In a Vase on Monday. Daylight photos

I feel rather guilty for the dark, poor quality photos posted last night. I shouldn’t have lingered on the footpath, looking at the wildlife. It was dark by the time I reached home.

So today, I rushed back – and it was still daylight! It feels as if it is getting lighter. It’s a month past the shortest day and plants in the garden are moving. The sap is starting to rise.

Anyway, thank you for your kind comments on all my photos – even when the quality leaves a lot to be desired.

Here’s the same flowers that were posted yesterday for IAVOM – in daylight conditions today.

The “workings ” are a willow heart with a kokedama vase tied on with string. I’m not using florists foam as there’s growing concern about it polluting water courses and not being recyclable. No one would ever know that the vase is a jam jar covered in moss from the garden, with green twine wound over and over to make the kokedama “nest.”

It’s easy to top up the water every day, and the flowers seem to last just as long. In fact they probably last longer, because each day you can fish out the posy and trim a tiny amount off the stems. Refresh the water, and all’s well.

We are all trying to find our way through the new circumstances we find ourselves in. No one can ”un- see” David Attenborough’s Blue Planet programme. The film of the whale carrying its dead calf will stay with us always. As will the pictures of the beeches and ocean polluted with plastic. I for one will find alternatives for florists foam, until a recyclable ”green” alternative is produced. I’m using test tubes and mini glass vases, hidden in moss. I don’t feel as if my flower arrangements are suffering.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting IAVOM at https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/category/gardens/in-a-vase-on-monday/.

Six on Saturday. What’s in flower today.

Enjoy a tour of my garden on a rainy Saturday. The temperature feels mild at 8C. I can hear a woodpecker in the orchard. Our farming neighbour is cutting the field hedge across the lane. We’ll be able to see the cows more clearly in spring. Speaking of spring…I was surprised to find so many flowers today.

Calendula Orange Flash. Grown from seed last summer. Supplied by Mr Fothergills. I’ll be growing these again in the cut flower/ veg patch. They last a week in a vase.

Calendula Fiesta seedling. Mr Fothergills again. Fades from lemon to white. Very pretty. The edges of the petals look like they’ve been cut with pinking shears.

Snowdrops. Earliest they have ever flowered here. Galanthus Elwesii variety. Originally from snowdrop festival sales at Hodsock Priory, Nottingham. It will soon be time to make a visit again. I always take my Mum, and we usually stay over in the converted stables. A little bit of luxury, midwinter. Does you no harm at all.

In my unheated poly tunnel, Chrysanthemum White Stallion is providing a few flowers for jam jar posies. Bought as tiny £2 cuttings from Chrysanthemums Direct at the RHS Malvern Show three years ago. The weather is so mild, the plants are starting to shoot early. I’m taking new cuttings today. Well worth growing. I also recommend Arctic White and Lollipop. They produce masses of blooms. All grow in 10″ pots, John Innes compost. Stand them outdoors all summer. Take in before frosts, to protect flowers. My father in law used to stand the pots in a glass-roofed corridor between the kitchen and the garage. A cold frame would also be suitable.

Alstroemeria from the poly tunnel. Just keeps on flowering. To force them into growth, pull all the flowers and leaves in September. Stop watering for three weeks, then feed and water well. The dormant period seems to encourage them to flower from November to February. Just when we all need something cheerful.

I love growing cut flowers for friends and family. I learned how to grow -for all seasons- on a course at Common Farm Flowers. Never has £100 been so well spent. I learned which varieties to grow and how to get the best out of my poly tunnel and greenhouse. I grow cosmos and sweet peas in the summer in 10 3m by 1.2m beds with little herb-edged paths in between. This year I’m growing love-in-a-mist, chrysanthemums, carnations, ammi majus, cornflowers and poppies.

And finally, I love green flowers and Helleborus foetidus is a favourite. I was just about to pick some flowers, when I spotted these ladybirds. Just shows how mild the weather has been recently. I left them undisturbed.

I’m joining in with Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/01/12/six-on-saturday-12-01-2019/ . Thanks to the Propagator for hosting this meme. Please feel free to join us.

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Houseplant Trends – talking on the radio

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06vgzy9

I took part in an interview for BBC local radio today. I’m live from my greenhouse at home at 1.47.39 on the timeline. Talking about youngsters getting involved in gardening by growing houseplants. No one would know, but there’s a disgruntled robin flapping around my head. He obviously considers my greenhouse his territory. I fielded him off with a spider plant. Quite funny now. Slightly off putting at the time. Do have a listen in when you have a minute. And you can laugh if you like. I won’t mind.

Six on Saturday. Simple Christmas Decorations from the Garden.

I should be making mince pies. Or cleaning the house. Instead, I creep outside and lose an hour or two, messing about with twigs and foliage. I am happy.

This simple wreath is made from silver birch twigs, twisted in a circle and bound with twine. It’s an ever-changing scene. Ephemeral. A fleeting beauty. Blackbirds feast on the rosehips. Gusts of wind carry off the old man’s beard, back to the hedgerow where it belongs. It mirrors nature. Nothing is static. I add fresh ivy leaves, Scots pine, crab apples. Dried hydrangea flowers amongst cow parsley “stars.”

For the front door, I’m copying an American idea. I’m mocking up a container. I cut some branches of blue fir and pine and stand them in a favourite terracotta plant pot.

Scrunched- up newspaper holds everything in place. I add coloured willow and dogwood stems. In front, I place a potted skimmia, as a focal point. You could add a white hellebore, or white cyclamen if you wish. A few hazel branches with cheerful early catkins complete the display.

A collar of moss hides the newspaper. It’s a cross between gardening and floristry and no one will know I’ve just used twigs and not splashed out on lots of new plants.

As a final flourish, I add mouldable fairy lights with thin copper wire. They cost £2.50 from Wilkinson’s and can be used with rechargeable batteries.

I’m joining in with Six on Saturday, https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2018/12/22/six-on-saturday-22-12-201/. Why not go over and see what others are doing in their garden at this time of the year.

As it’s Christmas, I’m sure no one will mind if I add a bonus photo. I made this heart from two willow stems. Hold them both in one hand, bend the first one over and then hold in the middle. Bend the second one over, and secure with twine. Easy, and costs nothing to make.

I’m heading indoors now to make those mince pies! I feel so much better for spending time in fresh air, and the house, garden – and me – are all ready for Christmas!

Have a wonderful, peaceful and happy Christmas. Try to make some time to “escape” to the garden, when you can.

Karen

Family Favourite Recipes – Chocolate Marzipan Cherries.

When I started this blog, my intention was to write down all our family favourite recipes in one place. It occurred to me that our much loved recipes exist on tatty pieces of paper. My children might want to find Aunty Betty’s toffee apple recipe, or the Gimson Christmas trifle. Stained and ripped pieces of paper might be difficult to find. So recipes are deposited here for future reference. Today I’m sharing my home made cherry chocolate recipe that I make every year. It’s a money saving recipe if you use your own fruit. And it’s simple to make. Even little children can have a go.

Ingredients

Home grown cherries, preserved in brandy. Choose good quality fruit that is slightly under ripe. Only preserve the best fruit, and none that has any blemishes.

Or

200g glacé cherries

500g marzipan

200g good quality dark chocolate.

Method

Soak the glacé cherries in cherry brandy overnight. Drain and reserve the liquid for adding to cakes.

If using your own preserved cherries, drain and gently pat dry with a clean tea towel.

Break the block of marzipan into four, and microwave for a few seconds to soften.

Take tablespoons of marzipan (about 13g).

Roll into a ball, and then flatten to enclose a cherry. Roll gently in the palm of your hand to smooth the marzipan. Leave to dry for a few hours.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Drop each marzipan cherry into the chocolate and use a spoon to roll them about to coat.

Stand the chocolates on foil until set.

Keeps for about 1 week in a cool dry place. If you can resist them that long!

Enjoy 😊

I made mine in the summerhouse, with the radio on and sunshine streaming through the open doors. It’s amazingly mild for December. We’ve had 12C for days, although last night it was -2 and we woke to a frost.

Here’s the ingredients. It’s a really simple recipe. Wonderful if you have a cherry tree in the garden.

I used white marzipan, but you can use golden if you like.

Drop into the chocolate. Make sure you don’t get any water in the chocolate, or it will go dull.

They take about an hour to set. The recipe makes about 35 cherry chocolates. There’s enough marzipan and chocolate to make another 30 if you buy more cherries. Or make 30 almond marzipan chocolates.

Simply enclose one whole blanched almond in the marzipan as above, and coat in the chocolate. Delicious! You can also use whole Brazil nuts and use milk or plain chocolate.

How to Preserve Cherries

450g cherries

75g sugar

2 drops almond essence

600ml brandy.

Remove the cherry stalks and stones and prick all over with a sterilised needle or cocktail stick.

Layer the cherries with the sugar in a large sterilised preserving jar, fill to within 2.5cm of the top. Add almond essence.

Pour the brandy to cover the cherries. Seal the jar and shake well.

Keep in a cool, dark place for at least three months to allow the flavours to develop. Shake the jar from time to time.

Strain the cherries through a funnel lined with muslin. Put the cherry brandy into sterilised bottles to give as presents. Use the cherries in the chocolate marzipan recipe above, or in pastries, ice cream and other winter treats. Enjoy 😊

Book prize draw winner- The Creative Kitchen

It’s been a good year for new books. One of my favourites recently arrived in the potting shed is The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty.

The publishers kindly offered one free copy for a prize draw for this blog. I’m always grateful for a chance to pass on goodies to readers. And I’m delighted to announce that the winner is June at https://thecynicalgardener.com/ .

Please take a look at the discount code on my review which gets you the book for £16 including postage. Here’s the link for the review https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

I’m making peppermint creams for Christmas presents using Stephanie’s idea for mint sugar. The kitchen smells divine, and the mints look really pretty.

Thank you for reading this blog. Keep popping back for more news. A whole pile of books have just arrived in the potting shed and I’m just starting to work my way through them, so keep an eye open for more prize draws and offers.

Are you making any Christmas presents this year? Get in touch and share your favourite recipes and ideas for gardeners and cooks. It’s great to share hints and tips with each other.

I always look forward to your comments. Please also feel free to share this blog on any social media platform you like. It all helps to spread the news.

In a Vase on Monday. White and Green.

A slide show of flowers from my garden. Paperwhite narcissi, Hellebore Jacob Royal, white heather, Ice Princess. Variegated pittosporum, hebe, juniper, ivy, conifers, Mossy green apple twigs, woven in.

It’s 12C today. No wonder the Paperwhites won’t wait until Christmas. I’ve planted more, a fortnight apart in 10″ pots in the poly tunnel.

There’s still some bees and hoverflies about. But the wasps have stopped coming. They left an empty paper nest in the long grass in the wild garden. We knew they were there and kept a respectful distance. We’ve had no trouble with aphids all summer; wasps have zoomed in and feasted on them with relish.

Dusk seems to descend all of a sudden. One moment I am mooching in the greenhouse, the next I’m plunged into darkness. I’ve strung some mouldable wire fairy lights through the lemon trees. They make little heat and will only be left on for an hour or so. Enough to cheer me through the gloom of December days to come.

Winter sunsets are glorious though. I stay out until the very last minute. Hopefully, I’ll spot a tawny owl before it’s time to go indoors.

Thanks to Cathy https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/ for this IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and arranging this week. Let me know what’s looking good in your garden at the moment too.

Six on Saturday. Joining in for the first time.

Six photos from my garden and potting shed this week.

Catching the light in my potting shed window: Old Man’s Beard, wild clematis vitalba. Commonly called traveller’s joy. I stand on tip toe, reaching into hedgerows to harvest long stems with silver seed heads. They’re a lovely addition to winter flower arrangements.

Silver coins. Honesty seeds. Hanging from the rafters to dry. They will be tucked in amongst rosehips, holly and ivy for Christmas decorations.

Chinese lanterns, harvested in October. I love the various shades of orange. They fade to a delicate papery apricot colour. And left long enough, they become transparent.

My potting shed window looks out onto the wild garden. So heartening to see hazel branches with lambs-tail catkins. A welcome reminder that spring will return. The twigs make useful supports for my paperwhite narcissi and hyacinths which are in the dark under my point shed bench at the moment.

The last few golden leaves are fluttering in the breeze. Hazel, maple, ash trees make a mini woodland. I’ve planted 200 foxgloves in the wild garden. We sowed the seed in mid summer, pricked them out in August, and planted out, they will sit making roots over winter. I’m growing Sutton’s Apricot, a glorious silky, peach- coloured foxglove, and Pam’s Choice- white with a blackcurrant thumb print in each flower.

It’s dusk before I finish planting. I stand by the pond watching blackbirds taking a last-minute bath. I wonder how they can stand the cold water. I expect it keeps their feathers in good condition. A tawny owl glides silently along the field hedge. Short-tailed voles live in the long grass here. Within minutes, it’s dark. It’s not like in summer, where there’s enough moonlight to potter around. November dark is cold, pitch black. Time to go indoors, light a fire and make hot chocolate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a walk around my garden with me tonight. I’m joining https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/ for his Six on Saturday meme. What jobs are you doing in your garden this weekend?

In a Vase on Monday – flowers for a christening.

Pink roses for a baby girl. Just the right flower. That’s what I decided when a friend asked me to make a door wreath for her granddaughter’s christening.

Setting out with a wicker basket, I spend a happy hour searching the hedgerows around the garden. I’m looking for ivy leaves, and their lime green and black flower heads and seeds. The perfect background for any circle of flowers. I find jewel-like Euonymus europaeus, or spindle tree, growing wild amongst the ivy, dogwood and hawthorn. Their bright pink fruit split apart to reveal orange seeds inside. Leaves turn a burnished bronze and then red. I add them to the basket. It’s like finding treasure.

I find some silver coins. Well, they look like coins. Honesty seed heads have turned a glorious silvery grey. Perfect for tucking in amongst the flowers. I love the way they catch the light. No need for fairy lights here.

I search around for some sprigs of a newly- planted viburnum. This winter-flowering gem is called Viburnum tinus Lisarose. Clusters of small pink and white flowers look lovely at all stages from bud to fully open. It flowers from November to April, just when we most need some cheer.

It’s my lucky day. I’ve found some late-flowering roses. My favourites, The Fairy and Pearl Anniversary. They have small clusters of pearly pink semi-double flowers. Both are compact, easy to grow varieties. Mine are thriving in containers and are moved into the greenhouse to provide flowers right up until Christmas. Pearl Anniversary is a compact, patio rose, and The Fairy is a small shrub rose. Both are repeat flowering and disease resistant.

Roses make the perfect focal point at the top of the wreath. Not many are needed to make a display.

Rosehips. So glossy they look as if they’ve been dipped in varnish. They cascade from the top of the hedgerows. The birds will have a feast. I harvest some for today, and some for Christmas, not taking them all. It’s best to share. I weave them in and out of the ivy. It’s a happy combination of hedgerow and garden. Just perfect for a baby girl’s special day.

Each week I join Cathy for her IAVOM Meme. Luckily flowers don’t have to be in a vase to be included. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and harvesting for their flower arrangements this week. Let me know if you have ever made flowers for a special occasion like I have. It’s lucky when the garden and hedgerow provides such bounty, even in November.

Cathy : https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/

The Creative Kitchen – Book Review

By Stephanie Hafferty

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.