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.