Tuesday 30 June 2009

Cucumbers! Lettuce Soup!

Last year I grew ridge cucumbers in the garden and got precisely one cucumber! Well being a glutton for punishment I am having another go. I don’t know a lot about growing cucumbers but I’ve been reading up about them. DSCF0006 I have tiny cucumbers showing and I’ve stopped the vine after seven leaves to allow the laterals to develop. I am growing them in a deep tub and tying them to poles so that they grow up rather than hang down. I have four plants altogether but some are more advanced than others. DSCF0008 I have two in this grey tub and a couple in large pots. They are all showing small cucumbers and those in pots are attaching themselves to the sticks with suckers like clematis does.

DSCF0010 Any advice will be gratefully received! I am watering them well and feeding them regularly. I don’t know what else I can do but keep my fingers crossed!

With this humid sticky weather we are having, the rest of the garden is coming on really well. The beetroot which I sowed at the edge of the herbs is looking really good. I have sown a second sowing to follow on in the autumn. I like raw beetroot grated on to salads. I never knew one could do this until I bought a pack of bistro salad from Asda!

DSCF0020 The lettuces too are getting out of hand but there is always lettuce soup! These are an oriental mix that I sowed about a month ago. They are very quick to grow and already I am picking leaves off them. Next to them is a row of spinach.


Lettuce Soup

At least one whole lettuce or equivalent in leaves. A red onion. Clove of garlic.Pint of vegetable stock. Seasoning. Dill, tarragon or basil-approx 2 table spoons of whichever is chosen. 1 tablespoon olive oil. Crème fraiche.

Add oil to large saucepan. Chop onion and garlic and add to pan. Sweat over low heat for 10 minutes. Make up stock and add to pan with chopped or torn lettuce plus black pepper to taste. Add herb of choice. Bring to boil and then simmer for ten minutes. Cool slightly and add half a tub crème fraiche. Stir in until melted. Liquidise until smooth. Serve with sprig of chosen herb and swirl of cream to decorate. Can be served cold. Is very good!

Monday 29 June 2009

Courgettes and other things!

Today I picked the first courgettes. I had so much good advice about blossom end rot and other problems, and since I have sunk plastic bottles with the bottoms cut off upside down next to each plant and watered them through the plastic bottle I haven’t had any damping off problems. Of course this could be because we’ve had sun and much warmer weather! But then I’ve been watering them every day so if there was going to be a problem with watering then it would have showed up. DSCF0042 There are only the two of us so these will be sufficient to add to the meal tonight. They were picked from the first plant which is that much more forward than the others which I grew from seed. I have five plants in all and if they do well we may have more than we know what to do with! There are already more coming!

Courgettes Au Gratin

Halve the courgettes and fry lightly in butter. Put to one side. Cut 4 slices of back bacon into small pieces, chop one onion and fry together until bacon is crisp. Arrange courgettes, onion, bacon and four sliced tomatoes onto a serving dish. Sprinkle over four tablespoons of breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon (french is best), four tablespoons grated cheese and season with salt and pepper. Place under a hot grill until cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve and enjoy! It is delicious!

These past few days have been a mixture of sun, cloud and rain. It has obviously been good for the garden as things are really perking up. This glorious begonia DSCF0030decided to show it’s face as did the marigold. I am not a great fan of marigolds (well unless they are the old English variety) but this looks well with the dark blue of the lobelia.


Sunday 28 June 2009

My Other Life!

When I’m not gardening or working I’m sewing. I find that where I live and nature in general give me loads of inspiration for my textile works. The sea, which is just a five minutes walk down the road, is always good to motivate me as it is forever changing. Walking along the cliff tops one sees different vegetation and wild life as well and it is all this that gives me ideas for my work.

 anename bag This bag was inspired by the masses of anenomes I had one spring. They are such a wonderfully colourful flower. cq bag This small bag(I love making bags!) came about because I had a yen to make something with a seaside motif. As well as the shell with the fish hiding inside it, I also added hollyhocks and campanula from the garden too.

 DSCF0005 I made these silk cushions as Christmas presents last year. I designed a whole series of fruit patterns which I then taught in my Friday morning patchwork class. It was great fun doing them. leaves on vines This piece was also great fun to do. I painted all the leaves, being inspired by the myriad colours of the leaves blowing in the garden which kept getting caught on the vines on the back wall, and then cut them out and  appliqued them to a free-machined embroidered background.

wallAnd last but not least a silk ribbon embroidered piece inspired by a visit to Trebah gardens. I painted the silk and then embroidered it with hand-dyed silk ribbons and embroidery silks, working from a photograph to get the placement of various plants correct. I particularly liked working the ferns, bottom left!

So when it rains, as it did today, I have plenty to do indoors and if I run out of ideas I can always have a look in the garden!

Saturday 27 June 2009

Our Boring Front Garden!

I want to grow more! I am running out of space and suddenly the answer came to me………raised beds! And not only in the back but the front of the house as well.

Our front garden is boring. It is enlivened by one poor Cordyline(sp?)which my son brought down from Scotland for us. Living on an estate the gardens all run into one another and although some people do their best to make the front of their houses individual others don’t and I afraid until this moment I have been of that category of garden owner! To be fair to myself I just didn’t know how to proceed.DSCF0004 It is a very small patch of grass and ends just after the paving slab path. But it suddenly came to me….why not put in a small double brick wall between my neighbour and us. A double brick wall with earth in the middle so that I can grow herbs, flowers, whatever. Anything that is tolerant of shade as the front of the house is north facing.DSCF0006 This wouldn’t be a high wall just a couple of feet or so, but enough to make a statement. There is just enough room between the path and the end of our house. So this will be a project.

And then I thought, you can see I’m beginning to get carried away here, why not a raised bed in the back garden. 

DSCF0008I could slice off a section at the end of the lawn by the paving slabs and perhaps have a raised bed here about a metre deep and whatever length there is at that spot. This would give me oodles more room to grow things such as vegetables; particularly crops to go into the autumn and winter. And this spot gets a lot of sun for most of the day! Oh I’m full of ideas! I have yet to discuss this with Martin but I’m hoping to go ahead with the back garden project this week. I’d be happier if it had been done yesterday but this coming week will do!

Friday 26 June 2009

The herb Feverfew and what it can do for you!

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a daisy like perennial herb that has probably always had a place in cottage gardens back through the centuries. Bees do not like Feverfew! Which is a sure sign that it has other attributes! It has a strong scent and wards off other creepy crawlies as well. The dried leaves can be put into sachets and used to ward off moths in the wardrobe.


Both the leaf and flower can be used to make a tea. It is especially good for migraine sufferers but also for ordinary headaches and is a cure for hangovers. It has been found to be helpful for both arthritic and rheumatic pain especially if they are of an inflammatory nature. If chewing the leaves which taste disgusting (ask me how I know!) it is necessary to rinse the mouth out with water as they can give rise to mouth ulcers due to an allergic reaction in some people. But chewing a couple of leaves the morning after will certainly get rid of any hang over feelings.

It is certainly an attractive plant and works well in the herb garden giving a splash of colour among all the green leaves. It grows to about 2ft in height and makes quite a bushy plant. It is worth having just to keep the moths at bay and preserve those winter woollies!

Thursday 25 June 2009

Gardening is changing my life!


After doing the weekly shop at Asda I bought a gardening magazine called ‘Grow Your Own’. There was a coupon inside for free tomato food! Today I went to Redruth and after visiting a fabric shop with a friend, where I bought very little (not like me at all!) I went to get my free bottle of tomato food and bought another gardening magazine on the way. This one was called ‘Kitchen Garden’. Both were very informative and there is a lot to be learnt from them with very interesting articles on herbs and soft fruit. But the point is I haven’t bought a gardening magazine in the last five years! Usually I’ll buy a patchwork or embroidery magazine! I am becoming obsessed with gardening! Is this because for the first time in a long time the garden is being fairly productive? Or because I have more time to devote to gardening? Whatever it is I’m having fun and isn’t that the main thing!

The lilies were yellow and although today was not the hot and bright sunny day they forecast it was dry and a tad on the humid side. This was just enough to make the blossoms open. DSCF0001 But doesn’t this strike fear into one’s heart. The sight of these flowers makes me rush out like a mad woman and rip out the offending plant wherever I can find it. And that is half the trouble that the roots cannot always be found, and even if found they run across the garden for miles. Leave only a tiny bit of root and it will be back fourfold! DSCF0003 I’m talking about Columbine or Bindweed! Such a pretty flower with such a pretty name but Bindweed describes it best. It winds itself in and out of plant stems, stalks and branches and slowly strangles them. Each year I fight a losing battle with this plant but at least it never gets a complete hold! There is no way that I will ever be able to eradicate it from the back wall which is a Cornish stone wall covered in ivy and campanula, and growing several hazels and a rhododendron in the top of it. I am going to have to look upon it as my cross to bear and be thankful that I don’t have any in the main borders!

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Withdrawal symptoms!No Blotanical!

It was a disastrous day yesterday as I couldn’t access Blotanical at all. Usually the problems are with different pages on the site but this time I couldn’t even get to the site; neither at home or at work. Does this happen to anyone else? It was disappointing as I have got used to reading my favourite blogs and picking interesting posts. It was a bit like having an arm cut off and to make it worse I hadn’t backed up blogs I liked so I was bereft! :-(

In the morning I made an effort and did some weeding and found I had a friend. DSCF0029 This dear little young Robin followed me around within a couple of feet and didn’t seem at all afraid. As I pulled up a weed and moved on, so he was right there looking to see what bugs had been unearthed. The weather was warm and sunny and there was quite a lot of insect activity so he should have found quite a good feast!

DSCF0028  I am waiting with bated breath for these lilies to open. I had about seven originally but now there are only three and I have a feeling that they are all going to be yellow as that seems to be the colour they revert to. They started off as pink and tiger lilyish! And the blackcurrants are still ripening one by one. I might be able to make a pie by the beginning of July if the one’s I’ve already picked haven’t gone bad!

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Looking Back! My first Garden!

This is the cottage in Devon that my husband Martin and I bought when we were first married, and renovated. Well a builder did most of the renovating of the house but we tackled the garden. sharlands The cottage was mentioned in the Doomsday book and built around 900 AD from what we were able to find out. It was in a bad state and had been condemned by the council which made it very very cheap! There was no running water only a pump in the kitchen which brought water up from the well in the garden. No mod cons and the main roof beam was broken due to someone covering the rotting thatch with asbestos sheets rather than re-thatching. But it did have over a quarter of an acre of garden! Very overgrown garden to be sure but it was south facing. The other attraction was that the cottage was miles from anywhere, in the country and down a lane. 

We cleared the garden and Martin spread loads of pig manure on it from the piggery next door! The top we leveled and turned into a patio, lawn and rose garden. The bottom we made into another lawn and a large vegetable plot.  As the garden had been sloping we got a digger in and Martin carved out two levels so I was able to have a long rockery against the top level. We grew strawberries on the outflow from the septic tank and I’ve never had such superb strawberries since. And a green house over the septic tank because it was the only flat concreted surface at the time. Sharlands_Martin We had to cut down most of the trees as they were rotten but in the five years we were there we were able to plant more. Unfortunately this was before the advent of the digital camera and I didn’t take as many pictures because in those days they all had to be developed and that cost money which as a young couple we didn’t have a lot of.

We were so excited about our vegetable garden that we went to the Devon County Show and bought an enormous freezer which had to live in the sitting room as there was no where else for it! That first year it had three bags of peas in it! But after that it certainly earn’t it’s keep! It was this garden that taught me most of what I know today. Especially that gardening can be frustrating and that patience is a virtue! I’m still not that good at the patience bit but I’m getting there!

Monday 22 June 2009

Today I was good!

I walked to the garden centre! I did this so that I couldn’t be tempted to buy any plants as there would be no way I could have carried them home! I needed slug pellets as I had just planted out some lettuce plants and no way did I want them to end up like this!DSCF0006 I planted out this poor borage in the morning and by the time I came back from work in the afternoon the slugs had had a party! Having so much stonework there is a plethora of slugs and snails and they are virtually impossible to get rid of! So it had to be slug pellets!

I was also good in that I walked round the garden (not a big chore considering it’s size) and transplanted all the self sown plants that were in the wrong place. This included bronze fennel (3 plants), cherry tomatoes (6 plants at least!), borage (too many to mention), mimulus (1) and a poor little pansy! I also found several interesting grasses and cabbage type plants which have grown from the bird seed. The pigeons and blackbirds do a good job at eating the dropped seed on the ground but not quite good enough!

DSCF0002 A mimulu in the wrong place. Is that the singular of mimulus or is it like sheep?

And I shall end by thanking Janet of Island Garden fame for telling me about the post on Unaccustomed Earth about Blossom End Rot on Courgettes. I was unable to find this post due to the vagaries of Blotanical but I did find several posts on the net on BER so that I now know a whole lot more than I did previously. Without Janet I would never have gone down this route and just moaned. Moaning is easy!

Sunday 21 June 2009

Romantic Tea for Midsummer’s Night!

As it’s Midsummer’s Night I thought this Romantic Tea recipe might be fun to try! Enjoy!


Romance Tea
1 tablespoon grated ginger root
7-10 cloves
2-3 cinnamon sticks
4-5 black peppercorns
Gently simmer these herbs in 2 cups of water for 20
minutes. Strain and add a little milk and honey, and if
you like, quarter teaspoon of pure vanilla extract. Share this tea with your lover after a romantic meal (spicy, to get the blood flowing) and see what happens!

The Longest Day! Need I say more!

Well not really but I will because I find it easy to run at the mouth or actually, finger! The year is now on the downward path and the evenings will start to draw in which is a depressing thought. However I'm not going to think about that! I did nothing today but just sat and enjoyed the garden. It was very hot, not a lot of wind, and so peaceful that I could easily have gone to sleep had it not been for the strident cries of the Magpies every five minutes. The garden was looking good with lots of greenery and emerging flowers in the tubs. All in all it was revitalising. I watered this evening and gave all the pots their weekly feed and feel very virtuous!

A Slipper Fern growing in the back wall.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Man’s best friend: a worm!

I have been thinking about the lowly worm and what a friend it is to a gardener. Without worms my own particular garden would not be as nutrient efficient as it is, because when we first moved here the garden was little more than a building site and the soil was devoid of anything useful to plants. By putting on farmyard manure and letting the worms pull it down into the ground the soil is now much more fertile. And without the worms my compost would certainly not have the friable loam properties that it has. Where there are no worms the soil in my garden is hard and barren! There is no aeration (I hope this is a word!) of the earth and digging in it is a hard and thankless task. What always bothers me though is why worms should congregate under pots, not even in soil but on top of the concrete or paving! Why do they do this? DSCF0006 They would be of much more use in the soil!

I have a problem! Why are my cucumbers looking like this? Not all of them but at least two! DSCF0009 The leaves dry out on the ends and go yellow and brittle. It happens with the bottom leaves and then progresses upwards. What am I doing wrong? Am I doing anything wrong or is it the weather or something? I don’t know but it is frustrating!

On a happier note my roses are looking lovely. With a little bit of sun and warmth they have burst into bloom and they smell gorgeous! DSCF0002 These are climbers but I don’t know what variety they are as I bought them from B & Q and the label just said ‘fragrant rose’.

Friday 19 June 2009

Waiting, I’m always waiting!

It seems to me that I spend quite a lot of time in my garden waiting! Waiting for seeds to germinate; waiting for blossoms and flowers to open; waiting for fruit to ripen; waiting for rain; waiting for sun; just generally hanging around waiting!

ribbon bag and garden

These are a few of the things I’m waiting for at the moment. The lilies to bloom; the rose buds to open; the hydrangea to blossom; the marigolds to flower; the flowers on the feverfew to open out; the borage to bloom; the English Mace to flower; the Sweet Williams to flower; and last but not least the lavender needs to open soon! Most of these plants have been ready to flower for weeks but have been hanging fire. Perhaps they will all get a move on this weekend when the sun comes out!

I was fascinated DSCF0024by this picture of an emerging Fennel frond. It looks quite futuristic!  And this close up of a Borage flowerDSCF0023 head waiting to open was amazing! Nature is pretty wonderful!

Thursday 18 June 2009

Pitiful,pathetic, any other word you care to name!

Not enough sun that is the problem. The blackcurrants are dripping with fruit but is it ripening? The short answer is no! This is a picture DSCF0007 of one of the strings of currants and this is a picture of the few measly currants that I picked. DSCF0001 I had to pick them or they would fall off. Once blackcurrants are ripe they won’t hang about on the bush and also if they get left they are prey to this visitor! DSCF0048 The problem is that not only haven’t we had enough sun but also it hasn’t been warm enough. If they are going to ripen one or two per day then I am never going to get my blackcurrant pie! I’ve got my fingers crossed though because the forecast is for a lovely hot, sunny weekend extending into Monday and Tuesday and if the blackcurrants can’t ripen given those conditions then I don’t know what they want! I’m not holding my breath as the weather forecast is not known to be accurate! After all, last week they forecast rain and everywhere but Falmouth had buckets of the stuff! But I am hopeful for some sun. It is no wonder that the English talk about the weather all the time. It is so variable and can make or mar whatever one has planned or is doing just like that!

I have several feathered friends like this one. DSCF0002 They don’t seem to attack the garden in any way and do me a service by cleaning up seeds that spill from the bird feeder in the oak tree and saves them growing into tall grasses which to me are weeds! They are very nervous birds but they are getting less anxious and will tolerate me wandering round the garden without flying off in fright.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Oh NO! Not this year too!

I wrote the bit below while at work ready to edit and add photos when I came home. As you will read I was pleased I had three small courgettes. But when I got home and walked around the garden to see how it had faired in the rain I found that one of the courgettes had rotted at the tip! What causes this? I had so much trouble with this last year and it was a hit and miss affair as to how many courgettes I got! The picture below says it all! Firm one end and soggy the other where the flower was. Not fair!


I got up early this morning and watered the pots and seedlings as the weather forecast had been for a fine if not necessarily sunny day. Having made this huge effort to water before there was any sun around to burn the delicate seedlings it was with mixed feelings that I greeted the onslaught of rain later in the morning. I am very pleased as the rain will do a much better job than I can and it has been raining steadily for the last four hours and will probably continue for another four! It did! It has made the roses sway their lovely heads nearer to the ground and the herbs are all awry in their bed, but in general it is doing nothing but good. Tomorrow the sun can come out and the temperature go up and then the plants will really grow.

DSCF0058 Poor Rose battered by the rain!


DSCF0061 Fennel looking very attractive with rain droplets on its feathery spikes.

We are picking all the salad greens now and I have given up buying salads. The Lollo Rosso is doing wonderfully well and the Salad Bowl although overshadowed by the LR is performing well. I have flat leaf parsley and sorrel to add to these two. Plus the thinnings from the seedlings of what the packet called ‘Spicy Salad’ adds a bit of zing. In this mixed bunch the only one I recognise is Rocket.

DSCF0062 What these are I do not know but they sure grow quickly!

I have three baby courgettes but I am resisting picking these until they are a bit bigger. My Gardening Year book tells me to pinch the top out of Ridge Cucumbers when they have seven leaves to let the laterals develop. Well that sounds good but getting those seven leaves is a slow job! Last year I didn’t pinch the tops out, which is probably why I didn’t get a glut of cucumbers. In fact I only had half a dozen from two plants! I am determined to do better this year. There is something quite addictive about picking one’s own food out of the garden!

DSCF0057 And then there were two! Boo hoo!

DSCF0069 Borage getting ready to flower. That patterning on the leaves is the sun! DSCF0066 And last but not least the blueberries are nearly ready for picking. Just a bit of sun and it will be all stations go!

Tuesday 16 June 2009

The Magical Effects of Colour!

I am not an organised gardener. I don’t make plans and work out just where everything is going to grow. I just find a handy space and in it goes. Regardless of this gung ho attitude I have been pleased to note that the colour arrangements in the garden have worked without any help from me. Well not a lot of help. Frequently I have bought plants which were supposed to be of a certain colour only to find that they were completely different. If I had been of the planning brigade this would have been a big disappointment. As it is I just go with the flow. For example my pots of self sown Mimulus started to open as pink flowers but then as more opened the overall effect was of a burnt orange with some yellow. No pink at all! And where I put them on each side of the step they looked great but not as fantastic as they did once the Campanula started to blossom. The blue and orange was amazing together. Unplanned; I hadn’t even thought about it, but quite inspiring.  DSCF0055

The colour in the hanging baskets was a very hit and miss affair but amazingly it all worked together with some quite interesting combinations such as this Lobelia with the greeny yellow leafed plant. I am hopeless with names unless I’ve been growing that plant for years!


Even the greens make a picture. There is the silver green of the Eucalyptus; the dark green of the fir; the soft green of the honeysuckle; the spring green of the grass and the yellowy green of the hazel not to mention the different greens of the oak, the roses, the blackcurrants and the Rose of Sharon with its pinky tips. I dye more green fabric than any other colour because it is one of those colours that has infinite permutations and is loved by all. When I was a child I had to wear a brown school uniform and I hated brown but now I love the many and varied shades of brown. I even dyed some muddy field type fabric and appliquéd leaves all over it!

Leaves on Mud2 

The world is a better place for colour. It brightens up our days! And I shall go on being grateful that my garden is managing to be colourful without my help!

Monday 15 June 2009

Today I did nothing!

The garden taken from the bedroom window. I tried to get a panarama of the whole garden, after all it is small enough, but failed miserably!

When I got up this morning the sun was shining and everything was fresh and beautiful. So beautiful in fact that after breakfast I just sat outside and viewed the garden. I didn't read, I wasn't doing anything at all constructive, I was just sitting. And it was lovely! The colours all seemed brighter; the greens were so varied and so lovely together. I even noticed some butterflies, and yet I would swear I hadn't seen any before in any quantity. Sometimes I think it does us good to just stop and stare. To be like a child who is quite happy to absorb what is around him without feeling guilty that he isn't rushing madly around trying to achieve things. I must have sat there for a good half hour meditating on the beauties of the garden and how fortunate I was to actually have a garden, small as it is; and that half hour seemed to buoy me up for the rest of the day. Things seemed brighter and I was more positive. So perhaps I will make this a daily habit. Well when it isn't raining that is!