My trip to Bristol Botanic Gardens last weekend for the Bee and Pollination Festival was inspiring. Huge clumps of bee loving plants, appropriately awash with dozens of bees and hover flies, filled many of the beds. And seeing such a huge variety of plants in various settings demonstrated there are plants to suit most gardens and most aspects. I loved this Rudbekia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ and as a hardy perennial once sown it will return every year. Various gardeners on the allotment have planted it in glorious clumps on the edges of beds and it also mixes well with grasses in a domestic garden for prairie style planting. It looks particularly dramatic planted near water where the striking flower heads will be reflected in the water surface.
Insects were buzzing around this pretty white Cistus hybridus below. With masses of buds still to open it makes a good mid-summer shrub flowering on till early autumn: just provide it with an open space in full sun.
But it was the vegetable island bed that left me inspired for next year and in particular for this Swiss chard ‘Bright Yellow’ which looked amazing in the low light of the sun. I have some very healthy chard on the allotment and it’s looking promising with fat cream stems supporting huge green leaves but for drama and colour I shall go for this pineapple yellow variety next spring.
Another plant in the notebook for 2013 will be radicchio which can be grown like lettuce to produce refreshing if slightly bitter leaves for most of the year. The bitterness can be reduced if sown late in the summer months when it will retain a sweet flavour and can be used in salads or even griddled to serve with pasta. I’ve left it too late to sow from seed this year but next July I’ll sow a row in open ground to make a row or two for autumn pickings. It can then be protected with a cloche or fleece throughout the coldest months to provide this very attractive purple and green leaf through winter.
If space is limited and you long to grow some produce then an espalier fruit tree could be the answer. This pear is one of two that line a wall in a relatively small town garden. It produces delicious fat pears in September which are preceded by very pretty white blossom in spring.
Tree nurseries or garden centres have an assortment of espalier fruit trees on offer, mainly apple and pears. Bare root specimens are available from tree nurseries in October and container grown specimens are on offer in many garden centres all year round. Espalier trees have been pruned with horizontal branches from a central stem and autumn is a good time to plant when the trees are dormant. Make sure that the root ball is planted some distance away from the wall or fence but close enough to tie in the branches to horizontal wires.
I cut Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Madame Emile Mouillere’ ( I found the label) for a vase this week. It’s been in flower for two months and I am reluctant to pick too much of it since there’s very little in flower in the garden at the moment. But I love seeing hydrangeas in metal containers so I’ve given the house a treat.
I made damson sauce this week- well that’s what I’m now calling it- it was meant to be jam. My new approach to jam making is to reduce the sugar content so that the predominant flavour is of the fruit. I overdid it on this session but the taste and colour of the damsons shines through and it will make a great sauce for puddings or a fabulous accompaniment to roasts especially duck breasts. I rubbed it through a sieve to remove the skin then ladled into two jars for the fridge and the rest went into six small lidded containers for the freezer.