Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A charming calendar

Today's post brought a charming gift from my Romanian friends Criss Barsony and Razvan Chisu in the form of a gardening calendar they've put together for 2014. It combines Criss's whimsical illustrations with Raz's horticultural tips for each month: I'm not really a great fan of wall calendars, but this one is an exception and I anticipate 12 months of pleasure (and reminders) from it. The calendar is available via Criss's website (though you'll need to send her a message to arrange payment) where the range of her artistic talents in different media can be seen.

January: time for seed catalogues.

Raking leaves in November: a bandy-legged cat inhabits many scenes.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Late colour at Westonbirt

Japanese maples under larches.
A talk to the Friends took me to Westonbirt Arboretum today and afterwards Dan Crowley, the arboretum's Dendrologist, was kind enough to walk round the collection with me. Most of the maples had lost their leaves, but a surprising amount of colour remains, and despite the gloomy weather it was by no means drab.These photos are a sampler of the diversity of maple foliage and colours still looking good.

Acer carpinifolium

Acer forrestii (or A. pectinatum subsp. forrestii)

Acer grosseri var. hersii

Acer oliverianum

Acer palmatum

Acer palmatum (labelled subsp. matsumurae)

Acer palmatum 'Seiryu'

Remember to look down, as well as up...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

November gardens: The Yorkshire Arboretum

The view down Main Vista on a sunny but chilly day.

A different view of the same trees; Acer rubrum 'October Glory' framed by parkland oaks

Nyssa sinensis

The golden glory of larch.

Sorbus randaiensis: a very hardy, free-fruiting tree from Taiwan.

Looking down the lake.

Silver Birch, Betula pendula

Neil Batty completes the mowing for the year.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Quince jelly
Visiting friends in Oxford last week I was given a generous quantity of quinces by both couples. I have enjoyed their fragrance for a few days but over the weekend I've turned them into jelly, my favourite conserve for winter teas. On the face of it, a quince is leaden metal: hard and inedible raw, and although fragrant it seems improbable that it should turn into something as delicious as the jelly is. I like quince jelly to be clear and richly coloured - so am quite pleased with the two jars that I managed to make. The secret to clarity is not to use the flesh, and to only use the peel and cores simmered in just enough water to cover them, for about an hour. This is then strained and the liquor reboiled with the same volume of sugar until it's thick enough to set. I think I overboiled this batch a little, but at least the jelly is firm and doesn't run off the toast, and it hasn't affected the colour or flavour.

Two cultivars of quince, from two lots of friends. The smaller ones are 'Vranja' and very fragrant: the large ones are much less so, but give more flesh.

The raw material for the jelly is the peel and cores, simmered gently in water. The flesh was stewed in what Morrisons called sweet white wine, but it had to be augmented with muscovado: the result is delicious stewed quince.

The point of the exercise: quince jelly on toast for tea.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

November gardens: Oxford

Acer palmatum 'Osakazuki at the Harcourt Arboretum on Monday morning: it was very damp.

Rhododendron luteum

The roof of the magnificent timber-frame constructed at the Harcourt Arboretum this year, made entirely with homegrown timber.  

The bog garden in the Oxford Botanic Garden: Darmera and Phragmites shining in the gloom.

Cotoneaster affinis, laden with black fruits.

Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea' by the Danby Gate, Oxford Botanic Garden: an outstanding foliage plant throughout the season.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

November gardens: Harlow Carr

Stems and grasses catching a rare gleam of sunshine at RHS Harlow Carr on Saturday afternoon

A fine pot of Crocus goulimyi in the Harlow Carr Alpine House.

Euphorbia myrsinites

Rhododendron Valaspis Group

A hedge made of Malus 'Evereste', laden with crabs.

Sorbus 'Copper Kettle'

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

As predicted

Phlomis and Veronicastrum
We had a sharp frost Sunday night that put paid to the garden display for the season, swiftly and comprehensively but entirely naturally. Monday morning was bright and sunny and these are a few images I captured.

Diascia 'Hopleys'


The annual tragedy that is Salvia leucantha

Verbena bonariensis

Panicum 'Frosted Explosion' living up to its name.

Friday, 1 November 2013

1st November

Red Admiral on an excellent late but unknown michaelmas daisy.
It is not often we reach 1st November without having a had a frost or some other sort of devastating weather, but here (at least) October has been generally quite kind and the garden has continued to produce a lot of interest and colour. The forecast suggests that we'll get a frost on Sunday night, so the end is nigh for the big display: these are few valedictory shots taken this morning before it started to rain.

Salvia curviflora has been flowering steadily for months.

Salvia uliginosa 'Ballon Azul' has paired beautifully with Symphyotrichum 'Ochtendgloren'

The border is still very colourful, although many things are on the wane.

Fuchsia 'Ian Storey'

The wigwam of Lathyrus 'Matucana' got a second wind and is now a colourful sight once more - it will give a fine bunch on Sunday afternoon.

The dandelion clock-like heads of Allium hookeri

Although flowering is over the heads of this Sanguisorba remain attractive.

And to remind us that we are going into winter, Galanthus reginae-olgae 'Sofia' has one flower fully developed and several noses to follow.