Tuesday 31 July 2012

July flowers

We're nearly at the end of July! We've had torrential rain at the start of the month and a week of real hot sunny days and now it's reverted to April showers - yesterday hail! The flowers have been magnificant this year. Everywhere there are plants and bushes in bloom, bigger and more profuse than ever. I love this garden.

Here's some pictures of the garden in July.

Clematis keeps flowering

Pink & purple toadflax. Some people regard them as weeds
but the bees love them and they provide colour and height
throughout the summer. They seed everywhere but it's easy
to pull up the ones you don't want.

Hostas, yellow stone crop and the rockery
Fern garden with pipe waterfall - running for the first time in
2 years thanks to the record rainfall
Self-sown foxgloves are huge and in various colours from purple
through pink to white with purple spots.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Blackcurrant harvest

We have 12 blackcurrant bushes and the fruit is lovely and ripe now. My neighbour volunteered to help with the picking and she worked tirelessly in the sunshine for 3 hours yesterday afternoon. The haul from just 6 bushes was 12  pounds. I finished off the redcurrants and collected some raspberries from the various bushes. V went away with raspberries for tea and promise of redcurrant jelly and blackcurrant jam.
There's another 6 bushes to pick!
Blackcurrants are lovely - I love the smell of the leaves too - but a little goes a long way. I make jelly and puree and just freeze the currants for use during the winter months. The puree freezes well and is great poured over vanilla ice-cream or cereal and yoghurt for breakfast. Other blackcurrant recipes:

  • Ice-cream - using the puree
  • Crumble - best added to apple or pears to reduce the intensity of the flavour
  • Summer pudding. I've only made this once or twice. You can use all kinds of summer berries and fruit. My Mum says her landlady (when she was a student teacher back in 1930s!) used to make it just with blackcurrants and served with Devonshire clotted cream. Mmm!
  • Fruit pudding - sponge topping over a mix of red and black currants
  • Blackcurrant muffins - use  currants in place of blueberries

Monday 23 July 2012

Broad Beans

Picked 6 pounds of broad beans this afternoon. We had some with duck legs in orange sauce and froze the rest. They are Masterpiece Green Longpod variety and certainly live up to their name. We saved beans from last year to sow this (http://froggartscottagegarden.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/getting-started-with-sowing.html) and they've certainly worked out OK. They are green and sweet and freeze well. No need for blanching or any of the stuff we used to do years ago. Modern freezers are so cold they freeze produce quickly before the sugar turns to starch. You need to do it same day as picking.
Broad beans in flower in June

Thursday 19 July 2012

Nuthatches, woodpeckers & squirrels

There are two nuthatches on the birdfeeders, eating upside down as usual! The bird table has been pretty much monopolised by the baby squirrels   playing, fighting and trying to work out how to dismantle the feeders.
At lunch we saw a young woodpecker - with a red beret - chasing off the small birds but then too shy to feed. Eventually daddy woodpecker arrived and got stuck straight in to the nuts. Then the youngster took a quick peck and flew off with a peanut to the dawn redwood - their favourite place to finish off their haul.

Friday 13 July 2012

Garden Babies

I'm sitting in my studio being entertained by a couple of young robins - small, round, fluffy and spotty. They are clearly only a day or so out of the nest and still fluttering and looking for mum to feed them. They've learned one good thing - that roses can provide a protein-packed meal of aphids. I like them!

All the birds seem to be doing well with large and multiple families. Blue-tits and great-tits nested in the warm weather in early spring (some in our bird-box on the summer house) and have had further broods. Each afternoon we get a crowd of noisy jackdaw youngsters (still haven't got their grey helmets) joined by young magpies and jays. 

The most fun are the baby squirrels. We had mum feeding for a few weeks - looking rather harassed towards the end - and now we have 3 cheeky youngsters getting up to all kinds of acrobatics to feed on the peanuts on the bird table. How do they eat hanging upside down by their toes?  

Wednesday 11 July 2012


Our garden has many different types of roses - climbers, ramblers, bushes, miniature and roses round the door. Some have been blooming for a few weeks and others are just getting going now. They are lovely - but I'm not much good at looking after them. They seem to get a lot of black spot - this year especially perhaps because it's been so wet. The previous owners who designed and built our lovely garden planted roses at the base of all the big trees so we have roses in the magnolia, the silver birch, the maple, Korean fir.

Here are some photos of roses around our garden:

I love this one that looks like it's been painted - but it has lots of prickles!

Bunches of little pink & white flowers

Climbing roses in the silver birch

Big floppy pink roses with lovely perfume

The small pinky-white roses round the front door are looking rather sad this year I usually have to fight the greenfly in the spring and caterpillars later in the year. But this year the leaves are brown and not many flowers at all so I haven't taken a photo. This what they are supposed to look like.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Slug update

The record rain during June has brought out the slugs and snails in force and I need not have worried about the shortage of slugs in the early spring. We've seen a few adult frogs too.
Slugs are everywhere, including I suspect around my French Beans, and in the conservatory and kitchen. They can squeeze through tiny spaces and nowhere is safe.  There's all sizes and colours including the leopard slug which apparently only eats dead vegetation (like wood lice) and so are really useful in the compost heap and generally tidying up.

Here's an entertaining video about their sex life from the BBC Springwatch team:

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Busy weekend with redcurrants and tree cutting

We had to take advantage of the few dry spells but managed to get a couple of big jobs done - netting the redcurrants and preparing space for the potted fruit trees.

Last year's Redcurrants - the ones' the birds didn't get!
I hate putting nets over the redcurrants because it does seem a bit mean that we don't share with  the blackbirds and pigeons - but the problem is that left alone the birds don't leave enough for us humans! The pigeons land on top of the bushes, attacking from the top and breaking the branches to get to the fruit. The blackbirds come from below and take the ripe fruit on the lower branches. They are pretty persistent and I have often been picking on on side of a bush and a blackbird on the other side. They get quite annoyed and make their scolding noise if you try and chase them away. Anyway this year we decided to put nets over the six redcurrant bushes. The nets are old and needed some repairs so we'll see how enterprising our feathered friends are in getting to the lovely berries.
The other big job we did - or at least got started with - was to clear space for the new fruit trees we bought last year and which are still in pots. We cut down a malus tree that has rather insignificant flowers for just a week in the spring. It's been trained rather badly into an umbrella shape with the result the grass below is dead. The other area for planting is where a couple of shrubs died in the deep freeze winter before last. We pulled out the stumps and dug over the ground pulling up loads of ground elder to burn.
Next job is to get rid of the tree trunk and dig in lots of compost. We'll use the trunk and larger branches for firewood and have a big bonfire with the rest (as soon as it stops raining!)