Monthly Archives: July 2016


RHS Tatton and the Floral marquee…spectacular genus displays by very serious growersDSC_0026DSC_0044DSC_0102DSC_0017DSC_0030DSC_0085DSC_0105DSC_0012We splashed out on a little Sarracenia, from Hampshire Carnivorous Plants.  The nursery won a well-deserved GOLD for their display…

DSC_0076We took their advice and bought the easiest to look after, Sarracenia cv ‘Fiona’.   The hope is that the plant will be a natural fly catcher.  Placed  in a dish of rainwater, (tap water will kill this pitcher plant), on a bright sunny window sill – well, watch out flies!

sarracceniaMy favourite display was Morton’s, also a GOLD medal winner….

DSC_0110DSC_0112DSC_0113Though I also fell in love with Hollyhocks…. and bought lots of seed!




mash up and marinade…

Finally – a forecast of a few days of sun!  So of course, we lifted the garlic.

DSC_0007The elephant garlic has produced lots of little mini cloves that we’ve put aside to plant in the autumn.

DSC_0002Monty Don broadcast a handy reminder on Gardeners’ World last week on how to lift garlic, i.e. lift from the base, don’t pull it up by the stalk as this can damage the head.  Something I learnt – don’t trim the roots and leave the stem fully intact, apparently this improves keeping.   Poor Monty has white rot in his growing area.  This is a serious disease caused by a fungus, Stromatinia cepivora.  I like to grow certified stock in the main vegetable plot each year for the alliums, (onions, shallots, garlic), so the bulblets from the elephant garlic will be planted out in the growing area next to the polytunnel.

We’ll dry cure most of the heads before storing but for now, we can make use of the deliciously fat, juicy cloves…

DSC_0013DSC_0010 DSC_0011… to make a rub for a leg of lamb (garlic, rosemary, lemon, olive oil).

To serve with fresh mint sauce,

DSC_0015alongside just picked peas. just dug, potatoes from the vegetable garden.

A classic Sunday roast.

king of the world…

I love wrens, Troglodytes troglodytes – they’re such punchy little birds, completely fearless – and so loud.  I got quite close to this one on my way to and from the polytunnel. He/she completely ignored me.

DSC_0006This post is a little bit of  a round up on progress in the tunnel.  The produce is coming along in leaps and bounds.  Without the tunnel, we would not be able to have such treats as:

DSC_0011Melons.  Both the cantaloupe and watermelon are setting fruit now.

DSC_0010Chillies.  These have done so well this year.  I planted out into 10L pots and the display is fabulous. This is a growing approach that I will definitely repeat next year.  All they need is a weekly high potash feed.

DSC_0014Grapes.  The vine survived its move from outdoors to in and we added another 2 dessert grapes for good measure.  We don’t expect any fruit this year, (well I might leave one bunch on), but we look forward to delicious crops in a few year’s time.

DSC_0013Tomatoes.  Nothing compares to a ripe tomato, freshly picked and warm from the heat of the tunnel.  I don’t grow tomatoes outdoors anymore because of blight.  Growing undercover means that we can reliably produce a decent crop of the heritage varieties we prefer.

We also have cucumbers, sweet peppers and aubergines to look forward to.

Outside, we have started to lift the garlic, the onions and shallots have bulked up nicely and we are picking peas, french beans, chard

DSC_0005and tiny courgettes; the latter destined for our favourite summer pasta dish.

DSC_0020And of course….lots and lots of sweet peas.





return to the wild…

I think the wildflower verge is a great success.  The annuals are hitting their stride now, in spite of the weather.

Back in February the lovely OH started stripping off the grass and top soil.

DSC_0044We ordered native English wildflower seed mixes and today the verge looks like this:

DSC_0012DSC_0004The corncockle is starting to bloom and the other day I chanced upon a specimen of ‘wild mignonette’, Reseda lutea, also known as ‘Dyer’s Rocket’, in the mix.

DSC_0011I have been using an old copy of the ‘The Observer’s Book of British Wild Flowers’ to help with identifying the species.DSC_0016This was the second book in the ‘Observer’s Pocket Series’. There are no photographs in my version, only line drawings.  Whilst over 50% of the drawings are in colour, I find that the meticulous descriptions really help with identifying the plants.  The book does not have a published date though there is an inscription on the front flyleaf which is rather nice, and dates the book to the mid-1950’s.

DSC_0017I’m very impressed by this gift from the cubs to their Akela.  Back in the 50’s, 5 old shillings was worth something.  I was given 3d (1 1/2p) as pocket money in the late 60’s, so a collection of 60 pennies in the mid 50’s would have been something.

As a postscript, I have added a link to ‘Plantlife’s’ posting on using local wildflower seed versus generic mixes –  it makes for thought-provoking reading.  We are surrounded by intensively grazed dairy pasture; our own field was the same.  I’m not averse to adding plants I like to the orchard, after all, we’ve added the orchard into the landscape.  However, I will try to locate a local source for wildflower seed this year – no harm in trying!

Reading this week: Plantlife’s ‘Keeping the Wild in Wildflower


swathes of nodding daffodils….

no – not now…it’s not Chelsea.  However, I’ve finished the list of bulbs that we’ll plant in the orchard this autumn.   I have stepped away from rushing into finalising spring bulbs for the ornamental garden.

There are a plethora of bulbs that are quite happy growing in grass, (see here), and bulk up well. Of course, bulb catalogues are a source of great temptation and my initial list was quite long.  I’m in agreement with the great John Brookes who said:

Once you have your plant list, cut it in half and double the quantities of the rest’. 

So for planting this autumn I have restricted my list to:

Narcissus ‘Actaea’, a lovely ‘pheasant eye’ daffodil, flowering quite early,(April).  Plus it is highly scented and can cope being planted in areas of longer grass.

actaeaNarcissus obvallaris, otherwise known as the ‘Tenby daffodil’ – the one that Wordsworth raved about in his poem.  A lemon yellow flower, it will counter balance the white ‘Actaea’.

tenby daffodilNarcissus ‘Lobularia’, the ‘Lenten lily’.  This form has creamy white petals and a yellow trumpet.

lenten lily… and because I couldn’t resist:

Fritillaria meleagris, the snake’s head frittilary.  This we will distribute in the dampest area of the orchard.


Before planting in late autumn, the lovely OH will cut the orchard grass as close as possible.   I’m tending towards mixing all the daffodil bulbs together before scattering as I think this will produce a more natural look than planting the individual species in separate blocks.

I’ve phoned in the order – job done …until planting time.




down to earth….

DSC_0011I made an executive decision today and went out to thin the fruit on the apple trees.  Nature helps out with the ‘June drop’, the shedding of fruit that takes place around 8 weeks after flowering.  Now, according to the RHS website the drop peaks in early July, so it’s possible that I may have jumped the gun.  I don’t think I have, as the remaining fruit were mostly well attached.  However, if further shedding does take place, it won’t be a problem as we only want a few apples from each tree for sampling in the autumn.

DSC_0014I checked over the clusters and thinned down to one apple that a) was free of blemish, then b) the biggest and c) had the nicest shape.  Hopefully, this means we shall have large, good quality fruit rather than a load of small, possibly blemished apples.

So here we are before thinning….

DSC_0013and after thinning….

DSC_0015If we wind ahead a few years, the apple crop will be significantly larger so we have been talking to fellow orchardists in our area plus the lovely OH is investigating grants for purchasing equipment and setting up a community juicing project.  The kit list includes a ‘scratter’ – a machine that crushes the apples to ensure maximum juice extraction, a press, and a couple of pasteurisers.    Fresh apple juice will keep for a few days in the fridge and can be frozen but then takes up a lot of freezer space. Pasteurised juice will keep for between 6 months and as long as 2 years depending on how it is stored, so definitely the way to go.

Here’s looking forward to future bumper harvests!