Hidden Honeysuckle

A lovely surprise awaited me on the allotment this weekend –  beautiful honeysuckle growing in the hedge. This is actually growing at the bottom of our garden which backs on to our allotment. It has entwined itself up the hedge and trees but is only really visible from the plot. I love the bright colour of the flowers and its heady fragrance.Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle has long been associated with superstition. In Victorian times it was grown around doors and gates to ward off witches and evil spirits. I hope we don’t have any of those on the allotment site. It was also supposed to induce pleasant dreams and lift your spirits which is why it must be used today in herbal and aromatherapy pillows. Honeysuckle

Whatever folklore has to say about it, I just love to have it in the garden.

Advertisements

Ready, Steady, Grow!

May was very busy on the allotment front but now feel I can draw a sigh of relief knowing that everything (well, nearly everything)  has been planted. There have been times over the last month when I wondered if 2 plots was just over stretching myself! Luckily, up stepped The Husband.

The potatoes are looking very healthy – 5 different varieties, including my favourite, Desiree.

Potatoes on allotment

Potatoes – earthed

Onions (red and white), shallots and garlic all coming along nicely.Onions, garlic sauce and shallots

The peas and mange tout are looking promising. Some were grown on indoors and some planted straight in the ground.Peas and mange tout

I can hardly believe the strawberries are starting to ripen (just in time for Wimbledon!)

Strawberries on the allotment

Something’s had a little taste!

The fruit bushes are doing well too – netted to stop those pesky birds having a feast.Fruit bushes on allotment

I’ve still got the courgettes, cucumber, leeks, squash and pumpkin to go in. One minor panic, somehow I’ve missed out brussel sprouts. It’s a tradition in our house that, on Christmas morning, The Husband digs up the brussels for Christmas lunch. So I think a trip to the nursery to pick up some plants is called for.

A disappointment along the way – my salad. Usually I just sow seeds straight into the ground every 2 weeks,  which is what I’ve done this year. Only the radishes have appeared, no sign of the lettuces after 3 sowings. Perhaps it hasn’t been warm enough?

I’m going to leave you with a query. This plant was left on our new plot by the previous occupant. It’s magnificent, it has beautiful blue flowers and is a real attraction for bees. The Husband and I thought it might be borage but it doesn’t quite match the description in the books we’ve consulted. Any suggestions gratefully received.

Allotment plant

Mystery plant.

Today is the first day of summer – in the meteorological calendar. So I’m hoping for a little warmth and sunshine – just what my allotment needs. Happy Gardening!

 

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015

 

What a treat I’ve had this week! At work on Thursday lunchtime, I checked my phone for messages and whoah! A friend had some tickets for the Chelsea Flower Show and wanted to know if I would like to go! I didn’t need asking twice!

For those of you who are not familiar with this event, I’ll explain a little of the background – otherwise please feel free to skip the next two paragraphs.The annual Chelsea Flower Show, organised by the prestigious RHS (Royal Horticultural Society), is a showcase for both nursery exhibits and ‘show’ gardens. There is one large, or one might even say enormous, pavilion which houses all the floral displays and this is surrounded by the outdoor show gardens. The gardens are assembled on site in the 19 days before the event, on display for a week and dismantled within 5 days after the show closes.The entrants are judged and gold, silver-gilt, silver and bronze medals are awarded accordingly.

The event started in 1862 but since 1913 it has been located in the grounds of The Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. This is actually a retirement and nursing home for retired soldiers, who are noted for their bright red jackets, and are seen strolling around the show.

Chelsea pensioners

I Chelsea-pensioners.co.uk

To return to my visit! It was warm and sunny and we had a brilliant day! So much to see and admire!

The Laurent-Perrier Chatsworth Garden was the winner of the Best Show Garden. Lots of greenery and wild areas (or weeds) which seemed a popular feature in many of the show gardens.

Chatsworth garden

Best show garden – Laurent Perrier Chatsworth Garden

The People’s Choice winner was Sentebale – Hope in Vulnerability. It’s aim is to transport you to Lesotho, South Africa and raise awareness of the country’s mission to tackle the stigma of HIV in its population.

People's Choice Sentebale

People’s Choice – Sentebale

I won’t bore you with all my photos ( the official website has all the gardens’ photos and details)  but here’s some of my personal highlights.

Slate apple

Slate sculpture for your garden

 

Layered slate seems to be trending this year on the trade stalls. Lots of interesting sculptures and other ‘garden furniture’ to tempt you, especially if you have money to burn.

Bird bath - if you've got a couple of thousand pounds spare!

Bird bath – if you’ve got a couple of thousand pounds spare!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who would have thought a display of potatoes could look so eye-catching?

Potato varieties

Pick of the crop

So many roses on display – I love looking at their names. This one particularly caught my attention. ‘I am Macmillan’ – a new rose which will raise money towards funding Macmillan nurses who offer care to patients affected by cancer, as well as supporting their families.

I am Macmillan rose

This rose will be available to buy next year

For fellow allotment gardeners – just look at how these vegetables are displayed!

Chelsea Flower Show vegetable display

So that’s my round up of this year’s Chelsea Flower Show. If you ever get the chance of tickets, it really is well worth a visit as there is just so much to see. The gardens are fascinating and you’re mentally redesigning your own garden at home – but please read my cautionary note below!

Health warning: Do not feel jealous, inferior or inadequate when viewing these gardensThey are ‘show’ gardens so I remind myself of these points.
– a team of people have been planning and working on the garden for the preceding year

– they only need to look spectacular for a week. What about all year round interest?
– there is no evidence of anyone using the garden. Where’s the compost bin, the washing line, the children’s bikes and goal posts?
– no expense has been spared in the construction of these gardens

Hope that makes everyone feel better! Happy gardening to you all!

 

 

Rhubarb again!

Some of you who have been following my blog will know that I am learning to love rhubarb again! This is just as well considering the amount of rhubarb I am harvesting from the allotment.

I was astounded to see the price of rhubarb when shopping the other day – two pounds for 4 or 5 stems. An incredible price when it’s so easy to grow. However, I also spotted a recipe card in the supermarket and thought I’d give it a try for Sunday dinner. It’s variation on rhubarb crumble, using strawberries.

As luck would have it, I had a bag of strawberries lurking in the depths of the freezer which needed to be used up. I had a glut of strawberries from the allotment last year and had experimented with freezing some whole strawberries. Somewhere I had read that by coating the whole fruits in sugar they kept their shape and texture. It was a partial success – and the strawberries were fine to use in this recipe.

The result was a lovely fruity base with a nutty, oaty topping – ‘rather like muesli,’ said The Husband.

Rhubarb and strawberries

Strawberries and rhubarb from the allotment

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Straight from the oven – rhubarb and strawberry crumble

Rhubarb and strawberry crumble

 

You can find the recipe here.

 

 

 

 

 

The verdict. The Husband really enjoyed it, even though he’s not particularly keen on crumbles (or muesli) . Unfortunately Son Number 1 wouldn’t try it, I seem to have passed on my feelings about rhubarb to him. My opinion – yes I would definitely use this recipe again. The strawberries just take the edge off the tartness from the rhubarb and I liked the crunchy topping.

One thing that slightly worried me about this recipe card was the caption at the bottom.Midweek pudding

Now, have I been a neglectful mother/wife/cook all these years? Puddings are for when I have time to cook at the weekend or for special occasions. Is there anyone out there who regularly makes midweek puddings?

Plotting and Planting

It’s been rather a long time since I posted and so I thought I needed to put fingers on the keyboard and give an update on the progress on the allotment! One of the main reasons I haven’t posted is that any ‘spare’ time has been spent over on the plot! Luckily, we had an extra long Bank Holiday weekend and some spells of reasonable weather so we were able to put in some hours working on the plot,

A lovely sight on the allotment – our old apple tree is looking rather beautiful in all its glorious blossom.

Apple blossom

Looking back over the last month…..it was rather a slow start as we still had some clearing and tidying up to do from last year. One of the beds had still not been dug over and time was running out. Thankfully, The Husband came to the rescue! Using the rotavator, he quickly had the final bed ready to go!

Rotavator

The Husband comes to the rescue

Whilst I was thinning out the strawberry beds I came across my hand fork I lost last year, it was hidden under all the foliage. Nothing special about it, other than it was my Dad’s, so had sentimental value and I’m pleased to be reunited with it.

Hand fork in strawberry plot

Lost and found

At the beginning of last month it was time to get the planting sorted out. We decided which seeds we wanted to start off indoors and got planting. As a result, the living space in the house shrunk. The conservatory became the greenhouse – great temperature for getting those little seeds started and the pasting table, covered in black plastic, became a makeshift bench.

Conservatory greenhouse

Conservatory makes a wonderful greenhouse!

The summerhouse was (and still is) the ‘hardening off’ zone before the young plants are taken over to the allotment.

Hardening off plants

Nowhere to sit!

The problem is that two rooms are out of commission so where to sit on a sunny day? (Huh, where has the sun been and when is there time to sit?)

On the plot itself, the potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic were planted. Over the Bank Holiday weekend, the peas, mange tout, cabbages and broccoli were transferred onto the allotment.  There’s still more to be planted, but just waiting for the weather to warm up a bit.

New projects this year include

  • A first attempt to grow outdoor cucumber. Never tried cucumbers before! It’s a mini variety called Hana. It’s still in the conservatory/greenhouse at the moment, but hopefully will go outside in the next few weeks.
  • Growing carrots in tyres. I have had some very interesting shaped carrots over the years and at one point I gave up on them. Last year The Husband tried a new method; he grew them in toilet roll tubes sunk into the ground and the result was marginally better than in previous years. Having acquired some tyres on the new plot, the plan is to fill the tyres with riddled soil and compost and see what the carrots make of that. Will keep you posted!

Still lots to do! I’ve got lots of plants to put out as well as more seeds to start off. However, at the moment it’s drizzling and a bit breezy so I think the allotment will have to wait. Fingers crossed for blue skies and sunshine tomorrow.

Rhubarb rhubarb

Look how the rhubarb has grown!  I would like to say it is because of my green fingers but, to be honest, I haven’t touched it, it’s just grown all by itself! So often that’s what seems to happen on the plot, I nurture some particular crop and it doesn’t produce much. Others are left to their own devices and thrive!

Rhubarb on allotment

Rhubarb in February

Rhubarb on allotment

Rhubarb – beginning of April

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a chequered relationship with rhubarb which goes back a long way. When I was a child my Dad grew rhubarb in our garden, very successfully. So successfully did he grow it that we used to have rhubarb in some shape or form for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Boy, was I sick of rhubarb. Coupled with that was his growing technique – surrounding the rhubarb crown with horse manure. My Dad used to keep a cardboard box and a shovel in the boot of his car, an Austin A40.  Whenever we went out for a ‘drive’, (which is what people used to do in the sixties when petrol was cheap and before anyone worried about pollution), my Dad would travel along the local country lanes looking for horse riders. On spotting a freshly deposited pile of horse manure in the middle of the road, Dad would stop the car, retrieve the box and shovel, collect the manure and put it in the boot. Off we would go again, looking for the next pile. Oh, the embarrassment!Rhubarb

It is no surprise then that, as an adult, I could never quite face eating any dish containing rhubarb. However, to everyone’s amazement I bought a rhubarb crown a couple of years ago (don’t quite know what came over me!) and have since been trying out various recipes. In actual fact I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve actually enjoyed it! Although I have avoided rhubarb crumble, which we had every Sunday!

One of my favourite recipes is this one for rhubarb and date chutney. It is from the BBC Good Food website:

Rhubarb and date chutney

Ingredients

500g red onions, chopped

Rhubarb and date chutney ingredients

Ingredients for rhubarb and date chutney

500g grated root ginger300ml red wine vinegar

500g eating apples, chopped

200g chopped dates

200g mix of dried cranberries/raisins

1tbsp each of curry powder and mustard seed

400g light muscovado sugar

Last, but not least, 700g rhubarb sliced into 2cm chunks

 

Method

Put the onions and ginger into a large pan with the vinegar. (I used a preserving pan) Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the rest of ingredients (apart from the rhubarb) and bring to the boil, stirring. Simmer, uncovered, until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes.Rhubarb and date chutney

Then add the rhubarb. My rhubarb stems were quite thick so I sliced slightly thinner than the recommended 2cm. Cook, uncovered, until the mixture thickens – about 15 to 20 minutes.

Leave for about 15 minutes then spoon into clean jars. It should be left for a month before eating.Rhubarb and date chutney

When I made this last year everyone thought it was yummy so I have just made another batch with the first of this year’s rhubarb. It is great for eating with cold meats or with cheese and of course you can give some jars to your  friends and family.

There’s  still loads of rhubarb to come so if anyone know any other good rhubarb recipes, I’d be delighted to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

 

March into Spring

A reminder that Spring has officially begun!

Allotment spring flowers

Daffodils on the allotment

Metrologically Spring began on March 1st. However according to the astronomical calendar, Spring started on Friday with the vernal equinox and perhaps you were lucky enough to see the eclipse. I was in Bruges, had a great holiday but it was so overcast that there was no chance of seeing the eclipse!

So Spring is definitely here and I am starting to panic. Fellow allotment bloggers, I am very envious when I read how much you have achieved on your plots, I am way, way behind. Not all the plot was dug over at the end of last year and that has been the first task to complete this month.  Last weekend started off bright and sunny so The Husband and I set to work.

Digging allotment plot

Let digging commence!

The original plot had been mostly finished and is now ready to go.

Plot dug

Dug and done

The newer plot needed more work –

Plot to be dug

Bed needing attention

and is just about finished. This bed had loads of bindweed in it last year and so I was having to try and dig out the roots as we went along in the vain hope that it won’t be quite so prolific this summer! I took on this second plot last year as it’s adjacent to my original plot and had been neglected for the last few years. It needed a lot of work to bring it under control (credit given to The Husband for this achievement). One bed was devoted to potatoes and the existing fruit bushes, one to butternut squash and some flowers. The third, small bed was carpeted(!)and will probably be used for the compost bins.

I’m feeling happier that most of the ‘groundwork’ has been done but there’s still so much more to do and I know that we have limited spare time over the next few weeks. The raspberry canes on the second plot require pruning, the strawberries should be thinned out, all the fruit bush beds need weeding…. So much to do, so little time!