Saturday, 26 December 2015


Huge flooding today, never seen before. The house was awash and sadly most of my pot plants were washed away by the river. But we're safe and sound, which is what matters.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Rain, Rain and more Rain...

It seems a long time ago, but we had a dry and warm early autumn.  The dustbin on the allotment was empty in mid October. Fast forward to early December, and after several flood alerts, one flood warning and a lot of wet, dreary days, the bin is overflowing. A great demonstration of just how wet it's been.  Hope it dries up a bit soon!

Thursday, 12 November 2015

November Flowers

A rare sight - my New Dawn rose has some flowers in November.  And my Christmas cactus is flowering early. What a topsy turvey year we have had!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Arley Hall Revisited (Again)

 Mum was determined to visit Arley Hall gardens in the autumn, to see them in a third season and hopefully see the change in tree colour.  However, due to the microclimate and the types of trees, they really weren't as colourful as expected. There are a few acers though, of which this was the most spectacular.
 A rather lovely long row of cyclamens by a path, a really good idea to put them in this kind of position I think.
 There were lots of roses still flowering, including lots of these white ones.  Roses have done well this year, one of mine has some more buds on.
 The long border is still spectacular and it just shows how you can have a border with lots of flowers through 6 months with careful planting.  Rudbeckias, michaelmas daisies and dahlias are the main stars here among other.  The topiary was receiving its final trim of the year while we were here, the gardener had already done the right side of this photo and was working back up the walk, starting at the bottom end on the left.  Quite a job.
Another view showing the mass of daisies in particular.  Also remarkable is this grass - during the season it hosts thousands of feet tramping up and down but even at the very end of the garden year it looks lush and green.  If you look to the right of the picture you can see some rather shaggy topiary, and compare it to its twin on the left!

If you are in the area I would recommend a visit to these gardens whatever the season.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Autumn produce

Chatting with others on the allotments, we are all agreed that (a) everything is a month late and (b) the last few warm weeks have turned a poor year into a decent one. My tomatoes are only just turning, we have just started picking runner beans and the courgettes are still producing in early October.  I have only finished digging my potatoes this week, over a month late. In the photo you can see the last two mini cucumbers. A strange year but unexpectedly productive.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Autumn Crocus

I forget I have these until September each year when they appear as if from nowhere. This year I must repost them after flowering as they have multiplied.  They require no attention or special treatment, completely reliable.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Katy Apples

I picked the Katy Apples today, later than normal.  Everything is late this year, but strangely the Worcester Pearmain Apples were ready before them and picked last week. Some of the Katy apples were reluctant to leave the tree, needing a little encouragement.

Normally you know an apple is ready when you lift it by 90 degrees and the stalk detaches from the tree. But this year they have been hanging on, even though the fruits are fully ripe.  But with increasing fallers, I had to pick them. Strangely, some apples have stalks where the inside was dry and detaching but the outer surface was still live, so they stayed attached until a gust of wind came along. Never seen that before.  But a good crop, half a sack full of lovely red fruit.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

September Flower

This is acidanthera bicolor, a bulb planted earlier this year. Actually there were 20 bulbs but only one has flowered. It could be because of the poor weather this year, who knows? But a pretty flower, with 4 sequential blooms.

Friday, 11 September 2015

A Tale of 2 Tomato Plants

These plants are the same Bush variety (Totem), in the same location, with the same treatment. One has 2 enormous fruits on it, the other has multiple small ones.  Never had this difference before, anyone else seen anything like this?

Thursday, 3 September 2015


Germination is always tricky with beetroot, the soil and air temperatures have to be just right, and conditions not too damp.  You need a crystal ball!  I always sow under a cliche, to keep them warm and dry.  However, you really can't predict how they will do. So this beetroot is from the first sowing, which has produced really good roots. The second sowing has produced nothing but leaves. No idea why, the weather was warmer!  I grow egyptian flat/turnip rooted, they do best for me.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Little and Large...

One giant courgette on the right, one mini cucumber on the left!  The cucumber is meant to be that size, they are good for growing outdoors in a cool climate.  Taste just the same as big ones, but the flesh is more dense.  Very tasty.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Arley Hall and Gardens Revisited

 The characteristic of a great garden is that you can go back at a different time of the year and see different things.  We visited Arley Hall towards the end of May and this week went back.  The original post is here and I have taken a couple of pictures of the same areas so the differences are clear.  This first photo is of some hydrangeas in an area which was uninteresting in May, it is just on the other side of the wall from this:
 In May this garden was flat and sparse, with classy white tulips in the centre, but now it has pushed up and out.  Some of the roses had already finished, but the borders now partly cover the paths, the colour scheme now purples and pinks.
 In May this border was straggly and uneven, with the spring flowers finishing but now it looks luscious, with floaty cosmos flowers, my favourites.
 In May the long herbaceous border was green and dominated by the topiary (picture on the other post) but now the topiary is largely hidden.  It is a complete mix of colours and textures.
 There's something for everyone here, I think this was my favourite combination of plants and colours.  Handily, they have put a photo identification of plants by month in the seating area so if you see a particular plant you like you can check the name on the photos.  This border is very long and very spectacular.
 We had missed most of the shrub roses, but clever planting means that even in an area where the main event is finished, there is always something interesting to see.
Finally a few waterlilies, I love these and see them so rarely it's nice to get a photo.

We do hope to go back to Arley Hall in the autumn to see the changes.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Strawberries in August!

I have never picked strawberries in August, ever, until this year. Just a sign of how cold and late the summer has been this year. Likewise the blackcurrants which are normally picked in July - I picked a lot today but there are still some left. Happily the long range weather forecast shows settled temperatures for a few weeks so the summer, such as it is, looks set to last well into September.

Couldn't resist a pic of these lovely blue hydrangeas in a local park, gorgeous colour!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Soft Fruit

The long, cold spring has been followed by a chilly summer.  To my taste, the strawberries are not as sweet as normal due to the low temperatures. They are, however, lasting a lot longer than usual, with a good crop so far in August and more to come.

Gooseberries are being picked in groups as they ripen, and we have had a decent crop of loganberries too. More blackcurrants and gooseberries to come yet.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Vegetable Time!

The cold start to the growing season has delayed things somewhat, but the vegetables are finally getting going. The last of the broad beans coincides with the first of the peas, and today I picked the first 2 courgettes.

The spinach is also growing well, along with the lettuce, though I do have a lot of weeding to do.....

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Gooseberry Jam

One of the miracles of cookery is how green gooseberries make a ruby coloured jam.  Here is my recipe:
1. You need equal sugar to fruit, try to have a mixture of ripe and underripe fruit. Wash it, no need to top and tail the fruit unless you're a masochist!
2. Put the fruit in a large pan with about a centimetre of water, heat gently until the fruit has softened and fallen apart. Help it by stirring from time to time.
3. When the fruit is soft and largely disintegrated, add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
4. Turn up the heat and bring to the boil. As it boils, it will create scum on the surface which you should skim off. At this stage it will still be green.
5. After around 10 mins, there will be less scum.  It should start turning pinkish, if it does not do this it isn't hot enough, so turn up the heat. It may froth quite a bit, just make sure it isn't so hot it is catching on the pan bottom but otherwise do not stir.
6. It will turn a bit more pink and the sound of the boil will change as it thickens. Test it by dropping a little jam on a plate, leave it a few seconds to cool and then push it across the plate with a finger, if it wrinkles it is ready. Turn off the heat and put into pre warmed jars.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Picking fruit in the rain

The appalling cold and wet weather encourages slugs and snails so I went out picking in the RAIN today.  I must be insane.  Still, I did get a small haul of loganberries, strawberries and broad beans.

The loganberries are doing well and putting out long shoots for next year so this winter I must make a permanent framework for them.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Soft Fruit Glut!

So many strawberries I am having to be creative!  Made some redcurrant and strawberry jam, but now am having to stuff excess fruit into the freezer as there is a limit on how much we can eat. Today's haul is blackcurrants, which are very good this year - large and juicy. They are also on long stalks which doesn't always happen. I think this may be because of the scarcity of late frosts which tend to destroy fruit. While the spring was very cold it was largely above freezing. Lots more fruit to come!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Late bloomer

This is my New Dawn rose, flowering a full month later than in 2014! The cold summer is set to last for the duration, with temps in the mid teens Celsius. The coldest summer I can remember.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Mid July Doings

 With the plants all in and growing, it's time to do other things.  This area used to be a herb bed, but got overgrown and suffered from an invasion of mint.  I have been digging mint out of here for the last 12 months and have almost won the battle though I will have to remain vigilant.  Tip: never, ever let mint escape from a pot!  My plan here is to extend the rhubarb bed by splitting the plants you can just see at the top.
 The ground here slopes and soil washes downhill.  So I need to build a small retaining wall at the lower edge to retain it.  I dug out a small trench for some foundation bricks.  I found these years ago near where I live in an old stable, now demolished.  On top of these I put some concrete lumps and a few bits of breeze block, and then finished it off with stone pieces, again from the village and most likely bits of demolished toilets!
 The wall looks a little bit messy but it is actually quite sturdy, I took a lot of care fitting stone pieces together, in a drystone wall style.  Soil will gradually fill in some of the gaps and consolidate it.  I'll let the ground settle a bit, then weed it again and cover it with compost and manure to improve the soil.
 Next problem - weed and brambles smothering my apple trees.  I chopped the brambles right back, I have kept some in an area to the right where they don't get in the way as I really like blackberries but they are invasive and have to be controlled.  I also discovered a young ash tree that must have been there a year or two but I hadn't spotted.
 I can actually see the apple trees again.  I took the opportunity to thin the apples, removing excess and weak fruit.  The June drop actually happened in July this year given the late spring, but the youngest tree in particular needed thinning due to the weight.
 First redcurrants are picked, the start of the busy soft fruit season for me. Blackcurrants next. 
Lots of strawberries, and an opportunity for strawberry and redcurrant jam!

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Roses and Late Vegetables

 Despite the long, cold spring, flowers are finally blooming.  This is purple toadflax, it's a wildflower which made its way into my pot plants a few years ago.  Rather spectacular for a wildflower, I let a few seedlings through each year to provide these showy flower spikes.
 The roses has finally started.  This is the old bush rose outside which is having a spectacular year.  It has benefitted from the removal of a very large tree nearby for construction of a temporary bridge you can just see in the background, to facilitate repair of the old bridge.  It has more water, light and air now and clearly appreciates it.
 My New Dawn rose is finally flowering, a full 2 weeks later than last year.
 And the peony is also contributing.
 2015 has been the year of the polytunnel/cloche.  This was the picture a little over a week ago, with cool days and colder nights I have kept plants under here far later than normal.  All the vegetables are late this year.
 I would normally have started harvesting these Desiree potatoes by now, but they're not ready yet.
 The Salad Bowl lettuce has come good just as the warm weather arrives, so that was good timing.
 The beetroot is doing well in a rather dry bed under a tree.  There is a fine balance here - it appreciates the dryness but if it is dry too long I do have to water.  But we look to be getting a good crop here, with the second sowing doing well.
 Lots of strawberries but again a couple of weeks late.
 Broad beans are coming on but also late, I saw a field of these nearby which are also in the same state, so even commercial farmers have struggled this year.
The peas are now doing well but the second sowing are practically the same size as the first sowing, so planting early seems to have been pointless!