Magic

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There is alchemy in baking. Unimpressive ingredients combine to make something truly delectable and sinful. I am drawn to bake because it is cathartic, creative and everyone loves you for making the house smell wonderful. Plus there is something to go with a cup of tea.

My Pinterest boards are crammed with bakes I plan to make and so far, every recipe I have tried hasn’t failed. There is so much versatility in baking, so many ways you can tweak and develop.

I am by no means an expert. This year I aim to master icing on Christmas biscuits. Something which all Americans seem instantly perfect at. My style is more rustic and wholesome with an occasional flurry into OTT. The picture above shows my daughter’s 15th birthday cake (s). She requested coffee cake which only she and I like and only then in moderation. So I made a trio of mini loaf cakes; coffee, chocolate fudge and Victoria sandwich. There are two left if anyone is hungry…….

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Long Time No Blog

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It’s been a while since we last uploaded a proper blog and now we have a heap of followers it’s only right we give you all something to read about. So why the long pause? It was summer, it was sunny, we were outside – a lot. There has been a lot of this…

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Today is a very grey day however and as it has been raining most of the morning it’s been a good opportunity to go through the hundreds and hundreds of photos from the past few months and put them to good use.

Autumn has hit Wiltshire this week. Our first frosts and properly cold days that never seemed to warm up. The heating has been on and meals are hearty and filling again (hooray). However, since the weather has taken a turn the garden has not. We still have many, many flowers. This is such a wonderful thing for us as last year we planted with Autumn in mind. Our wedding was the focus, we needed October flowers and we got them. This year we got them again and more besides. I am stunned by the amount of vibrant colour we have, something which we have never had in a garden before.

We have spent the year gardening but also visiting gardens, going abroad, buying plants, collecting seeds, planting hundreds of bulbs and in addition, work and family have had their place. There also seems to have been a lot of baking if the photos are anything to go by. So what will follow will be a swift round up of the past few months in tiny bite sized blogs. Mini blogs, blogettes.

Topics will include; Kew gardens, Croatia, the Boat Seat, the allotment, cut flowers, the Isle of Wight, Stratford upon Avon, the great dahlia debate and much much more. So put that kettle on and cosy up by the fire.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; Every Garden Needs Cake

Daily Prompt: Flames

img_5787via Daily Prompt: Flames

Take an old washing machine, hack it to bits, do some very clever stuff with metal, fill with wood and dry garden refuse, light with a match and voila!

Our burner has pride of place and gives off a mighty heat. Enough to make toast, grill sausages and melt s’mores. A three course meal fit for a wintery evening.

It is also extremely useful for destroying evidence, many bank statements and disgraceful photographs have disappeared forever.

An enviable, bespoke up-cycled item no self respecting garden should be without. Home delivery available, order yours today!

 

Tiny

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Most of the photos I take appear to be close ups. I like detail. This image was taken at Charlecote, a National Trust property outside Stratford upon Avon. If you need a culture fix and an overload of Shakespeare, come to this part of the world. You will not be disappointed. As much Tudor as you can take. Anyway back to the lichen. Teeny tiny plants gripping onto a barren surface totally oblivious to the fact I am bearing down on them with my camera and about to have a cheese scone and coffee in the NT cafe. A world within a world.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Edge

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Trying to be extra neat with the primer so that gorgeous grey topcoat you have waiting glides on with immaculate ease and perfect coverage. Turn my back for a second and somebody adds their signature to my efforts. Time to step back off the edge and make a cup of tea before slapping on an extra thick layer to hide the evidence. Edge

Photo Challenge – Frame

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This is Hinton Ampner in Hampshire. It is a National Trust property, has beautiful gardens, a haunted house, fabulous tea rooms (cheese scones a must) and many many seeds in autumn which I collected last September and grew this year.

I am not sure if collecting seeds on a National Trust property is allowed or not but I did it and have grown a wild selection of plants, most of them mysterious and defying description.

Photo Challenge – Morning

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7.45am Rabac, Croatia. We are eating mostly carbs laced with cheese, meat, blueberry jam. I will miss the mini croissants that are almost one mouthful but modesty forbids. We have been here for a week and now our flight home calls. The best thing about eating breakfast outside is watching the thuggery of seagulls as they pounce on other diners’ breakfasts while they have gone to fetch more coffee. When they get back, all their food has gone. The seagulls flap off into the distance leaving bemused gazes and mild confusion.

The Good Life Gone Wild

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At some point in the spring we found ourselves having the conversation about adding to our empire. We had a great garden that was keeping us busy but not so busy we couldn’t  sit and look at it. We had all the planting planned, seedlings on the go, colour schemes and a succession of bits of gorgeousness waiting in the wings. The greenhouse was full and that may have been the tipping point. The greenhouse was full and we had nowhere to put anything else, at all. All the windowsills in the house were claimed by seed trays. The garden table was a nursery zone. We had nowhere to go, or did we?

So this is how we found ourselves discussing whether we were ready for an allotment. It was surprisingly easy really. Salisbury has many, many allotment sites and we were able to put our names down for one nearest our home. We didn’t have long to wait and within a couple of months we were skulking around our local site inspecting vacant plots, choosing our new piece of land.

In the end we chose Plot 51 purely because it was the least overgrown and had the least amount of rubble, bedsteads, concrete mixers and man traps. Oh and it was the only one with a free shed so we took it.

The very kiIMG_5372nd lady at the council said that we could start working on it straight away so off we went one Wednesday night to survey the land. The great news was that we had to clear it all by hand and it was all grass and thistles. Amazingly in one hour we met both our neighbours and the site warden who gave us some garlic plants and a massive amount of info about the soil and the flooding in the winter. Flooding?

So we set to work. After much plotting and planning about what to do with everything and how to go about it, we decided on the black plastic approach. According to our site warden, Terry, our plot had only been vacant for two years. We could just about make out the remnants of some old beds so we followed one to give us a starting point.

Our aim was to smother as much as we could in plastic and leave it to fester until early spring 2017 whilst cultivating a small bed this year. We had chard, courgettes, beans, chinese cabbage and squashes that needed a home. And then we uncovered a strawberry patch.

IMG_5415Glenn started planning some compost bins and we started ogling all our neighbours to see what they were growing and how. It was pretty impressive. Lots of flowers and fruit and chickens and show stopping soil condition but everyone we passed said hello and chatted and were terribly, terribly friendly. Within a week we had cleared a long lost bed and put in some basic crops. We had sourced a free mini poly tunnel from Gumtree and bought a ton of fantastic black plastic for the larger part of the plot. We weighed it down with junk and rubble we found around the allotment site and asked the warden if we could pillage vacant plots. Yes was the answer so we helped ourselves to a compost bin

There was still an issue of large amounts of grass which we couldn’t cut with shears and our mower is electric. So in a moment of sheer manliness Glenn went and hired a behemoth called a POWER SCYTHE.

Behold the POWER SCYTHE!

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I imagine this would be pretty effective at removing toes. The man at the hire shop persuaded Glenn this would be more demonic than a petrol strimmer and after Glenn had almost popped a vertebrae getting it into the back of the car I think he was in agreement. If you have uneven ground, do not hire one of these. It is very heavy and very unwieldy. Hire a strimmer. Our plot is uneven so this was no mean feat. However, after Glenn had mastered the beast we had well chopped land which was more under control and gave us a great starting point.

Our plan at this point was to grow veg and flowers on the bulk of the plot with an area for fruit down one side. Our layout was still a bit vague and we were going to just live it for a bit and then…..

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We went to the Lavender Farm in the New Forest. I had been there last year plant hunting while we were finishing our garden for the TV series. It was August and the flower meadow was in full cosmos phase. I took Glenn with me this time and after we had eaten cake and drunk coffee we immersed ourselves into wonderland and this is were we had our allotment epiphany.

So many of the species we love and are already growing in our home garden were here in massive amounts and so as we sat on a small bench on a mown path, with flowers up round our ears, we decided to try and create our own version on our allotment. Yeah, who needs potatoes?

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; July Has Busted Out All Over

 

 

Two Shows for the Price of Two – Part 2

IMG_5631Here’s an idea; get hundreds, possibly thousands of people in the gardening business, several huge tents, a load of land, every outside catering van known to man and some show gardens. Add gazillions of people and get them to pay for every step of their day and hey presto, you have an RHS garden show at Hampton Court.

Up until now we had had very little to do with the RHS. By the end of the day we had joined the RHS, had an RHS shopping bag and were marvelling at how much cash they must turnover. This is big business. Following on from Gardener’s World Live, we had made a promise NOT to buy any plants today. How would that pan out I wondered? It was the last day, the big sell off day. All the stands were offering their display plants for sale, 3 for £10, 4 for £10, 5 for £10. It got better as the day went on.

But no, we are made of sterner stuff. That and the fact that I couldn’t find the right shade of Achellia or any corydalis, at all. Instead we made a visual shopping list.

We paced ourselves and took plenty of breaks but eventually our heads hurt from the total overload of colour, beauty and new ideas. Thankfully there were plenty of places to sit down and do some serious people watching.

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We spent some time looking at the concept gardens and discussing their place in a garden show. Glenn was of the opinion that they appeared to have very little to do with horticulture and I had to agree. What they did show was how utterly crazy you can be with some bits of hard landscaping. It was the couture of gardening; horti – couture. Do you see what I did there?

Once we had taken as much conceptual thinking as we could handle for a day we looked around the other show gardens. The front gardens were of particular interest as we had entered a design ourselves back in March. Obviously we didn’t win but we appreciated the variety of the winning gardens which surprisingly had many similar elements to our design. The planting themes for this year certainly seem to be grasses and floaty, delicate dotted flowers in speckled and multicoloured frothing. All very wispy and dreamlike.

By the afternoon we had run out of cash and determined not to pay to withdraw any more we skulked around making sure we had seen everything. We agreed we had seen as much as we could handle and so escaped into the grounds of Hampton Court which in itself was a blissful experience. The sun had come out and we found two deck chairs. Time for some snoozing.

The drive back home was a chance to chat and dissect the ideas we had seen. It had been a wonderful day and one that we would carry with us as we enjoyed a whole year of visiting RHS gardens. We panned to make Wisley our next trip. However, our biggest inspiration for our next major project was to come from an unexpected place.

Next time on Sowing, Growing and Cups of Tea; The Good Life gone Wild