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It’s bluebell time by the river

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Continuing our series of short videos so that you can see a little bit of what you might have seen if we were able to open.

After we purchased the woodland and riverbank, we cleared years of fallen branches, matted with groves of bramble, all along the bank.

Without any planting, we now have a few rapidly growing patches of bluebells, establishing themselves with glee in the shade of the hazels.  The big irony is that for years we’ve been trying to establish bluebells in the garden, with only limited success!

 

 

Somehow I managed to stay upright whilst walking/filming – does one look at the screen or the ground? –  so apologies for a slightly uneven view.

The river, the Grwyne Fawr, feeds into the Usk at Glangrwyney, delineates the boundary between Powys and Monmouthshire and is a Special Area of Conservation – not bad for ‘our river’!

Yesterday we were delighted to find that we are featured this week on the National Garden Scheme Virtual Tours, which concentrates on the more formal (if that’s not a contradiction at Nantybedd!) parts of the garden.  Our video makes a nice counterpoint.

As well as, hopefully, giving you some enjoyment, the other reason for these posts is to ask you to help the National Garden Scheme (for whom we would have been opening for the 15th year at the end of the month) to make up the massive expected shortfall in the funds which they are usually able to give to a raft of really deserving – especially at this time – health and nursing charities.

The NGS is the biggest single contributor to both Macmillan Cancer Support and Marie Curie, usually donating around £500,000 to each every year.  Other major beneficiaries include the Carers Trust, The Queen’s Nursing Institute and Hospice UK.    At present a shortfall of around 80% is forecast with gardens being unable to open.

Instead of visiting us you can simply click here or scan the code below and make a much needed donation directly to the National Garden Scheme. Please be generous at this time.

I make no apology for repeating this request as the Scheme is so important to the future of the above health and nursing charities and the people who make them work..

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The power of water

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Continuing our current video posts (or should that be vlogs?), here’s a little snippet of one part of our river, before and after Storm Dennis.

We’ll be continuing to vlog this and other aspects of the garden over the next months, so you can see the best of the garden from your armchair.  For example, just along the bank from here will be carpeted in bluebells in May, and we wouldn’t want the “Virus Thing” to stop you seeing them!  Keep logging in.

In the first part you can see the clearly defined ‘tongue’ of water. At the time of filming it the river was a bit up, so you can’t easily see the two huge flat stones which usually stayed dry on either side (mini waterfalls in this clip).  The gap was just wide enough for the cats to be able to leap from one stone to the other, crossing the river without getting their paws wet!

In the second part, you see it as it is today.  Even at the current low level of water, the two stones are well under water and the ‘tongue’ has completely disappeared.  Instead of a rush of water the whole area is now almost a millpond.  Look how much stone has been displaced to where the ‘tongue’ would have been.

Further down the river, alongside our new field, there’s a big waterfall, which was always straight across.  Now it is V-shaped!

The power of water!!

Harvest time

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The hot weather at the start of the summer has definitely had a big effect on many of our crops.  Without going into the usual veggies, spuds

onions

beans, beans, beans ….   we have had maybe our best ever returns from a number of different sources.

Let’s start with the less well known.  The Sichuan Peppercorn tree has yielded six spice jars worth of dried peppercorns, three times more than the last good crop.  This might not sound a lot, and in purely monetary terms is only about £15 worth – but ours are organic and come from a happy tree! Very fiddly to pick and even more fiddly to separate the husks from the seeds (it’s the husks we need) the resultant spicy stir-fries make it all worth while.

Sichuan on the left

In the greenhouse, I’ve just picked 30lb of white grapes which have yielded 2 gallons of pure juice

and it looks as though the black ones

will yield at least double that, so there’s going to be a few bottles of wine in the racks in the not too distant future.

Outside, I’ve collected about 240 pounds of our Tom Putt apples , most of which is now either casked up as cider

 or in the freezer as pure apple juice.

Staying on the ‘booze’ front, the Fuggles and Goldings hops overwhelmed me this year.  It takes a lot of hop flowers to make any weight at all.

Hops on the right

One needs about 4oz of dried hops for a five gallon brew of beer.  To get 4oz dried needs around 30oz of fresh hops. Doesn’t sound a lot?  30oz fills a full sized carrier bag to almost overflowing – that’s a lot of hop flowers!  Two brews are already drinking nicely and there’s enough dried and frozen for the rest of the year!

And now it’s time to ‘harvest’ some firewood!

It’s all go at Nant y Bedd!

Starting the new garden year – on video!

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We were very lucky last week to have a wonderful documentary film-maker staying with us. By some sort of serendipity she phoned us looking for somewhere to stay in the area whilst she did some film editing and looked at a property she was interested in.  So we offered her the use of the garden room in return for making a short video for us.

Sophie Windsor Clive, for that is her name, has done a super job, despite having only one day when the weather wasn’t dull, windy, rainy, snowy and what ever else the elements could throw spanners into the works. Thanks Sophie!!

It is, of course, a view of the garden that most people wouldn’t see – the garden in January.  This is an important time in the gardening cycle.  The work done now sets the tone for the rest of the year.

We hope this insight will arouse your interest in visiting us later in the year.

Just click on the arrow button and enjoy!

Christmas on the Beech

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No, that’s not a spelling mistake in the title.  We’re talking here about beech trees in the dingle, not lovely sandy stretches in the Bahamas.

The big snow of just before Christmas, knocked quite a few branches off trees, particularly some of the conifers in the garden, but nothing too catastrophic.  It was only when I went up to clear the pond pipe and check the hydro intake, that I saw it.  I couldn’t see what I was after, but I could see a lot of tree lying head down across the stream – as reported in the previous post.

One you’ve seen earlier!

OK, so it doesn’t look that huge in this photo but the bit where it split off the rest of the trunk is about 2 foot in diameter and it’s probably 60 foot tall/long.  It is also on both sides of the stream with a steep drop on one side.

The problem was how to make it safe in the first place.  Cut into the wrong bit and there were half a dozen spiky branches just waiting to making a horrible mess of the intake screen – which would have meant turning off the hydro just as it is starting to generate some useful quantities.

First, gain access to the site

After a couple of hours of careful tree surgery I was finally able to see the intake and get access to the pipe – after a fashion!

Much of this ‘brash’ is still there……

….. because it is acting as a fence against the forest sheep, the wire having been smashed down in more than one place.  Still plenty of useful firewood in there eventually though.

Then it was on to the ‘business end’, where once again it was holding the fence down, offering a motorway sized entrance to wildlife.

I had hoped that a cut through just above the wire would allow it to swing the main length up and away, but there were too many branches propping up the main spars so it had to be done in smaller sections until the fence was released and could be repaired.

Getting to grips with the bigger stuff…..

… which is where they still lay, pending a bit of additional muscle (hopefully in the shape of family) as I can’t move this size of log in the length I want on my own.

The smaller (relatively speaking) logs I threw into a rough pile on one side of the stream..

roughly removed..

… and then built a nice cord-wood style stack between a couple of alders.  This pile is roughly 4′ x 5′ x 6′, or according to ArbTalk about 3.2 tons!  And that is probably less than half of what will eventually be harvested.

Tidy!

All that was needed now was a bit of time and the job would be done.

But, guess what?  It snowed again and the tree next up the slope also split apart and dropped three more branches exactly in the same spot. Not quite as big, but equally tangled and disruptive.  So, like the old Flanders and Swann song about the gasman, it all started again yesterday or if you prefer “it all makes work for the (retired) working man to do!”

Still, in a year or two we’ll have a lovely big stack of my favourite firewood to keep us warm – just a lot of carrying, splitting and cutting in the interim!

 

The garden today

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August Bank Holiday and too busy to compose a blog – harvesting produce, trimming hedges, weeding paths, and enjoying the long-awaited sunshine and our visitors.  Lots of lovely enthusiastic comments in our visitors’ book so they are obviously enjoying the garden too.  Here’s just one from 2 visitors (thanks Pam and Chris) yesterday:

‘Absolutely enchanting.  What a special place.”

Here are some photos of the garden today to whet your appetite if you haven’t visited yet…

Phlox, Monarda and Michaelmas daisy in the cottage garden

 

The Pumpkins and squashes are finally getting away through the Michaelmas daisies

 

Lily African Queen in the cottage garden

 

Calendula Nova and runner beans Scarlet Emperor and Black Pod in the Potager

 

Our visitors love this Monarda in the Potager

Dahlia New Baby planted the year my grand-daughter was born – she’s 6 now. Supports on loan from Kirsty – thank you.

 

Starting to harvest the onions in the Potager

 

Mary’s daisies – I love yellow in the garden even in the summer – some people don’t!

 

Leek seedheads and Munchen Bier radish flowering – because we eat the seed pods

 

Oh and the other thing that’s keeping me busy is preparing a talk which I’ve been invited to give to the Hardy Plant Society next Saturday – entitled ‘Gardening in the Wild’.  Here’s a taster…

Greater willowherb amongst the veg in the Potager

The common name for this lovely willowherb is Codlins-and-cream and is a food plant for the fat grey and black caterpillars of the Elephant Hawk-moth.  Who knew?

Whilst I don’t find time as often as I should to write a blog we do put photos regularly on Instagram @Nantybeddgarden

 

 

 

 

Have we found the Bedd – Part 2

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Regular readers will remember a recent blog wondering whether we had found the Bedd (grave) which gives the house and stream its name.  Well, it appears we probably hadn’t.

By chance, last week I received an e-mail from a colleague on the Brecon Beacons Local Access Forum.  He just happens to work (at the moment) for the Clwyd-Powys Archeological Trust, so I pinged a reply and asked if he could see if the Trust had any records which might give the answer.

Yes they did.  There are two possible Bronze Age round barrows on Pen Twyn Mawr, just at the top of the Nant-y-Bedd stream.  To the untutored eye they don’t look like much, and both appear to have modern stone cairns built on top of them.

Archeological site CPAT5104…

..described as:  Possible burial cairn comprising disturbed area of turf-covered stone around 4m across x 0.2m high. A modern cairn lies adjacent. 

This cairn was apparently first noted on the Ordnance Survey in 1916.

and

Archeological site CPAT65001..

..described as :  Possible cairn comprising spread of partly turf-covered stones c. 6m across x 0.2m high, lying beneath a modern cairn.

So there you have it, from the ‘horse’s mouth’ as they say, the true origin of the name.

Many thanks to Jeff Spencer and the Clwyd-Powys Archeological Trust for the info and photos.

Have we found the Bedd in Nant-y-Bedd?

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After the tremendous storm in November last year which washed away the central part of ‘Daffydd’s Wall’,

Dafydd’s wall, as it was

All gone, after the storm.

we have finally got around to having it rebuilt, by Bruce Rogers.

Bruce’s new wall and Ian’s metal fencing

But that’s not what this is really about.

With the new wall came the opportunity to re-align the fence above it, by the maple and walnut trees.

On the weekend, I pulled out the old fence which was erected by Sue’s Dad about 25 years ago.  I have to say he did a superb job.  The wire fence itself was in first class condition and there were so many staples holding it in place that it took all of Saturday morning just to get the wire loose!  Most of the posts came out easily, but the corner one took a long time and a lot of head scratching before a solution could be found. Inserted to just over 2 feet it was a swine to get out!

The new fence is in line with the wall and so we have gained a bit of extra ‘garden’. Sorry, sheep.

When Sue started to clear the rank growth and hard rush, she came across a couple of large flat stones.  Could this be the Bedd? {Regular readers will know that the name of the house – Nant-y-Bedd – means Stream of the Grave}.   We have wondered for many years about the location of the Bedd and maybe now we’ve found it!

Trying to dig out a mass of hard rush, the spade kept hitting solid rock, just a few centimetres below the surface.  Abandoning the rush removal for a few moments, we started to strip back the soil and there it was, a perfectly flat, large stone – a grave stone?  Carrying on, we found five more big, flat stones covering an area about three yards square – a mass grave?

Mass Bedd or something else???

There seems to be some space under at least one of the stones – it sounds hollow when tapped – but I’m too superstitious to go lifting a gravestone.

We’re going to make a feature of it, maybe with a couple of seats or a bench, where visitors can sit and wonder who is beneath their feet.

Alternatively of course, it could simply be where the generator which supplied the house with electricity before the mains came was situated.  But that would be boring wouldn’t it?

Bringing the garden indoors

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Bringing foliage, berries, cones and seed heads indoors from the forest and garden is a tradition which sometimes gets forgotten amidst the flashing, multi-coloured lights, revolving (revolting?) Santas, talking reindeer and other “bling” which so-called Garden Centres seem to wish upon us.

Not at Nant-y-Bedd.

Seasonal seed head - allium

Seasonal seed head – allium

I like to trim our own holly trees just before Christmas to provide sprigs for a traditional holly wreath – cotoneaster berries this year as the birds have stripped the holly before I got there.

Trimmed holly

Trimmed holly

Poor postman, can't find the letterbox!

Poor postman, can’t find the letterbox!

The trimmings from the bottom of the (Grand Fir or Noble Fir, as they don’t drop their needles) Christmas Tree get recycled into a swag which hangs above the mirror in the sitting room.

Raw material for the swag

Raw material for the swag

Starting the production

Starting the production

Nearly there

Nearly there

Finished article

Finished article

And I always select a lichen and moss covered twig from Jeddah’s tree (so-called because my dog is buried beneath it), a Field Maple, to hang over the fireplace.

All lichen and moss

Seed heads are allowed to stand over winter in the garden to provide some structure and interest, as well as sustenance for the birds.  Some get bashed down by the wind, rain and snow and are harvested for both seed and for indoor decoration.

Some gardeners feel the need to adorn their Christmas windowsills with early flowering spring bulbs – narcissus Paperwhite and Hyacinths –  but I prefer to leave that until the short, dark days of January, when I’m glad to be reminded that Spring isn’t far away.

Windowsill display

Windowsill display

Christmas for me is enjoying candlelight and crackling log fires with the cedar / pine aroma of a real Christmas tree.

Add to that home-made tree decorations and it is more “hygge” than “bling”.

Home-made

Home-made

Garden booze

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It’s the booze making time of year again.  It all seems to need to be done at once, so this year I’m splitting up the cider making with a bit of grape pressing.

We have had an excellent crop of Tom Putt apples (as recommended by the Marcher Apple Network) this time round – it all depends on the weather at pollination time – but we have also been given a load of what look like mainly cookers by our friend Linda.  The Tom Putt’s weighed in at just under 100lb, though it might have been a lot more if the badger hadn’t spent every night nicking the windfalls.  Linda’s weighed about the same, so we should get around 7-8 gallons in total.  I’ve also done a small amount using just crab apples, either to blend in or as a probably very dry cider.

To do it in this sort of bulk a few bits of kit are preferable.  Firstly a press and secondly a scratter.  Many moons ago I made a wonderfully efficient press, but unfortunately it got lost in the move from Kent to here – I think it got sold erroneously at the farm sale.  So this set up is from Vigo Presses.

So first set up the scratter on the press:

The full works

The full works .. with accompanying H3 tasting vessels

In go the apples, just as they come off the tree or the ground:

...not too many at a time

…not too many at a time

Turn the handle a few (well quite a lot of) times:

keep your fingers out of here when it is going round!

keep your fingers out of here when it is going round!

.. and this is what you get

ready for pressing

ready for pressing

Apply some serious effort to the screw thread and the juice flows.

Bootiful!

Bootiful!

After the juice has finished running, remove the pomace (technical term for this stuff)..

Solids 'cakes' of apple

Solid ‘cakes’ of apple …

…  which then go onto the compost heap

No waste in this process

No waste in this process

Take the pressed juice into the house and place beside the Esse for a week or so until the fermentation  (from the natural yeasts on the skins) has died down.  Depending on quantity now bottle it or store in plastic polypins which deform as the cider is drawn off, keeping air out.

Now comes the final and most difficult bit.  Sit and watch it for a month or six whilst it clears naturally and the flavour develops.

Then, as the old Wurzels song says, “Drink up ye zider, George, there’s still more in the jug”.

Grapes go very much the same way, except for killing off the natural yeasts, which are unreliable for wine, adding fresh yeast and sufficient sugar as there is rarely enough in home grown grapes to make a sufficiently robust wine that will keep.

Another great crop this year of the red, but virtually nothing on the white again.  Its days may be numbered!

Plenty of low hanging fruit

Plenty of low hanging fruit

just over 35lbs ready for the press

just over 35lbs ready for the press

Iechyd da!

Fungus Foraging

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Saturday saw 20 or so people descend upon us for a Mushroom Foraging day.  Organised by Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods and executed by Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods, we had an amazing afternoon searching among the trees and along the river bank.

Mark’s knowledge on fungi and how to use them was extensive and amusing as well as being excellent on the palate!

The throng assembles

The throng assembles

After introductions all round, Mark got proceedings underway with a quick dash of elderflower champagne and Sweet Cicely liqueur!

He explained the different ways in which fungi operate and how they work in concert with different types of vegetation and particularly with trees. Different trees have different fungi. Some, such as the highly sought after ceps are impossible to cultivate and will only grow in the wild in the exactly perfect conditions they need.

Setting off into the forest, Mark suddenly stopped and pointed out a couple of mushrooms underneath the Cedric tree sculpture.  These were Cavaliers, edible, but not a great flavour.  The difference in appearance between the newly emerged ones and a couple that had almost ‘gone over’ was remarkable and went to demonstrate how difficult mushroom ID can be.

Cavaliers and Cedric

Cavaliers and Cedric

When doing an ID there are several factors to take into account

habitat

colour

size

type of gills

smell

There are so many types that all these need to be taken into account.

Moving on we came to a big clump of what most of us recognised as Puffballs.  Seizing a couple of older ones Mark flicked the caps and released clouds of spores.  These were no good for eating, but the fresher growths, with marshmallow like interiors are apparently really good in risottos!

Mark with Puffballs

Mark with Puffballs (and foraging cat, Smudge)

As we moved on Liz pointed out various plants like ground elder and Herb Robert which have important roles to play in herbal medicine as well as being good to eat.

Mark had picked up some shaggy inkcaps on the road up to Nant y Bedd and explained how and when to eat them.  Apparently there’s a variety called the Common Inkcap which isn’t actually that common, but shouldn’t be consumed before or after alcohol as it causes a very nauseous response and has been used to ‘treat’ alcoholics!!

Deeper in the woods we found some Orange Grisette under the birch trees, which are good to eat and are often found with birch.  The physical form of the Grisette is very similar to that of the poisonous Fly Agaric, although the latter’s bright red is a bit of a giveaway.  Mark had brought some of these with him and used this as an opportunity to explain the life cycle appearance of many fungi.

Fly Agaric and Orange Grisette

Orange Grisette and Fly Agaric

Honey Fungus is another species associated with birch, among others, and is usually found as the tree dies.  Apparently edible it needs boiling before cooking.  Not sure I’ll try that!

Honey Fungus

Honey Fungus

Heading down to the river, someone spotted a few large mushrooms by the gate under the Lawson Cypress.  Mark had to admit that he’d walked past them twice the day before when he did a recce! It pays to look down when mushroom foraging.  It was a group of shaggy parasols, well camouflaged against the leaf litter.

Shaggy Parasol

Shaggy Parasol

Heading along the river bank we were introduced to the “Native Spice Rack” with plants such as Wild Angelica, Hogweed, Wood Avens, Sweet Woodruff and Meadow Sweet (which apparently cures hangovers – the other way of course is to keep drinking!) In the Spring the very young buds and flowers of Rowan are also useful.  Various tinctures were passed around at this point but I missed most of it as I was lighting fires for the Big Bake Up afterwards.

I did get back into the swing of it just in time to find out about a fungus that may be a cure for prostate problems.  Going by the name of Turkey Tails it is found on decomposing logs of birch and can be made into an infusion.  Mark also showed us something known as Chaga, which comes from growths on birch trees in certain places and is very highly sought after.  (Memo to self: look very carefully at all our old birches)

Turkey Tails

Turkey Tails

Finally we assembled by the pond and whilst Mark and Liz got the cooking pots on the go, we were entertained by Lottie Muir, the so-called Cocktail Gardener, who explained some of her cocktail recipes and asked us to taste them – hard work isn’t it?

Thanks to Mark, Liz, Lottie and all those who came along and enjoyed an excellent afternoon and evening.  Hopefully we’ll be able to host more events like this in the future.

PS:  By an odd coincidence the RHS magazine, The Garden, has just published it’s November issue with an article on “Weird and Wonderful Fungi” with photos by Jonathan Need, who photographed our garden earlier in the year!

PPS:  One of the participants, Ian of FoodiesHeaven blog fame, has also written about the day in more detail than above.  Find it here

 

 

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

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Yes, it’s Keat’s time of year again, with the autumn fruit lighting up the misty mornings.

Depending on who you talk to this summer has been:  hot / dry / cold / damp / lovely /grotty – so it’s nice to see some real rewards despite the weather.

The early fruit did quite well, with strawberries overcoming a cold damp spell, which seemed to really suit the raspberries. Possibly the best crop we’ve had, and these were supplemented by loads of worcesterberries and gooseberries, reasonable numbers of blackcurrants and even the plums did OK down above the chicken run.  Sue has made jam from many of these as previously reported.

Now it is the turn of the later ripening species.

We now have three pear trees, which each have about 3 pears on them.  They say that you “plant pears for your heirs” and that is looking pretty much right at the moment.

dscf4226

The Tom Putt apples are glowing bright red right now, probably redder than for many a year.  They are a bit of an acquired taste and go brown as you are eating them, so it will probably be juice / cider as the outcome for these.  All three trees are well covered.

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We also have two Howgate Wonders which suffer badly from canker, but one of them has a good handful or two of lovely fruit.  Officially a cooker, they are equally tasty as a dessert apple.

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The new James Grieve espalier by the garden entrance gate had two large apples this year which unfortunately got blown off before we could pick them.  Absolutely tremendous flavour though – just finishing one of them off as I type!

The crab apples are fruiting well too.  The red one behind the fence isn’t as good as last year, but even so the deep red makes it a sight to be seen.

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It’s not all hard fruit.  The alpine strawberries have been having a late spurt and often feature at breakfast (if I haven’t got to them before).  This year the birds seem to have left them alone a bit more.

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In the greenhouse the black grapes are almost ready to pick.  Not really for eating, they’ll be vinified in the not too distant future. The white vine suffered scale bug a couple of years ago and may have to be replaced.

dscf4236

Finally, not specifically a fruit but something to be picked at this time of year, the sichuan pepper has had it’s best crop so far.  By the time I’ve sorted the final picking – removing and discarding the seeds from the husks – there will be three ‘spice jars’ full of aromatic spice just begging to be used in a Chinese stir fry!dscf4220

Summer success stories and (yet more) jam

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Driven indoors by a sudden and dramatic thunderstorm, I am now making jam – a satisfying September-during-a-thunderstorm kind of activity.  I should mention that jam-making is taking place on a wood-fuelled cooker so no worries about power cuts affecting the process.

Plum jam this time.  This follows successful batches of blackcurrant and blackcurrant-and-worcesterberry when those crops were harvested several weeks ago.  I never make strawberry jam:  it seems a crime not to eat them fresh (or give to friends and relatives) even though at full production we can pick up to 8- 10 lbs a day.  I seldom make raspberry jam for the same reason – although I will say that my raspberry jam is rather good.

Jam-making today, however, is less about being an efficient grower and preserver of our own produce and more about recently finding last year’s plums still lurking in one of the freezers and it is there they still lurk.  The jam is being made with this year’s gatherings.

So, fruit crops so far this summer have generally been a success, including the best crop of raspberries we have had for some years.

The summer here at an altitude of 1200′ in the Black Mountains has been cool and dry.  I spent weeks in July and August carrying water from various collecting tanks and barrels to precious things in pots and newly-planted out summer crops.

rainwater harvesting in various up-cycled baths and barrels

rainwater harvesting in various up-cycled baths and barrels

In spite of keeping things alive by watering, the low temperatures meant that some half-hardies such as Cosmos and Nicotiana never really got going.  However, not to dwell on the failures but to celebrate the successes…

Brassicas have done well – particularly broccoli and Red Winter kale (from seed I saved 2 years ago) which we have been harvesting for weeks.  Some excellent looking cabbages are also growing well.

Broccoli in the kitchen

Broccoli in the kitchen

Garlic and onions were not quite as good as last year – but last year’s were exceptionally good – all now harvested, dried off on windowsills and awaiting plaiting to be hung up in the kitchen.  As we are still using last year’s garlic I think all recipes in the foreseeable future need to be heavily laced with garlic…

2016 garlic and onion crop drying in the woodyard

2016 garlic and onion crop drying in the woodyard

I always grow several varieties of garlic on the basis that if one doesn’t perform others might.  This year Provence Wight by far outshone the others so I may just stick with that next year.  Will be buying as soon as they are in stock locally to be planted out next month.

I wasn’t expecting much from the potatoes this year because of the dry summer.  The earlies, International Kidney, were not brilliant.  However, the Remarkas, which I grow as a baking potato, when lifted today have done well.  The Charlottes are still in the ground as rain stopped play today.

Broad beans, peas and mangetout were good and runner beans are cropping well.  Spinach and chard are good and have just started using the main crop carrots. And a new lettuce mix I tried this year has cropped for weeks and still going strong.

Asolo lettuce mix

Asolo lettuce mix

The pumpkins and squashes have finally got going and several fruits have set so if the frosts hold off for another month or so we should get a crop of both.

Pumpkin Tom Fox, Squashes Turks Turban and Crown Prince

Pumpkin Tom Fox, Squashes Turks Turban and Crown Prince

The surprise success this year in the potager has been Munchen Bier radish.  I have grown this as a winter-use radish on and off over a number of years but hadn’t realised that the seed pods are edible – excellent when young and green in salads.  The chaffinches also thought they were tasty but fortunately I had harvested enough seed to sow next year before they devoured the lot.

Munchen Bier radish seed pods

Munchen Bier radish seed pods

In the floral line particular successes in later summer have been:

un-named clematis

un-named clematis

An un-named (note to self – must do better at labelling) clematis romping over a mound of cotoneaster in the cottage garden has been flowering for months.

lovely sweet peas

lovely sweet peas

The sweet peas were lovely, now finished.  We’ve removed them but kept the hazel domes for some structure in the winter garden.

lovely poppies

lovely poppies

poppies co-ordinating with the tree spinach

poppies co-ordinating with the tree spinach and cosmos

Lovely poppies popping up amongst the veggies in the potager seem to colour co-ordinate themselves beautifully with their bed-mates.

asters with cosmos

asters with cosmos

We trialled asters in the cutting garden this year.  They have provided some lovely much-needed late colour.  Will definitely include them next year. And the Monardas have been great in the cottage garden.

Monarda in the cottage garden

Monarda in the cottage garden

And I spotted the first flowers on the harebells I’ve been trying to establish on a dry grassy bank in the cottage garden.

Harebells flowering in the grass

Harebells flowering in the grass

Success with scything rather than strimming:

 

heaps of scythings adjacent to the potager

heaps of scythings adjacent to the potager

More successes with up-cycling things – my favourite this summer was 3 roof lights (thank you builder friend Gavin) turned into mini cold frames.

up-cycled mini cold frame

up-cycled mini cold frame

Success with our natural swimming pond – this summer it has been crystal clear with no sign of algae just pond skaters and water-boatmen, the Emperor dragonfly and the occasional Mabberley.

 

morning sunlight on the swimming pond

morning sunlight on the swimming pond

Our new map of the garden painted by Caroline has proved a great success with our visitors – seen here at the entrance to the potager and used for a garden guide which visitors use to navigate their way around the 6.5 acres.

 

The entrance to the potager

The entrance to the potager

Visitors have also appreciated the tea room.  One visitor wrote in our ‘comments’ book:

‘what a wonder!  Could live in the tea house!!! So many beautiful spaces in and out.’

 

the 'tea house'

the ‘tea house’

Perhaps we should start selling cream teas with home made jam in the ‘tea house’?  But that would mean more time spent in the kitchen and not in the garden…

Taking a closer look

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We have an interesting relationship with our garden and the plants in it.

Sometimes we introduce a plant – it may be a gift from a friend, seeds collected on holiday, or an impulse buy – and it loves our garden, thrives and reproduces itself and feels thoroughly at home.  Examples are Lysimachia ‘Firecracker’ (can’t remember where I got this from originally – but it out-competes ground elder so is a real winner), Acaena microphylla (thank you Sarah), wild chicory (thanks for the seeds Mick)

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wild chicory

and Monardas (at least, some of them). The red Monarda, pictured below is really happy here and spreads itself about like mad, whereas others I have planted have simply disappeared.

Monarda

Monarda

Those then come into the category of ‘plants that are introduced and then sulk and die and/or get eaten by slugs’ – but let’s not dwell on these.

And then there are others that just arrive and make themselves at home. This category includes fabulous plants like Wild angelica (positively identified by a botanist friend – I’m very nervous about white-flowered umbellifers), Golden saxifrage – swathes of it lighting up the garden in Spring, and Sambucus racemosa – the Alpine elder – where did that come from?  And teasels.

teasel in the potager

teasel in the potager

And hogweed (yes, really)…

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hogweed with verbascum, lupin and cornflowers in the potager

Here are some  close-up shots of other things which are happy here at the moment.  Some, of course, like Cosmos, Larkspur, Sweet peas and Sweet Williams need some cosseting (i.e. slug protection) but are so lovely that it’s worth it and my Summer garden wouldn’t be complete without them.

Cosmos 'the Dazzler'

Cosmos ‘the Dazzler’

Larkspur

Larkspur

Sweet William Cherry Red

Sweet William Cherry Red

Sweet pea - one of the many smelly ones I grow

Sweet pea – one of the many smelly ones I grow

And then there are the alliums which require no cosseting and en masse look fantastic but close-up look pretty good too.

Allium sphaerocephalon in the cottage garden

Allium sphaerocephalon in the cottage garden

 

With thanks to Jonathan Need for the use of these lovely photos he took when he visited Nant-y-bedd a few weeks ago.

A professional’s eye

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We all know how it is when we’re so close to something that we don’t really see it as others do.  So it was a great pleasure last week to welcome professional photographer Jonathan Need to our garden.

Jonathan seemed instantly to understand the philosophy behind the garden and the planting and has very kindly sent us a wonderful selection of his morning’s shoot.  We’ll split the shots into two blogs; this first one featuring the garden as a garden; the second some fantastic close-ups of individual flowers.

Here’s just a few of the pictures which I’ll let speak for themselves.

Looking across the "Cottage garden"

Looking across the “Cottage garden”

Winding through the borders

Winding through the borders

Colour and form on the patio

Colour and form on the patio

An alternative view of the patio

An alternative view of the patio

Outside the "Operations Room" aka the Potting Shed

Outside the “Operations Room” aka the Potting Shed

In the "Potager" - 1

In the “Potager” – 1

Looking down the runner bean arch

Looking down the runner bean arch

In the "Potager" - 2

In the “Potager” – 2

Looking back up the "Potager"

Looking back up the “Potager”

Espalier apples and old tin cans!

Espalier apples and old tin cans!

Sailing on the pond

Sailing on the pond

Through the wild flower meadow to the Shepherd's Hut

Through the wild flower meadow to the Shepherd’s Hut

Cedric, the Seed King

Cedric, the Seed King

Rose bedecked shed

Rose bedecked shed

...and yes we do, occasionally, get to sit and enjoy a cuppa!

…and yes we do, occasionally, get to sit and enjoy a cuppa!

You can see more of Jonathan’s stunning photos on his website and hopefully in print somewhere in the future.

 

Open at last

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After all the hard work of the winter and spring our first Open Garden weekend is rapidly approaching. On Saturday morning at 11am we throw open the gates and hold back the crowds .

Here’s a small sample of what you can see on 14th and 15th May – yes this weekend!!

Birch plant supports and honesty

Birch plant supports and honesty

 

Tulips under the Japanese maple.

Tulips under the Japanese maple.

 

The spooky forest

The spooky forest

 

Lovely Wood Sorrel on the forest floor

Lovely Wood Sorrel on the forest floor

 

Bluebells in abundance, by the waterfall

Bluebells in abundance, by the waterfall

 

The Old Ash - so atmospheric.

The Old Ash – so atmospheric.

….and finally what will this be on Saturday?

????????????? Come and find out.

????????????? Come and find out.