The arrival of a big box is always exciting, like Christmas come early, and last week was no exception when a trial recipe box arrived courtesy of Riverford. They currently have Sarah Raven as guest chef and this was the first week out of four different recipe boxes on offer, with seasonally adapted recipes from her latest book, Good Good Food.
The box contains everything needed* to create three recipes with accompanying goodies for two people and retails at £36.95. There's a suggested cooking order for each dish; I reversed 2 and 3 as the chicken recipe requires marinading overnight. The dishes were:
Tomato and Poppy Seed Tart served with salad leavesSangria Chichen served with red rice and salad leavesSweet and Sour Vegetable Curry served with red rice
My box arrived on its appointed day last Wednesday at 7.30 am, much to our surprise. It seems deliveries can start as early as 6 am, so luckily ours arrived when we were awake**
As you can see from the above collage, everything is…
Some days are destined to be extra special and the last day of September was one of them. Not only did I get to swan around a secret garden in the heart of London, I - along with twenty or so other garden bloggers - had the good fortune to meet Monty Don and preview his latest book, Down to Earth.
...nestled close to Piccadilly Circus and whisked up to the fourth floor, there's a different world waiting to be explored. It's a beautiful, productive roof garden complete with a bug hotel, bee hives and a green roof on the shed. It was a great space to explore with my blogging buddies and unlike my poor tomatoes, the hotel's were still going strong with not a hint of blight. I also envied the huge aubergines and curly chillies in the display.
There was plentiful space for entertaining, though we were too busy chatting and enjoying the warm afternoon in the garden to move onto the inviting sofas. Then Monty appeared…
I was really happy when Barbara gave me an unusual looking Pilea peperomiodes aka Chinese Money Plant last summer. Little did I know then just how cool and trendy they are, being at the forefront of the houseplant revival. They even have a dedicated Pilea Lovers page on Instagram with over 21,000 Followers - it's not often you'll find me amongst the hipsters!
I nearly wrote an article on my new treasure back then, but Jane beat me to it with a far more comprehensive guide than I could have managed with loads of links to further information. Jack's written a great blog post on how to divide them too.
When I noticed my plant wasn't looking quite as happy as it should as you can see above photo, I knew just the right people to consult on Twitter, along with Andrew who's acquired quite a houseplant collection recently.
From their replies it's clear I am a perfect example of how not to look after a Pilea as follows: Place it on your sunniest windowsill - south facin…
Garlic is one of my favourite crops to grow because it's so simple and you can easily save some cloves for next year. We use quite a lot of it every week, which makes garlic a must-have for my plot.
However, last year I was rather puzzled to find my harvest wasn't disappearing quite as quickly as expected. Some time later I found the solution to the mystery in our spice cupboard: a jar of garlic powder stood proudly in prime position on the top shelf.
It turns out NAH prefers using the powdered form because it's less fiddly and so quick to use. To say I was a bit cross when I tackled him about it is putting it mildly as I felt all my hard work up at the allotment was being rejected. Later when I'd calmed down and could put myself in 'my customer's shoes' I resolved to have a go at making my own garlic powder.
We both use the green garlic I grow which uses up the smaller cloves from a cropping garlic bulb. It starts the home grown garlic season much earlier…
When an owner says their garden is 'drier than Jerusalem', the last thing you expect is to arrive in a downpour of biblical proportions. That's what happened when I visited Ulting Wick recently. 'Third time lucky' I thought when I made the arrangements, as I've tried and failed to visit the past 2 years. That thought was almost my downfall. Almost.
The rain was coming down so heavily when I arrived I could hardly see out of the car window and I was deafened by the noise. Bright flashes of lightning made the courtyard stand out in stark relief for a second before fading again into the murk. I was giggling so hard at the irony, I struggled to get into my rain gear. Also which of the buildings I'd glimpsed should I run to for shelter?
Luckily owner Philippa Burough quickly came to my rescue and guided me to the potting shed where she and new head gardener Lou Nicholls had taken shelter from the storm. It was a great opportunity for Lou to take a selfie of us …
I entered a new world at the weekend, courtesy of my friend Sally who invited me to judge the flower classes at Foxham Horse Show. After I said I'd love to, a little bit of jiggery-pokery ensued and I swiftly achieved promotion to fruit, veg AND flower classes.
I was totally unaware this event existed until Sally volunteered as show secretary this year. Not only does it exist, it celebrated its 30th birthday on Saturday. The horse show is the main raison d'etre with around 300 horses attending this year's competitions of all kinds. The produce classes were added a couple of years ago as a fun way of involving more people.
Foxham is a small village around 5 miles north of Chippenham. It's a pleasant drive which follows Maud Heath's Causeway for quite a way and goes through the hamlet of Kellaways. This is the source for the naming of the Kellaways Formation, a particular series of sands and clays from the Jurassic period.* It shows even a tiny dot on the map can ach…
Ahhhhhh, that's better! I love walking through dewy grass in bare feet, not that there's much in the way of grass on my back lawn this weekend. My wild and woolly lawn has morphed into meadow of sorts this month, which even NAH admits looks attractive*.
It's also proved a great source for my Flowers for mum project so far, yielding self-sown perennial cornflowers, lamb's ears, and lemon balm in addition to the blooms you can see. These originated from elsewhere in the garden, the ox-eye daisies must have blown in from the A350 nearby.
* = he got very stroppy about the weeds aka self-sown foxgloves in the lawn one year, so he's come along a bit since then.
Skimble's demanding to say hello to you too. He does enjoy the patio when it warms up.
If the embedded video doesn't work try this link instead.
The Nectaroscordum are a revelation. I planted the bulbs around 2 years ago, but it's only this year they've bloomed properly. The bees gather around the…
Regular readers know I'm a sucker for plant trials - my own and other people's - so won't be surprised that at last I've managed to get over to Ball Colegrave's Summer Showcase. This event is aimed at professional horticulturists and the retail trade and shows off more than 50,000 plants at its grounds in Oxfordshire every July. Even on a dull grey day after last week's thunderstorms they made for an eye popping display.
As well as the chance to see hundreds of annuals and perennials - some completely new to the market - I also enjoyed the opportunity to talk to horticulturists from a wide variety of backgrounds, from nurserymen and local authority gardeners through to fellow garden writers and university gardeners, as well as Ball Colegrave's staff.
One of my most interesting discussions was with a couple of gardeners from South Gloucestershire council who were seriously considering the merits of the Phygelius plants in one of the experimental beds. I'…
The great thing about memes like #mygardenrightnow is they let us pause and have a proper look at the garden. I've been on holiday this week and I thought the recent cold snap would mean a wintery drabness on my return. Yesterday's inspection showed the garden's having none of it. There's still plenty to see, plus a few surprises.
Autumn hasn't quite finished here at VP Gardens, which means there are flashes of colour and some floral delights everywhere I look. True, they're on a smaller scale than previous editions of #mygardenrightnow, but the current season means they're especially welcome. Those fat hellebore buds shown bottom right in the collage also show promise of winter delights to come.
This plant always makes me smile at this time of the year: it's a reminder of a wonderful afternoon at Knoll Gardens in the company of owner Neil Lucas's enthusiasm a few years ago. He had many Persicaria to show us that day, and it was 'Fat Domino' that stole my heart with its large flower heads waving to me from the nursery area.
It's proved to be an easy care perennial since I placed it in the lower terrace bed; it only needs cutting down at the end of winter and then given a topping of mulch to see it through the year. It's rewarded me with over 60 flower heads from one plant, and when I peered below the leaves yesterday, it looks like I have a plant ripe for division into two. This is earmarked for behind the white phlox you can see in the background as there's a hidden gap there which needs to be filled.
I've also cleared a space in front of the phlox, which is thick with alliums in spring, but now needs something added there for later interest. …