horseradish – grown and ready to make


I bought a very small horseradish plant last spring, popped it into a chimney pot and let it go.  I’d read it could be relatively vigorous, the 45cm roots tell the true story, I’m glad I didn’t let it loose in one of the raised beds.

However, despite the very impressive root system, the edible root was very unimpressive (mini Easter egg shows the sad truth).  Nothing at all like the horseradish I see in Waitrose (surprise surprise).  What went wrong?  Was it just not in the ground for long enough (1 year)?  Anyway, it smells good – may not do me for a dozen roast dinners – but hopefully it’s enough for a single meal!

Regardless of size, it was still lovely to harvest something this early in the year.  I’ll leave my second plant going for another year to see if it fares any better!  And I’ll feed it considerably more – thinking back, as it is said to be so vigorous I planted it and left it, didn’t manure, didn’t really even water the poor thing.  More care needed I feel for bumper next-year harvest!

Away from the horseradish, I think I may have got slightly carried away with some early seed sowing – as I have a greenhouse full of seedlings.  Listening to Gardeners Question Time on Friday was a little scary – they say to wait to sow until after mid-April…  Hmmmm, those couple of days of sunshine may have been slightly misleading.  Am praying my seedlings don’t become too leggy or totally grind to a halt.  Less than 3 months until my first visitors wander through the garden.  I am still hopeful that I’ll have a cutting garden full of flowers – but if there’s a big dump of snow I’m going to feel very nervous.  Fingers crossed.


roses a la Sissinghurst

RoseSupportA year or so back, mum and I went to a great talk by Sarah Raven about Sissinghurst.  She is of course married to Vita Sackville-West’s grandson and has spent time living at the house.  Lucky woman ….. although I’m sure the thousands of visitors could become overwhelming on days when you’d just like to potter about and sit quietly in your favourite sunny spot!

Sarah’s talk was great on many fronts, in particular veg and flower growing.  But what really interested me was the rose training guide that was introduced to Sissinghurst by Jack Vass in the 1940s, and is still carried out today.  Basically, by bending stems and tying them down under pressure, the plant will have a greater proliferation of flowers.  I tried this technique partially last year on one of my climbing roses and it was magnificent!  As my shrub roses are often quite skinny towers, I thought I’d move on to them this year.

I’m lucky to have way too much Cornus Alba Sibirica in my garden – and while I don’t think it’s as good as willow, it will do the job.  So I harvested a couple of dozen stems last week, left them to soften in water for a few days, and today fashioned my hoops and got the roses tied in.  Truthfully, I was out there for quite a few hours, this is not a fast job…. but I did get the front bed tied down and I think they look ok.  Most likely not as structural as those at Sissinghurst, but good enough!  Of course the truth will be there for all to see in a few months time.



signs of spring


As February ends and spring comes ever closer, the snowdrops, crocus and Narcissus Tete-a-Tete are in bloom.  I’m desperate to get outside – not just to start working through the long list of jobs that need to be done – but to hear the birds singing, to fill up my vegetable and cutting beds and to feel the sun on my face.

The solitude of my garden in early spring is wonderful after the constant noise of the house through winter.  As the repetitive tasks of mulching and cutting back and clearing fill many hours, I feel my shoulders start to fall and a general feeling of peace descends.

Through the garden, plants are sending out fresh green leaf buds.  Red peony spikes appear, closely followed by the most beautiful pale green leaves.  Wood ash from the stove is sprinkled around to encourage a proliferation of blooms.  I regret not planting tulips in the cutting garden last autumn and have made a note to do so later this year.

And although a foot of snow fell overnight, blanketing all my emerging shoots and flowers and threatening to drag me back into winter, I have wrapped up warm to harvest Cornus branches which I will fashion into a woven framework for the shrub roses.  The snow will not deter me, not this week at least!