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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!)

Garden moodboard: July

2 Jul

I had a bit of a conundrum with my garden moodboard this month.

On Saturday morning, I was standing in the middle of the garden, secateurs in hand, ready to snip snip snip away at lots of nice flowers to photograph them – as is my wont every month.

But as I looked round my 15x60ft patch of earth, I couldn’t really see any flowers to spare.

July garden moodboard | Wolves in London

From the garden this month

I know that anyone who professes to be even a little bit of a gardener shouldn’t admit that they don’t have many flowers in June. But such is the sorry case chez Wolves in London at the moment. Lots of things seemed to flower early this year, but the usual mid-Summer plants are still yet to open up…

The ones I photographed in situ recently aren’t abundant enough for me to want to cut them down. And the ones I have in abundance, I have photographed in moodboards so many times I couldn’t imagine anything new to do with them.

“Yes, yes, luv,” I imagined you saying as you looked at my pics, “we know you’ve got loads of verbena. Stop showing us your bloody verbena.”

And, indeed, I would have no defence for your criticism, for I showed you the verbena last month, and in May, and in July last year. And you know, there are only so many ways you can photograph verbena. (Admittedly, I have only ever selected one: against a white background…)

July garden moodboard | Wolves in London

Sage, rosemary, mint and some apples…

I decided that this month I’d probably have to give the moodboard a miss and since I had the secateurs in my hand, I’d go and do a bit of gentle pruning on the plum and apple trees and thin the fruits a bit at the same time.

Even if you hadn’t already seen the photos, you could tell where this is going, couldn’t you?!

I looked down at the pile of cuttings and thought to myself, a-ha! This month, I’ll photograph the prunings and maybe a few herbs that I was bringing in for lunch. A kitchen garden moodboard, if you will.

So this month I bring you a few of the small apples that I culled so their brothers could grow bigger, the plums that have caterpillars inside and some extremely unhealthy looking leaves. (Plus some sage, rosemary and mint.)

Unripe plum | Wolves in London

A sorry looking plum

The plums are seriously abundant so I’ve been removing as many as I can in the hope the ones left on the trees will grow bigger and juicier. Last year lots got a fungal disease and rotted on the tree and most of the ones we removed had caterpillars inside. Not a huge success! This year I am trying to look after them better…

 

Apple | Wolves in London

Already bruised…

Unripe apple | Wolves in London

Rosy but culled nonetheless

Apple | Wolves in London

Yet another damaged apple

We’ve got three different types of apple tree.  On a visit to Wisley on Sunday (more on that later this week), I tried to get them to identify the cultivars for me, but apparently they need the fruit specialist to do it in the Autumn once the fruits are fully grown. We shall return then, and I will finally know what’s growing in my garden…

Apple branch | Wolves in London

The RHS expert couldn’t even identify it from all this branch, leaves and fruit!

And perhaps I shall ask them what on earth if wrong with these poor leaves too…

(My guess is: caterpillars chewing on them (which I don’t really mind — it leads to lovely butterflies at least) and perhaps a disease or some sun scorching on the brown bits. At any rate, not terribly healthy.)

Unhealthy leaf | Wolves in London

Yikes, not looking good…

The rosemary, at least, seems to thrive on my regime of intentional neglect:

Rosemary | Wolves in London

Long since eaten…

Next month, I promise you some flowers. I spotted a few sweet pea buds this morning and the gorgeous nigella is almost ready to show its face…

The garden in June

20 Jun

I know, I know, I’ve been a bit garden-tastic over the past few weeks, what with all my chat about greenhouses and sheds and so on. I am working on some more craft-related posts at the moment too, you may be relieved to hear, but I couldn’t resist joining in once more this week with Mammasaurus’s How does your garden grow?

The sporadically glorious weather of June, combined with some bloody awful rainy weather, has been good to my garden.

I’ve been pottering about in the greenhouse with my seedlings at any rare gardening opportunities I have, leaving everything else to pretty much get on with it. And get on with it, it has.

Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' | Wolves in London

Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’

The plants I bought a few weeks ago are all now planted into their final positions. I couldn’t find a good spot for the wallflower, so I have it in a pot on the table on the patio, where it just keeps growing taller and taller and producing more and more flowers. I’ve been really pleased with this plant (it’s the cultivar ‘Bowles Mauve’) and I definitely want to try and get some cuttings next spring to make a little thicket of them in a bed somewhere.

In the bed closest to the house, I sowed lots of hardy annuals earlier in the year. I think it was cornflowers, nigella and poppies. I then, rather foolishly, paid them little attention and let some weeds outcompete them, so I have a tiny little patch of seedlings coming up and lots of other bare patches of soil where I only pulled the weeds out once they had got really big. Luckily, the other side of the bed is also awash with a rather nice heuchera, a honeysuckle and lashings of campanula. So I shall just focus my attention on the right hand side.

Campanula | Wolves in London

Campanula and honeysuckle leaves

 

Heuchera | Wolves in London

A little spike of heuchera flowers about to burst open

In my main bed, the pin cushion flower has settled in happily. In bud I think it’s just as impressive when in flower.

Scabious | Wolves in London

Quite amazing, isn’t it?

Next to it, the erigeron is also attractive flowering and just beforehand.

Erigeron | Wolves in London

Waiting to open…

Erigeron | Wolves in London

Boom!

And a little further down some nicotiana, bought from the same garden shop trip a few weeks back, are stunning. The flowers are really gorgeous, but they’re on spindly stems, so I think in future I need to grow them through some ground cover to make them look a bit more attractive.

Nicotiana | Wolves in London

Delicate star-shaped nicotiana

Next to them, this alstroemeria is another legacy from the previous residents. It’s very happy here and grows well every year but, though I like it as a cut flower, I have to confess I find it a little garish in the beds. I’m undecided about what to do — try and move it elsewhere, perhaps a spot on its own somewhere where it can be the star of the show, rather than competing with lots of my (predominantly blue, purple and white) flowers? Get rid of it altogether, which seems a shame? Or perhaps I should just cut every single stem as soon as the flowers appear and bring them all inside for vases?! Okay, last option a little foolish, but, hmmm, I really need to think about it a little more…

Alstroemeria | Wolves in London

So very, very red!

On the other side, by the pond, I have no idea what this lovely white plant is, but I love it. (Of course I love it. It’s white!)

White pond flower | Wolves in London

Can anyone identify this?

And opposite, an old and very woody lavender looks pretty leggy most of the year but, oh, it’s worth it for this glorious sight (and smell) in the summer months…

Lavender bush | Wolves in London

Every garden needs some lavender, in my opinion…

Past this point, back towards the greenhouse, it all starts to go downhill rapidly into a vast jungle of weeds. Some are brambles, so at least we’ll have blackberries later in the year, but lots just need to be hacked back and dug up. Something I never quite find time for. I decided earlier this year to leave some unidentified plants that looked a bit like geraniums. They’ve taken over in a massive way and I think they are a sort of geranium weed. The plants are nearly as tall as me, the flowers quite tiny in proportion, but, at least, very pretty.

Geranium | Wolves in London

Yes, the flowers are nice, but they’re pretty hard to spot in the gigantic plant

The hubby is off work for four weeks in July, so I’m hoping to use the opportunity to spend lots and lots of time in the garden then, sorting it all out. And after that, I promise, I’ll show you some photos of the whole thing. (Disclaimer: photos only appearing if I can actually make the overall garden look nice.)

 

I want this so badly

17 Jun

Before accepting that I must keep my old tumbledown greenhouse in the garden, for the time being at least, I spent a long time searching online for a greenhouse slash garden shed slash potting house.

It seemed such a straightforward idea to me. One little building that housed plants, tools, and all that junk that accumulates over the years and is banished from the house proper.

I searched and searched and searched and found nothing really suitable. Certainly nothing affordable.

But just now, a mere few days after telling you how I was reconciled to the beast at the end of the garden, and how I planned to make it look all lovely and appealing, on a little stroll down the Pinterest rabbit hole I stumbled across it. My dream garden outbuilding. Part potting shed, part greenhouse, part tool shed. And all, every single last bit of it, utterly beautiful.

Take a look.

Potting shed slash greenhouse

© Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

Screw the big, ugly greenhouse. I can’t begin to tell you how desperately badly I want this one, nay need this at the end of my garden.

It’s homemade, by someone who clearly has some superb DIY skills, and the plans and all sorts of useful information for how it was built are over at Nitty Gritty Dirt Man.

(There are also loads and loads of other wonderful gardening articles too, with hugely appealing names such as Ten reasons I love elephant’s ears. If you’ve any interest in gardening, you could while away a good amount of time here, as I just have…)

But back to the glorious shed. Any ideas on how I can persuade my husband to give up every bit of spare time he has to learn the requisite skills and then build this for me? As a birthday present perhaps? That would give him a whole three months to essentially retrain as a builder and get it in situ. Sounds fairly reasonable to me…

Pimp my greenhouse

12 Jun

As spring turns to summer, my thoughts turn to the unwieldy beast at the end of my garden.

I speak, of course, of my greenhouse.

When we first moved in, I planned, immediately, to replace it with something sophisticated like this:

Griffin Glasshouse

© Griffin Glasshouses Just the perfect sort of greenhouse for a horticulture student, non?

Then I saw the price tag.

And so, I must reconcile myself to living for the next few years at least with this:

Ramshackle greenhouse | Wolves in London

I’ll grant you, the huge amount of weeds and vast piles of junk on the floor don’t show it off to its full potential

It’s not pretty is it?

And, at 15ft by 12ft, it is taking up almost a third of my garden.

Eventually, I will put in something smaller and build some raised veg beds in the area freed up. But for now, until I have a spare couple of thousand pounds, I plan to do everything I can to prettify the beast…

Luckily, there is plenty of inspiration out there. Here are a few of my favourite dilapidated yet lovely garden buildings. Because, hey, everyone loves aspirational gardening, don’t they?

It perhaps won’t surprise you to hear that I do have a collection of old rusty watering cans. So this first picture is brilliantly achievable for me:

Attractive greenhouse | Wolves in London

Image from here

And never mind that this shed will soon collapse under the weight of the tree branch; it’s light, airy and full of stunning old gardening related props. And plants, of course. Plants are a must in the greenhouse.

Recycled shed | Wolves in London

I can’t find the proper copyright details for this pic. Eeek, I hate using them unattributed, but I just had to share

Yup, note to self, more plants needed. Currently, my greenhouse just houses seedlings, but something bigger would look rather nice:

Greenhouse full of plants

Shot by photographer Jeroen van der Speck for the Delicious Magazine

I also have a couple of old wooden crates (left by the previous owners) and am starting to realise that filling them with plants and displaying them outside the greenhouse is an absolute must. (In practical terms, this would actually be a great way of hardening off plants as well…)

Summer house

You can see more of this amazing summerhouse at Remodelista – the inside is, if anything, even nicer!

And I’ve saved one of my favourites til last. Fairy lights! You’d think electricity and somewhere that’s regularly watered wouldn’t mix, but hey, fairylight the crap out of the place and it will almost certainly look artful and atmospheric instead of old and tumbledown. (Note to readers, fairylight your greenhouses at your own risk!)

I’m planning on creating some similar artful little garden vignettes around the greenhouse over this summer, so I’ll share some photos of the results soon.

Watch this (heavily styled) space!

And if you’re as much a sucker as I am for the artfully distressed in the garden, I have hundreds more glorious photos over on my Pinterest board Dream garden plans. Click below to check it out…

Garden moodboard: June

3 Jun

I love my garden, but it sometimes feels as if I am in constant battle with it. And it with me.

Garden moodboard June 2014 | Wolves in London

June moodboard, 2014: a mere selection for this month

When I first started taking photographs for these garden moodboards, in May last year, I imagined that by the following year my whole entire garden would look beautiful, not just the odd flower.

More than a year later, the beds are still a mass of weeds and mud and I couldn’t even begin to imagine photographing more than individual flowers to show you here… In all honesty, the overall picture outside is pretty horrendous.

Every time I go out there to do a spot of gardening like pruning or planting or thinning my plums (not a euphemism), I get distracted, instead, with pulling out bindweed and couch grass. Which then grows back with such force, that the next time I look there is even more in the same spot.

But it’s not just the weeds that seem to be standing in the way of my Chelsea-winning daydreams ever becoming reality.

A week ago, I planted 16 bean plants, up some lovely wigwams, with a slug beer trap placed right in the middle.

By this weekend, I had four paltry plants left. And those liberally covered with slug munched holes. By tomorrow, there will likely be nothing left at all.

Oh, sure, I’ve killed hundreds of slugs (possibly quite literally) in the beer trap. But I think they choose to have a nice supper of bean leaves first, before heading over for a post-prandial drink (and death, though they don’t know that in advance of course…)

Overall, it seems like I would need to work on my garden, undistracted, 9-5, seven days a week to have it looking even half presentable.

So, I particularly relish the chance to take my monthly moodboard photos. The best bits of the garden, on a nice clean white background; the weeds, slugs and unruly growth all edited out. (Except for that one time I showed you lots of weeds…)

This month is a bumper one for plants, but I was dashing round with the secateurs on Sunday while the baby, sproglet and hubby napped, so I was trying to be super quick before anyone started crying, and have only brought a few of my very favourites to show you.

Rose | Wolves in London

I am incorrectly claiming these pink roses as belonging to my little patch

The pink rose is in the front garden, growing over from the boundary with next door. Our side of the garden is the south facing side, so I suspect we have all the best roses to look at.

Nectaroscordum siculum (honey garlic) | Wolves in London

Sicilian wild honey garlic. Spoiler alert, it smells like garlic!

The honey garlic was in flower last month, but once the flowers are finished they start to point directly upwards into these amazing seedheads. (When actually in flower they droop downwards in a rather attractive weeping manner – see my pictures from last year.)

I’ve never picked these to come inside before, since I only have a few and they look so stately in the garden, right through into the winter months, but I was suprised — you may say somewhat stupidly, given the plants’ name — by how very garlicky this one smelt once I cut it off at the stem.

Verbena bonariensis | Wolves in London

Lovely, lovely verbena

Verbena flower | Wolves in London

…and it’s teeny tiny flowers

The verbena has been going strong for a good month now and will continue to do so until the end of summer. I adore it. The huge, tall spikes, topped with the vibrant purple, but such tiny delicate flowers. It’s one of my favourite plants in the garden.

Phlomis | Wolves in London

The bees adore the phlomis. I like it too.

Senecio cineraria | Wolves in London

Okay, I know I’ve shared about a hundred photos of this before, but it’s so very photogenic…

The front garden looks pretty good right now, I must say, with some towering blues and purples and a lower lying silver carpet, provided by this phlox and the Senecio cineraria.

Salvia | Wolves in London

By the afternoon, the salvia spikes were all limply pointing downwards in the heat…

Salvia spike | Wolves in London

Another one with tiny, delicate flowers

Daisy | Wolves in London

This plant just shouts, “Summertime!”

Out in the unruly back garden, the salvia and daisy I bought last week are now in the ground and brightening up an otherwise rather bare border.

Campanula | Wolves in London

Anyone know what species of campanula this is?

About the only other thing in flower there are some beautiful purple and white campanulas on spikes. They tend to droop downwards, so I need to plant something a bit more bushy underneath them, I think. (Again, not a euphemism. Why does everything gardening related seem to have a double meaning? Every time I type “front garden” or “bush” I giggle a little bit. Childish, I know…)

Astible | Wolves in London

Astilbe or not astilbe?

Finally, I think this white frothy thing is called astilbe. It grows in a great feathery profusion around the pond, just about managing to outcompete the bindweed.

It’s a tricky spot to weed, what with the danger of falling in, inaccessibility of the bit behind the pond, numerous frogs and tadpoles that I’m trying not to disturb and constant requests to the attendant sproglet to please stand back.

Blues, whites and silvers. My favourite garden colours. In reality it’s not quite as refined as this, of course, but I’m leaving the bright red and orange flowers – a legacy from the old owners – sitting happily in their beds.

Oh and one last picture. This little guy came inside on one of the plants so I couldn’t resist photographing him too. He’s pretty splendid, but moved around very quickly and wasn’t too keen to stop and pose for the camera.

Spider | Wolves in London

Definitely a spider…

And a postscript: a massive thank you to those who commented on yesterday’s post. I was really touched by the kind things everyone said and pleased to hear that this mish mash of a blog, with its random subjects, chosen only from what interests me personally, seems to interest others as well. I shall keep at it! Gardening, crafts, fabric, general chat and all…

Joining in, as ever, with Asa.

Making stuff and pootling in the garden

2 Jun

Back in November last year I took part in a blogging course run by Holly Becker of Decor8 (www.bloggingyourway.com). At the end of the month-long course, Holly chose six blogs to critique and produced a screencast looking at those blogs.

Guess what? My humble little Wolves in London was one of those blogs! Yes, that’s right, Holly Becker, THE Holly Becker, looked through my blog and gave a critique of it.

By the time I had finished fainting from excitement to realise I was one of the chosen, I sat down to watch the screencast, feeling more than a little trepidatious. After all, a critique ain’t gonna be 100 per cent positive, is it? What if she had chosen my blog only as an example of what not to do???

Of course, she’s not mean like that, and she gave me lots of positive feedback (including saying that she loved my photos, which was outrageously exciting to me since I struggle the most with getting photos I’m happy with) and the “areas for improvement,” reassuringly, were things I had been thinking about myself for some time too.

The main issue she pointed out is that my blog isn’t actually about what I say it’s about. Had you noticed that too?!

Making stuff and pootling in the garden | Wolves in London

Making stuff and pootling in the garden

In my first blog post, and in the tagline in my header above, I say that I am trying to set up a fabric business and this blog will talk about what I learn along the way. (Okay, my tagline gives me a little bit of breathing space too, with the “…doing just about anything else” conclusion.)

On my blog I actually talk about… …well, gardening a lot, making stuff, knitting, sewing, a little bit of cooking, general chat about my life, waffle about our new house, but, well, not really ever anything about this alleged fabric business.

The reason? I’ve done naff all on that plan.

It’s been bothering me for a while as to whether I should change my tagline, or whether I should change my blog. Do I make more of an attempt to write posts about the yet-to-be-realised fabric plan? Or do I just accept that’s not happening anytime soon and change my tagline to reflect that?

Though, the honest tagline to this blog would be something like:

“Making stuff and pootling in the garden”

Doesn’t have a great ring to it, does it?

But I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue. What do you think about the increasing proliferation of gardening posts? Not what you’re here to read about?

Flower | Wolves in London

Has there been too much of this?

Should I narrow back my focus to fabrics, crafts and sewing in particular?

Craft supplies | Wolves in London

Not enough of this?

Or should I just carry on writing about whatever inspires me, in the hope it will also inspire other people too, and not worry about trying to give the blog a specific angle?

Any thoughts hugely welcome!

Related articles:

  • The rainbow wool combination in the photo above was the one I used for the knitted rainbow chevron blanket
  • The beautiful Liberty fabrics are for the (still not finished) quilt I started many blue moons ago
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