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Category Archives: May

Roses & Fruit

First of all l have a small confession to make. Strictly speaking these are not my roses. I bought them in England from David Austin, brought them back to France, planted them, fed, watered and pruned them BUT not in my garden! They are in a client’s garden who just happens to have a love of English roses, especially David Austin, oh and only in Pink, so who am l to argue. They live in Switzerland and only visit a couple of times a year but, fortunately for her, had timed one of her visits the other week so was able to enjoy the first of the blooms.

Constance Spry

The first one here is Constance Spry, it has a strong myrrh fragrance, almost like the smell of a bar of Camay soap of dream like quality. It can grow 12ft or more as a climber. A full flowered rose. Great as a cut flower.

Gertrude Jekyll

Next up is my all time favourite, and the nation’s as well by all accounts, Gertrude Jekyll. This has the most amazing fragrance. I wish we had smellinet and l could share it with you! David Austin describes it as having ‘the quintessential old rose fragrance’. I fully agree. I could get high off this fragrance! A real ‘must have’ in any garden, but beware, this lady is quite prickly.

Paul's Himalyan Musk

Paul's Himalyan Musk

Another rose l planted was in the corner of their house as it has a reputation of being quite a rampant, vigorous rambler, Paul’s Himalayan Musk. This boy can reach up to 30ft and is ideal for a pergola or to cover a building. This, too, has a great fragrance. The flowers are quite delicate and only flower once but wow, what a display.

James Galway

I also planted two ‘James Galway’ either side of their front door. These have done really well and make a wonderful entrance. the flowers are full and, again, have a beautiful old rose fragrance. Some people say it is a shame roses cannot be in flower all summer long but l think this is what makes them so special. For most of them to be in flower in the months of May and June, this is what makes an English Summer.

In this garden they are lucky enough to have several fruit trees. My favourite is the Quince so l was really pleased to see the fruit had set on the tree. Nothing can stop us now from having a good crop come September and October. A late frost got last year’s blossom and there wasn’t a single fruit to be had. It should be a good year for all fruit, both in the garden and the hedgerow. Can’t wait!

Quince

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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Flowers, May, The garden

 

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Happy Chappy!

Yes, l am a happy chappy because the book l won on ebay was delivered yesterday. Not just any book mind but an original 1945 copy of Middleton’s All The Year Round Gardening Guide.

This is the book that Arum Press published a few years ago under the title of ‘Dig On For Victory’. I had seen a picture of the book but didn’t think l would ever find a copy so thank you ebay! I have been using the Dig for Victory book for my weekly updates on what to do in your garden but now l will be able to refer to the original book as well, not that there is any difference but l love to pick an old book up like this and imagine who else had read it all those years ago. It is not a well worn copy so l doubt it has been used on a daily basis fro reference but it is still 66 years old!

It has a different introduction to the Aurum Press copy and l think is much better, more personal, and as this was written in 1945 it could well have been his last work. In his introduction he talks of ‘my sincere hope that we shall soon be digging for a lasting peace’. I am unsure as to the exact date he died in 1945 but l do hope he did see peace before he went.

I love the last paragraph, ‘Step on the spade rather than the accelerator, and you will reach the end of the journey quicker’.

Introduction


It is full of wonderful adverts ranging from Dettol, Cuprinol, Carters Seeds, Dobbies Seeds, Fisons, Unwins and Qualcast all of which are still going strong today. But l’m not sure about Carters Seeds. Were they the seeds that Woolworths used to stock? Or was it Bees?

On the back page is a Boots the Chemist advert advertising Compost, Insecticides etc all ‘approved and recommended by Mr C. H. Middleton Horticultural Consultant to Boots the Chemist’. This man got about what with working for the BBC on radio and television, writing books and making films he really was the first celebrity gardener.

On that note, there has been an awful lot of debate on who is the best person to front Gardeners World. Firstly, l think it is a shame there is only one gardening programme on the TV, especially when you see so many Home programmes, antiques, relocations, etc. So who is my favourite, well, l love Monty. He is down to earth, energetic, and just gets on with the matter in hand. Toby and Alys were just awful. No wonder the viewing figures plummeted. Carole Klein is nice but l wish she would stop laughing when she is talking!

Who is your favourite TV gardening celeb?

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in May, Mr Middleton

 

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Elderflower Cordial

Coming back from work yesterday l noticed the hedgerows were starting to fill with Elder flowers so l had to stop and pick some and make my all time favourite non-alcoholic drink, Elderflower Cordial.

Did you know?:

        • that animals find the smell of elder leaves so awful that even rabbits won’t eat them.
        • in years gone by people use to gather elder leaves on the last day of April and place them on their doors and windows to keep the witches away;
        • gardeners used to place the bruised leaves around tender plants to deter aphids and put a sprig in their hat to keep away midges;
        • cutting the tree for firewood will bring bad luck;
        • elderberry cordial helps relieve a sore throat;
        • elder flowers can be dipped in batter and eaten as fritters;

I use a recipe from Sarah Raven and l think it’s the best one around. This is easy, really easy and probably takes about 20 mins from start to finish, with 24 hours in between.

So first, go and pick your flowers…

Elder flower

Try not to pick flowers close to a busy road and take a sniff of the flower. Ideally they will smell of bananas but probably will have a faint whiff of cat. Don’t worry as the real fragrance comes out during the process of making the cordial. Try not to pick flowers that have started to turn brown as this will taint the drink. I trim as much of the stem off as possible before plunging them into the syrup.

Elder flowers in the syrup solution

Chop up your fruit and add to the elder flowers. Give it a good stir and leave for 24 hours.

Mixed fruits

Next, strain and pour into warmed bottles. I use old Lemonade bottles with the rubber stopper.

Straining the syrup

It’s delicious with chilled fizzy mineral water and loads of ice and lemon on a hot summer’s afternoon.

The finished product

Go on, give it a go!

 
 
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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Cooking, May

 

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Weeds

An exert from Mr Middleton’s book ‘Your Garden In War-time’:

May

Now for a few jobs in the garden. May is an interesting and pleasant month but it is also a busy one, and among other evil things which come to enjoy its sunny days are the weeds. Weeds of every description, great and small, tough and tender; it’s marvellous where they all come from. Up to this year l’ve been fairy free of creeping convolvulus, or bellbine (bindweed), but now it has got into the gooseberry patch. If you want to punish anyone for being naughty, just give him an hour or two pulling bellbine out of gooseberry bushes, it should prove to be very effective.This is the time of the year to tackle weeds with a will, or rather with a hoe. Keep the Dutch hoe busy among the crops and never allow a weed to flower in the garden if you can help it. If you do, it means seeds and another crop of weeds. But unless the weather is very dry, the Dutch hoe is not very effective unless you follow it with the rake and take the weeds away. Just pushing them about with the hoe from one place to another and leaving them there, merely transplants them and they thrive on it.

He goes on to tell us that weeds growing on paths should be treated with Sodium Chlorate killing anything it touches but warns it is ‘rather combustable, so handle it carefully and avoid friction, or it may go off with a fizz‘!

I am sure l have still seen it for sale but from September 2009 Sodium Chlorate was takken off the EU approved pesticides list but maybe they have taken the ‘fizz’ out of it! Mal from Malsallotment asked me how l keep my paths clear round the veg plot. Well, l do it exactly the same way as Mr Middleton suggests. It is quite therapeutic. Much better than spraying with a fizz bang weedkiller although l do use RoundUp on the main drive,

Now we have had all of this rain it seems you only have to turn your back for two minutes and there are more weeds to pull. I might try making a salad out of a few and eat them just out of spite!

How do you keep your weeds down and does anybody have any recipes using weeds in salads?!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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‘A Brief Period Of Rejoicing’

Today, 8th May, marks Victory in Europe (VE) Day. Winston Churchill told the Commons :

We may allow ourselves a brief period of rejoicing; but let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead. Japan with her her treachery and greed, remain unsubdued.We must now devote all our strength and resources to the completion of our task, both at home and abroad. Advance Britannia.

After six long years and millions of lives lost, the war in Europe was finally over.In London over a million peoplecelebrated and crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the Palace to cheering crowds.

“This is your hour. This is your Victory”, Churchill told the crowds. “It is not a victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole”.

The crowds burst into song singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. If there was one place l would like to have been it was there and then. The atmosphere must have been electric. Britain at its united best.

Click on this link to see a wonderful piece of film in colour of that moment in London: VE Day

Broad Beans

66 years on and my thoughts are also on my garden! We have been having tremendous thunderstorms and huge downpours with strong gusty winds.

It's raining again!

No problems with dry soil now. In fact, the garden is growing by the minute. My runner beans love the rain and are putting on some strong growth. So are my courgettes, squash and pumpkins. The spuds are looking good and so too are the peas and dwarf beans. I applied a soft soap solution on the blackfly on the Broad Beans and it seems to be working, albeit slowly. Thank you to Janet at Plantalicious for sending me a garlic spray recipe to get rid of the nasty blighters. I will use it if the soft soap solution doesn’t work.

I am also taking a chance with nature by planting out my courgettes this weekend. If a frost is forecast l will lay a fleece over them. the same with the spuds and runner beans. This hot weather has brought everything on so quickly l don’t have a choice really. If they stay in their pots their growth will be stumped and they never really fully recover.

Courgettes, squash and pumpkins ready to plant out

The Salad Bar

Everything comes up Roses in the end!

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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Watering

I thought this extract from ‘Mr Middleton Talks About Gardening’ seems quite timely advice for a lot of people at the moment:

I expect some of you will wonder what on earth l am going to talk about. “Watering” may seem a strange subject, but it is a very important one, and one which is not very well understood by garden lovers. I venture to say that more mistakes are made in a garden with the watering can and the hose pipe than with anything else.Indeed, l would go a step further, and say that more than half the laborious watering that is done does a good deal more harm than good. Let us consider it in detail for a few minutes.

In the first place, l am convinced that in a well-cultivated garden very little outdoor watering is ever really necessary, even in the driest weather. During a hot, dry spell last year l took a party round a famous Surrey garden, and it was very noticeable that although the natural soil there is almost pure sand, and the surface appeared to be as dry as dust, the various flowers and plants were standing up fresh and well, and appeared to be suffering no ill effects from the dry weather. Someone remarked on the amount of watering that must be necessary on such a soil, and was surprised when the Head Gardener remarked that no watering at all had been done.

Mr Middleton goes on to explain how the ground was dug deeply in the winter leaving the soil in just the right condition for drawing up water below by what is known as capillary attraction, using a cube of sugar with just a corner dipped in a cup of tea to demonstrate how the tea is absorbed.

In solid, unbroken soil, cracks appear and allow the water to evaporate quickly, but a deeply dug and well-cultivated soil not only lifts sufficient water from below but holds it in the surface layers where it is most wanted. Moreover, in such a soil the roots of plants can descend much easier to the lower regions in search of more abundant supplies.

He talks about the virtues of mulching as a means of conserving water explaining that this is done not only to feed the roots but to keep them cool and moist in hot, dry weather. he states not to do this too early in the year and suggests using manure, hay, straw, leaves or lawn mowings.

I think i should be quite safe in saying that there are far more casualties among greenhouse plants through over-watering than from any other cause. It need not be so, because after all, watering is really a question of judgement and common sense.

My deep-beds

For many years now l have grown my vegetables using deep-beds.These are 4ft wide beds, dug deeply with lots of compost. The idea is that you never walk on them hence the soil is not compacted. The plants can be spaced closer together and develop a good root system and you can see exactly what needs mulching, watering, feeding etc. I don’t think l would ever go back to the conventional method of preparing my plot ie. digging the whole lot and then treading all over it!

So, with the watering l have moved on with technology, and last year l invested in a micro-irrigation system connected to a timer. Mr Middleton would have loved this! I place the piping around the beds, in particular, the beans and peas, salad beds, courgettes, squash and pumpkins. The rest have to take their chance. I still like to use the watering can, however. There is something very ‘hands on’ using a can and you can be more selective. What system of watering do you use?

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2011 in May, Mr Middleton, The garden

 

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May Day

I have been given permission by Earthly Pursuits to use their collection of  The Allotment & Garden Guides which were first published by The Ministry of Agriculture in 1945. Just a note of caution: some of the chemicals that are suggested for use are now illegal to use and will be harmful to users, animals and the environment so please check what other methods are suitable instead.

The Enemy

The full April Allotment & Garden Guide can be found under ‘Wartime Advice’, and the information given in them is still relevant today,  but l love this page showing the difference between a Centipede and a Millipede in the form of a Centipede being a ‘fast moving friend’ and proudly showing the Union Jack flag and the Millipede being a ‘slow moving enemy’ with a Swastika! Priceless!

These leaflets are surprisingly difficult to get hold of considering they were printed in their hundreds of thousands to promote the Dig for Victory campaign. I have the odd one and l am always on the look out. Ebay is a good place to start looking but know when to stop bidding as l have seen them fetch silly amounts of money.

So, April is behind us and what a month it was! The hottest on record and l can well believe that. A lot of us had over 25c or nearly 80 f and no rain for weeks now making this month, of all months, particularly difficult in the garden. BUT, last night we had thunderstorms and it started to rain and this morning it is still raining. Thank goodness as the garden was resembling a dust bowl and l felt so sorry for all the birds trying to raise their young. This will really help bring things along and l am sure l will be seeing big differences throughout the garden over the coming days. I kept the salad bed well watered and we have been eating some really nice ‘cut and come again’ Hot & Spicy salad leaves, rocket and Mizuna. Delicious.

At least we now live in relatively peaceful times on our shores and we don’t have to worry about the Nazis invading us. 70 years ago in 1941, Hitler’s intensive bombing campaign was drawing to a close and he had to abandon ‘Operation Sealion’, the invasion of our shores. Over 40,000 civilians lost their lives during the Blitz but moral remained high, on the whole,  and everyone pulled together over the coming years  to see it through to the bitter end. It is these people and in this period that l will always remain fascinated and in total awe.

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2011 in May, The garden

 

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