A big crash!

Apologies for the lack of blogs. My service providers server had a bad crash and sadly I’ve lost all postings since November. I’m going to have a bash at reposting, then hopefully I’ll be back up and running.

In the meantime here’s a picture of snowdrops emerging from under our Oak tree today.snowdrops

A visit from a Kestrel

We’ve just been visited by a Kestrel who sat on our telegraph wire, starred me out, then moved onto the TV areal, and then off. I’ve not noticed a Kestrel visit before. I often hear the loud call of hunting buzzards high above in groups but until now we’ve not seen a Kestrel.

Kestrel on telegrapg wireThe Kestrel on our telegraph wire

Kestrel on our TV arealKestrel on our TV areal

Kestrel leaving usThe Kestrel leaving us

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Garden honesty stall open for the summer

The Produce from the Garden £1 honesty stall is open again for business. Today’s delicacy is Rhubarb. Flowers and much more to come in the next few weeks.

We’re on Claygate Rd on the way to Laddingford.

Honesty Stall

Courgettes planted

I eagerly await the year’s first courgettes, my impatience to start cropping always leads me to plant out too early, stalling the crop. This year I’ve held back waiting until the end of the month. During May I’ve potted on the young courgette plants twice, preventing them from becoming pot bound. I last did this a week ago and was amazed to see the root development in this time. There are other advantages to planting courgettes out late, whilst clearing the raised bed ready for planting I discovered over 50 slugs (they were all divided in two!), waiting a few extra weeks the plants stems develop and thicken giving a little extra slug protection.

Courgettes from under glassCourgettes finally ready to go out

The prepared raised bedThe prepared raised bed

Courgette roots that have developed within a weekA weeks worth of roots!

I’ve installed a watering system with a spur to each thirsty courgette plant. I have also made a bowl like ring of earth around each plant to keep the water directly on the plants roots.

Planted courgettesPlanted courgettes with watering system installed

Hopefully this year’s extra care and attention will reward us with early bumper crops.

May bank holiday, tulips and rhubarb

It’s May bank holiday weekend, so far the weather’s held out. 1920’s jazz is drifting around our house and garden from the husbands newly acquired gramophone, the boys have pitched the tent and are planning to sleep in the garden tonight (they’ll of course be back in their beds by 8.30pm). The tulips are blooming and I’ve picked our first crop of rhubarb this year. I have one Rhubarb forcer and we all look forward to the early delicacy of tender and delicious forced Rhubarb. I love the baby pink colour of the stems, with three boys there is very little pink in my life so it is to be savoured!

Rhubarb forcerThe rhubarb forcer

Forced Rhubarb from under the forcerForced rhubarb from under the pot

Forced RhubarbMy rhubarb crop for pudding – yum!

Tulips in the cutting borderTulips from the cut flower border, looking stunning and filling the house with colour

A week in February

A friend passed on a Facebook challenge to post a nature photograph every day for a week. It has been great fun and a lovely snap shot of a week in February. Below is the compilation of the weeks posts.

Day 1 Hardy Cyclamen leaves growing under a tree in our garden, I think the leaves are more striking than their beautiful flowers.

Hardy Cyclamen

Day 2 Lichen growing on our Crabapple tree. I love the rich mustard yellow colour of lichen.

Lichen

Day 3 Broad bean flowers in February, I find that as disturbing as daffodils blooming in December!

Broadbean flowers

Day 4 Artichoke leaves. Young silver leaves with the texture of velvet, an opulent, statuesque must have for every garden. The globes they produce are a summer delicacy, the leaves look fabulous cut and placed in a vase in the kitchen.

Artichoke leaves

Day 5 Our oak tree on this frosty morning. This beautiful majestic oak is the focal point of our garden, it’s the home to many birds, my barometer of the seasons and it’s bows the anchor for my boys treasured rope swing.

Oak tree in frost

Day 6 Muscari (Grape hyacinth). One of my favourite early sping (!) cut flowers.

Muscari (Grape hyacinth)

Day 7 Some daffodils cut for the table. They may be early this year but their stems are weak, breaking under the weight of their blooms in the rain.

Daffoldils on the table

Filling vases for the home in November

I just got back from dropping the boys at school, it struck me that there were no cut flowers in the house, it looked drab, dull and lifeless. The end of November can be a tricky time to fill vases. A grey, damp, windy day is an excellent time to forage for flowers in the garden, five minutes pottering will result in twinkles of colour catching your attention.

Tiny single stem vases are ideal for presenting the individual blooms as the star performers. They look great positioned individually around the house or grouped to make a larger display.

November flowers from the gardenFlowers grouped in a variety of single stem vases

Sparse garden flowers lead us to look for alternatives, in a couple of weeks we can collect and indulge in the sumptuous, rich evergreen foliage that brings the Christmas spirit into our homes. For now we need to look for substitute flora, with interesting shapes, textures and colour to help lift our homes. I love the large, soft, silver, serrated leaves from a cardoon. When placed in a vase they become a living sculpture in your home.

Cardoon leavesCardoon leaves in a vase

Dog wood stemsDog wood stems, a winter garden staple, also look striking in a vase

Picking black currants and many other distractions

I should have the hoe out and be tackling the weeds that have sneaked into my dahlia bed, but the hot humid weather is better suited to picking blackcurrants and pottering in the kitchen garden. On my way to the soft fruit bed I noticed I was starting to get a few sweet pea flowers. Those of you who read my sweet pea posting will know that I sowed the seed late so the flowers are in turn a bit late too. I also made a silly error placing sunflowers (for cutting) next to them; they’re thriving, taking up lots of space and shading the sweet peas. So I’m not expecting huge posies of sweet peas this year, but even a few are enough for their English summer scent to drift through our home.

Sweet peasA few sweet peas

I popped into the greenhouse, where I’m greeted by a tomatillo forest; I blame the husband as he insisted I try them this year. They’re not endearing themselves to me, taking up too much space, overcrowding my gorgeous mini cucumbers and we’re yet to feast on them as I’m not really sure when they’re ripe. Every plant in my kitchen garden has to perform well to be allowed the following year, at the moment the tomatillos are out, let’s hope they make the most delicious salsa to redeem themselves.

TomatillosThe tomatillo forest!

Whilst wandering down through the kitchen garden I noticed Artichokes looking so stately, elegant architectural structure with a sophisticated colour palette. Shame about the black fly!

ArtichokesBeautiful artichokes

Then I’m drawn to my agapanthus attracting a bee. It’s a lovely cut flower which has a long vase life if the water’s changed frequently.

Agapanthus and a BeeAgapanthus and a bee

AgapanthusAgapanthus

Finally I made it to the soft fruit border at the bottom of the kitchen garden; to reward me for focusing on the job in hand I spotted one of our first ripe raspberries, Yum. RaspberryOur first raspberry

 

I have three bushes and they are laden this year, I plan to bake a black currant cake for the weekend, if it’s successful I’ll pop the recipe up on the blog next week. In one of Sarah Raven’s books she suggests to prune the oldest 1/3 of branches whilst harvesting, you can then strip the fruit off with a fork at your leisure. Traditional thinking is to prune in the winter months when the bush is dormant. I’m always up for trying out new ideas, the theory of pruning early during harvest allows new growth to mature sufficiently before winter and will produce fruit the following year. Fingers crossed for increased productivity.

BlackcurrantsBlackcurrants

Harvested blackcurrantsHarvested blackcurrants