Month: August 2014

August Posy

Gerrie Hoek meets Peaches `n' Cream


Delighting in Dahlias

August has been a month where my dahlias have been putting on a beautiful show of colour. Last year I chose to plant them in pots so I could over winter them in the green house. I am pleased to report that they survived the Winter, so I am continuing with pots. (Unlike the year before when I painstakingly removed the tubers to store and then they either rotted or were eaten by mice.)

Dahlias are beginning to rise in popularity again. People used to associate them with old men and allotments, where rows of flowers were grown like soldiers standing to attention. This has changed over the last few years and the dahlia has become popular again with both gardeners and as a cut flower for florists. There are few plants that offer such a variety of colour and form and they keep on blooming from July until late Autumn if picked regularly. In my Delightful Dahlia Blog Post last year I outlined the history of the Dahlia and the various classifications according to the type of bloom. 

When I was deciding how to present my dahlia blooms for my August Posy Project I wanted small vases which would show off the different colours of my dahlias. I do have pale peach blooms, however my dahlias are mainly bold and bright in colour. I decided to buy Sarah Raven’s Stained Glass Vases in the richest vibrant purples, reds and blues.  (Clever marketing on Sarah’s part as her Hot Dahlia Collection, which I also purchased, is shown pictured arranged to great effect in these vases!)

Hot Dahlia Collection

Jewel Colours


Colours of the Rainbow

I had such a fun time arranging my August Posies of Dahlias! There were so many different colour combinations to work with I was like a kid in a sweet shop! To start with I put all the vases on the table with all the flowers. It didn’t really work as a composition!

The Colour of Apricots

Apricot Halves

My first carefully thought out colour combo for my August Posy was influenced by my apricot jam making. Inspired by The Great British Bake Off I had made an apricot and amaretto swiss roll and wanted to show off my baking skills to best advantage. I chose two dahlias which have an apricot and peachy pink tinge and arranged them in the orange stained glass vase. This gave a delightful peaches `n’ cream effect which would make a wonderful delicate analogous wedding colour scheme. Analogous colour schemes combine  colours next to each other on the colour wheel. For example: red and orange, blue and green, violet and red, etc. These make really good colour combinations as they are pleasing to the eyes.   You can combine shades of 2 or 3 colours next to each other on the colour wheel. When I was deciding on my colour scheme I first considered `Peaches and Cream’ with accents of golden yellow. You can see on the Colour Wheel that these colours all lie next to each other and are therefore analogous colours. 

Wedding Colour Wheel
Wedding Colour Wheel

Gerrie Hoek meets Peaches `n' Cream

The dahlias used in this first Posy were Gerrie Hoek and Peaches `n’ Cream.

Gerry Hoek is a beautiful, delicate pink with a hint of peach dahlia with strong, straight stems and waterlily-like flowers. Waterlily type dahlias have shallow, double blooms, with broad flattish florets. Their broad petals are slightly curled up along their length, giving a saucer-shaped appearance to the flower. The disc florets are not visible. Gerry Hoek was introduced in 1942. 

Gerrie Hoek

Peaches `N’ Cream is a warm golden orange and cream-colored Decorative type dahlia. The petals flow back toward the stem. Decorative dahlias have fully double blooms, showing no disc. Their petals are normally broad and fold inwards from the base. This type of dahlia is very popular with enthusiasts who love them for their colour and decorative appearance. It’s a real shame that I am on holiday for the local Flower Show this year as I would enter this one if I was here! 

Peaches `n' Cream

Peaches `n' Cream

As a bride I would have had dahlias in my wedding bouquet if I had been getting married in late Summer. I painted this wonderful bouquet by Fabulous Flowers in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It is a hand-tied bouquet of `Memory of Diane’ dahlias,` Margarite’ daisies, `Avalanche’ spray roses together with `Aloha’, `Vitality’ and `Alabasta’ roses. I love the gentle peaches and cream colour scheme. If I had got married later in the year I would have loved a bouquet like this! 


Gerry Hoek and Peaches `N’  Cream worked well arranged together and fulfilled my creative aim of producing a fabulous image of my August Posy. However this arrangement alone didn’t show off my apricot conserve swiss roll to best advantage as there was too much yellow and orange in the image. I had to remind myself that the food styling was a different project to the Posy of the Month Challenge! I decided to use the turquoise vase in this composition as a complementary colour to the peachy orange. I knew from my wedding that peach and aqua look fantastic together. Complementary colours are opposite to each other on the color wheel. When used together these colours  stand out and create contrasts. For example orange and blue, yellow and violet, red and green.  

I added another of my dahlias into the arrangement. Jescot Julie is a really unusual dahlia. Each ray floret (petal) has a burnt orange upper surface with a contrasting rich plum coloured base, creating a striking bloom. They look sensational when mixed with deep, bold reds and dark golden tones. I bought mine to go with a rich red dahlia called Indian Summer. Unfortunately they haven’t bloomed at the same time so far! 

Jescot  JulieJescot JulieJescot JulieApricot and Amaretto PreserveCreamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll


I was really pleased with how the aqua vase lifted the image and gave it a bit of a zing!

Another peachy-apricot single-flowered dahlia in the garden this year is Happy Single First Love. Single flowered dahlias bear a single ring of outer (ray) florets, with the central (disc) florets visible.

Happy Single 1st Love

Vibrant Pinks and Purples 

Purple Magic

Osirium and Boom BoomKarma Fuschiana and Eyed Beauty

So far the dahlias I have shown you have been in pretty pastel hues. However most of my dahlias are big, bold and dramatic. Three of my most successful plants were tubers saved from last year, which I am really chuffed about.

Karma Fushiana is a new addition in Sarah Raven’s Hot Dahlia Collection. In Sarah’s words `she is a wonderful bright, coral-pink dahlia ideal for zappy contrast in borders and arrangements.The blooms can be both double or single and have dual classification as small waterlily and small decorative type dahlia.  The Karma group have been bred for a much better than usual dahlia vase life, so look out for this group if you like flowers for picking.

Karma Fuschiana

Osirium is one of my old favourites with her large deep magenta red decorative style blooms. This dahlia really does make a bold statement!

Osirium DahliaOsirium Dahlia

Eyed Beauty has striking cerise pink flowers. She is classified as a Paeony dahlia. Paeony dahlias have single flowers with two or more rings of largely flat florets surrounding the central disc.  With their relatively simple shape and open discs they are attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects. 

Eyed BeautyEyed Beauty

Boom Boom is a reliable workhorse of a plant! I don’t really like the very deep burgundy hue. However she produces abundant ball type blooms and the deep colour does provide a dramatic backdrop for the other more vibrant blooms which I love. Ball type dahlias have flowers that take on the form of a ball. The flowerheads are double, with a slightly flattened top. Petals are arranged in a spiral pattern and the tips are blunt or rounded. 

Boom Boom DahliaBoom Boom

Rich Autumn Colours 

Arrival of AutumnBishop of Llandaff

 Jescot Julie with her striking red underneath the petals also works well in an Autumnal Colour Scheme. I arranged Jescot Julie with the paeony flowered red Bishop of Llandaff. I chose to place the red bloom in a complementary coloured green stained glass vase. I also used orangey-red Echinacea Joy and the deep red Boom Boom dahlia in my Autumnal themed arrangement. I felt the deep burgundy gave a nice contrast to the yellow petals of Jescot Julie. Purple and yellow are also complementary colours. I find it fascinating that I have included two sets of complementary colours in this image, but it still works! The overall effect is an analogous colour scheme of rich reds, oranges and vibrant yellows. However the green vase and the burgundy flower lift the image and make the colours sing!

Bishop of Llandaff is another paeony flowered dahlia. She is a favourite British cultivar dating back to 1924.   Bishop of Llandaff has crimson red flowers and dark bronze foliage. 

Bishop of Llandaff


My Indian Summer dahlia didn’t make an appearance for my photoshoot, but did bloom in July and is ready for action in September! Let’s hope the weather does the same for my Dorset cottage holiday in September. Indian Summer is a fantastic spiky dahlia with brilliant red blooms. I bought her to flower with Jescot Julie, but they don’t seem to want to be together, each blooming at a different time! 

Indian SummerIndian SummerI really did have fun arranging my dahlias in different colour schemes this month. Do let me know the names of your favourite dahlias – I may add a few more to my collection if I can find space!

So here we have August’s Mosaic.

August Mosaic

I do hope you have enjoyed seeing my ever expanding dahlia collection and have got a few ideas for colour schemes along the way.


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Creamy Apricot & Amaretto Swiss Roll

Creamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll

Inspired by the new series of `The Great British Bake Off’ I decided to make a swiss roll. Now I knew if I was going to bake in the style of Bake-Off I needed to make my own jam. Mr Smiles’ favourite jam is apricot and as apricots are in season at the moment apricot preserve seemed like a good choice.

Jammy Definitions

I am a bit confused about the terms jam, conserve and preserve. I thought preserve was just a posh word for jam. The terminology for preserve making is confusing. One person’s conserve is another person’s jam!

Jam –  a thick mixture of fruit and sugar that is boiled gently but quickly until the fruit is soft and has a gel consistency. Jam should be clear, well set but not stiff and should be spreadable. It should have a distinctive fruity flavour and a good colour.  Most people seem to agree that with jam the fruit has broken down during cooking.

Jelly –   made by a process similar to that used for making jam, with the additional step of filtering out the fruit pulp after the initial heating. The whole fruit is gently cooked, then left to strain. The resulting juice is then boiled with sugar until a set is reached. A jelly is a clear fruit spread that is firm enough to hold its shape.

Preserves – fruit spreads that have chunks of fruit surrounded by jelly.

Conserve –  similar to jam but the set tends to be softer. They can contain dried fruit and/or nuts.

Marmalade – similar consistency to jam but made with citrus fruit and peel.


Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

2lb (900g) fresh apricots

2lb (900g) granulated sugar

Juice of 1 large lemon

Trace of butter

Large Dash of Amaretto liqueur

You need to start the day before you actually want to make the preserve. Halve the apricots and reserve the stones.

Apricot Halves

Place them in layers in a preserving pan, sprinkling the sugar in between the layers.  Add the lemon juice, cover with a cloth and leave over-night.

Easy Squeezer

Delia Smith says that `pre-soaking the fruit in sugar firms up the fruit, ensuring the apricot pieces stay intact when making the jam.’ I adapted this recipe from Delia’s Summer Collection.  I must admit I had a dilemma at this point. My apricots were large! So did I continue to halve them or quarter them?! I stuck with halving. I would actually advise quartering if you pre-soak in sugar and have big, juicy apricots like mine.

Apricot Jam Making

Crack the apricot stones with a nutcracker and save the kernels.  Blanch the kernels in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

Apricot Kernels

 Drain them, pat them dry and remove the outer skin. When I read this process I thought `What a palaver!’. I didn’t know the reason for using the kernels. I thought it was some mysterious ingredient which would aid the setting process. Then I learnt that apricot kernels are actually used as the main ingredient in amaretto liqueur. I thought amaretto was made of almonds. When I cracked open the apricot stones I got an aromatic waft of amaretto so I was converted to the idea of using the kernels. In fact I thoroughly embraced the idea and decided to turn my plain apricot jam into exotic amaretto preserve with apricot chunks and kernels.

Blanched Apricot Kernels

To make the conserve place the preserving pan over  a medium heat and let the sugar dissolve completely. When dissolved turn up the heat to the highest setting and boil rapidly. It took about 20 minutes to reach setting point.

Ready to boil

Stir in a knob of butter to disperse any scum. Add the reserved kernels and allow to settle for 15 minutes before pouring into warm sterilised jars.

Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

Apricot and Amaretto Swiss-Roll 

Creamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll

3 large eggs

115g (4 oz) Caster sugar

115g (4 oz) Plain Flour

Apricot and Amaretto Preserve

Double Cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing Sugar

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F, Gas Mark 6). Grease a 33 x 23cm (13 x 9 in) swiss roll tin and line with baking parchment. The tin suggested in the recipe was a swiss roll tin 13×9 inches. I had 3 tins – a baking silicone flexi-sheet 14 x 10.5, a brownie pan 13.5 x 8 and a heavy duty Swiss roll tin 12 x 8.5 and didn’t know which to use! Why is it that whenever you follow or adapt a recipe the size of the tin is always different to what you have! I read reviews on the silicone sheet and made the decision it was too big. I would have crispy burnt edges. The browny pan seemed a bit deep. So I went for the heavy duty swiss roll tin and just had a bit of left over mixture. 

Lined Swiss Roll Tin

Put the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the mixture is very thick and pale, and leaves a trail on the surface when the beaters are lifted out. The eggs should be at room temperature. It’s thick enough when it’s about three times the volume. 

Whisking Eggs and Caster Sugar

All whisked up!

Sift half the flour over the whisked mixture and gently fold it in with a large metal spoon. Sift over the remaining flour and fold in together with a tablespoon of tepid water. It is important to fold in the flour with a sure but light touch – you don’t want to undo all that good whisking by knocking out the air. 

Swiss Roll Mixture

Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and give it a gentle shake so that the mixture spreads evenly into the corners. Bake for 10–12 minutes or until the sponge is well risen and pale golden, and springs back when pressed gently with your finger.

Swiss Roll MixtureJust out of the Oven

Turn out onto a sheet of baking parchment slightly larger than the sponge. Peel off the lining paper. Trim the crusty edges of the sponge with a sharp knife and make a score mark 2.5 cm (1 in) from one of the shorter edges (this will make the sponge easier to roll up). 

Roll up loosely from the short side, with the paper inside, and place seam side down on a wire rack to cool.

All rolled up!

When the sponge is cold, carefully unroll it and remove the paper.

Whip the cream with the vanilla extract and a few tablespoons of sifted icing sugar until the mixture forms soft peaks. 

Whipped Cream

Now we get on to the fun bit! I chose to spread my apricot preserve on first and then spread the cream on top. I was too generous with my filling! It is a good idea to leave a border at the edge. When I came to roll up my sponge I had a tidal wave of cream and apricot jam all over the kitchen work top and beyond. I had to keep scraping up the mixture to try to roll the cake up.  So the instruction to `Carefully roll up the sponge and place seam side down on a serving plate.’ was tricky! 

Swiss Roll in the makingReady to Roll!

A good swiss roll should be made of a light as air sponge. I do think I made a good sponge as it was light and moist. As Kate said on the Great British Bake Off `a dry sponge is never good!’.

However a well executed swiss roll should also have a tight, clearly defined roll. I was expecting a beautiful swirl of cream and golden apricot preserve.  What I  had was a sticky mess and no swirl!


No matter –  I tidied up the ends, dusted with icing sugar and got creative with my camera! I must say the end result was not bad. I’m not sure Mary Berry would approve of my messy baking. However the end result was delicious even if I do say so myself!

Creamy Apricot and Amaretto Swiss Roll

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