June view 2009

June view 2009
View of rose and herb garden, June 2009

Small Garden Story

Over some 15 + years, I have been photographing the evolution of my small (85 x 15 foot) garden and it seems a waste not to put these records into some sort of context. Beginning here in April 2010 this Blog is intended to both act as a diary and to share past and present successes (and some failures), pleasures and disappointments with fellow garden-lovers. In due course, I intend to fill in some of the background and early days but that will have to wait until the winter months!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Welcome "Julio"

"Julio" my new ceramic sculpture by Diana Roles
We have just had a short but fairly impressive thunder storm with some more torrential rain - so no chance to cut the grass or trim back the rampant wisteria, vine and clematis that are all growing like mad into a great tangle in front of the green house, not to mention the golden hop.   I have never seen so much growth in July.

The sun we had has given the dahlias an incentive to start budding up and at long last Cl Etoile Violet is showing its first signs of colour.   I even have a few Sungold tomatoes ripening and some french beans setting in the grow bags by the kitchen.   I have been feeding them regularly so it will be interesting to see if it proves worthwhile.   I have also been feeding my clematis with Growmore on alternate weeks and they are beginning to look healthier....

The most exciting recent development is my acquisition of "Julio", my new ceramic piece from Diana Roles.   I have yet to install it properly and am slightly undecided about its location but it is a huge delight and certainly adds interest to the dull corner which needed brightening - although I'm not sure the space does sit justice and am thinking about swapping it around with my treasured "Feuille 2" centrepiece.   Here is the space and the new piece in position inviting investigation....

The lilies suffered in the extreme heat over the past 10-12 days and went over fast but I will replace them for next year and maybe be a little more adventurous with some bolder colours.

But colours are beginning to heat up.   Crocosmia Lucifer is doing its stuff and contrasting powerfully with a gorgeous magenta Phlox.   I am even enjoying seeing them both in combination with my once white but now pink hydrangea.   Things are set to become even more "dynamic" soon as the dahlias start to bloom in their unnamed and hence unordered state....

View with L, Formosanum, pink hydrangea and he flaming red of Crocosmia Lucifr in the background

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Effects of so much rain

Lilium Formosanum var. Pricei
I have been wondering if the wet weather might be responsible for there being a few more hedgehogs around - with all the slug and snail food available!   I saw a dear little hedgehog crossing my road the other night and there was a hedgehog dropping in the garden today.   I do hope they will come and frequent the garden again - I shall look out for "used" gaps under the fence.

L. Regale decimated by hungry molluscs!
The lilies are not so keen on the massive amount of slugs and snails and a lot of them have been horribly eaten.   But I am thrilled that in the garden centre* the other day I found a lily I have been trying to find for ages - Lilium Formosanum.   Unfortunately it is the smaller, earlier flowering variety L. formosamun Pricei but it is still gorgerous and spurring me on to find the taller, later-flowering variety.

The rain continues to make it difficult to make the most of the lovely crop of soft fruit which has begun rotting on the plants.  I have been picking off the rotten fruit and dropping it on open ground.   Hopefully some of the seeds might take.   The loganberry seems to reproduce its self well from suckers but in my small space I have a problem with the way raspberries "travel" and since the demise of my apricot tree I think it is time to completely re-think the soft fruit patch behind the greenhouse: a winter project.

Our hosepipe ban was lifted this week.   Eureka!

*Squires Garden centre - it was a matter of luck as they were otherwise totally useless on their plant knowledge!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Fruit picking in the rain

 Sometimes I might wish the garden wasn't quite so well-drained but with the rain we are having this year I am counting myself lucky.   Everything is growing like mad.   Happily during the last couple of days the seemingly relentless wind has dropped and the smells in the garden have been absolutely delicious.

Dodging the rain I picked my first fruit this week - raspberries enough to make a decent pie - and most of this years crop of redcurrants - scarcely a dessert bowl full.   What a comparison with last year.   But what I am lacking in redcurrants is more than amply made up for by a plentiful crop of loganberries and blackberries - the best ever.   Whether these balances are more to do with the hard winter or the warm March and wet ever since - who knows?
And here is the recipe for the pie:

Raspberry and redcurrant pie with shortbread pastry 

1 1/4 lbs fresh raspberries
1/4 lb fresh redcurrants, stalks removed
8 ozs white self raising flour
4 ozs cold butter
1 oz dark muscovado sugar
1 oz caster sugar + sugar for sprinkling
1 oz ground almonds
pinch of table salt
1 tablespoon cold water

1. Sieve together flour, caster sugar and salt into a mixing bowl.   Add ground almonds.
2. Add muscovado sugar, breaking any lumps with the back of a spoon.   
3. Add butter chopped into small pieces and rub into flour mixture with hands, adding a little water at a time 
until the mixture sticks together and moulds into a ball.   
4. Cover and chill for 1/2 an hour.
5. Pre-heat oven to Gas mark 5/ 375 degrees F/ 190 degrees C
6. Place raspberries and redcurrants in an oval pie dish.
7. Lightly flour work surface and roll out pastry until larger than the top of the dish.  The pastry is quite fragile so work carefully to try and avoid large cracks.
8. Using the rolling pin as a support ease the pastry over the fruit in the dish.
9. Trim off excess pastry with a knife and pinch edges between finger and thumb to seal and decorate.
10. Pace on a baking sheet in the centre of pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, turning after about 20 minutes to check pastry is evenly cooked.   It will go quite brown.
11. Remove from oven and sprinkle with reserved sugar.   Best eaten quite hot with icecream!!!

Note:  This is very rich pastry so I have not added sugar to the fruit but those with a sweeter tooth may!
copyright Sue Atkinson July 2012

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Old Thatch - Enid Blyton's former home

Old oak pergola, clematis Etoile Violet in foreground
I took advantage of a few spare hours of reasonable weather last weekend to visit Old Thatch, near Bourne End www.oldthatchgardens.co.uk   It is always good to refresh ones ideas and enthusiasm by looking at inspirational gardens and Old Thatch was as exciting on my second visit as my first, four years ago.
Pergola with dominant cerise rose American Pillar

View from pergola (turning round from picture above) - spacious and restful on the eye
Surrounding a beautiful thatched cottage garden designer Jacky Hawththorne has created a series of gardens rooms which link and complement one another elegantly.   I was most envious of the space the old oak pergola allows for growing clematis and roses in a luscious combination.   From Jacky I realised the reason my clematis aren't doing as well as they might is because I am not feeding them enough - they feed theirs with liquid feed every 3 weeks.   Right - so it will be then!
Two other things struck me as powerful: firstly how Jacky uses very sharp contrasting hints in harmonising colour drifts.   In the front garden I loved the use of red lychnis among the pinks and whites but I am never going to be a lover of yellow in my own garden - even thought it works well at Old Thatch.

Drifts of cottage garden plants with sharp red notes of lychnis

The second planting feature which impressed me is the use of strongly contrasting dark red against very light coloured foliage - as in the images following.

Last but not least the garden incorporates elements of fun (The Pencil Garden for kids) and surprise elements like this trompe l'oeil window in the wood pile!
"Things are not always as they appear to be..."