Wednesday, 31 October 2012

End of Month - October 2012

Sedum, Cyclamen and Fuschia are the main features of the garden now but there are still some Sunflowers, Dahlias and Marigolds adding to the colour.  The Hydrangea was covered in yellow, dying leaves yesterday ... today it is bare branched. It's like someone pressed a button and the leaves dropped off.

 I have taken some hardwood cuttings and planted a few spring bulbs but I'm more inclined to be indoors now the weather is turning.  I'm enjoying snuggling up in a warm armchair with a good book ( 'Bring Up The Bodies' by Hilary Mantel if you're interested ... thoroughly entertaining!) and a cup of tea! I know I should be digging the allotment over .....

A Sparrowhawk visited us today.  I glanced out of the kitchen window and there it was in the middle of the lawn eyeing up the bird feeders.  It stayed until Andy was just seconds away from seeing it before it flew off!

Twelve pheasants troop across the field each morning now.  Such beautiful colours.  This one looks like he has a stiff evening collar on.

... and here's a Collared Dove.
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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Squashed Pumpkins

I have memories of carving a toothy grin in a pumpkin when the kids were little.  It was a messy affair, nothing like this creation from the Martha Stewart website. It looks lovely and must have taken ages. 

Some friends have been showing off their skills too:

We passed a table full of pumpkins on the drive back from Norfolk last week.  The farmer was charging 50p but I didn't want one then!  Knew I should have stopped!

One of the books in the cottage at Norfolk was the Sarah Raven's Garden Cookbook.  I rarely cook but looking at the recipes I was quite taken in by what we SHOULD be eating.  Andy contacted Amazon so Sarah was waiting for me when we got back home!

Tonight we made Squash and Cumin soup.  Delicious!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cheap and Cheerful!

I have been spurred on by Elaine at Ramblings from Rosebank.  She posted some lovely ideas for indoor bulbs.
I decided to follow her lead and plant a few for winter but first of all I needed a few pots.

I got these two bulb vases for 20p each in a charity shop.

The blue/white dish cost £1.50 and the butterfly bowl was £1.  The cottage jug is part of a tea set I bought years ago. The small glass bowls at the back were 50p and the larger glass bowl was £5 from Asda.

I planted white and pink hyacinths, grape hyacinths and white and yellow crocuses (£1 to £2 a pk in Wilko).

So I had a lovely afternoon doing some of my favourite things ... blogging, shopping and gardening!

Monday, 22 October 2012


The North Norfolk coast is a beautiful place.  We arrived on Friday afternoon and had a brief walk around Snettisham Nature Reserve.  The first thing I noticed was the blackberries.  Acres and acres of bushes just waiting for a jam-maker but we weren't there for that.  The geese were shouting to be seen.  You can get amazing views of waders at this reserve as the tide comes in and pushes the feeding birds off the massive mud flats.  Unfortunately we missed the tide.  We got impressive views of the empty mudflats!

We saw about fifty species before the rain began and we headed in.

That night we ate at The King's Head in Great Bircham .... excellent food and service.  I would recommend it if you are in that area.

The next day we headed for Cley and got the best views of Bearded Tits.  Four even posed on a bush for a few seconds. I enjoyed looking at them too much to faff about with my camera but Andy managed to grab a shot.

This Little Egret was an easier subject.

Two Red Throated Divers came right up to the water's edge to feed. 

It was a lovely weekend in good company in a beautiful place.  We saw about 100 species of birds including Rough Legged Buzzard but it was the common old Starlings that were the most memorable aspect of the trip ... thousands of them.  Huge flocks on the move during Saturday.  Then we didn't see any on Sunday.

I love my house but I came home wanting to move to Norfolk ... no, wanting to move into the cottage we had rented in Norfolk.  It was a typical old property filled with pine furniture, beautiful pottery, books, odd cushions and patchwork quilts.  The walls were painted yellow or orange and the ceilings sloped. Outside it was covered in Virginia Creeper.  There are two bodies of thought about allowing plants to grow up walls.  On the positive side it acts as insultation but the negative view is it can destroy the bricks and motar. Our house has ivy growing up one side and every year we have to trim it back (that's the royal 'we' by the way ... no way will I climb a ladder to the top of the house!). We have never seen any damage to the wall when we pull it off but we are careful not to let it attach itself to the wooden window frames as it can leave sucker marks on the wood.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Apple Day

21st October 2012 is Apple Day

These are James Greaves apples - a nice desert apple if left to ripen until October.

We had a decent crop this year - no where near as many as last year though.  Still, there will be enough to fill apple pies at Christmas time.

We live quite close to Southwell in Nottinghamshire where a young girl named Mary Ann Brailsford planted an apple pip in 1809.  In 1846 the cottage, and the resulting apple tree, were sold to Matthew Bramley.  A few years later a neighbour, Henry  Merryweather, asked to have a cutting from the tree so he could produce and sell the fruit.  Matthew Bramley agreed as long as the apples bore his name.  By 1862 they were being sold locally and today it is the most important cooking apple in England and Wales.
I think they should be called Brailsfords!

The original tree is over two hundred years old and still produces fruit.

Have a Happy Apple Day.

Click here for Apple and Pork in Cider recipe 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Minestrone Soup

I spent the weekend in Lytham St Annes with my mother, two sisters and my aunt.  My elder sister organises it twice a year so we have a routine ... she arrives first and prepares lunch while I collect the rest of the group and we arrive late! 

We enjoyed exploring the shops in Lytham and St Annes and driving across to the Freeport Shopping Complex at Fleetwood.  All was going well until Saturday morning when my younger sister discovered she had lost her coat.  The only time she would have taken it off was to try on a jacket in Lytham.  We drove back there but there was no sign of the coat. She was upset and angry with herself for stupidly leaving it behind and we were upet for her.

On Sunday morning my mother couldn't find her watch.  This wasn't unusual as she has Alzheimer's.  We searched every pocket and pillowcase but couldn't locate it.  It seemed to be one disaster after another but the sun was shining so we headed out for a walk on the beach ... lovely .... then we returned to the car and found the parking ticket!  It seems they don't recognise disabled parking badges in that part of Blackpool.

October in Blackpool means The Lights.  This year was the centenary.  We took the slow drive through and remembered childhood visits in the early 60s.  My father and uncle shared a car in those days.  A large old Humber with loads of leg room in the back as there were pull down seats behind the front seats (like some old taxis).  It meant there was room for my parents and their three kids; my aunt and uncle and their three kids and my grandma to squash in for the annual day trip.  We'd spend the day on the crowded beach then stop off at the pub on the way back where we were fed crisps and lemonade in the car while the adults had a few drinks before Dad drove us home!  Thank goodness times have changed! However, towards the end of the Light Show we realised some of the installations hadn't ......

It is great to spend time with my sisters.  We laugh a lot and talk too much and my eldest sister always wakes up too early and won't let us sleep but we can't complain as she cooks breakfast.  I come home pounds heavier as she makes the most delicious meals.  The weekend began with another childhood favourite ....  Homemade Minestrone Soup ... brilliant. When I got home I made my own.

Hornsea Pottery set (£75 charity shop find) brings back more holiday memories!  Click here for minestrone soup recipe.

'So what has any of this got to do with gardening?' you ask. 
Well, I grew all the carrots, onions, potatoes, beans, tomatoes, parsley and sage!
I think mine tasted best!

I drove everyone home on Sunday.  The missing coat was on the sofa and the watch was in the bedroom where they had been left before we set off!  Unfortunately the traffic warden didn't rescind my parking fine!

Monday, 15 October 2012

GBBD October 2012

 Even though the sun is shining I need two jumpers on to feel comfortable outside today. Autumn has turned the Maple leaves and brought Redwings to the garden.

The pale pink Osteospermum seems to shine next to the red foliage of Euonymus alatus or Burning Bush.

I have quite a few 'hot' colours in bloom this week:

I have had these yellow and orange chrysanthemums for a few years. I bought the red one this week. It cost me £1: a bargain as similar sized plants were £6 on other market stalls. I love picking cheerful colours to put in pots next to the front door.  These three are brightening up the border at the back of the garden. 

Feeding the birds and planting spring bulbs has attracted another visitor to the patch .... he is cute but I'm not sure I'm altogether happy!

Visit May Dreams Garden for more GBBD views from around the world.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Toad Lily

Nick Hamilton, (son of Geoff) of Barnsdale Gardens, visited our gardening club last night.  We all went "Aaaah," in unison at the sight of the first slide ... an image of Geoff ... and Nick then went on to talk about Barnsdale since his father's death.  He is a very entertaining speaker (we were all laughing heartily at the Health & Safety issues around children and OAPs falling into his ponds!) and it was lovely to see Barnsdale throughout the seasons.  At the end of the evening I went to look at the plants for sale and couldn't believe my luck when I spotted this Tricyrtis or Toad Lily. 

I discovered this hardy perennial in 2010. I planted it in the kitchen border and watched it thrive and blossom.  I loved that plant .... so much that once it had died back for the winter I forgot all about it and must have dug it up the following spring!  I realised it had disappeared late in 2011 so I replaced it with a tiny root plant.  It struggled a bit at first but last month it produced a bud and I waited and watched for the flower ... I'm still waiting!  I paid £5 for this which is the normal rate but then I found this on the internet!

They originate from the Himalayas.  They tend to grow at the edge of forests there so I will plant this one in the shade of the trees at the back of the garden and mark the spot very carefully this time!

The farmer has planted the field at the front of the house so the Woodpigeons are eating their fill and the Pheasants are back - three males and six females yesterday.

We filled the bird feeders again last week.  Andy calls this the Three Finch Feeder - Greenfinch; Chaffinch and Goldfinch all tucking in quite happily.  It's not all that quiet normally.  The Goldfinchs can be VERY bossy and the Greenfinches are just bullies at times!  Lovely to watch them though.

I collected some of the Sunflower heads from the allotment and stuck one above the feeder..  It didn't last long!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

International Tulip Guerrilla Gardening Day

7th October 2012

Today Guerrilla Gardeners all over the world will be out planting thousands of tulip bulbs. 
Simply find an unattractive bit of public land and stick a few bulbs in the earth. 
A Springtime Surprise for the neighbours! 

Guerrilla Gardening is technically illegal in the UK as it could be seen as criminal damage to public property but in reality it is a lovely way to improve an environment.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Dryad Saddle

This is Dryad Saddle - an edible mushroom.           It gets its name from its saddle shape and the idea that tree nymphs (Dryads) used to fly about on them. You will find Dryad Saddles in woodlands from May until Autumn growing on the side of trees or dead logs.  The older it is the tougher it gets so small, young mushrooms are the best to eat apparently.  You fry it in butter and drain away any liquid as this can cause stomach upsets!  I found this recipe on You Tube if you are interested in trying it out for yourself ... personally I think I will pass!
Deaths from mushroom poisoning in the UK are quite rare but they do occur.  In 2010 a woman from the Isle of Wight died after eating Death Cap mushrooms.. She was originally from Thailand where the family were used to collecting wild mushrooms.  She hadn't realised the danger as she believed that poisonous mushrooms would make boiled rice turn red. 

More famously Nicholas Evans, best selling author of The Horse Whisper, almost killed himself and three close members of his family by misidentifying wild mushrooms.  Again, he was used to collecting fungi so thought he knew what he was doing.  Four adults (Evans, his wife, his brother in law and his wife) ate what they thought were Boletus edulis but were in fact deadly webcap.  Luckily their children didn't join them for the feast - the experience would almost certainly have killed them.  The mushrooms destroyed their kidneys. Three of the four adults had to have regular dialysis to stay alive. After three years Evans had a kidney transplant from his daughter because his heart began to play up. 

So while I might stop to photograph the fungi on my woodland walks this Autumn, I might even enjoy their smell, I won't be touching them, or picking them or putting them anywhere near my frying pan!

Monday, 1 October 2012

September 2012

Spurred on by Elaine at A Woman of the Soil I went out to tidy up the greenhouse yesterday.  I need to get all the geraniums and fuschias lifted, I still have some cuttings to take and some seeds to sow.  LOADS to do .... so why does it look exactly the same today as it did yesterday? How did I get side tracked so easily?  Why does this always happen whenever I am gardening?? 
The sun was shining so collecting the sweetpea pods and planting a few cyclamen seemed like a much better idea!

The roses are looking good and smelling delightful!

The leaves are not so good!

I will be prunning most of them right back this year after listening to Ann Bird of the Rose Society at the Garden Club.  I have cut them back in the past but not nearly enough according to her. She REALLY prunes!

Here are my Autumn favourites for this week:
The Sedum takes over the kitchen border. I remembered to put the plant supports in this year so there isn't a bald patch in the middle! So easy to grow: cuttings are blooming all down the lane and in neighbours' gardens.

Berries and seeds are adding colour now.  The honeysuckles round the door and over the rose arch have done particularly well this year.  The Quince numbers are down on last year when we had a bumper crop.  The skin smells lovely and I have a recipe for jam but they are difficult to prepare.

 Wild birds soon find the Pyracantha berries. 
  Visit The Patient Gardener for more End of Month views.