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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.

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