Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Hedgerow Bounty Part One - Sloe...ly does it

Time for another recipe and it's another drink. Perhaps there's a theme here? I am not a gin drinker so sloe gin is going to be a new one to me, but I have it on good authority it is worth the making.

Sloes on the tree

The idea came as we were walking the dog whilst still in Yorkshire after the Harrogate show. We were walking up a country lane near the village we were staying in and the hedgerows were full of sloe bushes (Prunus spinosa), laden with fruit.

Most of the fruit was higher up, as if someone had already picked the easily accessible ones. It's a good job I have a tall guy. Of course we never planned on picking sloes, so had nothing to put them in. Cue a handkerchief (clean!), knotted in the corners, which actually made for a good photo! Where would we be without Google on the phone? A quick search revealed a suggested recipe of a pound of fruit per litre of gin. We are not good at guesstimating weights: our pound turned out to be three-quarters once we got back and put them on the scales. Still a 75cl bottle of gin works out quite nicely.

Picked ready for taking home

Although I have the plants growing in the boundary hedge here at Easter Mosshat, they rarely flower, never mind fruit! Its just too cold and high here. Regardless, the plants will grow anywhere, easily coping with clay soil and the wild windy cold weather we get up here at Easter Mosshat, forming tight dense hedging as long as you watch out for the thorns!

The recipe for sloe gin is quick and easy, as follows:


Sloe Gin

1 lb Sloe berries, washed and pricked all over
1 litre Gin
250g sugar

1. Once you have weighed, washed and pricked the fruit all over, place them in a wide-necked bottle or seal-able jar (we used a litre Kilner jar)

2. Place the sugar in with the sloes, then pour over the gin.

3. Give the jar a good shake to dissolve the sugar then place in a dark cupboard.

4. Shake every day until the sugar has all dissolved.

5. After about 3 months strain out the sloes through
muslin, bottle, store in a dark cupboard, and wait.

Sloe gin is a popular drink at Christmas, coinciding with it maturing. The colour is an amazing deep burgundy already and I can't wait to see it when it is ready to drink.

As well as sloe gin I believe you can make a jelly for eating with meat and jam with sloes and apples. I'll maybe try that next year if I can get some more sloes.

Making things from the garden will also be a theme of my up coming workshops and gardening courses, run here at Easter Mosshat.

Pouring in the gin




Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants


Our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener

Bloglovin


You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list


All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Show Time at Harrogate

This weekend we had a weekend off from gardening at Easter Mosshat and headed to the Harrogate Autumn Flower show, run by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). I went to their Harrogate Spring Show many years ago, possible even BC (Before Children!). Despite the weather deteriorating into blustery, rainy autumnal weather, we were lucky. The sun it was exceptionally warm and we even managed to sit outside with our lunch and soak up the sun while we ate.

The Artist's Garden

The RHS runs several shows over the summer in various locations, the most famous of course being Chelsea in May. Harrogate is more compact and has that wonderful Yorkshire touch: the accents, the laid back no-nonsense approach to life and a wonderful food hall. I thought I'd lost my partner David for good in there! Having experienced many shows, both as an exhibitor and as a visitor I always enjoy seeing garden and flower shows, to see what's new and get ideas for Easter Mosshat. There were the usual outdoor stands of every type of garden ornament and tool to make your life easier and some classy sculptures I would very happily install at Easter Mosshat if it wasn't for the price tag! We wandered past some of these stands to the floral halls where the Chrysanthemum, Dahlia, Fuchsia, Bonsai and Cacti championships were being held. As you might expect the entries in all these categories were impressive.


Being such foodies we enjoyed the food hall, where there was a great range of pies, cheeses and drinks. We ended up going back later in the day for pork pies with amazing toppings for our lunch.

The National Vegetable Championships

I was disappointed at the lack of outdoor gardens. Usually these can be interesting, innovative, quirky and a source of good ideas, but there were only three this year. One was very good: an artist's garden using a shepherds hut and lots of late summer herbaceous colour and grasses. The other was a children's garden using lots of colour and recycled materials. We liked a greenhouse made out of plastic fizzy juice bottles.Finally we came to the floral hall, containing many nurseries and their displays of plants. In this hall there was also the Regional and National Vegetable Championships. These monsters had to be seen to be believed! From carrots a yard long to marrows heavier than David; from perfect baskets of fruit to pumpkins you could fit Cinderella in, they were amazing!

Jerry

All in all it was a good show. We were lucky with the weather and we brought home two giraffes! Seeing David take a seven foot tall giraffe and it's baby on the bus back to the car park was highly amusing, both to me and the other passengers in the bus! They will probably end up in the woodland borders in the summer, just for fun and because we can. I would definitely recommend the show, especially because it's in Yorkshire, one of my favourite places.




Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants


Our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener

Bloglovin


You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list


All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden

Monday, 16 September 2013

Bark is not just for Dogs

Weeding is a major chore in any garden. Here at Easter Mosshat we have a lot of large borders, so keeping them looking their best is a huge task. We need to reduce the maintenance workload here to allow us to focus more on developing the gardens. I've always been ambivalent about bark mulches as you often see them badly done, with thin patches and plastic sheeting poking through. But done properly they can look good and reduce the burden of weeding. As a professional gardener I have seen this done to varying degrees of success, depending on colour of bark, depth and use of plastic underneath to suppress weeds. It was an interesting thought process to get round to thinking that bark could actually be a good solution for the really big beds at Easter Mosshat.

Bark in the bag, ready for mulching

Some internet surfing resulted in varying prices and types of bark, but in the end a visit to a local DIY store produced a special offer. So every time one of us has passed the store this week, a car load of 50 litre bags has come back. The record stand at 40 bags, thankfully in the 4x4 and not my car! This has allowed me to mulch three big beds by the drive: the scented bed that fronts our dry stone wall; the island bed, which is planted to give colour all year round and the tree-line border, which serves to provide visual impact to people coming through the main gate. I have to say I am impressed with the results and can cope with not being able to see the soil! These beds are particularly bad for weeds and moss, so I am eager to see just how much work this will save over the coming year and beyond, and it looks good, which is also very important.

Bark amongst the ferns in the Island bed
There are a couple of ways you can put down a mulch. You can put it directly onto the soil as I have done, or put down a landscape fabric first, then the bark. I opted not to use fabric, mainly as the beds are already planted and fairly well established, so cutting holes in the correct places can be a nightmare of a job. I weeded and tidied the beds first, weed-killing some of the most persistent perennial weeds and mosses. It was then a case of spreading the bark over the beds, amongst and under the plants, covering as much of the soil as possible. Two to four inches should completely deter weed growth. If any weeds do have the nerve to put in an appearance they can be pulled out easily or weed-killed. The other advantage of mulching is moisture retention in the soil in dry periods.

Leaving a soil edge in the borders

Using fabric underneath works better with new beds. Once the bed is dug and levelled you can lay the landscape fabric and spread the mulch over. A lesser depth of two inches is usually required as you have the landscape fabric to help in the weed reduction. The weight of the bark will keep the fabric in place without pinning it. Then cut holes in the fabric where you want to plant you plants, dig a hole and replace the bark around the plant once planted.

Eventually the bark with disappear, working its way into the soil as it breaks down over the years and some topping up will be necessary from time  to time. Until then you can enjoy tidy looking borders and a lot less weeding.





Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants


Our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener

Bloglovin


You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list


All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden

Monday, 2 September 2013

A Salix from the dark side

Yesterday we had a productive afternoon in the garden, mainly blitzing the back of the workshop area, burning rubbish and listing things to sell on Gumtree and Ebay to make some money to spend on Easter Mosshat Projects. I always find clearouts really carthartic, especially if it involves bonfires! We also recycled broken slabs from outside the workshop to make a path in the chicken and duck enclosure which gets really muddy and wet in the winter. It's one of the things we are really keen on, recycling and re using as much material as we can in the gardens.

Rooted cuttings

One of the great things about gardening is a lot of the time it is so easy to produce plants for nothing. At Easter Mosshat where we have so much ground to fill that is even more appealing. In between moving slabs I managed to plant the beginnings of a new hedge along the south side of the
chicken enclosure which looks over the neighbouring field using some Willow I had rooted in the water barrel. In many places Salix can be cut as long whips and planted in narrow slits in the ground and will root very easily this way, giving quick and relatively cheap hedging and windbreaks, or free
if you already have some plants to cut material from.

 I have never had success with willows this way at Easter Mosshat, it's either too windy, too wet, too cold or too something, so I always root them to give them a fighting chance. The easiest way is to sit them in a barrel of water
for a month or so until they have fantastic long pinky white roots, then they can be planted in the normal way. Because
I had put them quite deep in the barrel they had rooted right up the 3ft stems so I was able to cut off some of the side
branches, resulting in 10 plants from the original 3 branches!
Not bad at all, especially as I got the cuttings for nothing to
start with.

Chicken inspection of new willow hedge

The Salix I planted on Sunday was Salix gracilistyla Melanostachys, which has the most amazing black catkins
in spring. As they mature they have red anthers which makes the whole effect even more striking. This willow will grow
to 10 ft but is best cut back to keep it small and the catkins more visible.

Salix gracilistyla Melanostachys

Salix catkins




Like us on Facebook:

The quirky Bird Gardener                    Quercus Garden Plants


Our web site: www.quercusgardenplants.co.uk


Follow us on Instagram @quirkybirdgardener

Bloglovin


You can now sign up for our monthly newsletter on the facebook page or by emailing us to be added to our mailing list


All contents  and photographs ©  Rona, unauthorised reproduction & use of these images is strictly forbidden