Monthly Archives: January 2014

Mission impossible?

If I only had a pound for every client that comes in and says – I want to hide the new house/extension/shed/garage that my neighbours are building next door – what 2.5m+ evergreens have you got?

I so wish they wouldn’t. Massed evergreens can be so static and depending on the size of garden and/or orientation completely dominate the space and make a garden feel oppressive.  I try to steer towards prettier solutions – please, please consider deciduous trees birchinstead I say – for smaller gardens, a multi-stem himalayan birch,  an adorable Cercidiphyllum, how about a small sorbus such as vilmorinii or cashmirianaAcer ‘Brilliantissimum’ perhaps?  Or Parrotia persica. For larger gardens, my favourite tree of the moment, Quercus coccinea ‘Splendens’ or a gorgeous Liquidambar – Worplesdon perhaps, or Lane Roberts.   The tree will break-up the mass of a new building/extension and shield a garden perfectly well.

QuercCoccineaAnd trust me – bare root trees are much, much cheaper than equivalent sized evergreens.

But, no – what they want is a big, fat toparised ball of Photinia.


New Year – Resolutions?

Oh come on – of course I start the year with resolutions.  They usually revolve around losing weight and mastering succession sowing.  I invariably fail because I am…a) too greedy; b) have no will power and c) interleave rushing around and indolence.  So banish new year resolutions.   Every day brings the chance to try again, or try something new, or not try at all but sit by the fire.  The year seem to rush by so quickly now.  So time to slow things down, to potter, to sit, to look around – (I’m beginning to sound like that ad for Center Parcs).

seville….and nothing is more calming in the ‘pottering about’ mode than making Seville Orange marmalade    These bittersweet oranges (Citrus x aurantium) turn up in the shops around now.  Native to the far east and introduced to Britain in – ooooh, medieval times I suspect, via the Mediterranean countries.

They are available for such a short time so I buy them as soon as I see them.  marmaladeBlink, and they are gone.   Over the years I have produced a variety of sets and styles, not on purpose of course – there is no such thing in my cooking as intent.   From the clear, orange jewelled, soft set with wisps of peel to the dark Oxford version packed with chunks of peel, I have made and loved them all.  This year I have experimented with small batches varying the flavours – lemon and ginger, whisky etc.

The lovely thing about making preserves is the simplicity of it – fruit, sugar, water, heat. Simples.

Off now to find the toaster…….

Reading this week:  Ripe: A cook in the orchard by Nigel Slater.  Wonderful, wonderful book to have if you love fruit – stick it on your next Christmas wish list.