Month: May 2013

Inspirational Chelsea

Peaches and CreamLast week I spent a wonderful day at RHS Chelsea Flower Show. I came back full of ideas and inspiration for my own garden. I found myself stopping to just take in the beauty of a flower or display, oblivious to the crowds around me. Interestingly enough I completely failed to see the enormous Trailfinders Australian Show Garden which won Best in Show! However I didn’t go to Chelsea to be wowed by clever, conceptual designs. I wanted to find  beautiful plants and ideas that I could use in my cottage style garden. Going to Chelsea is like going to an array of different art galleries in one place. You can choose to look at modern abstract conceptual gardens or you can choose to be inspired by the more traditional, simple artisan gardens. If you need to provide a leaflet for me to understand the concepts behind a garden design, the garden is not something I want to re-create.  I want to create a garden which is peaceful, pretty, relaxing and simply beautiful to look at. With this aim in mind I spent a long time in the Great Pavillion admiring the flowers of the various nurseries and making a Wish List for my Future Dream Garden.

My Chelsea Inspired Dream Garden 

Cottage Style Planting 

I was particularly taken with the Horticolous show garden `The Secret Garden of Past and Present’.The garden takes you back to horticulture of 100 years ago, when the RHS Chelsea Flower Show first began, with plants and materials that make you feel like you have stepped back in time. In contrast as you take a look round the corner you step forward into the present day with new technology for growing plants and modern plants and materials. I like romantic, vintage, cottage style gardens. I like the idea of planting traditional heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables. They may not be as reliable or as resistant to disease but the flavour is unsurpassed. I may take on board the cottage style of mixing flowers among my vegetables. I am already trying to create an unruly herb garden with direct planting and the use of decorative pots. It’s lovely when you brush against herbs along the garden path and smell a wonderful aroma.

The `Secret Garden of Past and Present'  at Chelsea Flower Show including Delphiniums Faust, Amadeus, Butterball, Pandora and Sandpiper.
The `Secret Garden of Past and Present’ at Chelsea Flower Show including Delphiniums Faust, Amadeus, Butterball, Pandora and Sandpiper.

`Secret Garden of Past and Present’ by Horticolous Landscape & Garden Design

The `Secret Garden of Past and Present' at Chelsea Flower Show included Lupins Cashmere Cream and Persian Slipper,  Allium Mont Blanc aswell as Nectaroscordum siculum and Salvia caradonna
The `Secret Garden of Past and Present’ at Chelsea Flower Show included Lupins Cashmere Cream and Persian Slipper, Allium Mont Blanc aswell as Nectaroscordum siculum and Salvia caradonna

Cottage Charm

 

 

 

Herb Garden

I liked the way these flowers were growing amongst the vegetables at Chelsea Flower Show.
I liked the way these flowers were growing amongst the vegetables at Chelsea Flower Show.
The `Secret Garden of Past and Present' at Chelsea Flower Show included Lupins Cashmere Cream and Persian Slipper,  Alliums Christophii and Mont Blanc aswell as Peonies Buckeye Belle and Red Charm.
The `Secret Garden of Past and Present’ at Chelsea Flower Show included Lupins Cashmere Cream and Persian Slipper, Alliums Christophii and Mont Blanc aswell as Peonies Buckeye Belle and Red Charm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosy Corners

Our current garden is very open with a lawn, herbaceous borders and separate raised vegetable beds. I have created something very pretty, however there aren’t any `secret’ cosy, comfortable corners where you can relax with a book or a glass of wine. It is too open- plan. My dream garden would be made up of distinct areas broken up with climbers and hedges hiding secret cosy corners. Ideally I would like an artists retreat surrounded by roses! I was very taken with the artisan retreats at Chelsea. One day I will have a working artist’s studio, `a place to work and dream’ like Rob Ryan and Cath Kidston.

Show garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2013
Show garden at Chelsea Flower Show 2013
Pretty cosy corner displayed by Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants at Chelsea Flower Show
Pretty cosy corner displayed by Hardy’s Cottage Garden Plants at Chelsea Flower Show

Potting Shed

I love having a greenhouse, however we really do need some kind of roller-blind and ventilation system. I recently frazzled my seedlings on an unexpected hot day. I long for a traditional potting shed and cold frame in my Dream Garden. I admired the Gabriel Ashupright cold frame. At the moment each morning before work I take my seedlings out of the greenhouse to prevent frazzling in the heat and put them back at night. However this takes a long time. I can see that a cold frame which you just open up would save a lot of effort!

 Potting ShedGabriel Ash Upright ColdframePotting Shed

Fencing

At the moment we have large high panel fencing. It is very functional, but it is not pretty! In my dream garden I would have traditional white picket fencing and hedges with plenty of berries for the birds.

Beautiful pink David Austin Rose. Unlike most ramblers that have single or semi-double flowers, ‘The Albrighton Rambler’ has small, cup-shaped, perfectly formed flowers of softest pink that pale to blush. The petals are beautifully arranged with a little button eye; the overall appearance being one of exceptional prettiness and charm.

Pretty Picket Fence

 

Plants

I came home with a long wish-list of plants for my Dream Garden. Unfortunately I have planted so much in our current garden there isn’t room for much more! The flowers I lusted after most were the big blowsy peonies and old fahioned roses.

Peonies  I have bought peonies in the past from my local supermarket which so far have failed to bloom. I now know that I would be much better off buying good quality container grown plants  from a reputable nursery than dried out dusty cheap supermarket varieties. I had a lovely chat with the guys on the Binny Plants Stand who are specialist peony growers. `We are now planting in bigger pots which achieves better and more established plants. This means happy plants making happy customers, which makes us very happy too.’ I definately have my eye on `Coral Charm’. This variety has coral, peach semi-double flowers and is said to be the best coral peony.

Coral Charm and Etched Salmon peonies.
Coral Charm and Etched Salmon peonies.
White anemone type peony
White anemone type peony -Binny Plant Stand

Roses Most of you who follow my Blog will by now know I adore roses. At the last count I had 16 different varieties and I know them all by name!  I must confess to buying 2 more at the weekend inspired by Chelsea.  I absolutely love David Austin Roses. After fifty years of intensive breeding, David Austin’s English Roses combine the forms and fragrances of old roses with the repeat flowering of modern roses. They are very easy to grow, healthy and reliable.

David Austin Roses at Chelsea Flower Show
David Austin Roses at Chelsea Flower Show

 

Everything is coming up roses!

‘The Albrighton Rambler’ has small, cup-shaped, perfectly formed flowers of softest pink that pale to blush. The petals are beautifully arranged with a little button eye; the overall appearance being one of exceptional prettiness and charm. The blooms are held in large sprays and hang gracefully on the branch.
‘The Albrighton Rambler’ has small, cup-shaped, perfectly formed flowers of softest pink that pale to blush. The petals are beautifully arranged with a little button eye; the overall appearance being one of exceptional prettiness and charm. The blooms are held in large sprays and hang gracefully on the branch.

 

‘Boscobel’ bears beautifully formed flowers of rich salmon colouring. They commence as red buds which open at first to pretty cups, gradually developing into perfectly formed blooms of classic rosette formation. The numerous small petals are of varying shades, mingling to provide a most pleasing effect. The delightful, medium-strong myrrh fragrance has a hawthorn character with hints of elderflower, pear and almond.
‘Boscobel’ bears beautifully formed flowers of rich salmon colouring. They commence as red buds which open at first to pretty cups, gradually developing into perfectly formed blooms of classic rosette formation. The numerous small petals are of varying shades, mingling to provide a most pleasing effect. The delightful, medium-strong myrrh fragrance has a hawthorn character with hints of elderflower, pear and almond.

 

Pretty Pair

 

 

 

 

Vintage Charm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apart from the wonderful display of rose bushes there was a beautiful table set up for afternoon tea with David Austin English Rose Bone China and lovely cut roses. The whole display was absolutely delightful.

Teatime

Pretty cup cake displayed on David Austin English Rose bone china.
Pretty cup cake displayed on David Austin English Rose bone china.

Peaches and CreamTea-time

 

Although the roses and peonies stood out for me there were quite a few other hidden gems.

Alliums Dutch Grower W.S.Warmenhoven had a wonderful display off alliums. I have a few in my garden. I realised that they look better in eye catching sweeps or rows with underplanting.  Mine tend to be dotted around the garden. In my Dream Garden I will have them in eye catching groups.

Dutch Alliums grown by W.S.Warmenhoven exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show
Dutch Alliums grown by W.S.Warmenhoven exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show

 

Multibulbosum

 

 

 

 

 

My absolute favourite bloom on the Warmenhoven stand was Nectaroscordum siculum. These plants have dozens of cream bells marked with green and burgundy, pendulously arranged in a loose head. The seed heads look like muli-turreted fairy castles.

Dainty bells pendulously arranged in a loose head. On setting seed they produce seed heads that look like fairy castles!
Nectaroscordum Siculum

 

Dahlias have enjoyed a great resurgence in recent years moving on from memories of  plants for the working classes on allotment plots. They are now being used as feature plants and are a good source of late summer and autumn colour in any garden. I have no objection to growing dahlias among my vegetables. I think they are big, bold and cheery and make a stark contrast to stark decking and modernist planting schemes. The National Dahlia Collection from Penzance had a wonderful cheery display.Lets hope my dahlias bloom as brash and bold as these later in the year!

Semi-Cactus Dahlia displayed by the National Dahlia Collection, Chelsea Flower Show
Semi-Cactus Dahlia displayed by the National Dahlia Collection, Chelsea Flower Show

 

 

Decorative Dahlia `Edge of Gold' displayed by the National Dahlia Collection at Chelsea Flower Show
Decorative Dahlia `Edge of Gold’ displayed by the National Dahlia Collection at Chelsea Flower Show

Bright `n' cheery Mix

 

Clematis

My dream garden would have clematis growing up an apple tree and over arches intermingled with rambling roses and honeysuckle. Unfortunately I forgot to jot down the name of these varieties at Chelsea this year so do post a comment if you know!

Chelsea Clematis

Beautiful pom-pom clematis flowers at Chelsea Flower Show
Beautiful pom-pom clematis flowers at Chelsea Flower Show

 

 

 

 

 

I liked the flamboyant pom-pom frilly pink ones contrasted with the other very delicate pink variety.

Clematis Walk

 

 

Pretty Quirkiness 

The last element of my dream garden would include quirky details. I was inspired by Kate Gould’s Show Garden `The Wasteland’. In this garden she regenerated an abandoned water pumping works incorporating industrial waste such as a bath tub and a shopping trolley into the design. I very much agreed with the design concept. The garden does `offer a sense of privacy; there  are spaces to sit and relax under the canopy of trees, enveloped by small shrubs and pretty perennials, with the sound of water gently burbling in the background’. This garden has a quirky chair made out of a bath tub and screens made out of shopping trollies, but manages to retain a sense of calm.

Reclaimed Bath tub

The Wasteland

I’m not sure I want an old bath in my Dream Garden, but I do want to create something individual and slightly quirky, whilst retaining the prettiness of a cottage garden.

Blooming Lovely!
Unusual plant container creating a pretty display at Chelsea Flower Show

Pic-nic TimeLilac PrettinessPastel Bicycle

So there we have it my Dream Garden inspired by Chelsea Flower Show. Do let me know what your dream garden would be like!

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Leisure

 

Beautiful Border

WHAT is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare?—

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

W.H.Davies

This is one of my all time favourite poems. I often quote it when we are on holiday as I like nothing more than stopping on a walk to take in the beauty of my surroundings. There is something about being on holiday and `at leisure’ that restores my soul. I enjoy stopping and taking in the beauty of nature with all my senses. May be that’s why I like photographing flowers. The process of composing a good image involves slowing down and taking in the intricate details of each petal. Macro Photography is fascinating as you get to appreciate the microscopic detail of each flower. As a hobby it’s good for me as I find the art of photography very absorbing, slowing me down to notice beauty in nature.

Most of you that know me are well aware that I am a busy bee and always have a project on the go! I am never bored and very rarely sit down and do nothing. This week I had the luxury of an extra day off.  There were so many jobs I could have done in the garden. I must admit the last month has seen a few gardening disappointments. A lot of my seeds have suffered from damping off, my dahlia tubers have been eaten by mice and the broadbeans have fallen over in the wind. My agapanthus seeds are failing to germinate completely. It’s the time of year where the garden is growing fast and lots of things need doing – mowing the lawn, weeding ,sowing flower and veg seeds, planting new dahlia tubers, earthing up potatoes etc etc. Potatoes I was beginning to feel that there was too much to do and gardening was beginning to feel like a job not a hobby. It got me thinking `Why do I enjoy gardening?’

There are lots of reasons why I like gardening. When I really mulled it over I concluded that the primary reason I enjoy gardening is` to relax and create a tranquil retreat in the midst of nature, away from the stresses of life’. I cheated a bit as that is two reasons – relaxation and creativity. Back in January I had lofty aspirations of becoming a plantswoman. I do want to learn about horticulture and am sure I will continue to learn from my mistakes. I have already learnt that my seedlings are prone to damping off in a warm greenhouse which needs fresh air. I have probably made things worse by using rather stagnant water from the water butts. However my primary reason for gardening is not to learn, but to enjoy creating something beautiful and to relax. Gardening should be a pleasurable leisure interest to me and not an onerous job. If I learn something along the way then that is an added bonus.

 I found it very interesting when I asked friends and family why they did or didn’t like gardening. I got a range of responses. One work colleague likes gardening as she finds it therapeutic getting things in order. I can relate to this. I like weeding and mowing the lawn much more than dusting and hoovering indoors! There is something about being outdoors in the fresh air and taming nature which I like. You can see instant results. Pulling up a stubborn dandelion weed is very satisfying particularly after a hard days work. You can take out your frustrations whilst weeding which is very cathartic and relieves stress.

Another friend likes gardening as she likes the peace and quiet and finds it relaxing. Other people like growing and nurturing vegetables. I agree there is nothing more satisfying than growing and eating your own veg.The Colours of Rhubarb I can’t wait to harvest my first potatoes! My Uncle has an allotment and for many months of the year lives off the harvest from his allotment. Home grown veg is delicious. I am not sure I would ever find growing my own vegetables cheaper than shop bought, but it is satisfying and the taste is much better freshly picked out of the garden. I am more of a cottage gardener though. I couldn’t imagine a garden without flowers as well as vegetables.

Another colleague mentioned that she enjoys gardening to make her garden the best in the neighbourhood. I don’t have such a competitive spirit. However I am enjoying transforming our front garden into something beautiful. I like being out the front as it means I get to chat to my neighbours as they pass by.  I like the fact that by creating something beautiful to look at, I am trying to develop a community spirit where neighbours stop to talk. Our front garden was simply a patch of scraggy grass before I got started on it. Now we have borders of flowers in soft pinks, lilacs, blues and white. Tranquil Border The aim is to create a colour scheme that is peaceful and calming.

Seaside Garden

I am also trying to transform the stones under the bay window into a seaside garden with alpines and pebbles from the beach. I do hope that as people pass by they will, in the words of Auden’s poem, take time to appreciate the beauty in my garden and feel their spirits lifted. Quite a lofty ambition!

This week I had an unexpected afternoon off work. The sun was shining and it was a glorious day. For once I decided  to stop my busyness. I am often so busy I don’t stop to enjoy or appreciate all my hard work in the garden. I therefore made a conscious decision to have an afternoon off, sitting in my garden, taking in the delights of nature and relaxing with a good book and a cup of tea. It was pure pleasure and felt like a holiday.

Tea in the Garden

As I sat there I jotted down the sensations and thoughts that were going through my head. I tried to put my `TO DO’ list out of my head, banishing thoughts that started with `I SHOULD’…I simply was keen to take time out, to stop and appreciate nature with all my senses. I have never done a Mindfulness Coursebut I understand it is a way of learning to pay attention to the present moment which can help alter our feelings about life in positive ways. I am not known for my poetry, but these are the things I appreciated and noticed and is my take on W.H.Davies’ poem:-

What is this life, if full of care, I have no time to stand and stare?

I have lofty ambitions to be a knowledgeable plantswoman, but today is about finding joy in nature and appreciating simple pleasures:-

Joyful Blackbird Song, early apple blossom and a gentle warm breeze on my skin

Apple White

The buzz of a bumblebee and the gentle flight of cabbage white butterflies dancing amongst the flowers

A robin dancing for food on the fence, the cronk of a pheasant and the May call of a cuckoo

I have so much to do, but today I am sat under the shade of the parasol enjoying the warmth of the sunshine on my skin, listening and appreciating BUT not being busy

A holiday is good for the soul

Although I have things to do, stopping to look at my multi-coloured sunlit tulips and loving their dazzling beauty does me good

Tutti-Frutti Border

Colours of the Rainbow

What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare?

My jobs awaited me. However I felt better. I have planted new dahlia tubers and they are starting to emerge.

Dark Dahlia ShootNew sowings of seeds are growing nicely and are yet to suffer from damping off or be frazzled by the sun. Seedlings I have sprinkled the rest of my seeds with gay abandon all round the garden. I am not sure Monty Don or Sarah Raven would approve, but it was liberating! They may not come up, but there are plenty of other plants that just come up year after year with out my help. It is survival of the fittest and if a few things die off then there are plenty more that are flourishing.Potato Bag

My seed potatoes still need earthing up and the grass is healthy but needs mowing…

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Rhubarb, Rhubarb!

Rhubarb & Vanilla

Our rhubarb has been growing fast and furious so I decided it was time to get cooking this weekend. DSC_9967I am good friends with a group of girls calling ourselves the `Domestic Goddesses‘. Every couple of months we meet up for a dinner party at one of our houses. One member cooks a main course and another makes a dessert. The rules are that it has to be something you have never cooked before and you are not allowed to have a practice run. We started the group over 5 years ago. We had been chatting about dating and how if we attracted a man some of us had a very limited repertoire of recipes to impress a future husband! My stock recipe was Boeuf Bourguignon. However if dating advanced beyond Boeuf Bourguignon I had no other fail safe recipe up my sleeve to fall back on! The Domestic Goddess group was born. The majority of us have now found partners or husbands and I must admit my Black-Eyed Bean Stew with Spicy Sausage which I first made at Domestic Goddesses was an instant hit with my future husband! He still raves about it!

This weekends cooking adventures proved I haven’t made the grade to Domestic Goddess status yet! Firstly I thought I’d make an `Easy’ rhubarb fool. Guess who was the fool?! The recipe required boiling up the rhubarb with sugar and orange  juice and enough water to cover the rhubarb.

Boiling Rhubarb

Well this made ever such a lot of juice so I think less water was required.

 

Rhubarb Bubbles

 

Then I needed whipped cream and egg white, beaten until peaked.

DSC_0243

 

I know that you should have spotlessly clean equipment  to get peaks when whipping egg whites, so why did I decide to re-use the whisk I had whipped the cream with and not wash it? Needless to say I couldn’t make egg white peaks just a liquid white froth that looked like the texture of a far off planet.

DSC_0250

 

I ploughed on regardless thinking this was an easy recipe so everything would work out. I was then instructed to fold in the cream and egg white mixture into the rhubarb. At no point did the recipe say `Wait for the rhubarb mixture to cool’. So I did as instructed and put cold whipped cream into boiling hot rhubarb. I could have predicted the runny,curdled mess. Oh well I put the disaster in beautiful dessert glasses and hoped a miracle would happen in the fridge and it would set. It didn’t and my husband refused to eat his as it looked like cat sick. So definately not a Domestic Goddess moment!

The next recipe of the weekend was a trusty favourite, or so I thought!

Rhubarb and Vanilla Jam 

1kg rhubarb

1kg granulated sugar

1 vanilla pod, split lengthwise

Juice of 1 lemon

For this recipe try to use early forced rhubarb – the bright pink variety. It’s less watery and much sweeter than later season rhubarb, which produces a sludge green jam.

DSC_0170                                                             DSC_0163

After having recently spent time experimenting with mixing various shades of red for my Ruby Red Bouquet I was fascinated by the different  red colours in the stalks of rhubarb from deep crimson to speckled light pink. The end pulled out of the ground is truly a bright magenta pink. A vivid almost flourescent colour.

 

 

Shades of Red

The Colours of Rhubarb

 

1. Trim, wash and wipe the rhubarb and cut into 2.5cm (1 inch) pieces. Put into a large bowl, toss with the sugar, cover with a clean tea towel and leave overnight to macerate.

Macerating Rhubarb

Maceration is a process which softens or breaks up food. When fruit is sprinkled with sugar and left to sit the fruit releases its own juices and softens.

Unfortunately I forgot this recipe needed the rhubarb to macerate overnight. I decided to be `clever’ and speed up the process by putting the covered bowl in the sunny garden. Big mistake!   I knew the clean  tea-towel would stop any flies landing in the bowl. However I forgot that ants like sugar! An hour later the bowl was covered with ants. So I had to start again.

I chose to use preserving sugar. I was a bit confused between preserving sugar and jam sugar which were sat side by side on the supermarket shelf. Preserving sugar is a very large crystal white sugar. It dissolves more slowly and does not settle on the bottom of the pan, reducing the risk of burning. It reduces the need for stirring and skimming. Jam sugar contains added pectin, making it ideal for use with low-pectin fruits.

Pectin

Pectin is a naturally occurring carbohydrate found mostly in the skin and core of fruit, when combined with acid and sugar it forms a gel, the essential process for setting jam. Different types of fruit have different levels of pectin content, and it is at it’s highest levels in slightly under-ripe fruit. When making jam or jelly with a fruit high in pectin it will set easily. Low pectin fruit can still be made to set, but will need help. Rhubarb is low in pectin. To make it set you could use jam sugar with added pectin, combine with fruit high in pectin content (such as orange) or add lemon juice to the rhubarb. The acid lemon juice helps extract the pectin.

2. Next day, pour the rhubarb mixture into a preserving pan. Most of the sugar will have dissolved.

Vanilla Pod

Add the vanilla pod and the lemon juice. Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, until any remaining sugar has dissolved.

Lemon & Vanilla

 

 

 

 

3. Boil rapidly until darkened and thickened and the jam has reached setting point.

DSC_0316

 

Boiling Jam

4. Remove from the heat, skim off any skum, and allow to cool briefly. Carefully pour into hot sterilised jars. Seal and allow to cool before labelling and storing.

I then set to and made some delicious home-made scones. We then sat in the garden enjoying a lovely tea of fresh scones with rhubarb and vanilla jam and clotted cream. Rhubarb and Vanilla is a fantastic combination and was voted the best jam I made last year amongst all my friends and family.

Rhubarb & Vanilla

 

Tea in the Garden

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