Archive for the ‘Fruit’ Category

Raspberries in back garden

Utopian dreams of a back garden potager have been rather crushed this season by the vigour of my ‘Polka’ raspberries.  I’m not saying that I don’ t love the fact that I can pop out in my pyjamas to pluck a few tasty berries for breakfast, but when space is tight in my petite urban patch, these autumn raspberries have been pushing their boundaries somewhat, crowding out roses, sedums and tulbaghias in their wake. Also, as they make their way further into the bed, I end up trampling other plants as I venture in to pick these irresistible fruits.

Tasting raspberries

On a recent trip to East Malling Research Station (courtesy of Lubera), we spent a blissful sunny afternoon tasting row upon row of raspberries in their test fields. And one of the topics we did discuss (as well as the fantastic breeding programme at EMR) was the need to protect other plants form raspberries by placing barriers (about a foot deep) around them if you want to keep them contained. Even in my front garden, which is more allotment style planting, these enthusiastic growers have romped through what once was the asparagus bed and I’ll need to cut them off at the pass before they continue their journey into the herb patch. Not quite sure what I’m going to use to do this. Sheets of slate perhaps or length or two of steel? (Lizzie from Puggs Meadow Flowers, below, suggests bamboo root barrier, so I’m going to give this a try).

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World' 2However, I’m not going to corral the brutes in my back garden and have decided it’s time for a few more flowers, moving the raspberries to the front garden (once they’ve finished fruiting), where they’ll get a little more room to spread.

Great Dixter Plant Fair, with its top notch nurseries from the UK and Europe, has been very timely and this weekend I’ve found a few treasures to fulfil my re-design. Above is the gorgeously delicate orange Kniphofia ‘Light of the World’ from Edulis  which shines out like a glowing torch on a dull autumnal day and will contrast beautifully with this just about hardy (in London) Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ from Dysons Nurseries.  Seduced by its rich hues and very long flowering period (June to November, yes indeed), I shall overwinter it for its first year in the greenhouse, then it will have to fend for itself. Fingers crossed.

Salvia 'Love and Wishes and Kniphofia 'Light of the World'

Both seem to sit well in colour and texture with the softer and brighter pinks already flowering at this time of year in the garden and I’ll just have to get dressed before I gather in my raspberries next year (oh, for an extra half an acre!).

Red and Yellow Pistils Great Dixter Oct 2015On a slight tangent, there were some great talks at the plant fair and Marina Christopher of Phoenix Perennials was very informative about which plants attract bees and other pollinators into the garden. She also demonstrated, with these Asters, that pistils (the pollen area on a flower) will turn from yellow to red once pollinated, so that bees won’t have to waste their time visiting flowers already depleted of their food source. Amazing.

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Loquats ripening on the tree-2In November, I was bowled over by the most delicious scent from the blossom on my loquat (Eriobotyra japonica) tree. And now, as I gaze out of my back door, I’m further delighted by the sight of so much ripe fruit. Did I just not notice this fruit before or is it a combination of a hot summer, followed by a very mild winter that has supplied such an abundant crop?

Never having eaten one of my loquats, I wasn’t sure how to tell if it was ripe or not. The fruit felt softish though, so I gave it a go. Loquats are about the same size as an apricot, but the flesh is more watery, more akin to a pear. The less ripe fruits are quite tangy and sharp, a bit like a grapefruit (in taste but not in texture), and they’re sweeter the riper they get. I am wondering though if our summers here would ever be hot enough for a whole tree of very ripe fruit. It’s an interesting (if not compelling) taste, very juicy, and I’ll continue to nibble a few more fruits to see if they get any sweeter still.

Loquat and almond cakeIn the meantime though, friend Catherine has found another, rather more splendid way to eat them. She recently noticed a very promising  apricot and almond upside-down cake on Diana Henry’s website (such luck!) and has made it her own using some of the remaining loquats (and soft brown sugar instead of caster sugar). What a bloomin’ treat! Slices just melt in your mouth and the slightly tangy taste of the loquats contrasts beautifully with the honey in the recipe, making it difficult not to polish the whole lot off in one sitting. Hurrah for Catherine being on hand to whip up such a fantastic dessert, and I’m now trawling Diana Henry’s website for more sumptuous recipes.

P.s. Previous post about delicious scent of loquat blossom.


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Trained Ivy at Prieure D'OrsanSomehow after our summer holiday I just didn’t get to writing about Prieuré D’Orsan, but you may well have caught a glimpse of this gorgeous boutique hotel/garden (in Central France) on Monty’s visit for the BBC earlier this year.

This image just hasn’t left my head though, and I’ve been wondering if my wayward Solanum (scrambling up the back of the house) would take to being trained in a similar fashion. Probably not, probably a bit too loose and gangly (even if I could make it up the ladder to trim it). But I’d love to have a go at repeating the almost 2D simplicity of this heart-somewhere!Quince tree and chair at Prieure D'OrsanThere’s so much fantastic training and shaping going on at Prieuré D’Orsan. Nature has been constricted, controlled and cajoled, creating a myriad of desirable sculptural forms, whilst still providing an abundance of fruit. Quite remarkable, especially as this garden was a blank canvas only 20 years ago.

I thought I was getting a bit fancy with my attempt at training a quince tree into a fan shape, but this amazing specimen has been trained as a calming retreat over a woven chair. How bloomin’ delightful is that!

Quince chair at Prieure D'OrsanHere’s a side view, with more evidence of  fruit actually being produced, ready to be plucked after a nice shady sit-down.

Roses trained around small frame at Prieure D'OrsanVisiting later in the year meant that I didn’t get to see most of the roses in flower, but I did see plenty of ideas to take away with me.

Roses trained around large square frame at Prieure D'OrsanWhatever the structure, roses are twirled and twisted and this is certainly a way of training that I plan to experiment more with next year.

Ramblin rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'OrsanThis ‘Seagull’ rose is a fairly rampant rambler, reaching up to 20ft high if left to its own devices,

Rambling rose 'Seagull' trained at Prieure D'Orsan

but curling and crossing stems should supply masses of flowers within this tightly contained framework. All very labour intensive, but what a labour of love (and devotion!). I was watching Carol Klein’s cottage garden episode on the Great British Garden Revival last night (you can catch up with it here), and I must admit to being a complete sucker for loose edges and flowing ebullient borders. Compared to such gentle cottagey planting,  there’s a severity to this garden (with more than a nod to its monastic past) that made me wander round in a respectful hush and a contemplative mood.

Playful supports for veg at Prieure D'Orsan

However, the supports and sculptural additions to the garden are bold and strangely playful and rather uplifting in their simple restraint.

Flower meadow at Priuere D'Orsan

Having said all that, there was a mini (well not that mini!) meadow tucked around the back behind the hotel, bringing in essential pollinators and a refreshing splash of colour.

Veg and flowers at Prieure D'OrsanThe veg patch was, not surprisingly, well-ordered and contained too,

Chunky veg beds at at Prieure D'Orsan

 and I couldn’t help admire the chunky beds and generous supports, packed full of glossy healthy veg.

Frames for roses at Prieure D'OrsanOn the way out, you can pick up your own beautifully crafted rose supports,

Trained apples and vines at Prieure D'Orsanand admire yet more trained fruit trees,vines

Bird box in trained vine at Prieure D'Orsanand even the odd invitation to nature. Prieuré D’Orsan-I’ll be back!

P.S. I couldn’t resist adding some of the gorgeous seats dotted around the garden too.

Chair woven arpound tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 2 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 4 at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair unde apple tree at Prieure D'Orsan

Chair 1 at Prieure D'Orsan

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