Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Strolling through a purple haze - our summer garden delights

This evening the sun shone and there was a lovely red sky (red sky at night, shepherd's delight) and hopefully this is a good omen for the summer to come. May has been a dry and warm month, with an amazing heatwave over the past couple of weeks.

I wandered around the garden and took some photos of the plants that have made it thus far. A lot of damage was done by the harsh winter with record sub-zero temperatures of -10 to -15 degrees Centigrade and many of the plants didn't make it.

We had to replant all the lavender border as the old plants died off - they'd been cut back in the autumn and should have regrown new shoots from the old woody shoots but didn't. So this year we'll leave well enough alone, less pruning and cutting back before the winter sets in.

I love the herb border; we had parsley and chives survive the frosts, and I got presents of some new herbs from Simon in the Farmers' Market when I bought new lavender. He gave me two thyme plants, including a lemon thyme, and a savory and a sage plant.

They are thriving now, alongside the parsley which is on the verge of bolting. It's in its third year and seems to self-seed so I will let nature take
its course.

The chives I'm very chuffed with - they were bought in a pot for 99c in Lidl (my fave discount
supermarket!) and I divided them up and planted them out about three years ago, and they have thrived to the lovely purple-headed plants you can see in the photo.

I got a rosemary plant in Lidl last winter and moved it from the kitchen windowsill in the spring, and it seems to love being in the ground, where I hope it will live for many years. Rosemary was a victim of last winter in many places, and gardening articles are full of tales of woe of plants that died off.

Perhaps we've taken a lot for granted in Ireland where we have the Gulf Stream giving us a mild climate where palm trees and sub-tropical plants do really well, and now that we've had a taste of more usual Northern European climates it's been a wake-up call. We lost a palm in a pot on the patio (there's alliteration for you!) and wonder what to replace it with. I want a cordylline or yucca-like palm - the one we had was a Phoenix Canariensis and lasted about 4 years, so we were very disappointed that it succumbed.

But the surprise has been the banana plant which has put in an unexpected appearance with 7 new shoots or suckers! We were sure that would be gone, but no, it made it. It's a hardy Japanese variety, that is meant to withstand frosty winters and reappear each year, so that's one good news story.

Purple seems to recur in the garden this year - I planted Allium bulbs last October and now there are huge purple onion-flower balls, like chive flowers on steroids. There's the lavender too, and the lupins are a kind of blue-lavender. Bluebells are nearing the end of their span too, and there are some mystery bulbs about to flower but I have no recollection of what I planted so it will be fun to see what emerges.

The tunnel this year has been given over to strawberries - the polythene is 12 years old and is only meant to have a lifespan of 5-6 years and there is so much algae on it that it's practically opaque. So until we renew it we can't use it to grow light-loving things. However, it's a dream for strawberries which need heat but apparently not much light. Makes sense I guess, as they are always hiding under the leaves.

I ain't complaining with a dozen pots of jam in the store cupboard and another dozen in the offing, it'll definitely shorten the winter! I pick a pound or so every evening and leave them stand on the kitchen worktop near the window for another day and then they are ready to hull and put in jam or cakes or muesli or yogurt - or just eat with cream or ice cream.

We have tons of rhubarb again this year - I blogged about it last year here - and as hubby split the stools to propogate more plants we have a whole bed by the high stone wall near the house which will give an even bigger crop next year - I think you're not meant to pick from the newly transplanted/split rhubarb plants in year one.

I planted some tomatoes in an organic grow-bag as I don't think they'll do well in the tunnel, with its poor light, likewise courgettes/zucchini. They are on the patio against the south wall so they will be sheltered and have lots of warmth.

The garden is a bit straggly on the flower front, with a lot of stuff to come, like the Cosmos I am growing on in pots in the tunnel and hope to plant out in a few weeks, and the dahlias that come up trumps every year but not till July. Trouble with our weather is that there's just not enough sunshine to go with the mild climate - no wonder the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has advised every kid under one year to take Vitamin D every day - advice that us Public Health Nurses are giving out every day to new parents.

Here are some photos of the garden and its produce - with strawberries just picked tonight, and those picked yesterday now ready to hull and clean, before making yet more jam or just keeping them for breakfast tomorrow - always a great start to the day and with muesli or porridge, and a dollop of plain yogurt.

The various hues of blues and purple are also on display, in all their splendour, as well as the other more mundane shots, of the tomatoes-in-a-bag, and the rhubarb as well as the banana suckers. I will keep posting updates of the banana as it grows to maturity - like Groundhog day, it repeats this process year in, year out, without ever seeming to tire. I wonder will we ever get any bananas? Not at this rate I'd say.


Stephanie V said...

Wonderful, Catherine. Isn't it a treat to eat things right out of the garden? They just taste so much better. In fact, if you never try garden fresh you can't really believe the difference.
Have you tried eating the chive flowers? Kind of a concentrated chive flavor...very nice broken up in a salad.

Rudee said...

Your garden looks abundant. I hope you get plenty of sun to help it all along. The chives are beautiful.

talesfromagarden said...

Lovely pics of your productive garden Catherine!
Have you ever made rhubarb and fig jam? If you do let me know the recipe,my late mother in law used make it with dried figs it was fab but no one seems to have a recipe,its all rhubarb and ginger in the shops and markets!Purple seems to be your colour!

Unknown said...

Oh i'd love to have my own garden to grow things in! Soon perhaps! I love the banana plants, they're very unusual!

Ann said...

Your garden looks wonderful Catherine. And the strawberries look delicious.

menopausalmusing said...

I know what you mean about losses over the winter. We lost a bay tree which I have been training into a standard shape, well, I think it is lost and am leaving it in just in case..... We THOUGHT we had lost a lovely plant called "Angel's Fishing Rod" and I was about to get shot of it when we noticed a very small shoot, so fingers crossed. We are picking strawberries this week outside from under cloches and they are just lovely. Other plants seem to have thrived on having had such a hard winter. You never really can tell, can you?

Marilyn Miller said...

Love seeing your garden. Oh those strawberries are so special. We also don't get enough sun here in Portland, Oregon, USA, especially this year where it is still cloudy and raining.

Your chocolate chip muffins looked good too.

Catherine said...

Thanks for all your comments - great to see how the garden looks through other eyes!

STEPHANIE V - I never knew you could eat chive flowers! Must try it this weekend - maybe in a salad or something! They look great. You can't beat food fresh from the garden.

RUDEE - there's a lot of sunshine these days so things are flying - tomatoes have flowers and they're only a week in the growbag. Hope it lasts through the summer!

KATHLEEN - thanks for the tip about the rhubarb and figs - had fig jam in Provence a few years ago on hols -grown in the garden of the lovely auberge we stayed in and the jam was made by the hostess, a Dutch friend. So I must look for dried figs - have dried apricots from Lidl, and didn't know you could get figs! Enjoy Bloom this weekend by the way - I think you are headed that way!

MAEVE - Hope you have a garden to enjoy soon! It's a bit of hard work too that's the problem the bloody weeds take over if you don't want to get all toxic on them with weedkiller and suchlike! Aren't the banana plants great? there are 9 baby ones now, sprouting new suckers every day.The leaves are getting bigger too.

ANN - the garden is getting overrun with weeds - I sortof photoshopped them out of the pics I posted so they don't show the ugly side! Hope you're enjoying the summer weather we're having - you brought the good weather with you! I think I'm on hols every day at work - was down at Helvick head the other day, packed lunch - bliss!

CATHY - Looks like a lot of people lost a lot in their gardens. great if your plants survive and make it. It seems the strawberries that got a head start under cover are ready now, we are still picking a pound or two each day or second day. Jam galore! I saw commercial strawberries on the news tonight and they are grown from planters at eye level in water and food - hydroponics I think it's called - but they looked unnaturally big and I don't know if they can match ours for intensity of flavour!

MARILYN - too bad you can't get strawberries in Portland - I always thought the west coast was warn enough - isn't there wine made in Washington State which is more northerly than Oregon? I am so confused! I had wine from Washington when I lived abroad - it's very special seemingly because it's quite scarce!

All the best to you all, Catherine.

Catherine said...

By the way - I should say that after I'd written this I saw that the term Purple Haze referred to Cannabis and of course Jimi Hendrix's iconic song of that name - said to be about LSD - so my innocent title could have the drug squad on the doorstep looking for my garden full of purple haze of another hue!!
Catherine x

Marilyn Miller said...

Actually we will have a short season of strawberries here. They are really, really good too. But with all the rain this year they are slow at ripening. I am hoping maybe next week we will have sunshine and strawberries. Oregon is also known for very good wine.

laurie said...

a gorgeous garden. we have tons of chives, too, which i forget to harvest. tomatoes, basil, lavender (for the smell) and rosemary.