Sunday, 23 November 2008

Pale Autumn Sky

Not much tidying went on in the garden today. We woke up to drizzly rain and gusting winds but by 11 the sun had come out just long enough to rescue the fire pit and empty it of ash and water and put it to bed for the Winter and pick the last of my raspberries before the heavens opened again.

This Autumn there has been some really beautiful light. As I sat at my dining room table today, I noticed how the window framed a lovely image of shrub from next door which appears to have blossom on it with a large expanse of pale blue sky. I went outside to photograph it and within minutes the light was gone.

This weekend I have been very lucky as my lovely sister in-law Mary has bought me membership to River Cottage, for Christmas and my birthday next year. Also I bought Carol Kleins latest book Cook Your Own Veg. With her lovely recipes, I will be inspired to grow more vegetables and perhaps try different vegetables. I must say my butternut squash have been an absolute success. I will defiantly be growing those again next year.

Gardeners' World is over for another season. I have warmed to Toby and was quite sad when it finished. In my opinion, he is from the same school of gardening as the late Geoff Hamilton, the best presenter GW has ever had. I haven't watched the episode from Carol's garden at Glebe Cottage yet, I have that on my sky box. I am saving that treat for when I need cheering up!

Friday, 21 November 2008

More from Compton Acres

I finally got around to editing the rest of the Compton Acres photographs from last weekend.
I failed to mention, that besides the Italian garden, there is also a Japanese garden, complete with a tea house and pagoda. There are stepping stones to take you across a pond full of gigantic coy carp. I am not keen on big fish, so that freaked me out a little, and I had to be helped across the stepping stones like a small child.

This weekend I plan tidy up the garden and see if there is anything photogenic in the garden, which quite frankly is now looking pretty sorry for itself .

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Compton Acres

I abandoned the chores in my garden today for a touch of the Italian with a trip to Compton Acres.
I love images of gardens with Romanesque balustrades, so armed with my Nikon and Polaroid cameras we headed towards the Italian garden. I had visited the garden many years ago with my friend Jo, so I had a vague recollection of this part of the garden. To enter the garden you go through a grotto which was gently lit with tea lights. It was absolutely magical.

This time of year when the leaves are falling from the trees, gardens have a kind of neglected and abandoned feel about them. This garden certainly evoked those feelings of abandonment and I swore a fairy flew past us, through the trees, although my boyfriend said it was a dragonfly. Are dragonflies still about this time of year? I prefer my romantic notions.

Here are a few images of the garden. Time is short today, so I have only edited a few.

I will edit the others and scan in my Polaroids for the next blog. I only took a few Polaroids as they are quite expensive, it certainly makes you think about the image before you press the button, just like in the good old days of film!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Putting The Garden To Bed pt 1

The last of my carrots have been pulled up and discarded as the frost had got to them. But the raspberries are still going strong. Not enough to make another batch of delicious jam
unfortunately but enough for raspberry and apple crumble. The raspberries in the pots haven't done nearly as well as the raspberries in the ground, so I am going find a new home for them this Autumn. My veg beds are bare, now that the Dahlias have been cut back. I have left the tubers in the ground and covered them with a thick blanket of compost, so I am hoping that they will survive. We are only about a mile from Poole harbour, so I think that will keep us a few degrees warmer than inland and away from the hardest frosts which will kill the tubers.

I am starting the big tidy up but it has been a bit wet this weekend to sweep up the leaves.
My Astrantia Major is still looking absolutely lovely and is positively sparkling in this gorgeous Autumn light. I always have a heavy heart when we change the clocks in October. I hate coming home from work in the dark but on the plus side we do have some beautiful defused light around us.

I can't believe there is only one more episode of Gardeners' World this year, especially as Toby is starting to grow on me. I think it is because he has similar ways to Geoff Hamilton but if he says 'tickle the soil' one more time I think I will change my mind. Although he didn't say it this week, so perhaps he has got my vibes.
Talking of the television. I appeared very briefly on River Cottage a couple of weeks ago. I was very excited and proud as I love Hugh but rather alarmed at the state I was in. If I had known I was going to be on television I would have made more of an effort. God I looked old. So Hugh has done me a big favour. No more sweets and naughty cakes and I have ordered a Wii fit . I know that being on screen supposed to add 10 pounds but really 10 years as well!!!

Sunday, 12 October 2008


After a weekend of beautiful sunshine, I am ever hopeful that my squashes will ripen before the first frost.

I am still pulling carrots for yummy home made coleslaw but apart from that, my veg plot is starting to look bare. Gardeners' World on Friday, showed Joe planting up onions, so I need to look at what I can plant up now, which will over winter successfully.

As there is not much to do in the garden at the moment, I turned my attention to all the raspberries I have picked over the last couple of weeks, which have been sitting in my freezer.

I consulted my Preserves book by Pam Corbin to find an easy recipe for making raspberry jam, as I had never made jam before. I came across a recipe for raspberry fridge jam by Hugh FW. It's called fridge jam because it has a lower amount of sugar than regular jam, so once opened it needs to be kept in the fridge. (The sugar acts as a preservative, so therefore the shelf life is shorter but if kept in the fridge, it lasts 2 to 3 weeks)

It's really easy to make and tastes amazing. As the amount of sugar is reduced, you can really taste the raspberries rather than just sugar. The consistency is more like a conserve being quite soft and absolutely delicious on home made bread.

Although I haven't got a glut of produce to turn into preserves, (this year anyhow) I like the idea of making chutneys and sauces. It has a homely comforting feeling about it, plus you know exactly what goes into your preserves, which has got to be a good thing!

Watch out for Hugh's new series River Cottage Autumn this week.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

River Cottage Duck Fair

Today was a good day for ducks. Raining!

As we travelled through the clouds to River Cottage HQ aka Park Farm, for the Duck Fair, I thought that everytime we have been over to West Dorset this year, it has rained.

I started the day by picking a punnet of raspberries for the bring and barter tent at the Duck Fair. The idea is to bring some home grown produce, home made produce or home baked cakes, pies or biscuits and then swap them for someone elses goodies.

The swap started at 12.30 but it was very busy in the tent so I decided to come back later and see what was left.
I went to the next tent where Hugh was serving up Duck Wraps with cucumber and Hoisin Sauce. When I got to the front of the queue. Hugh asked if anyone would like to stay and to be filmed eating the wrap. Well if you know me, you will know that I am a huge fan of Hugh, so I thought I would stick around. Hugh asked me to come over and talk to him about the wrap, for the camera.

The point of the piece to camera was that the wrap was half wild duck and half domestic duck. I had to say which I preferred. To be honest I couldn't really tell, which was which. One was a bit more gamey than the other so I winged it a bit. I will have to wait until the show is aired to find out if they will use my piece.

There were lots of Duck themed attractions; Splat the 'duck', Hook a Duck, Rubber Duck shie and Duck air rifle shooting. (Not real ducks!)

To wash the duck wrap down I had some home made cider.

When River Cottage have an event, you can see the people who Hugh has had on his programmes. In the events barn we saw Fraser Christian, fishing expert, do a cooking demonstration and John Wright explain the joys of mushroom foraging. He was very entertaining and fun to listen to.

On the way out I asked Hugh if I could have a photograph with him. "Why not", he said.

I have watched Hugh since his very first programme, when he arrived from London and rented a little cottage called 'River Cottage'. I have always enjoyed watching his programmes and was not disappointed when I spoke to him - he really is a lovely chap!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Oh Blight!

The dreadful rain we have been having has brought on the dreaded blight we gardeners fear.

I have never experienced it before on my tomatoes, so I felt really deflated as I pulled up my four tomato plants, which were still burgeoning with fruit yet to ripe. Last week I was saying how yummy and successful my sweetcorn were and when I went to pick some last night, I witnessed a sorry site. The top thirds of the corns had been nibbled by I suspect earwigs and the rest of the cobs were a soggy mess. Into the compost bin they went.
This weekend we have had glorious sunshine for a welcome change. I had forgotten how wonderful the sun feels on your skin. I have cut back many of the leaves from the squashes, so that the fruit has chance to ripen in the sun. I'm not sure how long the sun will last, so I will make the most of it while it's here.
I have started to pull up some carrots, which are so carroty, surprisingly. I ate them raw, dipped in humus, yum. My sandy soil suits carrots and I am able to pull them up as needed. They also tasted absolutely delicious in the casserole we had for tea on Sunday.
Another success story are my raspberries. I have enough to make some jam and I am adding them to my porridge for breakfast. I have also made individual apple and raspberry crumbles last week, I have definitely got my monies worth from the my raspberry canes.

Monday, 8 September 2008

I'm In The Garden

Well I would be if it would just stop raining!

I did manage to get out yesterday and weed my paved area with a fab new tool I have purchased for the job.

I am still picking my tomatoes, they are so juicy and sweet and I have started to pick my sweetcorn. If you have never picked sweetcorn, popped straight into boiling water and eaten after 8 mins, then you are missing a treat. I have never tasted sweetcorn so sweet, it's marvelous, quite unlike anything you can buy in the shops and they are so easy to grow.

My butternut squashes are coming on very slowly. We just haven't had the sun and humidity this year and so they are very small. I hope they can grow and ripen off enough before the frosts. I was rather worried about them because the flowers were dropping off before the fruits had set so I decided to join the BBC Gardening message board, allotment talk, where you can ask questions about growing vegetables and people reply with answers. It's fantastic and a wonderful source of knowledge to tap into. I have sown some more cut and come again lettuce, together with spinach and pak choi. These can be picked as baby leaves if I can get to them before blumin slugs. I put down some organic slug pellets but unfortunately our cat Boots likes the taste. I heard him crunching them and tried to shoo him off but he wasn't very happy with me. It says on the packaging that they are safe for cats but I don't think they are supposed to be eaten and enjoyed!

I was rather disappointed to learn that my favourite gardener and presenter of Gardeners' World
Carol Klein was passed over in favour of Toby Buckland as the new presenter of Gardeners' World. I absolutely love Carol's passion for gardening and would have liked to have seen a woman take the leading role for a change and especially someone with all that knowledge and enthusiasm. I can't say I am a fan of Toby's, he seems a bit wet for me but I will reserve judgement until I see him in action. I just wish that every time a Golf or a Snooker tournament was on, that GW wouldn't have to take a back seat. We gardeners shouldn't have to make way for such trivia!

Thursday, 28 August 2008

A Bit Neglectfull

I have been so busy with photography as of late, that I have neglected my veg patch and my blog. Still I did find some time at the weekend for an inspection, a tidy up and most importantly to pick some produce.

The carrots are coming on a treat. I picked the thinnings and we had them with our chicken for tea on Sunday. The tomatoes are absolutely delicious (I am munching on them as I type) I am going to pickle some of them, as demonstated at River Cottage HQ.

My best friend Linda came to visit me the other weekend.
This is the first time she has seen my new garden and I was interested in what she thought. She has a lovely garden at home and her forte is garden design. She has such a good eye for knowing what looks good where and she came up with some very good ideas for my veg bed mark 2, which I am going to put into action in the Autumn.

Carol Kleins 'Grow Your Own Veg' series is back on the television, in fact we are nearly at the end. I so love that series. The way it is shot as on Super 8 and the music (ELP and Genesis in particular) makes for very enjoyable watching.

Rachel de Thame did a Gardeners' World special last week on whether climate change will have an affect on cottage garden plants. It was a bit of a storm in a tea cup and the conclusion was that the plants will survive. I did enjoy seeing the beautiful chocolate box cottages with their fabulous cottage plants around them. One day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, 14 August 2008

River Cottage

Last Sunday we went to River Cottage for an open day. We have been to Friday Night at River Cottage, which I throughly recommend, but this was an opportunity for a look around the farm.
River Cottage HQ aka Park Farm, is situated outside Axminster just 1 1/2 hours from Poole.
Unfortunately the weather at the moment isn't very seasonal and as we arrived the heavens opened (again!) but the tractor with its trailer, was on hand to take us down to the farm. Farmhouse
Veg plot
Wood Pile
I absolutely adore the yurt and would love one in my garden. When we went to Friday Night at River Cottage it was December. The evening started off with everyone piled into the Yurt and the wood fire was roaring in the middle. It was so cosy inside with fairy lights twinkling, something I will never forget and the food was amazing. Everyone eats from the same menu and it's a wonderful atmosphere. The great thing is that you eat food that you wouldn't normally try, for instance our starter was called Pigs Head Salad with free range soft boiled eggs. I wasn't very keen on eggs at the time so I was more concerned about the eggs than the pigs head. Of course you didn't see the head, it was just the meat and delicious it was!

Talking of pigs!
These pigs were lovely - behaving just how pigs should, snuffling around in the dirt.
Hopefully foxy loxy doesn't have a head for heights

I had a lovely talk with the gardener and he was very helpful and I was very happy to see a chap making hurdles and got his details as I want some willow hurdles to go around my new veg bed.
There were lots of demonstrations. I loved the preserve making demo by Pam Corbin. She really inspired me to make some jam from my raspberries, which are well on their way to having a second crop. I bought her book, which she signed.
There was also food served. I had some fabulous Cornish Blue Cheese which was really yummy and of course had to try the cider - scrummy and the ice-cream - amazing!!!!
I love HFW and the River Cottage ethos. Growing your own doesn't just taste good but it makes you feel good too!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Girls Own Store

Last week I posted about the weather and how hot it was and here we are a week later, although not cold, the weather has been positively filthy.

We went camping for a few days this week but unfortunately picked the wrong end of the week to camp. At least we put the tent up in the sunshine but the following evening had to sit in the tent whilst the storm raged outside, with nothing but a flagon of cider and a large packet of crisps for subsistence.

It wasn't all bad though. On the way to the campsite, we stopped off in Bridport, to visit one of my favourite shops, Girls Own Store It really is the most heavenly shop. I purchased a wicker trug so that when I am collecting flowers for the house or vegetables for the kitchen, I have something to pop them into, which is practical and looks lovely. I also bought a flowery apron by Green Gate. The pattern looks like Cath Kidston (the shop sells lots of Cath Kidston stuff too) ooh the shop is definitely worth stopping by and taking a look at if you are anywhere near Bridport.

My garden has taken a bit of a battering during this weeks torrential rain and heavy winds. I had loads of pea pods to pick from my sweet peas but I have still lots of flowers, as you can see in the trug above.
I have sown some more cut and come again lettuce and I have lots of cobs coming on my sweetcorn, so plenty still to look forward to in the veg patch.
Come back sun not only does my sweetcorn need you but I need you too!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

NGS Meltdown

What an absolutely fantastic weekend it has been for the weather. This is how summer should be and I have had a wonderful weekend visiting two gardens open for the National Garden Scheme. The first one we visited was in Wimborne, Dorset called The Secret Garden at Serles House on Saturday evening The house is a small Victorian semi which looks quite small from the front. The front garden is immaculately kept and you just get the feeling looking at it from the road that the house hides a real gem behind. To enter the garden you go through the house which is completely amazing, with all its original features and into a wooden conservatory (past a man playing the piano) and into this wonderful garden full of follies and wonderful artifacts which have been collected and placed around the garden.
This time instead of tea and cake, we were treated to wine and nibbles - very sophisticated!

Whenever we visit a garden, I always joke with my boyfriend that we will probably be the youngest there, which doesn't happen very often now that we are in our early forties (does almost being 44 still count as early forties?) but low and behold there were two people there younger than us. Maybe the promise of alcohol lured them out but they seemed interested in the garden, so perhaps the younger generation will catch onto the wonders of gardening. Perhaps gardening will become the new rock n roll? Oh dear perhaps that's not such a good idea. We will all be dressing in beige next!
The second garden we visited was Hilltop at Stour Provst in Dorset.
I always make sure I visit this garden once a year, as it's my favourite. This garden is the perfect cottage garden in every way. No photograph could do it justice and certainly not today and the sun was too bright for photography. I took a few snaps as a memento; it's just simply gorgeous and worth a visit if you live in Dorset.
Of course we had the obligatory tea and cake and it was so cool sitting under the great oak tree as it was scorching in this south facing garden. The best of all is that Brian sells the plants he grows and as cottage garden plants are my favourite, I always come away with one or three especially as the garden has 600 dahlias which are my favourite plant.

We've dug up all the potatoes this week and they are delicious. They really are worth growing as home grown potatoes have a flavour which can't be matched from those in the supermarket.
We are munching on the cut and come again lettuce, so I think I will sow some more in the space left by the potatoes.
One of the butternut squashes have a baby squash growing on it, which is so cute. There are lots of flower buds forming on the other squashes, so I hope the slugs don't get them before they start to turn into the fruit, although the cat found a toad on the lawn which we put amongst the vegetables, so I hope he likes slugs because they're on the menu.

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Good Life

When The Good Life was on our screens in the 70's, the concept of growing vegetables and caring for livestock in our back gardens was stuff of comedy. Yes lots of people grew vegetables but on their allotments and not in their front gardens!
I absolutely loved watching Tom and Barbara, Gerry and Margo and still love the repeats today. Thirty years on, the idea of 'The Good Life' is no longer a joke. For those not able to own an allotment, those wanting to grown their own are turning to their gardens and growing vegetables in raised beds, amongst the flowers or in pots just like Tom and Barbara.

Today in my lunchbox was a salad of lettuce, red onion and tomato all picked from the garden. I couldn't quite manage the olives or butter beans but give me time and global warming and maybe I would grow the olives! I shouldn't joke about global warming but if more people grew veg and we pressured supermarkets to source vegetables closer to home, then we could help to make a small dent in this ever looming problem.

The garden is perking up after giving it a liquid feed or two. My sweetcorn is suffering from blackfly but I blasted them with the hose on full power so I just need to keep on top of the little buggers. My butternut squashes are starting to flower. I need to limit each plant to three flowers to ensure lovely large squashes.

My raspberries have finished but I am a little confused as I bought them as Autumn fruiting raspberries and they seem to be over but putting on lots of growth which points to Summer fruiting raspberries. I think I will contact Marshalls for some advice. I might get a second crop. Ooh what lovely thought, more scrummy raspberries.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

It's like pulling onions

At last some success. I have pulled my red onions but had to put them in the summerhouse to dry out and not as tradition would have it, on the soil and in the sun. Also I have started to dig up my Charlotte potatoes; we have them for tea tonight with roast chicken - yum.

I am rather worried about my sweetcorn. Instead of healthy green stems they are starting to yellow. I have read that if the soil is sandy and there has been high rainfall, then the nutrients will leach out of the soil. This is what I think is happening, so I have given them a liquid feed and some magnesium sulphate so I am hoping that might green them up. The wind and rain has rather battered my butternut squash. Some of the stems have almost broken so I am not holding out too much hope for some of them. Its a mixed bag really, with some highs and some lows. Still, looking at someones else's beautiful garden with the promise of tea and cake, usually raises the spirit, so this afternoon we took ourselves off to an NGS garden in Ferndown, Dorset. This was a tiny garden but absolutely chocked full of gorgeous plants. The front was cottagy, my favourite sort of plants and the back was quite tropical. In 2005 the garden was a finalist in the Daily Mail garden of the year competition.

The front garden had a meandering path to the front door with lots of cottage garden favourites like clematis, monarda, phlox, sidelcea, crocosmia and astrantia to name but a few. They had plants for sale so I bought crocosmia lucifer, a favourite of mine and astrantia major. I love the pin cushion flower heads of the astrantia. The back garden had a Spanish feel to it and plants had a more tropical appearance.There were even a couple of bananas in the corner. It felt quite sheltered with all the tall plants creating a cosy atmosphere. And of course at all good open gardens, they provide refreshments, with proceeds going to charity.
You can find all the details of the NGS yellow book at where you can pinpoint local gardens to you and their opening times. What better way to spend a Sunday afternoon with plants, tea and cake. (I think I have been here before!)


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