Growing fruit, vegetables and herbs doesn’t require acres of ground. In fact, you can grow virtually anything in pots, on a balcony and even indoors- if you just have the right techniques and equipment. In Lucy Hutchings’ new book, Get Up and Grow, there’s tips on everything you need to step up your gardening to a new level and grow whatever you fancy in a fresh and exciting way. Judging by the photos in Lucy’s book, the results will not only be a feast for the table, but a feast for the eyes too. Everything looks absolutely stunning.
Here’s a selection of my favourite projects from the book:
More projects from the book. Lucy, a former couture jewellery designer, is @shegrowsveg on instagram and writes a blog at http://www.shegrowsveg.com
The book covers the basics of potting up, using lights, feeding, watering and trouble-shooting. Perfect for beginners, or more experienced gardeners looking for a bright and modern new way to garden. The ‘suppliers list’ at the end of the book is also quite a revelation with lots of suggestions I’d never even thought of. I can’t wait to get started on my own growing projects. With Lucy’s step-by-step illustrations and clear instructions, I should soon be growing kokedama oranges, having a go at hydroponics and making a ‘living wall.’ I’ll report back on my progress!
Thanks for reading my blog.
The publishers have kindly offered one copy for a prize draw. Please leave comments below to be included in the draw. A name will be randomly drawn on Sunday, 23 May at 6pm. There will be nothing to pay and I will contact you from my e mail which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published by Quadrille, an imprint of Hardie Grant Publishing
RRP £26 Published spring 2021. Hardback. 272 pages
ISBN 978 1 78713 6359
At about five or six, I was given the task of ‘collecting the mint.’ My grandmother, who was cooking lunch, had a huge patch of mint in her farm garden. Basket in hand, I carefully plucked the sprigs of mint and laid them neatly in rows, tips all the same way. No higgledy piggledy stems for me. Even at that young age, I took things seriously. Given a task, I wanted to do it right. I smile now, looking back at what a serious little girl I was. The first grandchild, surrounded by adults, there were no siblings or cousins for five years. I listened intently to all the adults talking and took in every word. Through their conversations, I formed a view of the world. Many years later I can still hear their voices quietly reporting the day’s events, whispering a neighbour’s misfortune, a sadness, a death. Murmuring sorrow for some, and joy for another- a wedding, a birth, some good fortune achieved. Conversations at the kitchen table brought the world into the home. I listened and learned, but cocooned in the routine of work, gardening, farming, cooking and eating, nothing appeared to change for us. It seemed as if everything happened to other people, but my world stayed the same, stable and safe.
The scent of fresh-picked mint still has the power to transport me back to happy childhood days. My mint was sprinkled over home grown new potatoes, tiny and white, as shiny as pebbles, with creamy home-churned butter and a sprinkle of grainy salt. Something so simple, delicious and ultimately, memorable.
This last 12 months, many of us have found comfort in baking. Focussing on the past, perhaps I’ve attempted to bring back the security and safety I felt as a child. I’ve found myself cooking hearty soups, casseroles, and vegetable pies. The spicy, buttery Welsh cakes my Welsh grandmother cooked on a griddle. Rice puddings, fruit crumbles and sponge cakes. Separated from family and friends, these old favourite recipes have been a comforting presence. Sights, sounds and scents of cooking, recalled as if they were only yesterday.
However, we have now emerged from lockdown, and I’m looking for a new way forward. I’m keen to try new recipes and new ideas. I’m eager to welcome family and friends back into my home and garden and I’m looking forward to making new memories for them- and for me. While not forgetting all the echoes from the past.
Mark Diacono’s new book ‘Herb, a cook’s companion’ is a good starting place. Recipes such as Lemon Thyme and Leek Tart have a rich butter and egg pastry base with a leek and cream filling. Lemon thyme leaves and nutmeg add a delicious twist to a familiar recipe.
Here’s my first attempt. I must admit, it’s not perfect. My pastry needed to be folded over more firmly, as the lovely egg filling escaped over the side. My second attempt was better and everything held firm. I’ve never thought of adding herbs to the pasty base before, and it was a triumph. The lovely buttery lemon-thyme pastry melts in the mouth. A perfect complement to the leek and creme fraiche filling. Again, adding nutmeg and bay leaves lifts this recipe out of the ordinary. It looks beautiful too. Presentation is something I’m trying to improve on. This looks as good as it tastes and received thumbs up from the family.
Greek Herb Pie.
Mark says: “This Greek summer favourite, aka Spanakopita, is so worth making a delicious regular. Heavy with spinach, salty feta and crisp laminations of filo, it’s as good cold as hot, early in the day as late. This version nudges the spinach (which can be a bit of a grump at times) towards the cheerful with the brightness of dill and mint in generous quantities, and parsley anchoring the leeks to the cheese. A delight.”
Herb Soda Bread
A buttermilk, oat and wholemeal flour bread, with a small bunch of chives or sweet cicely, or either of the savories, finely chopped.
Lemon Lavender Meringues
A twist on the usual meringue recipe. Between 5 and 8 lavender heads are whizzed with caster sugar in a spice grinder and added to whisked egg whites and lemon zest.
Fig Leaf and Lemon Verbena Rice Pudding.
Even my family favourite rice pudding is given a new lease of life with the addition of fig-leaf infused milk and lemon verbena leaves. Such a lovely change from the usual.
The book covers how to grow and harvest herbs and how to preserve them in sugar, vinegar, oil and salt, and how to dry and freeze them.
There’s comprehensive coverage of choosing what to grow, how to grow herbs from seed, taking cuttings, propagation and planting out. There’s full plant descriptions of many popular herbs such as anise hyssop, Korean mint, basil, bay, chervil, chives and parsley for example. Then there’s suggestions for more unusual plants such as shiso or perilla – which I’ve always grown as a purple ornamental bedding plant. Seems it can be added to salads and used with recipes containing aubergines, grilled or barbecue prawns, and with eggs and avocado. I shall experiment!
Following the growing section, there’s recipes featuring soups and side dishes, main meals, puddings, biscuits and drinks. There’s something surely to please everyone – especially people like me, looking for a special dish to make for friends and family, as we start to reconnect.
The publishers have kindly offered one copy to give away. Please leave a comment in the box below to be included in the prize draw. A winner will be randomly selected. International entries are welcome.
Please look back on Wednesday 5th May to check if you have won a copy. I’ll announce it on the blog. (Please do not give out your address or any other details to anyone. Be aware of scams.)
Have you found cooking a source of comfort over the lockdown times? Are you, like me, looking to try something new this year, as we start to feel more positive and move forward. Get in touch and let me know your thoughts. And thank you, as ever, for reading my blog. It’s always appreciated.
* comments box is right at the bottom of the blog, past all the hashtags. Or click on ‘comments’ under the headline.
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.
I love the book and can’t recommend it highly enough. I’ve always enjoyed Emma’s drawings and photographs on social media. To have them in a book I can look at every day of the year is a special treat. A treasury of nature.
Thank you to everyone to read my review and left a comment. There will be many more books and gardening products to follow.
I’ve often walked under cathedral-like arches of ancient yew trees and wondered what stories they could tell. Their dense evergreen canopy means low light levels- adding an air of drama and mystery. It’s easy to let imagination run wild. No wonder the yew is linked to so many strange myths and legends.
Here’s my view of the yew walk at Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire on a cold January day a few weeks back. Almost a living sculpture. Hundreds of years of history captured in every twist and turn. I stood and marvelled at its strangeness and beauty.
Tony Hall, Manager at Kew, started on a quest to record our ancient yew trees after a visit to Devon where he found a huge male yew tree in a churchyard in Kenn. He was amazed by its immense size, and wondered just how many other trees there were like this. He set out to travel around Britain and Ireland in search of these venerable trees, and The Immortal Yew is the resulting book.
The book profiles 75 publicly-accessible yews, with details on their appearance, location, folklore and history, accompanied by 100 colour photographs. Each tree has its own story to tell- from fragmented, sprawling trunks, to ones you can sit inside. And there are some that have possibly inspired writers.
Author J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have found inspiration for the gateway to Moria in the Lord of the Rings from visiting the two guardian yews at Stow- on-the -Wold. The two yews flank the door at St Edward’s Church, like a pair of giant lion’s paws. Their photo makes a stunning cover picture for the book.
The Ankerwycke Yew near Wraysbury, Middlesex, is thought to be up to 2,500 years old, making it the oldest known tree on National Trust land. It’s possible the tree was the one under which the Magna Carta was agreed. And where Henry VIII courted the ill-fated Anne Boleyn. In 2002 it was chosen as one of the ’50 Great British Trees,’ to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Not far from the tree are the remains of St Mary’s Priory, a Benedictine convent built in the 12th century in the reign of Henry II. The yew would already have been a notable ancient landmark, substantially more than 1,000 years old, when the priory was built.
Much Marcle Yew, in St Bartholomew’s Church, Ledbury, Herefordshire has an unusual feature. The hollow interior is fitted with wooden benches which seat 12 people and were installed in the 18th century. The bulbous, fluted trunk has a circumference of over 9m. Some of the lower branches are still held up by old Victorian gas lamp columns.
A timeline highlights some key dates in the history of the yew. I have selected just a few of the dates which caught my attention.
140 million years ago Taxaceae (yew family) fossils formed
200BC Herbalist Nikander describes the painful death caused by yew toxin
1066 Battle of Hastings: King Harold killed by an arrow that supposedly pierced his eye, fired from a Norman yew longbow.
1215 Magna Carta signed under the Ankerwycke Yew
More modern dates include
1986 anti-cancer drug Docetaxel, extracted from the leaves of European yew, was patented and later approved for medicinal use.
1994 synthetic cancer drug Taxol was developed.
This book is a wonderful celebration of our native yew trees, and all the stories that go with them. It would be a fabulous starting point to a journey around Britain and Ireland. I for one would love to have the opportunity to visit these trees and stand and wonder at their beauty. Perhaps one day I will get the chance to set out on an grand tour. For now though, I’ll dip into Tony’s book and enjoy all the fascinating stories of mythology and folklore. It’s a journey into the past. And also, it would be interesting to see what scientists discover in the future, as I’m sure we haven’t learned all there is to know about these strange and much-valued trees.
Tony Hall is Manager of the Arboretum and Gardens at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, where he has worked for the past 17 years. His fascination with natural history began at a young age. He has been working in horticulture for 40 years. Tony is author of Wild Plants of Southern Spain (Kew Publishing, 2017 ).
The publishers have one free copy to give away in a prize draw for readers of this blog. Please leave a comment below, by Sunday 27th Jan, to be included in the draw. The publisher’s decision is final and there is no cash alternative. UK and international entries are welcome.
Have you any favourite yew trees? I regularly visit Easton Walled Gardens near Grantham, where evidence of the Tudor-style walks and walls indicate there has been a garden on the site for at least 400 years. The yew tree tunnel is amuch-photographed focal point of this historic restoration project started in 2001.
Published by Permanent Publications. November 2018
*Win a free copy in the prize draw by leaving a comment at the end of the blog. And there’s a discount code for readers.
New reading in the potting shed this week is Stephanie Hafferty’s latest book on seasonal recipes for meals and drinks and making items for the garden and home.
I have to admit, I have a passion for cookery books. Many of my favourites have been handed down through the family. I’ve got Bero baking books from my grandma Betty, which bring back happy memories of delicious cakes. She never ate them herself, but just liked to make everyone smile. All our trips to the seaside- and local beauty spots such as Bradgate Park – would be accompanied by her butterfly fairy cakes. Her trifles were liberally sprinkled with hundreds and thousands. And I bet my brothers remember her home-made toffee apples. It’s amazing our teeth survived, but they did.
When you think about it, many of our strongest memories relate to sitting around a table together, sharing food. All our celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries- and Christmas being the highlight of the year- revolve around food.
With my own family and friends, I’ve tried to carry on the cooking and nurturing tradition. Although, it’s not always easy to get everyone together at the same time. We live such busy lives. When I do manage to corral the family together, I’ll usually make a massive pot of soup, a casserole, a cheese and potato pie, a vegetable lasagne, or similar. And for afters, there’s nearly always something involving apples- we have them in store all winter, and they’re free.
My cooking revolves around what I’m growing. And this is where Stephanie’s new book comes in handy; all the recipes are seasonally based. So they are relevant to what I’m growing all year round. I always start with what I’ve got available, rather than choosing a recipe. Stephanie helps by suggesting what I can do with the gluts of the season. I often have that “what-on-earth-am-I-going-to-do-with-all-this-kale” moment. Hearty bean and vegetable soup might be the answer.
I’m very keen on throwing everything in a pan together and just leaving it to cook. It gives me more time to garden- and chat. My two favourite pastimes! Stephanie must have written this book specially for me. Her Bean Stew with Red Wine is simple to make, fabulously tasty, and looks pretty too.
Alongside the main meals, soups and salads, there’s recipes for store cupboard ingredients such as flavoured salts, vinegars, herb mixes, and infused sugars. I’m definitely going to try making mint sugar. Imagine adding it to hot chocolate. Such a treat on a freezing cold day.
I’ve been thinking about what to do about vegetable stock powers since my favourite brand decided to add palm oil to its ingredients. There will be no palm oil in my house. Apart from not trusting the “ethically sourced” statement, we do not want or need palm oil. Only if we reject it will the rainforests be saved. I am just one person, but it seems the message is getting stronger. People are picking up packets of food and reading the labels and realising that palm oil has insidiously crept into so many food and household products. Anyway, now I can make my own stock powers with Stephanie’s recipes for wild herb, mushroom and tomato bouillon. And there’s a fruit bouillon for adding to yoghurts, cakes and biscuits. Such a clever idea, and easily do-able.
I’ve had a go at making herb teas, but never tried gin or brandy recipes. Stephanie’s Rhubarb and Sweet Cicely Gin sounds- and looks glorious. And wouldn’t it make a fabulous present for someone.
Sugar Plum Brandy looks equally divine. Apparently, this makes a lovely after dinner liqueur as well as a cocktail base. I’d probably add it to fruit cakes as well.
You wouldn’t think you could fit so many good ideas into one book, but Stephanie seems to have thought of everything. I particularly love her Gardeners’ Hand Scrub, Floral Bath Bombs, and Herb Candles. I’m going to be busy for the next few weeks, trying all the recipes and making presents for friends. And I’m going to enjoy every single minute of it.
Stephanie’s book is paperback and £19.95 from https://shop.permaculture.co.uk. There’s a discount code for blog readers purchasing from the shop which is BRAMBLE. Apply the code in the discount section at checkout to obtain the book for £16. Postage is extra. The book is also available via Amazon here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Kitchen-Seasonal-Recipes-Drinks/dp/1856233235 . There’s one copy available in the prize draw. Names will be randomly selected. Publisher’s decision is final. There’s no cash alternative. Worldwide delivery, for a change. Usually it’s UK only. Nice to have an international prize.
Meanwhile, the view from the potting shed is sunny today. As well as reading, I’ll be deciding what to grow next year, and Stephanie’s book will come in handy while I’m making my seed lists. What books are you enjoying at the moment? What are you planning to grow on your plots for 2019? Get in touch and let me know.
Thanks again to everyone who read the review and took part in the prize draw. I’m grateful to the publishers for supplying a copy to give away.
I shall be buying several copies for Christmas presents. A little bit of joy for every day of the year. Lovely to dip into to keep pace with the seasons.
Here’s my gap-in-the-hedge view from the top field. A lovely spot to stand and gaze at nature, while gathering rosehips and crab apples for autumn preserves. There are lots of enticing seasonal recipes in the new Almanac. A good excuse to try something new.
I absolutely love the book, and find I’m dipping into it whenever I sit down and rest a moment in my potting shed armchair.
The book features mouth-watering photographs by Georgianna Lane. It’s easy to read and there are lots of hints and tips on getting the best out of your dahlias.
Who could resist these lovely, brightly-coloured single varieties.
Here’s some photos of my own dahlias in my cut flower patch. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the newer varieties highlighted in the book. I’m particularly keen to try the dark red and chocolate types, as well as the cheerful sounding “happy” series.
Some of mine have been grown from seed. They produce good size plants in one year.
Dahlias will be published by Pavilion Books on 2nd August, RRP price £25. Here’s the Amazon link for more information.
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Leave a comment below if you’d like your name to be put in the hat for a chance to win one free copy of the book. The publishers will draw out a name. Their decision is final. Sorry, it’s open to UK entries only.
Photo : My favourite dahlia Nuit d’Ete in my own cut flower plot in Leicestershire.
I’m away from home for a few days, staying with my mother-in-law Joan. Everything here is at a slower pace. Breakfast takes an hour, and over tea and toast she tells me how her husband Keith once won awards at the local flower show with his dahlias and chrysanthemums. The whole garden from the back lawn, to the greenhouse was set in regimented rows of flowers. I can picture the scene. This garden has been lovingly tended by my in laws for more than 60 years. And now everyone in the family is stepping in to keep it looking perfect. It’s quite a challenge, but one we all enjoy.
Today, between hoeing and weeding and keeping them company, I’ve got time to sit down and catch up with some reading. And top of the pile of new books is Dahlias by Naomi Slade.
photo: Naomi Slade with her latest book. My photo, taken at Chelsea Flower Show.
Over 65 types of dahlias are profiled in the book. There’s 240 pages of mouthwatering photographs and inspiring, easy to read descriptions. There’s an introduction followed by sections on history and botany; and the dahlias are split into themes such as “romantic,” “dramatic and daring,” “fabulous and funky,” “classic and elegant.” A growing and care guide gives cultivation techniques, information on selecting varieties, choosing a suitable site and soil and planting tips.
Photos are sumptuous. I’m particularly drawn to the darker shades; deep red and almost black. Rip City is one I’d love to try.
Karma Choc is another on my wish list. This small waterlily flower is excellent as a cut flower and lasts at least a week in a vase.
I’d never heard of the Happy Single range of dahlias. These are perfect for small spaces and containers, growing to 30-60cm high by 30-40cm wide. Such a wide range of cheerful, rich colours. You couldn’t fail to be happy with them! Varieties include Happy Single Flame, Happy Single Party, Princess and First love. Even the names made me smile.
To calm things down after all that colour, there’s some dazzling and very beautiful white dahlias. I enjoyed learning about all the different kinds of dahlias. I knew about cactus and water lily types, but didn’t know much about collarettes, and anemone- flowered forms. And ones called star, or orchid-flowering sound particularly appealing.
Here’s some photos of dahlias from my own garden. I’ve taken cuttings from mine to grow in my in laws garden. Having read Naomi’s inspiring book, I’ve made a list of new varieties to share between our two plots. And I’m hoping to learn some prize winning tips from my father in law. You never know, I might even enter the local flower show.
Naomi Slade is a writer, broadcaster, consultant, speaker and photographer. A biologist by training, a naturalist by inclination, and with a lifelong love of plants. She writes regularly for national newspapers and magazines. Her books include The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops and An Orchard Odyssey.
I really enjoyed reading her latest book. It’s brought back some lovely memories for my mother in law and sparked off a new plan in my head to grow more dahlias in their garden.
Right then…. back to the weeding. Must not let my in laws down! 🙂
My garden blends seamlessly with the surrounding countryside. If you drive along our country lane, you wouldn’t be able to tell anyone lived there. The garden shelters behind mature hawthorn hedges with scented wild roses and honeysuckle. I love its wildness. But there comes a point where the wild garden starts to get the upper hand; some paths are no longer accessible. The woodland is expanding and cow parsley taking over. And don’t even mention the brambles.
Just in time, Nick Bailey has produced a book that seems to be written specially for me! Revive Your Garden is a step by step guide to restoring order.
When a garden has got out of control, the task to get it back into shape seems overwhelming. It’s difficult to know where to start. This book sets out a sensible plan of action, starting with a section on “understanding the opportunities and limitations” of your plot.
Next there’s a back-to-basics approach on pruning. I should really know when and how
to prune my shrubs, but Nick’s guide gives me reassurance that I’m doing it right. There’s a master class on renovation pruning with plenty of photographs to illustrate different techniques.
For beginners, there’s a very good section on identifying the difference between weeds and useful plants worth saving. My daughters found this particularly good – as they are starting to look for their first-time homes. All the houses we’ve looked at in their (low) price range have terrible, ramshackle gardens.
There’s a section on renovating lawns. Mine have been attacked by all kinds of creatures, gouging holes in the grass. I just need a nudge in the right direction to tackle the eyesore.
One idea in the book I’ve copied involves taking photos of the garden and laying tracing paper over the top. Draw on the changes you’d like to make. In my case, I want to create a new breakfast terrace near the summerhouse; a sunny spot first thing in the morning. Drawing it out first gives an impression of what it would look like- before you’ve spent any money on the scheme, and you can play around with various options.
Practical advice on restoring paving, reviving gravel and fences is followed by a section called “How to Wow.” I need to revamp some of my planting areas- once I’ve hacked back the brambles.
Revive Your Garden gives you confidence to tackle any garden work, whether it’s bringing a tired and neglected garden back into shape, or putting your own stamp on a newly acquired plot. It’s written in an enthusiastic way. You can definitely hear Nick’s voice as he explains the techniques. It’s just the encouragement you need to get going.
Here’s some photos of my garden, before I start work on our renovation project. Wish me luck. I might be out there for a while!
There’s a path through there……
Honestly, there’s a path through there. Leading to the outside world, and this view.
NICK BAILEY, a regular presenter on BBC2’s Gardeners’ World, has worked as a professional horticulturalist for more than 20 years and won silver gilt for his first show garden at Chelsea Flower Show in 2016. Until recently he was head gardener at Chelsea Physic Garden.
I am always so pleased to be asked for my opinions on anything garden-related. After working in horticulture for 25 years, it is very nice to be asked by magazines, newspapers and the BBC. This week I was on the radio again, giving recommendations for Christmas present ideas. Have a listen in to BBC Radio Down to Earth programme to hear my suggestions. Here’s a link http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05n7fh1 The programme starts at 9 minutes 10 on the timeline.
I’m practically living in these RHS Gold Leaf Gloves. They are so comfortable to use, and beautiful too. Here’s the link for more information at RHS shops. I absolutely love them. They are so practical – and pretty. British made, quality material, they have a padded palm, and little tabs to get them on and off easily. Well designed and well priced.
There are three designs, iris, rose and poppy, based on artwork from the RHS Lindley Library.
Mike Salotti – Brooksby College lecturer and DTE team member recommends Adopt a Vine Scheme as a great present idea for wine lovers. Here’s the details for the Hanwell Scheme. Hanwell Estate
My second suggestion is handmade soap from Cooks Lane Herbs, a Leicestershire company run by Sian and Richard. All natural ingredients, not tested on animals, and the packaging is recyclable. The scent is fabulous. They can be purchased mail order, or locally from farmers markets. Here’s the website link for Cooks Lane Herbs .
Can be used in the greenhouse, garden shed, potting shed or kitchen even. The resulting liquid feed will be diluted down and used all around the garden next spring and summer. A great way to compost kitchen waste, and make free compost.
My fourth suggestion is Making Winter by Emma Mitchell, a creative guide for surviving the winter months, published by Michael O’Mara books. A delight from cover to cover. The photography is a mood-lifter to start with. I could just sit looking at the beautiful pictures to be honest. There’s crafts, cooking and activities to while away the winter months and survive cold, grey rainy days.
Recipes include Plum, Orange and Ginger Blondies. Delicious!
There’s knitting and crochet scarves to create.
A feast for the senses. Click on the Link to read read more about the book.
There are more great ideas on the rest of the hour-long programme. There’s suggestions for garden lighting, seeds, weather stations and bird feeders. Have a listen and let me know what you think of our ideas.
I’m joining in with Michelle with #my-garden-right-now and Steve Glebe House #End-of-month-view. Enjoy a slideshow of photos from my garden today. There’s still plenty of colour thanks to the alstroemerias and chrysanthemums in the open-ended ploy tunnel. Keeping the rain off the flowers helps to make them last until Christmas.
I talked about mouldable fairy lights Here. You can listen in to BBC Radio Leicester Down to Earth programme here http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05mf51m where we talk about my cut flowers, grown all the year round for friends and family.
The alstroemerias from Viv Marsh postal Plants grow in 40cm pots and flower nearly 12 months of the year. Choose the long stem varieties if you are growing for cut flowers.
White Stallion chrysanthemums came from Chrysanthemums Direct Nursery as cuttings at the RHS Malvern show last autumn. The yellow chrysanthemums are cuttings from my father in law and have been grown in the family since the 1950s. Originally they came from an Aunty Doris. It’s lovely to keep up the tradition of growing these cheerful plants.
The mouldable lights came from Wilco Christmas range and cost £3.50 including the batteries. I’ve wound them around the lemon trees And plant pots to give a cheerful glow.
Just two weeks ago, the view from the greenhouse and potting shed was this :
Now the golden beech trees are bare and the view from the potting bench -where I’m planting up hyacinth bowls for Christmas and putting amaryllis bulbs in terracotta pots -looks like this:
Luckily there’s some early hellebores in flower to brighten things up. This one is called Jacob.
And still on the white theme, this beautiful rose Pearl Drift is in flower today. What a star. It blooms all summer and is free of black spot. I can highly recommend this easy modern shrub rose. It is delicately scented too.
I’m keeping an eye on these huge red rose hips for my Christmas decorations. Rosa Scarlet Fire is another disease resistant variety with large open single red roses and hips the size of marbles. Birds don’t seem to bother with them, probably due to their enormous size.
Something that is also in flower now- and not waiting until Christmas- are these Paperwhite narcissi. I wrote about planting them in jam jars and tall glass vases a few weeks back. Well, November has been so mild with above average temperatures that forced bulbs like these are weeks ahead of schedule. The scent is truly glorious.
This week I also appeared on the Ben Jackson radio show talking about making Christmas presents from items collected from the garden. Here’s my succulent /cacti in a jam jar idea. I used pea gravel, a recycled jam jar and an offset from one of my plants to make this simple display.
Pimpernel Press sent me this award-winning book to review. Head Gardeners by Ambra Edwards would make an ideal Christmas present. It’s full of behind-the-scenes tips and glorious photos. An inspiring insight into what motivates head gardeners at some of the country’s most beautiful gardens. Photos are by Charlie Hopkinson and the book won Inspirational Book of the Year at the recent Garden Media Guild Awards. I rarely sit down and read a book cover to cover- but I just couldn’t put this one down. It is fascinating to hear the voices of the head gardeners. I kept nodding agreement, and scribbling down notes. It’s one of my favourites this year. Easy to see why it is a winner.
To be honest, it was dark by the time I stepped out of the potting shed.
Just in time to see the tawny owls that hatched in our garden this summer. What a wonderful end to a beautiful winter’s day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of my garden in December. Go over to Michelle at Vegplotting to see what others are posting for #my-garden-right-now. And also Steve at glebehouse for the #end-of-month-view. It would be great to see what you are getting up to on your plot just now.
On the first day we’ve had snow, I’m sharing my favourite chocolate recipe. Guaranteed to bring cheer, for anyone struggling with the onset of cold weather. Like all my recipes, it’s quick to make and uses produce from the garden. Autumn Bliss raspberries are still producing fruit. An unbelievably long cropping season this year. I’m still picking a few for my breakfast porridge each day. And think of all that vitamin C. Makes this recipe seem almost healthy! Go on, treat yourself.
2 mars bars- chopped
2 tbsp golden syrup
240g milk or dark chocolate
5 digestive biscuits
9 rich tea biscuits
One and a half teacups rice crispies
15g glacé cherries
Three quarters of a cup of sultanas
120g chocolate for the top. I used Cadbury’s Bournville.
Melt the chocolate, mars bars, syrup and butter together in the microwave.
Mix with the crushed biscuits, crispies and dried fruit. Cool slightly and add a handful of fresh raspberries.
Spread in a 9″x9″ foil or paper-lined tray.
Cover top with melted chocolate
Place in the fridge.
Cut into slices and serve with fresh raspberries.
Will last three days in a cool place. If you can resist them that long.
Wrapped in cellophane and ribbon, they make a lovely home-made present.
Have a listen in to the BBC Down to Earth radio programme where we answer gardeners’ questions on the live phone-in. We are all sitting in the studio – munching my chocolate tiffin- this week. Here’s the link for the radio i-player http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05l50wv
Do you have any favourite recipes for cold weather?
For more inspiration – read Making Winter- a creative guide for surviving the winter months, by Emma Mitchell. Published by LOM Art, an imprint of Michael O’Mara Books. Emma’s mouthwatering recipes and pretty craft ideas turn even the bleakest wintery day into a warm and cheerful celebration. The book is like a warm hug on a frosty day.
There’s recipes for chocolate fondant, lemon and ginger bars and even hawthorn gin. Ideas for things to make include a crochet shawl and matching scarf, and knitted wrist warmers. Perfect for coping with the winter chill ahead.
Baking a cake always makes me feel better when it’s freezing outdoors. Emma’s guide entices you to embrace the drab days and fill them with “baked goodness.” I wholeheartedly agree with her there.
The conversation went something like “Hello, I need a marquee.” The reply was “That’s ok. For how many and what’s your budget.” “About 40 people. Er… there’s a problem with the budget. There’s isn’t one.”
I expected the phone line to go dead. But to my amazement, Richard from Storer Smith Events laughed and told me to go on. He wanted to know more.
There followed a somewhat embarrassing account. I was organising my first ever fund-raising event. I’d failed to keep track of ticket sales. Now there were 46 people coming – and the venue could only comfortably take 25. I was having sleepless nights. People were going to turn up for a posh afternoon tea- dressed in their Sunday best. What on earth was I going to do?
There was a silence on the end of the phone. Then a sigh. Then the words, “Well, I’d better help you out then.” I don’t think I have ever been so relieved. My bacon had well and truly been saved.
Richard – I’ll forever think of him as my knight in shining armour -saved the day. He provided a 6m by 9m marquee, with carpet, tables, chairs, and also a monster (almost) fire-breathing heater – complete with gas. A team of workers to put it up- and take it down. All free of charge.
Thanks to Richard, we had a fabulous marquee for our vintage afternoon tea- all in aid of Rainbows Hospice. We enjoyed a wonderful talk and slide show from celebrated author Barbara Segall who was speaking about her newly-launched book, Secret Gardens of East Anglia. I wrote a review about the book here . Gary from Rainbows talked about the wonderful facilities and work at the hospice for children. Such a heartwarming, inspiring afternoon.
We served six types of posh sandwiches, and tomato and thyme tarts. Followed by a mountain of cakes, mostly made by my wonderful Mum. And gallons of tea in pretty mismatched china.
It all worked beautifully and I’m pleased ( and mightily relieved ) to report that we made almost £1,000 for Rainbows.
I’m so grateful to Richard for his kindness. It is a relief to know that wonderful people like him still exist when there is so much bad news in the world.
There’s a whole roll call of people to thank for helping to make the event a success. But chiefly, I want to thank Richard, for his kind and generous help. Also Barbara Segall, who refused a fee for her talk. My friend Alison Levey from blackberrygarden.co.uk blog who fetched, carried and was fab at selling raffle tickets. Geary’s Craft Bakeries provided the bread ( thank you Charles Geary). The co-op at East Leake supplied the fillings for the sandwiches. The Printers in Loughborough provided posters and tickets.
For the goody bags for each person who attended, Lady Ursula at Easton Walled Gardens provided 50 complimenatry tickets to visit the gardens. Burgon and Ball gave me beautiful tins of string. Mr Fothergills gave me packets of flower seed. Cooks Lane Herbs gave me gorgeously-wrapped, wonderfully-scented handmade Red Clover and Honey Soap. Seedball sent tins of wildflower seed.
For the raffle, books came from Alison Levey, Frances Lincoln (Quarto Homes) publishers, wine from the Round Robin, East Leake, flowers and plants from Googie’s Flowers , East Leake, calendars from The Calender Club, Loughbrough, Chocolates from Thorntons. Six Acre Nursery at Costock gave a lovely hellebore plant.
The photos are examples of marquees provided by Storer Smith Events. As you can imagine, I wish everyone would now rush out and book him up for the next 10 years. Such a good-hearted soul has won my loyalty for life! Contact Richard at email@example.com. Phone 01889 563200. He’s at Uttoxeter ST14 5AP but supplies marquees all around the country.
Frances Lincoln £20. Hardback. Published 7th September 2017.
It’s impossible to resist dipping into the pages of any book with the words “secret” and “garden” in the title.
We all love peering over the garden gate to get a glimpse of other people’s property.
And in Secret Gardens of East Anglia, Barbara Segall is our excellent guide, taking us straight down the drive and through the front gates of 22 privately owned gardens.
It is quite a revelation. We see sumptuous planting, grand sculpture, rose parterres, moated gardens, and wildflower meadows galore! A real treat – in words and pictures.
Here is just a flavour of some of the glorious gardens featured.
Wyken Hall, Stanton, Suffolk
Photo credit Marcus Harpur. Perfectly co-ordinated, one of Wyken Hall’s peacocks is poised beneath a blue wooden pergola covered in climbing Rosa Blairii Number Two. The pergola is reminiscent of one at Bodnant in Wales. Owners Kenneth and Carla Carlisle have created a sumptuous rose garden, favouring highly-scented old rose varieties with soft coloured perennials such as delphiniums, astrantia and artemisia. The sound of water and the scent of roses always draws me in. I could picture myself sitting in this beautiful garden on a hot, sunny summer’s day. Yes, I would be quite happy here!
Columbine Hall, Stowupland, Suffolk
Photo credit Marcus Harpur. In my opinion, the most romantic of the gardens featured. I’ve long been entranced by the walled kitchen garden which I first spotted on twitter. Head gardener and estate manager Kate Elliott ( @columbinehall) has worked here for 20 years and rightly describes the garden as her “pride and joy.” Blue-grey paintwork used for gates, bridges and obelisks caught my eye, along with the planting scheme of silver and blue-mauve through to pink. Purple kales such as Cavolo Nero, Redbor and Rouge de Russie are set amongst the silver leaves of globe artichokes. I wasn’t surprised to read the owners’ comments :”We pick from the Kitchen Garden only with Kate’s permission, so as not to upset the colour co-ordinations or symmetry.” A rare glimpse behind the scenes into the work and dedication that goes into creating a garden such as this.
Elton Hall, Elton, Cambridgeshire
Photo credit Marcus Harpur. Home to Sir William and Lady Proby who chose to make a modern garden, rather than recreate the past. The stately house has been in the Proby family for more than 300 years. It’s fascinating to see how the contemporary design of the fountain and the pyramid topiary is set against a Gothic style house with turrets and castellations. Proof that a modern style can work in a setting that’s steeped in history.
Wood Farm, Gipping, Suffolk
Photo credit Marcus Harpur. The photograph shows irises, cornflowers, mounds of lavender and box. On the other side of the property, the house appears to drift on a sea of white ox-eye daisies. The golden centres of the daisies are an exact match with the colour of the 500 year old Suffolk farmhouse. A very pretty house and garden and I would love to have the chance to ramble along that garden path.
I must mention Ulting Wick, Ulting, Essex. Long on my special-places-to-visit list, the owners Bryan and Philippa Burrough have planted 10,000 tulips in the Old Farmyard garden. A particular feature of the garden is the bold and jewel-like colours set against the black paintwork of three listed barns. In spring, the bulbs take centre stage, but in late summer, it is the dahlias and bronze-leaved Ensete that turn up the heat. The garden has opened to the public for the past 14 years in aid of the National Gardens Scheme. After reading Barbara’s book you will want to follow Philippa’s garden tweets @UltingWick. The sheer amount of work that goes into creating a garden such as this is highlighted in the stunning photos in the book.
Barbara is a most entertaining “host” on what feels like the best holiday road trip /garden visit tour- ever. Reading this beautiful book is like walking alongside Barbara. She expertly points out the secret areas and the special treasures in each garden. The history and the background information is fascinating. And it feels such a treat to be “let in” to these treasured, private spaces.
It’s a joy to read the stories behind the gardens and to “meet” the people who own them. And if the book has whetted your appetite- all but one of the 22 gardens are open to visit – on selected days of the year or by appointment only.
BARBARA SEGALL is a well-known horticulturist and garden writer. I’ve always looked out for her writing in the English Garden Magazine and also on the Richard Jackson’s Garden website. She is editor of The Horticulturist, the journal of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture, also editor of Herbs magazine for the Herb Society. Barbara lives in Suffolk and her first book for Frances Lincoln was Gardens by the Sea with photos by Marcus Harpur’s father, Jerry. Barbara’s blog is http://www.thegardenpost.com.
MARCUS HARPUR . I’ve know Marcus since about 1992 when he left book publishing to join his father to form the Harpur Garden Library. Sadly , Marcus died on August 6th this year after 18 months of illness. He saw finished copies of the book, but poignantly didn’t live to see it go on sale. When I spoke to him last, he described working on the book as “A joyful and satisfying project.” He was a much loved and well respected photographer whose skill in capturing the light and beauty in a garden is plain for all to see in this his final book.
Pre-order on Amazon at amzn.to/2oqHgM2
Thank you to Frances Lincoln/ Quarto Group Books for supplying this advance copy for review.
The postman arrived to find me wobbling at the top of a step ladder, peering through a piece of black cardboard with a square cut out of the middle. “I’m composing photos of my garden,” I heard myself saying. Oh dear. How mad does that sound! I rather sheepishly climbed down and made him a cup of tea while he chuckled away.
Over tea and biscuits in the potting shed, I explained that my new photography workbook recommended using a piece of card to practise framing a view. It works close up, as well as for landscape views. I just had to learn how to squint through the cut out square- while up a ladder, and while keeping my balance. The postman declared it could all end in tears.
Anyway, as he continued his round, laughing as usual, I went back to my new book. Andrea Jones has produced a fabulous masterclass giving hints and tips on the best ways of capturing the garden.
Some of the ideas were a complete revelation. I had never heard of making a viewfinder to try out different angles. And I had never thought of looking down on my garden- or looking up. Most of my photos are straight shots, taken from a standing position. So I tried it out on these tiny species rockery tulips. Looking down:
Looking up. A worm’s-eye view.
I haven’t quite got the best shot. They are so tiny, I needed to move some of the stems out of the way. But it’s still an interesting view. I shall work on the idea.
And here’s another photo I took from a standing position. A glorious garden at Burghley House near Stamford, open for the NGS scheme.
And the worm’s-eye view, crouching down amongst the flowers:
Over the past 25 years, Andrea has built an international reputation for her photography of landscapes, gardens and plants. Among the many awards, she was voted Photographer of the Year by her peers at the Garden Media Guild. Her website for more information is andreajones.co.uk
Andrea suggests making a plan of action- rather than just casually wandering around the garden taking random shots (like I do now). Some of the best ideas I gathered from the book include:
Use a compass – a smart phone has a compass app- to get an idea of the light direction and potential shadows.
The best light for taking photos is the “golden hour” the first hour after the sun rises and the last hour of light before the sun sets. Use an online sunrise and sunset app to estimate the time.
Tripods make a world of difference for taking good photos. But if, like me, you are using a camera phone, a small piece of tack or Plasticine can be used to position a phone temporarily on a secure surface to avoid camera shake. I tried this on top of the garden gate.
If taking shots in bright, contrasty light, use your body to create a shadow and reduce the amount of light reaching the plant or subject of the photo.
Other headings in the book include: Photography in all Seasons, Photographing Pets and Wildlife, Working with Weather, Light, Macro, Micro, and Close-up, Essential Kit, and Catching the Moment.
I am working my way through the rest of the book. There are 10 inspiring gardens featured with step-by-step lessons on observation, storytelling, composing, and editing. Andrea’s book helps you take your photography to another level, whether you are using a smart phone like me, or have the latest DSLR. It’s a master course on capturing the magic of gardens.
Unfurling. My Black Parrot Tulip. A favourite this spring. Except, my foot is also in the photo. Sigh. I still have some work to do then.
Thank you to Timber Press for supplying The Garden Photography Workshop- in exchange for an honest review. I will leave you with my cat Grace who shares my home- and garden- and who sits very patiently while I practise my new photography skills.