11 Mar 2015

I've got a little behind

… said the actress to the Bishop.  Seriously though, the last few weeks have been less than productive. After my recent major headache, and tiring stuff happening at work, I was looking forward to having a whole week of time for myself.  Of course, that didn't happen.  I contracted a flu like virus and had to take to my bed for a week, getting up only so I could build myself back up ready for work again and another 200 mile dash to visit my parents in Hampshire.  Isn't that always the way?

I had high hopes of getting some seeds sown and gardening done but it wasn't to be. I wasn't even up to reading or planning, let alone blogging or commenting. (Sorry for dropping off the radar, I'll be back to catching up this weekend, I hope!) I felt the need to eat well having had a week of enforced detox so I've revelled in being able to pop down to the garden and slice off a few purple sprouting broccoli stems or cavolo nero leaves to add to grains, beans or chick peas.  We've had some gorgeously warm weather over the past few days so it was great to pop down to the garden this morning and see that spring has got underway.  Light at the end of the tunnel, I hope.

Anyone out there remember my late summer sowing experiment?  Although nothing much grew over winter, the beds were filled with plants from seed sown or plugs planted out in August last year - rows of rainbow chard, spinach, carrots, golden and red beetroot, russian kale (the pink frilly stuff) and small cavolo nero plants.

Clockwise from top left:
Ruby chard; Burpees golden beetroot; Cavolo nero kale;spinach/Bulls blood beetroot, carrots
Well, thanks to another relatively mild winter (at least here in London), all of these plants are ready to grow away strongly.  The leaf plants are still small but there are pickings of chard, kales and spinach.

Yes, that really is as big as it looks. 

I also planted out home-grown plug plants of romanesco cauliflower and various broccoli plants - autumn broccoli, christmas broccoli, spring broccoli, etc - the plan being that I'd get a succession of broccoli sprouting one after the other. To a degree, it's worked and those have grown amazingly well.  I've almost had a problem eating enough PSB to keep up - the three plants that I grew are really kicking out sprouts now so I've picked a big bunch and popped the stems into jugs of water to keep them fresh.  (The young leaves are delicious as well!)

There was also a tiny romanesco cauliflower that I watched excitedly for weeks, waiting for it to get big enough to pick. That one has become huge over the past couple of weeks - a meal for 3 or 4 in itself!

That cauliflower is bigger than my hand!

Parsley sown last summer is now growing strongly, as other perennial herbs (fennel, thyme, chives, mint and lemon balm) all start back into growth.

So, although this is lovely having lots of veg to choose from, I haven't quite got it right - something to bear in mind when planning the timing of seed sowing this year.  Not wishing to sound ungrateful, but I could do with having one broccoli plant ready while another is still growing.  I've almost managed this as I have a green broccoli just starting to sprout but before then I have to eat my way through several huge heads of cauliflower and lots of PSB. Next year, I want to have several mini caulis rather than one big one - I'm the only one that likes cauli in my home!  Having said that, it's definitely time to sow a new round of brassicas as I don't think there's such a thing as having too much kale or broccoli in the garden and I quite fancy growing some of those fancy flower sprouts this year as well.

So I'm off for a good look through my seed box with pen and paper to hand.  Happy days!

18 Feb 2015

Wednesday plant ident

Can anyone help me identify this plant?  I went for a wander in the Regency Garden near to my parents' house on the south coast last Sunday.  Gorgeous sunshine, lots of plants waking up and I even saw my first bumble bee buzzing manically from plant to plant!

The garden was a wreck 20 years ago and has been completely transformed by local gardening volunteers to its current Green Flag status.  The planting design is based on which plants would have been used when it was first built in the early 1800's - hence 'Regency Garden'.

There were so many lovely plants there and a wonderful tranquil atmosphere - even a couple of trees that I may be tree following this year (Monkey Puzzle and Tulip tree).  A few years ago I would have been hard pushed to identify many of the plants and shrubs in this garden but I was relieved to find that my memory was up to naming most of the plants last weekend - except this one.  The oval leaves are about 2 inches long on long branching untidy stems. This shrub stood just over a metre high, in an untidy dome shape.  There's no scent on the leaves - I rubbed them as they reminded me of sage or Salvia but surely it's too early in the year for that.  I feel I should know this plant but it escapes me!

I love the look of these little purple flowers (again, the shape is so familiar) so I'd like to fix in my head what this shrub is.  Wild guesses, positive identification and other suggestions gratefully received!

(I'll be back with more photos from this garden but came away from a busy and quite stressful weekend looking after my parents with a three day headache and haven't felt inclined to sit in front of the computer until now.)

5 Feb 2015

A small winter of dis/content

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” 
― Carl Reiner (Actor in Ocean's Eleven)

Oh boy, was I happy when I opened the curtains on Tuesday morning to find that a blanket of snow had settled overnight.  Only a thin blanket, mind, so I knew it wouldn't last.

I love the stillness of fresh new snow but I'm not so keen once it's been trampled or the disruption it causes. Luckily I was working from home that day so I popped outside to take a few photos for the blog (as you do) before it all melted.

As Flighty has said in his snowy post, I was expecting to see animal footprints, particularly as I've seen several very bold (and obviously hungry) foxes around in the past week, but there was nothing except pristine clean snow. A few photos and numb fingers later, I headed for home.  It was then, as I retreated back to the warmth of my flat, that I slipped on an icy patch. As I grabbed hold of a rail to steady myself, the sudden movement ripped at a muscle at the top of my arm. Ouch!

Luckily my plants are made of sterner stuff - the broccoli, PSB, kale and even new shoots on the chive plants appear almost waterproof and shrugged off the effects of snow.

By midday the snow had melted away; two days later, the pain in my arm is also easing. I can only hope that's winter over and done with. 

“Winter is nature's way of saying, "Up yours.” 
― Robert Byrne (Author)
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