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.

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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.

March blues and blossoms

Hello again everyone. Here we are almost at the end of another month. There has been a big transformation in the garden since my last out-of-doors update at the beginning of the month. We had a lovely spell of warm, sunny weather last week and as a consequence there are flowers and plants in bloom everywhere. This time of year certainly lifts the spirits as everything comes to life with such vibrancy and splendor.

The beds, paths and borders are once again covered in a blue carpet of tiny Chionodoxa. I did a bit of reading on the species and their common name is Glory of the Snow. We had a lot of the white stuff lying in February so I am wondering whether this has had something to do with the fact that there are so many this year.

Whilst the Chionodoxa have done very well this year, I have lost a lot of Muscari (grape hyacinth). No idea why. This is the only patch left in the garden now. I will try to remember to plant more in the Autumn.

This is the last clump of crocus for another year. The bees were very busy making the most of the pollen-rich stamens before the petals curl up completely.

And now it’s time for my annual Hellebore fest. Just a couple of images this time. The reddish-burgundy varieties are looking exceptionally dramatic and bold this year. I couldn’t resist capturing them again.

From the bold and dynamic to the tiny and delicate, this little wood anemone appears in a crack on the stone steps leading up to the top garden every year. It blooms for a very few days and then disappears without trace.

More delicate petals, this time in the shadiest part of the garden, where the primroses grow. There are two new plants to add to the mix this year. This seems to be a good spot for the other primroses to multiply so hopefully the new plants will thrive in the same way.

The pink “candy-floss” rhododendron is just going over now and beginning to lose petals, but it has put on a good show this year and has had no frost to nip the blossoms.

My final image this week is set against a glorious blue-sky canvas from last week. The bell-shaped flowers of the Pieris are a sight to behold on a clear and sunny day as they sway gently in the breeze.

In a few days it will be Easter, so I am back in the kitchen again for my next post. Until then, enjoy the spring flowers and sunshine (if you have it), and see you again soon. Take care and best wishes 🙂

Spring is in the air

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Early spring sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. What a difference a couple of weeks has made to the weather here in central Scotland. February started off with snow and ice, and more followed. The temperatures plummeted. But as the month drew to a close, the skies cleared, the sun came out and at last the spring flowers have started to bloom.

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Icy windows in early February. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Mid February snowfall. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

This past week, the air temperature has increased by several degrees and there have been several “blue-sky” days. Great news for the spring flowers, the warmth and sunshine has brought a few into flower at long last. Looking back over past Februarys, I think the cold spell this year has put the garden back at least a couple of weeks. The snowdrops and Hellebores in particular seem late to open up this year.

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Scottish snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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The first of the Hellebores. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

In the sunshine, the crocuses are opening up and attracting bees which is good to see, and in the shady borders, there are primroses, one of my favourite spring flowers.

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Yellow crocus and primroses. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

The pink Rhododendron is gradually opening up. I love the colour of this variety, the blooms look like tufts of candyfloss.

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Pink Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I was given 3 Hyacinth bulbs by a gardener friends for Christmas and as I type this post, I can smell their perfume wafting around the house. They are are tallest, most flowery Hyacinths I have ever seen, and the colours in the petals ranges from deep, vibrant blue, through to lilac with hints of pink. The perfume is intensely spicy and fragrant.

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Delft blue Hyacinths. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

To round off my post this week, another indoor image I captured at the weekend when the sun was shining into the conservatory. The rays hit one of my hanging crystals just at the right point and cast a rainbow on the wall. A very cheery sight.

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Spring sunshine rainbow. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Until next time, I hope you are able to get outdoors and enjoy some spring sunshine and the very special flowers around at this time of year. Take care and keep safe 🙂

End of December garden

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First snowfall of Winter. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are well and have enjoyed whatever the festive season brought your way. Like so many, I had a quiet one at home, unable to travel to see my family. Hogmanay and New Year celebrations are also cancelled. There has been plenty of time to reflect on what has happened this year, and also to think about new projects for the year ahead.

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Three glorious morning views. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

We have been treated to some bright, crisp days here in central Scotland this year end, with some spectacular sunrises, and the first snow of the winter falling a couple of days after Christmas.

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Snow-covered seat. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It seems like a long time ago since I was able to take a rest on my favourite seat and enjoy the peace, quiet and colours of a spring and summer garden, but even now there are some signs of new growth to gladden the soul. I took these images on Boxing Day of a primrose and one of my rhubarb plants. The poor things must have had a bit of a shock waking up the next day to a covering of snow.

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New shoots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Back in September, once the cucumbers had ceased fruiting, I cleared some space in one of the greenhouse beds and planted 6 seed potatoes. It was an experiment to see if I could harvest fresh new potatoes for Christmas. I’m delighted with the results. All 6 plants produced, and I was able to enjoy freshly dug Maris Peer potatoes over Christmas, with a second harvest for the new year. At the same time, I sowed some carrot seeds, but these are much slower to grow, and I am beginning to doubt that they will ever root properly, but you never know. I will report back if they do develop to an edible size.

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Christmas new potatoes. Images: Kathryn Hawkins
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Late planted greenhouse carrots. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

There were lots of berries in the garden over Autumn and early Winter this year, but by now, most of them have been eaten by the birds. However, our feathered friends never seems to dine out on Cotoneaster or Skimmia berries, so I am grateful to be left with these festive colours to admire.

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Festive berries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Like so many, I am looking forward to a fresh start in a brand new year. I am ever hopeful that we will be able to return to some semblance of normality in the not too distant future. Until then, thank you for following my blog for another year, and I send you my very best wishes for the year ahead. Stay safe and healthy, and a Happy New Year to you all 🙂

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Early flowering Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Winter garden round-up

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A splash of much-appreciated Winter colour, early Rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

So far this year, Mother Nature has provided 4 seasons in 1 month. There have been several mild days; a few blue-sky, frosty days; a couple of snow-laden days, and in between, grey skies, rain and gusty winds. The poor bulbs and bushes don’t know whether they are on the way up or whether they should still be hibernating.

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Earlier this week. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Snow-covered apple tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The snow has now gone, and the temperature has gone up several degrees. I’m happy to say that plants and bulbs that were covered at the beginning of the week, have survived and are blooming again.  The crocus were a couple of weeks early this year, so they must have had one hell of a shock on Monday night when the weather changed. The rhubarb shoots have begun to unfurl since the snow melted. I think I will pop a large pot over this clump at the weekend, and force a few stems for spring.

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Yellow crocus, snow-covered and snow-survivors. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

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New rhubarb shoots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

At the beginning of the week, all the snowdrops in the garden were still tightly closed, but as the thaw took hold and the temperature rose again, many of the buds have opened. These are such pretty, dainty little flowers, and are a sure sign that spring isn’t too far away. Have a good few days whatever the weather brings with it 🙂

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New season snowdrops. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

The end of winter

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In full bloom at the end of February, white Pieris Japonica and pink Rhododendron. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Today is officially the meteorological end of winter, which means that tomorrow is the first day of spring; hoorah to that! It has been a very warm and sunny end to a month that has been one of the mildest Februarys on record across the whole of the UK. It has been a pleasure to be out-of-doors, so many birds are singing and there are many insects buzzing all round the garden.

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A busy bee in the sunshine collecting pollen from a dogtooth violet. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Looking back over previous blog entries, I can see that every image I am posting this week is 2 to 4 weeks earlier than in previous posts. The snowdrops have been glorious this year, and have grown in thick white and green carpets both in the garden and in nearby hedgrows. For the first time I can recall I was able to detect their sweet and spicy fragrance as the sun shone on the blooms. I took this image a few days ago just as the fine weather started in earnest. The snowdrops in the sunny parts of the garden have gone over now, but there are a few clusters still lighting up the shady corners of the borders and under the thickest hedges.

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Snowdrops enjoying the sunshine. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It has been a good year for crocus too. The bulbs I planted last year in an old wooden barrel have put on a very colourful display. They have recently been joined by TĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘte, which are also growing all round the garden, giving a sunny glow and a sweet aroma to many of the flower beds.

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Large wooden barrel of crocus. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Narcissus TĂȘte-Ă -tĂȘte. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Last weekend I spotted the first tiny blue dot in one of the paths which was a sign that my favorite of all spring flowers, the Chionodoxa, were on their way. Sure enough, over the course of the next few days, small electric-blue clumps of star-shaped flowers have sprung up all over the place.

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Striking blue Chionodoxa. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s not only the flowers that are excelling themselves this year, the rhubarb patch is very much alive and kicking. I love the bright red stems of the new shoots and curled leaves. The stems look tempting enough to eat already, but I will resist and be patient.

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A fairy ring of young rhubarb shoots. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have posted plenty of Hellebore pictures in the past, and I end my post this week with another one. This beauty was new to the garden last year and has only 3 flowers, but the blooms are delightful. I hope it thrives in its new location, and look forward to seeing more blooms in the future. Until next time, happy Spring 🙂

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Double white speckled Hellebore. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

 

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

 

Spring, glorious spring

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Snakeshead Fritillary under a blue spring sky. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It really was a glorious day today. After a few April showers this morning, it was a sunshiny blue-sky afternoon. It was very pleasant to take a stroll, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the sunshine. Out of the sun, it is still chilly, and the night-time temperature is low, but the spring flowers are at their best right now, and I couldn’t resist another post showing how the garden is looking at this very colourful and fragrant time of year. The scent from some of the flowers is intoxicating, I only wish there was some way of posting the aromatics as well as the images!

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Bold and brash, candy-striped tulips. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Pale lemon Narcissus, each tiny stem has 4 very fragrant blooms. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I’m in the throes of a very busy period with my work and subsequently, I have had little time to spend trying new recipes in the kitchen. I will have a recipe post ready for next week though, so in the meantime, I hope you enjoy the glorious multi-colours of my Scottish spring garden. See you next week.

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Pale pink rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Grape hyacinths (Muscari) by a privet hedge. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Highly fragrant, double-blooming pink and magenta hyacinths. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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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 TĂȘte-a-tĂȘte 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 TĂȘte-a-tĂȘte 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!

 

Joyous June

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Lovely lupins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

From the last few days of May, I think my garden looks at it’s best. There is so much colour, so many fragrant blooms, it is a real joy to be outside, and even the weeding seems less of a chore! The weather has been kind, and I have been outside more than I have been indoors. The lupins are great value in the garden; the flowers with their rich, spicy aroma, are in bloom for a long time, and once the long heads have finished, cut them off and smaller blooms appear for a second showing.

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White and pink lupins. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

The last of my spring bulbs are in flower now. I planted alliums for the first time a couple of years ago, so this is their second late spring showing. I love the intricate web of tiny star-like lilac flowers that make up the globe shaped bloom.

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Allium cristophii. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s been a fine year for rhododendrons and azaleas. Most have past their best now, but this scarlet beauty stands at the bottom of the drive-way and is always one of the last to flower. It makes a stunning display. The later varieties are particularly sweet-smelling. The peachy-pink one below is heavily scented although sadly not quite so many blooms this year. The pure white azalea and the apple blossom-pink rhododendron, on the other hand, are almost overloaded with blooms.

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Scarlet rhododendron. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

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Later flowering rhododendrons and a white azalea. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

One of the finest trees in the garden is the laburnum. On a bright day, the rich yellow glow from the petals is quite dazzling, and the heavy scent is intoxicating. The flowers look particularly glorious against a blue sky. Sadly it’s not in flower for more than a few days before the petals start falling like vibrant confetti, all over the garden.

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In full flower, laburnum tree. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been patiently waiting for this iris to come into flower. For the first time, I split the rhizome back in the Autumn and was delighted (and relieved) when the buds started to form about a month ago. This variety is a real beauty called Iris Pallida; the pale sky blue flowers have the aroma of slightly spicy bubble-gum. It’s planted in a dry, sunny corner by the front house wall, and flowers from the top down. I believe the rhizome of this particular iris is used as a botanical in some gin varieties.

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Iris pallida. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

My final image to share this month, is from a crop of plume thistles Atropupureum which are growing in the back garden. Not only popular with me, but the bees love them too 🙂

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Plume thistle (Atropupureum) and bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins