In a Vase on Monday – revisiting RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Well, we should all be at the Chelsea Flower Show today. But it’s been cancelled, like most spring and summer events. So instead I’m sharing photos from last year. Plants and flower arrangements I made a note of, for my own garden. Enjoy this dip into my photo album.

Kelways Peonies. I love Lemon Chiffon, (cream) Seashell, (pink) Avalanche, (white) Nymph, (pink).

They don’t last long, but such a glorious sight in mid May. I wouldn’t be without peonies.

Lupins from West Country Lupins. Just perfection. I bought this one

And this one. Lupin Masterpiece. Such a glorious plum colour.

David Austin Roses. This one is new variety, Tranquility. Very calming colour.

And new rose Desdemona. Beautiful at all stages from tight bud to wide open. Gorgeous scent. Stands up to the weather really well. Flowers shrug off rain and don’t ‘ball.’ Recommended.

Pinks. This is the new Tequila Sunrise. Lovely changes of colour as the flower ages. Amazing scent.

It’s wonderful to have the pinks side by side so you can compare them. The scent is just amazing in the heat, and contained by the roof of the marquee. A lingering memory of Chelsea.

Some of the amazing flower arrangements at the show. It really is a florists’ paradise.

These were still being created on press day. I stood for a long time watching the process.

This tower of flowers was spectacular.

Close -up detail of the flower-filled tower.

This explosion of foxgloves and cow parsley is my favourite.

Details for this lovely arrangement.

I also studied this arrangement created using test tubes. Really simple and lovely. Simple is what I always go for. As you know.

So I came home and made this from flowers in my garden. Inspired by all the lovely blooms I’d seen at Chelsea. There’s wild daisies, blue corn flowers and cow parsley as a background with green ivy covering the mossy wreath.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this re-visit of last year’s Chelsea Flower Show. I’m going to be watching all the on-line and televised content. This year, it is all about finding ways around problems and learning how to enjoy the things we love. Gardening – growing food and flowers- has been a saving for me. It’s kept me occupied and stopped my thoughts running away. It’s kept be grounded and focussed on keeping calm and helping others. Gardening is also a shared joy. Although we can’t see our friends and family, we can still talk about our gardens and share photos. It keeps us connected, and reminds us we are not alone.

If you listen in to BBC Radio Leicester, send your photos to mid-morning host Ben Jackson. Sharing our gardens is a lovely thing to do. And I’ll be talking about what I’m growing on Wednesdays and Thursdays, alternating with my gardening team member Josie Hutchinson. And also now and again on BBC Radio London.

Links: RHS Virtual Chelsea Show https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show

Kelways Nursery : https://www.kelways.co.uk/category/peonies/1/

West Country lupins : https://www.westcountrylupins.co.uk/index.html

David Austin Roses :https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/delivery

Join in with the In a Vase on Monday meme and see what eveyone is growing and putting into vases this week, all over the world. : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/05/18/in-a-vase-on-monday-the-jewels-and-the-crown/

Six on Saturday – A walk around my garden 16 May 2020

A seedling sorbus mountain ash. Sometimes nature delivers such beautiful surprises. We didn’t plant this tree, it arrived all by itself. We allow plants to grow and any that fit in with our wildlife-centred scheme of things are allowed to stay. This seedling produces beautiful creamy white flowers. Much loved by bees. Then in the autumn, rich orange berries. Much loved by blackbirds. My youngest daughter Rachel has just bought her first house. What a time to be negotiating a house purchase, in the middle of a pandemic. It’s been extremely stressful. But holding on to our hats and keeping calm, between us we have steered our daughter through choppy waters. And she and her boyfriend Sam have a (rather scruffy) old house with a very large garden. So today I’m digging up a few sorbus seedlings and potting them up for her new plot. I’ll also search out for some wild cherry, maple and oak saplings. The same size as those we planted when we moved here 30 years ago, our heads full of dreams to create a lovely home and have children. Now we are watching the youngsters cross the threshold of their first home, and it brings back all our memories. History repeating itself. We get to re-live our joy, as we watch them start their lives together.

As you can see, our little saplings have grow tall. The mini-wood is carpeted in bluebells and patches of wild garlic and three cornered leak.

Here’s the view from the pond. The turntable summerhouse is turned to the garden today to catch the morning sun.

The leaf-mould paths are lined with white lacy cow parsley. A favourite time of the year.

Wild flowers sweep along the edges of the paths. These are starry stitchwort, or stellaria.

Our little plot provides all the firewood we need for our log burner. A habitat for hedgehogs and beetles, insects and grass snakes too.

By the pond there’s a huge mature viburnum. I believe it is Viburnum plicatum Mariesii. It looks beautiful all year round. In May, it’s covered in flat creamy white flowers, and in winter the snow and ice settles in layers on the branches.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s walk around my garden. I’ve made a sunny place to sit and read in the front garden. Just right for mulling over the past, and looking forward to the future. I’m sure you’ll all raise a glass and join us in wishing Rachel and Sam many congratulations. Good luck with everything, and always be happy. Life’s not always a bed of roses, but if you stick together, help one another and always be kind, you’ll have a wonderful life together.

Karen xx

Links SOS : A favourite blog. Why not go over and see what photos other gardeners are sharing from their plots today, all over the world. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/05/16/six-on-saturday-16-05-2020/

Please leave a comment at the end of the blog, and feel free to share this blog on any social media platform . Thanks for reading.


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.

In a Vase On Monday – 27 April 2020

I’m sure spring flowers are more beautiful than they’ve ever been. We’ve had no rain for six weeks. It’s a problem in the veg garden where I’m trying to get broad beans and potatoes to grow. But for spring flowers, tulips and daffodils, it means they are looking pristine. And blossom has lasted longer than usual. Here’s a selection of flowers for my vase this week. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking cheerful in your garden just now.

Sometimes luck has a lot to do with gardening. I spend time trying to work out clever combinations of colours. Then nature goes and does it better. Here is tulip Blushing Apeldoorn with the softest primrose yellow flowers. Overlapping petals are edged with a picotee orange. It’s a perfect match for narcissi Pheasant’s Eye. The tiny cup in the centre of the flower is rimmed with the exact same bright orange. It’s a picture, don’t you agree? And it has happened just by chance. I’ve taken note, and next year there will be several rows of these beauties lining my cut flower beds.

I love the way the light shines through the petals. It reminds me of a stained glass window in a church.

I’m also using an old favourite, Narcissi Geranium. The tangerine orange centre remind me of egg yolk, enhanced by pure white petals. The scent is a dream. Utterly gorgeous. I’d never be without this pretty, old- fashioned daffodil.

Forget-me-nots are such a good filler for any posy. The bright blue flowers seem to match the intensity of the sky this spring. And the yellow button ‘eye’ matches the daffodils.

Have you noticed how blue the sky is this spring? Climate scientists at Reading University say the reduction in traffic on roads has led to a fall in pollution, which is affecting the appearance of the sky. There’s fewer planes too. Skies look a richer brighter blue, much like you’d see over a tropical island. I’m enjoying the combination of blossom, spring bulbs and azure sky.

Thank you for reading. Get in touch by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page. And feel free to share these photos on any social media platform, kindly linking back to bramblegarden.com at the same time. You might ask, what’s the point of flowers at the moment with a covid pandemic going on. I’m just trying to focus on something positive and remind myself that nature often shows us the way to cope with all kinds of crisis in our lives. And cope we must, for some time to come, until the risks deminish enough for us to safely emerge and socialise again. When that will be, none of us can predict. Until then, I shall garden, plant my veg, pick my flowers and try to keep as upbeat as I can. You are very welcome to join me, virtually at least, at anytime you like.

Links : In A Vase on Monday. Cathy, thanks for hosting my favourite meme.

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

Six on Saturday- A walk around my garden 25 April 2020

Bluebells. These came from my grandfather Ted Foulds’ garden originally. A lovely reminder of him. There was only a small patch to start with. Now they run from the front to the back garden. It’s surprising how fast they spread, without any help from me. There’s some wild garlic in amongst them too, which I’m trying to control a little this year.

Trees are leafing up so quickly in the sunshine and heat this year. The bluebells will have to be quick to flower and set seed before they are shaded out. This is the path past the summerhouse to the pond.

The view from the summerhouse. It looks like a jungle already. There’s oak, beech, hornbeams, cherry, willow and ash in the mini-wood. All the trees came as saplings from the borough council when we moved here 30 years ago. There was a scheme to plant trees on farmland. I think it was linked to the woodland trust. We applied, and they delivered 260 saplings for us to plant. The whole family set to and helped us plant them in a day or so.

All along the woodland paths there’s a lovely white starry flower, I think it’s called stitchwort. I didn’t plant it, but it’s very welcome here.

It seems to be all green and white shades today. May blossom or hawthorn is suddenly in flower.

Such a beautiful sight at dawn. These flowers were just in bud yesterday. The hedgerow is so beautiful just now with sections of crab apple, maple, hazel and viburnum all in a hurry to wake from their winter sleep. The scent from the crab apple blossom is something I’ve never noticed before. I think the heat is enhancing the scent.

Oops, that eight photos. I’m sure no one’s counting…..

Enjoy your weekend. Here’s a view through my ‘gap in the hedge.’ I didn’t make this portal, nature did. I love to peer through and watch the wildlife. There’s always something happening in the back fields. Lovely to see some green shoots in the fields too. Fields have been bleak and bare all winter, after the flooding.

Links: Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/category/six-on-saturday/

Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. The comments box is below all the hashtags and social media sharing buttons. Please feel free to share too. Thank you.

BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour 22 April 2020

If you were listening in to BBC Radio Leicester for Gardens Hour today, I’ve written some notes to accompany the programme.

I’m working from home at the moment. The oak tree above has just burst into leaf. I can see the tree from the top of the paddock. The swallows returned here last Wednesday, and we’ve seen pipistrelle bats over the garden.

Blossom has been fabulous this year, with no rain to spoil the flowers. I’m sitting under this Prunus Kanzan cherry tree today to answer questions and talk about my gardening tasks.

We had a question about an apple tree failing to establish.

If your tree is failing to thrive, it usually indicates a problem with the growing conditions. Poor growing conditions will stunt any tree or shrub.

Water any newly -planted trees well. Soil may be dry around the roots even when the surface appears moist. Check with a trowel to see how far the water is penetrating the ground.

Weeds and grass compete with trees for moisture. Keep a weed and lawn -free zone at least 1m in diameter around the plant.

Mulch locks in the moisture and helps feed the tree. Apply a mulch a good couple of inches deep around the tree, avoiding the trunk. (mulch piled up against the trunk can cause ‘drowning,’ so take care it doesn’t get pushed up against the tree).

You can use your own home-made compost or composted bark for the mulch. Do not apply to dry ground, as it can also lock -in drought.

You can place a drainage pipe in the ground alongside the tree at planting time, which helps water reach the roots. However, take care, as too much water can cause water logging, which is also detrimental.

Feed with a potash fertiliser, which promotes fruit and flowers.

Salix Flamingo – wiki commons photo.

We had a question about a Salix Flamingo willow tree failing to thrive. The tree has come into leaf and the leaves have shrivelled.

I’ve found this tree difficult to grow. It’s grown for its new, shrimp pink leaves which emerge in April. These leaves are delicate and easily damaged by cold winds and frost. Too much direct sunshine on emerging leaves can also cause them to shrivel. We have had a combination of high daytime temperatures, cold east winds, and plummeting night time temperatures. In a sheltered garden you would have no problems, but in a slightly more exposed spot, the tree struggles. Also, being from the willow family it requires plenty of moisture. We haven’t had any rain for several weeks and the ground is parched- despite all the record-breaking amounts of rain we’ve had over autumn and winter.

Usually, the tree recovers and produces a new set of leaves to replace the ones that have shrivelled. Watering and throwing some fleece over at night usually nurses it along until we get more even growing conditions in early summer. I’ve known them to suffer from a type of rust, and also canker. But apart from that, they are very pretty trees. They either like you, or they don’t though!

We had a question about a montana clematis failing to flower. This is my clematis Montana Wilsonii. The one the caller had was a pink variety, planted last year and growing in a pot next to an archway. The clematis on the other side of the arch was doing well.

Clematis montana flowers on the previous season’s wood. The caller hadn’t pruned it, but sometimes a montana clematis will take 2-3 years to settle into flowering as its first thought is to grow to the top of the archway.

Clematis don’t do as well in pots, unless they are a really good size and you can keep up with the watering requirements. So it would be best to plant the clematis in the ground and keep it well fed and watered. Potash feed, again, for flowers. And prune immediately after flowering, although I hardly prune my montana clematis to be honest. It’s pretty low maintenance, once established.

And finally, we had a caller wanting to buy a Venus fly trap. They are usually sold at local garden centres, which of course, are not open at the moment. However several are making deliveries, so it’s worth ringing round to source supplies of plants. I’ve found this one on line from QVC. I’ve bought various plug plants, bedding and bird food from QVC and found the service to be quick and reliable. However, I’ve never bought any fly trap plants from them, so can’t say more than I have managed to find a supplier.

I hope you’ve found these notes useful. Please listen in on Wednesdays at 12.30 with Ben Jackson and on Sundays (usually) with Dave Andrews at 1pm on your smart speaker, DAB 104.9FM or on BBC Sounds.

It’s great to be involved with local radio gardening and we try to offer something for experienced gardeners wanting to try new varieties and grow for shows, and also for those who have never grown anything before. All questions welcome. We will try our best to help. I am part of an experienced team.

Comments box is right at the bottom of the page, below hashtags, social media sharing and links.

BBC Sounds to listen back: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p088w205. At 2.37.30 on the timeline.

Links : https://www.qvcuk.com/Thompson%26-Morgan-Dionaea-Muscipula-%28Venus-Fly-Trap%29-9cm-Pot-x3.product.518780.html?sc=Froogle&ref=fgl&source=froogle&utm_source=google&utm_medium=base&utm_campaign=base&cm_mmc=PPCSHOPPING-_-Google_Shopping-_-SmartShopping-_-Garden&Leisure&gclid=CjwKCAjw1v_0BRAkEiwALFkj5nSbQtMrf4di1C69MLikRT3XMgWNUhDGsymlRFAS-4yMUnqRnj5vxRoCm6AQAvD_BwE&

BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour 19 April 2020

Notes for anyone listening to BBC Radio Leicester today. You can send e mails, texts and messages for free gardening advice. I’ve been a travelling head gardener and a garden designer for 25 years. I write for weekly Garden News Magazine. I grow my own fruit, veg and flowers at home on a one acre plot created from a ploughed field. Currently, I’m speaking each week from the potting shed during the corona virus epidemic. Here’s the view from the potting shed, for anyone who likes blossom. Turn up the sound to hear the birdsong.

We cater for everyone. So if you’ve never gardened before and want some essential tips to get started, get in touch. We can help experienced gardeners wanting to grow the latest varieties or try something new. Maybe you want to grow more salads and veg for the family. Or you might fancy the challenge of growing for a “virtual” flower show. We can help.

This week we talk about growing tomatoes. I’m growing classic beefsteak variety Marmande for cooking, and tasty cherry tomato, Tumbling Tom for salads. My plants are 12cm (5″) tall and the roots are coming out of the bottom of the pots, so I’m potting them on. They’ve been growing in 7.5cm (3″) pots and I’m moving them up to 12.5cm (5″) pots. They will eventually go into 25cm (10″) pots and window boxes, but they have to be moved up in stages as tomatoes don’t like lots of cold wet compost around their roots.

Tomatoes like plenty of warmth, so I’ll keep mine indoors until the end of May. Tomato leaves turning yellow could be an indication the plants are getting too cold overnight, especially if they are right next to the greenhouse glass. Move them to the middle of the greenhouse and create a fleece tent to keep temperatures more stable between night and day. Remove fleece promptly in the morning. Alternatively, yellow leaves could mean the plants are running out of feed. Composts usually contain feed for about six weeks. But yellow leaves indicate a lack of nitrogen, so feed with a very dilute tomato fertiliser. Move plants on promptly when the roots have filled the pots. Don’t over water as plants also hate cold wet feet. Use tepid water. Bring the watering can in to the greenhouse to warm up. Cold water causes shock. Tomatoes need warm steady growing conditions and don’t like swings in temperature. Try to water them in the morning so they are not left cold and wet at night. Aim the watering can at the roots and keep the foliage dry.

While I’m stuck at home, I’m looking about to see what I can do to keep connected with the outside world. One thing I’m doing is joining in with the Rainbows 5K challenge.

Rainbows is a hospice in Loughborough, supporting children and young people with life-limiting conditions. They receive only 15 percent of their funding from the government and everything else has to come from donations. The corona virus lockdown means they can’t run all the usual fund-raising events. But the 5K challenge is one way everyone can help out.

You can take part anytime between now and May 31st. I’ll be logging my walking while I’m mowing the grass, weeding, raking, hoeing and plodding about the plot between the greenhouse and potting shed. I am sure digging also counts!

You can also help by tagging rainbows on social media to keep them in the public’s eye by posting photos on Facebook @rainbowsfanpage and on twitter and Instagram @rainbowshospice.

Children and all ages can take part. You can walk, run, hop, skip, cycle. Think of me weeding and cutting the grass for hours on end. At least the garden will look lovely, and it’s all in a good cause!

The National Gardens Scheme is also a charity close to my heart. Mum and I usually spend every Sunday visiting an NGS garden, having a cup of tea and piece of cake and buying a few plants. The lockdown means no gardens are open this summer. But the charity has launched a ‘Support Our Nurses’ campaign with virtual tours and JustGiving pages.

There are three gardens so far featured in leicestershire: Brook End in Wymeswold, with spring blossom, tulips and daffodils and ponds. There’s also Donna’s Garden at Snowdrop Ridge in Market Harborough, which should have opened for the first time this summer. There’s a wonderfully calming goldfish pond video.

Also a ‘walk through’ at Oak House, South Kilworth.

Donations support nurses working for MacMillan and Marie Curie, Hospice UK, Carers Trust, The Queens Nursing Institute. The NGS also helps Parkinson’s UK, Perennial and Horatio’s Garden for spinal injuries.

During the programme I mention our concerns for growers, garden centres and nurseries which are not allowed to open during the lockdown. There are fears many might go out of business with plants having to be skipped. Livelihoods are on the line.

I mention the Garden Centre Association #SupportYourLocalGardencentre campaign at gca.org. There’s a list of garden centres providing local deliveries.

Val and Steve Bradley from BBC Radio Kent, the Sun newspaper, have created a list of growers and nurseries offering mail order and/ or deliveries.

I’ve provided a limited and ever-changing list for Leicestershire here: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/04/05/contacts-and-information-to-help-you-through-corona-virus-lockdown/ If you want to be added, please get in touch.

Thank you for joining us at BBC Radio Leicester. These are strange and difficult times for all of us, but we can keep connected through social media and listening to the radio. It’s amazing how we can all help by taking little steps at a time. They all join up to a giant leap forward, don’t you agree. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking good in your garden and how you are getting on during this lockdown time. Are you managing to get on with your gardening? Is your garden providing a calm sanctuary. I know mine is right now.

Links:

Rainbows 5K Challenge : https://www.rainbows.co.uk/events/rainbows-virtual-5k-2020

National Gardens Scheme https://ngs.org.uk/virtual-garden-visits/

Garden Centre Association lists : https://gca.org.uk/

Val and Steve Bradley nurseries/growers list: https://47flt.r.ag.d.sendibm3.com/mk/cl/f/nsnLPDyBJajPGKKpPRt5x9TOx4tu9x1Dz-v5FiKvBC10LYC0JB45oC3rcwqKse2n5D7aQhdwFnOZEulP7NPET4tRxtfv-n5eUr7mNx6H7gjRIWSVXN-QVsXdmRICgr44KOhL_NeHecmmxD8URqGk4-jf5QBzcACiRe7I8jdByhWKnFH9LN4d2C-sA4qsiNVzl4nQDttx7wgdEKWIS89NuNt-XaZCrrIiTT3B

You can follow me on twitter @kgimson

On instagram @karengimson1

And Pinterest @karengimson

Some photos from my garden:

Seedlings in the greenhouse, tomatoes, cosmos, onions, cucumbers, aubergines, peppers.

Planting out calendula Snow Princess grown in plug trays.

We had some winter storms and dead elms in the hedgerow.

The whole garden is scented by this viburnum. Planted in front of white cherry tree, prunus avium, and pink cherry Prunus Kanzan.

Pheasants Eye narcissi, still looking good in the cut flower beds.

Not all things go according to plan.

Cherry blossom. Stella. Lots of fruit, hopefully. Have never seen blossom like it. A good year for fruit trees.

Pear blossom. I’m keeping an eye on the weather. Fleece will be thrown over at night if there’s a frost.

Thank you for reading!

Rhubarb Cakes- Family Favourite Recipes

Here’s a quick and simple recipe using the first rhubarb of the season. We have literally run out of all treats in the house. I suddenly realised, if I wanted to have something nice for tea, I’d have to make it myself. Luckily the rhubarb clump we saved from Joan and Keith’s garden, now growing in a huge pot, is producing a daily supply of delicious fruit for baking. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

For the base:

25g butter or vegan spread

50g light brown sugar

400g approx rhubarb, or whatever you have in stock. Can be peaches, apples, mandarin, pears, cherries.

For the topping :

50g butter or vegan alternative

150g sugar

3 eggs or alternative

190g SR flour

120g plain yoghurt

Few drops vanilla essence

Icing sugar to dust the tops

Oven temperature 180C

A pie dish, or loose-bottom cake tin. I used a 12 hole silicone muffin pan. Use a circle of greaseproof paper if you are not using silicone.

METHOD

Melt the butter and sugar base ingredients together in the microwave. Take care not to burn it. Place in the bottom of the dish or muffin pans.

Remove the skin of the rhubarb and chop the sticks into small pieces.

Place rhubarb on top of the base mixture

Cream together the topping mixture butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs.

Fold in the flour and yoghurt.

Spoon the mixture over the rhubarb.

Cook for 35- 40 minutes or until the cakes slightly shrink from the sides, and a knife comes out clean. It will be less time for muffin cakes.

Leave to cool. Turn out onto a plate, upside down, and dust with icing sugar.

Keeps for three days in an airtight tin. Or can be frozen. Lovely with icecream, custard or just as they are with a cup of coffee at tea break time.

Enjoy!

What’s flowering in the garden 7th April 2020 -BBC Radio #SowAlong #BBCRadioSowAlong

If you have been listening in to Gardens Hour on Wednesdays on BBC Radio Leicester, you’ll have heard our ‘ten minute tips’ recorded in Ben Jackson’s garden. I always come home and plant the same varieties in my windswept country garden. Ben’s plot is in a lovely sheltered walled garden in a village. His soil is beautifully free-draining, in a garden which must have been worked for 100 years. Mine is cold wet clay, created from farm land over the past 30 years. It’s an interesting contrast and I love to see how plants perform in both our gardens.

Here’s an update on plants, showing what they are looking like today.

We planted tulips for cut flowers on 29th October. These are Exotic Emperor, a new early-flowering tulip, a double form of the popular White Emperor. It has a long flowering period with delicately green flamed cream petals. Looks good for nearly six weeks.

We planted a ‘cut flower mix’ and mine included this lovely Tulip Flaming Purissima. This comes in a range of creams and pinks. Very pretty and reminiscent of the old fashioned flame tulips made famous in the Tulip-Fever era. Very long lasting, and weather resistant.

We planted bulbs ‘lasagna’ style in layers. Here’s my big Italian pot by my front door. This had snowdrops and dwarf iris in January, dwarf tete a tete daffodils in February, and now today has Hyacinth Blue Jacket, Exotic Emperor tulips and scented Geranium narcissi. When these are over, I’ll replant the pot with scented -leaved geraniums for summer.

In both our gardens we planted a range of daffodils to flower from February right through till the end of April. Here’s my pheasants eye narcissi planted under the cherry trees in the orchard. I’m so pleased with these, I’ll mass plant them in September for an even better display this time next year. I’ve gone round the garden making notes and taking photos to remind me where there are gaps and what changes I want to make. If I didn’t make notes, I’d forget by the time September arrives.

Talking about daffodils, we planted these Paperwhite narcissi on December 2nd. Some flowered at Christmas, but I held some pots back in the cold potting shed and brought them out a week apart so that I could have flowers for vases right through to the end of a March. Flowering times are dictated by amounts of daylight and heat. So plants can be manipulated to flower over a period of time.

We planted up our dahlias on 31st January. These were overwintered in a frost-free shed. I took 2″ cuttings in February and these have rooted in the propagator in 3″ pots at 18C. Above are the dahlias making really good growth in their seed trays, half filled with compost to start them off. They will stay in the greenhouse until the end of May.

We sowed our tomatoes on 28 February, and I pricked them out mid March. They are growing nicely just out of the propagator and on the greenhouse benches. I keep the greenhouse heated at 6C.

On 9th March we planted our tiny plug plants which cost about 60p each. We planted them individually in 3″ pots and put them on a sunny windowsill.

They have grown really well, and I’ve managed to take three lots of cuttings from the mother plants, which means lots of bedding plants for free. Taking cuttings makes them grow strong and bushy too, instead of tall and spindly.

We also planted up some impatiens plugs into 3″ pots. These are now in flower and I’m putting them into their summer containers to grow on. I didn’t pay for these plants. They were free samples from the grower, Ball Colgrave.

If you are listening in today, Wednesday 8th April, this is where I’m talking from because I’m isolating due to covid. I’ve got 100 cosmos seedlings in 3″ pots including a new variety Apricot Lemonade. I’m also growing calendula pot marigolds which are great for bees and butterflies. I’m growing the very pale lemon Snow Princess, and pretty calendula Orange Flash.

I’ve just planted my new potatoes, Charlotte and Lady Christl in two of the divided beds. They are planted 12″ (30cm) apart, 4″ (9cm) deep.

I’ve also planted my broad beans, De Monica which is a new variety specially bred for spring sowing. I’ve sown double rows, with plants and seeds 9″ (23cm) apart. Seeds were planted 2″ (5cm) deep.

And this is the view from the greenhouse and potting shed. Turn up the sound to hear the birdsong. There’s a bank of wild cherry trees on two sides of the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my greenhouse and garden. Hopefully the photos have jogged your memory about what we’ve been growing for our ‘ten minute tips.’ I’ll keep you posted on the progress of all these plants. I’m hoping the garden is going to be quite productive and very colourful this summer. That’s three uses of the word ‘hope,’ but under the circumstances, I think we all need some hope, don’t we.

Links : BBC radio Leicester Gardening – Sundays 1-2pm and Wednesdays 12.30 -1pm at the moment, subject to change due to covid. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/live:bbc_radio_leicester

DAB 104.9FM and at BBCSounds. Ask your smart speaker to tune in to BBC Radio Leicester.

Update: today’s programme starts at 2.36.23 on the timeline. https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p087sjhn.

Pecan Coffee Bites. Cheer-me-up Recipes for Covid

I managed to find a catering company sending out boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables for my Mum. Such a huge relief. On-line shopping is hopeless and there’s a three week wait. I listened in to BBC Radio Leicester, and heard an announcement about small companies trying to survive the covid crisis, and help. And amazingly, the catering company is in the next village to Mum! I’d never heard of them, but I listened as they described filling boxes with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, butter, eggs and delivering them around the county. Their livelihoods are at risk, all public events, parties and wedding are cancelled for this year. It’s a huge comfort to know Mum will have fresh food without having to go out. Anyway at home here, we have now run out of nice treats such as chocolate, biscuits and cakes. I never realised how many times I just popped to the shops for the odd item here and there. Not being able to go out is difficult. To say the least. I’m sharing my recipe for coffee pecan bites as they may be just the cheer-up you need today. Keep positive and focus on all the good everyone is doing. Lots of love to you all. Xx

INGREDIENTS

For the cakes:

50g self-raising flour

50g low fat spread, can be vegan spread

1 tbsp cocoa powder

2.5 tbsp sugar or granulated sweetener

1 tsp baking powder

1tbsp instant coffee powder

Pecan halves to decorate

Pinch of salt

2 large eggs ( or 1 mashed banana, or 4 tbsp oat milk, or vegan egg substitute)

You will need reusable silicone fairy cake cases. Ours came from Lakeland Plastics.

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM

This is suitable for any cakes or biscuits you might make

INGREDIENTS

25g butter, or margarine, low fat spread ( can be vegan sunflower spread )

50g icing sugar

1tsp cocoa powder

1tsp coffee powder.

METHOD

Set the oven to 190c / gas 5

Place all the cake ingredients, apart from the pecans, in a bowl and mix with an electric hand whisk. The mixture should be light, smooth and fluffy with lots of air incorporated from the whisking.

Place a tablespoon of mixture in each cake case. Stand the cake cases on a metal baking tray.

Place the cakes in a pre-heated oven and cook for 16 minutes.

Cakes will slightly shrink from the sides of the cakes cases when cooked and a knife will come out clean.

Set aside to cool

METHOD FOR BUTTERCREAM

Mix the buttercream ingredients together. If using butter, slightly warm in the microwave to incorporate. Pile 1 tsp of buttercream on top of the cakes and add 1 pecan half for decoration. You can use any nuts if you don’t have pecans. It’s very nice with almond slices or hazel nuts.

TIP

Can be stored in airtight container for 3 days. Or can be frozen before adding the buttercream.

Perfect with morning coffee, or as a sweet for a main meal. Place one on top of any fruit, such as sliced pears, to create a simple pudding. Pear and coffee/ chocolate make a tasty combination.

What recipes are you turning to to help you through this current crisis? Are you managing to obtain all the shopping items you need? I can highly recommend listening to your local radio station. They have a campaign called BBCMakingADifference. And I think they are doing so. Thank goodness.