November and the sun is shining. Well, to be fair this photo was taken at the weekend so it was technically October but what does a few days matter. One week off work yielded much activity but almost none of it was spent in the garden. We have had the builders round laying the base for a much awaited conservatory so that has dominated our outside time. As you can see the garden has been left to do its thing which I think is to be encouraged. Too much time is spent fussing and worrying plants. Sometimes you just have to let things go for it in their own space and time.
We were given a small cutting of Salvia Hot Lips two years ago when our garden was new. Today it is almost triffid like, not yielding to any amount of pruning, defying us with utterly vigorous regrowth, flowering furiously all year. It has overshadowed the Alchemilla Mollis and the dainty Geum. I have hacked it back three times and this has only encouraged it to grow more bullishly. I intend to be savage once it has finished flowering and have taken some cuttings just in case I finish it off.
The cosmos are raging still and I am cutting four vases of flowers each week. Not bad for a small garden. We haven’t planted any new bulbs this year so it will be interesting to see what comes up in a few month’s time. I am hoping for a field of black and pink tulips but fear squirrel action.
A couple of weeks ago I picked all the crab apples from the little tree my mother gave me several years ago. I have managed to make one jar of jelly from it each year but this year I have four jars, a bumper crop. There are still some on the tree I didn’t pick them because at the time I was doing battle with a few garden spiders so rather than risk being covered in arachnids, I let the last few fruits stay where they were…for the birds….I tell myself.
The benefit of having designed a garden to reach it’s peak during October is that every Autumn it is in full bloom and we are over run with stunning colour begging to be picked.
When we decided to overhaul the bare patch we inherited we didn’t really think about the seasons and flowers or colour schemes or anything really. Other than the fact we needed to be able to walk down it without breaking our necks.
Being on TV gave us a focus and that fact we got married in October meant that we had to aim for something. So quite quickly we planned flowers that would still be going strong as the big day loomed. We also discovered that late sowing of annuals yielded late colour thanks to consistent dead heading or actually, live heading. So we combined two gardens into one. A cutting garden which gave us a lot of blooms for the house throughout the summer but also a prolonged flowering season thanks to forcing plants to keep making flowers and a herbaceous border with an established feel.
This year, our second season, has seen us popping outside to be blown away by the riot of colour. Our garden is quite sheltered so unaffected by wind and rain and cold snaps. The dahlias, salvias, fuchsia, verbena, roses, cosmos are still going strong. We still have plenty of alpine strawberries and nasturtiums. Oranges and reds are predominant colours as are the purples and whites in the bottom bed. Separating the colours has proved even more impressive year on year. The hot colours in the top bed, catching the sun and burning bright whilst the blues, violets, soft pinks and whites glow in the shade of the neighbouring trees.
Next year we are focusing on the woodland area at the base of the garden and finally, the conservatory we have planned and longed for is looking like happening so we can sit and gaze at the glory of it all.
So here we are on the first of April and it’s a weekend and we are both at home. Somehow does not seemed to have happened for along time and if you also throw in some fiendishly good weather you have everything for a great start to the day. People have been asking us how our garden is a lot recently. Our stock answer for the past couple of months has been that it isn’t doing much and there isn’t a lot to see. However, a couple of hours out there today has proved us both wrong. There is a lot happening.
At first glance there is a lot of bare soil but the tulips have popped up, albeit very sparsely. I seem to remember planting hundreds and hundreds of bulbs. Gradually everything is coming back, the geraniums, the verbena, alliums, reum, gaura, geum all making their way back into our lives. In addition the roses are in glossy leaf and the wallflowers Glenn grew from seed are so bushy and perfumed you never would have thought it possible. I am heartened that a few things I thought were dead are showing me they most certainly are not. We gave everything a mulch last month which has helped to keep things looking neat and cushioned against a cold night. The woodland area at the bottom of the garden still needs work and despite lots of primroses, anemones, hellebores, primulas and snowdrops, there is still space for them all to stretch out and be wild.
Our favourite spot, the boat seat, is back in action too now that it’s warm enough to be able to sit outside and have a cup of tea and stare at the world. The plum tree has more blossom on it than last year but it’s growing in a really bad place, right in the shadow of the sycamore and will never give us the glut of fruit we want. Right now it’s smothered which is promising but we both know it’s all for show.
So we are back in the swing of it, weeding, seed sowing, moving things, planning things, cutting things but mostly sitting and looking at it which was the plan all a long really. And all the while in the back of our minds is…….the allotment.
It would be fair to say that Kew Gardens is one of the most visit worthy places in Britain. Even if you don’t like gardens or horticulture or history, it’s still a good day out and a nice long walk. We had booked this visit in a long time ago, it was on our gardening bucket list if you like, not that we have a gardening bucket list. August, hence the rainy skies and cold biting wind but it made for a more dramatic picture.
The first thing which took us by surprise was the entry price and the charming way the lady in the kiosk made a comment about her surname being the same as ours and would we like to add a voluntary contribution to the overall mortgage inducing price. “Oh yes” we replied as we puzzled about how we may be related but probably weren’t.
The next thing which surprised us was the lack of seating in the cafe we scurried to in the rain. Not because it was busy but because there weren’t many seats. Coupled with a quite extraordinary price for a muffin, we needed a seat to get over the stinging feeling in our wallet. But hey, it doesn’t matter, we were having a day out and this was a treat so let’s pay nearly £5 for a cake and to hell with it.
Thankfully nature smoothed things out and the rest of the day was spent wandering and exploring and generally marvelling at the scale of everything. Which I think is the whole point, showing off with plants.
The Great Broad Walk captivated us with its’ colour, grandeur and sheer sassiness. Yes we can do huge because we have the room so let’s do huge. When you visit a garden on a grand scale you are being given a glimpse into another world and often another time, an era when this was the norm for a lot of people. Well, ok maybe not a lot but a fair few. These days it seems unnatural and despite your best efforts, it’s never going to be possible to recreate any sense of this no matter how much you try. My only consolation is that you can plant hunt and get some nifty ideas for new things you haven’t seen before. This visit was no different. Glenn enjoyed the carnivorous plants which are a new found growing interest and I snapped a lot of textures and patterns for various arty projects.
So did we enjoy Kew? Yes we did. Would we recommend it? Yes we would. Is it value for money? Probably, we could have spent the same on a day out to Alton Towers but this way I didn’t vomit.
If you have never been to the Maldives, go to the Maldives. It is the most outrageously beautiful, fragile, isolated place I have visited yet. This picture was taken when we were there three years ago. Two weeks spent in utter awe and stunned smiling fabulousness. The colours, the incredible sea life, the odd balance between civilisation and abandonment. I felt hugely privileged to be able to be there, it didn’t seem right somehow. The staff at our small hotel told us how the sea level had risen by over a metre in two years and so the island was very quickly being claimed back by the turquoise sea. I wondered if we ever returned if it would all have been swallowed up, just the tops of the palm trees showing.
Our days quickly formed a lazy routine and this was part of our late afternoon stroll into the water to wait for passing fish (and sharks) to come along and say hello. Incidentally neither of us are this shape but I love how distorted we appear which indeed is much like the reality of the Maldives.
I knew Glenn had been up to something in the garage in the run up to Christmas. And here it is, my own knitting bowl with my name on it but not only that, my name is functional and integral. When I was little, finding stuff with my name on was almost impossible. As I have grown older my name has become commonplace but having my own belongings with my name or initials on still thrills me. This is mine, it belongs to me and no one else. The fact that it was clearly made with love makes it the most prized possession.
I completely love umbellifers. They draw me in. Every shape and size is of equal appeal. I sketch them, photograph them, paint them, collect their seed. Seeing them in drifts like this makes me stop and sigh. It’s like lacey fairy snow on a summer’s day. They are so dainty and detailed and yet so robust and virulent. I should really know more about this group of plants but all I do know is that they are the parsley family and some have edible roots, like carrots. I also know that if you cut them to bring inside for a huge blousey display, they drop their petals within minutes and smell like cat’s wee. So perhaps it’s best to allow them to roam free.
Just near our home is a large expanse of wild ground. In summer it is drenched in this stuff and you can wade through it waist high. If that isn’t relaxing I don’t know what is.
It’s Not This Time of Year Without…
Round about this time of year we throw all caution to the wind and break out the saturated fats. We came across this totally sinful recipe because we had a huge sage plant and wanted some way of using some of it in a flavoursome fashion. A quick internet search took us to Old Farmer’s Almanac and their fabulous recipe for Cheese Crackers with Sage http://www.almanac.com/recipe/cheese-crackers-sage.
This has now become part of our winter routine and strictly speaking we only bake them at Christmas. Mainly because the recipe is mostly butter and cheese bound together with flour. They are so simple to make and taste so utterly scrumptious yet bad for you. However, we have broken with tradition and I baked a batch tonight as we are entertaining tomorrow and need something to go with the cheeses we bought to serve after the chocolate tart.
I would argue that they are not crackers as they do not crack. They are more biscuit-like but then I am British and this recipe is American so cracker is probably the nearest language wise. The recipe makes about 24 square crackers/biscuits which should really be eaten within 24 hours. Not because they go stale but because eating something so terribly disgustingly lardy is best done swiftly so you can move on and pretend it never happened.
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…….
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…
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