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Scent in the Garden July

July 31, 2015

Other than Buddleja ‘Black Night’ July has proved to be a bit of a challenge for scented flowers…


But the honeysuckle Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ has found its way along a sunny wall mingling with and following on from the climbing roses and providing lots of heady perfume… DSCN5016

And I’m really enjoying the scent when brushing past the aromatic leaves of Geranium macrorhizum and Artemesia absinthium ‘Lambrook Silver’ in the borders.

A pot outside the kitchen door of lemon verbena -Aloysia triphylla with its intensely fragrant lemon-scented leaves is lovely and makes an excellent herb tea…


In another pot the pineapple sage-Salvia elegance is very pretty and it’s tempting to rub the leaves of both whilst walking through the kitchen door…DSCN5031

On the allotment the sweet peas are providing two pickings a week at the moment and filling the kitchen with scent…



The School Allotment

July 23, 2015

Last week was the end of term at St Michael’s on the Mount primary school in the centre of Bristol and the allotment garden designed by Karena Batstone was full to bursting. It’s managed by several keen parents with help from the pupils who gather for inspiration in the cleverly designed sitting area to decide on what to plant. Surrounded by easy to manage raised beds it’s the best introduction a child could have to encourage an interest in gardening…DSCN4971The beds were full of beetroot …DSCN4965and dwarf French Beans …


and climbing beans under-planted with Little Gem lettuces …DSCN4962

and courgettes …


I took the photographs on the last day of term and was assured that the gardeners involved with the project would maintain the beds over the summer holidays. It was such an inspiration I sped off to the allotment and weeded for three solid hours.

At the Harbourside Festival in Bristol last weekend another of Karena’s designs was getting lots of attention.  The base had been cut from dozens of 2 litre plastic milk bottles then filled with soil and planted up to make a living roof and wall…



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The industrial metal supports were a great contrast with the naturalistic planting and this was further softened with the hay bale seating…

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At home the cut flowers this week were Clematis jackmanii and they lasted three days in water…


Night-Scented Stock

July 17, 2015

A trough of night-scented stock on a windowsill behind a garden seat was looking very pretty in a neighbour’s garden…



And in a busy street in London this planting of lupins and foxgloves added privacy to a window very near the pavement …



The garden here is looking a bit faded unlike the cutting bed on the allotment which is about to burst into life. It was difficult to find much to pick this week other than R. Pink Carpet, Clematis jackmanii and Stipa tenuissima…


but the sweet peas are flowering on the allotment …


And there are pops of colour in the garden with Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’ and Buddleia ‘Black Knight’…



The seeds of fennel and globe artichoke sown two weeks ago are through the compost and will be potted on in a week or two. Both will be kept in the cold frame until they are really robust and it will be next spring before the globe artichokes are planted out on the allotment.

Our allotment association is registered with Blightwatch to help the nationwide fight against blight. A system known as Smith Periods is used to register hourly temperatures and recordings of relative humidity in a specific post code. A warning will then be given at a moment’s notice and tomatoes and potatoes can be lifted if there’s a potential threat. We are free of blight so far but I found myself digging up spuds for supper and then found it impossible to stop.  There’s something magical about forking up the soil and finding waxy yellow treasures in the earth. They’ll be kept in the cool and dark to keep them fresh over the next week or two…



Good Bugs

July 10, 2015

When cropping the broad beans a huge number of these insects were crawling over the black fly…


Several hitched a lift home and to our amazement they metamorphosed into ladybirds a few days later …


There’s some good planting in the lane that runs the length of the terrace at the back of the house but we need to be vigilant to stop the council spraying these self-seeded lovelies.  Erigeron karvinskianus is looking great and has increased every year appearing in the smallest of gaps …


And a patio rose R.Carpet Pink planted in a patch of soil has climbed and rambled through wires and is brightening up a breeze block wall in full view through the kitchen window…


It was the perfect colour for these sweet little bud vases…DSCN4895

As were these Welsh poppies in another pair …






Agapanthus and Allotment Stalwarts

July 2, 2015

DSCN4873A pot of Agapanthus africanus outside the front door is full of flower heads bursting into life and against the odds since they had infrequent watering to say the least. I did however feed all five pots of agapanthus back in April and they are flowering like never before.


On the allotment a neighbour has a stunning clump of globe artichokes basking in the sun.  Last year I grew this plant from seed and they germinated fast. Potted on into 9 cm pots they grew to 30 cm tall and were planted out.  Within days they’d been demolished by slugs but I’m having another go and this time they’ll stay in pots till they reach a really robust size.


Opposite the artichokes is a huge clump of fennel and inspired by Charles Dowding I have just purchased seeds for these (and the artichokes).  In How to Create a New Vegetable Garden he sowed Fennel ‘Montebianco’ in modules at the beginning of July and planted them out 3 weeks later.  He says they swelled to medium size bulbs through October but I’d be happy to have the leaf as a herb although any bulbs would be welcome too.


The Crimson Flowered broad beans growing in a pot outside the kitchen door are fattening up and completely free of blackfly…


Unlike the allotment broad beans which have been badly infected. This week I cropped the lot and chopped up the plants to add to a compost bin. The heat wave will help get the temperature up on all the bins and that should speed up decomposition. On the subject of soil, in Bristol on July 4th there’s an important event celebrating UN International Year of Soils. The guest speaker at the Create Centre is Alys Fowler who will be inviting people to explore the life-giving matter of soils to inspire a deeper understanding of its nature and its role in the future of food.


Above Alchemilla mollis is looking very pretty mingling with Stipa tenuissima and the lime green flowers cut well with marigolds and achilleas in a pot…


And here’s a most delicious recipe prompted by urbanvegpatch for nasturtium leaf pesto which we ate on sliced tomatoes …DSCN4890

Dividing up Herbaceous Plants

June 25, 2015

I rescued the two lack-lustre Achillea ‘Moonshine’ from the bed that the slugs had taken over and it was easy to ease the roots apart at the base to make eight new plants. I shall do the same with the Geranium psilostemon and re-plant that at the back of a border.


The achillea will go in the main sunny bed where they seem to be thriving and with no apparent slug damage…


A three-hour weeding session on the allotment left it looking great again and exposed several rows of beetroot and spinach sown from seed weeks ago and then forgotten about. I sowed more of each plus various perennial flowers Salvia ‘patens’, Verbascum ‘Summer Charm’ and Scabiosa ‘Drakensbergensis’.


These allotment raspberries and strawberries were pureed with a small amount of caster sugar and made into ice-cream.


 Beat 1 pt double cream  with 397 g of condensed milk (half a tin) until it forms soft peaks and then fold in the fruit puree and freeze.


The allotment broad beans are badly hit by blackfly but I washed the pods before pushing the beans out and they are un-blemished. A surplus was transformed into a pea and broad bean hummus recipe which was in my head but I think came from Hugh F W originally.


Cook a cupful of podded broad beans and a cupful of peas (frozen or fresh) together for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Cool then puree with 100 ml olive oil and a handful of mint leaves plus 50 gm of grated Parmesan cheese. Served on toasted sour dough bread it was delicious.


Allium ‘Ivory Queen’ was in bloom for weeks in the garden and although now gone to seed it still looks very pretty.  It’s mixed here in a vase with the seed pods of Nigella ‘Love in a Mist’.

Flowers for Cutting

June 18, 2015

This week is British Flowers Week and even the smallest balcony, garden or allotment offers space to grow cut flowers rather than buying imported ones.  Last year a bed on the allotment measuring about 2 m x 1 m kept me in flowers for the house from May until October.  Ranunculus ‘Aviv Red’…

download (1) started the season followed by dahlias in June and these flowered until autumn both providing  substantial pickings. Annuals such as ‘Love in a Mist’, Calendula, cosmos and nasturtiums provided extra padding throughout the summer season. I rarely buy flowers now apart from the odd bunch of tulips early in Spring and I pick flowers for the kitchen table and a huge vase for the hall table twice a week for many months.

So in April I re-designed a bed in the garden to extend my cut flower obsession. It’s been fairly successful but in reality it’s less a cutting bed more a take-away for slugs and snails. Five Salvia, five Ammi majus and four Cosmos ‘Sensation’ have been razed to the ground and the G. psilostemon …DSCN4792

has grown huge and although fantastic cut with bright pink roses it’s smothering the Achillea ‘Moonshine’ and providing cover for the slugs and snails.  But the roses planted several years ago are holding this cutting bed together especially the striped and scented R. Ferdinand Pichard…


and the rambler R. Veilchenblau which covers the wall with its dark magenta clusters that fade to lilac…


The Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ is flowering too and scenting the garden…


And this new bed has definitely been improved by Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’…


and Alchemilla mollis planted in the front of the border edging the path…


So a bit of re-jigging of the bed maybe required in autumn and I’m inclined to re-position the G. psilostemon at the back of a border. It sprawls but I value the flowers so will need to keep it.  I would love to plant peonies inspired as I am by Julie’s blog Peonies and Posies. They make awesome flowers in the border and associate well with roses and look stunning in a vase but that said they will flower in May and June and then they’re over. So perhaps one just accepts that in a relatively small garden having one’s heart’s desire is too much to ask.

On the allotment the rainbow chard has started flowering a sure sign that is will now slow down production of the lovely leaves.  A friend who grows her own and is a brilliant and imaginative forager passed on this hot tip. She cuts off all the young flowering stems from the top and sides of the plant and gently steams them. We did this last night and they were tender and sweet with a delicious chard flavour and now the row can be cropped for a few more weeks.


And on the subject of productive plants I’ve been carefully observing the crimson flowered broad bean outside the kitchen door.  It went from scented flowers to dried up flowers to small beans in the space of a week and the pods are now growing bigger by the day. It explains why on the allotment I was suddenly picking fat broad beans when ten days before there was nothing to be seen.


The cut flowers this week are the  hybrid musk rose R.Felicia with Stachys lanata and G.Psilostemon.




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