Although 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.
Posted in Lettuces, Mustard leaves, Salads, Vegetables | Tagged Buckler Leaf Sorrel, Salad Burnett, Salad leaves for winter, Sugar Loaf Chicory, Sweet cicely | 20 Comments »
I just popped out to place a new bird feeder (more about this later) in the back garden when I noticed that this gorgeous Iris unguicularis ‘Mary Barnard’ has started to flower. I bought this plant last February at the RHS early spring show (this year’s show is Fri 21st and Sat 22nd Feb) and am very pleased to see it bloom so early as Hellebores and snowdrops are yet to flower (although my Eriobotrya is still in bloom).
Mary Barnard reaches about 10 inches (25cm) tall, so I had to carefully get down on hands and knees to see if I could detect a scent. It’s a small and gentle perfume, but it’s definitely there (and possibly more on a sunnier day?). This Iris hasn’t taken long to start to clump up and looks like there’s quite a few more blooms to follow, so I’m quietly delighted!
Meanwhile, other antics in the garden are not quite so pleasing. Here’s a furry beast gorging itself from a squirrel-proof bird feeder,
and back again with the more relaxed one-legged approach. Although more than a tad annoyed that yet another attempt to feed the birds has been hijacked by this irritating pest, my fury is also laced with a sneaking admiration for such confident and agile acrobatics.
Still, an air rifle would come in handy every now and then! I hear they make a nice pie.
Posted in Winter, Winter blooms, winter scent | Tagged Iris unguicularis, Squirrles undeterred, Winter blooms, winter scent | 23 Comments »
It’s been a very relaxing holiday, and although I’ve taken advantage of a couple of gloriously sunny days (amidst all the rain) to tackle some overdue gardening tasks (pruning a wayward climbing rose and taming a rampant clematis), my mind hasn’t really started to contemplate my seed order for the year ahead. However, a timely thud by the front door this morning has changed all that. This is the latest offering from Chiltern Seeds, and the front cover alone has me salivating! It’s a Scabiosa stellata ‘Sternkugel’, and such a gorgeous annual does indeed deserve to be grown from seed.
The Chiltern Seeds catalogue is always an entertaining read, packed full of fantastic cultivars to experiment with, but this year it seems to be peppered with even more tempting images than before. Deep purple lab lab beans vie for the most gorgeous near-black image with a Sweet William called ‘Sooty’ (sadly with no reference to Sweep and Soo though), and Lunaria rediviva looks like a glorious perennial honesty with wonderfully pointed seed pods. I haven’t started on the rest of the catalogue yet, let alone the accompanying veg book, but Chiltern’s will be making it difficult to hone my seed order this year.
So onwards for 2014. I can’t wait to start trying out new tomato varieties that I saw at Château de la Bourdaisière this summer (many of them available from Nicky’s Seeds) and there are so many ideas for annual flowers and decorative lettuces scattered around in my head that I’m already wondering how I’ll squeeze them all in. Ah, the joy of it all! I hope you have a great growing year ahead, experimenting with all the fruit, veg and flowers of your dreams. Time to get sowing again can’t come soon enough!
Posted in Seed catalogues, Seeds | Tagged Chlitern seeds, entertaining seed catalogues, Seed orders for 2014, where to buy fantastic seeds | 29 Comments »