Spring sprang, then winter returned….

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The blue star-shaped flowers of Chionadoxa. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We had a lovely, blue-sky Easter weekend here in central Scotland; I was able to spend several hours working outside (without a coat!) and taking my images for this week’s post. However, come Easter Monday, the temperature dipped again,  it snowed, and just about everything I photographed disappeared under a layer of white slush.

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Chionadoxa in the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Spring flower bed. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I will never tire of these vibrant blue, star-shaped spring flowers. In the sun-light, they dazzle with vibrancy, and in the gloom, they take on an almost iridescent quality. They seem quite hardy and I can see that they haven’t been crushed by the weight of the snow.

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Chionadoxa and a Dog-tooth violets. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a marvellous year for crocus. I have never known so many come into flower. Apart from the ones I transplanted into a wooden barrel last year, there are small clumps all over the garden which seemed to  have appeared from nowhere. I think the Crocus fairies were busy planting when my back was turned.

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My barrel of mixed crocus, the white variety looked particularly stunning in the sunshine. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Shades of pink and purple Crocus planted by the fairies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Most of the spring flowers in my garden are shades of blue, yellow and white, but these tulips fellow are an exception. Always the first to flower, long before the rest of the tulips, and this year, ahead of the daffodils.

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Early dwarf tulips. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my flowery post this week, I have a wonderful display of Hellebores again this year. They have been slow to open up, but are now in full bloom and glory. They are quite magnificent, and because they grow in the sheltered parts of the garden, they are not snow-bound 🙂 Have a good week.

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March, in like a lion….

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Under a yew bush, a lion and thistle embossed, iron screen stands boldly behind the first Tête-a-tête of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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The old saying about March certainly rings true for the start of this month here in central Scotland, but there are a few signs of spring in the garden. The snow has gone, and the temperature has risen (slightly). Today though the weather’s been blowing a gale and it’s very, very wet. I’m still not feeling that spring is here entirely.

However, last weekend was fine, and I managed my first major gardening session for several weeks. I was relieved to see that new life is creeping back into the garden again. The first Tête-a-tête are in flower, and my barrel of crocus seem to have suffered no ill-effects from being under snow for several days, and bloomed in the weak sunshine for a few hours. Ever since I took these images, they have been tightly closed.

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Crocus after the snow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Snowdrops are the main feature in the garden at the moment. The splash of white petals and the bright green foliage bring some welcome interest and signs of life amongst the dying residues of winter and the mostly bare soil.  March_garden_Snowdrops_growing_under_a_beech_hedge

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Charming and delicate, snowdrops are one of the first signs that spring is on its way. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The first Rhododendron is also in bloom. One of a few different varieties in the garden, this scarlet one is always the first to flower, and often, flowering not long into the new year; however, this year it has been curtailed by the frosts and snow.

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Scarlet Rhododendron bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My lovely pot Hyacinth has come into full flower this last week. The fragrance is sweet and spicy, and quite intoxicating. The 2 blooms are so heavy and full, I have had to add support to the pot.

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Pink pot Hyacinth in full bloom. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s the end of my garden round-up for this month. I’m heading back into the kitchen now to get my next recipe post ready. Until then, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the second part of the March saying to come true……..Bring on the lambs!

 

First of February in the garden

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Blue sky day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a lovely start to the new month today. Very clear and crisp. After taking the image above this morning, after a full day of sunshine, by the time I got round to typing up my post, most of the snow had melted away.

There has been quite a lot of snow fall in January, and it’s been quite cold too. No sooner had the temperature risen again and things were beginning to feel a bit more spring-like, then down came another pouring of the white stuff yesterday.

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Last day of January snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The new season’s growth seems a little slower in showing this year. Most of the bulbs I have planted around the garden are only  just beginning to poke through the soil, but the ones below, in an old wheelbarrow, are much more advanced. When I’m gardening I often accidentally dig up bulbs. I usually put them back in the same place, but last year I cleared an area which had become too densely populated, and ended up with loads to replant. The wheelbarrow and an old barrel seemed like suitable new homes. Hopefully I will end up with a colourful display from both in a few weeks time.

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My barrow of bulbs. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Looking back at my garden in February last year, I had a few snowdrops out in full bloom by this time. At the moment, the petals are firmly closed, but with a couple more days of sunshine, they should open up. In other more sheltered spots around the garden, the snowdrops still have quite a way to go before they flower.

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First of February snowdrops. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another precious flower in the garden at this time of year is the winter-blooming white heather. It certainly looks very healthy. Believed to bring good luck, white heather brings the feeling of life and vibrancy to the garden long before the other colours of spring appear.

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Lucky white winter heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another plant that is also looking very floral just now is a new Helleborus Orientalis I planted last year. It’s very pink and very pretty. The more established Hellebores in the garden are only in leaf with no sign of flower stems, so I guess that this one must be an early variety. It does look a wee bit lonely in the border, with just the one flower open, but there are lots of buds, so they may well be flowering when the others decide to make a show. See you next time 🙂

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Early Hellebore. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Happy new year!

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Hogmanay heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy new year to you all. My very best wishes to my blogging friends for a happy, healthy and peaceful year ahead.

It’s been a quiet start to the year. After a milder, rain-soaked, grey morning, the afternoon brought with it much calmer and brighter weather, with a glorious blue sky, sunshine, and crisp, fresh air.

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The glow of fading sunshine on the first day of the year. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Enjoy the rest of the holiday. I look forward to starting my regular posts again soon 🙂

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A first-footing robin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Early December in the garden

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Blue-sky December day. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I sat down to write this post last night, we were awaiting the arrival of the first major storm of the season. Nothing has materialised overnight, but it is suddenly feeling much colder. There is a thick frost this morning, and it is bright and clear again, the wind has dropped, and all is calm.

On the whole, the first few days of the month have been quite kind to the gardeners amongst us here in central Scotland. Whilst the east coast did have more seasonal weather, we were blessed with several blue sky days, milder temperatures, and some glorious sun rises.

To be honest, I haven’t been outside much recently – work has kept me inside. The garden is looking a bit tired now, and ready for a rest. I cleared a lot of the autumn debris a couple of weeks ago and it’s beginning to look a bit bare in places. However, the evergreens provide shape and colour and look very vibrant on a fine day, and the Cotoneaster hedge is laden with berries, as it is every year.

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Berry-laden Cotoneaster hedge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The best value plants in the garden this year have been the carnations I planted last year – taken as cuttings from a birthday bouquet. They began flowering in August, and are still producing blooms at the moment. I’m sure the winter weather will get to them eventually, but the south-facing wall seems to be providing them with sufficient shelter to have kept them going this far into the year.

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Carnations enjoying the winter sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Elsewhere in the garden, the colours have faded. The Hydrangeas have taken on a beautiful “vintage” look, and the blooms of Echinops and white Japanese Anemones have left behind interesting seed-heads which are slowly weathering away.

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Faded beauty: Blue Hydrangea. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Globe thistle and Japanese Anemone seed heads. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The last of my garden features this month is this wee fellow, a perennial primrose. Just one solitary bloom at the moment, hidden away in a sheltered, damp part of the garden. A small flash of pale yellow which acts to remind me that spring will be here again in just a few weeks. Have a good week 🙂

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Perennial primrose. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

November blooms and berries

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Early November blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend in the garden, at times, it was a little hard to believe that it was actually the beginning of November. There was a biting wind to remind me, but the sun was out, the sky was blue and in just about every corner of the garden, there were flowers in bloom. The dainty, pale-pink cranesbill above with the rose-bush in the background, are plants on their second flowering of the year. The darker pink flowers are Nerines, a glamorous, lily-like autumn flowering bulb, which I planted in late spring and have been flowering since the end of September.

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Second flowering of Rosa Felicia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Autumn flowering Nerines. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not only pink flowers. There are bright yellow Welsh poppies here and there, and a seasonal reality check: the first flowers of Winter Jasmine are just opening out.

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November blooming Welsh poppies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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First blooms of Winter Jasmine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Flowers aside, there are also various berries adding splashes of colour. The holly trees are stacked out with berries this year – both red and yellow berried varieties – and the native iris, Foedissima, which flowered so prolifically a few months ago has now become laden down with bright orange berries. It looks very curious indeed, the berries are bursting out of pods which open out to match the exact formation of the iris petals earlier in the year. With all the berries around, there is clearly going to be plenty of food for the birds this winter.

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Yellow and red holly berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Bright orange iris foedissima berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

And finally, one more berry to report: it looks like I may have another crop of strawberries this year. I’m not getting my hopes up on the jam-making front, but I am curious to see if they do actually ripen.

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Second strawberry crop. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late September colours

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Looking down the driveway from my office window I can see the wonderful shades of an Acer tree. As the seasons change the foliage turns from bright, lush green in spring, to more coppery tones in summer and now, the leaves are shades of rich red and brown.

There is still a lot of green in the garden, but now that the pinks and blues of the summer borders have faded, it is the time of year when the reds flowers and shrubs really stand out.

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Antirrhinum. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The fine specimen above was planted last year and has been producing flower stems for several weeks. It’s still going strong, adding a splash of colour to a flower-bed which was alive and vibrant with lupins a few weeks ago. The Antirrhinum is a nostalgic plant for me; we had them growing in most of my family gardens as I grew up. I used to think that the flower heads looked like little faces staring up at me from the borders.

The Fuchsia bushes have also been in flower for a while. This dainty variety grows in front of a magnificent Cotoneaster horizontalis, which is splayed out against a wall. Together the two plants look very bright and bold, one in front of the other. The Cotoneaster is laden with berries which tend to stay in place throughout the winter – for some reason the birds aren’t that interested in them.

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The ballerina-like petals of a Fuchsia. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Cotoneaster horizontalis. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Another later flowering plant in the garden is Lyceteria, more familiarly known as Pheasant Berry. Occasionally there has been a pheasant in the garden but I have yet to see one anywhere near this bush. The unusual flowers last a long time, and look like a succession of dark red lampshades hanging from a thin red cord.

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Lyceteria Formosa (Pheasant Berry). Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Apart from the flowers and foliage, there is also red colour from late ripening fruit. The Autumn raspberries are not as prolific as the earlier variety I grow, but it is lovely to be picking berries at this time of year. The last of my blueberry bushes is in fruit, but it is the leaves and stems that offer so much at the moment; on a dull day, the vivid red is a sight to behold. The little red apples were picked just after I took the image. Just five small fruit on a miniature tree, but crisp, sweet and delicious with every bite.

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Autumn raspberries, blueberries and miniature eating apples. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish my red-themed post this week, while I was taking these pictures, I came across two aptly named butterflies having a bit of a stand-off on the white Hydrangea bush. One clapped its wings together as soon as I got the camera out and couldn’t be tempted to open them again. The other fellow was more obliging and sat there for quite a while as I clicked away. It wasn’t until later on that I realised the poor thing only had one antennae. Until next time, enjoy the Autumn shades 🙂

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Red Admiral butterflies. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Victoria plums, baked with fresh bay and red wine (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

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Freshly baked home-grown Victoria plums in red wine, scented with fresh bay.               Image: Kathryn Hawkins

My first harvest of plums in the year marks the end of summer in my mind. There is, of course, something to celebrate in having such lovely fruit to pick, and yet, I feel a bit sad that autumn is approaching. I managed to get a head-start on the wasps this year, picking about 1kg of unblemished fruit. There are plums a plenty yet to ripen,  so I need to work on my timing over the next few days and harvest them before the wee sugar-seeking beasties move in.

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Ripe and ready to pick, home-grown Victoria plums. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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My first plum harvest of the year. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My plum cookery isn’t very adventurous or fancy. I usually make jam or a plum sauce. Sometimes I make a compote. Baking them in wine is another very simple way I enjoy the rich, distinctive flavour of this particular fruit. Fresh bay-scented orchard fruit is something I tasted for the first time in Cyprus. The familiar glossy-leaved herb has become a flavour I use a lot in my kitchen, both in sweet and savoury cooking, and now that I have a bay tree in the garden, I use the herb all the more. Fresh bay gives a refreshing, herbal taste to fruit. You can use dry leaves, but as the flavour is much more intense than the fresh, you may want to experiment by reducing the quantity of leaves by at least half. If you don’t have any wine, or prefer not to use it, cranberry juice makes a good alternative in this recipe. If you don’t have plums, the recipe works equally well with apricots, peaches or nectarines. The baked fruit also freezes well too.

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 750g fresh Victoria plums
  • 60g Demerara sugar
  • 4 fresh bay leaves
  • 300ml fruity red wine or unsweetened cranberry juice
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4). Wash and pat dry the plums. Cut in half and remove the stones. Arrange the halves neatly, cut side up, preferably in a single layer, in a baking dish or tin.
  2. Sprinkle with sugar and push in the bay leaves, then pour over the wine or juice. Bake for 30-40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes, until tender.

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    Baked plums with bay and red wine preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
  3. Discard the bay leaves. Carefully strain off the cooking juices into a saucepan . Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for about 5 minutes until reduced and syrupy. Pour over the fruit and leave to cool. Cover and chill for 2 hours before serving. Best served at room temperature for maximum flavour. Delicious accompanied with coconut yogurt or rice pudding.
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    Glazed plums cooling in the tin. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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    Baked plums served with coconut yogurt. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

Autumn blues – Blueberry and marzipan cake (gluten-free; dairy-free)

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Blueberry and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been feeling a wee bit autumnal here in central Scotland for the past couple of weeks. Some of the leafy foliage in the garden is on the turn and the nights are drawing in fast. I also have blueberries ready for picking.

Home-grown blueberries are a delight to behold and eat. The skin is much bluer than any variety I can buy, and the skin has a silvery, almost downy bloom. The fruit is firmer in texture and has a slightly tart, more pronounced flavour. The plants are easy to grow, require little maintenance, and love the acidic Scottish soil. The leaves turn pink as the season progresses, and make a wonderful display in the fruit beds.

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Freshly picked, home-grown Scottish blueberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Mid-season blueberries ripe and ready for picking alongside a later variety. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I planted 3 blushes about 5 years ago. One fruits end of July/beginning of August, one is in full ripening mode now, and the other has fruit that is just turning pink. It is unusual for me to be able to harvest enough berries to make anything substantially blueberry flavoured in one go. Usually I keep adding to a bag of berries in the freezer until I have enough to make jam – blueberries do freeze very well and make very good jam from frozen fruit. This year has been an exception, and I have harvested sufficient fresh berries for this unbelievably easy blueberry cake.

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Slice of homemade blueberry and marzipan cake. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Serves: 8

Ingredients

  • 115g dairy-free margarine, softened
  • 115g caster sugar
  • 115g gluten-free self raising flour (such as Dove’s Farm)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 100g marzipan, cut into small pieces
  • 200g fresh or frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan oven, gas 4) Grease and line an 18cm square cake tin. Put the margarine, sugar, flour, eggs and ground almonds in a bowl. Using an electric mixer on a low speed, gently whisk the ingredients together until loosely blended. Increase the mixer speed and continue to whisk for a few seconds longer until creamy and smooth.
  2. Gently stir in the marzipan and blueberries and spoon into the tin. Smooth the top and bake for about 45 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin, then slice into 8 portions and serve. If you can leave it alone, the cake tastes even better the next day. It is also delicious served warm as a pudding.
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    Easy to make, blueberry and marzipan cake. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

    There are other signs of Autumn in the garden. The Autumn Crocus opened out this week, and the globe thistles (Echinops) are in various stages of blooming. I was delighted to see so many bees still hard at work when I was taking these pictures. Until next week, enjoy the late summer/very early autumn sunshine.

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    New season Autumn Crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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    Shades of silvery-blue, Echinops (globe thistles). Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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    A very busy bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

     

August in a Scottish garden

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August flower border with Ox-eye daisies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Since the end of last month, it has felt like summer has left us here in central Scotland. There have even been a couple of chilly nights when it’s felt like Autumn is on the way. Whilst there has been some warm sunshine, the blue sky days have been peppered with heavy rain showers, and the poor plants, flowers and shrubs have been taking a battering.

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Soft pink Astilbe. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

This baby pink-coloured Astilbe reminds me of candy-floss. The tiny, soft flowers bunch together to give a fluffy-looking display which seems to bounce back even after the heaviest of showers. Just as pink and delicate-looking (and able to withstand the rain!) are the Japanese anemones which grow in a cluster at the base of one of the trees in the back garden. I also have a white variety but this year, the pinks are well ahead of the whites.

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Pale pink Japanese anemones. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

On the opposite flowerbed to the anemones is where the wispy Scabious grow. I tie the wiry floral stems in loose bunches, supported with canes, to keep them from falling over and splaying all over the place. The blooms form small white globes, tinged with pale blue-lilac petals; they are so pretty, and the bees love them!

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Wispy Scabious blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are lots of flamboyant red and mauve poppies growing alongside the fruit bushes at the moment, but sadly, each one is only surviving no longer than a single day. These beauties are just too fragile to withstand the heavy rain drops. I managed to enjoy this one for a few hours this week, but sadly the next morning, all the petals had fallen.

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Rain splattered mauve poppy. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m glad of some longer lasting colour in the garden from my ever-faithful Hydrangeas. All the bushes are in flower now and they will continue to bloom for several weeks, subtly changing colour as time goes on. At the moment, the colours are soft and muted, but as Autumn draws nearer, the petals will deepen in colour and become more intense.

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Fresh in bloom, assorted Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To finish my garden round-up for this month, the greenhouse is pretty colourful at the moment as well. I’ve been picking cucumbers and tomatoes for a few days now, and it looks like I am going to have plenty of produce for the weeks to come. So, until next month, I bid you: happy gardening!

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In the greenhouse, cucumber and Tigerella tomatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins