9 Aug 2015

Pause for thought



I don't like jam.

I had that thought yesterday morning while trying to sort out some Morello cherry jam that hadn't set properly. All the jam I made tasted overwhelmingly sweet (even with sticking religiously to the recipe) and I want to taste the fruit, not the sugar.  So, I asked myself, why am I growing sour cherries? Why not sweet cherries? And then I started to rethink the garden, as you do.

I thought about what I really enjoy in the garden. More apples and plums would be good, some more everyday herbs, room to grow in the ground and less in pots - and more flowers, lots more flowers. Every year it's the flowers that excite me (as much as the veg!) and with that in mind, I'm getting my seed box out today to sow some biennials for next year. Meanwhile, having separated the jam fruit from the oversweet syrup, I added it to recently picked raspberries and redcurrants; yesterday's experiment is now a nice compote of fruit, sweetened with elderflower cordial and sugar to taste.

That still leaves me with the sour cherry trees to sort. Sour cherries are my best fruit crop and I dislike wasting anything I've grown. A plan is needed, one to gradually replace one of the Morello trees with a sweet cherry. And perhaps I could find someone locally who would want the crop next year. This year my two trees produced nearly 3 kg of fruit. Not much, but definitely too much to waste.



A rethink was also on my mind last week as I tidied the garden with the help of my gardening neighbour, Karen, in readiness for the Camden in Bloom judges. I kept asking myself why on earth I'd entered the competition; surely this little patch wasn't up to the mark for judging.  Moreover, how could I make it better?  However, Karen kept me on track and plants were repotted, pots were mulched, pavements were weeded, paths swept, trees and shrubs pruned lightly, flowers deadheaded, strawberries tidied, bare patches weeded or replanted and, just as it was getting dark and despite both being doggone tired, all was topped off with a good long watering to ensure the garden looked fresh and perky on the day.



A couple of jobs were left for the following morning. A 9 a.m. start was planned as I'd been told the judges would arrive at 11. Just after 9 a.m., Karen buzzed my door and whispered, "They're here!". Blimey! The judging appointment had been rescheduled.  They'd met Karen on the way to the garden with her tool bag and assumed she was me.  It was only after some minutes of chatting about the garden that she realised their mistake and hurried back to get me.  Karen tells me that the judges reaction on seeing the garden was really good, words like 'wow', 'amazing' were apparently used. Of course, I'm chuffed to bits about that.  Hopefully my green oasis made its mark.  And never mind if there was still work to be done - a garden is never finished and it showed that this garden is a real work in progress.  Chris Collins, who used to be the Blue Peter gardener, was a judge; it was really nice to chat to him as I value his opinion, given that he's properly experienced in these things. And the photographer clicked away for almost an hour (worse than me!).  I won't now hear how I got on until end of August or early September and life has settled down once more.

The garden has been on my mind though.  My shady border at the north end of the garden had just had all the foxgloves cut down so is looking a bit sparse with just a couple of heucheras, some sweet woodruff and some ferns. Some winter planting is needed together with a nearby water butt so that I can lessen the impact of dry shade.  A new water butt (aka green wheelie bin) was kindly donated by the recycling centre the next day and will be filled when the hosepipes come out next time.

The veg garden will have to be rethought again.  A couple of the original raised beds have rotted away from their posts and will be removed when the veg is cleared.  A new system for containing the soil will have to be found - some untreated railway sleepers would be nice but I suspect I'll be begging some scaffolding planks instead.  It will be a good time to rethink the layout and perhaps move a few of the herbs as I've learned that parsley prefers to grow in light shade.

And I want more flowers.  I always want more flowers at this time of year - not for picking but just for looking at. Wonderful autumn perennials are elsewhere coming into their own now - salvias, grasses, heleniums, eryngiums - and I long for that burst of colour here.  Thinking cap on.  Seed catalogues out. Onwards, ever onwards.




23 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. I have no expectations either way, the deed is done and is out of my hands.

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  2. A most enjoyable post and good pictures. I hope that the wait is worth it and you find that you were judged among the winners.
    Well done for wanting more flowers. Happy gardening. Flighty xx

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    1. Thanks for your kind thoughts, Flighty. An accolade for the garden would be nice but I don't mind either way - the joy is in the gardening, not the prize! You too! Caro xx

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  3. Well done you, you've made a beautiful oasis indeed, I'm not surprised the judges were impressed. All of your hard work has paid off. I know what you mean about jam. I don't make masses of it as we don't eat a lot. Although I like it, the huge amount of sugar is off-putting. I've cooked morello cherries with sugar and put them over Greek yoghurt, that's really nice. CJ xx

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    1. Thanks, CJ. Funnily enough the compote has now set to a jam consistency *rolls eyes* but I'll be enjoying it as you do, over Greek yogurt (my favourite) or perhaps in the middle of a baked apple. (Or with scones, yum!) Sugar is so bad for the body on every level that I try to avoid it. Hence the dawn of a new realisation! xx

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  4. I'm liking the flow of your thoughts Caro! Also by going for sweet cherry to make jam the glycemic index will be lower hence healthier :) good luck with the Camden in bloom!

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    1. Gardening and cooking are my forms of meditation, guys - oh, and walking as well. That's when the thoughts start working well rather than like atoms colliding! Yes, a sweet cherry would be good and I'll have to remember to net it from birds and children! Thanks for good wishes!

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  5. I so enjoyed reading how thinking one thing kicks off a very long to-do list of other things. this happens to me too!
    there's always something to do in the garden, isn't there? a moment of 'wow', then ' I really must ...'.
    good luck with the judging.

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    1. I'm pleased you enjoyed this post - sometimes it helps to write it all down on the blog! I find cooking very therapeutic, it helps me to think a bit more clearly than I otherwise tend to! Speaking of which, I'm sure there's more that needs doing in the garden today …. Thanks for wishing me luck, I'm sure it all helps! :o) x

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  6. Sneaky or what coming early. Good luck

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    1. Haha! Yes, I agree Sue - element of surprise, eh! Thanks!

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  7. How true re gardens continually evolving as we figure out what it is that we really want in them! I have sour cherries too and wished they were sweet, I just leave them for the birds now as they love them sour or not!
    I use honey when making jam, the amount of sugar in the recipe is truly terrifying!
    Ooooh....so happy the judge was impressed with everything.....I'm sure you will do really well, everything does look hunky dory!xxx

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    1. I haven't noticed the birds pecking at the cherries but perhaps that's just this year. Amazingly the redcurrant strings have been untouched too, although I think birds had those last year. I don't mind sharing! I like the sound of using honey in jam - does it still set? I'd quite like to have a go at your recipe, Dina. Aww, thanks for lovely good wishes, much appreciated! xx

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    2. The jam did set with honey, just google jam with honey recipes...it has to be healthier. It's odd what the birds go for each year in't it, the sour cherries were literally eaten as they ripened!xxx

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  8. I think you've turned it into a lovely area more flowers will be lovely. I like my jam a bit on the tart side gooseberry is my favourite with raspberry a close second.

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    1. I hope that I'll have enough gooseberries next year for jam (or maybe stewed fruit instead). I had five utterly delicious red gooseberries this year so fingers crossed for more! Yes, more flowers, brilliant idea I think. Next year will be good. xx

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  9. It's going to feel a long time until the results are announced. I'm sure they thought your garden was wonderful it always looks so good in your pictures. The great thing about gardening is having the ability to change things or experiment! Sarah x

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    1. Oh thank you, Sarah; so nice of you to compliment the garden. I'm always thinking how to improve the garden - the temptation to constantly spend on new plants and seeds is ever present! (I saw a very nice Panicum rubrum grass the other day and was very sorely tempted but it was a bit pricey. I'm going to look for seeds now!)

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  10. Not a jam lover either Caro so have been making compotes here too. I like your idea of using elderflower cordial as a sweetener. Do you grow white currants? If so any suggestions as to making them palatable would be most welcome :) Keeping my fingers crossed that the garden fares well in the competition.

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    1. I haven't grown white currants, Anna - are they very tart? I was very taken with the red Hinnonmaki gooseberries that I had this year so I've bought another tiny starter bush and hope to train it up to be a standard (as seen at Wisley earlier this year). Compotes are definitely the tops in my opinion. They're so versatile! I'll let you know when you can uncross your fingers - thanks! x

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    2. Not too tart Caro. It's the texture that I find on the unpalatable side. I have a red gooseberry (name unknown) which has been become rather elbowed out of the way by its green counterparts. The fruits are much tastier.

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    3. It's the pips in the middle of redcurrants that I find can be a bit offputting (a bit like the pips in pomegranates) but that texture get lost in a compote. I found that my red gooseberry bush grew huge this year thus making it difficult to navigate without breaking branches. Stupidly, I didn't realise quite how large they can grow! (Hence growing the next one as a standard!)

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Caro x

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