Autumn vibes

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Blue sky and autumn leaves. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Scottish autumn-flowering heather. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Fading white Hydrangea.. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Late flowering Campanulas. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Deep pink Verbascum. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Autumn lavender flowers. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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

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

Summer garden

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

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

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Summer lavender. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Blue Hebe and Yellow Brachyclottis. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Blue Campanula and yellow Lysimachia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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My rogue sunflower. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Mecanopsis (Himalayan poppy). Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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Dianthus Superbus and Kalmia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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

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

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My barrel of bedding plants. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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

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 🙂

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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 🙂

 

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 Âľkg 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 🙂

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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 🙂

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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.