Welcome to my blog all about the things I love to grow and cook. You'll find a collection of seasonal gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan-friendly recipe posts, as well as a round up of my gardening throughout the year. I wish you good reading, happy cooking and perfect planting!
As another month draws to a close, it’s been a rather wet and dreary end to the season of Autumn here in central Scotland. Photographically speaking, there have been very few blue-sky days to capture the warm, glowing colours of this time of the year. Nevertheless, I have a few images which I hope convey the natural glory of the month just passing.
I took these photos a couple of weeks ago whilst out on a walk along the local riverbank. Even though the sky was a dull grey and the waters looked cool and steely, the colours of the leaves still clinging to the trees looked spectacular.
Back home in the garden at the same time, the Japanese Maple (Acer) tree was ablaze with glowing yellow leaves. But following a few heavy downpours and some strong winds, the last of the leaves have fallen.
Usually, the month of November brings with it glorious sunsets and sunrises, but I have only managed to capture one sunrise, and that was during the last week. You can see the same Maple tree now bereft of leaves in the early morning sunshine.
Throughout the month, these Nerines have been giving a very welcome show of bright pink colour. They look so exotic and fragile but are incredibly hardy. Still going strong is the planter of Bidens and Astors I planted back in June. Such great value. Usually by now the planter is full of bulbs ready for spring but I can’t bring myself to dig these bedding plants up just yet.
And so to a reminder that winter is just around the corner. The holly hedge is abundant with great clusters of berries this year, as is the snowberry bush in the back garden. I hope this isn’t a sign of a particularly cold winter ahead. It’s been a good year for blueberries as well. This late variety is still ripening at a rate of a small handful a week.
Thanks for stopping by. Until my next post, take care and keep warm 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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.
Hello again. How can we be at the end of another month already? When I wrote my last post, we had been having some very hot weather and a distinct lack of rain. Since then, the rain has started falling, the air has cleared and it has been feeling a lot cooler, with some mornings feeling positively chilly.
The garden is far more advanced this year with quite a few favourites finishing their display much earlier than before. The Himilayan Hydrangea is looking quite spectacular at the moment. Recently, I discovered that it is also known as Crepe Myrtle which is a charming name. The other Hydrangeas in the garden have started to fade from bright blue petals to mauve and pink.
Another blue flower I captured at its peak about a week ago, is my potted Agapanthus, Regal Beauty. Last year it had 3 flowering stems, but this year, after splitting the plant in Autumn, I had a single, very large flower stem. it is such an eye-catching shade of bright blue.
More blue from the Globe thistles (Echinops) which grow alongside the bright yellow Golden Rod stems. Such a great contrast on a sunny day, and both are very popular with the bees and other flying insects.
It’s not all blue in the garden. For a few weeks now, the Japanese Anemones have been in flower. They seems to survive all weather conditions and haven’t been affected by the extreme heat or lack of rain earlier in the month.
At their best this week, the Star-gazer lilies which grow in 2 separate places in the garden, both nestling beside high shrubs which offer support for their very long stems.
It looks like I will have a good crop of apples this year, and the birds will be pleased that I managed to dry the head of the greenhouse sunflower successfully; they will have plenty of seeds to pick at very soon.
Apart from the birds and bees, the occasional frog, squirrel and the neighbours’ cats, the garden is quite quiet. Once every couple of years, a young deer, completely disorientated, has ended up in the garden. I am always unclear as to how they get in and get out again. This one visited one evening and took quite a liking to the flowers of several Japanese Anemones. Quite exotic taste-buds don’t you think?
Until next time, thanks for stopping by and I will see you again soon 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Enjoy the sunshine and I will be back posting again soon. Until then, my best wishes to you as always.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Makes about 650g jam
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.
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.
I hope you have a good few days ahead. I look forward to posting again soon. Until then, take care and stay well.