Autumn vibes

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Blue sky and autumn leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. It’s been a lovely weekend so far here in central Scotland. Lots of sunshine and blue sky which really shows off these Japanese maple leaves, slowly on the turn from green to gold, and finally to red before they fall. The temperature has dropped a few degrees, and the forecast is for a much cooler week ahead, so I think the new season has well and truly arrived.

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Scottish autumn-flowering heather. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden is still looking quite flowery which is good news for the bees. It’s been a great year for all the heathers, with the autumn varieties looking particularly pretty and laden with tiny blooms.

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Fading white Hydrangea.. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The well-established white Hydrangea shrub has been heavy with flowers this year. A victim of its own success, its thin stems and branches have bowed with the weight of all the flower-heads. Whilst most have a pinkish or brown tinge, there are still one or two perfectly white blooms visible with their pin-head-sized tiny blue centres.

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Late flowering Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The Campanulas have been out in flower for a while. I keep trimming away the spent flower-heads and new ones have been forming lower down the stems which is why they are still flowering so late in the year. The same goes for the deep-pink Verbascum which is now flowering for the third time this year.

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Deep pink Verbascum. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

When I was out in the garden today, I was happy to see so many bees and flying insects enjoying the flowers and sunshine as much as I was. All the lavender bushes in the garden have a few late sprigs of flowers which these insects particularly love.

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Autumn lavender flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not all blue, purple and pink in the garden, the Rose of Sharon has produced a few more golden yellow flowers which have a waxy-look to the petals in the sunshine.

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Second flowers on Rose of Sharon (Hypericum). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image is of my favourite Lupin which has broken my back garden record this year, with its third flowering of the year. It’s not fully open yet but it’s not far off. All the other Lupin bushes have died down completely yet this one has stayed lush and healthy. Alongside is one of my Borage flowers; these have only just decided to put in an appearance this week. Better late than never though 🙂

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Third flowering Lupin and the first Borage flowers of the season. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have enjoyed my images this week. I will be back in the kitchen for my next post. Until then, take care and thanks, as always, for stopping by.

Summer garden

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My Scottish country garden early July 2022. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Summer is in full swing as I sit down to type my post this week. There’s been plenty of sunshine this week and the garden is in full bloom. I haven’t been able to spend as much time outside as I would have liked these past few days but I have managed to capture a few highlights to share with you in my post this week. I hope you enjoy them.

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Summer lavender. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Along the front of the house and in several of the sunny borders, the lavender grows very well. The bees love it and the perfume in the warm breeze was heavenly as I took these pictures.

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Blue Hebe and Yellow Brachyclottis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These 2 shrubs have been sitting side by side for years. Both have done very well this year and are packed with flowers. I love blue and yellow combinations; the garden has quite a few plants in these colours. Below are Campanulas which grow all over the garden, and Lysimachia which takes over one whole flowerbed at this time of year with a blaze of sunny blooms.

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Blue Campanula and yellow Lysimachia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m not sure where this fine fellow came from. Perhaps a seed from the bird food brought in to the greenhouse by a mouse? For a while, back in the spring, I thought it was a self-seeding courgette plant (!) but as it grew taller, I realised what it was. Rather challenging to capture because of its position up against the glass, hence the sideways angle. I am going to leave it to dry out and then feed the birds with the seeds.

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My rogue sunflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

For several years I have been trying to grow Himalayan poppies in the garden. I have tried several spots, and only ever managed to achieve a flower once. So last year, I dug up my latest attempt and put it in a pot in the shadiest spot I could find. I kept it watered and, lo and behold, it has had 3 beautiful blooms from a tall and willowy single stem.

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Mecanopsis (Himalayan poppy). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not all blue and yellow in the garden, there are some pinks here and there as well. I grew this rather odd looking Dianthus from seed last year and was delighted to see that it has come back again with more blooms than ever. It’s called Superbus which I like to pronounce as Super bus 🙂 The pink Kalmia is a very old shrub in the garden, but it’s produced another fine display of flowers this year.

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Dianthus Superbus and Kalmia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

More blue from these dynamic looking Hydrangeas. This one started life a deep red colour but has reverted back to the blue which I believe is because the soil here is acidic. I was surprised to see a couple of Japanese anemones out in flower already this week. Very early for this garden.

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Blue Hydrangea and an early pink Japanese anemone. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And finally, I am rather proud of my barrel container of plants. Usually home to runner beans or potatoes, this year I decided to plant it with flowers instead. Planted at the end of May, they have been flowering non stop for 6 weeks, so I am well chuffed. There is a combination of Viola “Dawn”, Nemesia “Evening Dusk”, Brachyscome “Brasco Violet” and yellow Bidens.

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My barrel of bedding plants. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Enjoy the sunshine and I will be back posting again soon. Until then, my best wishes to you as always.

Magnificent May

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Blossom and bluebells in mid May. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. What a colourful month it has been in the garden. May is my favourite month of the year for the sheer variety of plants and flowers springing to life. I hope you enjoy the images I have been capturing over the past 3 weeks of my garden as it bursts into bloom.

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May 2022 Apple blossom season. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The apple blossom this year was remarkable. I took these images about 10 days ago. The petals have now dropped and the fruit is beginning to set. Fingers crossed for a bumper harvest.

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May 2022 bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There has been another carpet of bluebells all over the garden. Those in the lighter borders are beginning to go over now, but the ones in the shadier parts are still vibrant and fresh.

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The best in the garden this month has to be the many colours and varieties of Rhododendrons and Azaleas in flower. They love the acidic soil here and always do very well.

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May garden borders. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These two flowers, the Himalayan cornflower and the yellow Welsh poppies will continue to flower throughout the next 3 months or so in the garden. Great value, low maintenance and lovely bright colours. Below, under a blue sky earlier this week, the golden yellow Laburnum flowers look stunning.

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Laburnum in full glory. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m back to where I started with my images. The image below was taken a couple of days ago. You can see that the apple blossom has finished. There are still a few bluebells about, but now the lupins are on their way and it won’t be long before the peonies open.

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The garden this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish my post this week, not only is the garden full of flowers at the moment, it is visited by many birds collecting food for their babies. This fellow, rather scruffy in attire, has been my companion in the garden this week. I am amazed at how many sultanas he can fit in his beak!

Until next time, take care and enjoy the sights and scents of the season.

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My garden companion, Scruffy the Blackbird. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

End of April in the garden

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Primroses in their prime. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. What a glorious time of the year it is in the garden. Some of my favourite plants and flowers are at their best right now, and this year so many spring flowers seems to be blooming better than ever.

The primroses started flowering in March, but the clumps of flowers are just getting bigger and bigger. They grow at their best in the dampest, shadiest part of the garden, and they really bring these borders to life. The Hellebores are beginning to go over now having been flowering for several weeks. They become more upright the longer they have been blooming which makes them so much easier to photograph.

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Hellebores fading gloriously. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The new kids on the block are the bluebells. We’ve had a few chilly, grey days here, but now things are brightening up again, the pretty blue flower heads are opening up all over the garden.

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First of the bluebells. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another spring favourite of mine are the unusual looking Snakeshead Fritillary. Alongside the well known pink variety with it’s petals patterned like snake’s skin, a white variety has also become established.

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White and pink Snakeshead Fritillary. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The Chionodoxa that runs wild all over the paths and flowerbeds from late February into March has been replaced by tiny violets. They have a delicate delicious sweet fragrance as well as looking so pretty.

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Garden violets. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I am very happy to see all the small fruit trees in full blossom now. I am looking forward to a good crop of Morello cherries again (fingers crossed). There seem to be lots of bees around so hopefully they are doing a good job of helping to set the fruit. Only the miniature apple tree is in blossom at the moment, but I can see quite a lot of flower buds on the large tree so with a few warm days, I think they will open up.

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Late April fruit blossom – Morello cherry, Conference pear and Victoria plum. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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First of the apple blossom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

One of my favourite annual tasks in the garden is dead-heading the Hydrangeas. I can stay upright for this job, little bending or kneeling is required, unlike most of the gardening chores.

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Hydrangea haircut – before and after. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Dried Hydrangea flower heads. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have enjoyed my pictures of spring. May is just around the corner which means even more colour in the garden. Looking forward to the warmer, even longer days, so until next time, enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of this special time of the year. Thanks for stopping by and take care.

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Bold and bright tulips. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Scottish snowdrops

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Garden snowdrops in the February sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It has been a lovely sunny day here today, so different to the weather we experienced in the middle of the week. My post to round off the month is one that I had intended to write last year but never quite got all the images together in time. Now more than ever, it seems very fitting to write about this peaceful-looking, delicate little flower, a symbol of hope for many, and one that brings signs of new life and spring at this time of year.

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Snow-fall earlier this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The snowdrop (Galanthus nivalus) is one of the first signs of spring for many of us. Although they look so fragile and vulnerable, they are very hardy, and I can prove it. After several centimetres of snowfall this week, every single one in the garden has bounced back completely unharmed.

The pure white flowers with their bright green flashes can be found all over Europe from the beginning of the year onwards. They are native to southern Europe. In the UK, their history is a bit unclear but they have been noted in garden journals for a few hundred years, escaping to the wild some time later. During the Crimean War of the 1850’s, the hills surrounding the battlefields were reportedly covered in snowdrops. Soldiers returning from this war brought the bulbs back to their wives and sweethearts in the UK, and the Crimean snowdrop (Galanthus plicatus) took up its residence as part of the British landscape. There are over 2000 varieties of snowdrop, and the national collection of 350 varieties are grown on the Cambo Estate in Fife, East Scotland.

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Snowdrops in my garden today. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In February last year, I was taking a walk around some nearby country roads, admiring the scenery and enjoying the peace. Monzie is a small hamlet at the foothills of the Highlands, right behind the town where I live. I had never done the walk at this time of the year so it was a lovely surprise to round the corner in the road and come across so many wild snowdrops growing over the banks, over the old stone bridge and in the grounds of the local church, Monzie Kirk.

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Roadside snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Snowdrop-covered Monzie bridge. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Monzie cemetery and Kirk. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When I was taking the photographs today in the garden, I noticed a couple of flower-heads had upturned. This is the first time I have seen the underside of the petals. Very pretty they are too.

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Underneath Snowdrop petals. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you enjoyed the images. Snowdrops really are a breath of fresh air at this time of year. Until next time, take care and keep safe.

February flurries and flowers

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February snow flurries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We’ve certainly had a lot of weather here in central Scotland since my last post. Sunshine, strong winds, heavy rain, snow and frosts. Yet I am happy to report that the garden is slowly coming to life; the birds are feeding constantly and singing ever louder, and at times it does feel that spring is on its way.

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February sunshine, snow and frost. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

This is the month when the first proper spring flowers appear in the garden, the snowdrops. There are a few clumps here and there already, but towards the end of the month is when they will really takeover. At the moment, many are still in bud, with just one or two opened up to see the tiny green markings on the inside petals. So pretty and delicate, yet strong enough to stand up to all sorts of weather.

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Snowdrops in the shade and in the sun. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Another sign of spring for me is when the crocus appear. I just managed to capture these beauties before they got crushed by a heavy downpour of rain. I hope they bounce back again.

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The first crocus of 2022. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The winter heathers started flowering at the very end of last year and are now looking very healthy, adding splashes of pink and white to the flower beds.

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Pink and white winter heathers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Hellebore is fully open now with others not far behind. The Hebe that started flowering in December is still producing blooms. I am delighted to see the first bright red shoots of rhubarb up and coming, promising delicious rewards later in the year, and the deep pink Rhododendron is slowly opening up – a bit later than in other years.

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Blooms and shoots: Hellebore, Hebe, Rhubarb and Rhododendron. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There are more storms and wintry weather on the horizon for the UK in the week ahead so perhaps it is just as well that the garden isn’t too far advanced at the moment. Until next time, thanks for stopping by and my best wishes to you.

New Year 2022

Happy New Year! I hope you have enjoyed a good Christmas and new year holiday. Now it’s time to get on with 2022. Let’s hope it’s a good year for all of us.

It’s been very mild here in the UK all over the holiday period. I believe the warmest UK New Year’s Day temperature on record was recorded. Sadly it’s also been mostly damp, misty and wet, so not much fun being outside. However, it’s all set to change, with colder air moving in, clearer skies on the horizon, and snow and ice in the forecast. Brrrrrr…………

I haven’t spent much time that much time out in the garden recently, but I have noticed a few changes this year compared to other years. I expected to have some nice images of snowdrops or the perennial primrose to show you, but no sign so far. No rhododendron blooms nor hellebore buds either. Instead, I found a few surprises.

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New year poppy. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

This poppy was in flower at the beginning of December and you can see the buds of flowers yet to come. The second image was take on New Year’s Eve when the last of the buds opened.

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January rose-buds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

These buds are on 2 different rose bushes in different locations in the garden. I had thought that the buds might open up, but I suspect that the lack of sunshine and shorter daylight hours have kept them closed tight. With the temperature on the way down now, I picked them today and now have a delightfully fragrant, home-grown posy on my desk 🙂

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New year roses. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Looking a wee bit sad now, this is the last of the carnations. The plants have been in flower since early September so I think they deserve a rest now. And, flowering on and off for many weeks now, the trailing campanula is still producing fresh flowers in the more sheltered parts of the garden.

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January Carnation and Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Something more seasonal to end my post with, the winter-flowering heathers have started to open up. Usually, the plants are covered in flowers by now, but this year, there are only a few sprigs in bloom at the moment.

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Winter flowering heathers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I will be in the kitchen again for my next post, so until then, I hope you keep well and stay safe, and I send you my very best wishes for the year ahead.

Golden November

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Japanese maple tree lit up in November sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a late Autumn here in central Scotland. The leaves stayed on the trees longer than I anticipated and the weather has been fine. Most of the month has been mild with glorious blue-sky days which highlighted the golden tones in the garden a few days ago. Fortunately I got to the Japanese Maple tree before the rain fell and captured the rich yellow leaves before they were washed off the branches. The next day, the paths and lawns were covered in a leafy carpet.

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Japanese Maple before and after the rain. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Golden leafy carpet. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Accompanying the fair-weather days have been glowing sunrises and blazing sunsets. Both come and go with speed but are truly spectacular if you are in the right place at the right time. The front of the house faces the sun rising over the Ochil Hills, then in the back garden, a few hours later, you are able to see the sun setting.

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Sun-up in mid November. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Blazing November sunsets. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the garden, here and there, signs of life continue. Some of the plants and shrubs have been confused by the warm weather this month and there are unseasonal second and third flowerings taking place.

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A November Welsh poppy and Sharon Rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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November lavender, Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I cleared out the greenhouse a couple of weeks ago and picked off the last few tomatoes. They are now ripening indoors. I also harvested my first basket of greens; they haven’t done that well and got badly attacked by caterpillars, but there is enough for a few meals. A few more baby purple carrots as well.

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Last of the tomatoes, some baby carrots and the first of the greens. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a wonderful autumn for fungus of all kinds. I have seen so many images on social media, I never realised that there were so many different mushrooms and toadstools out there. Each year, to varying degrees, this bracket fungus grows on a old tree stump in the garden. I think this year it has surpassed itself. I love the arch of colours on each piece.

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Rainbow bracket fungus. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m going to finish my post with something a little bit festive. Most of the fruiting trees around and about the garden are covered in berries this year, and the holly is no exception. The red berries seem to get picked off first leaving the yellow variety behind. Perhaps they taste different? No matter, I am happy for them to remain on the tree to give a great splash of colour to the garden and look magnificent against a blue sky. Until next time, take care and keep safe 🙂

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Golden yellow holly berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Apples and pears

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Aged cooking apple tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello there. So here we are at the end of another month. I hope you have had a good couple of weeks since my last post. I had been intending to show you round my garden at this point in time, but to be honest, there is not a lot to see. Most things are looking rather soggy and bedraggled after recent heavy rain . It feels like Autumn has been cut short this year by the rain washing the leaves from the trees.

No matter, I have some cheery images of my apple and pear harvests earlier in the month. I was able to capture the images under mostly blue skies which should make for better viewing. I hope you enjoy them 🙂

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Lord Derby cooking apple harvest 2021. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The old apple tree in the garden produced a fraction of the apples it provided last year. In 2020, I had at least 4 times the amount. However, I still have a good basketful and have started cooking them down. I think they will last a few weeks yet.

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Miniature eating apple trees. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Harvested eating apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a bumper year for eating apples. Only a handful from one tree last year and nothing from the other, but this year I have been rewarded with a huge crop by comparison. The very red apples are called Katy but sadly I can’t remember the other variety now, however both varieties are sweet, juicy and very delicious, and they keep well.

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Concorde pear tree and fruit. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Espaliered Comice pear tree. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And so to the pears trees. They have also had a good year, providing a generous basketful after a very poor crop last year. Both trees are still small although they have been planted in the garden for about a decade now. The pears store well so there will be fruit to enjoy for a while yet.

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Homegrown Concorde and Comice pears. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have posted many apple and pear recipes over the years, but these are my top 3 which you might like to try – just click on the links for the recipes:

  1. Toffee upside down cake – Toffee apple upside-down cake (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)
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Apples, cake and toffee sauce. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

2. Apple and tomato tart tatin – Apple and tomato tart tatin (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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A fruit tart as pretty as a picture. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

3. Pear, pecan and maple crostata – Pear, pecan and maple crostata (dairy-free and vegan)

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Pear, pecan and maple crostata. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you are enjoying Autumn/The Fall wherever you are and I look forward to sharing some more recipes and images with you in my next post. My best wishes to you until then.

Homegrown coriander (cilantro) seeds

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Harvested coriander (cilantro) seed. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. Well it’s certainly feeling much more autumnal since my last post. After a few bright and sunny days, the weather has turned much cooler and, as I type this, it is pouring with rain.

Towards the end of last month, I harvested my first crop of coriander (cilantro) seed. When I sowed the herb seeds back in late spring, my only intention was to grow the herb for its leaves for use in salads, curries and salsas. However, once the seedlings appeared, I never quite got round to thinning out the crop. I kept them all in the same pot, in the greenhouse, just picking off a few leaves here and there, and never quite finding the time to separate them and plant them outside.

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Coriander (cilantro) flowers. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After a while, the individual plants became leggy and formed flower stalks. I enjoyed the flowers for their aroma and the splash of brightness they offered. The leaves had started to become coarser in texture and had a bronze edge, and weren’t quite so appealing to eat. In early August, I decided it was time to get rid of them altogether as the flowers had dried and were falling. However, on closer inspection, the fallen petals had left behind bright green “berries”.

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Bright green seeds. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

After a bit of research and a quick change of plan, I decided to keep the plants with the hope of being able to harvest the seeds. You can pick the green fruit and use it in cooking, but they don’t store well. I tried one or two, the flavour was mild, fresh and slightly sweet, and would be good chopped up in a salad or added to a relish. The green berries can be pickled as well.

However, I read that if you leave the fruit on the stems long enough, the berries will dry naturally and can be harvested for longer storing, and used as the familiar fragrant spice.

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Beginning to dry out. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

By the end of August the seeds had turned light gold, and in another month, they had dried out completely. At the time, we were blessed with some dry weather so I think this helped with the drying process. I guess that a damp atmosphere could cause the seeds to turn mouldy.

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Coriander seed dried and ready for harvesting. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I found it easier to pull the stems from the soil and pick off the seeds into a small bowl. I left them in the greenhouse for a few more days to finish ripening naturally in the sunshine.

It was a very small harvest, accidental by nature but rewarding all the same. Now the seeds are in a tiny jam jar in my spice cupboard waiting for the right recipe to include them in.

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Precious seed harvest ready for storing. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, take care, my best wishes to you, and thank you for stopping by again 🙂