Category Archives: flower

small batch beauty…

The polytunnel is a jungle.  It’s a good thing that I’m rather fond of the dense vegetation.

A significant contributor to the tangle is the nasturtium.  The plants have loved the heat of the tunnel.

Given that they have done so well I decided to go a little bit ‘artisan’ on our preserves and try pickling nasturtium seeds.  Apparently they can be used as a substitute for capers.

I had a leisurely rummage and managed to find enough green seeds for a small jar.  I had picked 87g; the little jar I had would probably be able to hold 100g.  There are a number of recipes on the web – all pretty much the same.  They all recommended soaking the seeds in a salt solution for at least 24 hours.  It seems the seeds are a bit too peppery without the brine bath.Once drained of the brine, rinsed and dried off, I packed the green nuggets into the sterilised jar, leaving about 1cm from the start of the neck.  Then I poured over white wine vinegar and added 2 small bay leaves and a few black peppercorns. So simple.  These little caper substitutes should be ready in a few weeks.

Reading this week: Wonderland A Year of Britain’s Wildlife Day by Day


in time of daffodils…

March is the month for daffodils.

The species daffodils we planted last year are starting to pop up in the orchard; we planted them singly but I expect them to bulk up year on year.  At the top end of the orchard we have a mix of Narcissus pseudonarcissus lobularis and N. pseudonarcissus obvallaris.  A little further away we have planted a drift of N. ‘Actaea’ which will flower later in the year.

I prefer the look of bi coloured Lenten daffodil to the brighter all yellow Tenby, so this year I will order more of the former to plant again this autumn.

We rescued some ‘February Gold’ and ‘Jet Fire’, (not yet in bloom), from my brother when he reorganised some of his borders; they are planted in the vegetable patch at the moment.  I’ll tie a piece of different coloured thread around each variety as once the flower goes over it is impossible to tell them apart and I want to move the ‘February Gold’ into the orchard.

I’m trying to achieve drifts of early, mid and late daffodils so I shall scatter these early flowering ‘February Gold’ amongst the lobularis in place of the Tenby as it has a similar look to the latter.

In the old orchard I have another early flowering yellow daffodil, smaller than ‘February Gold’, I’m wondering if this is ‘Tete a Tete’, I must try to identify it.  Again I think that I shall move this to the new orchard.

I have a small pot of ‘Rapture’, a cyclamineus daffodil. This cultivar has a rather elegant swept back perianth.  As I don’t have many bulbs of this one I’ll plant it out in the old orchard and let them bulk up.

Last, but not least, of our early flowering daffodils is another, as yet unidentified, daffodil.  This is too tall and too showy to be added to the orchard planting so I will leave the display where it is, except for the ones I pick of course!

I must scour my bulb catalogues for some more mid and late flowering daffodils to extend the season in the orchard; I’m very tempted by the gorgeous pre 1930s cultivars held by in the National Collection by Croft 16.

It’s never too early to start the autumn bulb list!




signs of new growth…

There is no better way to banish the January blues than to get outdoors and look out for new shoots. Yes, spring is a while away but today I saw the first snowdrops, just coming through, in the old orchard.  This early flowering cultivar is John Gray.  I bought a specimen ‘in the green’ last year from Ashwood Nurseries.  I’m pleased to see it has survived!

dsc_0018Garlic and rhubarb are both showing signs of growth.

dsc_0021dsc_0024We’ll be propagating from and transplanting our ‘Timperley Early’ this year.  This can be done in early spring or autumn, though as we need to prepare the new planting area at the end of the piggery it’s likely the move will be in the autumn.  I may add ‘Poulton’s Pride’ and ‘Sutton’ as these varieties are reputed to have very good flavour.

The globe artichokes came through the cold snap unscathed; I leave the flower heads on through the winter as a potential food source for the birds and an overwintering home for ladybirds.

dsc_0016dsc_0017New leaves are already appearing at the base.

The hazels are awash with catkins and tiny female flowers; looking hard I can see the tuft of red styles.

dsc_0015So lots of signs of new growth – spring will be here before we know it, so now is the time to kick back and have a breather before the main sowing season starts in earnest!


she sows seeds….2017

Goodbye 2016… hello 2017.

It’s good to be back in the swing of sowing.  One of the best things about growing vegetables is that the majority are, to all intents, annuals, which means the current year is always, potentially, the best growing year yet!

Having the polytunnel means I can start on sowing peas, broad beans, (Sutton and crimson flowered)…

dsc_0001leeks, cauliflower (All The Year Round), lettuce, (also named All The Year Round), and red onion, (Brunswick).   So, half tray of each except the peas which I’ll plant up in guttering.

dsc_0002A little late, but I’ve sown sweet peas in root trainers.  Ideally, these would have been sorted around mid-December but I’m hopeful that I’ll still get good strong plants.

The trays have gone into the polytunnel, joining the onions and shallots which were planted in modules last autumn.

dsc_0003The beans and sweet peas are currently in the utility room until germination as they are mouse candy.  I need to dust off one of the propagators and sow the chillies and then get the decks cleared for the tomatoes and aubergines.   Coming on the horizon are the local potato days so in preparation I’ve, (more or less), finalised the long list to:

  • First earlies: Belle de Fontenay (for salad and boiling); Red Duke of York (for mash and roast);
  • Second earlies: Anya; International Kidney; Charlotte for salad; Nicola for boiling; Kestrel a good all rounder
  • Main crop: Ratte, Pink Fir for salad; Maris Piper and Arran Victory for mash and roast.

We’ve grown most of these varieties before, indeed some appear on our list every year, flavour is everything!  This year we’ll ring the changes and try one or more of Nicola, Kestrel, Maris Piper and Arran Victory.

Work on the ornamental garden bounds forward. The lovely OH is hard at work constructing a metal arbour from rebar…

dsc_0009Once this has been set along the paths and the angle iron/wire fencing has been cemented in then the box hedges will be planted.  We’re heading for a cold snap later this week so I’ll look at finishing the pruning the gooseberries and orchard fruit the other side of the weather front.  If the ground dries out a bit I can also set in the hornbeam whips.  Plenty to do.

No sign of snowdrops yet but my Helleborus niger is a lovely substitute.

dsc_0006Reading this week: Hops and Glory by Pete Brown




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!



toad in the hole…

We have been turning over the mypex.  If it is left down for too long, it starts to meld to the earth, pinned through by coarse grass and dock.

We know this from experience.

On turning a piece in the growing area next to the polytunnel, we chanced upon a common toad, Bufo bufo.

DSC_0029The OH picked him/her up and relocated to the compost heap area.

DSC_0030In my humble opinion, I think the toad has been a bit slack on the slug devouring front.  Whilst I have managed to coax the new artichoke plants to come through – on the second attempt, the squashes have been wiped out by marauding molluscs. Although I do have squashes planted in the main vegetable plot, more toad dining activity wouldn’t go amiss.

Less troubled by slugs are the strawberries.  We are picking the early variety which is planted beneath the pear trees next to the outer piggery pen wall.  The soil is dryer here and probably deters the slug invasion.

strawberriesThese are salad days – crisp Little Gem lettuces, nutty artichoke hearts and tiny peas and broad beans.  I pick bunches of sweet peas every day…





feed the birds…..

all together now ….’tuppence a bag, tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag’.

Except it isn’t tuppence.   We regularly pick up those large tubs of fat balls, as the avian crew round our way can easily get through a dozen balls a day. Which means that a tub of fifty lasts less than a week.  Hence, why I’m sifting through my (extensive) collection of sunflower, (Helianthus annis),  seeds.

DSC_0195I do love the cultivars with the orange/rust hues such as ‘Evening Sun’, ‘Ring of Fire’ or ‘Autumn Time’, but what I need for the birds are the single, big headed forms like ‘Russian Giant’.

DSC_0196I could sow in situ but I suspect that the voles would make short work of any seed in the ground. Instead, I’ll sow into modules in the propagator and grow on in 9cm pots.  Once the plants are big enough I’ll plant a line of sunflowers along the fence of the polytunnel growing area.   I can then tie in canes to support the flowers – ‘Russian Giant’ can get to 10ft, the heads up to 12 inches in diameter.

I plan to leave some stems in situ for the birds to feed on in the autumn and cut others to hang up in the polytunnel out of reach of rodents.  With luck, we’ll have enough heads for feeding to the birds over the winter months.

Hopefully, this will stem the rate of fat ball consumption!