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The Garden – 2010

The snow has gone, the days are warming up so it must be time for us to start our 2010 garden. After watching last night’s new series called Edible Garden, which is hosted by Alys Fowler, it would seem Hubs & I have been ahead of the trend.

In our tiny garden everything is grown in pots, hanging baskets or in the two small raised beds down the edge. As space is limited there are a few rules as to what  we plant 1) it has to be edible or useful 2) colourful  fruit/veg or flowers. Hubs very much concentrates on the fruit & veg and I do the herbs. First I must point out that Hubs & I are not exactly experienced with gardening. We’re the kind of chuck-it-in-and-see-what-happens type of gardeners. Every year we learn lessons and try not to make the same mistakes the following year. If your interested here are the links to The Garden – 2008 , The Garden – 2009 and the much toiled over Falstaff Sprouts.

The lessons we’ve learnt over the years:

  • Squashes – triffids in disguise. They quickly take over a small garden.
  • Globe artichokes – pretty but take up far too much room in a small garden for the amount you yield.
  • Rhubarb – impossible to kill. Shame I don’t like the stuff.
  • Brassicas – we are obsessed with planting them even though they can be  pain thanks to pests. Hubs is always on Caterpillar Watch when we are planting these.

I love flowers and until now the only flowers had been on the veg/fruit plants or herbs but thanks to being influenced by Masterchef & James Wong I’m planning to grow edible flowers alongside my herbs. I’m starting with borage & marigolds. Borage – quite plain and simply I want to try it in Pimms. Marigolds – for various reasons from edible, medicinal and also companion planting as it helps to keep away aphids. Without realising it we already do quite a bit of companion planting. Chives for aphids & blackspot in roses; Basil for flies & mosquitos, Rosemary & Sage for cabbage moths, bean beetles and carrot flies. To be honest I’m not sure if it works but given we haven’t had to use any pesticides on the garden may be a good sign.

The rest of the garden plans include:

To start quite a few of the seeds off we plant them in little biodegradable newspaper pots made with the ingenious paper potter . Not only is it a great way of recycling, the pots are gratis thanks to the amount of free newspapers we get through the letterbox. These little seeds are then germinated on either the windowsill or little greenhouses we managed to pick up in Ikea. Hubs also has got plans to build some fancy cloches to help protect some of our plants once they are in the ground.

The thing I love most about gardening is the experimenting and seeing all the wildlife it brings to the garden. Nothing beats the satisfaction of eating delicious fruit or veg straight from your own garden.

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The Holly & The Ivy

As I sit here on a cold winter night warmed by the heat of the open fire I often wonder the things this 200-year-old cottage has seen during the festive period. What smells would be coming from the kitchen? How is it decorated? If only the walls could talk. Right now the all-important real tree is lit up with a multitude of fairy lights making it barely possible to get in and out of the front door; the chestnuts are by the fire ready to be roasted; my wreath of holly, ivy & eucalyptus is hanging proudly at the door to signify the circle of life and the sprigs of mistletoe have been hung. There is something I love about bringing the outside in during the festive season. As a child I used to attend a church were they had a wreathing service where the interior of the church was adorned in green garlands.

As the years have gone by in the cottage I have tried to make more of an effort with dressing it for Christmas and in turn starting our own little festive traditions. Since picking up a copy of Sarah Raven’s Complete Christmas earlier on this year I was determined to have a go at making my own wreath. One problem our garden is tiny and has none of the traditional greenery required. This meant a trip to my parents to do a sweep of their garden.  There was some hydrangea, but unfortunately they had gone just too far to be useable for decorations. Never did I realise there was so many different types of ivy & holly. Interestingly my parents have an unusual holly bush that produces albino holly. All of the holly bushes at my parents were void of berries. A few days before I arrived the trees had been bulging with berries, but obviously the birds know something I didn’t and literally cleared the trees of all it’s beautiful berries. I grabbed a generous sample of all of the traditional festive greenery and now they have been transformed into decorations around the house and a rather impressive wreath for a beginner like me.  I decided to use the limes and chillis to add a bit of festive colour, but also give the wreath a foodie twist.

There are a few traditions surrounding holly, ivy & mistletoe. The main reason for all these plants being used in decoration is that they are evergreens which in turn represents eternal life and encourage the return of the sun. Rosemary, bay & laurel are also sometimes used. Both holly & mistletoe are used for decoration as they are thought to ward off evil spirits. Tradition states that ivy must not be used on its own or dominate as decoration or it’s unlucky hence why Christmas decorations are often a mixture of different evergreens with each plant having its own significance.

After successfully attempting my first wreath I hope this is the first of many and another Christmas tradition for Hubs & I.

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