We’ve had such a mild winter that my leeks have lived on and on.. and on..!. Most of them have been used in one of my favourite dishes – leek and bacon pie with a double pastry crust! However, feeling slightly ‘pastried out’ after eating many pies this winter, I dug up most of my remaining leek crop this week and made a leek and potato soup. And I had beautiful baby chives to garnish. Eaten in front of the fire it was deliciously warming. I have left just enough leeks in the ground for one final pie!
On the same day that I was digging up 2015 leeks, I sowed my 2016 crop. This year I have ordered two varieties through my Heritage Seed Library entitlement – Sim Seger and Kelvedon King – both appear to have good disease resistance and are tolerant of wet, northern conditions. Being organic, I like the fact that I can harvest my own seed from the crop – provided of course that I leave them over winter to flower. Perhaps planting a few in a border will be a better solution for crop-rotation purposes?
I am trying hard to keep to my planting plan this year so the beds look bountiful during the open garden weekend. Given the mild winter I’m enthusiastic to get stuff done, however the sharp frosts we’ve had every day this week have helped me to keep myself in check. So far I have good germination with sweet peas, cornflowers, ammi, tomatoes and chillis and I have parsley, leek and malope in the propagator. Only another 23 crops, successional sowing, pricking out, potting up and planting out to go then! Am off for an early night!
I have a view that, where possible, everything in a garden should be used so that waste material going to landfill sites is limited.
We have a lot of mature trees in our garden and over the past year we’ve had to take 17 down – due to overcrowding, disease and damage from weather. 17 trees is a lot of wood. Of course all of the large branches are split for the woodburner – this winter we’ve had it going without a break since the end of October and we have enough seasoned wood to last until early April. We also chip all the spindly bits to mulch the beds.
A lot of the mid-size branches have been used to build a ‘rustic’ fence. Separating the pond from the formal potager, last summer it was surrounded by pink cosmos daises and bronze fennel (an amazing combination)! I’ve planted a Francis E. Lester rose that I hope will grow over the next couple of years to cover the fence in fragrant white/pink blooms, followed by hips for the birds.
I have another rustic fence planned for the front of the house, both to provide a separation and to stop people wandering around to the back garden! My tree-surgeon mate across the road is about to receive a knock on the door – summer courgettes in return for some shapely branches!
A while back I was lucky enough to attend a day course run by The Traditional Flower Company. The 5 of us attending the course spent the morning walking around the farm looking at what was growing and the afternoon arranging our own bouquet. The flowers were amazing. And we had a gorgeous lunch. And cake. A happy day!
I enjoyed learning the balance between ‘filler’ and ‘fabulous’ flowers – so while I may only need 2 beautiful roses, I can use lots of Feverfew and Alchemilla mollis (finally, a use for this plant!) to bulk-out the arrangement. Plus including plenty of foliage and grass seedheads expands the bouquet beautifully. So it’s not necessary for me to grow hundreds of anything, just a few of lots!
So this year, rather than just focussing on my vegetable and fruit production, I have expanded my potager to include a cutting garden. I am in the process of consulting “The Language of Flowers” to see which blooms I should grow so the total bouquet – look, scent and meaning – are beautifully entwined.
Most of my ‘fabulous’ will come from the borders: pink roses (for grace), red roses (for love), yellow roses (for infidelity, hmmmmmm, obviously never to be used for a bridal bouquet) and peonies (which mean anger, not good in a meaningful bouquet, not yet sure how I can integrate the flower when knowing it’s meaning – perhaps a bloom to enjoy only in the garden)?
My ‘filler’ flowers will grow in the potager – sweet peas (delicate pleasures), cornflowers (not sure of the meaning but the blue is so beautiful), cosmos (joy in love and life – now that’s one meaning that I really love), feverfew (warmth), bronze fennel (strength) and ammi majus (fantasy). Peppermint (warmth of friendship) and rosemary (remembrance) I have plenty of… but perhaps a little more thought about foliage plants is needed.
My hope is that I enjoy plenty of lovely flowers for myself, but also that my loved ones receive pretty flowers for birthdays, dinners and simple treats!
I have a wonderful plan for a small patch of land in my garden.
At the moment the site is unloved – mostly grass, perennial weeds and a diseased willow. From historical photographs I have of the house and garden, I know the area used to be a very large vegetable garden. It’s been in its current ‘unused’ state for about 20 years so my hope is that the soil, with years of rotting leaf fall, will be reasonable.
However….. while I have the perfect plan on paper for my orchard, living above 1,000 feet is challenging for fruit growth. Apples, plums and damsons – these are possible – but I am concerned that the harvest will never be substantial. Not truthfully a massive problem, as the area is as much about the beauty as it is about the output. So I power on!
“My orchard” has many a romantic association – as well as the harvesting of beautiful fresh fruit, jam making, apple pie – I also love the thought of a wildflower floor with naturalised daffodils, camassia, native orchids and fritillary – and lots of bees. I’ve had three Heath Spotted orchids come up in the area – and this has been my inspiration for the site!
I want to get out there now and start digging planting holes!! However, I imagine our coldest winter weather is yet to come, so I’ve held off buying any trees. But it has been difficult. Planting while dormant is the best way for the trees to get a good start, so I think that means that I have about 6 weeks to get the site plantable. I guess bribery, most likely with payment of food and beers, will be necessary for my personal workforce!