Sunday, 27 September 2009

Croquet at Polesden Lacey...

We've spent most of the weekend outdoors enjoying the warm bright autumn weather. No, not in the garden, but in the Surrey Hills of South East England, where we wandered through lovely woodland, catching a glimpse of a small wild deer on our way, to spend Saturday night at Tanners Hatch youth hostel with friends from Making Colliers Wood Happy.
Along the lane from the railway station, hedgerows were full of fruit; blackberries, rosehips, red honeysuckle berries and elderberries (even though many, it seemed, had been recently pruned). As we walked through the fields, we spotted a buzzard lazily circling, a pair of herons flew past, and a small flock of goldfinches.
The hostel is just across the valley from Polesden Lacey, a large 18th century house owned by the National Trust, so in under half an hour we were able to walk up this morning and enjoy a lazy lunchtime picnic on the sunny lawns. They have a new farm shop, so we made our own picnic with fresh bread and deli treats, as the restaurant was very busy with the usual Sunday lunchtime trade, and none of us wanted to be indoors queueing.
The house is set into the hillside, surrounded by landscaped terraced lawns, a walled garden, some less formal meadows, and overlooking a peaceful view of the wooded countryside. there are two croquet pitches laid out on one of the lawns. A game was irresistible; we all enjoyed a couple of rounds in the gorgeous sunshine, although none had a firm grasp of the rules.
As the third round began, I took the opportunity to explore the walled garden. A lovely mixed border along the outside, but what lay within?
I found series of separate small gardens devoted to different plants and layouts, with tall yew hedges dividing them. My first discovery was an historic collection of bearded irises, not that any were in flower, but naturally the beds were neatly laid out and I imagine it will look wonderful from spring next year.
The rose garden was also very striking; the scent was delicious - almost overwhelming - and the beds are planted up with single varieties, great blocks of colour which look absolutely wonderful.
I suppose no autumn posting would be complete without at least one chrysanthemum; in the corner of the rose garden there was a whole bed of them, acid yellows, bright scarlets, oranges and apricots and some dark pinks scattered among them. But they looked garish, rather than colourful, in my picture; so here's a single quite delicious bloom from a quieter bed!
As we started home along the Yew Walk (also a lawn) which constitutes the lowest boundary of Polesden Lacey's gardens, we noticed holly trees heavily laden with fruit, by tradition a sign of a hard winter coming. But there will be plenty here for the birds to eat, with the yew trees also thickly covered in small soft red jewels.

It's still possible to make a donation to WaterAid in support of Sing for Water 2009. And you can now see our performance on Youtube, where there are two ten minute videos of the 650 strong choir which came together from across the UK to the Scoop in London for this special event.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Any ideas for green figs?

Even here in the blessed South East of England, you only get one picking of figs - and that's in a good year.
We picked our first crop of three purple ripe fruits last month from a Brown Turkey fig tree planted some five years ago. They were delicious.
But this week I twisted off 10 small green figs which have no chance of maturing, in the hope that some tiny buds will form, overwinter and ripen next summer.
Really I should have done this earlier in the season, and pruned, but fingers crossed we will have an Indian summer, the buds will form, and we will have a few figs to enjoy again next year.

Whether you've needed to water your garden this week or not, please support WaterAid this week and help them provide clean water supplies and sanitation for poor communities in Africa.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Sing for Water at Thames Festival 2pm Sunday 13 September

If you're in London next weekend, 12/13 September, why not join the Thames festival, there will be lots of great activities along the capital's river
Scattered Gardener will be taking part in Sing for Water at the Scoop, outside City Hall and close by Tower Bridge, along with friends from the Colliers Wood Community Choir and around 800 voices from choirs across the country.
We are raising funds for WaterAid, which brings clean water supplies, essential for health, to communities in developing countries. This year support is directed to Ghana and Malawi, both countries where life expectancy is low ( under 40 in Malawi) and infant mortality frighteningly high. Small amounts of money can do great things, so please give generously! You can sponsor me here

Many thanks to gardenblogger VP for reminding me to post about this - she took part last year and I followed her lead to the justgiving site! Have a gander at her list of events for gardenlovers while you're there...
For a report of last year's Sing for Water event, see here
The WaterAid website also gives lots of info about the countries they're working in and how the money is spent.

Did they fall - or were they pushed?

My runner beans fell over today. Or were they pushed? It was very windy this morning even in our sheltered allotment plot, and gusting strongly directly at the long side of the frame of bean poles which I so confidently predicted when I built it, would stand for the season! Ah well, back to the drawing board...
To be fair, this year's frame has lasted longer than usual, and we had some very windy weather earlier in the season. This time the cross bars snapped - perhaps we should have used some newer bamboo poles, or a sturdier wood may stand up to the weather better next year.
Despite lots of rain yesterday the deeper soil is very dry; we were away over the Bank Holiday, camping in drizzle in Dorset all day on Sunday and hoping the weather here in London would be the same, but evidently it wasn't! The Three Sisters bed (planted with corn, squash and beans) is not doingiving as much as expected, partly because of lack of water. I had a couple of weeks immobilised by a bad back, perhaps they fell behind then. And yet the beans in other areas are still yielding well, and they are also a thirsty crop. Perhaps I overcrowded the bed with plants too close together. It is also overlooked at one end by the sunflowers, at the other by Jerusalem artichokes (now about seven foot tall, still no flowers) leaning over it towards the main source of sunshine through the day.
Anyway, still picking enough veg to sustain us week to week. Today I harvested the second bunch of celery - first last week - it's very well flavoured, except the outer stalks very bitter, and has been good added to salads, veggie medleys, sauces for pasta and chicken stock. Very pleased with it as the slugs and snails don't seem to have made inroads, and this is my first crop of this vegetable. Looks as if we might be able to harvest every week through October.
The tomatoes are nearly finished and courgettes so over - I wish that I'd brought on some young plants in pots back in June in order to have a second crop. Next year...
Today I made sure the rocket seed was scattered in hope of a late autumn crop. There were one or two new plants in the bed already. I should have put turnip greens in as well, but left the seeds at home. I cleared most of the sunflowers and dug over their bed, the plan is to follow them with winter leeks, these are crowded in a row and should have been planted out by now. The autumn leeks which I planted out in late July are looking good, and the winter greens growing away strongly.
This evening we enjoyed runner beans, carrots, shallots (now dried out nicely after five weeks laid out in the garage), garlic, tomatoes and squash with pork chops and mashed potato. All except the last two from our allotment.