Birds, bees, flowers and fruit

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Morello cherries just picked today. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you are well and enjoying some fine weather. It’s been a busy few days since my last post. The garden is thriving thanks to a mixture of sunshine and showers. There’s lots to do, and at last the soft fruit is ripe. I picked these cherries from the small espalier tree in the garden today. Just under 800g. Not bad at all ūüôā

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Glen Ample raspberries. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The raspberries have been coming thick and fast since my last post too, and there are still lots more to come. As well as the cherries and berries, my runner beans and potatoes are coming along nicely.

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Runner beans and my tub of tatties. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the flower borders, there is a predominance of yellow interspersed with shades of pink and lilac. The lavender season is in full swing here at the moment. I love the yellow cotton lavender with its silvery foliage which grows alongside the purple and lilac varieties. This is a very fragrant part of the garden.

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The lavenders. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The palest coloured lavender is at the front of the house. It is full of blooms this year and the bees love it. This pale pink Campanula has just come out this past week. It was new in the garden last year and I am very pleased to see that it is blooming again and seems to have doubled in size.

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Lavender and Campanula. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

More splashes of vibrant colour from the Lysimachia which has run a bit wild down one border but it does provide colour for several weeks; and the delightfully named “Banana Cream” Leusanthemum which sounds good enough to eat!

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Lysimachia and Leusanthemum. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Happy to see so many bees in the garden again this year. My recent gardening activity has been accompanied by the sound of gentle buzzing; they are always busy gathering pollen and enjoying the summer flowers no matter which part of the garden I am in.

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Busy bees on Scabious, Salvia and Geranium flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

As well as the bees, the garden attracts many feathered friends too. Blackbirds and robins are by far the friendliest and really do seem to make themselves at home in amongst the plants and flowers.

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Baby blackbird and robin, and a sunbathing adult blackbird. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s it from me this week. I hope you enjoyed the post and pictures. I will be back in the kitchen before the end of the month. See you then. Best wishes and take care ūüôā

 

My July garden retrospective

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End of July in the garden. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. We’re almost at the end of another month; how time flies.¬†I’ve been taking some time off work and my blog this month but I¬†found some time to capture¬†some of the flowery and fruity delights that have come and gone these past 4 weeks.

The wonderfully prickly¬†specimen below¬†appeared in the garden last year courtesy of the birds. It didn’t flower, but produced some magnificent spiky leaves. This year it has gone from strength to strength and this¬†month it really took off. Sadly it was a victim of its own success and toppled over under its own weight. Most of the blooms are growing at all angles but upwards apart from this one.

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Wild thistle. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Something a little bit more delicate are the charming and dainty Campanulas which flower at the beginning and middle of the month. The flower-heads seemed a lot bigger this year. And in the picture below them, my beautiful, very fragrant and very old rose bush. It did me proud again this year and was laden with blooms. Sadly now finished, but I am ever hopeful for a second blooming later in the year.

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Early July Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Old fashioned, highly scented rose. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The garden has been alive with bees and butterflies this summer. Lots of different varieties of bees all over the tiny petals of the Scabious (or Pincushion) flowers, it seems to be one of their favourite blooms. And here is a Scarlet Lady butterfly bathing on a very fragrant sun-bed of lavender.

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Scabious and lavender with bumblebee and butterfly. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Aside from the delicate and fragrant, the brash and bold flowers have also been abundant. The Hydrangeas seem more colourful than ever this year, and the poppies are springing up everywhere to add bright splashes of colour to the borders and beds.

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Tall red poppies and small bush Hydrangeas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s also been another good year for the outdoor soft fruit. The small espalier Morello cherry produced ¬ĺkg cherries (all bottled and stored) and the raspberry bushes, now in their 14th year, have produced another mega-harvest of berries which I have frozen for making into jam later in the year. The dishful of berries in the picture were cooked with freshly picked rhubarb and made into a “crump”, one of my favourite desserts from my blog a couple of years ago. Here’s the link:¬†Rhubarb, raspberry and custard crump (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)Very tasty it was too ūüôā

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Mid July Morellos. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Aptly named, Glen Ample raspberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s all from me for now. I look forward to sharing more recipes and garden posts in a short while.

Hogmanay in the garden

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Welcoming in 2019. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

A very happy new year to you all. I wish you good health and every success in the year ahead. I hope that you have had a good Christmas holiday, and now we wait to see what 2019 brings to us all.

My Christmas holiday has been very peaceful and relaxed. The weather has been mild considering the time of year and has given me the opportunity to get out in the garden and tackle a few jobs like pruning the old apple tree.

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Recently pruned gnarly old apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The holidays started on a very chilly note with a heavy frost on Christmas Eve which made everything look very festive and sparkly in the sunshine and crisp, fresh air. Frosted_Hydrangea_lawn_paths_and_greenhouse_glass

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Frosty garden on Christmas Eve. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Out in the garden today, things were looking a little different from a week ago. No frost, just mild, breezy air and patches of blue in a heavily clouded sky. 2018 has certainly given us some unusual weather and I think this is having an impact on the garden now. Several plants are much more advanced than usual: the snowdrops are almost out in flower; the buds on the early spring flowering rhododendron are breaking open, and one Hellebore is already in full bloom. The usual oddities are around too: a solitary stalk of fresh flowers on a very sad-looking, bedraggled lavender bush, and a few new red-fringed orange carnation buds are about to open for a second flowering. Snowdrops_in_bud_and_a_white_hellebore_in_bloom

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Hogmanay flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’ll sign off this post with an image of some “lucky” white winter-flowering¬†heather to bring us all good fortune over the next 12 months ūüôā

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Hogmanay white heather. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

 

August flowerings

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Scottish garden flower bed in early August. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

I’d been thinking that this is the month that my garden begins to lose some of its overall colour. But I have been pleasantly surprised when I put this post together. I have chosen a different flower bed to photograph this month – the Ox-eye daisies are in full bloom and you can see the Lysimachia, Hydrangeas and Scabious in the background, which add vibrancy now the pretty shades of late spring have faded.

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Pink Hydrangea. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pink Scabious and Lysimachia. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

All round the garden, from mid July onwards, I have bold and brash coloured poppies opening out, adding splashes of pinks and reds in the beds. And then, by way of contrast, white and pale pink Japanese Anemones grow in wispy clumps; they look so fragile and delicate and yet they always bounce back after a heavy shower.

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Large red, black-centred poppies. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins
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Pale pink Japanese Anemones

I have many lavender plants, but sadly most are fading fast now as the season progresses. My favourite is the deepest blue-purple Dutch Lavender which grows next to a rather messy clump of Santolina (or cotton lavender). The contrast between the 2 colours is mesmerising on a sunny day. The lavender is coming to the end of a very long flowering, but it’s still adding a lovely splash of colour in the borders and some late pollen for the bees.

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Cotton lavender (Santolina) and Dutch lavender in full bloom. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

There are now some more obvious signs in the garden that Autumn is not too far away. Apart from the slight nip in the air, there are floral reminders too. The globe thistles (Echinops) are blueing up, and several borders are glowing with the colours of Montbretia and Golden Rod. But I’m still clinging on to a memory of summer with a second blooming of lupins.

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From top left: Lysimachia and Montbretia; From bottom left: Echinops and Golden Rod. Second Lupin blooms. All images: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m going to close this post with an image of my beautiful white Hydrangea which is just opening up. I don’t have many white flowers in the garden, but this is a beauty. When the flower heads are fully open, the tiny centres of each turn pale blue. I have always thought that these flowers would make a stunning bridal bouquet.

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White hydrangea and petal. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

A taste of Summer: Sweet lavender vinegar (gluten-free, dairy-free)

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Scottish garden lavender. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

We haven’t had the best of weather so far this month, here in central Scotland. Too much rain to be able to spend quality time outdoors, but it has been warmer, and we have had a few precious sunny hours. The lavender buds¬†are just about to bloom,¬†making them¬†perfect for harvesting.

I have several lavender bushes all round the garden, ranging in colour from pale, pinky-lilac to deep, blueish-purple. Apart from looking delicate and pretty, the soothing scent that lavender brings to the garden is one of the true aromas of Summer.

One of the best ways to continue to enjoy this sensual memory,¬†even when the gloomier months of the year set in, is¬†to pop¬†a few stems in a bottle of vinegar. In a few weeks, you’ll have the sweet smell of¬†lavender and its¬†delicate floral notes, preserved perfectly, in a bottle. It makes a lovely gift too.

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Sweet lavender vinegar ingredients. Image copyright: Kathryn Hawkins

For best results, choose lavender stems with buds that have swollen and are about to break flower. Lavender keeps fresh in water for 3 days after cutting, but keep out of sunlight in order to prevent the buds opening. Change the water and trim the stems a little each day.

To make sweet lavender vinegar:

  • Wash and sterilise a sound, sealable glass bottle large enough to hold 250ml liquid.
  • Trim down¬†12 stems of lavender¬†to fit neatly inside your bottle and discard any leaves. Gently rinse and pat dry – dip lightly in a bowl of water and dry on absorbent kitchen paper.
  • Gently¬†crush the bud end of each stem¬†between your¬†fingers to release the aroma, and¬†arrange in the bottle, buds downwards.
  • Slightly warm 250ml white balsamic vinegar (agrodolce white condiment) – place on a sunny windowsill, just¬†to take any chill out of the liquid – then pour into the bottle using a small funnel. I use white balsamic vinegar because it is naturally sweet and enhances floral and citrus notes in herbs and flowers. For a more traditional vinegar, choose a good quality white wine or cider vinegar.
  • Seal with a non-corrosive, acid-proof lid or stopper. Label and leave¬†on the kitchen work top¬†for a couple of weeks, gently turning the bottle upside down and back each day.
  • After 2 weeks, taste for flavour and either strain and rebottle ready for long-term storage, or continue to store as it is, allowing the flavour to slowly increase. For an intense flavour, strain the vinegar after 2 weeks, rebottle with more fresh lavender, and store until required. Stored correctly, in a cool, dark cupboard, your vinegar should last for up to 12 months.

You can use the same method with other fresh flowers and herbs. Rose and Calendula petals work well for flowery vinegars, whilst bay, fennel, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme are good choices for herbs to flavour vinegar.

For berry vinegars, just add small or alpine (wild) strawberries to vinegar, or small blueberries or blackberries. Gently wash and pat them dry before using.