White borage

This year, my borage has fared very poorly. Hardy annual it might be but drought resistant, no.

However, it has started to re-emerge, now that we’ve started to get rain again. What I wasn’t expecting was to find a white borage flower amongst the purple.

I’d originally been planning to plant tulip bulbs that I bought at the Eden Project shop last month in the front garden. Then, after reading that it is best to wait till later in the autumn to do this, as it apparently reduces to chance of disease, I decided to wait a while. However, as my spade was already out, I did a bit of weeding instead.

The grass, following the lasagne gardening attempt to remove the lawn, is proving quite resilient. So, it was while I was pulling it out as best I could that I had to do a double take of the white flower.

Of course, it could be a self-sown seed from borago officinalis alba, but I am more inclined to believe it has simply mutated from the purple version. I really can’t see anyone in my vicinity growing borage – but, equally, I could be wrong.

Posted in Gardening, herbs | Tagged , , | 8 Comments

Giving in for five-a-day

Over the holidays, we were talking about making improvements to our diet. One of the areas to work on is by increasing the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat.

It would be wonderful if the garden could produce enough for our needs but even without droughts and thin soil, it is just too small. On the other hand, buying from a supermarket is not the way I want to go: unnecessary and non-recyclable packaging, airmiles, doubts about organic claims, monopolies.

I do already shop at our local organic farm but generally the range of fruit and veg for those not in the box scheme is quite limited. I would notice the produce available for the box scheme members and ask myself if it was time for us to join the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). But £390 upfront for the year kept putting me off.

Fortunately, you can do a month’s trial, which for us started yesterday. Overall, I don’t think the amount I got for £10/week this month is significantly larger than pay-as-you-go but it felt great to come home with a range of different greens (and reds and yellows).

I did deliberate over whether to bother picking up cooking apples, considering that is one thing our garden does produce in relative abundance. Not for long, though, as I decided they would make a good apple curd – and they did!

Posted in Gardening, Good for the environment, In the kitchen | Tagged , | 18 Comments


Until this year, I had had no idea that there were elders in my vicinity, otherwise I would have foraged from them sooner. But on Monday, I took myself off with my foraging basket and made my way to the nearby rhubarb field, which has an abundance of elder along its edge.

With the batch of elderberries pictured above I decided to make cordial, as I’m running a bit low on something to flavour drinking water. Having realised that coffee is one of the less sustainable beverages I consume, I’m having a break from it. However, I find it hard to drink enough water, as it just doesn’t taste that great.

Elderberries and other local fruits and shoots, on the other hand, have no such carbon footprint. The berries at first taste don’t taste as good as the flowers but it could be that I would prefer them without the cloves that went into the mix this time. Or perhaps the flavour will grow on me!

Posted in foraging, Good for the environment | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

An advantage of lazy gardening

I can’t remember what I grew in some largish pots last year, although I do remember attempting to grow some evening primrose earlier this year. However, that came to nought and the pots had just been standing around waiting for me to do something with them.

Then yesterday, the opportunity presented itself. We’d been at Old Sleningford for the day, tidying up the strawberry bed (that is, removing unwanted runners) and I asked if I could take some home.

A friend had been asking for some of my runners, so I got a bagful for her. In addition, a few of the runners had turned into veritable plants, which are now in one of the aforementioned pots and should provide us with a new lease of strawberry life next June.

I had been reluctant to add the compost in the pot to any soil or the compost bin, out of concern for spreading weed seeds about. However, I think the strawberries will put paid to such nonsense. I’m not sure how long they’ll need to be in the pot, as it depends how long it takes me to do the planned work this autumn.

Posted in Days out, Permaculture | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Crab apples: a success

I think my crab apple tree may produce biennially, as last year there were very few fruit and they all appeared to be badly eaten by something or other. On the other hand, this year, my four-year-old John Downie has done me proud.

Today, I picked nearly a kilo of crab apples. I have left a few for the wildlife, although going by what happened last year, I wonder if they will be eaten or simply eventually drop to the ground and become humus.

In any case, my task post-picking was to preserve them in spicy vinegar. We had this a couple of Christmases ago and hope to do so again. One friend seemed particularly keen, so I’ve made a batch for her as well.

Posted in Gardening, In the kitchen, Permaculture | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Lunch with a plan

On Monday, we went for lunch at the Lost Gardens of Heligan, near St Austell in Cornwall. I would have enjoyed a look round the gardens themselves but a disgruntled child is not the best companion. However, we had been taken with the offerings in the cafe last time we visited, in 2015, and it was worth the trip again.

On the wall opposite our table was a plan of a vegetable garden. Without the space, I won’t be implementing such myself anytime soon, but here it is:

Outside, I was reminded of the exotic nature of the gardens themselves. Cornwall’s climate is different from mine in that it is generally warmer and there is substantially more rain. Thus, it is possible to grow palms

and gunnera

with ease. The gunnera pictured above would be fantastic for shading the back of my house in summer but I’d be forever watering. However, I’m still tempted, having learned that parts of it are edible.

Talking of edible plants, I discovered a mini forest garden near the Eden Project shop, which I visited one last time before we headed home on Tuesday. It’s a bit more manicured that mine but I’m glad to have seen it, as it makes me feel I’ve done the Project now.

Another unexpected find before we got much further down the road was a nursery selling unusual plants. It had more of the palms and lots of other greenery I would never put in my garden but the parking area was graced with a large wall of bamboo

which would certainly be a good wind shield.

Posted in Days out, Permaculture | Tagged , , , | 23 Comments

On foot from the Eden Project to St. Austell

It’s easy to get in the car and drive as a way of exploring but inevitably the experience will be different from making a journey on foot. Thus, after noticing there were footpaths leading from the Eden Project site to the surrounding towns, I decided we needed to investigate.

The idea was to go to Wheal Martyn, without knowing what to expect. Then en route, as it was raining and we were starting to get a little weary, we found shelter under some kind of dilapidated roof, whereupon I took the opportunity to do a little GPS search. The upshot was that I discovered we were heading for a museum about the clay pits in the area.

On Saturday, we had driven past the conical hill featured above and wondered what it was. Surely, such did not exist in nature? So, having actually walked past a clay pit before we found our shelter, we now had a notion of what the hill might be.

We didn’t find the museum, though, so our notions were not confirmed. Instead we stopped off at a pub on the outskirts of St. Austell for lunch and then made our way back through the southeast Cornish countryside.

In spite of getting resoundingly wet through, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at people’s gardens, the occasional remnant from Cornwall’s industrial past (namely chimney stacks in the middle of fields) and roadside vegetation. The crocosmia tickled me the most!

Back at the Eden Project, I realised we could get quite a good view of the site without paying a penny to go in. The biome domes are particularly hard to miss.

And I noticed a large patch of white dogwood (Cornus alba Kesselringii), which I had bought last week at Bluebell Nursery in Leicestershire, by the bus stop at the Project’s entrance. Good to have a perspective on its potential dimensions…. hopefully, this will help with my garden planning.

This dogwood is taller than me

Posted in Days out, Gardening | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments