Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Early spring garden

Amelanchier blossomThe April garden was the start of my gardening attempts ramping up again. Plans made, seeds bought and renewed enthusiasm. The Amelanchier lamarckii (snowy mespilus) came into blossom in the second week looking gorgeous with white against bronze leaves, it's a lovely tree for a small garden and the birds like the late summer berries too.April back gardenOn the patio area is the mini greenhouse and the area where I do all my potting up and seed planting. In the summer  months the bench will become my favourite place for a cup of tea but for now it is some extra space for seed trays and pots. I've planted mostly everything now - well first succession anyway, broad beans, French climbing beans, pumpkins, squashes, courgettes and sunflowers. There are some onion sets there too and lavender plugs from a the 72 plugs I ordered of cottage garden plants. The rest are in my kitchen as the mini greenhouse seems to attract every slug and snail in the neighbourhood and I want all my plants to grow so the garden is filled with delphiniums, carnations and coreopsis. seedlings in the mini greenhouse
 I start moving plants around and creating new tubs of primroses. herbs and other plants I find lurking. I've been dividing perennials such as Lady's Mantle and moving strawberries. The strawberries from the allotment are to be dug up and moved into pots in the garden instead so I can keep a closer eye on them, at the allotment they simply get eaten by birds, slugs etc.fennel and primrose A primula I moved into the potager style bed I'm creating.purple primula denticulata The terrier who wants to help but does little aside from trampling seedlings and plants or rolling in dead worms or slugs.terrier mischief
I have lots of plants reappear which is great and saves money so hopefully tubs should fill up nicely for a pretty look on the patio. I'll be buying plants throughout the season, adding to the collection but really I don't want to spend a lot at all. I usually pick extra plants up at Aldi as they are reasonably priced and it's nice to buy new plants on our travels, honesty stalls, farmer's markets and garden nurseries. spring flower pots Of course Little Bird loves the garden too, he likes to sit on our rocking bench further down the garden by the honeysuckle, often standing on there to peep over into next door. We bought him a new water table to replace the one that broke, lots of scoops and pouring going on. Really need to tidy out his yellow play shed and find old favouites in there such as the red wagon and market stall. No doubt there will be plenty of spiders in there and mildew to wipe away. LB likes to enthusiastically water all my plants :) garden water play April was a flurry of activity and May will be the same, more seeds to sow to replace any lost to slugs and plenty of potting up of my cottage garden plugs - some lost to damping off which is really annoying. The tiny bit of lawn needs re-turfing and the pathway relaying and I can't wait to compare to see how much everything has grown.spring garden Cheshire This is my favourite view over the rooftops and mine and my neighbour's garden. Some gorgeous sunsets over the last few weeks and it's a great spot for cloud spotting. spring sunset

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Bodnant Garden in North Wales

view of Snowdonia from Bodnant Gardens The glory of the spring garden in Wales, alongside the River Conwy and with a snow tipped view of Snowdonia, Bodnant Garden was the perfect day trip for us all and especially a recently poorly little boy. Fresh air and fluffy clouds, tulip blooms and trumpeting daffodils, all an excellent antidote to tummy pains and stress. 

80 acres to explore from terraces to glades and a thundering waterfall and mill 'race' in the dell. It's a beautiful garden to explore and this year is like a dreamy watercolour wash of azalea and rhododendron and a lushness of emerging green perennials and exquisite hellebores. The boys had lawns and paths to run around and plenty of stones in pockets picked up to plop into the cascading waters. View points are aplenty and there are some areas where my hand tightly gripped Little Bird for fear of him rolling over the edge into the fir tree abyss. I was happier back on formal bed territory with the tulips. 

A surprise was the family mausoleum, called the Poem that you could peep through the door of into a marble decorated room filled with memorials of the previous inhabitants of the estate. Of course this appealed to me and my church/graveyard tendencies, inside was a chair - who for I wonder?

Back in the land of the living, it was a picnic and tomfoolery and a promise to come back and visit in the summer to see how the gardens are flourishing.
tulip bed Bodnant tulip mania daffodils fountain and parterre hedges pink azalea fountain at Bodnant Garden Bodnant Hall hellebore Snowdonia view Bodnant Garden daffodils nodding heads down the daffodil path little yellow boots grand garden steps The POEM mausoleum at Bodnant Garden looking throwing pebbles into the stream Welsh mountain view Bodnant Hall hellebore conservatory the boys on the bench magnolia

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 29 April 2016

Degustabox March - bunnies and popcorn for post Easter treats

Degustabox March

A great Degustabox arrived alas we have all been ill throughout the month and have hardly eaten but it was a great month for treats and some items to cheer us up. Here is what was in March's box of goodies:
Skinny popcorn
Metcalfe's Skinny Popcorn in cinema sweet flavour, £1.50. I love popcorn and this is super as it is sweetened with natural stevia leaf extract - 67% less sugar than other sweet popcorns. A serving has only 93 calories making it a lovely low cal snack. 
Chewits sweets

A classic from my childhood but I sadly didn't have these because of my veneered teeth and passed them over to the OH who gladly took them to munch at his workdesk. Chewits, 4 x 35p in blackcurrant and strawberry flavours. I had no idea they had been going for so long but then I should remember that I am 38 (eeek) and had them in primary school. In actual fact they started in Southport in the late 60's and did you know the mascot is called Chewie the Chewitsaurus.
Pipers crisps

Pipers Crisps £2.00, in Cheddar & Onion flavour and very cheesy they were. The brand has won various awards such as 'Best Snack Brand' and the company prides itself in using locally sourced potatoes in sunflower oil and seasoned with hand crafted West Country cheese. Can't go wrong with crisps for me and I'd seek these out again and look for their other flavours too - especially the Cider Vinegar and Sea Salt.

Greek Meze snack
Karyatis Meze To Go £1.99 I was so excited when I saw this but couldn't see a vegetarian symbol on it and had to look up.....and of course that was because it's not, so I couldn't have it :( I love dips like this too, have to assume the Feta has rennet in it. OH won't eat it either so one still sat in the cupboard. Great snack idea, if only they'd use vegetarian cheese. 
Weetabix on the go drinks
Weetabix On the Go Breakfast Drinks 2 x £1.50, Blueberry & Blackberry, Strawberry & Raspberry. OH had these when he was in the usual morning rush and really enjoyed them. I'm pretty sure we tried these last year too and these are new flavours to the range. Containing the energy and fibre of Weetabix with milk, vitamins, iron and calcium they make a really handy quick breakfast. 
Hide & Seek biscuits

Monaco biscuits
Little square biscuits with chocolate chips, Hide & Seek 59p and savoury Monaco biscuits 39p. Cheap and cheerful snacks, we ate these on a day out. 
Kallo multigrain cakes

Two lots of Kallo products, Milk Chocolate Rice Cake Rounds £1 and Quinoa & Seeds Multigrain Cakes £1.89. My son loved the chocolate ones and these are now part of the weekly shop. Belgian choc on puffed wholegrain rice. 
I lked the quinoa ones as a savoury snack with cheese or peanut butter on.
Hemp milk

A dairy free milk offering, Good Hemp £1.49. Not too bad with cereal but I couldn't get used to the taste in tea or coffee. It's a great source of Omega 3 and is allergen free, useful for those people on restricted diets.
cranberry and orange stuffing

Cranberry & Orange Stuffing from Kents Kitchen, £1.85. Easy to make, just add water and bake. Lovely with a  roast dinner or some meat alternative, then great on sandwiches the day after. The range has some great combinations using natural ingredients and chunky pieces of fruit. 
Brioche Pasquier £1.40 A firm favourite of my sons so all gone before I had chance to take a picture. Pain au chocolate individually wrapped so we take them as day trip snacks. 
Finally the best item of the month.......
Lindt white chocolate bunny

Lindt white chocolate bunny, £2.99. Was so excited to open the box and find this bunny. All mine, what else is there to say but delicious. 

Overall, despite our poorly month we had a good try of the products in March's Degustabox. Lots of nice treats and a good range of products for the £12.99 value of the box since the items added up to far more than that. 

If you would like to try Degustabox, the code  BLDEG15 will get you an amazing £6 discount.

*I received a Degustabox for the purpose of the review, words are my own honest opinion.

Getting rid of weeds

As a keen gardening and allotment fanatic, one of my constant tasks is weeding. Sometimes it can be therapeutic, pulling up weeds between the flowers, making a patch look tidy then standing back and admiring, cup of tea in hand. Other times, weeds are just rampant and the job if huge and boring so I've been looking at ways of managing them and making the task an easier one. Weeds compete with your crops and flowers for space, nutrients and light so keeping them under control will ensure your plants are happy and healthy.
Allotment in early spring

Weeding by hand and with the hoe
A favourite for a sunny day where you can Dutch hoe in between your plants, cutting the annual weed tops off and then leaving on the soil surface to just shrivel up. Hoe when the weather is dry but weed by hand when it is wet. Larger perennial weeds with long tap roots like dandelions will need digging out, tricky when close to plants you want to keep, so use a hand fork. Dig all the root out as any small pieces left will regrow. It's an ideal job to get the children helping out with and you can help learn what common weeds are here
weeding at the allotment
image source: weeding, Shutterstock

To suppress weeds, a layer of mulch will help inhibit their growth. Use bark chippings, compost, leaf mould etc of around 5cm deep that will also add nutrients and keep moisture retention in the soil. Mulching makes the garden beds and borders look tidier too and the flowers really stand out. 

Problem weeds such as Japanese Knotweed
Specialists such as Westland Estates are able to remove troublesome weeds like Japanese Knotweed in an environmentally friendly way. The weed is incredibly invasive and can spread rapidly in a garden so having the professionals in to remove it is a wise decision. Himalyan Balsam and Giant Hogweed are also thugs in the garden, the latter having a sap that can cause photodermatitis skin burns.

Vintage book weed drawings for indentification

Using weeds to your benefit
Remember that a weed is all but a plant in the wrong place and some are beneficial to insects. Early in the season I let a few dandelions remain as they are a source of nectar for emerging bees. A patch of nettles in a wildlife corner are a food source for beneficial insects and the Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies. A nettle 'tea' garden ferilizer can also be made by soaking picked nettles in a bucket of water for a few weeks - it makes a very smelly but nutrient rich manure for the garden.

*collaborative post

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Blyth Church

The priory church of St Mary and St Martin in Blyth, Nottinghamshire. Perfect with the churchyard filled with daffodils and the Union flag fluttering from the tower. We waited for the wedding party to disperse and then explored the grounds, since the doors were then firmly locked - another time......

If you watch Gogglebox (I don't), this is Rev. Kate Bottley's church. 

Sunday Snap