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.

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

Late summer splendour

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The gold and blue of late summer, Golden Rod (Solidago) and Echinops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are well. I have been enjoying some lovely weather in the garden this week, and both myself and the bees (and other flying insects) have been making the most of the later flowering plants and shrubs that have opened up in the past couple of weeks or so. This post is a collection of my current favourites in the garden right now. I hope you enjoy the colours as much as I do 🙂

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The bees favourite, Echinops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I was fortunate to be given this wonderful Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile) at the end of last summer. It travelled back with me from a visit to see my mother in Sussex, to its new home here in central Scotland. After over-wintering in a large pot in my unheated greenhouse, I put it outside in early July and it has flourished. It stands an impressive 1.25m from base of stem to the top of the flower ball. The colour is such a vibrant blue, it looks stunning up against the fresh bright green leaves of the beech hedge. The bees love it as well.

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Agapanthus Regal Beauty. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not all blue in the garden, plenty of pink and orange splashes here and there. The stunning Star-gazer lilies are growing in 2 places in the garden, in both locations partly shielded by shrubs, and both growing very tall this year. At the front of house, the heathers thrive, and there are also a few foxgloves producing second flowers. The Crocosmia Mombretia is one of the signs to me that the year is moving on but I do love their vibrancy, and after a rocky start, the pink Lavatera has rallied and has a fine crops of pink petals.

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Bold and bright, Star-gazer lilies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pink foxglove and Autumn heathers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Late summer oranges and pinks. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It wouldn’t be a proper late summer post from me without a mention or a show of Japanese anemones. There are more than ever this year, mostly white, but I am trying to get more of the pink variety settled in the garden. Apparently they don’t like having their roots disturbed so it is quite a challenge to get them to take off, but slowly, slowly they are settling in.

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Late summer white and pink anemones. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To end my post this week, one of the definite signs that a different season approaches. In the gloom and shade of a large shrub I spied the first of the Autumn crocus appearing out of the darkness. They are lovely to look at, but at the same time, I am always a little disappointed to see them.

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A floral sign of Autumn. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you are able to enjoy what is left of the summer in the next few weeks, and I look forward to posting again, from my kitchen, in a couple of weeks or so. Until then, my very best wishes to you.

Salal berries – jam and muffins (gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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Freshly picked Scottish Salal berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and enjoying the summer. I have made an interesting discovery since my last post. The berries I thought I had growing in my garden (and have been cooking for a few years each Summer) are not Aronia berries after all, they are in fact Salal or Shallon berries. Fortunately for me, they are edible – thank goodness! The shrub, like the blueberry, is part of the heather (Ericaceae) family and is called Gaultheria; it hails from north-west America, and seems very much at home here in central Scotland.

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Gaultheria Shallon. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Starry Salal berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Gaultheria Shallon is evergreen and likes acidic soil. It is pretty invasive and has a tendency to spread all over the place. It throws up suckers which can be quite challenging to restrain. This August the shrubs in my garden have produced a bumper crop of berries which I (and the blackbirds) have been able to enjoy safe in the knowledge that I actually know what I’m cooking this year (!). The berries are deep purple and fleshy when ripe and have a soft bristly skin. They are quite difficult to pick individually so I pick small bundles and then strip the berries off the stalks later on.

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Stripping the berries from the stalks. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

When ripe, Salal berries are very soft and squishy. They are attached to the main stalk by tiny woody ends. I have found that using scissors to pull the berries from the stalks is quite successful. If you don’t mind blue-stained fingers, then you can also gently pinch them off. To eat, the skin is very tender and the centre of the berry is very pulpy and full of tiny seeds. The flavour is much like a watery blueberry but without the slight acidity/tannins in the skin. Salal berries have a high Vitamin C content and the leaves have anti-inflammatory properties, although I have yet to try this out.

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Washing Salal berries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

After stripping the berries from the stalks, I put them in a large colander (strainer) and dunk them a few times in a large bowl of cold water. This gets rid of dust and the little bits of leaf and stem which get through your fingers. To cook with them, I treat them as I would blueberries but they do benefit from adding a little acidity such as lemon juice, which gives them a little extra tanginess.

If you are able to find some Salal berries or if you have them growing in your garden and didn’t realise what they were, I have a couple of basic recipes to share with you. The first is a very basic jam recipe (naturally gluten-free and vegan), and the second a gluten-free and vegan sweet muffin recipe; both recipes have been adapted from blueberry versions.

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Homemade Salal berry jam. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes about 650g jam

Ingredients

  • 500g washed and prepared ripe Salal berries
  • 450g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon

1. Put the berries in a large saucepan, heat gently until steam rises then cover with a lid and cook for about 10-15 minutes to soften.

2. Add the sugar and lemon juice, and cook gently, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, then raise the heat and boil rapidly for 8-10 minutes until setting point is reached – between 104°C and 105°C.

3. Ladle into clean, hot jam jars and seal well. Cool and label.

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Making Salal berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Fresh out of the pot, Salal berry jam. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Salal berry muffins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Makes: 12

Ingredients

  • 175g gluten-free plain flour blend
  • 12g gluten-free baking powder
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 60g plain plant-based yogurt
  • 115g dairy-free margarine, melted
  • 150ml plant-based milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 165g washed and prepared Salal berries

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C fan oven, gas 6. Line 12 muffin tins with paper cases.

2. Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix well, pressing out any lumps in the flour and sugar. Make a well in the centre.

3. Add the yogurt, melted margarine, milk and vanilla and mix into the dry ingredients to make a thick smooth batter. Gently fold in the berries.

4. Divide between the muffin cases and bake for about 25 minutes until risen and lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container. They should keep for 3-4 days, and will freeze well.

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Making Salal berry muffins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Muffins cooling. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Light, crumbly and very fruity. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I hope you have a good few days ahead. I look forward to posting again soon. Until then, take care and stay well.

Midsummer rainbow garden

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Midsummer garden. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you well and that the sun has been shining wherever you are. It’s been a mixed bag here. Some sunshine, some rain, but warmer temperatures on the whole.

I have a very simple post this week. Several plants in the garden are about 2 weeks behind this year, and this has enabled me to put together a post I have wanted to do for a while but have not, until now, had the selection of colours to make it work.

Below is a compilation of flowering plants from my garden photographed this week from Midsummer’s Day on Monday through to this morning. All the colours of the rainbow plus a couple more. I hope you enjoy them.

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The reds: Aquilegia; Plume thistle, and Skimmia Japonica berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The oranges: Azalea, Lupin and Pilosella (fox and cubs). Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The yellows: Sedum, Lysimachia and Day Lilies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The greens: Euphorbia, lemon Thyme, and sage. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The blues: Geranium Magnificum, Campanula and Centaurea Montana. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The violets: Lupin, trailing Campanula and Violas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The pinks: Gertrude Jekyll rose, Foxglove and Lupin. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The whites: Hebe, Veronica and Foxglove. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m heading back to the kitchen for my next post. I will see again in a few days. Until then, take care and keep safe 🙂

Golden garden

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Golden corner. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are keeping well and that you have been enjoying some good weather. After a mostly miserable May all over the UK, the clouds finally disappeared towards the end of last month and the warmth and sunshine began in earnest. I was away from home for a few days and when I came back I was amazed at how much the garden was transformed. Every corner and flower bed was alive with golden yellow Welsh poppies.

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Welsh poppies in paths, beds and rockery. Images: Kathryn Hawkins.
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Poppy-filled borders. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The amount of poppies this year seems exceptional, and they are a welcome flash of brightness now that the bluebells are finishing. Quite a sight to behold when the sun is shining.

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Welsh poppies ablaze in the sun. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As you can probably imagine, the poppies seed themselves and are very well suited to the climate here. One of the most successful plants in the garden in fact. They are loved by the bees and will keep producing new flower buds well into the Autumn. Something I hadn’t noticed until this year was how they close up towards the end of the day. Given that it is light until well after 10pm at this time of the year, they seem to fold in their petals a long time before the daylight begins to fade.

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Day-time and dusk. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The bright yellow petals make a great contrast with so many other plants in the borders. Also doing well this year is the aptly named Snow in Summer or Cerastium which is cascading over one of the walls at the moment, and the fresh, green Euphorbia is thriving at the very back of the garden.

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Poppies amongst the Cerastium and Euphorbia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Just a short post from me this week, but hopefully a bright and cheery one. I wish you well for the days ahead and look forward to sharing my next recipe post with you a few days time. Until then, take care and my best wishes to you 🙂

May’s finest: asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, Jersey Royals and some of my favourite (rain-soaked) flowers

Hello again everyone. I hope you are keeping well. We have been suffering another down-turn in the weather since my last post. Very unseasonal hail storms, winds and heavy rain. It’s been chilly too. The lack of heat has helped keep some of the spring flowers going but delayed later ones like the bluebells, and some of the trees are still bare.

I have been busy with work since my last post and haven’t been able to spend much time in the kitchen. The poor weather has put pay to spending much time out of doors. However, May is my favourite month of the year and I have been eating some fine seasonal produce. And today, I ventured out into the garden to take a few images of some of the best May flowers.

When vegetables taste as good as this selection, I rarely do anything adventurous with them. The asparagus and broccoli get trimmed, brushed with oil and lightly seasoned, then roasted on a tray for a few minutes in a hot oven. As for Jersey Royals, I just steam or boil them and eat them dressed with seasoned oil or a dot or 2 of plant-butter. Simple but delicious.

Most of my flowery images are a little bit rain-soaked this month. The tulips started flowering early this year and many have been out for 3 or 4 weeks. With the heaviness of the downpours, some have started growing horizontally.

This beautiful purple tulip was actually filling up with water as I took the photo.

There are now bluebells in the garden, but the lack of sun is slowing down the opening of the flower-heads, and the rain is holding back the scent in the air which is something I love about this time of year. The forecast for the week ahead is for more of the same, so it may be a while before I am able to enjoy their sweet heady fragrance.

More blue flowers. The forget-me-nots are growing in abundance in one of the raised beds and provide quite a carpet of blue until other flowers take over. I spotted the first Centaurea or Mountain Cornflower in bloom today. These robust, thistle-like, flowers will continue multiplying and flowering well into the autumn. They are a great value garden plant and their vivid blue colour is very striking in the borders.

Usually in my May garden posts I am able to share pictures of abundantly flowering vivid pink and red Azaleas, but at the moment they remain stubbornly in bud. The scarlet rhododendron has come into flower this last week and is putting on a lovely display. It sits next to one of my favourite rhododendrons in the garden, a rich, candy-pink variety. Sadly the frost caught the other side of this mature shrub. These blooms are on the sheltered side and thankfully remain untouched.

Vivid_red_and_candy_pink_May_flowering_rhododendrons
Red and candy-pink rhododendrons. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all for now. I’m off to start practicing my sun-dance which I hope I can perfect in order to drive the rain away for a while 🙂 Until next time, take care and keep safe.