In a Vase on Monday- flowers from my plot 9th March 2020

Finding comfort in familiar things, I’m joining in with my favourite IAVOM theme today.

Spring flowers always bring hope. And we need plenty of hope at the moment, don’t we.

Here’s my flowers, picked fresh from the garden. They are in an unusual location, the drinks holder of my car. The perfect place for a jam jar of flowers, on their way to my mother’s house (via Radio Leicester, where I talk about what’s growing on my plot).

There’s some shoots of Japanese cherry, Prunus Kojo-no-mai, at the back of the posy. Some lace-edged heritage primulas, Pulmonaria Sissinghurst White, plum coloured Hellebores, and one very pretty bellis daisy.

The daises have grown all by themselves in the gaps between paving slabs at my back door. Something so pretty, just growing from seed carried on the wind. They have given me as much joy as anything I’ve planted and tended, probably because they have survived against the odds. There’s no soil there. And no loving care. But they have thrived. A message to us all, about resilience, maybe.

I love the slightly messy, many petaled flowers of bellis daisies. There are single and double forms. Seed packets cost a couple of pounds. Once you have them, they will always be with you. But not necessarily growing where you put them!

In my mother’s garden, the daisies romp delightfully across the lawn and into the border. She mows around them. It’s obvious where I get my empathy with plants from. My lovely mum has always been my greatest influence in life.

Wishing you all a peaceful, happy and successful week. I’d love to see what you are all sowing and growing in your garden just now. It’s very busy here, with plenty to do in the garden, as always. Hoping for some sunshine and nice weather – soon.

Links: In a Vase on Monday https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/03/02/in-a-vase-on-monday-pillaged/

Bellis Daisy: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Bellis-Goliath-Mixed.html#.XmZXWoGnyfA

BBC Radio Leicester, gardening starts at 1pm every Sunday with Dave Andrews https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p002zx56. Listen back on Sounds, or ask your smart speaker to tune in to BBC Radio Leicester

Please share via any social media platform. I do not pay for any advertising, and I’m always grateful to anyone who spreads the word and signs up to follow, via e mail. Thank you. 🙂 🌱

Note: I was not driving when I took the photos in my car. Naturally.

Six on Saturday – a celebration of snowdrops in my garden- 29th February 2020

We had beautiful sunny weather for precisely ten minutes today. I ran out, opened the summerhouse doors, took some deep breaths of lovely fresh air. And then it snowed. That was the end of my time in the garden. Me and the cat ran back inside.

I’m sharing six photos of snowdrops, as this is the last day for them here. The snow will finish the snowdrop season in my garden, but it has been a lovely long spell. Snowdrops opened early in the mild temperatures, and they’ve stood up well to the rain, being under flood water several times in the past few weeks.

My favourite snowdrop Galanthus Madeleine has been stunning again this year. I bought it three years ago from Thenford Gardens. I shared a pot of six bulbs with a friend. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for a pot of snowdrops, but it was worth it. This year, I had nine flowers and plenty of extra leaves which shows it is happy and spreading. Pictured above are some of them on show in the potting shed. I love the way the petals fold around each other like the wings of a bee. So delicate.

Here is Madeleine fully open on the potting shed windowsill. It’s a very pretty snowdrop at all stages. The yellow markings are brighter in sunnier situations, and bulbs don’t like to be too wet.

Viridapice is another snowdrop I love. It has such pretty delicate lime green markings. Another good do-er. It is spreading nicely under the ash trees in the wild garden.

Living on the boundary between Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, I felt I had to have Galanthus Robin Hood. I’ve been many times to Sherwood Forest where Robin and his merry men are said to have lived. This snowdrop got its name from the crossbow X- shape green markings. It’s a very tall snowdrop and I have it at the top of the garden so you’ll pass by on the way to the back fields footpath. I have Galanthus Little John nearby, and I’m searching for a snowdrop called Maid Marian to complete the trio. They make me smile every time I see them.

Regular readers will know that I’m a bit lackadaisical with labelling. Sadly I’ve lost the name of this beauty. Maybe a reader will know what it’s called. Isn’t it striking though, with three petals spreading out like wings.

Quite honestly, I’m just as happy with our native snowdrop Galanthus nivalis. Plain and simple. It’s gorgeous.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this weekend snowdrop tour. I also hope you are having better weather than us at the moment. We’ve had a week with 12 Environment Agency flood alerts in one day. The greenhouse has flooded more times than I can count. I just keep sweeping the mud and water out of the door. I’ve never known a winter like it.

Please leave a message below to let me know what your gardens look like right now. How are you coping with the deluge?

Thank you for reading and please feel free to share on any social media platform as it all helps. I don’t pay for any promotions of any kind. I simply rely on your kindness in commenting and spreading the word.  Scroll down for the comments box, right at the bottom of the blog post.

Links: snowdrops from Easton https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/visit/opening-times-and-prices

Madeleine, https://jacquesamandintl.com/product/plicatus-madeleine/

Viridapice https://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/galanthus-nivalis-viridapice/classid.2000008237/

Robin Hood https://www.harveysgardenplants.co.uk/product/galanthus-robin-hood/

Sherwood Forest https://www.visitsherwood.co.uk/about-robin-hood/

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

comments now open. sorry for the delay.

Bramble Garden

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…

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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.

Chocolate and Mandarin Crispy Cake Bars

Family Favourite Recipes.

Here’s the recipe for today’s BBC Radio Leicester cakes. I always take some home made cakes in each week for the Sunday staff. Our gardening programme is on at lunchtimes and we all get very hungry.

https://bramblegarden.com/tag/family/

This week’s recipe has the addition of some mandarins from the greenhouse. Add some zest to the mixture and place mandarin segments on top before the chocolate sets. Quite delicious for a cold wet day. You could also add Terry’s Chocolate Orange segments if you like.

My cakes and home made treats relate to what I’m growing in the garden. This week I was talking about starting to water my citrus trees, feeding them and looking under the leaves for scale insects. You can sometimes find little flat insects attached to the leaves, and there might be black mould as well which is caused by their sugary excretions. You can scrape the scale insects off with a damp loofah sponge. Use horticultural soft soap to clean off the mould.

Scale insect on a citrus leaf

Citrus flower. Gloriously ~highly scented.

Links: https://bramblegarden.com/tag/family/

Citrus trees: https://www.victoriananursery.co.uk/Citrus-Fruits/

Caring for citrus trees https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=94

A Walk Around my Garden Saturday 8th February 2020

Welcome again to a peaceful walk around my garden. Enjoy the sunshine and spring flowers. The temperature today is 9C. There was frost overnight. It’s still too wet to garden, so I’m continuing to tidy the potting shed and mooch in the greenhouse. I expect all the spring jobs will come at once and I’ll soon be dashing about. But for now, it’s a slow meander around the pathways, taking in every tiny jewel-like flower, breathing in the honey-scent of snowdrops. Looking in the pond for signs of life- no frogspawn yet. Soon though. There are stirrings. I peer into the water trough and watch a tiny water boatman. I watch like a child in a trance as the tiny oar-like legs propel the boatman around its miniature world. A world I created. A simple metal tank, with a few spare oxygenating plants thrown in. I marvel at how easy it is to help wildlife. I quietly whisper ” I made this for you.” The water boatman dips and dives and delights in its domain. And I revel in every second of quiet and calming observation, with no other purpose than to just enjoy this moment.

White primulas on the garden tables. We’ve had honey bees looking for pollen, and a few sleepy bumble bees ‘bumbling’ about crashing around the garden. I’ve rescued a few, utterly helpless and disorientated, and set them upon a patch of wild primroses.

Aconites, or gold coins, as we call them, are spreading nicely in the far corners of the garden, undisturbed. This is the first year they have had to fight with cowparsley leaves, emerging early due to warm temperatures. I might have to intervene.

There’s more cowparsley at the top of the garden. I’ve never seen it look so lush in February. The hellebores will have a race to flower and set seed before being over-run by the pretty but invasive weeds.

At the top of the garden we store our wood ready for chopping for the fire. I stood and marvelled at the beauty of this red-stained heartwood. Sadly the tree succumbed to disease and died. But it will have another purpose for a year or two as a home for spiders, woodlice, springtails, beetles – insects that will in turn provide food for mammals such as hedgehogs, and birds. Blackbirds and robins thrive in this garden.

Snowdrops are spreading along the leafmould paths. Each year I divide them and move them further along the tree-lined tracks.

Snowdrop corner. Filling out nicely. Snowdrops come from Easton Walled Gardens, Hodsock Priory and National Garden Scheme open garden days.

Snowdrops look cheerful placed on the potting shed windowsill where I can look out and see them while I’m working indoors.

I’m very fond of this snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis Viridapice. Such delicate green-tipped petals.

I bought just three Madeline snowdrops three years ago from Thenford gardens. It must be happy, as now there’s nine flowers. It grows in nice moist leaf-mould soil under deciduous trees.

But I’m just as happy with my plain native snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, growing all along the hedgerow between the garden and the lane.

Regular readers know that after a ramble around the garden, I always take you out of the top gate and along the ridgeway footpath behind my plot. It’s good to see the changing seasons in the countryside. Our neighbouring farmer has finally managed to plough the field. It’s the first time he’s been able to get on the land due to the record amounts of rain we’ve had here over autumn and winter. Ditches are still full, and overflowing at the bottom of the hill.

There’s still a few crab apples lying in the hedgerow. We had a record harvest last autumn. Good news for all the birds and mammals eating them through the winter.

Some welcome signs of spring. Blackthorn blossom is starting to emerge.

And elderflower leaves are unfurling. The hedgerow is waking up.

Almost hidden in the brambles is a concrete trig point. A reminder of the past. Measurements were taken from theodolites placed on top. This one dates back to around 1936. They were built between the 1930s and 1962 and sited on the peaks of hills. It’s no wonder our garden is so windswept. We are at the highest point for miles around.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk around my garden. Leave me a message to let me know what’s flowering in your garden right now. And thank you for reading. I’ve checked the ‘stats’ and I am amazed to see 140,000 views for the piece on the dangers of sepsis and gardening injuries, and 70,000 views of these quiet rambles around my garden. I’m very grateful for every single reader.

Links: Six on Saturday- I follow this blog and like to join in. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/08/six-on-saturday-08-02-2020/

In a Vase on Monday- another blog I enjoy: https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/ina-vase-on-monday-in-the-queue-for-green/

Waterboatman: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife-explorer/invertebrates/bugs/lesser-water-boatman

Snowdrops, Easton https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Snowdrop festival NGS :https://ngs.org.uk/snowdrop-festival-brings-first-signs-of-spring/

Blackthorn https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/blackthorn/

Elderflower https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/elder/

All about the history of trig points : https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-36036561

In a Plant Pot on Wednesday – 5th February 2020

It’s a wonderful moment when potted spring bulbs suddenly flower. They seem to be in bud for weeks. Then virtually overnight, all the iris and dwarf daffodils burst into life. Colour at last. It’s much appreciated on a dark cold February day.

I planted shallow pans of bulbs on October 12th last year. Dwarf iris Katherine Hodgkin is a pale blue beauty with markings resembling blue ink pen lines. Each winter I try something new, and this time I’ve chosen iris reticulata Blue Note, very striking with deep indigo flowers and white markings on purple black falls.

Bulbs are grown on in the protection of the greenhouse over winter, but as soon as they flower I carry the pots about and set them on the garden tables. It’s so cheerful to look out of the house windows and see something colourful.

I’ve used pussy willow and hazel catkins to prop up the paper white narcissi. They have a habit of flopping everywhere, but look lovely with a few stems supporting them. On the right of the table there’s some cherry stems in a Kilner jar. Picked now and brought indoors they will open early for a glorious pink blossom display.

Scented paper whites might be too strong for indoors, but on the garden tables they are perfect. The creamy white flowers are a pretty accompaniment to emerging fluffy grey willow catkins.

A large Sankey terracotta plant pot of Narcissus February Gold makes a centrepiece for the picnic table. Hazel twigs are used for supports.

Here’s how I started out in October with a selection of terracotta plant pots, many inherited from my grandfather Ted Foulds.

I use a mix of 50/50 peat free compost and grit for good drainage. Bulbs are planted half way down the pots. They are watered once and placed on the greenhouse staging.

Pots are topped with extra grit to finish them off. This keeps the flowers clean and stops them being splashed with soil when watering.

Hyacinths are almost perched on the top of compost in individual 4″ pots. These are placed in a huge plant pot under the potting shed bench in dark, cool, frost free conditions and brought out just before Christmas when flower spikes are showing.

Here’s the view from the potting shed in October as I’m planting all these bulbs. A lovely reminder of all the sunny autumn days we had.

For contrast, here’s an oak tree from the lane where I live. Just as beautiful. Like a charcoal pencil drawing.

Have your spring bulbs started to flower this week? Are you trying anything new, like me, as well as sticking to a few old favourites too.

Get in touch and let me know what’s happening in your garden at the moment.

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Links: I like to join in with Cathy for #IAVOM In a vase on Monday, but this week is was working, and my flowers are in pots! But I’ve read and caught up with everyone’s postings

https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/02/03/ina-vase-on-monday-in-the-queue-for-green/

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

Compost from Dalefoot : https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/our-products.aspx

A Walk Around My Garden Saturday 1st February 2020

Suddenly we go from sorting seeds, writing lists and thinking about gardening- to actually getting out there and making a start. It’s a wonderful feeling to be outdoors. I can happily mooch about all day. This week I made a new sweet pea support out of hazel poles.

Usually I use our own hazel material, but I cut them down last year and I’m leaving them to grow taller for a pergola project. There’s always something planned for the future. For this year’s sweet pea frame I visited a local farm fencing suppliers and bought two bundles of rods. These are sold as binders for hedge laying, but make perfect pea and bean poles.

I push the rods into the ground in two rows 60cm apart, with 30cm between each pole. The ground is still very wet and it’s relatively easy to push them in. I tie each pair of rods at a height of 180cm and then weave more hazel and twiggy stems along the top and also at waist height to strengthen the frame.

Here’s my supports from last summer. I love the natural rustic look and sweet peas easily twine around the hazel poles without too much attention and minimal tying in. These supports will last about three years if they are reinforced each year. At the end of their useful life, they’ll be composted. For local supplies try https://coppice-products.co.uk/

Sweet pea seeds are growing well, but there’s still time to start yours now. Planted in early February, they will make good strong plants to flower from July until first frosts. I’m growing a mixture of heritage varieties from Easton Walled Gardens and some new ones from Mr Fothergill’s including Mayflower 400 celebrating 400 years since the Pilgrim Fathers sailed to The New World. There’s nothing like the scent of sweet peas. It’s difficult to buy them from florists, but luckily for us, they are cheap and easy to grow at home.

I’ve written about making a sweet pea support for the weekly Garden News Magazine. There will be photos from my garden in the 11th February edition. I’ve also written about starting my dahlias into growth to take cuttings, and refreshing the compost in my lemon tree pots and starting feeding and watering them. With temperatures being unusually mild for winter, I’m making the best of the sunshine and getting a head start for spring.

What projects have you got planned for 2020. Are you growing anything new, or sticking with old favourites. Get in touch and let me know what’s happening in your garden.

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Links : SOS I like to join in with #sos at https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/six-on-saturday-01-02-2020/

And also with Cathy at #IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2020/01/27/in-a-vase-on-monday-a-good-spread/

Hazel supplies https://coppice-products.co.uk/

Mr Fothergills seeds http://blog.mr-fothergills.co.uk/mr-fothergills-launches-new-sweet-pea-mayflower-400/

Easton walled garden https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Blue Monday in My Garden and Ridgeway Walk – 20th January 2020

Lace-edge primulas, looking glorious in January

Today I’m celebrating. I’ve spent the first full day in the garden for three years. There was much to do! Brambles and nettles have invaded the boundaries, and I couldn’t get down the side of the poly tunnel. Something needed to be done. And luckily my strength and energy levels have returned and I can be outdoors all day. Something I took for granted until becoming seriously ill in 2016. So happily, it’s not Blue Monday for me- it’s three cheers, and hello garden, here I come!

This area round the back of the potting shed and alongside the poly tunnel looks a mess. It’s out of sight and out of mind- until I need to clean the poly tunnel plastic covering. Then I can’t get access. So I set to and cut back all the nettle stems and blackberries. Some of the trailing stems are 4m long. Vicious, thorny things!

There’s a wheelbarrow under there.

Despite wearing tough clothing the brambles manage to ‘get me.’ But I fight back and win. It takes me a couple of hours, much longer than it used to, but I’ve learned to pace myself and celebrate every small achievement. By chipping away at the task the area is cleared, pots washed and neatly stacked and order restored. It’s such a nice feeling, to take back control.

I make a start on mulching the borders. Some of the boundary borders have become over run with plants such as geranium and euphorbia. Perennials like these can be rather too successful. Before 2016, the whole garden was planted with tender perennials, salvias, penstemons, exotics galore. Mum and I would visit rare plant fairs to seek out small treasures. But these require cosseting. I discovered there’s a good reason they are rare. They need splitting, dividing or they disappear. Cuttings require overwintering in a heated greenhouse. They are gone in a flash without tender loving care. I will replant, but hardier varieties are being selected. Newly acquired tender beauties will remain in plant pots, easily scooped up and swept into the greenhouse at the first sign of frost. I’m not giving up on delicate plants, just readjusting the balance.

A whole border of hellebores had to be dug up last autumn. The plants had become overrun with couch grass and weeds. We moved them to the woodland walk where the grass will die out eventually. And I’m delighted to report that hellebores can be moved and thrive. These are looking fabulous. Every one survived in the well-mulched wonderful leaf-mould soil. So pleased, as these were grown from seedlings given to me by a friend.

Another cause for celebration. My new potatoes for winter have been fabulous. We planted these on 7th August in recycled compost bags. Well watered through late summer, they grew like triffids. As soon as the weather turned cold, the bags were hauled into the greenhouse to be kept frost free. Since Christmas we’ve had a steady supply of tasty potatoes fresh from the greenhouse. There is nothing more cheerful than new potatoes in the depths of winter. I’ll be repeating the procedure again this year, with double the number of bags.

As always, after a hearty gardening session, as a reward, I head out of the top field gate and walk along the ridgeway path. Is there any finer sight than an oak tree set against a bright blue sky. It’s a sight I’ll never tire of.

A quick peek though the gap-in-the hedge. I wasn’t quick enough to take photos of the pheasants in the ditch on the other side. A magnificent thrill to see them skimming low across the field, their feathers rich and glowing in the late afternoon sun.

Hazel catkins, a welcome sign of spring. I cut a few twigs to prop up my amaryllis bulbs in the greenhouse. Flowers and catkins always bring cheer.

It’s a circular walk- along the path, down the lane and back home. This is the hedgerow alongside the lane. My favourite oak, on the ridgeway walk, is almost in the centre of this photo.

I stand and admire this 300 year old oak, one of a row. And I think about the farmer who planted them and didn’t live to see them grow to maturity. It’s such a generous act to plant a tree. It’s not for yourself, but for future generations to come. There are some gaps along the lane where elms have died. Perhaps I’ll ask the farmer if I can plant some replacement oaks. And someone else will stand before them, in time, and marvel at their beauty, like I do.

After a cup of tea, I potter about, collecting up plant labels – there are many- and wind-blown pots. I check the greenhouse, first tapping on the door to warn the wrens. They roost on the slider and if I don’t warn them, there’s a sudden flapping of wings around my head. I don’t mind sharing my greenhouse. It might mean the difference between survival and death, in a cold winter.

Turning for home, I notice the time is 5.05pm. It’s a wonderful sunset. And there’s still enough light to mooch about and easily find my way to the back door. Spring is on the way. And I feel ready for all the gardening challenges to come.

Have you spent any time in the garden today? What’s looking good or coming into flower on your plot. Get in touch and let me know.

Links : special primroses from Piecemeal Plants http://www.piecemealplants.co.uk/

Polytunnels, mine was second hand. New ones from https://www.firsttunnels.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAvJXxBRCeARIsAMSkApqtMjv4FjaWKWNJbY1MEf_7o_CBJK1XrGe3UABgLDs1weAGIcT3A6caAk26EALw_wcB

I’m using mulch from https://www.bloominamazing.com/.

And also https://www.strulch.co.uk/.

And https://www.plantgrow.co.uk/products/

I wrote about growing new potatoes for winter here :https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/07/im-growing-new-potatoes-for-christmas/

Compost from https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/our-products.aspx

Seed potatoes from https://taylors-bulbs.com/

Oak trees https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/english-oak/

Hazel https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hazel/

I am @kgimson on twitter, karengimson1 on instagram.

Six on Saturday 11th January 2020- Flowers in my Garden

I love surprises. This beautiful lilac flower suddenly appeared in amongst my clump of deep blue iris. I’ve grown this plant by the front door for 20 years. The colour has always been rich indigo blue.

It’s a bit of an untidy grower. Long strappy leaves splay everywhere, tripping us up. I’ve threatened to dig it out many times. But then, midwinter, it starts to flower, and what a joy it is. The flowers resemble silk. Surely, too delicate to cope with frost and snow. But no, it shrugs off the cold, providing a steady supply of blooms right through from November to March. Planted in front of a south facing wall, with its roots in rubble, it thrives.

And then something wonderful happens. A sport perhaps, or a seedling. I don’t have the answer. I’m just in amazement at the beauty and wonder of plants.

I hope it’s a stable sport and will repeat flower through the winter. Maybe it’s a completely new variety. We shall have to wait and see.

You can find out more about iris unguicularis or Algerian iris at : https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/24998/Iris-unguicularis/Details

Here’s some more flower photos from my garden today. We currently have 10C night-time temperatures. Unheard of for January. Consequently, all winter flowering shrubs are having a field day; the whole garden is suffused with a wonderful vanilla scent. It’s totally delicious.

Violets by the front gate. These came from my grandfather, Ted Foulds. They started off from one small pot. Now there are drifts of them under all the deciduous trees and shrubs.

Cyclamen Coum. These are seeding nicely in the woodland in a bed of leafmould.

There’s also various types of viburnum. Deep pink viburnum Dawn being my favourite.

What’s in flower in your garden today? Are you having a mild spell, like we are? Get in touch and let me know.

Links: Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2020/01/11/six-on-saturday-11-01-2020/

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

Six on Saturday- Flowers from my Garden 4th Jan 2020

Winter flowers are more precious to me than summer blooms. In summer there’s an abundance of riches, and sometimes flowers go unnoticed with too much rushing about, keeping on top of the weeding. But in winter there’s time to stop and pause, and jewel-like colours lift the mood. Today I’ve picked my favourite blue Algerian iris. How can anything so delicate survive the cold! It looks like it is made of silk. I have a huge untidy patch of Iris unguicularis right by my front door. All summer we trip over the long strap-like leaves, and constantly threaten to dig it up. But from November to May there’s a daily flush of flowers, arriving in ones and twos. They last for a week, brought indoors. Perfect for a tiny Victorian glass vase. Iris unguicularis likes to be planted at the base of a south-facing wall. Heat and drought seem to suit it well.

My iris naturally flowers in winter, but there are also roses in flower, quite out of season. This is Rosa Phyllis Bide, a wonderful rambler which reliably puts on a show from early summer right through to autumn. I’ve also managed to find some Viburnum Dawn and Lisarose, and a sprig or alstroemeria from the poly tunnel. A cheerful, scented posy for the kitchen table.

After meandering around the plot I head for the garden gate and set off along the ridgeway walk. Fortunately it’s a dry day and the footpath conditions are improving. It’s been the wettest autumn for 50 years and farmers struggled to get in the harvest or sow autumn crops. In the distance there’s field after field of maize still standing. As far as the eye can see, fields stand fallow. There’s no lovely green shoots of winter wheat, barley or oil seed.

There’s only two crab apples left. Mammals and birds have had a feast. There’s been an abundance of fruit and berries this winter. Rosehips dripped like blood from the hedgerow. Huge flocks of fieldfares fly overhead and alight on the hedges to strip them bare. Resident blackbirds try their best to defend their ‘larder,’ but they are defeated by the noisy, marauding visitors. Luckily I’ve a store of cooking apples at home and I’ll throw a few out every day if the weather turns cold. Sometimes this bounty, regularly distributed, is the difference between life and death for birds. I generally rely on planting berried shrubs in the garden to provide natural food. But if it turns really icy, I’ll buy some mealworms, nuts and seeds.

As usual, I look for signs of spring. I know there’s a months of cold weather to come, but it’s heartening to find fat buds on the oak trees, above, and grey catkins on willow. Back home, the winter-flowering honeysuckle is in bloom and the scent wafts around the garden. It’s always a surprise to find such a delicious scent emanating from such insignificant flowers. I’ve wound some stems through a silver birch wreath, along with fluffy wild clematis seed heads. After Christmas I miss the decorations. I keep the festive feeling going, but swap to spring flowers instead. This will look lovely and cheerful over the summerhouse door.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden and along the ridgeway today. What flowers have you seen in bloom already? Get in touch and let me know what’s bringing you joy in your garden over the winter.

Links: iris unguicularis https://www.woottensplants.com/product/iris-unguicularis/?gclid=CjwKCAiAjMHwBRAVEiwAzdLWGOy0g3Obpt8I_71GTzDsIURPiShw3RWDCpwp4RC80YOuRaFAqW3ikRoCDakQAvD_BwE

Rose Phyllis Bide: https://www.davidaustinroses.co.uk/phyllis-bide?gclid=CjwKCAiAjMHwBRAVEiwAzdLWGOQWws_A5vY11U8becLKemzBaIcwDJ3IzRUq2t10myMB88ssr2Rx4RoC2H0QAvD_BwE

Wild crab apples: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/crab-apple/

Lonicera winter flowering : https://www.crocus.co.uk/plants/_/lonicera-fragrantissima/classid.4101/

Fieldfares: https://www.bto.org/understanding-birds/species-focus/fieldfare

Happy New Year Everyone! Some news from my garden 31 December 2019

Photo: Paperwhite narcissi and pink alstroemeria from my greenhouse today. Gypsophila and honesty seed heads saved from the summer. Eucalyptus foliage and willow heart. Flowers are in a jam jar covered with moss and twine, kokadama-style. Lovely to have home-grown flowers for the New Year.

I love surprises. My grandmother used to say you can never predict what’s going to happen, so don’t worry about tomorrow. Concentrate on today. I’ve pretty much tried to follow her good advice. And just about everything she said has turned out to be true. So, I’ve been writing this blog for three years- not knowing where it would take me. And the biggest surprise is that it’s followed by a growing number of readers. I set out thinking I’d be pleased if just one person read it and was inspired to grow something from seed. Well, I’m amazed and pleased to say the blog was shortlisted this year for the Garden Media Guild Awards. The awards ceremony was quite a glitzy affair at the Savoy in London- not somewhere I ever expected to visit. It was hosted by Nick Bailey, and I sat next to Pippa Greenwood- someone I’ve always admired. Rachel DeThame and Anne Swithinbank were on the next table. Alan Titchmarsh won an award for practical gardener, and Carol Klein was given a lifetime achievement award, presented by Roy Lancaster. Marc Rosenberg won news journalist of the year. Bramblegarden didn’t win the blog category, but just to be a finalist was quite something for me. It took me right out of the potting shed and out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing, now and again, isn’t it.

My second lovely surprise came when the weekly Garden News magazine asked me to write about my garden, and the first of my articles is out this week!

Mum and I have been subscribers for about 20 years. Never in a million years did I think I would be sharing my garden with readers. But that’s what’s happened and they’ve asked me to write and send photos of what I’m growing on a regular basis.

There was a bit of a panic when they asked for photos of the garden. It’s not looking its best in winter, and the rain means I’m very behind with tasks. But I made an immediate decision not to have a frantic tidy up. My garden is what it is. There are too many brambles and stinging nettles, and those will be addressed over the winter. But, apart from that, it will be as it is, a rather messy garden with zones of productivity. I’ve got 10 beds, 1.3m wide by 3m long with little paving slab paths between. This means I never have to stand on the soil. For the past three years the whole garden has been ‘no-dig’ following the principles of Charles Dowding. There’s a 20ft Alton cedar greenhouse I’ve painted black, and alongside, a matching 20ft poly tunnel. The rest of the one acre garden is mostly trees, and low maintenance shade planting. It’s left to the owls, grass snakes and hedgehogs. I’m delighted to share space with them all.

Across the centre of the veg plot there’s a hazel wigwam or A-frame trellis. This has been patched up for the past two years and will be renewed this winter, ready for spring planting.

The hazel frame is perfect for growing sweet peas. The plants just scramble up by themselves. I don’t have much tying in to do. I plant gladioli down the middle of the structure to utilise the space. These grow about 1m tall and usually need staking, but the hazel frame supports them instead.

This is my favourite Wiltshire Ripple variety, which has a fabulous scent.

Here’s how I make my newspaper pots, using a spice jar to form the tube.

I stand the newspaper tubes in terracotta pans. It’s a good task to do when the ground is too wet to work on, which has been the situation here for the past three months.

Albutt Blue. It’s wonderful to be thinking about sweet peas – in the middle of winter.

I wish I could share the scent from all these flowers. Sweet peas are the essence of summer.

What plans have you for growing in 2020? Are you planting old favourites, or trying something new. Get in touch and let me know.

And remember, if you are writing a blog, you never know who might be reading, or what opportunities might come your way. Just enjoy your blogging.

Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and healthy New Year. Happy Gardening!

I am on twitter at https://mobile.twitter.com/kgimson/status/1149241935502225408

On instagram at https://www.instagram.com/karengimson1/?hl=en

Links: Garden News magazine: https://www.greatmagazines.co.uk/garden-news-magazine?gclid=Cj0KCQiAgKzwBRCjARIsABBbFujlf4tfcbFd4OxHcjvuH6NR9Uk54A_wVM0S9IDq_ZeSvA0FtiofT0oaAg9_EALw_wcB

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

Sweet peas Mr Fothergills https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.Xgur1YGnyfA

Sweet Peas Easton Walled garden https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/whats-on

Higgledy Garden Seeds https://higgledygarden.com/

Savoy London https://all.accor.com/hotel/A597/index.en.shtml?utm_term=mafm&gclid=Cj0KCQiAgKzwBRCjARIsABBbFujh9QGSEjYNiJ8ON9HjLVkRMH3UNhpD8tpccFO4povH1E6R5zr5qXIaAikZEALw_wcB&utm_campaign=ppc-ach-mafm-goo-uk-en-uk-exa-sear-a&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=uk-en-GB-V2352&utm_source=google

I like to join in with In a Vase on Monday, although it’s usually a different day : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

And Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/

Happy Christmas Everyone!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My prize draw poinsettia- and new potatoes for Christmas – on the radio this week.

I’ve been a bit poorly this week. Two days in bed with a virus. Then one day on the sofa; puppy, Meg, on my feet and Grace cat on my knee keeping me toasty warm. Boy did I feel awful. And you can imagine how panicky I was, with so much to do. You can’t exactly put Christmas off for another week! Anyway, I’m always saying for every down there is an up, and a big cheer-me-up arrived in the post, a beautiful huge bright red poinsettia. It’s the biggest brightest poinsettia I’ve ever seen.

I won this gorgeous plant in a prize draw run by the Garden Media Guild and Marks and Spencers. It has 12 red bracts and lovely healthy dark green foliage. I’ve not had flowers or plants from M&S before, but can say wholeheartedly the quality is superb. The plants come well packed in eco friendly cardboard boxes. This one has a pretty wicker basket hiding the plastic plant pot. Plants are nice and fresh. You can tell by looking at the tiny greenish-yellow flowers in the centre of the bracts. If they are open with still some buds to come, then the plant is fresh. If the flowers have all gone over, then the plant will have been hanging around for a lengthy time and will probably be past its best.

I’m going to keep it in a nice warm room at 13C, water it sparingly with tepid tap water and protect it from droughts. It needs bright, filtered light. A windowsill would be too cold as temperatures are likely to drop overnight.

Poinsettias were one of the subjects we talked about on BBC Radio gardening this week. I do a ten minute tip every week, and this time it was how to buy and take care of poinsettias.

You can listen in here : https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07v92c9. The section starts at 1. 14. 47 on the timeline.

We also tip out our new potato sacks to see if we have managed to grow anything for Christmas. I am mightily relieved- and amazed to see we have 42 potatoes – grown from three tubers. We started these off the first week of August using special seed potatoes held back for autumn planting.

I write about growing potatoes for Christmas here : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/07/im-growing-new-potatoes-for-christmas/

The section on potatoes follows on from the poinsettia at 1.20.21. Do have a listen in and let me know what you think of the idea of growing potatoes for Christmas. I shall definitely be doing it again next year, but with more bags to have a supply right through January. A little bit of success at something is really encouraging, isn’t it.

Here’s some of my just-harvested Charlotte potatoes. They taste so sweet. There’s nothing like that new potatoes taste in the middle of winter to cheer you up no end.

I don’t have to skin them, just give them a quick wash and cook for a few minutes. Smothered in butter and parsley. Salt and pepper. Delicious!

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

Marks and Spencers https://www.marksandspencer.com/gift-wrapped-poinsettia/p/p21041358

New potato seed : https://taylors-bulbs.com/new-potatoes-in-december-heres-how/

We used Dalefoot compost https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/

A walk around my garden Tuesday December 17 2019

Photo taken February 2019.

Something I love to do is pot up a lot of bulbs to make a table display. Bulbs are fantastic value right now. Today I bought two sacks of daffodils reduced from £24 to £3. They were virtually giving them away. I just couldn’t resist. So the morning was spent cramming them into 6″ pots with recycled compost saved from summer. As pots of compost are not very inspiring, I’m sharing a photo of my table display from February this year. Isn’t it cheerful to think we will be looking at all this colour in just a few months.

From left to right, there’s white Carnegie hyacinths, yellow tete a tete daffodils, Blue Jacket hyacinths, white Joan of Arc crocus, and various bright and wonderfully scented primulas and primroses. The perfume carries all around the veg garden. Such a joy after a cold, wet autumn and winter.

Some bulbs just starting to come into flower are Paper White narcissi. I started these off a few months ago in 10″ pots in the cold poly tunnel. There will be a steady stream of highly -scented pure white flowers for the next three months. Fabulous for cut flower displays for the potting shed and house. My favourites.

This week I harvested some of the new potatoes grown in recycled compost bags for Christmas.

I wrote about planting them here :https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/07/im-growing-new-potatoes-for-christmas/

There were a few critical comments on social media when I posted this. Some people said it was a waste of time, there wouldn’t be much of a crop, the potatoes just didn’t grow for them. I was quite down-hearted for a while, thinking I might have wasted my money on the seed potatoes. But, this week, I tentatively plunged my hand into the compost bags, and found these beauties. There’s lots more to harvest. The good thing about growing them in bags is you can just take a few at a time. So I’m glad I didn’t listen to negative comments and give up. I’ll certainly grow them again for next Christmas, and I’ll double the number of bags; that new potato taste is absolutely wonderful in the middle of winter. A special treat. Which is what gardening is all about, pushing the boundaries and trying something new. A little bit of success is so encouraging.

Another winter task I love is making plant labels from twigs. I’ve lots of self-sown ash and hazel trees in the garden with nice straight stems. A good way to control them and make something useful from the wood is to cut them into 8″ -10″ lengths and shave off one side for the writing. It’s a lovely soothing job when you’ve spent time battling through crowds for Christmas shopping. Restores balance and good humour!

Following a wander around my garden, there’s always a trip through the top gate and out on to the back fields. These trees are much admired every day of the year. There’s usually a buzzard perched in this first one. It flies along to the next tree, keeping just ahead of me, as I amble along. Quite often there’s a pheasant in the ditch. Meg almost catches the tail feathers as they leave it until the very last moment to fly away. She is being trained to stop and do no harm. But the pheasants don’t know they aren’t in any danger. They make quite a noisy fuss, skimming low over the fields right to the other side and safety.

Along our walk today we visit the sunflower field. Great clouds of small birds rise out of the crop. The sunflowers are like statues- all facing south, their heads frozen in time, but determinedly facing the sun. Backs to the north wind. Like us really. Today, I’m facing south and trying to catch any slight rays of sunshine I can.

I find lambs’ tails. Hazel catkins. That’s sunshine to me. Soon be spring, they seem to be saying.

What signs of spring have you found in your garden today? Have you got snowdrops showing through yet? Here they are poking through the ground, tiny milky white buds like the eye of a needle.

I like to read Six on Saturday. Mine are always more than six, and I can’t always take part on the right day. Life is too short to worry about these things. https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/14/six-on-saturday-14-12-2019/

Christmas Flowers -In a Vase on Monday

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

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

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

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

Hedgerow finds with dried hydrangea flowers and pine.

Teasels and Garryia elliptica on the field gates.

Hydrangea Annabelle with a clematis Montana and willow circle.

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

A simple willow heart and ivy.

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

Summerhouse posy. Holly, lavender and fir.

Rosy hydrangea flowers, wild clematis and pine.

Willow, dogwoods, skimmia and conifer stems.

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

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

A Walk Around My Garden and Back Fields -7 December 2019

Can there be anything more cheerful in winter. Hyacinths, planted in October and grown in the dark, now brought out into the light. Roots climbing out of the pots. Emerald green flower spikes. The promise of flowers- and scent- at a time when we need promise. I potter about all day in the sunshine, planting bulbs, poking about in plant pots, looking for life. I find snowdrops. The tiny white flowers, tight closed. But soon they will be lighting up the garden.

In the greenhouse, the miniature iris bulbs are through. I’m growing Iris reticulata Harmony, a lovely deep inky blue; Katherine Hodgkin, pale blue, and a new variety, Katherine’s Gold, a sport which is a pretty pale yellow form.

These pots will be placed on garden tables in spring, but for now, they’ll stay protected in the greenhouse. Mice are very partial to bulbs.

All jobs completed- pots tidied for recycling, and a few leaves raked into piles to be turned into leafmould- I set off for my daily walk out though the top gate and along the hedgerow path.

Oak trees and hedgerows are almost bare now. A chance to enjoy the beautiful intricate structure of branches. Hidden views are revealed, and if we are lucky, we see a barn owl, hunting in the late afternoon as food becomes scarce.

Just a few crab apples remain on trees. Blackbirds and mice have had a feast this year. It’s been a record harvest.

I find a patch of oak leaves turning a glorious gold. But why haven’t the winter gales blown the leaves across the field, like the rest of them.

Looking closely, I find leaf galls on the undersides of the leaves. They are types of Oak Spangle galls. I wonder if they can somehow manipulate the chemical composition of the leaf to delay senescence. I have seen tiny insects, mine caterpillars, do this in my beech leaves. There are so many mysteries, so much more to learn. Who knows if this will be useful to humans in some way in the future.

On my beech tree leaves, a tiny green oasis remains. Evidence of tunnelling by the moth larvae of Stigmella tityrella. Have you ever noticed these on your trees before?

I find a hazel leaf cozily wrapped around a twig. I gently peep inside. Who could resist? A tiny cluster of ladybirds are snuggled at the base. I carefully fold the leaf back and hope they stay safe and sound until spring.

Turning back, the sun is starting to set. I can see our trees in the distance. A blackbird sings in the hedge. It sounds so loud on a still afternoon when there’s no one else around to hear it. Just me. It will be dark soon, so I hurry across the fields. Suddenly it feels cold. How quickly a sunny day can turn to dusk. Luckily I know the path well and could find the way with my eyes closed. Which is just as well, as it’s pitch black by the time I reach home.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share my blog and help me spread the word. Are you managing to get any gardening done at the moment. Get in touch and let me know.

Links: More than Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/07/six-on-saturday-07-12-2019/

Stigmella tityrella :http://www.leafmines.co.uk/html/Lepidoptera/S.tityrella.htm

Moths: https://ukmoths.org.uk/species/stigmella-tityrella

Galls: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2018/07/galls-to-spot-this-year/

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.

Christmas Recipes -Chocolate Panettone

Family Favourite Recipes

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

INGREDIENTS

125ml milk

125ml water

600g strong white bread flour

7g sachet of dried yeast

1/2 tsp salt

75g mixed candied peel

75g sultanas and raisins

3tbsp sweet sherry (optional)

2 large free range eggs

2 large egg yolks ( save the whites for meringues)

75g golden caster sugar

Zest of large orange

150g butter

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

1 egg, beaten for brushing the tops

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

METHOD

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

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

Combine flour with the yeast and salt.

Add the liquid to the flour mix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brush the risen dough with the beaten egg.

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

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

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

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

A Walk Around My Garden – 23rd November 2019

If I could only have one tree, it would be a field maple. At this time of the year, there’s a golden carpet of leaves covering the whole garden. Even dark corners and shady woodland walks are glowing yellow. Much needed cheer, when the days are short and turning cold and dark. We must find our own warmth from nature, whenever we can.

This year, I’m experimenting with the boundary. Thin branches are laid horizontally to form a ‘fedge,’ a cross between a fence and a hedge. This creates a habitat and shelter for mice and hedgehogs, birds and insects. Smaller twigs are put through my new shredding machine to create woodland paths and mulch. The idea is to make use of everything in the garden and do away with the need for bonfires, which are bad for the environment. Sunflower and cow parsley stems will be woven into the ‘fedge’ creating useful hibernation sites for beetles, ladybirds and lacewings. Even earwigs are welcome here, useful predators of vine weevils and many orchard pests.

Looking up, you can see there’s plenty of twiggy growth in this garden. I rather like the pattern of black stems and yellow maple leaves. It looks like a pen and ink drawing and someone has ‘scribbled’ across the skyline.

Temperatures suddenly dropped below zero for the first time this autumn. We’ve been relatively mild until now, with record amounts of rain. The hazel trees responded by dropping all their leaves in one go- as if in fright. Overnight, puddles of ‘gold’ appeared all over the garden.

Searching for more gold, I found a dogwood, Midwinter Fire.

This dogwood is beautiful all year round, but particularly shines in November. When the leaves drop, bright orange stems will catch the winter sunlight. A wonderful sight in snow and frost. Well worth planting in any border, in full sun, or part shade. Needs minimal pruning, unlike the red-stemmed varieties which can be pruned to the 3″.

Mooching about the garden, I find a mini potted fruit tree with its first apple. This is a desert apple, Malini, growing on a dwarfing root stock. I’m growing it in a 12″ pot and it will go with my youngest daughter when she flies the nest. I have a patio full of tiny fruit trees, to form a fledgling orchard, for her first home.

Into the poly tunnel, I find some pretty chrysanthemums coming into flower. These are the hardy Stallion variety. They can cope with the cold, but do better if protected from rain. They are grown in 10″ pots, stood outdoors all summer, and brought under cover in October.

There’s plenty of yellow chrysanthemums too. We call these Aunty Dorris, as cuttings were given to my father law by his aunt in the 1950s. Much treasured in our family.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk around my garden this week. Are you searching for colour at this time of the year. What are you finding that’s cheering you up at the moment?

Finally, as a change from gold, I find these beautiful – and very late roses in the front garden hedge. I believe they are the Ballerina Rose, a really good, disease-resistant variety. It flowers on and off all summer- and right up until Christmas. In fact, these roses will be going into my Christmas door wreaths, along with rosehips, old man’s beard wild clematis, fir cones and crab apples. Guaranteed to bring good cheer.

Links :

Field Maple, Acer campestre https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/field-maple/

Hazel : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/hazel/

Dogwood https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/57639/i-cornus-sanguinea-i-midwinter-fire/details

Apple trees: http://www.lubera.co.uk/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAw4jvBRCJARIsAHYewPOyG2A6Q46HJPng2Xsb2BEURZuS09DZ69up4PWKOAp7k10agvT6HVgaAuxQEALw_wcB

Rose Ballerina: https://www.classicroses.co.uk/ballerina-shrub-rose.html

More than Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/30/six-on-saturday-30-11-2019/

Chocolate Fridge Bars – Family Favourite Recipes

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

INGREDIENTS

2 mars bars, chopped

100g butter

2. Tbsp golden syrup

5 digestive biscuits

9 rich tea biscuits

1.5 teacups rice crispies (breakfast cereal) approx

240g milk chocolate

15g cherries

3/4 teacup sultanas

120g chocolate for the top.

METHOD

Melt chocolate, butter, Mars Bars together in the microwave

Crush biscuits with a rolling pin

Add dry ingredients to melted chocolate mixture

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

Cover top with melted chocolate

Score the tray into fingers

Decorate with more cherries if you like

Place in the fridge to set

When cold, cut into fingers and serve

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

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

In a Vase on Monday- 25th November 2019

Flowers from my garden. For Joan.

Today’s flowers feature my father-on-law’s hardy yellow chrysanthemums. We don’t know the proper name for them, but in our family they are known as ‘Aunty Dorris.’ My father-in-law had been growing them since Aunty Dorris gave him a cutting in the 1950s. He grew them for his wife Joan, who particularly loved the sunny yellow flowers. Now the cuttings have been passed to me, and I’m keeping up the tradition of growing flowers for Joan.

The flowers have a gorgeous lime green centre which sets off the bright yellow petals. They last at least three weeks in a vase, with water refreshed every day.

Variegated ivy with golden flower heads provide foliage for my chrysanthemum posy.

Oak and beech leaves gathered from the garden add some lovely warm burnished tones.

Autumn trees across the horseshoe pond are reflected in the potting shed windows.

There are rows of beech trees all around the garden, remnants of an old hedgerow. Trees stand bare all winter, but juvenile foliage at the base provides copper-coloured leaves through until next May.

Chrysanthemums are often winter hardy, but the flowers are spoiled by rain, so I grow them in many 12″ pots. They stand outdoors on the paving all summer, and are brought in to an unheated poly tunnel around first week of November. After very mild temperatures, we had one night of -2C so I covered the flowers to protect them from the sudden chill. They were uncovered the next day, and night time temperatures have been 8 to 11C since then. The pots will supply a steady flow of flowers until the new year. Plenty for Christmas. And plenty for Joan, who is now living in a care home with Keith. I’m glad to be keeping up our family tradition. I often think of Aunty Dorris and wonder if she realised her cutting would lead to so much joy shared down through the years.

Here’s a photo of Joan on her wedding day, standing on the steps of Cosby Methodist Chapel. Joan did the flowers for the chapel for 65 years and Keith played the organ for weddings and chapel services. This photo, in a home-made metal frame, is a little battered as Keith carried it all around Korea for his army national service.

Thank you for reading. Please share this blog on any social media platform, share with your friends and neighbours and help me spread the word. Hopefully I’ll inspire someone to grow flowers, fruit and vegetables. It’s really simple, if you have a few pointers and little hints and tips along the way. Enjoy your garden.

Links: In a Vase on Monday https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread or Muffins (Vegan & egg-free)

Family favourite recipes

Absolutely delicious cake. Good for anyone with egg / nut allergies.

INGREDIENTS

3 very ripe bananas

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup sugar

2 cups plain flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda ( baking soda in the USA)

1 cup vegan chocolate chips

METHOD

Preheat the oven to 350F/ 170C. Line a loaf tin with non stick paper. Or re-usable silicone muffin cases.

Mash the bananas well. Add in the oil, vanilla and sugar. Mix well. Add flour, salt and bicarbonate of soda.

Add chocolate chips. Can use white and dark chocolate chips.

Mix until incorporated. Do not over mix.

Pour the mixture into the loaf pan.

Cook for between 45 and 60 minutes. Cover the cake if it is browning too much. Check with a knife to see if the cake is cooked right through.

Cook muffins for 20- 30 minutes. Check carefully as they burn quickly.

Cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then carefully turn out on to a cooling rack.

Options :

You can omit the chocolate chips and just have banana cake.

You can add nuts – pecans, walnuts.

You can add a handful of blueberries instead of chocolate. Very delicious!

Enjoy 😊

Here’s a useful conversion chart for American cup measurements. It’s from the Doves Farm flour website. https://www.dovesfarm.co.uk/hints-tips/cheat-sheets/us-cups-conversion-table

Egg Free, Fat Free, Sugarless Cake Recipe- Family Favourites (vegan)

I’m gathering another recipe here for my children. This is a much -loved recipe I’ve made for open gardens, picnics and school cake sales. It is suitable for vegans, vegetarians and people who are allergic to eggs. It’s so simple to make and the kitchen smells delicious when it’s being cooked. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS

6oz brown SR flour ( if using plain flour, add 3 tsp baking powder)

2oz ground almonds (omit if allergic to nuts, and use ground oatmeal instead.)

2 tsp mixed spice

1lb mixed fruit

4 oz dates, finely chopped

4 oz apricots, finely chopped

Rind of 1 orange or lemon

1/2 pint water (you can use tea)

2 tbsp orange juice

METHOD

Soak the dried fruit in the liquid overnight.

Add the dried ingredients and fold in.

Bake in a 2lb loaf tin for 1.5 hours at 160C. Cover the cake for the last half an hour to prevent the top burning.

Check with a knife to ensure the cake is cooked.

Enjoy 😊 x

Garlic Wash Recipe for Hostas. Defeating Slugs…

On Sunday, we had a question on protecting hostas from slugs – on the BBC radio gardening programme I sit in on.

My panel team mate Nick Turrell and I talked about using Strulch Mulch – a mineralised straw mulch that’s got a scratchy surface that slugs don’t like.

We also mentioned a garlic wash spray we have both tried and tested. We found it works a treat. It deters slugs, but does not poison them. This means the slugs are left available as food for birds and mammals such as hedgehogs. You’ll need to repeat the treatment regularly, especially after rain. I put my mixture in a 3l Hozelock sprayer and leave it in the potting shed ready to treat them. I’ve found it also deters aphids and is good for spraying roses.

The recipe comes from Sienna Hosta, a multi- gold medal winning nursery specialising in hostas. They do not use any other chemical treatments.

Here is a snapshot of their website showing their recipe for the garlic spray.

Here’s a link to their website.

https://www.siennahosta.co.uk/pages/garlic-wash-recipe

We also talked about no-dig gardening, protecting soils and coping with flooding. Charles Dowding is the expert on no-dig.

https://charlesdowding.co.uk/courses/

Here’s the link for Strulch Mulch.

https://www.strulch.co.uk/

Here’s a link to the radio programme BBC Radio Leicester’s Sunday Supplement. We are the middle hour of Dave Andrews’ show.

At 1.09.16 on the timeline at https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07sc852

We also mentioned our appeal for hedgehog food from Leicestershire Wildlife Hospital. They have 260 hedgehogs in their care and are taking in around 10 a day. Hedgehogs are either ill, underweight or injured having been washed out of their nests in the floods. Hedgehogs eat meaty dog food, the solid loaf -type, and not containing gravy, jelly, or made with fish. They also desperately need puppy milk for the babies, and heat pads and incubators. They have an amazon wish list and an appeal fund.

http://www.leicesterwildlifehospital.org/

And also we talked about Belvoir Castle Flower and Garden Festival which was launched this week :

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/belvoir-castle-flower-and-garden-show-tickets-77976360393

Dahlias -Overwintering Dilemmas- 19 November 2019

I’m not usually a ditherer. I have a plan of action and I just get on with it. But the weather this autumn has put a spanner in the works. Unprecedented amounts of rain mean we are five weeks behind schedule with all jobs in the garden. And I am only now managing to sort out and store my precious dahlia collection.

This year, I’ve decided to leave half in the ground – in a raised bed with free-draining soil- and bring half indoors. This way, I’ve cut my losses. I’ll have some plants indoors to take cuttings from next spring, even if the ones outdoors fail to survive.

Here’s what I’ve done with the ‘outdoor’ dahlias:

OVERWINTERING DAHLIAS IN THE GROUND

1. I’ve waited until all the foliage has been blackened by frost. This sends the plant instructions to go into dormancy.

2. I’ve removed half of the foliage and dead flower heads. The remaining foliage has been folded over to cover the plant. Stems are hollow, so if you cut back stems and leave them upright they act like straws, directing rainwater down to the tuber.

3. I’ve put a 3″ deep mulch of compost over the tubers, followed by 6″ of dry leaves or straw.

4. Dahlias need to be kept dry and frost free, so I’ve covered the bed with some cloches, and packed the ends with dried leaves. These 1.3m by 3m beds are mounded up like ridge and furrow farm land. They are no-dig which also seems to aid drainage over winter by protecting the soil structure. No-dig basically means adding a few inches of compost every time you harvest a crop, and simply re-planting through the compost. No back-breaking digging is required.

LIFTING DAHLIAS FOR INDOOR STORAGE

For my indoor ‘insurance policy’ dahlias I’ve done the following:

1. Waited until the frost has blacked the foliage. Checked the soil. It is like suet pudding, wet and claggy. Heavy clay. This is an area of garden due a lot of compost mulch over the winter.

2. I’ve gently dug out the dahlias, being careful not to bruise them. Wounds are vulnerable to rotting, so care needs to be taken.

3. I’ve cut the stems back to 3″ and turned the tubers upside down to drain. They will go into a frost free potting shed.

4. When drained, I’ll store the tubers in dry vermiculite, straw, or compost, in the dark, under the potting shed table. Temperatures need to be 2-3C. Dahlias will survive a few degrees of frost- if they are dry. If it gets very cold, I’ll throw some fleece or old blankets over the tubers.

In February, I’ll place the tubers in seed trays of compost in gentle heat to bring them back to life. When they have shoots 1″ tall, I will split the large tubers in half with a sharp knife, making sure both halves have some stem.

I’ll also take basal softwood cuttings when shoots are 1″ tall, using a sharp knife and taking a small sliver of tuber with the cutting. These will be grown on in a frost free greenhouse and planted out end of May. Cuttings will make good size tubers and will flower in one season.

You can lift and save tubers from seed-grown dahlias as well. Just save the best ones, as seed produces very variable results.

Which option are you taking with your dahlias?

A BIT ABOUT HISTORY

It’s fascinating to hear that dahlias have been grown in Europe for 200 years. They originally came from Mexico and were grown in the botanic gardens in Madrid towards the end of the 18th century.

Dahlias are named after Andreas Dahl, a Swedish botanist, scientist and environmentalist. Plants come in every colour -apart from blue! The smallest are the Lilliput Series and the largest are dinner plate sized, a foot in diameter.

Dahlias are categorised by their appearance; there are waterlily, Pompom, collarette and cactus types. Something for everyone, really.

Here’s some of my favourites from my cut flower garden.

Arabian Night. Deep, dark velvety red. A stunning dahlia for cut flower work.

Nuit de’Ete, a lovely deep red cactus type. Lasts two weeks in a vase.

Nuit de’Ete amongst cosmos, persicaria and Ammi.

An pretty un-named variety grown from a packet of seed. Single flowers are much loved by bees and butterflies.

Dahlia David Howard. The best orange variety. Strong growing with long lasting flowers. Very beautiful in low autumn sunshine.

A very good book on dahlias has been written by Naomi Slade. Highly recommended. Just beautiful to sit and peruse over the cold winter months to come. When we will all need something cheerful to look at.

There’s a review of the book here : https://bramblegarden.com/2018/06/24/dahlias-beautiful-varieties-for-home-and-garden/

My dahlia tubers come from Gee Tee Bulbs: https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/dahlias

Links: National Dahlia Society: https://www.dahlia-nds.co.uk/

In a Vase on Monday ( although this is Tuesday- I still like to join in when I can ) https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/

Follow me on twitter @kgimson

On instagram at karengimson1

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you are growing in your garden at the moment.

And, a photo I haven’t shared before. A picture of my mother in law Joan. Regular readers will know that I grow my cut flowers to keep a connection with Joan. It’s something we both love and it’s a way of sharing my garden with her now she is living in a care home.

A walk Around My Garden – 16 November 2019

Today’s photos have a golden theme running through them. For a few short weeks, everything glows. It’s a last gift from the garden before we descend into cold dark days. And it’s a very welcome gift. Even the flowers are golden. The last dahlias make a cheerful posy for the garden table. Tubers of favourite David Howard dahlia are tucked up under a foot of dry leaves now. Here I’ve found some blue borage and a few nasturtiums to go with the solo dahlia bloom. I feast my eyes on the sight. It will be another 9 months before I see dahlia flowers again.

Luckily, in the poly tunnel, my ‘Aunty Dorris’ chrysanthemums are coming into flower. My father in law has been growing these since the 1950s after receiving cuttings from his aunt. Sadly he’s had to leave his garden, and the precious plants have come my way. I’m determined to keep them going, in memory of Aunty Dorris and as a tribute to their shared love of gardening. There will be a steady flow of flowers to the care home where my relatives now live, right up until Christmas time.

White Swan chrysanthemums are also flowering. I grow them in 12″ pots in an open-ended poly tunnel. They don’t mind the cold, but the rain spoils their flowers. There’s often enough for Christmas table decorations.

Stepping out of the poly tunnel door, this is the scene. A bank of wild cherry trees make a golden veil. Next spring there will be snowy white cherry blossom, followed by luscious red fruit. There’s always something to look forward to. Nothing stays the same. I remind myself this, when there’s bare stems and cold dark days ahead. Winter is not my favourite time of the year, but I store up memories of the past, and at the same time, look to the future. My garden provides a kind of winter armoury.

Alongside the greenhouse, there’s a group of hazel trees. We harvest a few cob nuts each year, but squirrels take most of them. It’s cheerful to see catkins – or lambs tails- forming already.

Through the hazel and maple trees, you can just spy the summerhouse. Fallen leaves make a golden footpath leading the way.

Tall golden beech trees make a backbone for the summerhouse. It will be six months before we see lime green shoots and new leaves again.

Surrounding trees and the back fields are reflected in the summerhouse windows. Sunset is a favourite time to sit here and ponder on the growing year coming to a close. And also think about all the flowers, fruit and veg I’ll be growing next year.

What plans have you for your garden next spring? Are you enjoying the autumn colours just now, as we are here in the Midlands? Get in touch and let me know how things are going in your garden right now.

While you are looking at these photos there’s some music to go with them. Here’s the link to Yellow (Coldplay) sung by Jodie Whittaker for Children in Need. It’s very appropriate for my post this week. At 1.35.09 on the timeline. Or number 12 on the playlist.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p07sc6bw

Children in Need; https://www.bbcchildreninneed.co.uk/shows/got-it-covered/

Links : SOS. I like to join in with Six on Saturday, but always have more than six to share https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/16/six-on-saturday-16-11-2019/

Six on Saturday- A Walk Around My Garden and Back Fields- 9th Nov 2019

It’s a cold, misty start to today’s walk around my garden and back fields. Peering through the gap in the hedge, the old oak tree looks golden. We see a fox crossing the field, so brazen in the morning light. Fox and field blend into one. All autumnal tones merge today. The fox heads for the ditch, sending a pheasant flying into the next field. In the hedge where I’m standing, blackbirds and robin start up their alarm call. I think it must be the fox causing the upset. But then a buzzard glides low overhead- silent at first, then making a plaintive mewing cry. I shiver. Magnificent. Deadly. Owning the sky.

We walk along the ridgeway path. It’s been a slow start to autumn here. Field maples usually yellow-up by mid to end of October. Suddenly today, as temperatures dip below zero, the hedgerow takes on a golden hue. It reminds me of a patchwork quilt. ‘Squares’ of black dogwood stitched together with patches of golden maple. Such a pretty view. I gaze at it, and hold it in my memory. A few autumn gales and the magic will be gone. A whole year before we see such sights again.

Blackberries. The bane of my life this year. They have taken over my garden and this winter there will be serious chopping back. Meanwhile, leaves glow a glorious red. Quite pretty, if they were not so determined to take over the world.

It’s been wet here. So far this month there’s been 42mm of rain. In October we had 146mm, and in September, 118mm. The ground is waterlogged, ditches overflowing. We follow a path where horses have trod. The ground is so soft there’s deep hoof prints, full of water. It’s calming following footprints, the sky reflected in the little pools of water.

A dip in the hedge reveals our trees on the left. I can hardly believe we planted them, all those years ago, when I was in my 20s. They’ve been a source of joy ever since. On the right in the distance stands Polly’s Wood. I have a dream to join the two woods together- a corridor for wildlife. One day, perhaps. We shall see. Dreams do sometimes come true.

Back through the garden gate, on our boundary, there’s a green corridor running down past the pond to the summerhouse beyond. Autumn and spring are my favourite times for this part of the garden. In spring, the lime green new shoots are bright and cheerful. At this time of the year, field maples and cherry trees create a golden tunnel.

If you look carefully, you can just see our 1930s summerhouse, hidden amongst the trees.

Thank you for all your kind words last week, following our cousin’s funeral. It’s seems I am not alone in turning to nature as a balm when there are sorrows. Perhaps we all find solace and hope in nature all around us. And gardening is something we all turn to in moments of need. This week after walking for miles, and gardening all hours, I feel restored and ready to face whatever life brings. No doubt there will be many more ups and downs to deal with. Nothing stands still in life, or in gardening, for that matter. Does it.

Links : More about buzzards and listen to their call :https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/buzzard/

Field Maples : https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/field-maple/

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.

Six on Saturday – A Walk Around My garden and Back Fields 2nd November 2019

It’s a rather somber walk around my garden and back fields today. We are mourning the loss of a cousin, taken too soon. It’s shaken us all. Someone our age, who should have lived another 30 years at least. These things are not within our power to change. A feeling of sorrow overwhelms me as I walk under leaden skies, the weather and landscape echoing my sadness.

This is a favourite view from the top of the back fields immediately behind my garden. It’s a view I stand and gaze at every day. You can see for miles. The fields that looked so golden all summer, so productive with wheat and barley, lay fallow today, waiting for the next phase. Waiting, like me, to see ‘what next.’ I’m thinking about my life today, and my cousin’s. I feel as if today is some kind of turning point.

Walking usually clears my thoughts. I make a lot of plans while putting one foot in front of the other. Just along from my garden there’s a ridgeway path. I’m usually in a hurry, marching, heart beating fast. Much better than sweating away in a gym. Today, I’m on a go-slow. Thoughts lost in the mist in the distance.

It’s been so wet here of late. Fields flooded, pond overflowing. We’ve had double the normal amounts of rain. Five months worth in five weeks. My spring bulbs, ordered in excitement and anticipation in July, lay still in their boxes in the potting shed. Waiting. If the ground doesn’t dry up soon, I shall have to throw them all into plant pots.

And yet, there is a glimmer of hope. Nature always supplies something to hearten, even something small and relatively insignificant. I find rosehips in abundance. Glowing red and spangled with raindrops. Food for the birds. I care about the birds and their survival, and am glad to see the rosehips and hedges full of hawthorn berries.

There’s crab apples too. Food for birds and mammals. A tiny mouse scampers and hides under a tussock of grass. We move away to allow it to feast in peace. It’ll need to build up reserves to get through the winter. Just behind the hedge, we see a family of roe deer, three adults and two fawn, this year’s young. They are like shadows, so quiet and calm. They melt away into a tangle of trees, unconcerned by our intrusion. A highlight of summer, we came upon one of the babies, left in the long grass by Polly’s Wood. Such a beautiful, heart-sing sight. Taught to stay still as a statue, it didn’t flinch, and we moved quietly away, knowing the mother was watching nearby.

I find a birds nest in the hedge. A mossy thing of beauty. How do they manage to create such intricate structures, merely using beak and claw. There are many wonders.

The hedgerow provides another message of hope. Hazel catkins or lambs tails. A reminder that spring will surely come. As it always has. The seasons carry on regardless.

Maple leaves are turning golden. Providing ‘sunshine’ – whatever the weather.

Back through the garden gate, dogwood Midwinter Fire is glowing in its autumn glory. Soon the orange stems will be revealed, a glorious sight through until spring.

Here’s a view of the potting shed from across the pond. I find myself standing gazing out of the potting shed window, thinking, planning, mulling things over. Then I set to and fill my grandfather’s old Sankey terracotta plant pots with compost. Thinking of him, and all my much-loved and sadly missed relatives, I plant my bulbs for spring. Spring will return and life goes on. We have to look forward, while not forgetting the past. And gardening thoughts and tasks will help to ease the pain. As it always has.

In A Vase on Monday- 28th October 2019

The first frost sees me running up the garden, collecting dahlia flowers in buckets. Even slightly faded, tatty flowers are harvested. Every bloom has suddenly become precious. It will be a whole nine months before we have any more of these glories.

In amongst the dark blood red dahlias are these interlopers. I didn’t plant them. I’ve been growing cactus dahlia Nuit d’Ete for around 20 years. Alongside, there’s some white dahlias called My Love. Could they have crossed to produce this striped flower? It’s a mystery. A very pretty interloper, even so. It can stay.

Frost means the end of tender flowers such as dahlias. Plants will collapse virtually overnight. Last year I left the tubers in the ground and covered them with a foot of dried leaves and a cloche. The secret is to keep them relatively dry. However, this year I will lift them all. The ground is sodden. We’ve had 266mm of rain over the past two months, double the usual amount. Five months worth of rain in the past five weeks. There’s no way I’m going to be able to keep the dahlias from rotting, unless I lift them.

So, using very sharp florists’ scissors, I collect buckets of flowers for the house, before tackling the tubers. Tubers are carefully lifted to avoid bruising. They are cut off leaving 3″ of stem. Turned upside down to drain. Then put in a dark, cool, frost free shed. After a week or two, I’ll wrap them in newspaper, or put them into pots of dry compost to overwinter. They will be started back into growth in the greenhouse in February, cuttings will be taken, and the whole cycle of planting and harvesting will go round again.

I also picked some verbena bonariensis, diascia, the last of the Nicotiana Mutabilis, some very late gladioli, and herbs such as rosemary and lavender.

There is one last flower from Dahlia Obsidian, a tuber I bought from East Ruston Garden in Norfolk a few years ago. I like to buy a few plants when I’m on holiday to remind me of the visit. This one is particularly good for pollinators, being an open, single flower.

Added some Amaranthus, love lies bleeding. I have grown the red and the white form this year.

And this is what the flowers look like, all put together. I had enough flowers for four or five vases.

I put the verbena mixture in a Kilner jar that used to belong to my great aunt Betty. She was a keen cook and preserved everything in those jars. She gave me about 100 when I first set up home. Happy memories; I use them every day and think of her.

It’s warm and sunny enough to sit in the garden today. After all that rain, I’m not spending a second shut indoors! I’ve even written this sitting outside on an old garden chair covered with a cosy woollen blanket. My feet are getting cold, so I’ve put a few bricks under them as a makeshift foot stool. No doubt there will be more frost ahead, but I’m determined to get outdoors as much as I can this winter and not get stuck by the fire.

Have you had a frost in your area yet? Are you leaving your dahlias in the ground or lifting them, like me? Let me know how things are growing in your part of the world.

Links : Cathy IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/10/28/in-a-vase-on-monday-not-fade-away-2/

Dahlia Nuit d-Ete https://www.peternyssen.com/nuit-d-ete.html

East Ruston Old Vicarage http://www.e-ruston-oldvicaragegardens.co.uk/pages/view/564/home.htm

Dahlia Obsidian https://www.sarahraven.com/dahlia-verrones-obsidian.htm

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you for reading, and for getting in touch.

Six on Saturday- 26 October 2019

The last of the sunflowers. This one, above, looks like it can’t decide whether to open or not. It’s been wet here, 142mm of rain this month. Twice the usual amount. However, flowers coped well with the deluge. Dahlias love the rain. They just tip forward slightly to drain. Sunflowers have also thrived. My sunflowers are a mixture of Infrared and Allsorts Mix from Mr Fothergills. I sow them in seed compost in March in 9cm pots, grow on in the greenhouse until they have two pairs of leaves, and then plant out after all danger of frost has passed. I use Strulch mulch to protect from slugs. It’s a scratchy kind of mineralised straw mulch which slugs and snails don’t like. It helps to retain moisture and feeds the soil as it rots down. I also spray everything with home-made garlic liquid. The recipe comes from Sienna Hosta nursery. If it’s good enough for a multi- gold medal winning nursery, it’s good enough for me. It works, with the proviso that you have to spray repeatedly, especially after rain. I’ve got a 3L Hozelock sprayer set up ready, which makes life easier. It’s worth it to protect delicate seedlings from slugs, without resorting to chemicals. The garlic spray doesn’t kill slugs, but deters them, leaving them available as a food source for birds and mammals.

Seed merchants used to mostly supply yellow sunflowers, but in recent years there’s been a big increase in varieties available. I love the chocolate -coloured flowers and the mini-sunflowers, such as Teddy Bear, which can be grown in a container and only grows to 1m with 12cm wide very double ‘fluffy’ yellow flowers.

Glowing red, this sunflower reminds me of rich dark chocolate. This was the darkest flower in a packet of Velvet Queen seeds. Truly scrumptious.

Plenty of pollen for bees, and I leave the seeds on the plants for the birds to enjoy over winter. Insects hibernate in the sunflower stems.

Lovely markings on these sunflowers from the Allsorts Mix.

And finally, Thompson and Morgan produced a new and exclusive multi-branching sunflower which repeat flowers from spring until Christmas, if protected from frost. It has rather an unwieldy name- SunBelievable Brown-Eyed Girl. It’s perfect for containers. My potted sunflower was amazingly prolific, and produced about 100 flowers over the season. Plenty for mini flower arrangements like this one which has calendulas, and herbs mixed in with the sunflowers. It lasts about a week in a vase.

Tonight we put the clocks back and the evenings will gradually close in. We’ll just have to make our own sunshine- and grow more flowers. Don’t you agree?

Which plants have you grown this summer? Let me know which have been a success for you. It’s good to share ideas and information, and help one another- especially as winter draws near and we all need a bit of colour to keep our spirits up.

Links : SOS six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/10/26/six-on-saturday-26-10-2019/

Mr Fothergills Infrared https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Infrared-F1-Seeds.html#.XbSrg4zTWfA

Allsorts Mix https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Allsorts-Seeds.html#.XbSrtYzTWfA

Velvet Queen https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sunflower-Velvet-Queen-Seeds.html#.XbStyozTWfA

Thompson and Morgan https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/sunflower-sunbelievabletrade-brown-eyed-girl/tka1036TM

Calendula Orange Flash https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Calendula-Seed/Calendula-Orange-Flash.html#.XbSvAozTWfA

Garlic wash spray, Sienna Hosta Nursery https://www.siennahosta.co.uk/pages/garlic-wash-recipe

Karengimson1 on instagram

@kgimson on twitter

GardenMediaGuild member

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.

It’s still dark outside as I set off at 6am to meet Simon at the Flower Market in Nine Elms, London. We are standing amongst more flowers than I’ve ever seen, and we are inspecting the roses. Simon who has written a book about the market, explains that his customers have “magical weddings, the world over.” He loves the buzz of creating “magical settings in a world where everything is possible and the words ‘can’t do’ are never uttered.” It’s a revealing conversation, as he explains his customers expect total perfection. “They must have the best of everything. They’ll notice a little mark on the petal, and that’s no good. Utter perfection is what counts. The client is king.”

Simon, who regularly appears on television and radio, explains that everything starts with the selection of flowers at the market. And it’s clear that his relationship with the flower sellers is key. They seem almost like family, and it’s not surprising as Simon has been buying from the same people for 30 years.

We are introduced to Dennis Edwards who has been getting up at 2am to sell flowers for 54 years. His family are porters and sellers of fruit and vegetables. He’s the only one in his family to go into the flower market business. He describes it as a passion, rather than job. A life’s work to supply the creme de la creme.

In his book, The Flower Market Year, Simon says Dennis always has a few “specials” – buckets and trays of unusual items which he sets aside and keeps for Simon. “Dennis was the first person to ever serve me when, as a timid 20 year old, I ventured into the Flower Market for the first time. Dennis was then, and still is now, a Flower Market institution, always going above and beyond to find the very finest flowers and foliage, and ever in search of the unusual and the innovative, wanting to offer the largest, the biggest and the best blooms in the building.

“Born in Drury Lane, Dennis has worked in all three of the Flower Markets, firstly in the original Covent Garden Market, then, when it moved in 1974 to Vauxhall, in the New Covent Garden Flower Market, and now in the current (interim) market site a little further along Nine Elms Lane. In 2022, when all development is complete and he moves into the ‘New’ Covent Garden Market, he will be a record breaker!”

It’s fascinating to watch them talking. It’s as if each one knows already what the other is thinking. It’s clear Dennis instinctively knows which flowers Simon will need for his projects, and as I look around, perfection is key. I can’t fault anything. I’ve never seen flowers of such superb quality. It’s a scene that stays in the memory like a photograph because it’s so out of the ordinary.

Simon set out to record the workings of the flower market to “capture a real sense of the place,” with its salesmen and women, customers, porters, buyers and suppliers.

His book captures month by month what he’s seen and bought, and what’s inspired him to create floral decorations for his clients, for weddings, parties and corporate events. Simon doesn’t mention it, but on his website there are ‘thank you’ letters relating to HRH Princess Eugenie’s wedding (state entrance, grand staircase and reception room “absolutely stunning”) and also the marriage of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall (reception flowers, “magnificent”). Simon simply says “From humble beginnings we have grown into one of the most sought-after and well known names in the industry.”

Although Simon wrote the book to highlight the flower market year, his own fascinating life story is woven into the pages. Talking about buckets of blackberries, for example, he writes: ” When I worked at Pulbrook and Gould, stems of blackberries sold for the same price as spray roses and I will never forget the posies and arrangements created by the workroom there, featuring jewel-like bright berries glistening amongst stems of Oceana and Doris Ryker roses.

“Having left Pulbrook and Gould to become a freelance florist, I started to travel about the country, as much of my work was outside the city. For several summers when visiting my family in Warwickshire, or staying as I often did with friends in Northamptonshire, I used to fill the boot with anything I could gather from friends and family and sell it to one or more of the foliage suppliers in New Covent Garden Flower Market. The stems of blackberries that I cut and bunched used to pay for my petrol each week, and the car tax was funded by the branches of rosehips, damsons and wild apples that I crammed into the car before heading up the A40. ”

Selecting flowers from the market, Simon provides 30 ideas for flower arrangements, with step-by-step photographs and instructions. My favourites are the rose heart, the sweet peas in tins, and the artichoke bowl.

Having seen photos of his wedding and party flowers, it’s interesting to see the preferred choice for his own flowers- for his Scottish Highlands holiday home- is simple bottles filled with tiny sprigs of flowers and a few pebbles from the beach. Truly, he can make anything look special.

I’ve had a wonderful time with Simon, seeing the flower market in all its glory. What I’ve learned is that Simon relishes the magical weddings and corporate events with the ‘wow factor’ flowers. But he also sees the beauty in the simple things -a bunch of narcissi- the first of the season from the Scilly Isles. The scent of the flowers will always remind me of a lovely day spent at the market with a truly inspirational florist.

There’s one copy of the book to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included in the draw. Names will be randomly pulled out of a hat. International entries are welcome, as well as the UK. The publisher’s decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. Usual rules apply.

Links : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Market-Year-2019-Months/dp/1916091202

https://www.simonlycett.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Florist/Simon-Lycett-Ltd-1503980453205762/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/category/Local-Business/bramblegarden/posts/

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

@kgimson on twitter.

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you to my amazingly loyal and growing band of readers. I appreciate your taking the time to read my blog, and for leaving comments.

In a Vase on Thursday 10th October 2019

Rich Venetian shades. Just the joy we need for October days. Temperatures are dipping and nights drawing in, but the cut flower patch is blazing with colour.

Dahlia Nuit d’Ete is flowering well, standing up to the wind and the rain. We had the wettest September for 20 years. And October doesn’t look like it’s getting any drier. We’ve had 134mm of rain in ten days. That amount usually falls in two and a half months! With swamp-like conditions it’s impossible to work on the borders. Luckily my cut flower patch is divided by little slabbed paths, so I never need to step on the soil.

Alstroemeria Laguna and Serenade

In amongst the dahlias there’s pink and red alstroemerias grown in pots. If you pull the flower stems out of the compost when you pick them, more blooms will follow. Pull instead of cut is the message. It seems destructive, but promotes further flowering. These are tall varieties suitable for cutting. I accidentally bought some dwarf types once, which looked pretty in the borders, but were hopeless for flower arranging. So take care when choosing plants.

Dahlia Arabian Night

An old favourite I’ve grown for years. Very reliable and doesn’t seem troubled by rain and wind. Earwigs don’t seem to go for the darker shades, preferring the whites and pale-flowered dahlias. If your plants are being nibbled by earwigs, place upturned pots of straw or corrugated cardboard on canes near the flowers. In the morning you can tip the earwigs and their bedding into a wildlife corner, or amongst fruit trees. Earwigs are voracious predators of aphids and vine weevils. Worth relocating away from your dahlias.

Amaranthus cordatus

Love lies bleeding. An easy to grow annual. Produces pendant tassel-like flowers. It’s also known as velvet flower, foxtail and prince’s feather. Sow seeds in half seed trays in March/April. Prick out seedlings into 9cm pots or full seed trays and plant out after frosts. Flowers all summer until the end of October and sometimes into November, depending on temperatures.

Penstemon Plum Jerkum.

A short-lived perennial. This came as a cutting from a friend. It’s a good idea to take insurance-policy cuttings in late summer. These plants are not totally hardy. It’s the winter wet that defeats them, so plant in well drained soil in full sun and protect from the worst of the weather with fleece. Take cuttings in July and August from non-flowering shoots. Cut below a pair of leaves, where there’s a concentration of hormones to promote rooting. Remove all but the top two leaves. Place the cuttings around the edges of a 9cm pot filled with 50/ 50 horticultural grit and compost. The edges of the pot provide the most free draining position for the cuttings, which helps roots to form.

Verbena Bonariensis

Another short-lived perennial requiring a sunny spot in well-drained soil. I lost all my plants in the Beast for the East big freeze last year. Luckily, it grows really well from seed and cuttings. Sow seed in the spring in half trays and prick out, as above. Or take cuttings in late summer. There are tiny side shoots just above a pair of leaves. Gently pull these down and you will have a short cutting.

Aeonium Zwartkop

Aeoniums are evergreen succulents with a shrubby growth habit. My plants collapsed in the wind and some of the stems broke off. They make a lovely, unusual addition to flower arrangements. It’s all about using what you’ve got in the garden. When I take the posy apart, I’ll cut the bottom few inches from the stems and stick them in a pot of very gritty compost. Kept frost free, the cuttings will readily root and I’ll have new plants to stand out on the patio next summer.

Trifolium pratense red clover

The lovely pink rounded flower on the left is just common clover. This year I grew a patch of wild flower meadow in a raised windowbox on legs. I’m always saying you don’t need acres of land to grow food, flowers, and veg. So I put it to the test. It worked a treat. I filled the containers with Dalefoot seed compost and sowed seeds direct in spring. Red clover flowered all summer, alongside blue harebells, yellow birds foot trefoil, scabious, corncockle, and vipers bugloss. It’s been a joy to watch bees, hoverflies and butterflies visiting my little patch of “meadow.”

Nicotiana mutabilis.

The pretty tubular flowers are colour-changing tobacco plants. These were sown and planted last year. They self-sowed over the winter, and have come up stronger and more beautiful this summer. I’m hoping they will do the same for next year, but I’ve saved seed and sown some more, just in case. Stems grow to 1.5m and produce clouds of trumpet-like flowers. They change colour as they age through various shades of white, pink and lilac. Glorious, and highly recommended. I’ll never be without it now I’ve seen it flower all summer long.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my Venetian shades bouquet, photographed on a windswept day in the garden. Golden beech tree leaves were swirling past my head as I was tying up the flowers. It seems autumn is on a fast forward setting. What is it like in your garden right now?

Links: I love to join in with Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme. But Mondays are my busiest working day. So I’m just going to post photos when I can. I’ll be reading all your posts when I get home from work.

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

Dahlias : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/search-results?s=Dahlias+

Alstroemerias: http://www.postalplants.co.uk/catalogue.asp

Amaranthus :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Amaranthus-Love-Lies-Bleeding-Seeds.html

Penstemon : https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/162416/Penstemon-Pensham-Plum-Jerkum-(Pensham-Series)/Details

Verbena Bonariensis; https://higgledygarden.com/2011/11/21/verbena-bonariensis/

Aeonium: https://www.rhs.org.uk/plants/details%3Fplantid%3D64

I’m @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. Please feel free to share this post, linking back to bramblegarden.com

The Light in the Dark- book review and prize draw

The Light in the Dark- A Winter Journal

Horatio Clare

Published by Elliott&Thompson

£9.99 ISBN: 978-1-78396-462-8

There have been times when I’ve stood and stared in despair at the depths of human cruelty. One winter, in a muddy field on the boundaries of our village, I came upon a heartbreaking sight. Four ponies lay, dumped, one on top of the other, their necks broken, legs tangled. Filthy, caked in mud, flea ridden, they had literally been tipped out of a truck and left in a pile. Such sickening callousness. It’s a sight that will never leave me. Sadly, the perpetrators were never found. I raged for a long time. Such a senseless act. Why couldn’t they just have handed them over to someone who’d care. It made me unhappy for a very long time. Then one day on twitter, I saw an appeal for a pony called Eggsy. He’d been abandoned, left to starve, and was in a very poor state. But this time, the story has a happy ending. Carol Caton rescued him and set up a Go Fundme page for support. Since then, I’ve been regularly sending funds their way. I couldn’t help the ponies dumped as if they were unwanted trash. But I can help Carol. There’s a link at the bottom of the blog if you’d like to learn more.

What has prompted me to tell you this story? Well, in Horatio Clare’s new book, The Light in the Dark, he writes about his own sad discovery. I won’t spoil the book by revealing the details. Suffice to say he describes the discovery as “a nauseous thump in the gut, and a sudden hard drum of the heart as the world narrows, my vision tunnelling.” Travelling to his mother’s farm to face the crisis he says “Somewhere between Newtown and Llandrindod a rage bursts in the pit of me, a howling, violent thing exploding, and the furies come screaming out, and I roar in the car.”

But, the book is not all about grief and tragedy. It is a story of hope. It’s about overcoming the pain and sadness in life, and finding a way through the dark.

“Let grief be a fallen leaf, at the dawning of the day. Let grief be a fallen leaf, I think. There is much to do. And indeed, the days that followed the winds blew, the leaves fell and winter’s occupation began. ”

The Light in the Dark is a journal written from October to March. It’s a deeply moving account of surviving depression. Seasonal sadness, the winter blues, depression are widespread in the cold, dark months. Horatio Clare struggles to eat, to sleep, to work. But by “looking outwards, by being in and observing nature,” we can all learn to celebrate winter. It is magical to witness how the natural world becomes his salvation.

It’s impossible to put the book down. We are travelling on Clare’s journey, sharing moments of despair and joy. Beautiful words carry us along.

The book more than shines a light in winter, it beams! A brilliant, radiant, glowing light. For many, it will be a beacon of hope, leading the way to spring.

Please feel free to share this post. Leave a comment if you’d like to be included in the prize draw. The publishers have one copy to give away. Names will be randomly selected.

Links : https://eandtbooks.com/book/light-dark-winter-journal

Eggsy : https://www.gofundme.com/f/z8gpxg

Eggsy on twitter https://twitter.com/eggsypony

Winners….

Many thanks for reading my book and product reviews. Here are the names of recent winners:

An Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade : won by 30 Days of Wild Parenting, Joshua Johnson.

Clip garden gloves: won by Wilma Wilson

Dancing with Bees by Brigit Strawbridge Howard won by Debi Holland.

Incognito insect sprays and sun cream collection won by Suella.

The Good Bee Book, won by Florasforum.

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

Clip Gloves: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/09/15/clip-glove-on-trial/

Dancing with Bees https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/04/dancing-with-bees-a-journey-back-to-nature/

Incognito https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Incognito+

Good Bee Book https://bramblegarden.com/?s=Good+bee+book

Thanks again for reading and taking part. New Books to Follow: Wilding by Stephen Rutt. We Made a Meadow, Yvette Verner. The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare. There’s also new watering hosepipes from Hozelock and a biomix plant feed maker. Are there any new products/ books you would recommend?

An Orchard Odyssey- Book Review and Prize Draw

By Naomi Slade

Published by Green Books

Hardback 224 pages £24.99

ISBN: 978-0-85784-326-5

There are many things in life I’m not able to change at the moment. I’m sure some of you will be feeling the same. I am worried and unsettled by what’s happening in the UK, and around the world. I feel as if I’m just watching and waiting for people in power to start making some sensible decisions- or decisions I understand at least.

Focussing on something positive, I’ve decided to plant fruit trees. Reading through Naomi Slade’s book, An Orchard Odyssey, there’s hope written on every page. To plant a tree is to believe in a better future. I’m planning a community orchard. Something to bring people together. Sharing and caring is the way forward. I’ve been mulling this over for a while, and Naomi’s book gives me the answers I need to take the first steps.

It’s fascinating and reassuring to hear about restoration projects for old orchards. There’s a renewed interest in traditional methods of orchard management and on locally grown and heritage fruit . “Orchards are increasingly being reclaimed by communities and used in new ways. Not only are they a social resource, but as an archetype of sustainable agriculture there is also potential for enterprise, skills acquisition and learning activities- all on the back of biodiversity.”

I’m keen to know more about newly- planted orchards providing a shared resource and the book has a section on how to make a community orchard happen. There’s tips on creating a plan, getting local support, forming a group and thinking about management. There are activities for children and encouraging wildlife with log piles and bee hotels. Using the site as an exhibition area for local artwork sounds inspiring too.

I’ve been involved with many school gardens, designing and project managing builds. It’s something I loved doing. Naomi gives many fresh ideas, practical suggestions on planting and selecting varieties. What she also emphasises is that anyone can grow fruit. With modern dwarfing root stocks, fruit trees can be grown in small spaces. There are types which can be grown in a pot. You don’t even need a garden, some varieties can be grown on a balcony.

Naomi’s beautifully- illustrated book is packed with practical advice written with enthusiasm and passion. Sections on the history of orchards, the origins of apples, and gardening through the ages, contrast with modern breeding projects to develop new varieties and ways to combat pests and diseases.

Reading Naomi’s book should really be on prescription. It’s a joy. A few hours reading and my feeling of calm and sense of equilibrium has returned. Of course, the problems of the world have not gone away. But I feel as if I can do something to make a difference – even if it is planting just one tree. We have to believe small gestures, kindness, a willingness to make things better, actually work. I believe it works magic. What do you say?

The publishers have offered one copy to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment below to be included. No purchase is necessary, there’s no cash alternative and the publisher’s decision is final. Names will be randomly selected.

links: Green Books https://www.greenbooks.co.uk/an-orchard-odyssey

Clip Glove – on trial

Ever since my brush with blood poisoning earlier this summer, I’ve been extremely careful. I wear gloves for every gardening activity. I’m not taking any chances. I guard against thorns, insect bites and splinters.

Treadstone Products saw my post warning gardeners to take care:

Here’s the original blog post: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/07/05/infection-a-warning-to-gardeners/

It’s a warning that’s been read 150,000 times. Clearly a subject that resonates with many people, not just gardeners.

I’ve been trying out a range of different gloves. The latest is the Clip Glove, a new product from Treadstone. As usual, I’ve asked for a pair to give away in a prize draw. Please leave a comment at the end of the post to be included in the draw. Sorry, uk addresses only, due to postage.

What I like about the gloves:

  • Skin-friendly fabric. Cool and comfortable
  • Synthetic leather fabric. Hard wearing
  • Flexible enough to handle delicate cuttings and tiny weeds
  • Strong and durable materials
  • Special feature: clip attachment. Gloves can be clipped to belt, bag or for hanging up in the potting shed, or on the line to dry after washing
  • Loops to help you pull the gloves on and off
  • Recent winners of the garden centre industry GIMA awards
  • A choice of sizes for hands

I used them to weed the cut flower patch and plant out some sweet williams and wallflowers. On a hot day, 21C, my hands didn’t feel uncomfortable. In fact, I forgot I was wearing them.

The little tabs are really welcome. There’s nothing worse than struggling to get gloves on and off. Elasticated cuffs stopped compost going inside the gloves.

Flexible enough to easily grip garden tools. Stiffer fabric gloves make my hands ache after a while. These were worn all day with no problems.

I harvested my spring -planted garlic. Small but incredibly tasty. I’m just about to plant some for overwintering. I buy them from the Garlic Farm, Isle of Wight.

Sorted through my saved bulbs, removed old stems and placed them in paper bags ready for re-plating in November. These will be planted in the orchard, and fresh bulbs will go in winter containers,

Mixed some compost, added grit for drainage and filled terracotta pans ready for sowing winter micro-greens, herbs, salads, rocket, lambs lettuce, beetroot and watercress.

Weeded, tied in and mulched my favourite rose; Rosa Mutabilis ( https://www.classicroses.co.uk/mutabilis-shrub-rose.html ) This variety flowers on and off from spring to Christmas in various shades of peach and cream, opening cerise pink. Adorable and disease resistant. Good for pollinators, being a single flower. Just look at that golden pollen!

A good day’s work in the garden.

Links: Clip Glove https://www.treadstoneproducts.com/treadstone-garden/clip-glove/

Garlic Farm: https://www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk/

Tulips : https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/tulips

Compost https://www.dalefootcomposts.co.uk/products/wool-compost-for-seeds.p.aspx

Seeds: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Vegetable-Seeds/Salad-Leaves/#.XX6wPozTWfA.

Note: Names will be put in a hat and randomly selected by Treadstone. There’s no cash alternative. One pair of gloves will be sent to the winner. No purchase is necessary. Usual rules apply.

Clearing Out the Greenhouse & Taking Pelargonium Cuttings – Sunday September 15

I start off with good intentions. Each spring, I determine to keep the greenhouse tidy. By September, all manner of clutter- bits of string, old labels, empty plant pots and dead plants- trip me up. It looks a mess. So this weekend I’ve emptied all the plants and swept right through. Phew. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s a 20 foot Alton cedar greenhouse, bought second hand and painted black. First I take out all the pelargoniums. The one above is called Tomcat. It’s like burgundy velvet. It flowers non stop from March through to November. In a mild winter it carries on flowering for 12 months. This year, I’ve decided to cut everything back and keep all the plants as cuttings in 9cm pots. The mother plants, several years old and getting leggy, have been composted. It’s hard to do. I tend to hang on to plants even when they are past their best.

There’s still a lot of colour, but the cooler temperatures and damp atmosphere creates mould. Botrytis is a killer of tender plants such as pelargoniums. Cutting them back and reducing the watering helps to combat the problem.

I’ve got an ancient wood and metal garden nursery trolley which I station outside the greenhouse doors to hold the plants temporarily.

Luckily, it’s a beautiful sunny day with temperatures around 21C. We’ve had one night of frost, but no damage so far. Night time temperatures are dipping into single figures though, so there’s no time to waste.

I quickly snip off 3″ cuttings from non-flowering shoots and pile them in my trug. To take cuttings, I cut above a pair of leaves to start with. Then I use a sharp knife to cut below a leaf joint where there’s a concentration of hormones to aid rooting. I use my fingers to snap off all but three leaves at the top. Any large leaves are cut in two to reduce moisture loss. The soft, tiny winged growth on the stems is rubbed off as they attract mould. I gently rub over the leaves to check for aphids.

I fill 9cm pots with 50% peat-free multi-purpose compost and 50% grit or perlite for drainage. Tap the pots on the table to settle the compost. Cuttings need air as well as moisture to grow, so I don’t squash the compost down.

It’s still warm enough to work in the potting shed. There’s a robin in the eaves, quietly twittering away. Sometimes robins can be incredibly loud, at other times its almost a whisper. It’s as if they are singing to comfort themselves. It comforts me as well to have such calm and joyful company.

All potted up, I water them once and set them somewhere cool, bright and frost free to root. The west-facing potting shed window will do for now, out of direct sunshine. They will spend their winter in the greenhouse though with a fan heater set at 6C. Next spring, I’ll tip them out and pot them into individual 9cm pots.

Back in the greenhouse, all the staging is cleared and jet washed down. Any spiders are relocated to the poly tunnel. I can’t kill anything. Slugs and snails go into a dry ditch beyond the boundary hedge. Food for other creatures, I hope.

When I’ve cleaned the glass and repaired the sliding door mechanism, I’ll push the citrus trees back in for the winter. It’s been a good summer for lemons and oranges. A few lemon cakes and orange marmalade might be in order….

Winter salads and micro veg are springing up in shallow terracotta pans. There will be more room now I’ve cleared out the huge pelargonium pots.

Luckily, there’s a few pots of colour left. This orange gerbera has been flowering for months. And my purple bougainvillea usually flowers into December. I haven’t quite finished polishing the glass, or replacing the comfy armchair, the biscuit tin and the radio. That will be tomorrow’s finishing touches. For today, after all that work, I’m collapsing in the summerhouse with a nice cup of tea and mulling over the autumn and winter season to come. I’m ready for anything the weather might throw at us.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to share this post.

Follow me on twitter @kgimson

On instagram at karengimson1

On #sixonsaturday with https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/14/six-on-saturday-14-09-2019/

On #IAVOM with Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/in-a-vase-on-monday-daisies-and-an-infiltrator-2/

Pelargoniums https://www.fibrex.co.uk/collections/pelargoniums/ivy-leaved?page=4

In a Vase on Monday – 9th September 2019

I’m trying to find alternatives to floral foam. Today, I’ve used raffia to attach a coffee jar to my willow heart. A small posy of flowers nestles in the centre of the heart. I’ll be able to change the water each day, and flowers should last at least a week.

We are all having to re-think ways of working. For years I’ve used floral foam blocks for door wreaths and table decorations. But recently it’s become apparent that foam is not recyclable. I’m concerned about inhaling dust from the foam, and also what happens when particles of foam are flushed down drains and end up in water courses. So I’m using jam jars and glass test tubes instead, and hiding the mechanics with moss and fabric.

There’s still plenty of flowers on the cut flower patch. I’m growing blue and white gladioli from Gee Tee Bulbs, planted in June for a late summer display. Gladioli bloom in 90 days, so they are a good reliable flower for special occasions such as weddings. You know you are going to get flowers in time. I’ve planted mine in between sweet peas in the middle of the hazel A frame, which gives them support. And also in the middle of late-planted dwarf beans, a combination I discovered by accident last summer, and I’ve repeated it this year. It’s a successful way of saving space. The beans use the gladioli stems for support.

Gladioli can be cut into sections with each flower having a small stem. These individual flowers are good for tiny jam jars. They also make pretty corsages. It makes tall flower stems go further.

There’s a pretty deep red dahlia flower each side of the posy. I’ve grown this long-flowering dahlia, Nuit d’Ete, for 20 years. It’s a cactus type with huge flowers that last at least two weeks in an arrangement. I’ve noticed that waterlily and cactus types keep opening up with many petals packed in the centre. Single dahlias, good for pollinators, are not so long lasting as cut flowers.

Tucked in around the dahlias are cosmos flowers. This year I’ve been delighted with the seashells cosmos, and also a very pretty ‘all sorts” mix.

Double cerise cosmos flowers have a striking pale pink centre. Cosmos last a week in water. Pollinators love them too. Bees, hoverflies and butterflies were enjoying these today. They followed the flowers across the garden and continued working them after I’d created my heart arrangement.

Cosmos flowers I’m growing this year are pale pink, cerise, and white, and I’m trying some pink and white striped types too.

I’ve propped the heart up on the potting shed window to add finishing touches. There’s some amaranthus tucked in at the base of the posy. My flower heart ended up over the summerhouse door. Hopefully we’ll have some late summer sunshine to enjoy the flowers, and, fingers crossed, we’ll have a few more weeks of nice weather to sit outdoors.

Thanks for reading. Enjoy your week. Hope it’s sunny where you are too.

Links : Cathy IAVOM. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/in-a-vase-on-monday-daisies-and-an-infiltrator-2/

Geetee bulbs :https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/gladioli/large-flowered-gladioli

Dahlias: https://www.peternyssen.com/nuit-d-ete.html

Cosmos: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Cosmos-Seed/Cosmos-Seashells-Mixed-Seeds.html#.XXbU5YzTWfA

Cosmos candy stripe :https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Cosmos-Seed/Cosmos-Candy-Stripe-Seeds.html#.XXbVPYzTWfA

Amaranthus https://www.thompson-morgan.com/p/amaranthus-caudatus-love-lies-bleeding/tm01657TM?source=aw&affid=176013&awc=2283_1568068975_9d1ac917267a4f2bf8b84f6e84c0b540

Flower wreaths and eco flower arranging courses : Common Farm Flowers https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/

Apricot and Almond Flapjack- Family Favourite Recipes

My mother-in-law Joan used to make these flapjacks. It’s amazing how quickly a tray of them can disappear. Fresh apricots are in the shops now, and British growers have had a record-breaking crop this year. You can also grow your own fruit. There’s several new varieties for growing in small spaces, such as Compacta. Moorpark is traditionally grown, but there’s a newer apricot, USA-bred Goldcot recommended for flavour and hardiness. Tomcot produces large apricots, and there’s also New Large Early and Isabelle. Golden Glow is a delicious apricot variety, discovered in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire.

FLAPJACK

Ingredients

400g fresh apricots. Other fruits can be used such as peaches/ plums/ raspberries/ strawberries. Roughly chopped. I didn’t have quite enough fresh apricots, so added 5 dried apricots to my mixture.

2 tablespoon lemon juice

130g light brown soft sugar

230g butter or margarine (use soya for vegan recipe)

100g golden syrup

100g blanched almonds

350g rolled porridge oats

Three quarter teaspoon of cinnamon

Half teaspoon of salt

20cm baking tray, lined with parchment

Recipe

Preheat the oven to 200C gas mark 6.

Place the apricots, lemon juice and 30g of the sugar in a saucepan and simmer gently until cooked. Stir occasionally. It will form a thick purée. Almost like jam.

Place the remaining sugar, butter or margarine and golden syrup in a saucepan and melt together on gentle heat.

Mix all the dry ingredients together and pour in the melted liquid ingredients. Mix together until all the oats are coated.

Place half of the mixture in the baking tray and level. Cover with a layer of the fruit purée. Top the fruit with spoonfuls of the oat mixture. Carefully level the topping, using a pallet knife or silicone spatula.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the topping is brown. Check after 15 minutes and cover with parchment if it is turning too brown.

Cool completely and cut into fingers.

Can be kept for 3 days in a tin.

Enjoy! 🙂

I topped my flapjack with nasturtium flowers, which are edible. Take care when using flowers to decorate food to check that they are edible and haven’t been sprayed with any chemicals.

Links: Apricot trees : https://www.chrisbowers.co.uk/category/apricots/

Nasturtium Tip Top Apricot : https://www.chilternseeds.co.uk/item_1261g_tropaeolum_majus_tip_top_apricot_seeds

In a Vase on Monday – A flower wreath for the summerhouse. Bank holiday flowers #IAVOM

Escaping the heat- it’s 31C here today- I’m sitting in the summerhouse. Facing north. There’s a slight breeze skimming over the horseshoe pond. It can’t really be described as cooling. Alongside us, there’s the sound of straw, drying and crackling in the sun. The harvest is safely gathered in, and now there’s bales of straw scattered all over the field, like some kind of land art installation.

As I’ve moved outdoors for a few days, I’ve made a sweet pea posy for the summerhouse coffee table, the last of my flowers no doubt. And a sunflower wreath, to match the sunny weather.

Here’s how I made my wreath. I’ve recycled an old moss wreath I bought a few years ago. You could use a wire, or willow ring and pad it with moss.

Rake some moss from the lawn. You’ll be doing your lawn a favour; now is the perfect time to scarify and aerate your lawn. Or, buy some from a garden centre or nursery. It’s usually sold for making hanging baskets. Soak it in a bucket of water for a few hours.

Squeeze the moss into thick sausages and place on the ring. Wind all around with string, kokadama style. Or use recylable u-shape metal pegs. These are commonly called German mossing pegs. They can be carefully saved and re-used.

Next, collect sprigs of foliage such as ivy. Any evergreen will do. Plunge them into a bucket of cold fresh water for a few hours, or overnight.

Use sharp florists’ snips -or a kitchen knife to cut the ivy into 15cm sprigs. Don’t use seceteurs for flowers or ivy as it crushes the stems, rather than cutting them cleanly.

Push the ivy into the moss all around the outside of the ring, facing outwards. Push some ivy into the centre of the ring, facing inwards. Push a few vertically down into the ring. You need about 10cm of the stem showing. Secure with mossing pegs if needed.

Cut flowers from your plot, or buy from florists. You will need three focal point flowers for the top. These can be anything of a larger scale than the other flowers being used. I’ve used sunflowers, but you can use lilies, rudbeckia, dahlias, daisies, or gerbera.

Place all flowers up to their heads in ice cold fresh water in a cool dark place such as a potting shed or garage overnight. This conditions the flowers and makes them last longer.

I’ve used white argyranthemums (daisies) of various sizes and my fluffy filler is ammi, sown in the spring.

I’ve also picked out the colour of the yellow centres with some spikes of verbascum. My cut flower patch took a pasting in the wind and rain, but flowers seem to have survived, even if they are now horizontal.

Place three focal point flowers at the top first. Then add the next focal point flowers – large white daisies in a triangle, at each side and bottom of the wreath. It’s difficult to push into the moss, so you will find the flowers naturally fall to different angles, which looks best anyway. Next add a few verbascums. These are angled upwards to form a halo of flowers. Add some cow parsley-like ammi as a filler. You could also use gypsophila. Finally add some tiny white oxyeye daisies and field cornflowers. Mine grew from a packet of wildflower seed.

Spray the moss and flowers with water twice a day to keep fresh. Your arrangement will last about a week. You can reuse the base and ivy, adding fresh flowers to keep it going. The ivy will last for around a month. If you’d like to add heavy flowers such as roses and lilies, you can buy some tiny glass test tubes and hide them amongst the moss before adding the ivy. Use wire or twine to secure them. You can top them up with water each morning and the flowers will last even longer. I do this in the spring when I want to put bunches of snowdrops and dwarf irises in my door wreath. Their flower stems are delicate; it’s easier to tie small bunches and place them in the hidden test tubes.

This is a simple silver birch twig wreath. Lengths of twigs are wound around and secured with twine. Ivy is poked into the birch. In January, ivy will last a month without being watered simply because it is cold and damp.

I wrote about the winter wreath here: https://pin.it/iw5zqyz5idkhbe

View from the summerhouse today. My sunflower wreath is in tune with the seasons. It took me about half an hour to make. I enjoy using flowers from my veg plot to create arrangements for the house and garden. All it cost me is a few packets of seed, a bit of string and a couple of florist supplies, which I guard carefully to re-cycle and reuse.

I don’t use floral foam as it can’t yet be recycled. It goes into landfill and doesn’t break down. It’s bad for the environment. Using moss is a good alternative – and it’s natural. At the end if its use, it can simply be composted.

Some tips on cutting flowers comes from Georgie Newbery at Common Farm, where I learned how to grow cut flowers and make natural arrangements.

1. Cut flowers in the morning when stems are full of water.

2. Remove all the lower leaves on the stems.

3. Place flower stems up to their heads in cold, fresh water. Leave overnight in a cool place.

Take care with poisonous plants such as aconitum. Wear gloves and remember to wash hands after handling.

NOTES :

I paid for my courses at Common Farm, and also bought Georgie’s books. I have no hesitation in recommending courses and flowers from Georgie.

Common Farm flowers and courses : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/?SID=o3dsu9kotrkrq5n05qkulm0433

The Flower Farmer’s Year by Georgie Newbery https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0857842331/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

German mossing pegs :https://www.countrybaskets.co.uk/german-mossing-pegs-40-mm-004650

Wild flower seed mix: https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Wildflower-Seed/Wildflower-Cornfield-Mixture.html#.XWQcAEzTWfA

Ammi majus seeds and advice https://higgledygarden.com/2013/01/16/sowing-ammi-majus-seeds/

In a Vase on Monday. Why not go over and see what Cathy and the others are making for their IAVOM. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/in-a-vase-on-monday-a-first/

Six on Saturday. Enjoy your Bank Holiday Weekend Everyone. Home is where I’m spending mine.

I often share views through the gap in the hedge. It’s a window on the changing seasons. Today, I thought you might like to see what’s growing in the hedgerow around my ‘window.”

Hawthorn. Crataegus monogyna. Berries are ripening fast. It seems too soon. It feels as if it’s only a short while since snowy white May blossom heralded the end of winter. And here we are, it’s harvest time. It’s a good year for berries. A larder for the wildlife. Hawthorn supports more than 300 species of insect. Flowers are eaten by dormice, and berries called ‘haws’ are rich in antioxidants and eaten by migrating birds such as redwings.

Hazel. Corylus avellana. Again, I feel it’s only a while since I posted photos of ‘lambs tail’ catkins. It’s a good year for nuts. Our garden is ‘raining’ hazel nuts. Even the squirrels can’t keep up with the crop, which is really saying something as their appetites are legendary. I’m often gathering them as fast as I can, while five or six brazen squirrels, adults and this year’s babies, bound across the top of the hedgerow. Multiple holes in the lawn show evidence of where they have ‘hidden’ their harvest. I hope they remember where they’ve left them. Hazel leaves are good for the caterpillars of many moths including the large emerald, small white, barred, umber and nut tree tussock.

The dormouse eats hazel nuts to fatten up for hibernation, and also eats caterpillars in the spring. Nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, wood pigeons, and jays. We’ve had an adult and baby green woodpecker in our garden all summer. It’s been fascinating watching the adult showing the baby where all the best spots are for food- the rotten wood pile, orchard and patch of grass where chafer grubs thrive.

Field Maple. Acer campestre. Winged seeds are turning red. They will soon be dispersed by the wind. And it can get very windy up here on the ridgeway. I really should have consulted an ordnance survey map before moving here. Gardening is a challenge in gale force winds. Next time, I’d like a nice secluded walled garden, please. Everyone reading this, knows there will not be a next time. I love this wild and peaceful place. I will never move from here.

The Woodland Trust tells me that maple leaves are eaten by several moths, the sycamore moth, small yellow wave, mocha, and the maple prominent, among others. Moths are on the decline so it is a good plant to have in any garden or hedgerow. We have some grown as trees, as well as mixed in the hedge.

Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees and birds, and small mammals eat the fruit.

This hedgerow is full of dogwood. Cornus sanguinea. Stems and leaves turns a rich burgundy in winter. A wonderful sight on a cold day. Leaves are already starting to take on polished and burnished tints. Green berries will soon turn black.

Leaves are eaten by moths, including the case-bearer moth. Flowers are valuable for insects, and berries are eaten by birds and small mammals. We enjoy standing and watching bats flitting over the hedgerows at night- catching the moths and flying insects. They seem to follow a repeated circuit, a figure of eight, over our heads. You can almost anticipate where they will be seen next. A joyful way to spend a few minutes, or longer if time allows. Owls fly in across the fields to take the small mammals- mice, rats and field voles. We have little owls, tawny and barn owls here. It can be quite noisy some nights, when they call out across deserted fields. The sound carries. We stand quietly and listen.

Crab Apple. Malus sylvestris. Abundant this year. Leaves are valuable for the eyed hawk moth, green pug, Chinese character and pale tussock. Wonderful names that conjure up all kinds of pictures in my mind. I decide to learn more about moths.

Fruit is eaten by blackbirds, thrushes and crows, and also mice and voles. Foxes and badgers forage in ditches for them. When fruit ripens and falls it seems to ‘cook’ gently in the heat. It’s a fabulous scent and always reminds me of apple pie and crumbles.

I read somewhere that you can measure the age of a hedge by the number of different plants growing in it. Apparently, it’s approximately 100 years for each variety. Looking around, I know that farming has been here since medieval times. There are ridge and furrow fields across from our garden and also half way to the village. They are particularly noticeable when fields flood. Furrows pool with water, while the ridges stay high and dry. You can just wonder and imagine how they grew their crops using hand tools, without the aid of machines.

Speaking of machines, the sound right now is combine harvesters north and south. To the west and east, there’s the monotonous chug, chug, chug of bailing machine. Soon there will be ploughing, and the growing season starts all over again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my view through the gap. I didn’t make the gap, nature did. But I look through it each day to spy the changes, and sometimes there’s hares, pheasants, fox cubs, all unaware that I’m watching.

Links : New hedging plants for my garden come from Hopes Grove Nursery, a family business in Tenterden. They supply ‘hedge-in-a-box collections for wildlife, cutflowers, gin making. Their latest collection is a horse-friendly range, suitable for field boundaries.

https://www.hopesgrovenurseries.co.uk/shop/mixed-native/horse-friendly-hedge-mix-mixed-native/

Woodland Trust: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/

Barn Owl Trust https://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/barn-owl-nestbox/owl-boxes-for-trees/

Plum Cake. Family Favourite Recipes

These delicious little cakes travel well and are perfect for picnics and parties. We always make them if we are invited round to a friend’s house. They are quick and easy to make and really tasty.

INGREDIENTS

Makes 12

12 plums, stones removed and fruit chopped into chunks.

For the sponge:

85g (3oz )sugar

85g (3oz ) margarine or butter.( I use Lurpack which doesn’t contain palm oil.)

1 egg

113g (4oz) self raising flour

1 level teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

Few blanched almonds for the top.

METHOD

Cream together the sugar, margarine and egg with an electric hand whisk. Add the flour and baking powder and whisk. Add the milk and vanilla extract, and whisk.

Place the chopped plums in the base of a silicon cup cake mold which has 12 ‘cups.’

Top with the sponge mixture. It will be about one large heaped tablespoon per cup. Sprinkle blanched almonds on top.

Cook for approx 15 mins at 180C, 356F gas mark. They are cooked when a knife comes out clean from the sponge. Take csre not to burn the almonds.

Leave to cool in the trays. Use a pallet knife to remove them. Sprinkle with sugar. Serve warm or cold.

Can also be frozen on the day of baking.

Enjoy!

You might also like Plum Crumble : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/08/20/plum-crumble-family-favourite-recipes/

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Plum Crumble- Family Favourite Recipes

Crumbles are a simple family pudding which can be varied according to the fruits in season. At the moment, we have plums from our Victoria plum tree. We’ve filled the freezer and made jam. Here’s my favourite plum crumble, using a recipe that came from my grandmother.

BASIC CRUMBLE TOPPING

Ingredients:

225g (8oz) plain flour

150g (5oz) soft brown sugar

75g (3oz) butter

1 level teaspoon baking power

METHOD

Place all the ingredients in a food processor, or rub in with your fingertips, until combined.

You can freeze this mixture until needed, if required.

Sprinkle the mixture all over the fruit in a 1.75 litre (3 pint) pie dish, spreading it out with a fork.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top is tinged with brown.

Oven temperature : 180C 350F gas mark 4

FRUIT SUGGESTIONS

Plum, Ginger and Almond : Add 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger to approx 900g plums cut in half with stones removed. Top the crumble mixture with a sprinkle of sliced almonds or chopped nuts. Take care not to burn the almonds.

Rhubarb and Ginger: 900g chopped rhubarb, 1 level teaspoon powdered ginger, 75g brown sugar.

Gooseberry: 900g fruit, topped and tailed. 6oz caster sugar.

Apple: 900g apples, 25g soft brown sugar, quarter teaspoon cloves, 1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon, 75g raisins. Cook all the ingredients in a saucepan until the apple is soft. Remove cloves and place apple mixture in a pie dish. Cover with the crumble topping.

Enjoy 😊

More fruit from the garden. Blueberries and blackberries. Can be added to apples for a delicious alternative crumble.

You might also like

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

https://bramblegarden.com/2018/07/26/summer-fruit-harvest-and-making-garden-jam/

Garden Visit : Little Ash Bungalow, Devon NGS

Plant Paradise

It takes a lot for me to leave my cosy potting shed. I’ve created a happy little haven, with all creature comforts; kettle, toaster, comfy chair, reading corner. Cat and new puppy for company. But, I was enticed out recently to visit a garden I’ve heard a lot about, Little Ash Bungalow at Fenny Bridges, Devon. And I’m happy to say, it was well worth the journey. The garden is a delight. Rare and unusual perennials, trees and shrubs. A plant paradise. Here’s a photo ‘slide show’ of my visit. The garden is open this Sunday, 18th August from 1-5 for the National Gardens Scheme.