Making the Beds
Yesterday I checked on the asparagus imagining that in the five days since I last went to the allotment a full bed would have emerged. There were eight fat spears and a dozen thin spears, the size of knitting needles. This is an improvement on last year when there were eight thin spears in total for the entire season!! So I cut the fat asparagus and cropped several handfuls of spinach and picked a dozen stems of purple sprouting broccoli and turned it all into supper.
I made a basic short crust pastry using butter and lard and lined a tart tin and baked the pastry blind for 15 minutes. Whilst that was cooking I steamed the asparagus and the broccoli together and separately cooked the spinach all for about 7 minutes. Then 3 eggs were beaten with 3 tablespoons of fromage frais and 50 grams of grated cheese was stirred into the mix. I spread the drained vegetables on the base of the pastry, poured in the egg mixture and chopped up 50 grams of streaky bacon to dot over the top. Cooked at 220 C for 30 minutes this was high enough to crisp the bacon. It was delicious served with a big leaf salad.
A favourite flower Tellima grandiflora is in bloom and with its acid green leaves and lemon bell-shaped flowers it combines well with the Spanish bluebells. These seem to be popping up all over the garden even though I am ruthless with the leaves and pull them out as soon as the flowers are over. l am always in a hurry to clear the ground for other plants to perform but they don’t seem to mind my rough treatment.
If I were designing a border in part-shade with plants that could be easily divided up and spread round the garden Tellima grandiflora would be top of the list. It forms large clumps as in this image and just visible are the flower-heads of Allium christophii which will follow in June. I am hoping that both will self-seed. Epimedium acuminatum and Geranium maccrorhizum could edge the front of the bed. Most perennial geraniums are easy to split and a favourite for sun or shade is G. psilostemon with its huge magenta flowers and large deeply divided leaves. It’s tall, growing to about 75cms, and would look good towards the back of the border. A shrub rose William Lobb with its muted crimson-purple flowers would look great in the centre of the bed with any of these plants surrounding it at the base. Sedum autumnalis could fill any gaps at the back of the border this seems to survive in the darkest of corners.
A border in full sun could be edged with Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ which looks wonderful falling onto a path. Or the low-growing Ajuga reptans (image below) could mingle with Alchemilla mollis both of which are prolific self- seeders and all of these plants divide easily every three years.
Behind the edging plants a mixture of Astrantia major ‘Alba’, Libertia grandiflora and Phlomis russeliana would look great together basking in full sun. These could form the middle layer of planting in a border and could surround and under-plant a shrub or two which would provide substantial vertical interest. A standard rose such as Rosa ‘Ballerina’ or a scented shrub Philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ with its delicious pineapple fragrance would make a romantic combination in a sunny border mid-summer.
Obviously all of these ideas depend on the size of the beds available but as a general rule herbaceous plants need to be planted in groups of three or five for impact. Most of the ones mentioned can be purchased in 9cm pots at garden centres and some are available as bare-root plants if you search the internet. They will grow fast in warm conditions and can be divided up in three years to increase stock thus making it a relatively inexpensive project if you are making a new garden.