Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summertime, and the Livin' Is Easy

 A view of the border from the wildflower meadow

Summertime and the livin' is easy
berries are poppin'
and the cornflowers are high

Summertime is certainly easy, not to mention fab when you are a gardener and it's even better if you are a potagerer as well. At this time of year my garden certainly lives up to its name: Bliss!
My big border (17 meters long) is jam-packed with flowers to my utter delight. The butterflies and bees are pretty ecstatic about it too.
With such a profusion of flowers it's not hard to indulge yourself with bouquets galore!
Been to Normandy, France, recently where they go utterly rose bonkers in June. Well, they are not the only ones as my own garden has quite a few roses growing in it as well.
This is Constance Spry, making her debute chez Bliss. It's a climber that flowers profusely but only once. It's fragrance is exactly what you'd expect a rose to smell like. I love roses, not only because they delight the eye, nose, heart and soul of many a gardener but also because they are a culinary delight.
Here's a recipe to make rose syrup with solar power only:

Fill a glass jar with fragrant rose petals and add 1 lime cut into four. Fill the jar up with cold springwater and put it in the sun for a few days. Give it a shake every now and again.
Pour it through a sieve and measure the liquid. Add 400 grams of sugar per liter. Then put it back in the sun for a few more days before you bottle it. Pour out a measure of rose syrup in a longdrink glass and fill it up with cold (sparkly) water. Cheers!

You can also turn strawberries, violets, elderflowers etc. into  syrup in this simple and easy way. I wasn't joking about summertime being easy.
The Bliss entrance fragrantly covered with Guirlande D'Amour and Madame Alfred Carriere

But it's not only the roses that do well chez Bliss; the potager is producing a tremendous amount of yummy food on a daily basis now.
So much in fact that you can't eat it all straight from the garden; my favourite way of stuffing my face with homegrown food. So I decided to make an utterly scrumptious dessert with my glut of

Gooseberry & elderflower custard:
- 500 grams of gooseberries
- 2 to 3 elderflowers
- 1 cup of cream
- 1/2 a cup of sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 egg yolk
-  butter

Put a knob of butter in the pan and put it on a low fire. Add the gooseberries, elderflowers and sugar. Bring it to the boil and let it simmer until the fruit is soft.
Whip the cream, eggs and egg yolk together and add gently to the mixture. Keep stirring until it starts to thicken up.
Pour it in a bowl and let it cool off. Then put it in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
 Bon appetit!

Summertime, and the cookin' is easy 

Next time I will blog about my garden filled holiday in Normandy, France

Addendum: for making rose syrup you can also use tapwater if it's of a good quality, if not, use bottled water from supermarket. I leave the jars out at night, it's balmy so why not?

Copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Low Maintenance Garden Club

 My own front garden

I moved house a couple of years ago to an area where I didn't know a soul. What to do? To meet new people you are often advised to join a club. As I love to garden a garden club would be just the ticket. So I searched high and low but was unable to find a local garden club. Hmmm
 Rosa Blanc Double de Coubert at the back and Sombreuil in front, both have a divine scent

At that point I could have given up I suppose but I didn't, instead I came up with a cunning plan. I wrote a open letter telling people that I wanted to start a garden club and asking them if they were interested in joining. That open letter was photocopied 200 times and one fine day I put on my walking boots and went into my village looking for pretty front gardens. The reasoning behind that idea was that behind every gorgeous front garden there must live a keen gardener and I wasn't wrong. At every beautiful front garden I popped my letter in the letterbox. Even before I got home the phone was ringing with people wanting to join my garden club to be. Success!
A recent visit of my garden club to a Peony nursery abroad (Belgium)

The first meeting was held at my home with 16 people attending. Later on some more joined and others fell by the way side as they couldn't handle the way this particular garden club was set up. The thing is that I wanted to have fun, extend my horticultural knowledge and visit gardens near and far but I didn't want a traditional club with a chair(wo)man, secretary and treasurer. I'm a free spirit and do not want to be tied down with rubbish like that, especially not when it became clear to me that the others saw me in the role of chairperson. That was so not going to happen. And it didn't.
 As all members of my club are adults I didn't see the need of a nanny aka chairperson and after some persuasion the others agreed. A treasurer we didn't need either as we all pay our own entrance fee and such when visiting a garden, a garden show etc. That left the job of secretary and that we take in turns. We meet twice a year at someone's house and that person will be secretary for a few hours that day.
The letter I wrote asking people to join my garden club

At a meeting we decide together what gardens, garden shows and such to visit in the coming 6 months. Via email the agenda is sent to all members by the temporary secretary. As we have about 20 members and meet twice a year being a temporary secretary boils down to 2 hours of work once every 10 years, something even the laziest of us could manage.
Garden club visiting Laura Dingemans garden

The most important item on our agenda is having fun and we do, lots of it. We swap plants, cuttings, seed, knowledge, give a hand where necessary and we also have a meal together twice yearly and  everybody brings food and drink.
Sometimes when visiting a garden we have a cuppa with cookies or cake and sometimes we go afterwards to one member's house for a glass of wine, something to nibble and a whole lot to talk and laugh about. We have members of all ages from mid thirties to early seventies. As garden clubs go, mine is not bad and wonderfully low maintenance in respect to actual work and pretty high maintenance in all things fun.
Susan taking a breather after a hard day's garden visiting

So if you are tired of dragging unwilling spouse/kids/non-gardening friend with you to an open garden day, why not find kindred spirits in your area and start your own garden club?  It's easy, great fun and you've got the manual right here, so what's keeping you? Get cracking!

copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Peony Porn

I went abroad recently, all the way to Belgium, to visit a Peony nursery with my garden club.
Fun was had by all and we really were in Peony heaven that lovely Sunday morning.
 Their collection of Peonies is vast and quite a few were in flower.
If you are into spectacular blooms, ones that really hit you in the eye with bells on, then you can't go wrong with Peonies.

 Some have flowers as big as cabbages, some are scented and some have very decorative seedheads.
ET, phone home!
 But there are also Peonies that have a more modest sized flower. This one has a pretty and rather unusual orange colour.
Some Peonies get rather big, this one will be 2 by 2 meters across once it's finished growing.
I like it a lot as its flowers are a very pretty yellow and not so in your face. A pity it gets so big and I simply don't have the space for it. Especially as Peonies flower for a short time only and in my garden the plants really have to earn their keep.
As you probably know, Peonies come in shrubs and trees. The shrubs you don't want to plant deep at all but rather just below the surface but the Peony tree needs to be planted deeply, preferably 10 to 12 cm deeper than it sits in its pot. Both don't like to be moved and can remain in the same spot for 50 years or so. But, if for some reason, you do have to move them; dig them up and split them into 3 or 4 seperate pieces and then plant them together again. By rejuvenating you have the bestest chance that the Peony will survive the move. Peonies are easy to grow; they need a sunny spot and a bit of chalk once a year and that's pretty much it.
This Peony is imitating an Hellebore as it also hangs its flower heads. As Peonies go, this one was quite elegant.

Hope you enjoyed the Peony porn although I'm wondering what kind of people this post will also attract considering its title. ;-)

copyright 2010 Y.E.W. Heuzen