Monday 24 June 2013

I Spy ...

I love vintage I-Spy books and recently found this lovely ‘Wild Flowers’ edition from the 1950s so I couldn't resist sharing its contents in a post today.

The introduction page is quite charming and the idea, that if you get 1000 or 1500 points for 'I-Spying' wild flowers, you get to be a botanist AND win a feather, is very generous!  I must say I had to look up the phrase “Odhu ntinggo” which apparently was a greeting used by I-Spy members in the 50s and 60s and translates to “Good hunting”!

Normally, when collecting vintage books, experts advise that it's better to look for books that have no writing or scribble on, but for me, I had to have this little I-Spy book just because it DID have writing in it.  I remember I-Spy books from my childhood during long car journeys with my four siblings, but really they only lasted one car journey before the novelty wore off.  So I had to admire the diligence of the owner of this I-Spy book with many entries and sightings extending over a two year period from 1956 and 1958.  What's really endearing is that the entries were obviously written in pencil first then penned over in their neatest handwriting. Sometimes there are even false alarms where the pencil writing has had to be rubbed out!


The little flower descriptions are great and even touch on teaching children about seasonality by stating the time of year to see the flowers. The joy of vintage items is the history they hold and how they are so of their time. Like this page on the Rose-Bay Willow Herb, “You will find it, too, on bombed sites, especially in London”. I think this I-Spyer was restricted to Clacton-On-Sea, obviously the place to see wild flowers!

So working in the garden today, I felt sure I could award myself  20 points for the foxglove ...

and 16 for the field poppy.

And what did this young botanist from the 1950s get in total? 373 points, so not quite a botanist and just short of a claim to a feather!

Odhu ntiggo to all!

Sunday 16 June 2013

Peony Love

This year I have felt a little like an unfaithful lover with my peonies. Like many people, I absolutely adore peonies and they are a highlight in the seasonal cutting garden calendar. It is their subtle rose like fragrance, their delicate petals with a shredded paper like quality and the full blousy blooms that you could get lost in as you take time to stop and stare into their centre. I always long for their arrival. But this year I have grown so many double peony-flowered tulips I thought I might have spoilt the lovely anticipation waiting for my first peony to flower.  But no, I am pleased to say this was not the case, as gorgeous as the peony-flowered tulips are, there is no substitute for a true peony! 

The true peonies are open now and they are as exquisite as ever. At the moment there are so many beautiful flowers flourishing in the walled garden, but the peonies are the first flower I walk to each morning when I get to the garden!  Cupping my hands around the bloom and getting a full noseful! Solange and Sarah Bernhardt, are my favourites for their exquisite fragrance and complexity of colours, white, pale pink and apricot tones all in one flower. They are both out at the moment soon to be followed by Gardenia.  

When trying to gauge the stage of their readiness to open, you can give the buds a gentle squeeze to see how tight or loose they are, avoiding the ants if possible. Ants are a normal sight on peony buds as they love the nectar they exude but they cause no damage. Squeezing the buds reminds me of chefs who squeeze a steak as they cook it to judge if it is rare, medium or well done! 

Here are a few shots from the garden this week showing off the bountiful beauty of the fully opened Solange with all its gorgeous tones. Take time to look into the depth of its heavy, rippling layers to appreciate the exquisite pale colours and tones, every blossom is quite unique. So just let yourself fall in there!

From the side they are equally beautiful like the shape of a water lily.

Ah, those shreds, stunning detail in a flower.

The delicate petals are also edible so can be scattered on a salad or dessert and their vase performance is perfect in every way - Dynamic, they continue to open more fully when placed in water and they gently fade from pink and apricot to a white. Good longevity, the ones pictured below were picked 4 days ago while fully open. Fragrant, they will fill a large room with perfume, so much better than a 'plug-in'!

Thursday 6 June 2013

An Ode to the Tulip

Is it really over a month since my last blog ... where does the time go?  Well, actually, I know where it goes, it goes into the arrival of the rush of spring and the garden suddenly bursting and crying out for attention, “weed me”, “sow me”, “prune me”, “plant me”, “pick me”, “bunch me” and so forth.  I have also had to say a sad au revoir to my tulips so I thought I would celebrate their passing and share a ‘visual ode’ to the tulip in the Foragefor cutting garden for this year.

In the garden after a hard pick for a spring wedding.

No, the ladders aren't an escape route!

The beautiful 'Irene' parrot tulip.
The super, 'Super parrot' in full chaotic open mode!


Tight buds of 'Rococo', 'Falling in Love' and 'Uncle Tom'.

All ablaze with 'Westpoint', 'Ballerina', 'Rococo' and 'Uncle Tom'.

Preparing for spring 'tulip weddings' and events.

And of course tulips make delicious snacks too!  Here they are with scoops of dessert creams.

Orange, hazelnut and cointreau syrup cream on 'Irene' tulip petal.

Eton mess cream on 'Falling in Love' lily tulip petal.

Violet syrup and blackcurrant cream on 'Lilac Perfection'.

When I cut tulips for the vase I'm always amazed how much they continue to grow, so just to feed my curiosity, I measured the growth of a 'Blue Parrot' tulip over a week and it actually grew a heady 17cm in 7 days!

Farewell you luscious lovely tulips and adieu until 2014!