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Ode to a broad bean

12 Sep

unappetising broad bean | Wolves in London

Oh green broad bean, oh green broad bean, you’re really rather small.
Oh green broad bean, oh green broad bean, you’re hardly there at all.
Oh solitary green broad bean, I still like you a lot(ty),
Though you hardly bear comparison to last year’s fine borlotti.

Your skin is wan, your colour’s dull, your seeds just number three,
Your black and speckled blotches are as ugly as can be -
And if I, famished from the day, and ready for to sup,
Picked you to feast upon, why bean, you wouldn’t fill me up!

Yet even with these many faults, upon you I heap praise
And I sing about your glory til the ending of your days.
For in one aspect you stand tall: a bean above all others
And so it is you still remain, far longer than your brothers.
Yes, beany, you’ve escaped the fate their sad short lives curtails;
You haven’t yet been eaten by our many slugs and snails.

Single broad bean | Wolves in London

P.S. Yes, I probably should get out more…

Garden moodboard: September

8 Sep

It’s quite possible, looking at this month’s moodboard, that my love for white flowers might be getting a little out-of-hand. But what white flowers they are!

September garden moodboard | Wolves in London

September delights from the garden

Along the bottom row there is a white cosmos (‘Purity’), with a small daisyish flower next to it, followed by Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus, a current obsession of mine). Above them in the top left is a glorious anemone, just below that is a nicotiana and to the right and slightly above, a self-seeded snapdragon.

Oh yeah, there are some other non-white flowers too, but really, who cares so much about them???

Anemone Honorine Jobert | Wolves in London

Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’

I think this stunning anemone is my favourite of all. I planted it a few years ago in the front garden, back when we removed the giant cactus. It has a little struggle at the start of the summer each year, when I think it’s not going to make it against its battle with the slugs and snails, and I see everyone else’s anemones in full flower, while mine looks a little sickly but then, a few weeks later, tentative little shoots and buds appear and around now the flowers are looking wonderful.

Hesperantha coccinea | Wolves in London

Same flower, new name

I’ve shown you this Hesperantha coccinea before, but it’s changed its name since then. It used to be called Schizostylis coccinea, but for some reason unknown to me, that changed. A rose by any other name, etc etc… I’ve only had a few of these by the pond so far this year, last year there was a veritable forest of them, so we’ll wait and see what happens later in the season.

Rosa rugosa rose hips | Wolves in London

Hip to be a rose…

Also autumnally-coloured, these are the rose hips from my new Rosa rugosa hedge. I think rugosa hips are good for eating, so I shall definitely be trying some culinary experimentations with these later on this year. (Not these actual hips in the photograph, of course. I don’t think they would last that long…)

Nigella | Wolves in London

So frothy!

Along with a mass of seed heads (on the bottom right of the main picture) my nigella has also put out a few more tiny little flowers in the last week. It’s nice to have a little bit more blue out there. On the left of this photo is some campanula, which has struggled on throughout the summer, producing the odd flower here and there. I really need to figure out something else to plant alongside it to cover up its rather unattractive leggy stems. (And, be still my beating heart, the lovely Erigeron is on the right of this pic again…)

Nicotiana | Wolves in London

Yeah, okay, it’s a looking a little blotchy

This photo doesn’t do my nicotiana any real favours (especially with those odd brown blotchy bits on the flower) but I’ve not photographed it yet this summer, despite its almost constant flowering. It wilts almost immediately after being picked (and often throughout the day on hot days) but looks and smells utterly wonderful around twilight. I don’t know what type of nicotiana this is (it looks just like ‘Lime green’ except for the fact it’s not, obviously, lime green) so if anyone knows, do drop me a comment. I bought five plants from the garden centre back at the start of the summer and they’ve just kept on going ever since…

Salvia seascape | Wolves in London

Salvia seascape

Finally, woohooo, a little bit of new colour. I grew some of these salvia seascapes from seed this year. They’re mixed colours and actually all the other plants are white, but this one is just starting to put out some blue flowers. In retrospect, I slightly regret cutting it down just to take its photo — but I think there were a few more flower spikes coming up on the same plant.

So there we have it, the joys of September. I’m thinking this might be one of my last monthly garden moodboards; for the time being at least. I feel as if I might be reaching the end of my range-of-plants-photographed-against-white-background capabilities. I’ve been joining in with Karin and Asa for just over a year now and have thoroughly enjoyed watching my little garden progress, but, at least until I do a major planting session anyway, I feel as if I’m now getting to a point of repetition in plant photography… Anyway, I’m not making any definite decisions, but we’ll see how the mood takes me in October. It may well be time for pastures new though. (Pastures such as Grow, forage, cook for example!)

Related articles:

Grow, forage, cook: a disappointing harvest

4 Sep

As August has bid us farewell and summer has melted into the season of mellow fruitfulness, I’ve started to feel a little bit of a fraud.

It’s been great to see so many of you joining in with our Grow, forage, cook series; Laura posted what we hope will be the first of many round ups of some of your mouth-watering photos and recipes last week: August round up.

I am practically salivating onto my keyboard at the sight of all the wonderful jams, pies, salads and other delights, made from homegrown or foraged foods.

I, on the other hand, a founder of this wonderful series have not, I confess, been out day after day picking the bounty of my garden.

Despite Laura’s kind words about my gardening prowess, back when we launched this series a month ago, this year has been my least successful when it comes to growing food.

Homegrown apples | Wolves in London

Apples from my tree: about the only edible thing in my garden right now

There was the excellent plum bounty, to be sure, and the apple trees have produced a small but steady supply of really delicious apples (though nowhere near the apple glut we had the first year we moved in). The brambles at the bottom of the garden by the greenhouse have been nothing if not prolific.

But, to the production of these delicious fruits I have assisted but a little. Yes, I did prune and thin the apple and plum trees earlier in the year (I recall the rather worrying incident of a heavily pregnant lady swaying atop a rickety ladder fairly well). And when it comes to the brambles, well, I have actually spent quite a lot of time and effort trying to eradicate them, so far completely unsuccessfully.

But everything that I have actually tried to grow has been an unmitigated failure.

Come take a stroll with me, if you will, and see if you can spot the problem…

Horrible courgette | Wolves in London

Erm, what can I say, this looks utterly vile

Now, I hope you’re not eating anything when you take a look at the photo of my single courgette. Yes, this limp (I am restraining from using the word “flaccid”) nibbled, part yellow specimen is the solitary courgette produced from my courgette plant. Appetiising? Not so much. Everyone, but everyone growing courgettes has the September “what the hell am I going to do with all these courgettes?” quandary. Everyone, that is, but me, who knows perfectly well that this sad looking specimen is headed straight for the wormery. The slug damage inflicted is just too great for any recovery now.

A few steps over and you find this glorious prize winning aubergine.

aubergine flower | Wolves in London

Yes, it’s really pretty, but can you turn into into baba ganoush?

What’s that you say? Just a tiny little flower? Oh. Yes. So it is.

Though the plant has put out about 30 flowers this year, not a single one has produced a fruit. I don’t know whether it’s lack of germination, or lack of water at a crucial time or just lack of luck, but this is the best I’ve got from the aubergine plant…

I can’t even show you a photo of my purple sprouting broccoli plants, veg that I have grown in previous years and eaten with delight for the whole of the winter months. I lost them all a few months ago to caterpillars. Overnight.

The broad beans are certainly more successful because they have, gasp, produced one whole entire almost certainly edible bean. Hurrah! This is he.

Broad bean | Wolves in London

Granted, the slugs might have a harder time if I actually weeded around my poor bean plant

Hot on the success of my lovely borlottis last year, I planted half borlottis and half broad beans. I cared for them, nurtured them from seed, watered and loved them in the greenhouse and, in May, certain the last frost was over, I planted them out into a specially prepared patch in the garden. There were 24 plants in total.

Two weeks later there were three.

Now, there is just the one, with this single bean hanging from its stem.

Slugs. Bloody slugs again.

Even the cucamelons, something I declared both prolific and fail-safe after my first attempt growing them last year, are struggling on, pitifully, producing a few fruits but mostly dying down.

Cucamelon | Wolves in London

Awww, I never tire of their cuteness!

The problem with it all, of course, is lack of time. I never use chemical bug killers or computerised sprinkling systems because of environmental / sustainability issues. But hand slug-removal and hand watering are only good if you actually *get out into the garden and do it*. This summer, what with one thing or another (thing one: a toddler, thing two: a baby) free time has been slightly on the rare side and the poor garden has rather suffered as a result.

The one hope for any sort of real harvest I have are my beetroot, which succumbed in a big way to some sort of fungal disease a month back (the result, I am certain, of letting the sproglet be in charge of watering them, which will have bounced the fungal spores all over the place. Never water from above in the middle of the day, I know that, of course, but the sproglet loves watering the garden so much that I feel exceedingly mean to deny his enjoyment…) At one point they had not a single green healthy leaf among them. Now, amazingly, a pleasing resurgence and they look as if they might yet produce some decent roots for eating.

 

Beetroot | Wolves in London

Sunkissed and, astonishingly, still alive, hurrah!

So the verdict from my garden this year. Pests: 1; Sabrina: 0.

I’d love to end on a deep philosophical note about how gardening isn’t just about the end result, but also the pleasure of time outdoors, taking a moment out of your life, yadda yadda yadda < insert appropriate homily here> but, you know what, I really wanted to actually grow something to eat this year and I am pretty miffed at the sorry show.

So please, keep your pictures coming so I can live vicariously through your gardening successes! Tag your photos #growforagecook on instagram, tweet us your blog posts (to @circleofpines or @wolvesinlondon) or just leave a comment below.

Meanwhile, over here in slug city, my love of stocking the larder won’t be thwarted (Autumn time to me = permanent eye-watering vinegar aromas in the house as I pickle / chutnify everything I can get my hands on…) But if it’s not made from plums, apples or blackberries, it’ll be from the veg box this year, not the fruits of manual labour.

Ah well, seed catalogues have been circled and next year’s planning has already begun…

Grow forage cook: spicy plum chutney

26 Aug
Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Spicy plum chutney: the harbinger of autumn…

There’s been a definite chill in the air this week and I have to keep reminding myself that, yes, it is still officially August and still officially summer. For one more week at least…

I’m sure I can feel the days shortening imperceptibly each evening and my summer duvet is wrapped more tightly around me each night.

I’m trying not to moan because, after all, we did have a glorious July, but there is something a little depressing about an August that already feels as if autumn has hit.

But, on the plus side, the arrival of autumn a little early this year means the early arrival of harvest time, hurrah!

And what a bumper harvest it has been so far.

It seems to have been an especially good year for plums. My fellow Grow Forage Cooker, Laura (of Circle of Pine Trees) shared three glorious looking plum recipes last week from a basket filled to the brim at the local PYO.

This is a selection of seriously delicious looking plum treats: plum clafoutis, plum cake and plum jam. Head over now if you’ve not already seen the delights: a basket of plums.

This week, I’ve got plums in my hands too, hem hem, since our plum tree has had a rather magnificent bounty this year.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

What a bowl of plums!

So if you, too, have more plums than you know what to do with, here’s another recipe, this one for a spicy plum chutney, that tastes particularly fabulous at Christmas time with cold meats or cheese.

(I know, I know, despite the chilly weather it’s still far too early to think about Christmas, but this chutney is best matured for a few months, so if you make it now you can forget about it all over again until December…)

And if you’re growing, foraging or cooking anything yourself with seasonal ingredients, do please share it with us. Use the hashtag #growforagecook on twitter or instagram and tag either of us (@circleofpines and @wolvesinlondon) or leave us a comment on our blogs to share any photos you’ve taken, recipes you’ve made or blog posts you’ve written.

We’d love to get some inspiration / drool over some delicious photos.

At the end of each month, we’ll share a round up on our blogs of some of our favourites and pin them to our Pinterest board: Grow, forage, cook.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has joined in so far!

And so, on with the plums…

Spicy plum chutney

Spicy plum chutney | Wolves in London

Another, slightly closer up view of the chutney

This makes 5 – 6 jars. You can scale up or down all the ingredients depending on how many plums you have.

Supplies:

  • 1kg of plums
  • 1kg of apples, cored and chopped
  • 400g granulated sugar (I like to use white sugar as the chutney stays a wonderful pink colour, but you can replace with brown if you prefer)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1tbsp chilli flakes (or more or less, as you prefer)
  • fresh ginger, an amount about the size of two thumbs
  • garlic: one bulb, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 350ml of cider vinegar
  • Large heavy bottom saucepan, stockpan or (ideally) jam pan
  • 5-6 jam jars
  • wooden spoon

What to do:

1. First of all, get your jars on to sterilise. You can either put them through a normal wash on the dishwasher, or wash them in soapy water and then put into an oven on a low heat. If you do the latter, put them onto a baking tray and then you can pull the whole thing out at once, rather than handling lots of hot glass jars.

You’re supposed to use new lids every time, or sterilise them in boiling water, but – confession – I just stick the lids through the dishwasher as well…

2. Chop the plums in half, remove the stones and weigh them. Incidentally, this will leave you with genuine brown, wrinkled prune fingers; washing them in a bit of lemon juice helps remove the stains…

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

First, chop your plums…

3. Match the rest of your ingredients to the amount of plums you have, by scaling up or down the ratios. For every kg of plums you want approximately a matching weight in apples, 350ml of vinegar and 400g of sugar. Specific quantities aren’t crucial, so don’t worry too much about matching this exactly. The apples on my trees are only just starting to ripen, so I couldn’t quite match the weight of the plums, but just added what I could… It didn’t matter in the slightest.

4. Core and chop the apples – controversially, I don’t worry about peeling them, since I think the skin softens enough not to be noticeable and I am a rather lazy cook – but if you’d rather peel them, go right ahead.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Apples from my trees

5. Stick everything into a big saucepan and bring to the boil.

6. Simmer, stirring every now and again for around 90 minutes, or until the mixture has reduced and become a thick gloopy consistency.

7. Spoon into the jars while still hot and twist the lids onto the top. The lids should depress at the top and you know a seal has been made.

8. Put aside for at least a month if you can, before eating, to let the flavours infuse. This should store well for at least a year…

Delicious with meats or with cheese and biscuits.

Spicy plum chutney recipe | Wolves in London

Plum chutney, cheese and oatcakes. A rather excellent snack, I can attest…

So tell me, what have you been growing / foraging / cooking recently?

Related articles:

I love me a bit of preserving. Take a look at a few of my other recipes:

A peek in the garden

7 Aug

I thought it was high time to take you for another little stroll round my garden and a photographic browse of what’s going on outside in August.

I’m thinking about my garden pretty much non-stop at the moment, planning what changes I want to make for next year. Which plants need to be dug up and moved. Which new plants I want to buy. Which of the beds should be dedicated to what.

So – amongst all the looking forward – it’s nice to take a little break to remember what’s there right now.

In the front garden, everything is looking pretty happy at the moment. The verbena, as I have mentioned perhaps a million times before, is putting on as good a show this year as the last two. I’ve read that you need to replace these after about three years, so I’ll have to check on its performance next year. It flowers for months on end, but best of all the bees love it.

Bee on verbena | Wolves in London

Bzzz bzzzz bzzzz, I loooove verbena

The new wild rose hedge that we planted earlier in the year is very perky. The roses are stunning and smell delightful, but I’m equally fascinated by the way the leaves unfurl from a tightly-packed whorl…

Rosa rugosa | Wolves in London

They only last for a day or two, but the scent is just stunning…

Rose leaves unfurling | Wolves in London

Wouldn’t this be great in time lapse?

The Nectaroscordum siculum seedheads have been all but fully eaten by birds. All that is left are these spiky fronds. I plan to leave these in place all winter, I really love them. (You can see a photo of the full flower here and the seed heads pre-eating here.)

Seedhead | Wolves in London

Just one of the seed containers remaining…

The flowers are almost over on my amazing sea holly (Eryngium ‘Jos Eijking’) but its striking blue stems haven’t lost any of their colour. This is one of the plants that I’d like to move – it’s overshadowed by all the verbena and the electric blue doesn’t go well with their more mellow purple — so I think it’d look better in a bigger bed out the back. But reading up, it doesn’t like disturbance, apparently. Hmmm, might have to just see how it goes.

Eryngium 'Jos Eijking' | Wolves in London

Eryngium ‘Jos Eijking’

Moving round to the back garden…

Do you remember my obsession with Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus)? The good news is, the three plants I put into the back garden are all growing well and flowering. Hoorah! I hope they’ll colonise this stone wall nicely.

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London

Whoop whoop, welcome to my garden little daisy-like flowers

Close by, in what is to be my mixed border once I’ve planted it up this summer, the last remaining cosmos (which should have been planted at the back of the border, but for some reason I put at the front and it looks rather gigantic there next to the smaller plants.) I feel I should apologise for yet another cosmos photo, but really, how could you ever tire of photos of this lovely flower?!

Cosmos | Wolves in London

Beautiful cosmos

Just as there is a pink rose bush in the front garden that I claim as my own, but in fact belongs to a neighbour, so too in the back garden. These roses have been blooming since the spring, now, and the bush, though technically originating next door, takes up a substantial space in one of my beds. They’re unscented, but I really like the loose natural petal arrangement. So much more attractive than the traditional tightly-packed roses, in my opinion.

Pink rose | Wolves in London

Anybody know what sort of rose this is?

Over on the other side of the garden, the apples are ripening nicely on the trees, though I fear many are filled with caterpillars.

Apples | Wolves in London

Almost ready for picking, I would say

Also ripening, shockingly early, are the blackberries. The same neighbour with the lovely pink rose also has a garden that is basically 80% bramble bushes. I spend a lot of time trying to stop them taking over our garden too, but it’s something of a losing battle. Which I mind less when I am greeted by a sight such as this.

Blackberries | Wolves in London

Ready to be turned into jam…

Meanwhile, the actually intended veg is doing less well. My courgette has put out lots of male flowers, but just the one female so far. I don’t think it got pollinated, either, so I’m afraid this solo courgette is just likely to drop off sometime soon without growing further. Fingers crossed I’m wrong…

Courgette | Wolves in London

Please don’t fall off, little baby courgette

In the greenhouse, I’ve just treated myself to some gigantic trays and some capillary matting, in a quest to overcome my crappy watering schedule. My plants are consequently neatly lined up and looking rather smart despite the hot weather.

Tray of seedlings | Wolves in London

Lovingly grown from seed and not yet dead, hurrah!

On the right of the photo are Penstemon ‘Husker Red’ with lavender and Aubrieta deltoidea ‘Purple cascade’ in the front. I’ve grown far too many of the last two, I think I counted about 35 little lavender seedlings. If I grew these all to adult size and planted them out, that would pretty much take over my whole garden, ha ha. I plan a nice little lavender line to go down the side of my path in the front garden but I suspect I won’t need more than five plants to complete that. So if anyone in SE London wants some lavender, give me a shout!

Ditto for the aubrieta, which will one day soon have lovely purple flowers all over, but currently just looks like this:

Aubrieta seedling | Wolves in London

Aubrieta seedling

Also in the greenhouse, for now, are two jasmine plants: an evergreen (Trachelospermum jasminoides) and the standard jasmine (Jasminum officinale). I’d planned to grow them up a certain wall, but completely changed my mind once I got them home. They’ve been sitting here, gently baking in the summer sun for the past few months and I really must decide where I want them. In the meantime, though, the greenhouse smells amazing…

Star jasmine | Wolves in London

Lovely star jasmine

And finally, a few photos of my kalanchoe. I normally have this indoors, but I moved it outside this summer, for no real reason other than the fact we were decorating inside.

The sunlight has done it the world of good though, tinting the edges of its fat leaves a wonderful red colour. I think it’s looking more glorious than it ever has before in the ten years I’ve owned it…

Kalanchoe | Wolves in London

I love its chubby little leaves

Kalanchoe | Wolves in London

Beautiful red outlines

Phew, well that was quite a long stroll, wasn’t it? Thanks for joining me. Perhaps time for a nice cuppa and a biscuit now. Have a lovely afternoon.

Related articles:

Garden moodboard: August 2014

1 Aug

Oh the joys of an English summer!

July was gloriously sunny for the most part and my garden has been putting forth some of my favourite flowers as a result.

Garden moodboard August 2014 | Wolves in London

Pinks, whites, purples and blues: my favourite colours in the garden

If last month was a little bare, this month has surely been making up for it, with snapdragons, pink roses, white cosmos, frothy nigellas and a profusion of sweet peas. Hurrah for cottage garden flowers!

Cottage garden flowers | Wolves in London

No month will be prettier than this, in my book

I grew five cosmos flowers from seed this year but — as is frequently my wont — left them too long in the greenhouse and four of them went horribly leggy as a result. They bloomed on top of their spindly legs, stuck out a mere two or so flowers and then collapsed groundwards, never to recover.

Cosmos bipinnatus Purity | Wolves in London

Lovely white cosmos ‘Purity’

The one stunted runt of the litter, however, has turned into a lovely bushy shape and has been putting out a profusion of blooms over the last few weeks. I absolutely love white cosmos, so I’ve been very happy to see this plant colonising its patch of the flowerbed.

I also grew some annual sweet peas from seed, the cultivar ‘Matucana’ — said to be one of the best scented. I’m not actually that crazy on the purple and blue colours of the flowers, but they certainly do smell wonderful.

Sweet pea Matucana | Wolves in London

If only this was real life and you could smell this…

Luckily, unexpectedly, a gloriously attractive pink sweet pea stuck its head above ground in my front garden. I’d completely forgotten that last year I had planted a few annual varieties but also a perennial, so was most pleased to see this reappear. It has absolutely no scent at all, but it does look stunning. So a little jug full of the two varieties together gives me good looks and good smells, ha ha.

Perennial sweet pea | Wolves in London

I don’t know what this pink version is. Anyone have any ideas?

Pink sweet pea | Wolves in London

I love the grading from white to pink…

Another unexpected but warmly welcomed visitor was this white snapdragon, self-seeded in the front garden from a whole window box full that I grew last year. (They were meant to be used as wedding table flowers, in fact, but bloomed too soon for our September wedding.)

Snapdragon | Wolves in London

We used to make these “talk” when I was a child

Also in the front garden, we pulled out our diseased box hedge earlier in the springtime and planted a new hedge of rosa rugosa instead. I wasn’t expecting it to flower this year, so was ecstatically happy to see a few flowers this past week. Again, one with a phenomenal smell, redolent of an English park in summertime.

Rosa rugosa alba | Wolves in London

I bought 12 of these glorious plants for a mere £2 each…

The nigellas I sowed in the flower bed in front of our kitchen put on a brilliant display for about, oooh, two weeks tops. Has anyone else had better luck at getting them to stay around for longer? Yes, they looked beautiful when they were in flower, yes, I love their little blue heads appearing over all the feathery leaves, but it felt like an awful lot of time with nothing but bare soil, then tiny seedlings, then a little froth of green, only to have a fortnight of the lovely flowers.

Nigella damascena | Wolves in London

Such a crazy looking flower…

I do like their seed heads as well (despite their fairly strong resemblance to green testicles) and have even harvested enough for a whole display on their own (see this pic on instagram) but I definitely would rather have a bit more usage of the flower itself. Any tips?

Nigella seedhead | Wolves in London

What does this look like to you?!

My coriander all bolted while we were on holiday a few weeks back in the hot weather. Useless for eating, but I guess I’ll try and harvest the seeds instead. The white frothy flowers are rather attractive as well.

Flowering coriander | Wolves in London

No good for eating but rather pretty…

And the hot weather seems to be bringing out plants far more quickly than in usual years. I pulled my first crop of blackberries the other week, not normally this plump and juicy til September.

Blackberry | Wolves in London

Yum yum yum

In the greenhouse, I also spotted my first ready-to-eat cucamelon. I’ve been growing these for a few years now. They’re a cross between a watermelon and a cucumber (as if you couldn’t tell that from the name) and I really like them in salads because, well, they look super cute.

You can see the beauty of them here:

Cucamelon | Wolves in London

This could be a normal sized melon, couldn’t it?

But this gives you an idea of the size:

Cucamelon and blackberry

But actually, it’s just teeny tiny!

The Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ that I bought a few months back is the plant that just keeps on giving. When I first got it there was one little purple flower spike. Over the past few months, a steady succession have pushed on through, heading higher and higher for the sky and putting out more and more tiny purple flowers with every day. I cut some of the tallest spikes back as they were starting to look a little straggly at the bottom and plenty more have taken their place.

Wallflower ' Bowles Mauve" | Wolves in London

Pretty and endlessly flowering!

Finally, the last delight I’ve cut down in its prime purely to photograph is this lovely pink rose bud.

Pink rose bud | Wolves in London

Glorious

It’s the last to bloom on the rose bush in the neighbour’s garden that leans over our fence to get the best of the sunlight. We’ve had a succession of flowers for the past few months, but I love them the best when they’re still just in bud. Unscented, sadly, but beautiful to look at…

Phewee, that was something of a bumper post, many congratulations if you’ve read the plant chat all the way down to here! It’s been a profusion of prettiness this month but, I fear, nothing is there waiting in the wings to take its place in September. So next month, you might have just a solitary photo of an apple or a plum. Watch this space!

Related articles:

  • Check out the rest of my garden moodboards if you’re so inclined
  • And over on Pinterest, I’ve pulled together my favourite photos from my moodboards and others: Garden moodboard board (or click on the photos below)…

Grow forage cook: morello cherry vodka recipe

28 Jul

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while now, you might know that the wonderfully talented Laura at Circle of Pine Trees is a good friend of mine.

Laura and I met back in our student days at Bristol Uni, both of us studying English Literature and then taking a masters in poetry (otherwise known as wasting a year in a rather enjoyable but completely pointless pursuit…)

It wasn’t over our mutual love of 20th century poetry though, that we really bonded, but through our mutual love of cooking (and perhaps more specifically a love of cakes, now I think about it…)

In the years since (oh, one or two I would guess, if you’re asking, definitely not more than a decade, ahem) that love of cooking has developed for both of us into a love of cooking with natural ingredients; often either home grown or foraged.

So we thought it was high time we got together and collaborated to share some recipes, growing tips and foraging ideas with each other – and any of you dear readers who might be interested.

Here then, as a first installment for our new series Grow, Forage, Cook, is my recipe for morello cherry vodka.

Morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in LondonWhen I removed the giant cactus from the front garden a few years back, I planted a morello cherry tree in its place.

Morello cherries are wonderful because they’re rather bitter and don’t taste good until you cook them. In itself, not necessarily a plus point, but it means the birds don’t eat them and you can use every single last one on the tree. This year, the first year I got any fruit, it wasn’t a bumper crop. (The tree is still very young. Barely into adolescence in tree years.) But it was perfectly sized for a batch of morello cherry vodka.

Ingredients:

Morello cherry vodka supplies

All the supplies

  • Morello cherries (or you could use normal sweet cherries and reduce the sugar)
  • A bottle of vodka
  • Granulated sugar — enough to fill about a third of the bottle
  • And then you need a bottle with a seal to store it in

What to do:

1. Cut all the cherries in half. I leave the stones in, which gives a slightly almondy flavour to the vodka as well, but you could take the stones out if that doesn’t sound pleasant.

Homemade morello cherry vodka recipe | Wolves in London

Good enough to eat!

2. Fill your storage bottle a third full with sugar (you can simply re-use the original vodka bottle if it has a screw lid. Just drink remove a little bit of of the vodka first) and then push the cherries in on top.

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London

Looks delicious already, I know

3. Pour the vodka over the top until you’ve filled the bottle…

Homemade morello cherry vodka | Wolves in London

You can see the colour of the cherries bleeding into the liquid already

…and then seal the lid and give it a really good shake.

4. Store it in a cupboard and give it a good shake every time you notice it for the first month or so. (Or, if you’re more organised than me, do it once a week to schedule.)

5. If you can, leave it for a year, even better leave it for two years to really infuse together. Once you’re ready to drink it, strain the liquid through a sieve to remove the vodka-soaked cherries.

Getting all Blue Peter on you, here is one I prepared earlier. Two years ago, to be precise:

Homemade morello cherry vodka

It genuinely is that amazing pinky red colour…

Isn’t it a phenomenal colour?!

So, five minutes prep and a mere two years in waiting and you’ve got some cherry vodka.

What to do with it then? you might well ask.

Of course, you can just swig it from the bottle (I did this a few times while I was waiting. Checking that the sugar content was right, naturally, not just having a cheeky glug.)

But the classier option is to use it in a cocktail.

It’s really good in a cherry vodka fizz: one measure vodka, the glass topped up with tonic water. (A vodka tonic by any other name…)

Cherry vodka fizz | Wolves in London

Top with mint and some spare cherries for a truly photogenic drink

Or, for a more boozy / celebratory alternative, you could put a measure of the cherry vodka in a champagne glass and top with champagne.

Or, of course, you could just use it in place of normal vodka in about a million other cocktail recipes and make them a wonderful pink colour.

[My husband just looked over my shoulder and commented that if he couldn’t see the actual items, he would never believe that these were real, so bright are the colours. But yes! I trick you not, this really is the vodka I made and the cherries really are that bright red. Here’s a final shot of them, unedited straight from the camera:

Morello cherries

Morello cherries; one of the fakes-looking fruits in the world?

So go forth, all, and plant a morello cherry tree in your garden!]

Let me know if you have a go, I’d love to hear any other wonderful concoctions you make with it!

Related articles:

5 ideas from Hampton Court flower show

12 Jul

Last Wednesday I spent a gorgeous sunny day wandering round Hampton Court flower show.

Forgotten Folly summer garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

The Forgotten folly summer garden. One of my favourites from the show

It was an English summer personified: the drowsy song of bees in the air, the sun beating down with occasional white clouds drifting across the blue skies, endless (endless!) stalls selling Pimms and rather a lot of people dressed in striped blazers and Panama hats.

I managed to spot a glimpse of Carol Klein, Joe Swift and Mary Berry, which added to the excitement of course, but I also got lots of inspiration from the gardens and stalls around the show.

I am planning to redesign and replant my own little patch of green this autumn and I came away with lots of ideas I’d love to translate back to my own space.

Here are five pieces of inspiration I took away from the show, in the hope they might also inspire you!

1. Use native planting to attract insects

Macmillan legacy garden and Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Wonderful naturalistic planting of native flowers

As far as I’m concerned, this is preaching to the converted. Who wouldn’t want lots of colourful butterflies and buzzing bees in their garden, helping pollinate all the fruit and veg?

Lots and lots of gardens featured naturalistic planting and wildflowers, but the Macmillan legacy garden, above and below, was definitely my favourite.

Macmillan legacy garden at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

I’m pretty sure I need a rusty metal cow in my garden too…

The plants chosen were all native to Somerset (where Douglas Macmillan grew up) and included verbena, alchemilla, ammi majus, anemones, campanula, grasses, foxgloves, geraniums, hostas, sedum and thyme. In short, loads of my very favourite plants!

2. You can still pack a punch with small borders

It’s easy to walk around a show like Hampton Court and think, “sure, this all looks lovely, but I just don’t have space in my own garden to do anything like this…”

Al Fresco summer garden | Wolves in London

Small bed + loads of plants = lovely

The Al Fresco summer garden, though, provided great inspiration for planting in small beds. The majority of the garden was hard landscaping, with a central dining table, covered by a pergola, and built in barbecue.

The area was surrounded by a number of raised beds, of fairly small dimensions, but full of gorgeous flowers, more than making their mark despite the small space they were confined in. Definitely one to provide encouragement to all those who, like me, only have a small space for planting…

3. Use your garden for what you love

Before I started my horticulture and design course last year, I had rather set ideas about what a garden should be.

Surely every garden needed a lawn, a patio, some borders and so on?

Of course, this is complete nonsense. Your garden should contain only the elements you want and will use.

No interest in a lawn but lots of time entertaining outside? Don’t bother including one, just create an amazing dining space like the Al Fresco garden above.

Allitex greenhouse at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Sigh, dribble, drool. How I want one of these beauties in my garden

Obsessed with growing tender plants? Forget everything else and just have a greenhouse then! This one from Allitex is surely the greenhouse dream and I loved the way it had been surrounded by flower beds.

Not a show garden, of course, just a display by the company, but I lusted after it nonetheless.

(Perhaps one day I will be able to afford one to replace the beast…)

4. Simplicity is key

I am something of a magpie when it comes to my garden. I want to include every single lovely plant I have ever seen somewhere within its four fences…

Allium stall at Hampton Court show | Wolves in London

Stunning. Just stunning. Love me an allium

But this display on an allium nursery’s stand reminded me of the importance of paring it back with plant choices and with colours. Less range of plants, but growing in profusion, is definitely more in design terms…

Sure, I don’t want to restrict myself to just alliums in my garden, but this was a great reminder of just how striking simplicity can be.

5. Plant up in everything you can…

…but don’t forget a cohesive style

Zinc planters at Hampton Court | Wolves in London

These amazing buckets only cost £25. But I couldn’t carry one home, with the baby in a sling, and the guy said he only sold at shows. Sob, sob. Next year…

I adored this stall which sold lots of zinc planters and buckets and milk urns and a million other wonderful things.

My garden currently has everything planted in the beds, with a few scattered pots here and there.

But planting up all sorts of unusual objects can have a wonderful effect. These zinc buckets, for example, would look fabulous planted as a herb garden.

Remember to match the planters to the style of your garden, however, to ensure you achieve cohesion of ideas. These would look great in a cottage style garden, as would terracotta pots.

A contemporary urban garden might suit aluminium or concrete pots better. Don’t be tempted to mix too many different materials together or the overall look can become a little bitty…

So, plenty of inspiration for me as I start to plan the next phase of my ever-evolving garden. And I’m booking myself a ticket to next year’s show as soon as I can!

Related articles:

  • You can see more photos of all the gardens over on the RHS website: RHS Hampton Court flower show
  • Of course, but of course, I have Pinterest boards for these sorts of things too. If you love a beautiful garden as much as I do, follow my Dream garden plans board for lots of stunning designs. And my board Plants, plants, plants started as a place to save plants we were learning about in my horticulture course and has evolved into a place to save details of every plant I come across that I love. You can see a preview of both below, just click on the photos to go to the full board…

Vintage gardening books

10 Jul

You know me by now, right?

Lover of plants, books and all things vintage.

So you’ll understand why I just had to share some photos of my latest haul with you. A haul of… wait for it… vintage. gardening. books. I know!

Book stack and sweet peas

Sweet peas and books. Heaven

On our recent visit to Wisley, I couldn’t resist the lure of a second hand plant books stall and came away with some real beauties.

All for the grand price of £2.50.

The first is my favourite, this unassuming little green book:

Gardener's Chapbook | Wolves in London

What’s inside this little book?

It’s called The Gardener’s Chapbook…

The Gardener's Chapbook

Could an inside cover look any more appealing?

“What’s a chapbook?” I hear you cry.

And I can reply, “I haven’t got a bloody clue.” There’s nothing within the pages that explains its bizarre title (the woman on the stall who, I assume, is something of an expert in gardening books also said she’d never come across the expression before…)

It’s not, as you might imagine, a book of gardening for chaps (“First, twirl your moustache, second prune the apple tree” etc etc) but contains an anthology of gardening prose and verse, followed by a few recipes and a few rather delightful black and white illustrations like this one:

 

Gardener's Chapbook | Wolves in London

Everyone needs a few garden proverbs in their lives

The Book of Wild Flowers is another absolute winner in my eyes. I am a complete sucker for illustrations of plants and I am massively into “native planting” at the moment too (hard though it is to define what’s genuinely native) so these illustrations of British wildflowers are wonderful to me.

 

Illustrations of wild flowers | Wolves in London

A gorgeous fritillary on this page…

Wild flowers illustrations

…and a perennial sweet pea here

Finally, this one smacks of another era of vintage.

Trees and shrubs

Those colours are, erm, appealing…

Such a very bold front cover! Published in 1979, this little book is one year younger than me. And for the grand sum of 50p, I now have a guide to help me with the tree identification I’ve pledged to carry out this summer (you can read more about that here: A love of trees).

I’m tempted to set myself the challenge to recognise everything within its covers by the time the year is out…

So, what do you think? £2.50 well spent?

Wonderful Wisley

5 Jul

Last Sunday, we strapped the sprogs into their car seats, cracked the windows open to let in some warm summer breezes and set off along the A3 heading for RHS Wisley.

Sun behind trees | Wolves in London

Trees, sunshine, what more could you want?

I wasn’t sure how enjoyable the rest of the Wolves in London clan were going to find the excursion; all of them so far too young /not-into-gardening to think that a thrilling day involves me wandering round examining flower beds and sharing fascinating snippets of information about Latin horticultural names or the biology of a plant’s roots. (More fool them…)

Tree trunk | Wolves in London

“Now gather round, family, and let me share some fascinating facts about this stately tree…”

Actually, I was delighted at how family friendly Wisley was. There were only a few areas where I had to try and explain “Keep off the grass” signs to the sproglet.  There was a soft play area and a children’s playground. But, it says a lot about how much fun we had everywhere else, that we didn’t have time to visit either of them.

An arts and crafts fair was taking place that weekend (I know, double heaven for me: gardening and crafts!)

Lots of stalls were set up around the grounds with makers selling their wares and offering lessons in everything from pot-throwing to brooch making.

Had I been alone, I would have definitely tried my hand at these plant prints. I only had a very quick look, but I think they must be made with inkodye, something I have been dying (geddit?!) to try out for a while now. The effect is really striking:

Blue ink flowers | Wolves in London

My guess is that these have been made by placing a leaf over some fabric covered in light sensitive dye

The sproglet was particularly impressed with a collection of wire sculptures of animals, like this hare:

Wire hare | Wolves in London

Pretty realistic, no?

And, naturally, I couldn’t resist getting a photo of this wolf sculpture. (A friendly wolf! I’ve written before about how they’re pretty hard to find…)

Wolf sculpture | Wolves in London

Awww, a soft cuddly wolf

There were also various performances going on during the day. This lady, in the glasshouses, was billed as an “aerial artiste”…

Aerial artiste | Wolves in London

Not a job for those with vertigo

But, most fun was had just wandering through the impressive grounds themselves, which are full of quirky architecture and sculptures.

RHS Wisley | Wolves in London

I loved these huge bulrush sculptures by the lakes

The sproglet dashed off in glee the minute he saw the pagoda:

Pagoda at Wisley | Wolves in London

You can’t beat a good pagoda…

But his attention was held for even longer by a rather impressive insect hotel.

(Side note: I think these look stunning, but any I have come across seem rather devoid of insects. Anyone have something similar in their own garden?)

Bug hotel at Wisley | Wolves in London

I have a sneaky suspicion a few bits of wood might have been removed at this point…

Rather intriguingly, my friend Annie (of Nimble Fingers and Steady Eyebrows) tweeted me just as I was leaving and said that there was a statue of her somewhere in the grounds. Sadly, I didn’t see it, but I did enjoy this couple sitting and soaking up the view:

Statue at Wisley | Wolves in London

“Weather’s nice today, dear…” “Yes, isn’t it, dear.”

And the glasshouses, of course, were mind-blowingly awesome:

Glasshouses at Wisley | Wolves in London

Now I only I could replace my old greenhouse with one of these!

We spent a lot of time wandering round inside and, of course, I took a few hundreds of photos of plants. This is the (highly) edited selection…

Pink flower | Wolves in LondonOrchid | Wolves in LondonLeaves | Wolves in LondonWhite orchid | Wolves in LondonYellow flower | Wolves in London

Rather foolishly, I was so busy being snap happy that I forgot to write down the names of any of these plants and I’m not really familiar with exotic flowers like this so I no longer have a clue what’s in the photos.

But no matter, for I’m saving the best til last. My very favourite part of the gardens was the more naturalist drift planting, just outside the back of the glasshouses. This is the look I aspire to in my own (much, much, much) smaller flower beds.

Drift planting at Wisley | Wolves in London

The sun was in when I took this photo, which is a bit of shame…

Red flower | Wolves in London

So cheery!

White flowers | Wolves in London

I think this was a type of Lavatera

Red flowers at Wisley | Wolves in London

Anyone know what this is? There were so many lovely red flowers here it *almost* persuaded me to plant some in my own garden…

And I was very excited to see lots and lots of Mexican fleabane (Erigeron karvinskianus) growing out of walls and steps all over the place. I just bought some for my own garden and have planted the little plugs over the stone wall that divides one of my flower beds from the lawn. The first little daisy-like flower appeared yesterday, to my immense delight:

Erigeron karvinskianus | Wolves in London

One day I hope mine will look as prolific as this

Aaaaand, that’s the end! Lots of photos, but still only showing a mere fraction of what’s there. I shall be returning soon, no doubt.

I also purchased some rather glorious second hand gardening books, but this post is already heejusly long so I’ll show you them another time…

The hubby is off work for five weeks now between jobs, so we’ve got plenty of time for exploring. Anywhere else we should go?

{Joining in with Manneskjur and How does your garden grow? If only this were my garden!)

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