Apart from the raspberries which have been fruiting like crazy and some wild strawberries which the birds have over looked, everything else in the garden has been a bit on the slow side. In part this can be blamed on the new cats next door, they’ve been digging things up or laying on freshly planted seedlings and squashing them beyond all recovery so lettuces and beans have been re-planted a few times, and then when we caged off the mange tout and broad beans we did such a good job of keeping them secure we couldn’t get in to weed them properly (though two surprise guest potato plants have appeared so it’s not all bad news)…we bought some bean seedlings from a local garden centre and though neither of us are big fans of runner beans, we both love green beans and fancy French beans.
When I moved house some years ago I left behind a whole load of beautiful hazel bean supports I’d coppiced from the bottom of my garden (they had beans growing up them which meant I couldn’t really remove them) so we’ve only got canes (I’m sort of wondering whether to buy some nice ones for the boyfriend for Christmas though think they’d be the very devil to wrap up but then they’d keep him guessing what he had..maybe he’d think I’d gone and bought him a fishing pole or something…)
We’ve had our broad beans (the whole harvest was an embarrassing half a dozen beans) and have had a scant handful or so of the french beans though there are more on their way. Speaking to friends who have an allotment down the road, all the old boys who have plots plant their broad beans in the Winter, 2nd or 3rd week of December when it’s good and cold, and I have an inkling that’s when my dad used to plant his, so that’ll be the plan for this year then hopefully next year I’ll be writing to say I’ve got broad beans coming out of my ears.
Along with the beans we also bought some tomato plants. In the past I’ve grown my own from seed but then ended up with so many I was putting them in pots outside the house with a sign saying “help yourself”…we just thought it would be easier to buy some this year as the tomatoes didn’t do too well last Summer, I’m not sure what variety these ones are, I often buy Gardeners Choice as they tend to be pretty abundant croppers. I think these are are a cherry plum variety.
A couple of Summers ago a rogue tomato plant grew up amongst the raspberries and it was incredible, we had so many tomatoes off it, they were lovely with a proper tomatoey flavour, not too sweet and just gorgeous with a little cheese on a pizza, but just as good eaten as they were, all warm from the sun outdoors. I like growing things I can just pop into my mouth and eat as I’m working outside, helps while away the time spent weeding.
We’ve not got a fancy glass house, just a plastic covered frame against the back of the garage wall, but it’s giving the plants more protection than not as everything in there seems to be coming along pretty good. At the bottom lives a big fat toad which is gobblng up all the slugs and snails that are tempted inside…yesterday morning I felt something wet and moving on my foot and when I looked down it was toady, crawling over my foot. It wasn’t really un-pleasant, just a tad damp. He’s lived in the garden a past few years, each Summer he gets a bit bigger and he’s now about the size of a man’s fist. We used to get a lot of frogs but we don’t see so many of those anymore but toady is a regular Summer visitor, we often see him crawling around in the evening if we’re watering and Bernard knows all too well to leave him be.
Other bits in the glasshouse include a few trays of seedlings we’ve grown ourselves, sweetpeas (most have been planted out and I’m just waiting for it to stop raining to plant these ones out) and a couple of trays of hollyhocks. One tray was from a bought packet, and the other tray which I planted later was from a few dry heads a lovely old chap down the road gave me. His hollyhocks are huge, and are the most beautiful and gentle tea stained pink, all vintagey soft and English cottage garden. Although I love hollyhocks I’m super picky about the colours, while I’m happy to use bright colours in my patchwork and embroidery, I prefer my garden to be somewhat muted. So when I’m choosing hollyhocks I stay away from fabulous fuscia pinks and instead I like pale transulent pinks, almost browny beige, yellow and that gorgeous blacky red.
I’ve also got some pots of basil at the back (much more intense in scent than the shop bought stuff) and I’ve planted some of the seeds I got last year from the cat mint and rabbit’s tobacco (lavender)…..there’s some tiny sprouts coming up but of which they are I’m none too sure since I scattered half the tray in one then half in the other but then forgot which half was what.
The wild strawberries actually do do very well for us, they tend to grow happiest when they are just left alone, and the ones that appear through cracks in the patio or along the steps are the ones with the sweetest fruits. Mostly the berries are over looked by the birds, they tend to make bee lines for the larger fruits in the cultivated varieties. The little berries never fail to lift my spirits when I’ve spent an hour or so kneeling on the patio weeding out sprigs of grass or tiny plants that have self seeded under the bird table….
They also go very well in a lemonade/Pomona (Apple Brandy) cocktail that my boyfriend makes…living so close to the marshes it’s a 15 minute trip* to grab a handful of water mint to make it taste even better.