Friday, 23 February 2018

Succulent Update

One of the succulents which I have found particularly easy is Echeveria much so that I have plants dotted all over the house, sheltering from the cold.  I even have this tray in the conservatory.  The three large ones left in the soil in the garden are finally surrendering up following all the rain and now the first hard frosts of the year here in the sheltered garden.

Echeveria Elegans

Even their flowers make excellent cutting and last a long time.

Doing very well at present are the Aeoniums.  I currently have four different types.  The large one for which I have no idea what it is called has a natural way of sending out  side branches from just below the lead one.  On this plant which was rooted about three seasons ago, the first set of side shoots is already sizeable. I acquired the original from my honey friends in Kenilworth.

I have my green ones which smell of honey growing well... fact I have several of them, but here on the table in the conservatory the central one is flanked by two which I acquired on my trip to St David's last autumn.

The Schwarzkopf is on guard in its trough, grateful for the recent sunny days, which have transformed its leaves from a wishy washey to a good dark colour.  I have shown aeoniums in local shows and enjoy sharing cutting and plants with friends.

Here is the little pan of recently propagated Echeveria purple purl, sorry I meant purple pearl...I must have had half my mind on knitting!!!!

I have some leaves of echeveria curly locks waiting to have the same treatment.

The pot of Delosperma: hardy ice plants looks as if they have started to take root.  I was interested to learn that they are hardy succulents with lovely flowers, and the trader at Wells market gave me this little selection of cuttings.  I had taken him a few of cuttings from a selection of my succulents.

I would like to explore the more hardy succulents, at least hardy enough to overwinter in the conservatory...and have discovered on line Surreal Succulents based down near Truro.  They have a handy filter on the site where you can select succulents according to their hardiness.  

Bacon, Cheddar and Jalapeno Loaf

The recipe for this loaf is on page 122 of Jane Mason's Book Perfecting Sourdough.  However I made a few variations.  Due to issues with consuming cow's milk, I went for goat's cheese made at the farm in Wookey. I have only had to travel a short distance from Cheddar too!  I'm just having a bit of a smirk as I think about this, as I am sure most people won't be using Cheddar Cheese from Cheddar!

For the chilli I used some chopped up yellow chilli which had been in the freezer since last year when a new friend Tiana had passed a few to me.

The only other change I made was that I set the finished dough to rise in a large cake tin.  I ought to have set the dough in a large 1Kg proving basket...but I felt happier not doing the turning out thing this time.

The bread smelled divine as it was baking, and formed the basis of lunches with soups and salads, and I found Mr S snuffling up a just a bare slice for his supper!

The flavour and texture of the loaf is excellent...but next time I would bake two 500g loaves and freeze one.  This is the first time I have had hot chilli peppers in a loaf, and probably would not have baked this loaf if I had not been in the Facebook group baking through all the recipes in this book.  However now that I have read about the Jalapeno Pepper, I am even willing to grow my own.   A few years back I was growing small red chillis and this was hugely productive.

In my view all manner of additions could be added to this dough...olives, spring onions....but then there are lots of other savoury loaf recipes in 'Perfecting Sourdough'.

Monday, 19 February 2018

In a Vase on Monday - Small offerings

In a New Vase...just the right size to show off a few snowdrops.

I had thought I had lost my smallest of ceramic vases so bought this at a stall at the Shepton Mallet Snow Drop Festival on Friday.  Alison C:  a Fair Maid from IAVOM joined me for a lovely afternoon at the festival.

Pride of place in the front is a flower from a new snowdrop bought at the show: Viridapice nivalis green tip  This is quite a common snowdrop I understand...but I love it as it is easily identified by the green on the outer petals.

Along side are  snowdrops which survived the move from the midlands, and a couple of periwinkle flowers from a clump of Vinca Minor.  Its not quite the right blue to match the vase..but I have little else in flower.

Whilst unpacking the last of my boxes of vases on Sunday I found the smallest vase...too small for these but fine for a trio of mud spattered primroses.

With it a spring of rosemary and a little stem of sedum a gift plant from Alison last year, which is starting to sprout very nicely.  I think it may be Sedum Autumn Charm 'Lajos'.  Here it is sitting on a very old doily which would have graced tea time tables in the days before paper or plastic ones.

Cathy has her arrangement on a tea go and see what is on offer to wet your appetite there.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Snowdrops in Somerset

Those Fair Maids of February, those White Ladies were all the focus of the Shepton Mallett Snowdrop Festival 2018.

I met up with one of the Fair Maids of IAVOM fame and spent a lovely sunny February Friday afternoon exploring the two specialist stands in the market square, the exhibitions in the Church, and visiting some of the gardens open for snowdrops.

We just managed to fit in our visit to Windsor Hill House and Old Mill.  We were made most welcome.  Nestled amongst rolling hills, with springs and streams, this is where James Allen the famous Victorian Snowdrop enthusiast was born in 1830 and where he lived until 1853.

We listened with great interest to the owner who had some sobering stories about illnesses and looting mobs, and the bravery of James's older brother holding them at bay even though he was just 17.

I loved this old roller in the border, with a clump of the Candlemas Bells piercing the deep leaf litter. I wonder just how old this roller is, could this have been a Valentine Present?  Love the hearts.

Earlier, in the Church, we looked around a number of stands and exhibits.  Not having found my tiny little vase in my unpacking, I succumbed and bought one just right for showing off just a few snowdrop blooms.  I do hope that my purchase of snowdrop Viridapice nivalis green tip bulks up sufficiently for me to pick a few blooms next year.  As I start to get my eye in and see what differences there are between the cultivars, I have noticed much more about the blooms.  I like for instance about this one that it is very easily distinguished by its green wash to the lower outer petals, but I have also noticed the prominent and split spath.

I bought the plant from Jackie Williams the owner of Triffids Nursery.

In the Church Alison bought some tickets for the various prizes with all funds going to help with the festival.  We both admired the beautifully decorated cake...but if we could choose a prize it would be the large bowl full of growing snowdrops.

In Shepton we also visited the home where James Allen carried out much selection and hybridization of snowdrops of which he was a pioneer, with galanthus Merlin and Magnet being sole survivors to the botrytis which destroyed much of his work and which must have been devastating for him.

 Galanthus Merlin Flower

Galanthus Magnet 

Another IAVOM friend Anna, who is perhaps the most knowledgeable of the group as regards snowdrops has suggested a very good site for me to refer to: Judy's snowdrops

These are snowdrops and small arrangements from my previous garden...I just hope that when the few bulbs I brought from my last garden flower this spring the little one with a clear horseshow shows up, which is one I grew from seed.

February focaccia

What is the difference between a Focaccia and a Pizza?

I thought I would make a Pizza, but added more herbs, and oil and make a soft fluffy base, and therefore it became a Focaccia.

Topped with pesto, and fennel roasted butternut squash, a few olives on one, some left over hummus on the other...and then all the buffalo mozzarella.

One for supper this evening...

and another into the freezer for another day!

As they are warmed up, there will be a further grating of pecorino cheese, and fresh basil tossed over the top as it is taken to the table.  A delicious fennel and walnut salad, with added sliced radishes will complete the meal.

I am now really happy that the run of cupboards with lovely pull out baskets etc is in full working order.  I have found my lovely ceramic heart a Christmas present from Jayne some time back, and am now waiting to find decorative hooks to hang both this and the lovely sampler: a house warming present from Kay in Kenilworth.