Saturday 27 October 2012

Ice Ice Baby

This blog post is to mark the arrival of the ‘chill’ in East Anglia and to put a positive spin on the cold and how it can be used for good and not evil!

Just a little idea of the weather this morning as I worked in the cutting garden, a good scattering of hailstones!

I think flowers look beautiful in any form of containment, be it a vase, a specimen dome, floating on water or in ice. The different ways of containing flowers in the home provides a perfect way of looking at them more closely and in greater detail to appreciate each individual bloom's beauty. 

Placing flowers in ice is the ultimate in suspended animation and adds an extra bit of magic and drama to a flower. Edible flowers can be used in ice cubes for drinks or you can use almost any other flowers in ice for decoration alone.

When I think about flowers in ice the ‘usual suspects’ come to mind, that is to say, borage and anchusa, frozen in cubes, they are both edible and ready and waiting for a Pimms or a G&T.

Of course if you wanted to use the ice cubes for a beautiful ice bucket for those party drinks or around a bowl of ice cream to keep it chilled you could use any flowers and let your imagination go wild.  Perhaps just white flowers for a white wine bucket, pink for Rose wine, blue for the classic tipple, 'Blue Nun' (do they still sell this?) and so forth.

 Potential ice cubes for a white wine bucket

This one is my favourite. It's a double white love-in-a-mist. The clarity through the ice is lovely especially the green fern like collar of the flower showing clearly and slightly protruding from the ice, magical!

The Rose wine bucket?


Zinnia and astrantia in perfect suspended animation in the ice

And the 'Blue Nun' bucket

Cornflower, ageratum and delphinium

The other ice flower items I like to make are shot glasses.  Very easy, all you need are two glasses of similar shape, one larger than the other. Then place a small amount of water in the larger glass, place it upright in the freezer and let it freeze.  Then bring it out and place the smaller shot glass inside. Arrange flowers in the space between the glasses, don't be too precious about how you arrange the flowers at this stage as they will move around when you pour the water in and 'happy accident' are usually always the best! Gently pour in water in between the glasses and freeze (you may have to put a weight in the smaller glass to prevent it floating up). 

Hey presto ...

This one is exquisite and the ice gives the nigella an ethereal, ghostly quality, even the 'veins' on the petals are visible.

Go on, embrace the chill with added flowers!

Thursday 25 October 2012


The fog of the past few days, has, at last, lifted and the autumn colours can be seen more clearly.  I would never normally say anything positive about the A14 in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk but at the moment this stretch of road looks breathtaking.  It is the perfect viewing area for a glorious mix of English autumn colours. For once it even makes you forget about the traffic jams and lorries and indulge in a little ‘leaf peeping’ usually reserved for the gorgeous area of New England in America.  I’m enjoying it while I can, as many leaves have already dropped, giving the ground a lush carpet of oranges, reds and yellows.

Despite the fog lifting it has been another very grey, dull day here in Suffolk so a sunflower blog post is a perfect antidote.

Most of the large yellow sunflowers have now faded in the garden and I have spent time today clearing them, leaving the best heads insitu for the birds to peck at the seeds over winter.

Although, the bright yellow sunflowers have now gone over, the beautiful coppery toned ones are still managing to flower really well this week.

The green receptacle at the back of the flower head is also beautiful in it's own right.  But not only is it beautiful (and here comes the science bit!) it's responsible for the clever 'trick' of heliotropism i.e. the motion of flower parts. Sunflowers follow the aspect of sun throughout the day and the receptacle allows this to occur. The area where the receptacle and stem meet is called the pulvinus and it contains motor cells. The specialized cells respond to sunlight by pumping potassium ions to change the turgor pressure of cells located in the shade. The biochemical reaction is what causes the flexing and bending of the sunflower to follow the orientation of the sun as the earth rotates. Very clever stuff!

This year I have enjoyed the buds of the sunflower even more than I have the flower.

I love the curved pointed layers of the sunflower (Helianthus Annus) bud. The petals have a muted lime tone to their colouring before they fully develop and the buds have an uncanny resemblance to globe artichokes and yet ironically they are not directly related to the globe artichoke but they are to the Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus Tuberosus) which bear the same, albeit much smaller flower.

Most of the sunflower is edible, the petals, seeds and even the young buds can be blanched and eaten and apparently taste like Jerusalem artichokes.  I haven't yet tried them like this but I will certainly give it a go next year as Jerusalem artichokes and indeed globe artichokes are amongst some of my favourite vegetables despite their reported adverse effects!

Sunflowers petals are also a good source for making a natural yellow dye.

And if you want to keep a little bit of that sunshine over the winter, sunflowers also dry well into golden/mustardy crumpled flowerheads with delicate, brittle leaves.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The Fog

It’s surprising how in just a few days, the garden suddenly feels so very different.  Today it feels decidedly wintery, subdued and like it is ready for dormancy with all the remaining flowers looking very soggy indeed.  Yes, the autumn colours on the trees are exquisite at the moment, but the thick fog today and yesterday unfortunately shrouds the potential glorious visible spectacle.  The fog also affects the acoustics in the garden and there is a strange dulled silence.  Whilst planting the last of the allium and muscari bulbs, I had an audience of half a dozen pheasants who had taken up position on the top of the wall and all I could hear in this ‘foggy silence’ was their harsh call and drips of water landing on the ground from surrounding trees and plants.

Here are a few images from the garden today.

Monday 22 October 2012

Edible Flower Chocolate Bark

Mmmm, what a union ... flowers and chocolate in one single fabulous hit!

I grow a whole range of edible flowers in the ForageFor garden, some more suited to savoury dishes and others for sweet. I have picked a few seasonal blooms this week for this delicious and attractive confection of edible flower chocolate bark. 

Serve with afternoon tea or after dinner coffee, spear into scoops of ice cream or on your favourite cakes or even make it for a gift. 

The edible flowers used in the chocolate bark today, are: phlox (the perennial paniculata variety) pansy, viola, violet, anchusa, rose, primula and nasturium.  The phlox and violets are perfect for chocolate bark as they have such a divine scent that tantalises the senses.  As you take a bite, you can smell their sweet, sweet perfume, then you have the pleasure of the chocolate to follow.

Method:  Just melt the chocolate, prepare sugared edible flowers in advance, scatter on with dried fruits, nuts and more fresh edible flowers with whatever options your heart desires.
Result:  A feast for the eyes, nose and mouth!

Phlox White Chocolate Bark
Simple and delicious with just white chocolate and phlox flowers.  The perfume of this chocolate bark is lovely. In spring, elderflowers would work just as well.

Violet Milk Chocolate Bark
Includes violets (fresh and sugared), pansy and viola petals, anchusa (sugared), pistachios and dried blueberries.

Rose Dark Chocolate Bark
A carnival of colour with petals of rose, nasturium and primula, toasted flaked almonds, chopped dried apricots and dried cranberries.