Monday, 28 July 2014

❤️♥︎ Parks Week


'Love Parks Week' this year runs from 24th July - 3rd August . The aim of the week is to "raise awareness of the importance of parks and green spaces, showcasing the benefits they bring and highlighting the need for continual investment and engagement", especially at a time when public funding has been reduced.

I live a stone's throw from my nearest park which I am lucky enough to be able to see from my kitchen window. It isn't a huge space but is a welcome oasis of green in an area where new homes have appeared at an alarming rate in the last year or so, all swallowing up previously undeveloped land. It's a spot where children go to feed the ducks and to play, informal sporting activities take place, dogs are exercised, office workers sit out and enjoy their lunch and newly weds have their wedding photos taken. It even has its own 'Friendship Garden' (see above photo) which was created to celebrate twinning with a Chinese town. The park is also used throughout the year to host an increasing number of community events.

You can support 'Love Parks Week' in a number of ways. There are special events going on in parks up and down the country this week - see the 'Love Parks Week' website and the  'Love Parks Week' Facebook page. You can complete a park health check of your nearest park. You could also make time to sign the UK Parks Petition which has just been launched by the The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces. It aims to help makes the funding of parks an election issue for political parties in the run up to the next general election. Above all if you have a neighbourhood park please use it, don't lose it!

Friday, 25 July 2014

Afternoon Tea


An abundance sounds so much more attractive than a glut, so this year I have an abundance of courgettes. Whilst last year's crop was abysmal this year's harvest has been the complete opposite. I've been picking courgettes since the end of June just before we went on holiday. This last week has seen multiplying furiously as well as seemingly doubling size almost overnight. Although I sowed three varieties back in April I have only planted two varieties at the allotment namely the old stalwart 'Romanseco' and 'Floridor'. 'Romansesco' produces long green ridged courgettes whilst 'Floridor' sets forth sunshine coloured globes. I did plant four plants though and it's just as well that one plant is not producing at the same rate as the others. In fact it seems as if it is still in first gear which is just as well.  It's probably just as well that my 'Brice' seedlings floundered at an early stage, so did a later sowing of another round green courgette, although one plant of the latter is just about hanging on. You can have too much of a good thing.

So what to do with the half dozen or so courgettes that came home with me yesterday morning? It was way too hot to attempt any gardening activities so I decided to do some baking and made a courgette loaf cake. My brain was probably not in gear as I ended up glowing profusely in a warm kitchen although we did enjoy a slice of my creation later in the day. There are various recipes for courgette based cakes. I used this particular recipe from the BBC Good Food website. One or two commenters suggested that the cake needed longer in the oven than the time suggested by the recipe. I cooked it in a fan oven and did not find this to be the case. There were also some remarks suggesting that the cake although pleasant could do with more flavour. Himself and I agreed with this and if I try it again might well add some orange zest to the recipe. There are also versions of courgette cake which include chocolate - mmmmmmm. The recipe took care of one almost marrow sized courgette plus a smaller one so I still have three stripy green courgettes plus one yellow football to contend with. Anybody like a courgette ... or two .... or would you rather join me for afternoon tea?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Back Down To Earth


Slowly emerging from a post holiday blur of unpacking, washing and restocking the kitchen cupboard. Our vintage camper van has done us proud, with some five hundred miles or so of travelling throughout Normandy without as much as a grumble. Not bad for a 26 year old lady. Memorable sights and sounds included :
  • The wettest of imaginable days in the city of Bayeux, where we saw the fabulous Bayeux tapestry and experienced a medieval fair complete with local folk dancing and the most scariest looking of stilt walkers. 
  • Staying the night in the little port of Port-Bail on a campsite where camper vans can park up about hundred feet or so from the sea. Here we witnessed a glorious red sunset slowly seemingly dipping into the sea and we went to sleep to the sound of waves.      
  • Having our faces painted with the colours of the French national flag as we sat and sadly witnessed 'Les Bleus' premature exit from La Coupe du Monde.
  • Gazing down upon the small town of Arromanches, famous for its artificial 'Mulberry' harbour.
  • Flags flying from outside public buildings, shops and houses throughout Normandy to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Liberation of France. 
  • Shell strewn beaches and vivid red poppy dotted field edges.
  • The imaginative roundabout plantings which are impossible to photo but live in the memory.
  • Enjoying the odd dish or two of 'crevettes roses' accompanied by a small pot of mayonnaise and bread. Sheer bliss despite the rather messy process of eating them and the aftermath of sticky pink fingers!
  • Experiencing my first and probably last ever pop festival at Beauregard (way,way too crowded for me), where the music of the talented Agnes Obel was the highlight of the proceedings for me. Himself prefered the rather more loud and strident tones of Seasick Smith.
  • Drifts of lathyrus vernus on roadside verges, clumps of brilliant shining blue agapanthus and magnificent hollyhock towers.
  • A cluster of snails out for an evening constitutional and a touch of late sunshine.
We also fitted in one garden visit which I will touch on soon. Quite the best outcome of our holiday was that himself, who has been rather poorly since the beginning of April has returned home much fitter. Partly in response to medication but also partly due to the holiday I think. Now it's back to catching up with what's been going on in the allotment and garden. The weeds have certainly grown whilst I wasn't looking so I think that I will be playing catch up for some time to come.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Musing in June


"How long, thought Eliza, since I have walked in a garden in the evening? She looked through the deeply set iron gate, so narrow and dark in the hollow of the garden wall, and wondered whether or not she would lift the latch and walk in among Olivia's carefully grown flowers...... She opened the gate and walked in.

Down the long paths Eliza walked, where Olivia's delphiniums bore themselves with a pallor and reticence in the night - their blue quenched of its burning. The evening was so still and hot that all colour had soaked into the air except where a point of land, far out to sea, was the daytime blue of a pale delphinium; absurd as a picture of a desert and as silly as it was lovely in the night. Droves of irises were grey-winged, lost in the evening; peonies were white shells round crowns as dark as moss now, only in the daytime golden, and their scent past sweetness. Not a flower scent, but beyond that. A dark scent. A tree of lilac, a broody and exotic white hen, plumed and perfumed, Eliza passed and the nearly sulphurous depths of scent where lupins grew. All colour was lost, soaked into the darkness, breathed out in scent, given to the night, given to Eliza as she walked along, her mind held in an animal delight both sharp and languorous."

- extract from 'Full House' by Molly Keane.

the illustration by Angela Barrett  is from the dust jacket of Susan Hill's book 'Through The Garden Gate' which in turn has a magical chapter entitled 'The Night Garden'.

Monday, 23 June 2014

In A Vase On Monday - Sweet Peas and Roses


I came away from the allotment today with a skip in my step despite another session of horsetail tug of war. The reason was that I was able to pick the very first sweet peas of the year. Not enough for a substantial bunch but a few stems to sit alongside some roses. This year's sweet peas are two I've not grown before namely 'Erewhon' and 'Fire & Ice' as well as the familiar 'Cupani'. I usually grow 'Matucana' but 'Cupani' is very similar. Plants from autumn sown seed ended up being too straggly to plant probably because of the mild winter so I sowed again in spring using root trainers. I now have two wigwams at the allotment, each made up of seven bamboo canes, with two plants planted at the base of each cane. 'Cupani' has still to flower. Of the other two it's still early acquaintance but I think that I prefer 'Erewhon'. I will report back more fully later in the year. I'm castigating myself for not sowing some darker shades too.

There were not enough sweet peas to fill the container so I supplemented them with a few 'Blush Noisette' roses. The flowers are in a little china teacup (probably about 4 inches high), which is one of a pair that I bought from a local charity shop many years ago. Both the cups and saucers have minute chips but with a bit of guile these imperfections can be easily disguised.  I'm looking forward now to picking many bunches of sweet peas during the summer from the allotment. My sweet pea vases usually reside on the kitchen windowsill and make washing the dishes a much more pleasurable pastime. This arrangement was photographed outside this afternoon.

Thanks to the lovely Cathy over at 'Rambling In The Garden' who came up with the excellent idea of sharing our vases of flowers on a Monday. What a great way to start the week!

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day - June 2014

Today will offer very limited photo opportunities as we are committed to family celebrations, on what we hope will turn out to be a sunny day for a beautiful June bride, so the camera came out yesterday. A whizz round before an allotment session and then another on my return. The day started on the damp side after unexpected rain the evening before but it turned into a sometimes bright and warm day, when there were plenty of bees and butterflies about.

The flowers probably do not need much in the way of a formal introduction but just in case :

Top row from left to right - alchemilla mollis, astrantia 'Gill Richardson' which performs better than any other of my red astrantias and salvia nemerosa 'Caradonna'.
Middle row from left to right - the first darkly delicious flowers of clematis 'Petit Faucon' - the colour fades with age, linaria purpurea and leycesteria formosa.
Bottom row from left to right - astrantia variety unknown, rosa glauca - the foliage of which is probably more attractive than the flower and a geranium pratense graced by a visitor.

There are a myriad of June flowers to linger over at May Dreams Gardens, with thanks to Carol as always for hosting. What a great opportunity to share our June blooms and grow our wish lists!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Tree Following With Lucy ~ June 2014


Sometime between my May tree following post and now my affection for my willow has rapidly diminished. Remember those innocent looking catkins - well every year without fail they turn into a billion of fluffy missiles that float away causing an unsightly mess in their wake. This year's initial snowstorm coincided with the late May bank holiday and is still continuing. The fluffies coat the ground, the washing line, the greenhouse etc., etc. and would no doubt make their way into every room in the house if we were to leave the windows open. Sometimes the fall is so intense that I'm too frightened to open my mouth outside but as I mentioned in a previous post I count myself lucky. I could after all live in Moscow and have to contend with some decidedly anti-social female Balsam poplar trees.

Another happening has been the appearance of orange blisters on the some of the willow leaves. I think that these may be some sort of rust fungus but need to find out more. I'm going to see if I can get hold of a leaf to examine this phenonomen more closely. This will involve an almost impossible aerobic feat so don't hold your breath. I've also only just noticed the dark spots on some of the leaves in the photo. My eyes must have been distracted by the fluffies when I took the photo. I'm not sure what these marks could be.

I'm sure that the willow hosts all sorts of wildlife but rather disappointingly I've only observed the odd squirrel and wood pigeon in its branches. Underneath has more or less morphed into a mass of humungous nettles dotted by the odd fern.

No doubt I will harbour fonder feelings for my willow by next month but in the meantime I hope to discover some better behaved trees over at Loose And Leafy. Thanks to Lucy for giving us the opportunity to share news of our chosen trees each month.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

'Shows Of Hands' - Here's Waving At You!


Mother's father had a touch with horses ; she had the same with flowers. She could grow them anywhere, at any time and they seemed to live longer for her. She grew them with rough, almost slap-dash love, but here hands possessed such an understanding of their needs that they seemed to turn to her like another sun. She could snatch a dry root from a field or hedgerow, dab it into the garden, give it a shake - and almost immediately it flowered. One felt she could grow roses from a stick or chair -leg, so remarkable was this gift' 

- an extract from 'Cider with Rosie' by Laurie Lee.

It sounds as if Laurie's mother had what we call 'green fingers'. Talking of fingers leads to hands which are certainly 'the tool most precious to a gardener', as Michelle at Veg Plotting writes in her invitation to bloggers to hilight hands and join in her Chelsea Fringe project for 2014.

I must admit that I look down at my hands sometimes and think that they do not belong to me. Am I slowly turning into an alien? No but my hands reflect that I'm getting older more than any other part of me. Well the grey hair can be covered with 'Black Cherry' but the hands are harder to disguise. They are becoming increasingly chicken wrinkled and at this time of year seem to be permanently scratched and dirt engrained. I hear my mother's voice in my ear urging me to wear gloves and use hand cream and reflect that they would probably look better if I had heeded her advice. However regardless of appearance they have served me well over some thirty years or so of gardening. I wonder just how many seeds they have sown, how many cuttings they've taken, how many plants they've planted and just how many weeds they have pulled out. When I think of this I'm not surprised that they look past their sell by date. However I'm eternally grateful for their service.

Unfortunately my hands also suffer from various allergic reactions (even more reason to listen to mum) and are not a pretty sight at the moment. So no photo of my paws today but one that some of you maybe familiar with if you are already a regular visitor here. It's perfect for saying hello to you and to say thank you for visiting. The photo is of my blog atavar and was taken at Sudeley Castle, in Gloucestershire in 2008. The gardens were home to an exhibition of sculpture including a gigantic hand. You can see and read about some of the other exhibits here.

The 'Chelsea Fringe' is now entering its last few days. If you are fortunate enough to live in or near London, Bath, Brighton, Bristol or Kent there are some great events going on this week. If you are further afield you can still participate in Michelle's project over at Veg Plotting until the 8th June. What a great idea for bloggers from all corner of the globe to join hands together in celebration of our love of plants and gardens and be part of this special event. You've got to hand it to Michelle for coming up with such a brilliant idea after last year's magnificent 'Blogger's Cut' cake extravaganza. I'm still recovering after eating my way through this work of art. I'm now wondering what's in store for 2015!