January in the Garden

Here I am, pottering about in my garden again. I must say, the weeks fly by and it’s soon time to write another column for Garden News Magazine.

I hope you enjoy today’s article. I’ve had some lovely letters of support from readers saying my ‘potterings’ have kept them upbeat and busy during the pandemic. I’m pleased to see many readers have been inspired to have a go at different gardening techniques, or decided to grow something new. And many say the recipes are tasty, and always turn out well. What a relief!

Here’s some additional photos the editor didn’t use for the column. It’s fascinating to see which ones they choose. I submit about 10 for them to select from. It takes about a day to decide what to write about, take the photos and then actually sit down and compose the piece. It’s 350 words – which is actually quite a challenge. I try to say a lot in not many words. I edit it three times before I send it, taking out any spare words each time. What a luxury it is to write the blog. No one is checking the word count on here.

My hazel plant supports in the snow. New rods have replaced any that snapped, and have been woven along the centre to add strength. We seem to be getting stormier summers, so plant supports have to be extra sturdy.

Some sweet peas I grew last summer. I’ve sown some in autumn, but the second sowing now will provide plants that flower right through to November. Successional sowing extends the season.

Seeds come from https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Flower-Seed/Sweet-Pea-Seed/#.X_dxARDfWfA.

And https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/shop/gardening/seeds/easton-walled-gardens-mix.

Here’s a photo of ‘Sunshine’ climbing French beans. Highly recommended, easy to grow and prolific. We have a freezer full, and they only take a few minutes to cook from frozen. All the flavour and goodness is captured for tasty winter meals. I’ll be starting my bean seed in May. Don’t start them off too early as they cannot be planted out until the first week of June. If sown too early, they become leggy and weak. They are very fast growing.

Bean seeds come from https://www.mr-fothergills.co.uk/Pea-and-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-Bean-Seeds/Climbing-French-Bean-Sunshine.html#.X_dw0hDfWfA

Here’s a larger photo of the willow heart flower arrangement in the potting shed window. It’s made from Paperwhite narcissi, alstroemeria from the poly tunnel and dried gypsophila and honesty seeds from summer. The foliage is eucalyptus saved from Christmas floral arrangements. Flowers are held in a jam jar covered in moss which has garden string twined around it, kokadama -style. We are all trying to do without florists’ foam, and using jam jars, and tiny glass test tubes works really well.

See more ideas, join zoom -and in person lessons- with Georgie Newbery at Common Farm Flowers : https://www.commonfarmflowers.com/collections/workshops

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

Gypsophila and honesty seeds from https://higgledygarden.com/

I mention new birds boxes. I wrote about CJ Wildlife supplies here: https://bramblegarden.com/2019/01/30/nest-boxes-and-bird-feeders-for-the-garden/

The RSPB nesting material is from: https://shopping.rspb.org.uk/nest-box-accessories/nesting-wool-refill.html

And finally, the rhubarb upside down cake recipe can be found here: https://bramblegarden.com/2020/04/18/rhubarb-cakes-family-favourite-recipes/

Thank you for reading and getting in touch. It’s much appreciated. And a very Happy New Year to you all.

I’m @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

Do say hello on social media.

BBC Radio Leicester Gardens Hour 19 April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links:

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

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

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

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

You can follow me on twitter @kgimson

On instagram @karengimson1

And Pinterest @karengimson

Some photos from my garden:

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

Planting out calendula Snow Princess grown in plug trays.

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

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

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

Not all things go according to plan.

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

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

Thank you for reading!

A Walk Around My Country Garden -27 Mar 2020

When I planted this walkway of trees, I never knew how essential they were going to be. I must meander along these paths at least 20 times a day, lost in thought.

I’m sharing as many cheerful photos as I can find today. The covid crisis initially knocked me for six. I am desperately worried about all our elderly relatives. For all those expecting babies in the summer. For my young daughters, one a newly qualified nurse, working with desperately ill patients right now. If I could solve everything with walking, I would have worn out my shoes. It’s the first time in my life I have no answers. I can’t do anything to make it ‘right.’ Normally I can think of something. In every other crisis, I have found a solution. Something to make things better.

So I am turning to what I know. Gardening. Giving out advice to anyone who needs it. Families have struggled to buy fresh salads and veg these past few weeks. I certainly haven’t managed to obtain what I’ve needed. I couldn’t find bread, flour or milk. It’s made me feel vulnerable and determined to be more self reliant when it comes to fruit and veg at least. So anyone who needs grow-your-own advice can contact me and I will help. For specific individual garden design advice, how to start a cut flower garden, grow a meadow, deal with a shady border, I am asking for a donation to Rainbows Hospice direct, any amount and I don’t need to know how much. All my garden club talks have been cancelled, and as you know, all my fees go to Rainbows. The clubs have all rebooked for next year, but I wanted to do something for this year to help. So anyone interested, please e mail me at k.gimson@btinternet.com for more information. I am learning to Skype and FaceTime live, and also using the phone and computer. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, as my grandparents used to say. Funny how their little sayings come back to you in times of trouble. It’s as if they are trying to help you, even though they are no longer here.

Enjoy the slide show of photos. I hope it lifts your spirits and makes a difference. From now on, I am solely focusing on people who are doing good, sharing information about what they are doing, supporting them in any way I can. That really is the only way forward for me.

I took this video from the garden gate last night. It’s so heartening to see farmers out and about working their fields after such a dire autumn and winter. If they are out there preparing seed beds, then we can too in our own gardens. I shall be glad to see the green shoots of seedlings after a winter of brown, barren fields.

Hedgerow blossom. This looks like a shooting star to me. Such a beautiful sight. A heart-sing moment. The hawthorn too is coming into leaf. Soon there will be clouds of May blossom to cheer us along.

Lots of daffodils at the top of the paddock. These were a sack I bought from Dobbies at Christmas, reduced from £24 to £3. I couldn’t resist the bargain price, and took a risk. They’d been stored cool and dry so were in good condition. I didn’t expect flowers this year, but they are looking stunning. Every bulb has come up. I’ll water with a potash liquid to feed the bulbs for next year. And if I see another £3 sack, I’ll certainly buy it!

Yellow flowers symbolise friendship, and that is certainly what we all need right now to get us through this crisis. I’m relying on phone calls and my twitter friends to keep upbeat. I’ve just added my name to a list of local volunteers to ring round anyone who lives alone and needs someone to chat to once a day.

Today, the wild cherry trees (prunus avium) started to flower. What a wonderful sight. These trees only flower for a week or two, but we will sit under them with our cups of tea, have picnics outdoors and revel in every single moment they are in bloom.

My cut flower tulips are in bud. Tulips in the sunny front garden are already flowering early. I’ll cut a huge bunch of daffodils and tulips for the front windows. Vases of flowers will cheer up anyone passing by, even though they can’t call in to visit.

These double creamy tulips, Mount Tacoma, are favourites. They remind me of swan feathers. So graceful.

Scented narcissi, Geranium and Pheasants Eye, are starting to flower. Fabulous with yellow hyacinths and the first wallflowers.

In the greenhouse, the succulents are starting to glow. I’ve started to water everything, and I’m pleased this aeonium has come through the winter.

There’s plenty of citrus fruit coming along. I’ll be able to make orange cakes and lemon meringues soon.

Would you believe it, my new Polar Bear snowdrop is still in flower – at the end of March. It’s a new elwesii type of snowdrop with huge rounded petals and short pedicels which make the flowers look up and out rather than hang down. It looks rather surprised to be out in the spring sunshine amongst daffodils. I wonder if next year it will flower much earlier.

There’s life in the pond. The tadpoles are forming. Lots of pond skaters, some newts, and we’ve even spotted a grass snake, on our new wildlife camera set up on bank.

I’ve mounted the camera on a log, so I can move it about the garden without it being knocked over. Tonight we are hoping to catch sight of the hedgehogs. They are out and about at dusk, making nests in the bottom of the ‘fedge’ and under the old disused hen house.

Ladybirds are much in evidence. Here they are on the phlomis. My army of pest control workers. I’ve left twiggy piles of stems all around the garden to give insects a place to hibernate. Hopefully they will repay me by eating the aphids.

And there’s plenty of bees, thankfully. Bumble bees and solitary bees of all shapes and sizes. I have a new book to review, The Secret Lives of Garden Bees by Jean Vernon. I can think of nothing better than sitting under my cherry trees and loosing myself in a book. It will be something soothing and calming. Much needed at the moment.

Here’s an enormous bumble bee on the wild anemones. It’s lovely to have a book you can go to to learn more about the bees visiting your garden. And look at ways you can help them to thrive. Something positive to focus on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around my garden today. The sun is shining and it’s 30C in the greenhouse. All the windows and doors are thrown open. Get in touch and let me know what’s looking lovely in your garden today. And if you are feeling alone or sad, let me know. We are in this together. And be reassured that lots of people are doing wonderful things to help one another. You just have to look for the positives in life. As ever.

Love Karen xx

Last of the late snowdrops – and snowy pictures of my garden

Patience often pays off. I’ve been watching the prices for this new and expensive snowdrop. Then, when most of the flowers had gone over, the garden centre reduced the price! It was my lucky day. Galanthus Polar Bear is my new favourite snowdrop, and it’s a quite a beauty, isn’t it.

I managed to find a pot with flowers still in bud. It’s a very late flowering type with short pedicels, making the flowers fling out and look up at you. So unusual, as most snowdrops bow their heads and look down. It’s got a lot of charm, and is the star of my potting shed windowsill at the moment.

While we are still talking about snowdrops, I thought I’d show you some snowy photos of the garden. It’s been the mildest wettest winter on record here, and this is the first, and only snow we’ve had so far. It makes the garden look magical and hides all imperfections (fortunately.) No weeds are on show, and brambles look ornamental with an iced topping of snow. Here you can see my greenhouse, polytunnel and potting shed set up, all close together to save walking too far between them. In front of the potting shed there’s some renovated 1930s plant nursery trolleys. Very useful for moving plant pots about, and for staging potted displays. My second-hand poly tunnel has doors both ends which is great for good air circulation. The 20ft Alton Cedar greenhouse is also second-hand and renovated by my husband. We painted it black, and made matching black staging inside. Beyond is my cut flower and veg patch and then the orchard, before you reach the paddock gate leading to the ridgeway footpath.

In the exotic border in front of the potting shed, I’ve left stems and seed heads intact for birds to eat and insects to find shelter. These innula seeds look pretty with a topping of snow.

The horseshoe pond can viewed from the potting shed windows. There’s a gently-sloping boulder beach to stand on, and this gives easy access for hedgehogs, frogs, newts and grass snakes. It’s very calming to stand and watch the ripples from raindrops. Today the pond is a cauldron of frogs, mating and producing frog spawn.

From the pond you can see the cut flower and veg patch. My hazel sweet pea supports have weathered three named storms on consecutive weekends. Really, if they can cope with all that, I think they will stand firm and strong for the summer display. There’s little slab paths between the plots so I don’t have to walk on the soil. It’s a no-dig garden inspired by Charles Dowding who’s been a patient and valued mentor these last few years, along with his partner Stephanie Hafferty. They’ve both given me lots of advice and I’ve got more value out of my plot thanks to their suggestions.

At the end of the veg plot there’s a small orchard, rather neglected. We’ve pruned it this winter which means we might lose some of the crop in the summer. But over a few years we will get the trees back into shape and down to a manageable size for harvesting. Under the trees I’m planning a wild flower patch. I’m going to leave some grass and see what happens, I will sow some plug plants in another area, and finally I’ll try a wild flower lawn, ready seeded. I’ll report back on the project.

Finally here’s the view down the field hedge tunnel. This path is made from bark and brushwood chippings from the garden, put through my new Stihl electric shredder. It saves a fortune on bagged bark supplies, plus helps me recycle waste from the garden.

Thank you for reading. Please share on any social media platform , and get in touch and let me know what your garden looks like just now. Comments box is right at the bottom of the page.

Links: Stihl shredders : https://www.stihl.co.uk/STIHL-Products/099364/Garden-shredders.aspx

Polar bear : https://www.avonbulbs.co.uk/spring-planted-bulbs-and-snowdrops/galanthus-snowdrops/collectors-snowdrops/galanthus-polar-bear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a Plant Pot on Wednesday – 5th February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

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

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

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

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

A Walk Around My Garden Saturday 1st February 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higgledy Garden Seeds https://higgledygarden.com/

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

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

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

Christmas Flowers -In a Vase on Monday

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

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

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

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

Hedgerow finds with dried hydrangea flowers and pine.

Teasels and Garryia elliptica on the field gates.

Hydrangea Annabelle with a clematis Montana and willow circle.

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

A simple willow heart and ivy.

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

Summerhouse posy. Holly, lavender and fir.

Rosy hydrangea flowers, wild clematis and pine.

Willow, dogwoods, skimmia and conifer stems.

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

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

Apple and Almond Slice- Family Favourite Recipes

At this time of year, my kitchen work surfaces are covered with piles of apples. Little pyramids of golden cooking apples, tiny rosy red eating apples, giant Bramleys. My family complain. There’s nowhere for anyone to put anything down. I usually store them wrapped in newspaper in the potting shed, but I’m still trying to evict the mice, making many trips back and forth to the woods with my tunnel-like humane traps baited with peanut butter. I can’t kill them. They will take their chances in the leaf litter under the trees. I’m trying to ignore the tawny owl fledglings in the branches above, still being fed by harassed parents. I feel slightly guilty. But watching the mice run when I let them out, I think they stand a fair chance of surviving.

Meanwhile, I’m steadily working my way through the apples. My mother always says, if you’ve got an apple, you’ve got a pudding. It can be an apple pie, a crumble, a cake, or if you are pressed for time, just apple purée with lashings of creamy custard, or Devon clotted cream. A special treat.

Today’s recipe is another family favourite, an apple tray bake which is quick and easy to make and tastes of autumn. As usually, I’m recording it here for my children, in case they can’t find the scraps of paper these recipes are written on. It’s so lovely to see my grandmother’s best copper plate hand writing, as she lovingly wrote these recipes for me. Food, and cooking, bring back such special memories, don’t they.

 

APPLE AND ALMOND SLICE:

INGREDIENTS – FOR THE TOPPING

 

30g butter or vegan margarine

30g SR flour

25g golden caster sugar

2 tbsp. Jumbo oats

1/2 tsp cinnamon

25g flaked almonds

METHOD

Mix the butter, flour and sugar together. Fold in the cinnamon, oats and flaked almonds to make a crumble topping. Place in the fridge while you make the base.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE BASE

150g SR flour

200g golden caster sugar

200g butter or margarine

3 eggs ( or use 6 tbsp. soya oat drink if vegan)

100g ground almonds

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 large apples slices and tossed in lemon juice

100g any other fruit you have; blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, plums,

METHOD

Mix the flour, baking power , sugar and butter together. Whisk. Fold in the ground almonds and cinnamon. Add the beaten eggs.

Put half the mixture in the base of the tin. Put apples on top. Add the rest of the base moisture. Press the blackberries or other fruit on the top.

Cover with the crumble topping mixture.

Cook for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer come out clean.

Gas mark 4, 180C oven, or 160C fan oven.

You’ll need a 20cm tray bake tin, at least 4cm deep, lined with baking parchment.

Put baking paper on top if it is browning too quickly. Leave to cool and slice into fingers.

Can be frozen for 3 months.

Enjoy!

 

You might also like : Review of Orchard Odyssey by Naomi Slade here :

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

 

Also The Creative Kitchen by Stephanie Hafferty https://bramblegarden.com/2018/11/18/the-creative-kitchen-book-review/

I’ll leave you with a photo of my 1930s summerhouse, looking autumnal today. There’s heaps of blankets to keep us warm when the temperatures start to dip. It’s quite cosy in here though.

In A Vase on Monday- 28th October 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am @kgimson on twitter

Karengimson1 on instagram.

Thank you for reading, and for getting in touch.

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/

In a Vase on Monday.

I dashed home from work – and it was still light. Hurray! These photos were taken at 5.52 pm. This week I found some delicate apricot blossom. Four stems, displayed in my mother-in-law Joan’s cut glass vase. Such beautiful flowers. They seem to need no other companions.

These flowers will be a fleeting beauty. The weather has turned cold and windy. Snow fell yesterday but didn’t settle. I expect there’s more to come. Meanwhile, I’ll bring my vase indoors. Such pretty flowers will cheer up my kitchen table- and me.

Links:

IAVOM https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/

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

Six on Saturday- a walk round my garden, 9th February

I’ve got a pair of old nursery trolleys made out of metal with wooden plank tops. They are perfect for moving compost and plants about the garden. They hook together so in theory your could pull two. Usually we just use one at a time. They also make a good platform for a spring bulb display. It’s lovely to see my grandfather Ted Foulds’ Sankey terracotta pots out on show. He used to love to visit my garden each week and “walk the estate.” He had a good sense of humour and was a very kind man.

Iris Katherine Hodgkin is just coming into flower. So pretty, with markings that look as if they’ve been drawn in blue ink. Behind them, there’s royal blue Iris Harmony, and pale yellow Katherine’s Gold- a sport of Katherine Hodgkin, and new for me this year.

Behind the iris pots is an old zinc container full of Hyacinth Blue Jacket. It’s a beautiful deep velvety blue flower, and the scent is fabulous. I grew them from prepared bulbs, started last autumn. Some flowered for Christmas, but by leaving a few in a cold poly tunnel, I’ve spread the flowering over a longer period. It’s just now that I start to need some colour in the garden. I’ll put some hazel sticks in amongst the bulbs to support them. Those flower buds look so promising on a freezing cold day.

Still on the subject of bulbs … I never know how these posts are going to go on a Saturday, I usually just roam about the garden taking a few photos, and somehow a theme emerges. This week, it’s early bulbs. Here in the wild garden there’s cyclamen Coum and winter aconites Eranthis hyemalis. I didn’t plant them exactly in this spot. Mice or some other creature has carried them here. I actually planted them further across to the left, about 3 metres away. Still, they are thriving here, so who am I to complain. I’ll not disturb them now, or fight nature.

I’m pleased to see the snowdrop corner is finally starting to get going. I planted these yellow and white snowdrops two years ago after sharing a purchase with a friend. It’s the most I’ve ever spent on snowdrops, £12.50 for three little bulbs. And I probably won’t do it again. But they are such pretty things. I’m delighted to see they have doubled in number this year. They obviously like the leaf mould and undisturbed spot, under ash and willow trees.

Talking of trees, one of our huge beech trees had to be felled this week. It was leaning precariously towards the house roof. I can hear the chain saw sounds right now as my husband chops it up for next year’s firewood. I always feel sad when we have to chop down a tree. But it’s opened up a patch of sunlight in the paddock. Maybe I’ll plant something lovely there in its place. Meanwhile, I can’t stop gazing at the green mossy logs. They are a thing of beauty, don’t you think.

As you can see from my view from the potting shed window. There’s plenty more trees in the garden. We really ought to thin them out some more. But I can only face doing it a bit at a time. I’m very averse to change, and I’m getting worse. I would probably like time to stand still. But with gardens, as with everything in life, that’s not going to happen.

Six on Saturday https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2019/02/09/six-on-saturday-09-02-2019/

Cyclamen Coum https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/cyclamen/cyclamen-coum

Eranthis hyemalis https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/eranthis/eranthis-hyemalis

I wrote about Ted Foulds here https://bramblegarden.com/tag/tulips/

In a Vase on Monday-February 4th 2019

I’m starting to miss sunshine and warm weather. I’m muffled up with coat, scarves, gloves, two pairs of socks, and still the cold seeps in. There’s been such a cold wind. The ground is frozen and the pond iced over. And yet, mooching about looking for something cheerful, I find chinodoxa- untroubled by the cold, the colour of Mediterranean skies. A little bit of hope.

A circle of silver birch twigs makes a pretty background for spring flowers. I just twist the branches like rope and tie the ends together. I’m trying not to use florists’ foam as it’s currently not recyclable. I’ve found a solution. A friend sent me a box of orchids, each one with a 7cm test tube of water, keeping them fresh. Recycling them, I twist a piece of wire around the necks and stick them in amongst the twiggy coils. Topped with moss, and hidden with ivy, no one will know they are there. I just have to top up the water each morning, and at the same time, add fresh flowers as I please. The wreath here was made on Saturday with wild clematis -old man’s beard- ivy and winter flowering honeysuckle lonicera fragrantissima. It survived high winds, mostly. Silver honesty lasted a day, then blew into the back field hedge where it glistens like a tiny mirror. And the star-like cow-parsley seed heads have gone. It’s an arrangement that changes with the weather. I like that. It’s real life. A reflection of what’s happening in my garden today.

So this morning, I’ve picked some snowdrops and chinodoxa and added them to the arrangement. Chinodoxa known as “glory of the snow” seems untroubled by the cold north wind. Such a delicate flower, and yet so hardy.

To add my own sunshine, I’ve found some aconites, Eranthis hyemalis. We called these gold coins when we were growing up.

Snowdrops nestle amongst the foliage. I bought the single variety , galanthus nivalis, from Easton Walled Gardens. A little bit of history now growing in my wild garden. There’s been a garden at Easton for at least 400 years. A renovation project started almost 20 years ago, has rescued the garden for future generations to enjoy. The double snowdrops came from Hodsock Priory. Another favourite place to visit with my Mum.

My wreath sits above the doors on our 1930s turntable summerhouse. We’ve turned our backs to the wind and swung the summerhouse around to face the wild garden. There’s wild garlic thriving on the right, under the willow. I’m really pleased to see snowdrops I planted three years ago starting to form little clumps. How long, I wonder, before the scene is a sea of white. I shall have to wait and see.

Links :

I’m joining Cathy for her IAVOM meme. https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com/2019/02/04/in-a-vase-on-monday-skinny/

Chonodoxa https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/chionodoxa/chionodoxa-violet-beauty

Eranthis https://www.gee-tee.co.uk/bulbs/bulbs-in-the-green/eranthis-hyemalis-winter-aconite

Easton Walled Gardens https://www.visiteaston.co.uk/

Hodsock Priory snowdrops http://www.hodsockpriory.com/about-us/the-gardens/snowdrops/

NGS snowdrop gardens to visit https://www.ngs.org.uk/find-a-garden/snowdrop-gardens/

Lonicera fragrantissima https://www.rhs.org.uk/Plants/68665/i-Lonicera-fragrantissima-i/Details

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.

The Almanac – A Seasonal Guide to 2019

Book Review

Lia Leendertz. Illustrated by Celia Hart

Octopus Books/ Mitchell Beazley. Hardback £10. September 6 2018.

Captivated from the first page, I keep dipping into the new Almanac, published this week. I loved Lia Leendertz’ first seasonal guide created for 2018. The new version for 2019 is just as magical, if not better.

I’ve made a kind of nest in the summerhouse, heaping cushions and old quilts on a comfy armchair. It’s peaceful in here, only the sound of thrushes tap taping snail shells on the stone path. It’s just the place to settle down and delve into Lia’s book.

There’s something comforting about being in tune with the natural world around us. Checking the times for sunrise and sunset, sea temperatures, tides, moon phases. I haven’t tried planting by the moon, but there’s dates and times to get me started. It seems to make perfect sense. I love the little moments of joy. Reading that day length increases by 1 hour and eight minutes during the course of January. It gives hope when it’s needed most. Here’s the page for January. Plough Monday is included in the dates listed. I heard my grandfather talk of Plough Monday- traditionally the start of the agricultural year. The book is like a siren call leading me back through time to my farming family ancestors. A reminder to keep in my heart their customs and celebrations.

There’s recipes such as Epiphany tart, a kind of jam pastry, with a star made with overlapping triangles and each “well” containing a different flavour. I hadn’t heard of this; it sounds delicious. There’s a tradition dating back to the 1600s of creating tarts with intricate pastry patterns, coloured with different jams. I wonder if my great grandmother Annie Foulds – who was head cook at Bradgate House- would have made such a dish. She made the most delicious cakes at home at Carters Rough Cottage, Groby.

Lia’s writing is perfectly complemented by illustrations from artist Celia Hart. The prints are so beautiful they draw you in, much as a photograph of a glorious scene makes you want to step into the landscape. It’s impossible not to stare longingly at Celia’s drawings- and wish you could step into the page. I’d like to see those swifts and swallows soaring above my head and turn over the seashells she so wonderfully captures.

A mesmerising read, totally spellbinding. A beautiful month by month companion for me. For anyone, like me, who tries to weave the stories of the past into the journey to the future.

The publishers have kindly offered one copy to give away. Please leave a comment below if you’d like to be included in the prize draw. The publishers will pick a name and send out a copy. The publisher’s decision is final. Sorry UK entries only.

Please share this review on any social media platform you like. Thank you.

Here is the Amazon Link for The Almanac.

BBC Radio #SundaySupplement flowers/ hedgehogs/ my garden, 12 August programme

Some photos to accompany today’s BBC Radio Leicester gardening Sunday Supplement programme. It was my turn to sit in and answer listeners’ gardening queries on the phone-in today.

As always, I ran round the garden and picked some flowers for my mother-in-law Joan and my Mum Marion to take in to the programme. Despite the heat and drought, my cut flower patch hasn’t let me down. There’s plenty of colour just now.

In the pink and blue theme posy there’s zinnia, Mophead hydrangea, cosmos seashells and white wild goats rue. The green umbels are actually parsley that’s gone to seed, and the whole bouquet is wreathed with blue borage. The pink whirls are Diascia Hopleys. Plants have grown to 5ft and been in flower for 8 weeks. There’s just one glorious inky-blue gladioli, and one annual pink chrysanthemum (Tricolor Mixed) which are only just starting to flower.

In the orange-theme bouquet there’s calendula, rudbeckia, spikes of verbascum, and seed heads from love-in-a-mist. White jasmine provides a wonderful scent, even if there are only two sprigs included here. Any more would be overpowering.

I could talk for hours about flowers, but the conversation steered towards wildlife in my garden. So for anyone wondering how my hedgehogs are getting on, we have four precious babies this year, one less than last summer. They are a month later than last year, but very healthy and active. I am feeding them with Spike hedgehog food to try to build them up for the winter. Fresh water is also really important and in scare supply, so lots of little dishes are placed all around the garden.

So far these hoglets are just 5″ long. I’ll keep an eye on them to ensure they meet the target weight of 650g by winter hibernation time.

I wrote about last summer’s hedgehogs Here. There’s also hints and tips on helping hedgehogs on the highlighted link.

Radio Leicester Sunday Supplement is available on i-player. There’s a link Here. https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06fs2mb . Gardening starts at 1.09.31. Put your feet up and have a listen in.

Let me know what flowers are doing well in your garden right now, and do any of you have hedgehogs nesting in the garden this summer?

Please kindly share this on any social media platform, and don’t forget to say hello in the comment box below.

Summer fruit harvest and making garden jam

What a summer! My poor garden is burned to a crisp and everything’s wilting, including me. But the fruit garden is producing bumper crops. You’d think they would shrivel in 32C heat, but the black and red currants, gooseberries and blackberries are sweet and juicy.

Last night I wandered round the garden collecting a basket of fruit to make jam. I had planned to make strawberry jam from the pots of runners planted in April. But the tiny plants only yielded a handful of fruit. So delicious though. The plants only cost 60p each, mail order. I wrote about planting them Here. I’m hopeful of larger crops next summer.

The blackberries were the best I’ve ever seen though. A bumper crop and large fruit. Sometimes wild blackberries are so tiny they are hardly worth picking. But these soon filled a basket.

I threw the whole lot in a heavy based pan to make garden jam. Wow, what a scent. If it’s possible to capture sunshine and summer in a jar, this is the way to do it.

Garden Jam

To make 2 jars I used 500g fruit, 500g sugar 75ml water, juice of 1 lemon.

Method:

Place a saucer in the freezer for testing the setting point later.

Put fruit, water and lemon juice in a heavy based pan. Cook the fruit gently until soft.

Add sugar and simmer carefully until all the sugar crystals are absorbed.

Increase the heat to a rolling boil. After 10- 15 minutes, put a teaspoon of jam on the plate and gently push. If it wrinkles, it has reached setting point. If not, cook for another 5 minutes, taking care not to burn the jam.

Stand for 15 minutes

Pot into sterilised and warmed jars.

Fresh scones :

3oz butter

1lb plain flour

Pinch salt

1oz caster sugar

1.5 tsp. baking power

2 eggs and 6floz milk beaten together.

Add all the dry ingredients and rub together. Add liquids and mix carefully. Don’t over handle the mixture

Roll out thickly and cut into circles. Brush top with a little of the reserved egg/ milk mixture.

Bake for 10 mins until golden, oven temp. 230C, gas mark 8

Eat whilst still warm – or as soon as possible. Can be frozen as soon as cooled, to keep fresh.

I often ask twitter friends for recipes and gardening advice. Here’s a reply that came from Bob Flowerdew. I’m looking forward to trying his recipe.

And this came from June Girvin, which is similar to the recipe I ended up with. It’s absolutely delicious.

After all that foraging and cooking, we sat in the 1930s summerhouse, turned to face the cool woodland and pond and feasted on the jewels of the garden.

Surrounding us, there’s sounds of harvesting and baling. There’s a scent of new hay and oats on the breeze, and we watch entranced as barn owls swoop across the empty fields, like ghosts. They don’t notice us sitting quietly amongst the trees.

Here’s this week’s Garden Hour on BBC Radio Leicester where I chat away about what’s happening in my garden. Put your feet up and have a listen in sometime. The programme starts at 2.10.27 on the timeline. And the music’s not bad this week too.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p06cd1bd

I am @kgimson on twitter and karengimson1 on instagram. Please share this on any social media platform you like, and don’t forget to leave a comment below. Thank you.

Winner of Dahlias book by Naomi Slade

Congratulations to June at The Cynical Gardener who has won my prize draw for a copy of Naomi Slade’s new book, Dahlias.

I wrote a review of the book Here.

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.

Please kindly share this blog on twitter, Pinterest, facebook or any other social media platform. Thank you. And don’t forget to say hello in the comments below.

In a Vase on Monday – My Cut Flower Patch

One of the joys of June is to walk out into the garden and pick a bunch of flowers for the house- flowers that have been nurtured all winter, and are now ready to harvest.

Sweet williams are currently my favourite. They provide masses of flowers which last at least a week in a vase. Sown in June last year, they were pricked out and grown on, and then planted out in late August. And today I’m picking basketfuls of fragrant flowers.

Regular readers will know that all my flowers are grown for my mother in law Joan and my wonderful mum, Marion. Once a week I fill every vase they own with home-grown flowers.

Here’s some photos from my cut flower patch. I have 10 3m by 1.2m beds. Half are planted with sweet peas, dahlias and sweet williams. Half are set out with potatoes, beetroot, beans, courgettes and strawberries

In the background you can see the fruit garden. It’s completely overwhelmed with brambles and stingers this year. A renovation project is planned, when I get a minute to spare.

I’m growing a range of old-fashioned Sweet williams with seed from Higgledy Garden. As you can see, bees love them too. I’m always thinking of what would be best for pollinators.

I particularly love the auricular-eyed sweet williams. Rich Venetian colours really stand out in the summer sunshine. And they go so well with summer roses. This one is called William Shakespeare. Looks like red velvet to me.

And another favoured rose for picking right now is the highly-scented Constance Spry. It only flowers once, but what a spectacular show.

I’m sowing more sweet williams right now, preparing for next summer’s bounty. I use half seed trays filled with good quality seed compost. Fill them right to the top of the trays. Press down gently to level. Sow seeds thinly to prevent moulds and damping off disease. Seeds germinate at 17 – 19C, room temperature at this time of the year. So no propagators are needed. When seedlings have two leaves, I prick them out into full size seed trays to give each plant more space to grow. I’ll place the trays in a bright place to grow on, making sure the plants don’t dry out. And I’ll plant them out into the garden in August, 25cm apart, when I’ve harvested one of the vegetable crops to make space. I water plants with seaweed extract and home-made comfrey liquid which makes them grow healthy and strong. I’m adding some almost black sweet williams Nigricans and white alba for next year.

Here’s another view of my cut flower patch with Diascia Hopleys in the foreground. Another good do-er for flower arranging.

I’m joining in with Cathy for her In a Vase on Monday meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and the others are growing and putting in their flower arrangements this week. Let me know how your gardens are doing this summer. How are you coping with unpredictability weather, rain and high winds? I think summer storms are becoming the norm.

Weeds. Geranium robertianum

I’m writing a piece about weeds at the moment. Suddenly, in the sunshine, after all that cold weather, weeds have gone whoosh!

In my woodland garden, there are thousands of wild geranium, robertianum. It has so many common names: herb Robert, stork’s bill, crane’s bill, red robin, stinking Bob, fox geranium, cuckoo flower.

“Herb Robert is very familiar. It lives with man: much as the robin flips into his garden and to his back door” – Geoffrey Grigson- The Englishman’s Flora.

I’m enjoying reading up and investigating more about this common weed we usually pass by without noticing. And meanwhile, a posy of herb Robert sits in my potting shed window today. Mixed in with some wild violets -which are so numerous they could be considered a weed. Both very pretty indeed.

What “weeds” are growing in your garden right now.

End of the Month View -April 2018

We leave cold, wet April behind, and May finally brings some warm, settled weather.

The potting shed window ledge soon has a jug of cow parsley and forget-me-nots from the wild garden.

We’ve waited for this display all winter. Wild cherry trees in the paddock. Alive with bees. An avalanche of white blossom.

Scented narcissi Geranium pop up in the long grass around the pond. I love the egg yolk centres.

Needing some work this summer, the pond is ringed with marsh marigolds and lady’s smock wild flowers- and brambles and stinging nettles! A bit of cutting back and control is planned.

Our front lawn is a blue haze. My Grandfather Ted Foulds brought the first wild violets here, seedlings from his garden. They spread over the whole plot, and I love them.

I’ve planted my sweet peas. The hazel rods are a bit ramshackle, but they’ll soon be covered with flowers. I planted seed in October. I’m growing old favourites: High Scent, Wiltshire Ripple and creamy white Mrs Collier, plus heritage varieties from Easton Walled Gardens .

Suddenly, these dog’s tooth violets pop up through cow parsley in the woodland. I forget I’ve planted them – and then they emerge. Sunshine on a cold, cloudy day. Erythronium Pagoda is the variety growing here.

Shining out from the shade, Tulip Purissima. Reliably comes back every year. Copes with everything the weather throws at it.

I grow Orange Emperor tulips in the daylily bed in front of the greenhouse. Another good do-er. Always comes up every year if planted deeply on a bed of grit for drainage.

Favourite shrubs in flower at the moment are daphne and quince. This one is Japanese quince, Chaenomeles Kinshiden. Double flowers open pale lime green and change to clotted cream as they age.

Pleased to see my plectranthus has survived the winter, tucked up in the greenhouse. A striking plant for summer containers. Easy to grow from cuttings.

There will be plenty of citrus fruit for summer preserves. This plant flowered all winter, filling the greenhouse with such a wonderful scent.

We do quite a bit of owl watching from the top of the garden. Delighted to report the barn owls and tawny owls have survived the freezing winter. We’re hoping they bring their fledglings into our garden again this summer.

Another cause for celebration. The hedgehogs- we think they are last year’s babies- also survived the cold, and have come out of hibernation, ravenous. They are doing a great job of clearing pests in the garden.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slide show of my garden at the end of April and into the first week of May. Enjoy your Bank Holiday weekend. I’m hoping to spend some time just sitting in my favourite garden chair. If I can possibly ignore all the weeds growing rampant in the background!

Thanks to Helen Patient Gardener for hosting the EOMV. Why not go over and see how Helen’s garden looks at the end of April.

What are your plans for the garden over the coming weeks? Get in touch and let me know.

In a Vase on Monday- spring flowers for Mum

Flowers for my Mum this week. There’s nothing as beautiful as spring bulbs and ranunculus are among my favourites. They are easy to grow. Plant them 8cm deep and the same distance apart in bulb fibre or John Innes compost. I grow mine in pots, starting them off in the greenhouse for an early crop. But they can be grown outdoors in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant them with the “fingers” facing downwards. The RHS has a sale on – 12 corms for £1.60 instead of £4. Aviv Rose is an excellent variety. I also grow Purple Heart . They last for a week in a vase. I made a small posy for the kitchen table with mine.

Red tulips look fabulous with blue hyacinths. I’ve placed these with lots of twigs from the garden. I’ve got grey catkins, red dogwood, spirea, and field maple. Some of the stems came from my new “Hedge in a Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I wrote about planting my new florists’ hedge Here.

In amongst the stems are daffodils from Waitrose, grown in West Cornwall. “Surprise Bouquets ” contain 30 different stems for £4. You can’t tell what they are while they are in bud. The mystery is only revealed as they open. I love something a bit different and new marketing ideas to promote British flowers. Greenyard Flowers have been supplying Waitrose with daffodils for 23 years and grow more than 1,000 different varieties.

Some of the daffodils open up with creamy- white outer petals and a darker lemon trumpet. They have a delicate scent too.

All my bouquets for friends and family contain some of this evergreen glossy-leaved shrub that originally came from my Grandfather Ted Foulds. It’s called Euonymus Japonicus. I loved his visits here each week. He would always bring a little pot of seedlings from his garden, or a cutting from one of his plants. It’s lovely to walk around the garden now and remember him from all the flowers and shrubs in my garden.

There’s nothing more cheerful than popping a few twigs in amongst the spring flowers and watching them burst into leaf in the heat of the windowsill. This one I think is common field maple. The lime green leaves are almost as beautiful as any flower.

Thank you to Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are putting in their vases this week. It’s an international favourite.

In a Vase on Monday – 9th April 2018

Just dashed home from work. Wonderful to still have some light in the evening for mooching in the garden. Each week I join Cathy at ramblinginthegarden for IAVOM. Here’s a slide show of photos showing what I’m growing and putting in my flower arrangements his week.

The silver and gold-laced primulas are just at their peak. They last for a week in water and have a faint but delicate scent.

Tulips always cheer up any arrangement. These yellow and red blooms go really well with the fancy primulas.

Flower vases are still very much focusing on bulbs. I think I’ve had Carnegie white hyacinths in my flower vases every week since Christmas. These are the very last of them. I shall miss them to be honest. The scent in the potting shed is just wonderful.

Hellebores are still in flower here. This one has a pretty, frilled anemone centre and holds its head up, which is always a good trait in any hellebore. I bought this one from Hodsock Priory in February.

Hellebores have survived everything the weather has thrown at them. This one came from Ashwood Nurseries in Kingswinford when we had a a tour of owner John Massey’s private garden. Well worth a visit. Probably the best spring garden I’ve ever seen. All fees from the open days go to local charities.

Couldn’t resist these summer bulbs. Lilium Conca D’Or is a favourite for fabulous scent. And the dahlia is new to me. I’ve watched others on IAVOM growing and using this variety, so I’m looking forward to trying it out for the first time this year.

Potting shed reading this week is Secret Houses of the Cotswolds by architectural historian Jeremy Musson, published by Frances Lincoln, part of the Quarto Homes group. Photographer Hugo Rittson Thomas allows us to peek into 20 homes, varying from castles and manor houses to grand mansions. It’s like stepping into another world to be honest. And a glimpse of the gardens through open windows- so tantalising! I just wanted to jump in the car and visit them all. But of course they are not open to the public. So I shall have to be content with gazing longingly at the book.

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In a Vase on Monday -Snow, and then spring!

What a week! Temperatures over the past seven days have gone from -12c to 14c. Luckily nothing seems to have been lost. The snow creates an insulating blanket. Plants can still photosynthesize through the snow. I just gently tap some of the snow-laden branches of conifers and acers. The weight can cause splaying and damage. Here’s a slide show of photos showing my garden from last Monday to today. Flowers are in plant pots and jam jars in the greenhouse and potting shed this week.

My 20-year-old Parwins electric heater has been working full time keeping the greenhouse cosy. A second-hand Alton Cedar greenhouse copes really well with the weather. The wood seems to expand in the winter, excluding any draughts. At night, I didn’t disturb the wrens nestling in a row on the door slider. There were eight snuggled together, keeping warm.

Scented pelargoniums have never been more welcome than on a freezing cold day. I picked some to put in tiny vases for my bedside table.

Iris reticulata bulbs are still in flower. They last longer in cold weather. Such a delicate scent. Much appreciated when there’s a foot of snow outside.

As there’s so few flowers this week, I’m showing some photos of my greenhouse, Polytunnel, potting shed set up. All within a few paces of each other. The polytunnel was second hand from a nursery closing down sale. You can see my Dalefoot Compost piled up in front of the potting shed, all ready for sowing seeds and growing fruit, veg and flowers. I started off some tomato seeds mid week. It’s the first time ever I’ve had to put hot water bottles on the compost bags before sowing seeds.

I’m keen to try this sheeps wool and bracken compost. I’ve been peat free for a while now, but composts have been variable to say the least. Dalefoot promises to be water retentive and cheaper to use, as no added fertilisers are needed. Apparently the bracken is naturally high in potash- needed for fruit and flower production. And the sheeps wool continues to act as a kind of slow release fertiliser during the whole growing season. Dalefoot have given me the compost to try out. As usual, opinions are my own and I’ll give an honest appraisal of the product in due course.

A quick peek in my potting shed and there’s still some white hyacinths, yellow tete-a-tete daffodils, with green hellebores and fluffy willow catkins. This time the vases didn’t freeze solid, thankfully. The view from the potting shed is white over. As is the view from the back door, below.

I didn’t go far to be honest. The roads around here were pretty dire.

But then – thankfully, the temperatures started to rise. And today has been the warmest day of the year.

Hope it’s sunny where you are at the moment.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting this IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy is growing and putting in her vases this week.

In a Vase on Monday ….. er Wednesday.

Defeated by torrential rain, I’d given up on gardening until today. Here’s a brief glimpse into my day.

A quick peek in the greenhouse before I go off to work. And it’s sunny in here. At last. Yippee!!! Windows opened. Wonderful scent. Just love primulas. So cheerful.

Second year hyacinths are never as good. But they still have a value. I love the intense blue of this one, set against the yellow of the dwarf daffodils. I’m growing Tete-a-tete in pots for picking. And in honour of my wonderful Welsh grandmother, Tenby daffodils, which grow wild in Wales.

Love my newly acquired plant pots. The green one on the left is from Burgon and Ball , and the one on the right is from new company Plant Furniture.

After a quick snip of flowers for the show, I’m off to Radio Leicester for the Gardeners’ phone-in, 11-12 on a Wednesday. A fun place to work. Sophie and Jack the producers look after me. I’m always so grateful for all the encouragement and support they give. I probably couldn’t do it without their kindness to be honest.

We chatted about growing tomatoes. I’m growing bush tomatoes in containers and hanging baskets alongside programme host Ben Jackson. We’ve got cherry tomatoes from Mr Fothergill’s, Suttons and Thompson and Morgan to try out. And we’ll be growing them in Dalefoot sheep wool and bracken compost as an alternative to peat. It’s always more fun growing something with another person. I haven’t got an allotment, for example, where you would have neighbours to chat with and share hints and tips. so I’m going to grow along with Ben, and we’ll share seeds and compost and compare results. It will be a fun project to do over the summer.

We always have a laugh on the gardeners’ programme. If I see something a bit unusual, I’ll take it in to show the team. Today I took in these Badger Paw gloves. I spotted them at the Garden Press Event a few weeks ago and thought they looked interesting. The event showcases new ideas, new seeds, tools and machinery, containers and plant pots- all heading for supermarkets, garden centres and nurseries this summer. The Badger Paw is said to be perfect for preparing soil, planting, weeding and clearing roots. It’s made by Creative Products and has breathable stretchy fabric. What we couldn’t work out though was why the claw is only on one hand. It’s an interesting concept and I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

My posy of flowers this week also contains hyacinths – which just seem to keep on flowering. They love the cold weather. Tucked inside my paper wrapping are iris reticulata, hellebores, snowdrops, and dogwood twigs from my new florists’ “Hedge-in-a-Box” kit from Hopes Grove Nurseries. I spotted their ingenuous hedge kit for gin makers at the GPE. On the stand there was a sign saying make any suggestions for new hedge kits. So I asked if they could design a hedge for florists with coloured stems and flowers for all year round picking. And my wonderful “hedge-in-a-box”arrived on Monday! I’m really thrilled with it.

Thanks for joining me today. Thanks also to Cathy for hosting this meme and kindly allowing me to join in later in the week when either the internet – or the weather – has let me down.

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In a Vase on Monday

If you look carefully, you’ll see little ice cubes floating in the vases in my potting shed today. The jam jars and jugs froze solid. And I was away in London, so couldn’t rescue them. Luckily the flowers didn’t seem to mind. They perked up as soon as the temperature started to rise. These are the very last of my Paperwhite narcissi. They’ve been fantastic value, giving flowers for cutting for three months.

For my IAVOM I have recycled my spring flowers. I’ve cut off the bottom 2cm of each stem, given them all fresh water and added lots of grey willow catkins and hazel “lambs tails.” It looks like it’s a yellow and white theme this week. I haven’t planned it, but doesn’t it look cheerful. We’ve had temperatures go from -10 to 10c in just 24 hours.

Double snowdrops, Galanthus flore pleno, from my “Hodsock” corner are still flowering well. The freezing temperatures have prolonged the display. Every year Mum and I visit Hodsock Priory in Nottinghamshire. We always stay overnight so we can walk in the woodlands just before dusk and again at sunrise -before the crowds arrive. It’s a special treat to have the gardens virtually to ourselves. Each year we buy a few pots of snowdrops for a couple of pounds. And over the years they have spread to make a corner of my garden that reminds me of our special holidays together.

Noticing that I haven’t got many vases, a relative has taken pity on me and donated these little containers. The snowdrop vase has a lovely green glaze. The brown container looks like it is made of wood, but it is actually ceramic. I’ve never seen these type of vases before. I think they date back to the 1920s and were family wedding presents. So happy they have made their way to my potting shed to be treasured for years to come.

I put some moss in the container and added some hazel twigs. It is just perfect for holding a few tiny snowdrops.

The potting shed window has miniature green hellebores this week. The leaf and flower shape looks like Hellebore Corsicus, but I’ve never seen one as petite as this. I love the lime green flowers.

Here’s a quick peek at what it’s been like outdoors here. The farm pond was frozen solid for a week. We spotted a kingfisher on an overhanging branch staring intently at the water. Many of the garden birds came closer to the house during the freeze. A little gold crest has been roosting in the potted acer by the back door all week. I’ve fed it mealworms and crushed sunflower seeds saved from the veg plot.

And the gap in the hedge view. I didn’t linger long. There were hares racing across the field and pheasants in the ditch.

Today, there is no evidence of wintry weather. I feel like I’ve stepped from one country to another – a much warmer one at that. 7c feels positively balmy after what we’ve been though. And the willow catkins give us hope.

Thanks to Cathy for hosting the IAVOM meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing in their gardens and cutting for their flower arrangements this week.

How has your garden fared in the bad weather? As you can see, I’ve written it on a Monday, but not managed to post it until today. Our internet is on the blink again. BT no doubt will blame the snow. Have a good week all of you.

End of the Month View – March 2nd 2018

Thank goodness there’s some colour in the greenhouse right now. I planted these Iris reticulata last October. And just when I need something cheerful to look at, they’ve sprung open like a jack-in-a-box. As soon as the sun hit the greenhouse glass, they pinged open. A lovely moment. Glad I was there to see it.

Such an inky blue. I planted Iris Pixie and Harmony, and then somehow lost the labels. A common occurrence in my garden. I must address the problem of how to keep labels this year.

I’ve no need to tell you what the temperatures are like at the moment. One look out of the window and you can see for yourself. We are white over in the UK. So today I’ve been mooching in the potting shed and greenhouse.

Planted last September, these Carnegie hyacinths are a joy for months. The buds are pretty, with just the green tips showing. I think there’s as much pleasure in anticipating what’s to come, as there is when the buds finally burst into bloom. The scent fills the whole greenhouse and makes it a pleasure to work in there on a freezing cold day. I heat the greenhouse to between 5 and 7 degrees. It is an old Alton Cedar greenhouse -second hand, renovated and painted black. Being cedar, the wood swells in the winter and cuts off any draughts – keeping it warm and cosy in there.

Prepared -or temperature treated bulbs – are planted in September in individual 3″ pots. The bulbs are given a cold period to fool them into thinking they have been through winter. We then put them in a cool, dark cupboard in the potting shed or garage for 20 weeks which finishes the treatment. Then, the bulbs are gradually brought out into a cool greenhouse and grown on. You can delay development by just keeping them cold and on the dry side, which is how I’ve managed to keep them flowering right through winter.

Choose bulbs that have flowers roughly the same size to plant into bowls and create displays for the house.

Today, I’m looking out at a snow, right across the back fields, and there’s icicles dangling from the greenhouse roof.

All along the top shelves are succulents and cacti- which need virtually no water between November and mid-March. These Echeverias have grey -blue leaves and striking orange flowers in summer.

The potatoes are starting to chit. Hard to believe, I will be planting them in a few weeks. I’m growing Charlotte and Lady Christl- both delicious. These varieties are on the RHS recommended list for growing in containers. If you are thinking of growing in containers, you need 8 litres of compost per potato. So put five in a 40 litre bag or 16″ -18″pot. Start off filling the bags with 20 litres of compost and 125g organic potato fertiliser. Sink the potatoes into the compost, and water. As the haulms or stems grow, add more compost to cover them and gradually fill up the pots. The secret to success is not to overwater. Soggy compost deprives the plants of oxygen and leads to stunted growth. Start feeding with potash when the leaves are out of the top of the pots. Other varieties I’ve tried and are RHS recommended include Casablanca, Golden Nugget, Sharpes Express, Maris Bard, Jazzy and Vales Emerald. I don’t grow Sharpes Express as much though, as it tends to disintegrate when it’s cooked and you end up with a pan full of soupy water.

Just behind the potatoes and bedding plant cuttings is a pot of wild rocket. I sowed the seed in autumn and now have lots of little pots like these from which I can pick a few leaves each day. Pick from the outer leaves, leaving the centre of the plants to keep growing.

Here’s a quick peek in the potting shed at dusk. The last of the Paper White narcissi are cheering up the potting bench. Another fabulous scented flower.

And in the potting shed window there’s snowdrops. This one is a very pretty Galanthus Viridapiece which has delicate green-tipped flowers. A favourite of mine.

Thank you to Helen at Patient Gardener for hosting this EOMV meme.

How are you coping with the weather? Get in touch and let me know how your garden is faring in the snow. Keep warm everyone.

In a Vase on Monday- a peek inside my potting shed

This week I’ve potted up some prepared hyacinths. I started them off in a cold, dark potting shed in September. The bulbs were put through a cold treatment before I bought them – to trick them into thinking they had gone through winter. Putting them in a dark cupboard for 10 weeks completes the treatment. They grow fabulous roots in the dark and form a strong flower shoot. Some hyacinths were brought on in warmer conditions to flower for Christmas. But spare bulbs have been kept cold and dry to stagger the flowering display.

I grow them individually in 3″ pots. To create a display, I simply choose bulbs that have flower spikes about the same size.

I love the green edge on these Carnegie white hyacinths and the scent cheers up the potting shed. It’s a joy to work in there at the moment.

My grandfather Ted Foulds gave me these terracotta Sankey plant pots. I love using them and always think of him. Happy memories – I had a carefree childhood. For which I’m very grateful. They were simpler times then, when we made our own entertainment. Mud pie gardens, surrounded with stones and topped with flower heads. Making gardens in a biscuit tin lid, with tin foil ponds and tiny twig “trees.” Keeping snails as pets and feeding them lettuce; and great delight when the snails produced eggs, hatching into a family of miniature baby snails with translucent shells.

Here’s some hyacinths that have been flowering in the greenhouse for several weeks. They are such great value. Below, I’ve used foliage from the garden, dogwood stems, salix catkins and hazel lambs tails, with a single pink hyacinth flower and some double snowdrops.

And finally, in my mother-in-law Joan’s posy, there’s white hellebores, and the first daffodils, surrounded with ivy, and twigs and some green foliage which is actually a weed. It’s known as shepherd’s purse, and has tiny hearts all along the stem.

Thank you to Cathy at Ramblinginthegarden for hosting this meme. Why not go over and see what Cathy and all the others are growing and using for their flower arrangements this week. As you can see, you don’t have to use a vase. Any container will do.

I hope you enjoyed a peek inside my potting shed. Get in touch and let me know what you are growing.

End of Month View – January 2018

Reasons to be cheerful. The first spring lamb has been born in crossroads field at the bottom of our lane. It’s been a daily ritual, walking downhill to check on the flock. Each time, we are hopeful. And then today, we stand at the gate and scan the field. And there, by the hedge, one tiny white lamb. Newborn and softly steaming in early morning sunshine. A joy. A reassurance. After all the family illness of the past few months, worry and fretting, one tiny lamb sends a subliminal message- all will be well. The season moves on and the familiar sights and sounds of our daily life returns to normal. We have weathered the storm and spring is coming.

There’s been some catching up to do in the potting shed. Seed packets are inspected, catalogues perused, and a list produced. It’s a start. Little pots of snowdrops are dotted along the windowsill. I marvel at the variety of markings. Those little green hearts. I could quite easily become a galanthophile.

Hyacinths, set in a dark cupboard in September and brought out in December, are in full flower now. And what a scent! Carnegie, my favourite white variety, brightens the gloom.

On one glorious sunny day, with temperatures reaching 12 degrees, a red-tailed bumblebee sleepily blunders in through the shed door and buries itself in a potted hellebore. I gently shoo her out for fear she’ll be caught in a spiders web indoors. And at any rate, there’s plenty of pollen outside with sarcococca, viburnum and winter flowering honeysuckle in full flower.

Sarcococca humilis attracts bees – and hoverflies. These, I’m told are Eristalis hoverflies, mimicking a bee. They had me fooled.

On sunny days, the snowdrops have a wonderful honey scent. I must admit, I didn’t know this fact until a few years ago when I visited Easton Walled Gardens. We stood at the top of a sunny bank, and the fragrance drifted up. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Sadly, a dull wet day doesn’t produce the same scent. And many snowdrop garden visits since have been on cloudy days. So I’ll just have to hold on to that memory.

This is my “Hodsock” corner at home. Each year we visit Hodsock Priory and buy one little pot of snowdrops for a couple of pounds. It’s amazing how quickly they bulk up. It’s a nice reminder of a lovely day out.

The potting shed makes an ideal reading retreat. It’s so peaceful in there. High in the tops of the overhanging beech trees, songbirds are singing, staking their claim to spring territories. A cheeky robin is taking an interest in the shelving at the back of the shed. There will probably be a nest.

Thanks to Steve at Glebe House blog for hosting this meme and for encouraging me to write. Go over and have a look what his garden looks like at the end of the month and visit some of the others joining in, from all around the world. What signs of spring are you seeing in your gardens at the moment?

In a Vase on Monday- Sweet scented flowers and shrubs.

For the past few weeks my bedside table has contained little jam jars of water, into which small posies of “twigs” have been placed. Never have I been so grateful for a garden full of winter-flowering shrubs. For the twigs are smothered with tiny flowers- bursting with scent. Top of my list of favourites is Sarcococca Purple Stem, also known as sweet box. This one, in a pot by my front door, has shiny evergreen leaves and pink and white spidery flowers. A joy at any time between December and March, but particularly welcome when you are stuck in bed with the flu.

Here’s a quick peek in my potting shed. I’m sad to report that I’ve only managed to visit the potting shed twice since Christmas. Something I intend to remedy now that I’m up and about and almost, but not quite, back to normal.

The sugar pink flowers are Viburnum Dawn. In the centre there’s Hamamelis Jelena, and on the right, winter flowering honeysuckle, Lonicera purpusii. There’s also some daphne and to add more cheer, pussy willow catkins and hazel or corylus “lambs tails.” The Hamamelis was a bargain basement purchase for just a few pounds, but didn’t have any labels. Cathy – who hosts the IAVOM meme – writes about Hamamelis this week and I learned that Jelena is named after Mrs Jelena De Belder, and Diane is named after her daughter. You can read all about Cathy’s Hamamelis collection Here .

Covered with snow, it looks spectacular. The delicate scent is noticeable on a sunny day, or when twigs are brought into a warm room. I think the yellow- flowering Hamamelis have perhaps a stronger scent though.

Just getting into its stride is Daphne odora Aureomarginata. When fully open this will scent the whole garden and perfume will drift through open windows and in through the front door.

In my vase this week I’ve added some hellebore Jacob which has been in flower since mid- December. And also some hyacinths. These were prepared bulbs planted and put in a cold, dark cupboard in the potting shed for 10 weeks and then grown on in a polytunnel for another 22 days. Gradually I brought them into a warmer room as they came into flower. Slow, cool growing conditions ensures the flower bud forms properly, and prolongs the display.

I love the velvet blue colour and white edge. I’ll plant the bulbs out in the garden when I’ve harvested the flowers.

Here’s a pot I forgot about. I’ve only just taken it out of the dark cupboard and you can see the bulbs are really well rooted. The roots are climbing out of the sides. And the flower spikes are well formed. These are going to be pure white. Something to look forward to over the coming weeks, a good two or three months before the ones in the garden start to flower.

Hiding amongst the flowers are some stems of Pelargonium Tomentosum from the heated greenhouse. The hairy leaves have a lovely fresh minty scent when they are crushed.

On my potting shed window are little terracotta pots of honey-scented snowdrops, flowering a few weeks earlier than the ones in the ground. The Sankey pots came from my Grandad Ted Foulds. I love to use them and think that he held them in his hands. It’s a reminder of happy times. He loved visiting my garden each week and giving me hints and tips on what to grow and how. I still miss him. But I have his garden tools and his plant pots. And my whole garden is planted with little seedlings and divisions from his garden. So I feel as if he is still here with me really, keeping an eye on me and my family. I like to think so anyway.

Thank you to Cathy for hosting IAVOM meme. Go over and have a look at what Cathy is putting in her vase this week, and then have a look what others are growing and cutting from their gardens – all around the world. It’s a fascinating story and one I love being a part of.

End of Month View December 2017

Tucked up in bed with the flu, I have my i-pad balanced on a heap of rugs. I am shivering like a new born lamb. My garden in December isn’t making me feel any warmer. Snow features in most of the photos. I won’t attempt to add too many words. I doubt they would make much sense at the moment. I just want to send a cheery wave to you and wish you a wonderful, Happy New Year. Wishing all your dreams for a peaceful, happy and prosperous new year come true. Much love- karen xx

Luckily, just when I need some cheer, there’s viola odorata flowering at the garden gate. A much loved cutting from my Grandfather Ted Foulds. They are all over my garden now. A happy reminder of such a lovely man.

By the front door there’s more flowers. Iris unguicularis. A reliable winter-flowering joy.

There’s plenty of Paperwhite Narcissi. I planted them in tall glass vases for Christmas. I wrote about them Here .

And then there was snow. And -7C temperatures. Our windswept top of the hill garden took a battering. Here’s the frozen pond.

View through the pergola to the shady shelter.

And the view from the end of the garden.

Looking towards the village

Trees on the ridge. A favourite view.

And after all that snow, here’s what I’m hoping for in 2018- lots of colour; roses and peonies, tulips and daffodils and cut flowers galore!

The scent! Roses from my plot and a wreath for the summerhouse.

Thanks to Steve at glebehouse garden for hosting this meme. Go over and see what others are posting for their end of month view.

Enjoy your New Year’s celebrations! Much love- karen xx

Last minute Christmas Present Ideas for Gardeners

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 .

My third suggestion is an Urbalive worm composter from Wiggly wigglers .

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.

I wrote about my trial composter Here.

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.

What’s New in My Greenhouse- A Review of Urbalive Worm Farm

I have a natural inclination to feed people. Visitors to Bramble Garden will more than likely find me in the kitchen cooking something -usually with produce just harvested from the plot. There will be cake and home made biscuits aplenty- accompanied by steaming pots of tea. My urge to feed everyone in sight extends to pets- my own – and any waifs and strays I encounter. Wild and tame are all nurtured here. For the past month I have also been feeding my own little “farm.” The creatures contained in the farm are worms.

It has become a strangely compelling task. I’m chopping apple cores and peelings at the moment for them. I’m making fruit pies for the freezer using our glut of Bramley apples. And while the pies are cooking, I’ll run up the garden path to feed the peelings to the worms. They are a thriving little colony of creatures turning all my kitchen waste into free compost for the garden. And it’s a project I’m really enjoying.

The Urbalive worm farm comes in kit form. It’s very simple to put together. The wooden legs are first screwed into the base, and there’s a tap to attach as well. The composter will provide valuable liquid plant food when it’s established. I’ll dilute it down 1:10 with water to feed house plants and for growing on seedlings and plants I’ve propagated.

The worm composter comes with everything needed, an easy to read set-up guide and starter worm food.

There’s even a bag of Worm Treat, a special mix of all the things that worms love to eat, in pellet form.

To get things going, soak the coir block in a bowl of warm water for a couple of hours.

The coir expands to form a starter home for the worms. This bedding goes into the first of two stacking trays.

Then you can add the pack of live worms which comes with the kit.

Add your kitchen scraps, peelings, left over food. Teabags are brilliant, as apparently the worms lay their eggs in them. Crushed egg shells help with digestion. A little bit of cardboard is a special treat. After a week, I’m virtually writing menus for the worms. I care about them. Are they getting a balanced diet? Are they warm enough? Do they have enough moisture? They have virtually become pets! When I lift the lid one morning and find baby worms, well, I can’t stop smiling, to be honest. Such a little thing makes me happy.

For winter, the wormery will be quite happy in the greenhouse. But I’m going to move it to the potting shed in the summer when things warm up. It’s such a pretty design, I could probably put it in the kitchen to be honest.

My Urbalive worm farm composter came from Wiggly Wigglers and was supplied as a free trial, in return for an honest review. The composters come in lime green or stone grey colours. There wasn’t anything I didn’t like about the kit. It was easy to put together and works well. It does what it says on the box- turning kitchen waste into free compost for the garden. The mail order process was quick. My farm arrived within two days of ordering.

There is only one word of warning. It becomes a totally engaging occupation. But on the plus side- it will definitely make you smile.

My Garden Right Now and End of the Month View – Dec 3rd 2017

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.

How to Plant Prepared Hyacinths. Fairy Lights for the Greenhouse- and an update from this week’s BBC radio programme for gardeners

It’s amazing how a few little touches can make all the difference. In defiance of the cold, dark days, I’ve brightened up the greenhouse with mouldable lights. These are tiny fairy lights on a copper wire. They can be twisted around floral arrangements and basically they hold their shape without damaging the flowers. I’ve used chrysanthemums from the poly tunnel for this display. It makes a lovely warm glow at a time when we all need some winter cheer.

I’ve chosen indoor battery-powered lights from the Christmas range at Wilco . The 2.2m cable contains 20 warm white lights for £3.50 and includes the battery. I’m going to wrap them around plant pots in the greenhouse next.

We talked about mouldable lights on this week’s BBC radio gardener’s phone-in programme. You can listen in on your phone or computer on the i-player. I wrote about how to tune in Here. https://bramblegarden.com/tag/radiogardening-howto-i-player-bbc/.

You can listen to any radio programme for 28 days after the broadcast. And there are special programme clips and podcasts too. The gardeners’ phone-in is on BBC Radio Leicester every Wednesday between 11am and 12 noon on 104.9 FM and digital. And on Sunday there’s local radio’s longest-running gardening programme, Down to Earth hosted by Dave Andrews, between 12 and 1pm. We will be taking phone calls live in the studio this coming Sunday, December 3rd.

Here’s a link to this week’s Wednesday programme hosted by Ben Jackson. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05m8p6x. Move the timeline round to 2.07.57 where the programme starts. We talk about making Christmas presents from materials found in the garden- including jam jar succulents and cacti, and making bird feeders with fir cones. And our mid-morning studio treat, for all the staff, was Chocolate Tiffin made with fresh autumn raspberries from the plot.

Here’s some details on the prepared hyacinths we mentioned. These are some I grew to flower for Christmas 2016.

You will need to buy “prepared” hyacinths which means they have been put into cold storage to fool the bulbs into thinking they have had winter already. To complete the treatment at home, place the bulbs in John Innes No2 compost in 3″ pots. Put the pots in a cold dark cupboard in the potting shed, garage or basement. Or put them into a black plastic bag. Store them for 9 to 10 weeks at 9C. Water just once. At the end of 10 weeks, check over the pots and those with about an inch of leaves and a flower tip showing can be brought out into a cool bright place to grow on. You can make up displays for Christmas by selecting bulbs that look about the same height and putting them into larger plant pots together. Don’t bring them straight into a centrally heated house or the flowers won’t develop properly. The bulbs need to be grown on in cool conditions for another 22 days.

Here’s some hyacinths and forced narcissi I used to create an early spring display this year. You can also bring twigs of cherry blossom into the house and they will give an earlier flowering too. I wrote about forcing Paperwhites Here.

The scent is quite glorious. Interestingly, different varieties of hyacinths need varying periods of cold/dark treatment. The variety Pink Pearl needs 10 weeks, but Anna Marie needs just 8. So experimentation is needed if you wish to mix the varieties in a display. I would set the 3″ pots at weekly intervals and grow more than I needed so that I could select the right number of plants for my display. Just a reminder- always wear gloves when handling bulbs as they can cause skin irritation.

A very quick and cheap Christmas present idea we mentioned was jam jar succulents. Here’s the materials I took into the studio. You will need a small recycled jam jar, handful of ornamental washed shingle, small amount of moss from the garden, and a succulent or cacti from the garden centre. Mine is an offset from one of my own plants. You half fill the jar with shingle, wrap the succulent stem with moss and plant. Finish the present with a ribbon. Plants need virtually no water over the winter. In summer, water once a week with a tablespoon of water. Tip the jar up to allow any excess water to drain out. Do not allow the succulent to become waterlogged.

This one has been in the jam jar for two years.

Talking of Christmas presents ideas I love these RHS Gold Leaf Gloves. I’m practically living in them, they are so comfortable. I may be a fairly scruffy gardener, with old trousers and holes in my jumpers, but my hands are glamorous.

Here’s a quick peek of Ben’s garden, which we talk about on the show. It’s a 2.5 by 2m raised bed, a bit overshadowed and plagued by slugs. But we’ve planted winter veg, salads and flowers – to see how much we can grow in a small, less than perfect plot. The kale and chard keeps growing through the cold weather. You just harvest the outer leaves, leaving the growing tips to keep going. I’ll keep popping by now and again to see how Ben’s getting on with the project. I’ve got a matching plot at home so we can compare progress. I have to say, Ben’s is looking better than mine at the moment. My plot is on a windswept ridge, and his is in a pretty, walled garden.

And after all that talking- we tucked into my Chocolate and Raspberry Tiffin. I wrote the recipe the recipe Here. Click on the link to see the recipe.

Do you have any recipes to share – or ideas for Christmas presents using materials from your garden? I’d love to hear your views.

In a Vase on Monday – my fund-raiser flowers.

Table flowers are a joy. They set the scene for leisurely lunches, or cosy friends-and-family dinners. Even a picnic has to have flowers. Usually I linger over the selection and mooch around the garden searching for material. This weekend, I ran round the plot at a gallop. The flowers thrown into jam jars in haste. I was planning an afternoon tea for 45 people! I just had time to gather these gloriously sunny chrysanthemums. I picked variegated ivy flowers and some beech and oak leaves. Here are the chrysanthemums, not looking very glamorous, in the corner of my poly tunnel.

Variegated ivy Glorie de Marengo covers one end of my 40 foot pergola. It provides cutting material all year round. I particularly love the starry flowers at this time of the year. The huge beech tree in the middle of the lawn casts a golden glow and its autumn leaves look so cheerful in amongst my Aunty Doris chrysanthemums.

I threw the lot into a wicker basket on the potting shed window while I searched for suitable jam jars. You can see my garden, the beech, cherry and maple trees around the pond, reflected in the potting shed windows.

Then I left the peace and quiet of the potting shed to head over to Spring Barrow Lodge near Coalville. It’s the home of my garden design clients Pat and John Stanley, where we were hosting my afternoon tea and gardeners’ talk for Rainbows Hospice. Author Barbara Segall kindly agreed to come and present a talk and slide show on her newly-launched book Secret Gardens of East Anglia.

And I thought you’d like see the flowers on the tables- arranged so hurriedly. They contain the Aunty Doris chrysanthemums I wrote about last year Here

Barbara’s talk transported us all to the fabulous gardens contained in her wonderful book. I wrote a review here. I am so grateful to Barbara for her kindness in agreeing to come and help me stage this event- my first ever fund-raiser for charity. I am still counting the proceeds. But I think the admission tickets, book sales, raffle tickets and generous donations from people who could not attend but wanted to support us, amounts to just short of £1,000. To say I’m over the moon, is an under statement! I’ll write more tomorrow when I have gathered my thoughts. At the moment, I am still on cloud nine to be honest. There’s so many people to thank……

But I wanted to join in and congratulate Cathy at rambling in the garden for her 4th anniversary of In a Vase on Monday. Every week, I look in to see what everyone is growing, picking and arranging in their gardens- all around the world. It’s a fascinating blog, and I love joining in when I can. Go over and have a look. For the anniversary celebration the theme was any container- but a vase. So I was delighted to be able to join in with my great Aunty Betty’s Kilner jars, wicker baskets and simple glass jam jars. Thank you Cathy for hosting such a lovely meme, and for the friendship the blog has created amongst our growing and gardening community. I certainly appreciate all you do.

For more on Rainbows Hospice, click on the link here. All other highlighted words contain further information and are not affiliate links.

How to listen to gardening programmes on the BBC i-Player

There’s a lot of new technology that goes right over my head. My potting shed radio is 30 years old- and still working, I might add. But recently I made a rare impulse buy. I invested in an Apple i-pad and soon discovered I could create my own radio play list. I can download gardening programmes from all over the country and listen to them at my leisure.

Here’s how to do it. First search on line for http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio. Press “search” and type in the name of a programme on the menu.

This one shows Ben Jackson on BBC Radio Leicester. Every Wednesday between 11am and 12 there’s a gardeners’ phone-in. Quite often I’m the one in the hot seat answering all kinds of questions. It’s live and we don’t get the questions in advance. I’m new to all this, but Ben is extremely kind and takes the time and trouble to explain radio matters to me. I still haven’t quite got the hang of it.