Friday, August 27, 2010

La Plum de ma Tante

Well, actually not. I just used the title for effect, in remembrance of all of the terribly useful sentences we had to learn in French at school. ‘La Plume de ma tante’ is right up there for usefulness with ‘Le singe est dans l’arbre’. However, I digress. Anyway, the two plum trees were from my father, not my aunt.

It has been soft fruit galore this summer at Mouffetard Towers. Brief but heavy gluts occurred in the following order: strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries and blackcurrant, and now plums. I’m assuming that three figs does not a glut make.

We have only a small freezer, but it is stocked to the gunnels with frozen fruit. Jam has been made, as has ice cream and also plum chutney. It is with the plums that I am particularly pleased. This is the first year that they have fruited to any extent – they have only been in the ground for three years. I have been rather bad and barely thinned the fruit as they developed, which no doubt means that they will go into biannual cropping mode for a while. We have two trees – a bog standard, but ever so delicious, ‘Victoria’ and the slightly more unusual ‘Pershore Yellow Egg’. The choice of both was down to nostalgia – happy memories of shoving the sweet, soft fruits into my mouth as a child, in my grandfather’s garden. Unlike my nostalgia for rubbish 1980s bands* and for rubbish 1970s sweets, the memories have lasted the test of time.

There cannot be a prettier fruit than a plum, particularly a pink or dark-skinned one – the soft white sheen of the bloom, the almost translucent flesh. A taste of late summer, and a taste of the turning year – colder days coming, when plum crumble will warm your soul.

So, if you are in Worcestershire this weekend (which sadly I am not), and this post has made your mouth water for sun-warmed plum flesh, you might want to visit Pershore, home of the Pershore Plum Festival.

DISCLAIMER: I was never very keen on Kajagoogoo but am still rather fond of a range of 80s bands, where, again, reality weighs up well against nostalgia.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Diamond

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Whispering grass, the trees don’t need to know

Today I visited Trentham Gardens. The gardens are rather impressive, with huge swathes of perennial planting. Borders have been designed by Piet Oudolf and by Tom Stuart-Smith. Lots of people who know what they’re talking about have written about the gardens.

The most magical factors in the gardens for me were the grasses. I have dabbled with them at a very small scale in our garden (Stipa tenuissima with Achillea and irises) but at Trentham, in the Stuart-Smith and Oudolf borders, grasses reign supreme. They are used in a range of ways – as part of fantastic prairie planting, as punctuation marks, as linking plants and and as a river of grass.

The grasses bring the gardens to life, stimulating touch, sight and sound. Even in a light wind, they dance, and as the breeze rises, they move in a way that arouses the imagination – is that a tiger moving through the undergrowth?

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I feel the need to garland the garden with grasses.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day August 2010

Ooops - I failed to take any photos for GBBD last month. This month, the grass is green and lush, having been lovingly watered by quite a lot of rain. This has meant that quite a few flowers are looking a bit battered.

Looking back at last year’s flowers, I’d say the garden is two or three weeks behind last year. Crocosmia are just starting to come out. The agapanthus are still in flower, when they’d gone over last year. The toad lily isn’t out yet. We’re also a little behind on two years ago. Aster ‘Monch’ is not yet out, and the Verbena hastata are still quite short and far away from flowering

The stalwarts which flower for months and months are doing us proud, though.

So what do we have? We have plenty of orange, we have some blue. Mostly orange though, to be honest.

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Thanks, as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting GBBD. Please visit her blog to see what is flowering all over the world.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A piece of land - a guest post by the lovely SomeBeans

I've been a bit remiss with the blog recently. A bit of summer ennui. Lost the plot, you could say (ha ha). So, with my lovely husband taking it upon himself to write a piece on his own blog about the allotment, I thought a double posting of the story would be good. And save me from doing a post. So here it is - a guest post by SomeBeans. His own blog can be found here.

"I am the under-gardener to The Inelegant Gardener, more specifically I am the under-allotmenteer. For those outside the UK, allotments are standard sized vegetable gardens enshrined in UK law. We took possession of our first half allotment plot on 1st October 2006. I remember our visit to the colony to see the allotment; we’d taken our traditional Saturday morning wander around town when The Inelegant Gardener mentioned, apparently in passing, that she’d like to look at an allotment (or rather a half-plot). I was instantly wary of this idea, I remember watering and weeding on my dad’s allotment as a child, back breaking and boring work. But when I stood at the foot of the overgrown plot I was instantly converted. A strange feeling came over me, of land, food, honest toil and soil – it was like my own Soviet propaganda film. Here I could work the land and provide!

The half-plot on possession, October 2006
But more was to come: walking back to the car some months later, after working on the half allotment, I pointed and laughed at the risible start someone had made on digging a neighbouring whole plot. A sheepish Inelegant Gardener admitted to being the owner of the risible start and a new whole plot. It turns out she was an aggressive territorial expansionist, albeit a pathetic digger. The Inelegant Gardener did her best “feeble female” look, and I agreed to dig the new allotment. A task I was to complete some 18 months later, almost exactly two years ago.CIMG0807

A risible start to the digging of the whole plot, April 2007
As under-gardener my principal tasks are digging and construction: sheds, paths, compost bins and the like. It’s rather satisfying work compared to my day job, which mostly concerns generating abstractions inside a computer. Allotment work produces tangible output: an hours digging produces a patch of turned soil and a bucket of roots. Construction produces sturdy, useful structures of which a man can be proud. As a result of this toil I am able to identify perennial weeds purely from their roots: dock, bindweed, nettles, couch grass, horsetails, ground elder. I sometimes worry that The Inelegant Gardener will pimp me out to other allotmenteers for digging work.

The Inelegant Gardener is still subject to unrealistic fancies, having directed me to spread about a ton of farmyard manure on the potato-patch-to-be she seemed to believe the worms would quickly incorporate it into the soil. Bollocks would they, not in two weeks, not without the aid of little squad of wormy JCBs! It was muggins wot' dug in the manure. I still think potatoes are magic though, turning over the soil with a fork and white egg-shaped edible things appearing – it’s magic. More realistically the potatoes came out all manner of shapes and sizes, several years they suffered from blight.

For us allotmenteering is a bit of fun, if a crop fails it doesn’t matter. Seeing the blight-wilted potato-tops and unearthing the rotten, stinking tubers gives an insight into what it is to rely so closely on the vagaries of nature for your livelihood. Seasonality becomes much more obvious; despite being relatively clued up about agriculture in truth I had little sense of when what vegetables were in season. Now I know, and it’s cabbage for most of the winter. Currently in season are courgettes (bloody hundreds of them), carrots, sweetcorn, potatoes, mangetoute, French beans, raspberries, beetroot. It’s fair to say we haven’t entirely cracked planting appropriate quantities, to start with we had one or two exemplars of any particular vegetable per meal, now we have massive, short-lived gluts.

We achieved a crop on our second visit to the allotment or rather Henry, a fellow allotmenteer, gave us some produce to keep us interested. He has continued to provide advice ever since, but now we swap vegetables and fruit. When we started only a small fraction of the plots on our colony were in cultivation, and Henry seemed to be keeping the place alive. These days most of the site is cultivated, it’s a friendly sort of place – most people will stop to say a few words as they pass on their way to their own plots. I can do a passable impression of a someone who knows how to grown stuff, if interrogated.

Our other neighbour at the allotments keeps chickens, at one point they had free range across the whole site they would come and supervise digging, jumping into the trench at inopportune moments to pluck out a tasty grub. Nowadays they are behind chicken wire, but still come to the fence if you’re digging or weeding by them, making approving clucking noises. There is something very reassuring about this companionship.
These days the allotment is looking almost ship-shape, at least it does when we’ve caught up with all the weeds. I continue to be proud of my construction efforts!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Mother and younger child only...

Part two in a very occasional series of posts on close-ups. So occasional that the last post was nearly two years ago. That's probably enough time for 46 generations of hairy bittercress to have lived their lives in my garden. This post explains where the title comes from.

Anyway, for any poor deluded souls who still drop by this blog to see if I've got around to posting anything new, a bit of a quiz. What is this?

It's probably very, very easy, but I like the yellow squiggles and felt they deserved a closer look. Golden number threes.