Thursday's glorious weather coincided with my day at college and provided the perfect opportunity for an extended walk through the Capel Manor gardens in my lunchbreak. Access to the gardens is one of the great attractions of studying at the Enfield site; there are 35 acres to explore: gardens, trees, woodland, ponds and the walled manor garden as well as the Which? trial gardens. After studying there for over a year, I'm still finding new plants to look at or revisiting more familiar plants as they change with the seasons.
As a food grower at home, I've noticed a few edible plants tucked into the gardens. Some are replanted after a trial has finished, such as the excellent and delicious Brice raspberries I found two weeks ago when I sat to have lunch behind a bank of Gaura lindheimeri (helloooo pudding!), others are grown as ornamentals. There are some gorgeous plump (false) quinces on a Chaenomeles x superba 'Red and Gold' at the moment and I found medlars and a mulberry tree in another of the gardens a few weeks ago. I checked back and the medlars are still there, untouched.
And then we come to the spice and herb selection: The conicle flowers of a large Rhus typhina tree could be dried and ground to make Sumac - but I'd need a ladder to reach them! The spice is commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, imparting a tart lemon flavour that also lends itself to salads. The flowers can also be used to make pink lemonade and beekeepers can use them to smoke their hives (or so I'm led to Wiki-believe). There are herbs dotted throughout the gardens: low hedges of rosemary or lavender, bronze and green fennel in the borders and, in the 'kitchen garden' of the manor ruins (a concept garden to tell the history of the site), horseradish, thyme, mint, marjoram and more fennel. There are even edible berries on shrubs such as Cornus kousa and Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) although personally I think those are best left for the birds.
My route from the design studio to the restaurant takes me past many of the ornamental show gardens so I see those regularly; yesterday I fancied a wander further afield around the trial gardens. It's always interesting to see what the Which? gardeners are growing before reading about it in the magazine.
I've never found the orchard before and I was appalled to see so many apples and pears lying on the ground just rotting. What a waste! I know there's a lot to be done at this time of year but I couldn't help thinking that surely the time could have been found to gather the apples before they fell? There was a couple left on one tree, one of which became part of my lunch - an extremely crisp and juicy green apple, I can't name the variety as I couldn't find a tag by the tree but it was delicious!
Wandering on, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a glorious crab apple tree which I remember as Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel' from last year's plant knowledge (photo at top). I also remember fruit dangling off the bare stemmed tree in January, another harvest left to be, as with all the crab apples in the ground.
Even the walled manor house garden is not immune - there I saw Cavolo Nero kale popped in among the cosmos which I thought was an idea worth copying! There's certainly no shortage of inspiration or food on a Thursday college day!