Wednesday, 25 November 2015

A Couple Of Nice Surprises

I'm enjoying some beautiful chrysanthemums at the moment. I don't grow them myself but Mick's uncle grows them on his allotment so he keeps my vases full at this time of year. He knows my favourites are the yellows so I'm often gifted with a single yellow variety, these are Emma Lou.

Sometimes I open my back door to find bunches of chrysanthemums on my doorstep, Mick's uncle is an early riser and his visits to his plot are often at a time when I'm still in bed. It's a lovely surprise to find them waiting right outside the door for me to discover.

Sometimes I get bunches of mixed varieties and mixed colours, he grows some beautiful ones. A benefit of chrysanthemums is that they last for ages.

You may remember that I had some left over potato tubers this year, so as I'd harvest one lot from a container, I got it planted up again in the hope that I might get some new potatoes for Christmas. Things didn't quite go to plan, I'm not really sure what went wrong but after the late planted tubers got going, the foliage suddenly died back. I decided that it wasn't worth giving up the space in the greenhouse for these containers as the potatoes obviously weren't growing as there wasn't any foliage to be seen any longer. On tipping out the containers this is what I found.

Not a huge haul but enough for a meal and a lovely, tasty surprise.

Planting potatoes late in the season can be worthwhile. I'm not sure why the foliage died back so soon on this occasion but at least I got something out of it.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Lister Park Botanical Gardens In November

We last visited the botanical gardens in Lister Park in Bradford in April 2014, you can read about that visit in my Garden Visiting In April - Part One post. I was a bit disappointed in the gardens when we visited then and I was going to say that there wasn't very much to see on this visit either, however, when I looked back at the photos I'd taken, I realised that there was quite a bit of interest given the time of year.

There's a lovely calming sound of running water as you wander around the garden with little streams and waterfalls running alongside the paths.

Most of the borders were looking quite bedraggled. This is to be expected at this time of year I suppose, and at least they're not completely bare.

Most of the trees have lost their leaves which are now covering the ground. There's lots of cyclamen underneath the trees in this photo but you can't really make them out because of the covering of leaves.

There's patches of cyclamen in a few areas around the garden.

It was a very cold day for our visit but the sun came out and it was catching the silver white trunk of this silver birch tree.

I'm always fascinated by monkey puzzle trees. This is a fine specimen.

I have honesty in my own garden, it's a plant I associate with my grandma as she often had the dried seed heads displayed in vases. I love how the sun catches them here.

There wasn't very much colour in the garden but there were odd pops here and there. The colour in the flowers of this hydrangea were faded but I thought they were beautiful.

Such large blooms. They've done well to last so long.

Another pop of colour from sedum, a great autumn plant which attracts hordes of bees and butterflies.

There was lots of bamboo growing in the garden, a plant I love for the rustling and swishing noise it makes as the wind blows through it.

Pampas grass is another plant which appeals to the senses. I can't pass the fluffy fronds without wanting to touch them.

This fatsia japonica is just getting ready to flower. This is a plant I'd love in my own garden.

This isn't a garden I'd particularly recommend, however, there are other aspects to Lister Park which are worth a visit, the Mughal Gardens which I wrote about in my Garden Visiting In April - Part Two post, a large boating lake, and Cartwright Hall which houses Bradford's civic art gallery, as well as the formal gardens outside Cartwright Hall which contains some interesting sculptures. You can read more in my Lister Park post which I wrote on my Through The Keyhole blog.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Wild Drinks And Cocktails

I know many people at this time of year are waiting for a frost so that they can gather some sloes with which to make sloe gin and I've seen many people mentioning toffee vodka just lately on their blogs, whereas in summertime it's elderflower cordial. I've yet to have a go at making anything along these lines so when I was asked if I'd like to review Wild Drinks and Cocktails by Emily Han and published by Fair Winds Press, I was delighted.

If you're a fan of foraging then this book's for you. With chapters on Crafting Wild Drinks, Teas, Juices, and Lemonades, Syrups, Squashes, and Cordials, Oxymels, Shrubs, and Switchels, Infusions, Bitters, and Liqueurs, Wines and Punches and Fizzy Fermentations you're bound to find a recipe to use up anything you may find in the hedgerow or even in your garden.

The introduction gives useful information such as what to look for when you're harvesting, tools to use and cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilizing so it's ideal for a beginner like me.

Recipes range from basic things like Lavender Tea for Stress Relief through to more adventurous concoctions like Peach and Pecan Bourbon and Rhubarb and Rose Sour.

A good one for the coming season is Mulled Wine.

One thing I would say is that this book is by an American author so some things may not be as readily available in the UK as they would be in the US, such as prickly pears. I'm sure you'd agree that this Prickly Pear Squash looks very tempting though.

There's some beautiful photography throughout the book illustrating the wonderful drinks which can be crafted.

My blueberries did quite well this year so who knows, if I get a decent harvest next year I might just give this Blueberry Soda recipe a try.

This would be a great book for you if you're a forager and would like some inspiration on what to make with the bounties you collect. I shall be giving quite a few of these recipes a go myself.

To order Wild Drinks and Cocktails at the discounted price of £11.99 including p&p* (RRP: £14.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG381. 

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Colour In November

In 2013, I followed the late Geoff Hamilton's advice and visited a nursery or garden centre each month of the year with a view to purchasing a plant in flower. This should now ensure that I have something blooming in my garden every month of the year.

In November 2013, I purchased sedum spectabile Brilliant. It was flowering at the time, however, it must have been held back in the garden centre as it's flowered much earlier in the two years I've had it and I wrote about it last month in my Colour In October post. It means that I had a bit of a flowering gap in November so I needed something to fill that space.

During my recent visit to RHS Harlow Carr, I popped in to their plant centre to see what was flowering. I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the selection. I know it's November but there wasn't that much to choose from. I ended up bringing home this Oxalis lobata.

It's only a small specimen at the moment but hopefully it will spread, providing that it survives the winter. Being an alpine, it can withstand several degrees of frost, however, I'm not sure it will enjoy being waterlogged so it will be important to try and shelter it a little and give it some drainage. I'm sure it would actually be much happier living in an alpine house but I'm afraid I can't provide that. One nice feature of this plant is that it's got a strong honey scent.

Just one more month to go now and then I've achieved my aim to have colour in the garden the whole year round.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

On Their Last Legs

As you can see, the tomato plants were on their last legs so they were finally disposed of last weekend.

They've done so well this year, I picked the first fruits in July quite a while before we went on holiday on the 25th and the last have been plucked from the plants in November. From thirteen plants, seven cordon and six bush, I've had literally pounds and pounds of tomatoes, enough to keep ourselves, my mum and dad, friends and neighbours supplied all summer.

The last few tomatoes taken from the plants don't look quite so good as those I've usually been picking but I'm sure they'll ripen up and we'll get one last taste from this year's crop.

It's only a few months now until we'll be sowing the seeds for next year's plants.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Harlow Carr In November

I was expecting to see a big diffference when we visited Harlow Carr this month and I wasn't wrong, there's no mistaking that this is Harlow Carr in autumn. There's some beautiful colour amongst the trees at the moment.

Some trees are becoming quite naked having dropped most, if not all, of their leaves.

The wire teapot which is used as a leaf bin is nearly full, I'm not surprised considering the many trees in the grounds, they must make an awful lot of leaf mould.

By the side of the tea leaf bin, the Verbena bonariensis is still flowering away.

Even though we visited in November, there were still a few Halloween decorations around, or perhaps they're just seasonal decorations.

The gunnera is now looking very sad having been flattened. It's amazing to think the bed will probably be clear again next month and yet once they come to life again next year, the plants will grow to the same dizzy heights in just one season. Their flowers are still apparent though.

The pampas grass or Cortaderra selloana is looking good at the moment.

I love how the sunshine catches the plumes. We were so lucky to visit when we had blue skies, there haven't been many of them yet this month, we've been having lots of mist and fog here.

There's lots of berries around, the birds are going to be well fed this winter.

The Kitchen Garden is still very productive, however, some of the beds have now been cleared.

There are lots of flowers still blooming in the Kitchen Garden, the nemophila was literally buzzing with bees.

Runner beans are coming to an end.

I don't reckon much to these Longbow leeks, they're rather spindly.

It's a good job they've got some thicker ones to fall back on.

The apples have now been harvested but there's crab apples aplenty.

The squash bed has been cleared and it's now planted up with wallflowers. I'm sure they'll look fabulous once they're blooming next year.

The bed I'm following is a mass of seed heads now, the plants are starting to die off and there's very little colour left.

I think this rudbeckia sums up most of the flowering plants quite well at the moment, trying to hang on in there but past their best.

The garden still has much to offer though, the colours to be found are fabulous. Just one more month of the year to go now, I wonder how the garden will look come December.

Monday, 2 November 2015

RHS: The Half-Hour Allotment

I was asked if I'd like to review RHS: The Half-Hour Allotment by Lia Leendertz and published by Frances Lincoln. I jumped at the chance, after all, I'm struggling for time with my allotment at the moment so I was really interested to read how I could maintain it by devoting just thirty minutes each day to it.

The first thing to catch my attention were the wonderful photos. I love looking round other people's plots, seeing what they're growing, how they've got it set out and picking up any tips, and there's some fabulous photos of allotment sites and various plots in this book.

The first chapter deals with The Half-Hour Principle which was dreamt up by Will Sibley, a nurseryman and allotment holder. He worked out a way to maintain his plot and meet a good proportion of his family's fruit and vegetable needs by working on his plot just half an hour each day with weekends off.

Other chapters in the book include Taking on a plot, Deciding what to grow, Growing the best varieties, Keeping on top of your plot, The first year, Nurturing your plants, Managing pests and diseases, An allotment for children and What next? I'd say that the book is aimed at the beginner rather than someone who already has an allotment as there's some rather basic information provided, and the principle of working on the plot little and often is a great way to ensure that new allotmenteers see progress being made on their plot and don't become overwhelmed. We often see people take on a plot before realising that it's hard work and giving it up again in the first year, this book should help to ensure this doesn't happen.

The book reinforces the concept of growing for flavour rather than uniform looks as many commercial growers do.

The Veg Varieties chapter gives lots of information on a whole host of different fruit and veg providing tips and recommended cultivars too.

How's this for a luxury bug hotel, isn't it fabulous? I've been meaning to have a go at making something similar but still haven't got round to it. Having something like this will encourage a variety of useful pollinating insects to nest and hibernate on your plot.

All in all, I think RHS: The Half-Hour Allotment is a great little book, I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who's thinking of taking on an allotment and those who already have an allotment may find some parts useful to read as I did.

To order RHS The Half Hour Allotment at the discounted price of £13.99 including p&p* (RRP: £16.99), telephone 01903 828503 or email and quote the offer code APG378. 

*UK ONLY - Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas. 

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