Monday, 31 July 2017

In a Vase on Monday - Asters

This springtime we were far more focused on getting jobs done in the house...so it was an easy solution to grab a couple of modules of small plants...the ones that come in eight with a little handle on the top.  I planted the little annual asters out into larger pots to bring them on,  and prepared a narrow border along the drive, digging in some compost and giving the ground a dressing of fish blood and bone.  The ground sighed with relief: I felt that this was the first time it had had some TLC in many years.  

The plants grew stronger, and were finally planted out Mid May.  They are now coming into bloom.  Its the first time I have grown annual asters...here is my vase of the first blooms.  The vase is cloisonne, and the embroidered mat is from Madagascar...both collected by my mother on her travels.  When I was choosing where to pose the flowers I remembered my mother saying flowers are 'doubly beautiful' in front of a mirror.



With heavy showers, I have been nipping out to cut blooms, and rather than have them rain stained, I have been giving bunches to neighbours.  Down out little cul de sac...there are several of these in Vases this week!

Instead of pink, Cathy is celebrating the golden sunshine with her selection this week.  So do and catch a glimpse of the wide ranging blooms she has this week, and also those of others who link into IAVOM.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Sourdough Pizza Base

This is one of our bakes for July from Jane Mason's Book: Perfecting Sourdough.  I had been refreshing my wheat sourdough ready for a couple of white loaves...and had enough to start off the mix yesterday morning.

The recipe says mix 60g wheat sourdough, 140g white wheat flour, 1 tbsp fine semolina, 90g water, 3 g salt, just mix and leave to rest for 12 - 24 hrs. All you then need is some olive oil for dressing, and an assortment of toppings.   Just how easy can it get?  I had planned to make the pizza for lunch today...but once one has Pizza on one's mind, I could find no further inspiration for supper.

Having roasted two large pointed red peppers, in the 'dying embers' of the oven's heat from the sourdough loavews, there was no accommodating the 12 hrs wait.  Four hours short, the dough was dressed with pesto, all the red peppers, red onions and garlic which had not long come out of the oven, with a large gloriously soft and juicy Laverstoke Park Farm Buffalo mozarella which I had bought that morning, torn and spaced oven the top.


With oven set at its highest setting...it wasn't long before supper was ready


I felt this beauty needed to dress for dinner...with some green basil torn from the Kitchen windowsill herb.


I'm already thinking of alternative toppings.....

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Repotting Haworthia Tessellata

I've been watching the Haworthia in its salts encrusted pot and wondering whether it was in need of repotting.  Its been trying to flower all summer...trying to.... because for one reason or another I have been pulling out the extremely long flower, as I felt it would be better making side shoots rather than trying to reproduce through its flowers.  It has been in the same pot now for four years since I bought it at The Shrewsbury Show.

I wrote about my little Haworthia Tessellata showing its very long flowering stem, and have since found some posts which are very informative such as this one: http://www.plantsrescue.com/haworthia-venosa-subsp-tessellata/ and Dave's Garden, which is often useful too for many gardening problems.




With some of the very old lower leaves removed, they were repotted in new compost with added grit and perlite, and a pinch of slow release fertiliser.  On the top is a light layer of grit, which I think adds an attractive background to show off the plants.

I shall refrain from much watering over the next couple of months, and try to keep it in good indirect light, and hope that it will be happy for the next few years.


Monday, 24 July 2017

Lytes Cary Manor

What could be nicer that a trip out to a local National Trust property on a Sunday afternoon.  With my friend Vickie down from London for the weekend...after a lovely lunch, we ventured out along the green and undulating countryside to Lytes Cary Manor.    It was our first visit too, though we had drawn up into the car park this winter for a driving break and coffee from our thermos, but, in future, when travelling close by I shall be sure to engineer a stop during opening hours just to see where they are with their garden.

The house is lovely...parts are very old, there is fine furniture and tapestries, BUT

their garden is fabulous....it is not very big, you could get round in about half an hour, but if you like plants, and like garden design, and you have the time, and the weather is fine....you could go round two or three times and continue to find interesting plants and planting combination to admire.

Just a few pictures of only some of the interesting plantings and views:

these Veronicastrum virginicum 'Album' plants quite close to the front of the border punctuated the overcast day, giving not only great structure within this white border, but also gaining much admiration from other keen gardeners.  I also the whorls of grey green leaves, and the stout and upright growth.  I'm adding these to my list of plants for the new garden!









 Rushing back to get to the tea rooms....with heavy rain on the horizon....Mr S and Vickie threaten to leave me behind...but I shall be returning soon to the gardens!



Summer Visitors

Even though we are a long way from being 'straight' after our move, have still our best china in boxes, and have umpteen projects in the pipeline to bring this home to what we would like it to be...our best friends and family are happy to come and take us as we are...and we are overjoyed to have them visit and show off our new County.

Last weekend my cousin visited and we attended an open day at the Wells Almhouses...They have some attractive courtyard gardens



From their chapel I give you the Angel of the Day:  St Matthew as found in some floor tiles


To one side are seats with a stone canopy...they made for a charming place for sitting and watching the world go past.


We went on to visit the Bishop's Palace and this week there were some interesting performers from unusual 'hot house specimens'




To the large Indian Bean tree in full flower....


and a spot of posing for Angel of the Day



As well as walks up Ebbor Gorge, with visits to the Cathedral and Vicar's Close, the market etc and many opportunities for dog training...Pat and Breeze had a great visit...

In a Vase on Monday - Tickled Pink

I'm tickled pink that my Hydrangea Vanille Fraise has survived the move, and still in its large pot, is flowering beautifully in the middle of the lawn.  I love the white stage most of all..the plant is like a little pool of light against the Dark Holm Oak on the other side of the stone wall....as the weeks progress it will become Tickled Pink too!!


I stole myself to cut one stem..and then went around the garden to find some other material to cut..so in this week's vase I have:

Hydrangea Paniculata Vanielle Fraise...still at the white stage
Percisaria Red Dragaon
Achillea Millefolium Lilac Beauty
Agastache Mexicana grown from seed by Liz in Kenilworth.  This plant is starting to perform now we have had some rain at last.


Stems of a dark leafed grape vine which was already in the garden
Sedum spectabile still green
Chocolate Mint...which smells of After Eight Mints...yes really!
Clematis Vitalba...Old Man's Beard growing oven our wall and tolerated at the moment...


A Stem of Pelargonium sidoides, which got broken off the plant..ouch!   It got knocked off when the shading of the conservatory was brought down for cleaning!  This plant came from Janet another knowledgeable plants woman in Kenilworth.  I have been nurturing this geranium for some time.  I love the way its rich magenta flowers continue to grow in little bunches along the main wiry flowering stem which continues to produce flower tufts.  Its little round crinkly silver grey green leaves are attractive all the year round.  Because of its long flower spikes it is rather difficult to photograph, so maybe, its breakage was a way of it getting in on the act....it is at the very front of the arrangement with its red flowers only slightly visible...must get a close up of the lovely small blooms!

So by being a casualty, the pretty Species Pelargomium, a native from South Africa, made its way into the vase and into my blog...Cathy who hosts this meme, has quite coincidentally used casualties from her garden to make up this week's vase....do go there and see what she and others have come up with this week.


Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Shed and Garden

I love a shed......but with a small garden where there is nowhere to hide a shed, there is no option but to make it a feature.  The first major decision was not to build the sort of base which needed umpteen inches of hardcore and concrete.  After all if someone wanted to move it or remove it in the future, there would more hard work.  Instead we went for a much lower impact solution: ecodeck.   Mr S very carefully skimmed the topsoil, and sifted it ready for me to use elsewhere in the garden...levelled the site, set down the membrane, and fitted out the base.  I wheel barrowed all the chippings from the front drive.

We were really pleased with the shed...rather well made, and in addition with a much higher roof, and door so that Mr Longshanks doesn't crack his head so often!  It took a couple of days effort to get the shed erected to Mr S's aka Mr Longshanks's satisfaction.

After painting the outside...we are going to paint the inside, attach guttering, and have a water tub to collect rain water....



Here are a few more pictures showing a little more planting....

Succulents doing very well directly in the garden


Strange mixture put best out of their pots


Geranium Rozanne flowering her little socks off


Still in her pot..and struggling in the heat: Hydrangea paniculata vanille fraise.  They have since opened to a beautiful creamy white...in a few weeks they will turn pink.  This shrub will need to go into the ground this autumn, but first a good input of the black stuff is required!


Already producing are courgette plants; one green and one yellow.


I am a little disappointed with my new clematis but maybe with the very high temperatures and lack of natural water, it is not suprising...


close up of Clematis Aromatica which is a little underwhelming in its performance.



Finnish Rye again.....

When a baking friend posed the question: This is my refreshed starter including the water, rye flour and wheat flour. Does it look the right consistency?  I offered to bake the loaf and take lots of pictures.  I do hope this helps Angela...and it got me thinking carefully through each of the stages which makes up this loaf.

I have now made this recipe more than half a dozen times...it is a pure sourdough loaf, but it has no intermediate bulk rising, and gives a very nice even crumb.    If you want to see what I have posted previously: do go to Finnish Rye and Finnish Rye Again.  During cooler months, I have allowed the dough to rise in the tin at ambient kitchen temps, but as it is now rather warm...ambient day temperature 24 C, I prefer to do the rise during the day when I can keep my eye on the loaf.

For my personal taste I now half the amount of malt syrup, and have used honey this time.

This is the rye sourdough just removed from the fridge at about 9 pm.


I start by weighing into my bowl 25g whole rye flour


Then I weighed in 35g wholewheat spelt


followed by 30g water at room temperature


and finally 35g of the rye sourdough starter from the fridge


when it was mixed up this is what it looked like, before being covered with its shower cap, and left overnight on the kitchen worktop.  It looks just the same as Angela's mixture.


In the morning it was nicely puffed up


On top goes 75g of rye flour

 Then 150g strong white flour
 Then 6g salt

And finally 100g milk, 50g water, and 30g honey


Then I mix it all up by hand in the bowl
 

It is a fairly sticky dough, most rye flours result in a sticky dough...but no more flour please.  I use my trusty scraper to bring bits off the work surface and into the dough ball at regular intervals during kneading.  This is what it looks like after ten minutes....


I know my 1 lb tins work very well with 500g standard dough or a little more sourdough up to about 550g.  Just to compare with other tins...this tin holds 750g water.  I usually weigh the water held by different tins so that I can scale off the right amount for different tins. By scaling up the amounts in recipes I am able bake more than one loaf using different sized tins.  For example for a tin which holds 1000g water I use 1000 / 750 x 550 = 730g of dough.



Because my tins are a little old..I find I need to grease them very well for these long rise loaves..I use butter and a little layer of rye flakes, and the loaves comes out nicely. I would recommend preparing them before you start to knead, as it is handy to have them ready to pop the dough in, and not have to keep washing one's hands.

Using wet hands, which Jane Mason recommends, makes shaping the dough a breeze..and it is ready to roll in some flakes.  This is not in the recipe but I find it really helps with my tins.



The dough is now in the tin...and will sit rising under its shower cap.


Its just ten minutes to go before the first of the three hours are up...the dough has a long way to go, so I set the timer for another hour, and also another two hours.  I've had this timer for over ten years...and it is an absolute must for me, as I am usually doing several things at any time.  I was sorry to read that Salter have changed their design.  If I needed to get another one I have found one which looks almost exactly the same!


It took six hours rising to get the level of rise I was expecting


The oven was preheated to 230 C, with a baking tray to put the tin onto.  I find this bakes the bottom of the loaf nicely.  After 10 minutes I reduced the temp to 190 C as it is a fan oven.  After 20 minutes, rather than the 30 minutes given in the recipe, the loaf looked cooked.  Usually I find the timings about right, but there may be up to four loaves in the oven...this time there was just the one.  To check if the loaf was baked fully, I used the thermapen: 95 C...and yes, the loaf felt right.  From the amount of oven spring, I think another half an hour rise would have been OK.


Going through the notes made during previous bakes of this recipe, and comparing it with this run through, I realise that with sourdough there can be so many factors leading to variations...usually time variations.  So judgement based on experience is the best guidance, and allowing plenty of time is of the essence!