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Archive for the ‘Vegetables’ Category

January salad leavesAlthough I’ve started to buy in lettuces from my local greengrocer, this mild weather has meant that I still have a fair few herbs and autumn leaves in the garden which greatly improve the flavour (and texture) of otherwise rather dull salads.

This is what’s still growing in the garden (clockwise from top left):

I’m amazed that I have quite a number of flowers on some late self-seeded Borage plants, sitting atop what is left of my autumn ‘Solix’ lettuces (normally frosted and over by now). Next are some fiery mustard leaves (because I didn’t get around to sowing a late batch of the more gentle ‘Green in Snow’) resting on top of my Sugar Loaf Chicory. I really love this Chicory leaf. It’s the only truly winter leaf I’ve grown this year and it’s the softness of the leaf I appreciate, as well as the gentle bitter taste. It contrasts well with the crispness and sweetness of bought Cos lettuces and both combine well with a punchy vinaigrette. I’ve covered up some plants with fleece whilst others are without protection against the elements, and the only difference that I’ve noticed so far is that the covered ones have more tiny black slugs in/on them, so extra caution is needed when washing!

Just below are some nasturtium leaves, nice and peppery and to the right of these is some Salad Burnet, supplying a very subtle cucumber flavour. At 6 o’clock are the remains of my Buckler Leaf Sorrel, deliciously lemony with a succulent bite, and finally there’s the last few pickings of Sweet Cicely. I feel like weeping that I’ll be deprived of this gentle aniseed flavour (and feathery texture) soon and for the next two or three months, as a small amount of this wonderful perennial herb can really transform a salad from bland to positively tasty.

I know that as soon as some colder weather appears, most of these leaves will vanish, but I’m cherishing these sumptuous, tangy salad leaves (and flowers) for as long as they last.

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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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Sugarloaf chicories in front garden

I’ve failed again! I’m really starting to get to grips with successional sowing over summer and have enjoyed months and months of lettuces (and other herbs and leaves) picked from my front garden. But despite actually sowing (and even buying) some leaves for over-wintering I didn’t manage to get most of them into the ground. The shame of it all!

So here I have my one success story. These are Sugarloaf chicories and I grew them as they come highly recommended by Joy Larkcom. Need I say more! I’ve been mixing these with the end of my summer/autumn lettuces, Sorrel and Sweet Cicely and have been enjoying some rather tasty salads.

Metal Hoops from Plant BellesBut as the temperatures are soon forecast to dip again, I’ve decided it’s time to do some wrapping up. I bought these natty hoops from Plant Belles some while ago and they seem just the ticket.

Adding bamboo canes for mini clocheYou simply thread a few bamboo canes through the holes in the hoops,

Mini cloche covered in fleeceEt voila! Covered in fleece, I now have my own cloche/mini tunnel to keep my chicories covered up during the coldest and windiest of months. Hopefully the protection should elongate the harvesting season for the Sweet Cicely and Sorrel too.

And I’ve left a couple out in the cold as I’m  keen to see how well they survive with no extra help.

Nicole collecting seeds from street HollyhocksMeanwhile, neighbour Nicole is collecting seeds from her ‘Halo Apricot’ Hollyhock, remarkably still in bloom in her tree pit. It’s a gorgeous variety and it’ll be interesting to see if the seeds come true or if fraternising with other Hollyhocks in the street will supply some interesting variations.

Cavalo NeroAlongside my Chicory, Cavolo nero is supplying some delicious winter veg,

Daubenton's perennial Kaleand on the corner plot, a small cutting of Daubenton’s perennial Kale, acquired from Charles Dowding, has come on marvellously. Looking forward to taking my own cuttings come spring and popping this very useful veg in many a new spot (sticks are there to deter foxes digging the plant up when tiny).

Beans to collect for seedsI’ve been meaning to do a final clear up in the corner plot for ages now, but bulb planting has taken precedence. However, all bulbs have been planted for both clients and myself (hurrah!) and it felt great to have time to collect the last of the seeds and clear up the garden for winter. Just a bit more leaf raking (GRrr..), a bit of mulching perhaps and then there’ll be plenty of time to catch up on reading and researching what to grow next year.

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