Wednesday, 16 September 2009

End of Season Bonus

The time has come to clean out the greenhouse, first removing the exhausted courgette plants. These two have provided lovely baby courgettes and giant marrow for many a meal over the months from late June to September and, with two large marrow remaining, will provide some more food for a little while yet.

Then it's the turn of th
e four tomato plants, one each of four varieties: Gardener's Delight - a prolific small-fruited variety, Totem - a bush type, a beefsteak and a plum tomato - varieties unknown. Lots of green fruit especially on the Gardener's Delight. I could leave them a little longer on the plant to ripen but the next few weekends are busy with friends and family and if I don't get the greenhouse sorted now it will be the end of looks like Holly Grove Kitchen will be making a batch of green tomato chutney sometime soon.

The last of the onions drying out on the greenhouse benches are gathered up and together with the garlic bulbs this makes a substantial basket full of produce from the greenhouse.

I'm already thinking of
how I might use the greenhouse - a 6' x 10' unheated type - over the coming months starting with a couple of growbags of lettuce to overwinter, some broad bean seeds to start off and, of course, to shelter the fuchsias in pots before the first frosts.

So, with my Harvest Festival basket and thoughts of new plantings I set off for the HG kitchen...

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Summer Lovelies

Our Summer bedding in pots around the outside walls of the house is still looking good. Every year I pot up some pelargonium plug plants, bright red, for the Handyman. They are his favourite and remind us both of lovely times in France. This year's plants had a bit more of an orange tinge than we like but they have performed well in what, during July and August, was a wet and sometimes chilly Summer. They have loved the warmer and much drier weather of September and appear to be putting on a final flourish. They can be overwintered from cuttings taken in August or September, but I have so much to do within our acre that I usually compost the plants at the end of the season. Perhaps when I give up the day job and I have more time for the garden I'll try my hand at pelargonium cuttings.

The other regular visitor to our pots in Summer is the Busy Lizzie, Impatiens walleriana. Preferring a cooler sight, though they will grow in full sun, I set the pots along the back wall of the house - east facing - so they get the morning sun but sit in shade from about 11.30 onwards. They are such a cheery plant, covered in muti coloured blooms. Again, though they can be propagated by cuttings, my preference is to buy them as plug plants in the late Spring.

Various fuchsi
as join in the Summer colour, some hardy and some not. The hardy ones will be taken to the cold greenhouse to overwinter in their pots and be planted out in the garden borders on the arrival of Spring, the others will be added to the ever expanding compost heap.

For now I'll enjoy the final burst of colour from this trio of lovelies!

Sunday, 13 September 2009


Just had to quickly share this photo of our enormous sunflowers (self-seeded in the kitchen garden from last year's seedheads). They are over 8 feet tall and looked beautiful against the azure blue September sky.

Saturday, 12 September 2009


Walking through the lanes this morning on one of my, now regular, foraging trips I noticed a crab apple tree in the hedgrow. On closer inspection the fruits were ripe enough to come off in my hand with a gentle twist of the stalk.

I took one of my foraging bags, better known as small freezer bags, from my pocket and collected about 2 pounds in weight.

On reflection I should have waited for my return trip to gather the apples as I now had to carry them with me on the rest of m
y walk.

The real purpose of my trip this morning was to gather a couple of bags of pine cones that I had seen on a walk earlier in the week.

Under the branches of five Scots pin
es in amongst the pine needles lie masses of disguarded cones. I like the idea of a few pine cones on our open fire in the midst of Winter. I've no idea if this is a practical idea but I'd like to give it a try.

So with two carrier bags of pine cones, two pounds of crab apples and a small bag of blackberries - well, you can't go foraging at this time of the year and come back without a blackberry or two - I wandered home to look for a recipe for the crab apples.

Our Batty Cats

We have two cats whom we live with at Holly Grove. They came to stay with us just over 2 years ago when they were about 15 weeks old. I say about 15 weeks as we don't know exactly when they were born. We adopted them from a cat rescue centre, they were such timid little things; born on a factory site to a feral mother they were not used to human contact.

But now 2 years on, what a difference, they rule the roost, though Bobbins (the tabby) is still unsure of strangers, our Tootsie (black as your hat) loves people and is as soft as butter.

We get such pleasure from watching them cavorting around the garden and they keep the mice and rabbit population at bay - no mean feat in this neighbourhood!

Thoughts Turn To Spring Bulbs

It's early Autumn but with this late burst of sunshine and rising temperatures it still feels like Summer. Time to turn my thoughts to Spring
flowers and particularly bulbs. It's the ideal time to buy bulbs whilst there are plenty in the shops to choose from - make sure that they are firm to the touch.

Last year I planted around 500 daffodil and narcissi bulbs outside the gates on the lane verges and in the woodland border. I also put in about 50 English bluebell bulbs - they are rather expensive and good naturalisers, so they should bulk up well over time.

This year I'll add more narcissi, bluebells and snowdrops...but which ones?

Narcissi Tete a Tete is a favourite of mine, so a few more wouldn't go amiss in the woodland border. As the steps rise up through this border it is a good site for minature narcissi.

We're going to continue to spread daffodils along the lane verges, they were so lovely last year. So time to get out the fork and spade, lift some turf, plant some bulbs, replace the turf and look forward to the Spring display - fingers crossed!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

New and Familiar Beans

I gathered, what I think will be, the last of the Runner Beans for this year. The number of young beans on the plants is deminishing, so I'll leave a few now to go to seed to be planted next Spring. The White Lady beans were beautiful, long straight pods, stringless and sweet when gathered young. We have had many a meal with these delicious pods, so much better than supermarket beans, picked straight from the plant to the pot.

I planted some Borlotti Beans at the end of July in the hope that I might get a few beans before the frosts come along. I haven't grown this type of bean before so I'm not sure what results I'll get. However they seem to have started well and are beginning to climb up the canes. Here's hoping for a bit more of this lovely and warm Autumn sunshine that we've been having over the last week or so that will encourage this young growth and keep the pollinators around until the flowers appear - I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Nectar for the Butterfly

It has been a beautiful September day today - sunshine, warm air and a lovely breeze - good gardening weather. I started the day with a walk down the lane to the postbox and back, which woke me up nicely...birdsong, a peaceful start to the day.

I was about to start tidying one of the borders by the circles when I noticed the Sedum Spectabile 'Brilliant' covered in bees, wasps and butterflies all savouring the nectar. So I had to get my camera and try and capture the moment and postpone the gardening. The butterfly in the photograph is a Red Admiral, quite common by all accounts, but nontheless beautiful. The second butterfly was a Comma,smaller than the Red Admiral and less flashy - there must have been at least five or six of these on the plant.

Later in the day I saw more clusters of butterflies on the Verbena Bonariensis, this time they were n
either Red Admirals nor Commas but Painted Ladies.

In the evening light a fourth type of butterfly was spotted. Smaller than the others and with distinctive pale bluespots along the lower edges of its wings - a Small Tortoiseshell.

I have planted lots of nectar-rich plants in our garden in the hope of attracting as many insects, butterflies and birds as possible, so I am very happy to see these varieties of butterfly in the garden.

The search to identify these butterflies led me to a very helpful website - - and one I'll be using more often. It has even helped me to identify the type of Cabbage White that is devastating my broccoli for the second year running - so not all butterflies are welcome here!

Monday, 7 September 2009

One, Two, Three and More Butternut Squash

Autumn beckons but the last of the Summer flowers hold on for a bit longer - here some Black-eyed Susan (Rudbekia Fulgida Goldstrum) make a pretty picture next to a rambling Butternut Squash. The daisies were moved from a more shady spot in the garden this Spring and they're obviously loving this sunnier spot as they've produced lots of bright flowers since July and don't look like stopping for a few weeks yet.

Next to the rudbeckia I planted two squash plants grown from seed in the greenhouse in the late Spring and waited in hope whilst they wandered around the flower beds. They produced lots of yellow flowers, very similar to courgette flowers, but with the poor Summer weather I didn't hold out much hope of getting any fruits. Then yesterday, whilst meandering in the garden, I discovered one medium sized and one small squash. They are beautifully firm to the touch and the skin is blemish-free.

On closer inspection of the plants I found five more squash about the same size as the smaller one that I picked. I'm going to leave them for a couple more weeks on the plant and see what results I get.

I tried growing Butternut Squash last year to no avail, so any that I harvest this year are a welcome addition to the Autumn larder, and if I get seven then that will be a fantastic result!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Mums' Crab Apple Trees

In April this year the Handyman and I chose two crab apple trees to plant close to Star's hedgrow as Mother's Day presents for our Mums. We chose them because of their ultimate height, not so large to take the sunshine and yet providing some dappled shade and beautiful Spring blossom and Autumn fruits. They will be a reminder of our Mums and the bounty of their love.

Malus John Downie (right) is a lovely tree with white blossom and orange and red fruits that ripen in October. The tree is a first year maiden and is already laden with lots of fruit for its size.

The second tree Malus
Red Sentinel (above left), is also a first year maiden and also laden with fruit. A pretty tree with scented white flowers followed by red fruits in the Autumn; these fruits often remain on the tree until late December, if the birds or the preserving pan don't get to them first!
I think I'll try using b
oth varieties in a crab apple jelly come October.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Great Marrows from Little Courgettes Grow!

I've been spending quite a bit of time in the kitchen recently rather than the garden as the autumn flow of produce begins; apples, blackberries (from the hedgrows), plums, damsons etc, all requiring some kind of preserving. This morning I thought I'd take a look in the greenhouse to see how many courgettes I might have courgettes, but three absolutely enormous marrows! Had it really been so long since my last trip to the kitchen garden or was my eyesight failing that I didn't notice these ever expanding courgettes. So I thought I'd better harvest one and see how much it weighed in my amazement it registered 9lbs 3 ozs - almost the same weight as my younger son M when he was born, though quite a different shape!

If you have a look on Holly Grove Kitchen you'll see how I managed to use this unexpected what to do with the remaining two!