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

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

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 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/

Six on Saturday. Wind-Swept Walk Around My Garden on 10th Aug 2019

I don’t like windy weather. It makes me unsettled. I worry about everyone’s gardens. So much effort goes into growing flowers, fruit and veg, it’s heartbreaking when it’s destroyed by the weather.

I’ve waited all day for the wind to drop. It hasn’t. So it’s a blustery, sort of a walk around my garden. My dahlia stems are pointing in all kinds of crazy directions. I should have staked them better. But I didn’t. This one is still looking lovely though. It’s a decorative double called David Howard. Beautiful, orange-blushed flowers 10cm across, set off by bronze-tinted foliage. Plants grow to about 75cm, unless toppled by the rain and wind……. sigh.

Double flowers like these last around two to three weeks in a vase. They keep on opening up, like a ripple effect, until the centre is revealed. Well-known florist Jonathan Mosley gave a demonstration at the Belvoir Castle Show recently and revealed a few tips on getting the best out of cut flowers: Use a very sharp kitchen knife to cut flowers, not secateurs which crush the stems rather than cut them cleanly. Walk round with a bucket of very cold fresh water, and drop stems straight in, so air bubbles don’t get the chance to form in the stems. Cut flowers early in the morning and stand them up to their heads in water in a cool dark place such as a potting shed or garage for at least 6 hours before using them in arrangements. Giving them a really good drink makes them last much longer.

I’ve decided to go for an apricot-coloured theme this week. It might help calm our shattered nerves. This is one of my favourite rambling roses, Ghislaine de Feligonde. It flowers in huge swathes in June, and then puts out the occasional flower right through the summer. Bees love it, it’s free flowering and doesn’t get blackspot. All cause for a celebration, I think. Plus is looks good in a a vase.

In keeping with the colour scheme, there’s some beautiful seedling spider day lilies bred by Pollie Maasz at Pollie’s Lilies. These ones don’t have a name as they are trial plants. Pollie selects the best from her trials and registers new names. It’s a fascinating process and I’m glad to have some of her “babies” to try out here.

I am very fond of New Guinea hybrid impatiens. They flower all summer for no effort other than watering and feeding with seaweed extract or liquid tomato fertiliser. I don’t even bother to dead head them, they seem to sort themselves out. This one is Magnifico Star Orange. Cheerful even when it’s raining and blowing a hooley in the garden. I can always pretend I’ve been transported to the tropics.

I love begonias. This one is from the Apricot Shades range and is good for containers and hanging baskets. It will flower its heart out until the first frosts, then I’ll bring it in to the frost free greenhouse for winter. Dried off and kept indoors, it can be started into growth each spring. A really good value plant and so many lovely colours to choose.

Finally, from my pelargonium collection, there’s this beauty. This is one of the species hybrid pelargoniums from Fibrex Nursery. I think it is Pelargonium Ignescens, but will stand to be corrected. I have quite a few from the nursery and the labels have long gone. This one dates back to the 18th century and has pretty soft, downy leaves too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your walk round my garden today, despite the howling wind! This is the view from the far hedge, in the back field behind my garden. It’s a wonderful place to stand and observe the weather. You can see for miles and today the farmer has started – then stopped – harvesting the corn. In a day, the crop will be safely gathered in, and the scene will change again, with ploughing the next sound we’ll be hearing.

Links: sos are https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/08/10/six-on-saturday-10-08-2019/#comments

Dahlia David Howard: https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/57111/i-Dahlia-i-David-Howard-(D)/Details

Rosa Ghislaine de Feligonde https://www.ashwoodnurseries.com/shop/rosa-rambling-ghislaine-de-feligonde.html

Pollie’s dayliles https://www.polliesdaylilies.co.uk/

Fibrex https://www.fibrex.co.uk/

Six on Saturday. A peaceful walk around my garden. 20th July 2019

Looking west.

Field boundaries awash with seedling clematis. I never cut them back. They grow as they please. Clematis Betty Corning is very similar. Long flowering in the shade of the hedge.

Rosa American Pillar survives without much care. This one came from a holiday cutting taken (with permission) from the front garden of a cottage at Sandsend. We used to rent the school house at the bottom of the valley for summer holidays with the family. A lovely reminder of sunny days, sea and sand.

Protected by tall hedges, the plot provides all the cut flowers, fruit and veg we need. No sprays or chemicals are used here. It’s a haven for wildlife – as well as me. Don’t look too closely. There’s plenty of weeds.

Flowers from the plot. On sale at Six Acre Nursery, Costock, Leicestershire. All proceeds to Rainbows Hospice for children and young people.

Sometimes I make door wreaths from the flowers. Here’s one I made this week.

Enjoy your weekend.

Links :

Six on Saturday : https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/07/20/six-on-saturday-20-07-2019/

Seeds from : https://higgledygarden.com/

Rainbows Hospice: https://www.rainbows.co.uk/

You might like to read : https://bramblegarden.com/2019/07/19/infection-update-19th-july-2019-gardening/amp/

Also, In a Vase on Monday: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/06/03/in-a-vase-on-monday-3-june-2019/

About Bramble Garden : https://bramblegarden.com/about/

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