Monday, 29 July 2013

A fantasy in bricks and mortar

Just been to book the venue for my husband's big birthday bash next year and, having never been to the place before, had a quick wander round the pleasant gardens which surround it.  All very nice.  My eye was drawn to a clock tower at the end of the garden but reaching it, found that it was a part of a small, locked building embedded in an 18 foot brick wall which went on... and on... and on.... round various small crumbly brick outbuildings and round a huge, abandoned expanse of walled garden.


Managed to peer though a sliverish gap in the boarding and what I saw made my heart go bang. Takes me back to my red and gold bound copy of Frances Hodgson Burnett's 'Secret Garden' which I pored over in my childhood. The garden lay there beyond its screen of brambles, but the space looked fantastic... and very long untended.  Turned out from my chat with the venue manager that it has been sealed up for the last 30 years and it sets my mind racing with daydreams.  Might have to make a few enquiries, just to find out a bit more about it..... Unbelieveably gorgeous in my minds eye with veg and Tuckshop Flowers flourishing within. How exciting can daydreams be?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Is there life after ammi?

The midsummer hiatus is happening again - my early summer lovelies are going over and the later perennials have not yet got into their stride.  The ammi has finally flopped, smothering its neighbours in the border and I am beady-eyeing its drying flower heads, waiting for the moment when I can collect oodles of seed to sow in September for next year's crop.  It is definitely a flower I want lots of 2014 as it such a brilliant filler and looks fantastic with virtually anything.  It's only slight drawback is that when the flowers are very mature, they make the surface of any arrangement look like you've been holding this year's AGM for the Homepride flour graders convention.

Frothy ammi with sweet peas and mallow

The kitchen worktop is starting to host a collection of plastic pots containing cerinthe seeds at various stages of desiccation - so expensive to buy, but every plant that grows will provide you with ample quantities of black nuggety seed for to keep replenishing for several seasons. I'm going to have another go at September sowings for that as well - last year came to nothing, but I don't think I'm going to take 2012 weather as any kind of benchmark for normality.

It has been brilliant to have heat and dryness this year - makes me feel like I've emigrated!

The dahlias are flourishing in the current conditions, and sedums are fleshing up well to provide a glaucous counterpoint for bright flashy red 'Witteman's Best' in summer bunches.

I can tell that summer is in full swing, as the lavender hedge at the front of the house in sprouting into gloriousness, and my candelabra-style light fitting downstairs is sporting several bunches hanging upside down to dry, ready for arranging in lean times later in the year.  The statice that I sowed in late spring is just starting to come into flower, so I must remember to cut and dry some of that for autumnal arrangements too.

My roses are totally crispy and require constant deadheading, so I have to bid them farewell and await their second coming in autumn.  It really makes me feel like the year is whizzing by to know that their first show is already over.

Excuse the dangly wicker pig's legs in the top part of this shot. I know them well, but they even had me bewildered when I first studied this photo!

What is going to replace the ammi in the next wave of flowers?  It has played such a big role in the borders, that I'm going to feel a bit bereft without it.  You'll just have to watch this space to see what comes in to fill its boots - and so will I, as I'm really not sure what can follow in its wake at the moment.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Guzzgoggery and other tales

Where does the expression 'playing gooseberry' come from?  Why should a spare part at a date be compared with a small, hard, hairy fruit?  Is it because they lurk in obscurity beneath the leaves and spitefully scratch as you try to detach them from their friends?  Or is it because they're rather sour and very prickly?

Whatever the reason, the guzzgogs picked today have now had their nature sweetened with three pounds of sugar and are now resting as 6 warm jars of delicious jam.

Summer pudding, made with redcurrants, strawberries, raspberries and the first ripenings of my best ever cherry crop (i.e. more than 6 fruits), is chilling in the fridge, and my vases are overflowing with sweet peas.

I had a new 'wow' today as I had my first sighting of blooms on a new dahlia 'Witteman's Best' - a lovely deep red on a long, strong stem.  Am willing them to produce lots more for cutting over the next few weeks.

a bucket of sweet peas, pots of strawberries, cherries, raspberries and gooseberries, along with the last redcurrants.

Blackcurrants are also fast a-ripening in the abundant heat, and I'm hoping to be able to pick them in the next week or so. Found a recipe for making creme de cassis, so will add this to my boozy repertoire this year, along with more litres of damson gin.

My blog silence is testament, I suppose, to the amount of gardening that needs doing at the moment (both for myself and others) - seem to have little time to write as I'm either gardening, picking flowers or fruit, or dealing with the aftermath of these various activities.

Three weeks of glorious sunshine, unbroken by rain.  When was the last time we had that?  Welcome back summer - we've missed you!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Marvellous meadow or messy mankiness?

You may recall a few weeks ago at Gardener's World Live, that I was very taken with the Yorkshire Dales Millenium Trust Garden below.  Indeed, so were the judges and it received a silver gilt medal at this, an RHS affiliated show.

This set me to thinking yesterday as I wandered around the allotment, that beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but also in the context it is found in. Spot the difference between the photo above and those below...

Both beautiful, naturalistic and immensely welcoming to wildlife.  The difference? The Yorkshire Dales garden won a medal, and the allotment will proabably get an 'untidy plot' notice before the season is out.  Seems a bit mad doesn't it?

Maybe at a show, a bit of naturalistic planting is a relief from the landscaping and manicured meticulousness of many of the gardens, whereas at an allotment, nature unadorned surrounds the tended plots and their tenants are trying (often vainly) to hold back the tide which threatens at any moment to engulf their little patch of land.

Perhaps allotment committees should take a leaf out of the RHS judges' book, and put on a non fruit-and-vegetable hat when looking at the merits of a neglected patch? 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A rosy glow.

My world smells lovely at the moment.

Can you ever have too many roses?  I suppose the answer to that question depends on how much you can stomach squishing greenfly between your thumb and forefinger, as that seems to be a fairly incessant task at present.

Have been cutting my Constance Spry, Gertrude Jekylls, New Dawn and Falstaff to make some lovely scented bunches for my market stall, and have even braved the thorny stems of the picture perfect noisette, Felicite Parmentier - so blush pink and lovely despite the spikes.

Soft pink roses in rosy bone china by Tuckshop Flowers
New Dawn and Contance Spry - soft, pink and lovely.

Finding the perfect cups to match them is always fun - I don't especially like Royal Albert's 'Old Rose' pattern, but you would think it had been designed specially to host Falstaff and Absolutely Fabulous, my yellow stalwart.

Matching flowers to their containers is always fun!  Tuckshop Flowers
Dark Falstaff roses with the yellow floribunda Absolutely Fabulous

On the back of all this romantic rosiness, I even braved a trip to the rather gorgeous local wedding shop last week to offer them a weekly bunch in exchange for displaying my card.  The flowers do look like they have found their rightful home amidst all the wedding gowns, so am hoping (and feeling scared) about getting some enquiries via that route. Mind you, I can remember feeling the same about market stalls earlier in the year and now take these in my stride.

Roses, ammi majus, nigella and astrantia in a vintage glass vase. By Tuckshop Flowers

I'm spoilt for choice in the garden at the moment for scent, colour and form. Even picked my first dahlia last week, so am hoping that they will all start swinging into action over the next few weeks. 

Must get down to the allotment today to tie in all my sweet peas and to check on the progress of the soft fruit. Am pretty sure the gooseberries will be ready for picking, and with any luck the fat pigeons will not have torpedoed the netting on my cherry tree.  Last time I checked, it looks like being my best ever cherry crop (the tree is now about 5 years old), so am very excited as they are one of my favourite summer eats.  The redcurrants in my gardens are also starting to blush and I'm hoping that the ones on the plot are slightly further on as they get a bit more sun in that location.  I sense a jam making extravaganza in the next few weeks so will have to start burning the midnight oil to process all my garden bounty at this rate!