Wednesday 15 July 2020

Just Sitting

Hello Friends!

How are you doing?  I mean this, I am not asking to be polite. How are you really doing?  I know the cold and hard reality of what this pandemic is going to mean in the long term, for many of us, is only now beginning to hit home. 

Come with me, and let's stroll, arm in arm, and take a peek at some of the beauties flowering in my cottage garden this afternoon, just as the sun begins to show itself.

After many days of playing Hide and Seek with the rain in a mostly grey, cloud strewn sky, the sun came out to play.  How could I not go and just sit for a few snatched moments and revel in this all too rare British summertime phenomenon?  The sky was so blue, not a cloud in the sky, and as I sat and snapped a quick photo of the wild, blue yonder, a Herring Gull lazily drifted into frame.


The rambler rose, Frances E Lester, is now nearly spent for another year, and just a handful of blooms now remain on this once magnificent, giant pom pom of pink and white delicious fragrance.  It does so well, gives of it's all, but this year was so badly let down by the weather.  She's still very pretty, and bury your nose in a bloom, the sweet perfume still lingers.

A rambler of a very different ilk, and by many considered a weed, but I confess I am possessed of a certain fondness for it, is Bindweed or Convolvulus.  I know it is prolific, and gets a hold that can choke out other plants, but oh! the pristine white flower, so starkly contrasting against the dark green leaves and I am smitten.  I will always let some of this in my garden, for it also fills in some of those empty spots as other flowers fade.  My Great Grandfather, a time served gardener, called the roots the Devil's Guts, but I think his daughter, my Nanna, shared my fondness for it's beauty, as she called it Morning Glories.

Sometimes simple flowers are the best.  The sweet, daisy like yellow centred white Feverfew forms a perfect backdrop for a flowering head of purple Verbena Bonariensis.  A perfect match, delightful blend of colour.

Four years ago, instead of a bouquet of flowers on Mothering Sunday, I gave my darling Mum a potted rose.  After it's purpose was served, I potted it into a larger pot, and now it is full of the loveliest red blooms.  I feel Mum is smiling down on them as red roses were amongst her favourite flowers. I plan to put them in the borders this autumn.  Originally, there were five plants crammed in and forced, as they do, for gifting purposes, and two of the original plants have survived.

Let a sleeping dragon lie, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup

My buddleia is way behind everyone else's, but is suddenly starting to put out some of those fat and floofy, long and elegant spike so loved by butterflies.

Over 20 years ago I bought some oregano plants.  They went forth and multiplied, and rapidly spread throughout my garden {and quite possibly some of the neighbouring gardens too} and I have happily allowed them to do this, for not only do they provide a delicious herb for my favourite Mediterranean dishes, they look so pretty, make a useful cut addition to small posies, and bees love them.  Here's one that flourishes in a crack in the wall.

Doesn't it seem so sunny and Mediterranean looking?  A holiday escape on a Welsh summer's day.

And, when the sun finally does come out after the rain, what do we get?  Raindrops on Alchemilla Mollis, another favourite plant {is there actually any plant that isn't my favourite?}

Finally, for today, "Betty's Smile" is opening again.  My heart sings and this is my rose of the moment, as it brings with it happy memories of my darling Mum, who in this time of pandemic I seem to be missing more than ever. How has eighteen months flown since she left me?  These blooms bring me more joy than I can begin to put into words.  There is a delicate fragrance to this creamy pink delight.

I hope you have enjoyed our little wander around my cottage garden borders today.  I sure have enjoyed having you here!  Next time, we'll take a look at the Crocosmia again, and fragrant white lavender.

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Strong, Stay Well
Deborah xoxo

Thursday 9 July 2020

Berries and Fruit

Hello Friends!

The seasons slowly turn, whether or not the weather is keeping up, and high summer approaches, so does the season of berries and fruits that add variety to our harvest and table.

What is your favourite summer berry?  I can honestly say I always think that strawberries are my favourite berry, until I pop the first fresh raspberry in my mouth, and then my heart sings with my truth: that fresh picked, sun ripened, still warm from the vine raspberries are truly my favourite berry.

I had planted four varieties, but find I have two that I prefer so much more than the other two that I am going to focus on those and remove the others.  Usually over the summer months I pick more than enough to have a serving of fresh berries almost daily as a healthy snack, and plenty to freeze as well for making raspberry jam which brings warm memories of summer months to the kitchen during the long, dark winter.  This year, I am hoping preserving sugar will become available; at the moment I can get granulated but no sign of preserving sugar on the shelves.  Maybe I am looking too early?  However, I am making sure to pick the berries for jam while still slightly under ripe, for they have higher levels of pectin and are better for setting jam and jelly if you cannot get preserving sugar.  I think slightly under ripe berries also help offset the sweetness of the sugar.

I don't think I will pick many blackcurrants this year for the crop is tiny.  They were Dad's favourite but I have not the patience to pick, then top and tail hundreds upon hundreds of tiny, Vitamin C laden juicy jewels!  He picked them by the bowlful each evening.  My dear mother was constantly making him his favourite blackcurrant pie, of which he never tired and we always froze enough to make him a pie for his late Autumn birthday, instead of a cake {or more often as well as a birthday cake!}

The loganberry, which as we know in my garden may be a Tay berry, is yielding a small crop and I will definitely have enough to make a bottle of flavoured gin, with some to put in a Jumbleberry Jam, which is different every time I make it, and very delicious on toasted home made bread, or in a bowl of slow cooked porridge.

I love loganberry in my Jumbleberry Jam, it's acidic kick tempers the sweetness, and I like that sharpness it imparts to the mixed berries.

Something is wrong with the apples this year.  Despite copious watering during April, which was very dry indeed, as was May, all is not well and I doubt I will see much of a crop at all.  Usually, they seem to auto thin themselves in June, saving me the job, but this year everything stayed put, then I simply forgot, or shall we say due to inclement weather I didn't do it.  So, now, I have clusters of miniature fruit that will probably come to nothing, and a few that have thinned out to two apples per station {as they should be} but even those are of no size at all, still smaller than a tennis ball and already ripening so won't grow any more.  Sad, but true. No apple harvest this year.

The wild blackberry vines, however, are doing most splendidly, and I should see a bumper pick starting in a few weeks.  I love having real wild blackberries on my property, but the vines are thuggish and are taking over.  For several years now they have slowly encroached upon the land that once belonged to them before my late father cleared the ground to build the cottage.  Every year, they have reclaimed a little more, and every year three things happen.

First, I vow to clear them and reclaim the land for vegetables;
Second, I fall down on the job and curse my own ineptitude;
Third, I forget one and two, and joyfully rejoice in early to mid Autumn when I am harvesting the delicious little jewels of nature's fruitiness and bounty to make pies, crumbles and jellies.

Lots of vines; lots of flower buds; lots of flowers; and lots of fruits swelling ready to ripen!

The second flush of strawberries is now only days away I am sure.  Berries are forming, swelling and ripening, and once this rather wintry weather passes and summer returns, I know they will do their very best to catch up then.

Weather wise, we have sat under a blanket of grey, misty murk for what now seems an eternity.  I cannot comprehend that in July I still have the heating on.  It rains from time to time, sometimes heavy, so no need to water for now.  The wind have blown, heartlessly and without relent, and the rose petals now carpet the lawn, and many beautiful plants have suffered, such as the Lucifer crocosmia and Ladies Mantel.  Let us hope that by our next visit the weather will improve, maybe it is already starting to.  They will recover, I am sure, for Nature has a way of bouncing back.

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well
Deborah xoxo

Monday 6 July 2020

What's Flowering in the Early Summer Garden

Hello Friends!

Well, so far so good, I seem to still have the old Blogger and not the new one that they keep telling me I will have sometime in June.  Did they not notice June was last month?  Shhhh!  I still don't seem to be able to correct the font issues, but that's how it is.

The weather has continued to be more wintry than summery, arguably not even spring like.  The only things that are looking a little like summer are things like the hot, fire red Crocosmia Lucifer, and the cool, innocent white Feverfew.

of course, the spiders have spun their silken magic and the fairies sprinkled them with pixie dust

The Feverfew is only one in the garden, and of all places it picked to flower is in the wall skirting the edge of the drive.  Still, it is pretty and full, looking really rather stunning in it's solitude and it is left in peace as I do not have a car now.

Several weeks ago, actually before lockdown began in March, I ordered some new lavender plugs, so long ago that I had forgotten all about them, so when  they arrived a couple of weeks ago I had a pleasant surprise, or maybe it was a shock as the weather was so poor I had to leave them be, just unpacked and soaking.  Finally, in the one glimmer of summer in weeks, I potted them up into some trays {which should make watering easier} to bring them on and with any luck they will be planted into the borders in a few weeks.

They look fine, so far, none the worse for their prolonged stay out of soil.

I am not even going to share a photo of my much hoped for watercress, for although it germinated it has hardly grown at all and looks like tiny seedlings still.  I am very, very disappointed.

The crocosmia continues to thrill me and will delight for weeks to come as all those tight buds open!  Each day there is something new to how it looks.

and later, those grand, curvy stems will produce super, rust coloured seed pods which will enhance all my Autumnal decorating.

At one time I had so much Evening Primrose it was everywhere and my garden was a profusion of yellow, but, like Galadriel, they have diminished.  I had two plants left, and one succumbed to the ravages of our recent high winds, so I now have only one.  I must be diligent and harvest seed carefully in a few weeks.

A few years ago, I bought two small ferns, this one continues to delight with it's sumptuously rich, rusty tipped fronds.  I just love it, and it's a garden favourite of mine.

Turn over a frond and you find the miniature, almost alien, world of spores.

My salad crops have slowed down, but the loganberries and raspberries are picking well, and although I haven't had many strawberries this week, I can see plenty coming along again.

Another flower that once proliferated, in both pink and white, is this mallow.  Now there are only two, I guess everything takes it's turn to shine, but again a careful seed harvesting will follow.  The garden looked bridal with many tens of these in the borders.

I hope you have enjoyed our little trip around what's flowering, and bringing me delight, in my garden today.  With more bad weather expected, a break between is happily accepted, no matter how short it be!

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well
Deborah xoxo