomas has won the prize draw. Thank you everyone for leaving a comment.

Having been sent a new Hozelock hosepipe to try out, I discovered there’s a limit to my artistic talents. I just couldn’t think of any fancy ways to photograph said hosepipe! So here it is, piled on my garden bench. Even the cat is looking quizzically at me.

Anyway, my trial went much better than my picture-taking. I can confirm that the new Tuffhoze is a wonder. It’s lightweight and doesn’t twist, kink or trip you up.

As you can see, my old hosepipe has a leak, which means you get sprayed up the back every time you switch it on. It also almost causes a hernia when you need to manoeuvre it. It’s heavy and cumbersome, and wastes precious water.

Whereas the Tuffhoze is light enough to be carried on one arm. And here I am – arm outstretched, holding the hosepipe. I don’t think they will give me a job in their promotional department, but I’m trying very hard to make a hosepipe exciting!

As you can see from the box, the new hosepipe is a hybrid combining the best of two types of hose technologies; traditional pvc and textile. With a good 30 year guarantee, it should be hard wearing and long lasting.

I was delighted to be asked to try out the new hose and give it 10 out of 10 for being easy to use and light weight. I am always looking for ways to make gardening easier, and this addition to the garden will be a boon next summer.

I used the hosepipe to give my plant pots a clean, as there’s not much watering needed at this time of the year. All my spare plant pots are going to Dobbies garden centres where a new recycling scheme has just been launched. All plastic pots of any size and colour, and also trays are being accepted – but not polystyrene containers. Dobbies say the plant pots will be turned into pellets which will then be recycled into new plastic items. They say the pots will not end up in landfill. There are 34 garden centres in the UK and all are taking part in the recycling scheme. They just ask that the pots have been given a quick wash first, as too much soil will hamper the process.

So to sum up, the main plus points for Tuffhoze, for us gardeners, are:

* Easy to move about and lightweight

* Doesn’t kink

*UV resistant and hardwearing

* Good quality, leak free fittings

*Easy to clean

*Coils up neatly, making it easy to store. Can be wound on to a cart, but mine went back in the box.

*Comes with a jet nozzle with variable sprays.

*Has a tap converter, with two types of thread.

Fresh water is a luxury, and so, all the water I used to clean the plant pots was saved and will be used to water the poly tunnel over the winter. I didn’t need much as the powerful sprayer washed the pots really well.

Please leave a comment below if you would like to have your name put into a prize draw. The prize draw ends on Sunday 8th December.

Hozelock are running the competition and a name will be randomly selected. All the usual rules apply, there’s no cash alternative and Hozelock’s decision is final. I’m not sure what size hose they will be sending out, to be honest. It will either be 15m or 25m. Probably after Christmas now. Good luck!

Please help me spread the word about bramblegarden.com by sharing this post with a friend, a neighbour or via any social media platform you like. Thank you.

Apple and Almond Slice- Family Favourite Recipes

At this time of year, my kitchen work surfaces are covered with piles of apples. Little pyramids of golden cooking apples, tiny rosy red eating apples, giant Bramleys. My family complain. There’s nowhere for anyone to put anything down. I usually store them wrapped in newspaper in the potting shed, but I’m still trying to evict the mice, making many trips back and forth to the woods with my tunnel-like humane traps baited with peanut butter. I can’t kill them. They will take their chances in the leaf litter under the trees. I’m trying to ignore the tawny owl fledglings in the branches above, still being fed by harassed parents. I feel slightly guilty. But watching the mice run when I let them out, I think they stand a fair chance of surviving.

Meanwhile, I’m steadily working my way through the apples. My mother always says, if you’ve got an apple, you’ve got a pudding. It can be an apple pie, a crumble, a cake, or if you are pressed for time, just apple purée with lashings of creamy custard, or Devon clotted cream. A special treat.

Today’s recipe is another family favourite, an apple tray bake which is quick and easy to make and tastes of autumn. As usually, I’m recording it here for my children, in case they can’t find the scraps of paper these recipes are written on. It’s so lovely to see my grandmother’s best copper plate hand writing, as she lovingly wrote these recipes for me. Food, and cooking, bring back such special memories, don’t they.

 

APPLE AND ALMOND SLICE:

INGREDIENTS – FOR THE TOPPING

 

30g butter or vegan margarine

30g SR flour

25g golden caster sugar

2 tbsp. Jumbo oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

25g flaked almonds

METHOD

Mix the butter, flour and sugar together. Fold in the cinnamon, oats and flaked almonds to make a crumble topping. Place in the fridge while you make the base.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BASE

150g SR flour

200g golden caster sugar

200g butter or margarine

3 eggs ( or use 6 tbsp. soya oat drink if vegan)

100g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 large apples slices and tossed in lemon juice

100g any other fruit you have; blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums,

METHOD

Mix the flour, baking power , sugar and butter together. Whisk. Fold in the ground almonds and cinnamon. Add the beaten eggs.

Put half the mixture in the base of the tin. Put apples on top. Add the rest of the base moisture. Press the blackberries or other fruit on the top.

Cover with the crumble topping mixture.

Cook for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer come out clean.

Gas mark 4, 180C oven, or 160C fan oven.

You’ll need a 20cm tray bake tin, at least 4cm deep, lined with baking parchment.

Put baking paper on top if it is browning too quickly. Leave to cool and slice into fingers.

Can be frozen for 3 months.

Enjoy!

 

You might also like : Review of Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade here :

https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/27/an-orchard-odyssey-book-review-and-prize-draw/

 

Also The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

I’ll leave you with a photo of my 1930s summerhouse, looking autumnal today. There’s heaps of blankets to keep us warm when the temperatures start to dip. It’s quite cosy in here though.

The Flower Market Year – Book Review and Prize Draw

12 MONTHS AT NEW COVENT GARDEN FLOWER MARKET

By SIMON LYCETT

Published by Simon J Lycett Ltd

Hardback 192 pages, £21 approx

ISBN 978-1-9160912-0-7

Book photography by Michelle Garrett

Blog photos: bramblegarden

Florist Simon Lycett thinks nothing of working with 20,000 stems of roses for a wedding. I am trying to picture the scene, and finding it hard to imagine 20,000 flowers. Then Simon tells me this isn’t a one off. It’s something he gets to do on a very regular basis. I’m lucky enough to have a window on his extraordinary life, for just one day. I am visiting the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and Simon is my guide.