Autumn Country Market 2018

Exciting announcement for this years’ Autumn Country Market…

We are absolutely delighted to announce that we will have a wonderful vintage car on display at this years’ Autumn Country Market!

Here’s a few words from Polly, the owner of this wonderful old vehicle…

Polly's Car

“It’s a 1904 Darracq (later to become Peugeot) which means it is 114 years old – yes, 114 years old. It is described as a ‘rear-entrance tonneau model’, which means it has a canvas cover that can be applied if it’s empty (the tonneau) and that to get to the two back seats you climb up a step and go through a little wooden door: luxury compared to the front, which is accessible only from the passenger’s side as the other is somewhat obstructed by handles, pedals and the steering wheel.

It has no roof, indicators, working lights, heating, air conditioning or CD player (sadly) and is made of wood, metal and leather – no plastic in sight, for obvious reasons. It has three forward gears and reverse, and a it’s single cylinder 8hp engine reaches a mighty top speed of 26mph. Or so I’m told: it has no rev counter, odometer or mileometer, so who knows?

The electric starter is a recent addition installed by my father as he got older. The hand throttle and advance/retard spark controls are on the steering wheel or column, and the petrol gauge is a wooden ruler with the Kings and Queens of Britain on it: as long as the unleaded doesn’t drop below Queen Victoria, you’re fine. It has no sump so the manual oiling system feeds straight into the engine.

I have had it for 8 years and inherited it from my Pa, who had it for about 30 before that. We do the London to Brighton Run in it every year and it has never yet failed to make it: no mean achievement. We love it to bits and it’s as much part of the family as the animals and more so sometimes than the children or my husband. A fact of which they are all well aware!!”

Find out more about the Autumn Country Market here

Incredible Edibles!

In this informative blog, Ollie talks about how some common garden flowers can be used in everyday cooking…

edible flowersIn this day and age it is very easy to lose touch with where our food comes from. We are so used to going to the supermarket and picking up pre-packaged foods whenever we like. Caring for a garden or an allotment revitalises this tangible connection to food. You can’t beat the taste and nutrition of home grown produce, so fresh it is still growing when you bite into it!

We can all identify the obvious crops we grow on the veggie patch, such as carrots, lettuce, beetroots, beans and brassicas, but you may be surprised to learn that many of our common garden plants are edible too. Here are a few:

cake

Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis) petals, have an intense colour and a peppery taste, ideal for sprinkling on salads, as are both the leaves and flowers of Nasturium (Tropaeolummajus).

Sunflower (Helianthusannuus) petals can be used to garnish salads and as we all know the seeds are healthy and delicious.

The flowers of Pansies (Violaodorata), Primroses (Primula vulgaris) and Cowslips (Primula veris) can be eaten whole and are often candied to decorate spring time cakes.

Surprisingly even the petals of the common Daisies (Bellis perennis) are edible, although not particularly flavoursome.

common daisies

Another unusual edible flower is that of the Day lily (Hemerocallis), which can be added to stir fries, salads and soups. Beware however as they can have a laxative effect!

Most of us are familiar with Elderflower (Sambucus nigra). The flowers are used to make cordials and presse, but my favourite treat is elderflower fritters. The flowers are battered, deep fried and dipped in sugar, yum! Interestingly, with exception of the berries, all other parts of the elder are poisonous.

borage

Vibrant blue Borage (Borago offincinalis) flowers add a zing of colour and a mild cucumber flavour to salads. They are great frozen in ice cubes to give cocktails the wow factor.Rose flowers have been used for centuries to flavour food and drink. The stronger the fragrance, the more floral the flavour, with the petals used to garnishing dishes.
flowers in ice cubes

The most important thing before eating anything you forage, is that you are 100% sure you have identified the plant correctly. There are equally as many toxic and deadly plants as there are tasty edible ones! 

It is also advisable to avoid eating old faded flowers, plants that could have been sprayed with pesticides, plants that are exposed to fumes near roads and areas frequented by pets. People who suffer from allergies should be extra cautious too, as they may be more susceptible to harmful reactions from edible flowers.

If you are interested in finding out more about incredible edibles in your garden and the surrounding countryside then I can recommend the book “Food for Free” written by Richard Mabey.

Disclaimer: This blog it meant as an informative guide on which common flowers are edible. Easton Walled Gardens accept no responsibility for individuals who decide to consume any of the flowers mentioned. Please forage responsibly and carefully!

Summer Garden Maintenance Tips

Head Gardener, Ollie Ryan-Moore, gives us a few helpful tips for maintaining a healthy summer garden…

Summer has arrived, and our gardens are bursting with life. Fresh flowers gleaming and verdant foliage lapping up the sunshine of the longest days of the year. During these potentially drier periods it pays to keep a close eye on watering. Seedlings, newly planted plants, trees and shrubs in their first growing season after planting and containers are most vulnerable in dry conditions. Without expansive root systems these plants aren’t able to access enough water, so we need to help them. The best time to water is in the morning or evening. Watering when it isn’t so sunny reduces water loss through evaporation. Give plenty of water, but keep the frequency low, this ensures plants get a good soaking, but are still encouraged to develop their root systems.

summer vegetable garden

Weekly mowing can be a chore, so if you want to reduce your workload, then consider leaving and area of lawn to grow wild, just mowing pathways through it. The long grass can all be cut in the autumn and composted. Leaving areas of long grass is good for wildlife and you may see wildflowers start to pop up as well. If you are mowing a fine lawn, then it pays to raise the height of cut during dry spells. This leaves the grass a little longer and puts less stress on the turf.

terraces

Weeding is always important and summer is when the hoe is most effective. Using a hoe slices through weeds and means they can be left to wilt and die on the soil surface. Another job for this time of year is pruning stone fruit trees such as plums, cherries and damsons. These fruit trees are susceptible to diseases if pruned in the winter as their wounds are slow to heal over. Pruning in early summer allows them to heal quickly whilst they are growing vigorously and reduce the chance of infection. It is also the best time to prune spring flowering shrubs such as Weigela, Philadelphus and Forsythia. They need the rest of the season to regrow shoots that will bear next year’s spring flowers.

weeding in the sweet peas

Take note of pests and diseases on your plants. Pests such as aphids, caterpillars and vine weevil can quickly do a lot of damage, so take action at first sight of problems. If you are having regular pest and disease problems with a particular plant then it is likely to be weak or unhealthy. The most resistant plants are the strongest, healthiest ones. Finally, take time to enjoy your garden in the sun!

Jungle in the House

Ollie talks us through houseplants in his latest blog…

Britain is a nation of gardeners, and even those that don’t have an outdoor space to grow things find a way to bring greenery into their lives. Step forward the houseplant.

houseplant on window sill

Houseplants have been used for centuries to adorn grand houses and act as status symbols for the rich and powerful of the past, but it was the good old Victorians who drove the surge in variety and availability of house plants. Throughout the 1800’s explorers and plant hunters brought back exotic plant species from distant lands. The problem with plants from other climes is that most of them are not adapted to our climate, and will soon perish if subjected to British weather. Horticulturalists of the era, determined to keep these plants, built heated glasshouses to house them. One of the most famous of these is the Palm House at Kew Gardens.

Palm House Kew Gardens

Over time, as gardeners perfected the art of growing tropical plants indoors, tougher species became available to buy. Aspidistra was the most popular houseplant during the 19th century as it was one of the few pot plants able to survive the terrible air pollution.

These days our houses are warmer, cleaner and better lit, and with a plethora of house plants available, there is something for any situation in the house. Some of the most common house plants include cacti, succulents, orchids, pelargoniums, African violets, palms and ferns, all of which create great displays inside.

Fern

The key to success with houseplants is to give them their preferred growing conditions and find the optimum place for them in the house. Orchids for example are very easy to grow on a bathroom or kitchen windowsill that doesn’t get a lot of direct sun. This is because orchids naturally grow in the canopy of trees in tropical rainforests, where they live in humid, dappled shade, with warm temperatures and plenty of water that never waterlogs them.

Orchids

Cacti and succulents are at the other end of the environmental scale, hailing from arid, sun-scorched places. They thrive in low humidity on windowsills that receive a lot of direct sun and requiring infrequent watering.

Succulents

The most fascinating group of house plants (in my opinion) is carnivorous plants. They are really easy to grow and so interesting to watch. They have adapted to feed on insects, luring them into tubular traps or snapping jaws, the most famous example being the Venus Fly Trap (Dionea muscipula). They come from bogs, so grow best permanently sat in a tray of rainwater on a sunny windowsill. If they are happy, they will gobble any flies that are buzzing around and you’ll never need a fly swat again!

Venus fly trap

Houseplants are very rewarding to grow, brightening up any spot in the house and can help anyone develop greener fingers. What’s not to like?

What it is to be a gardener…

Ollie talks about what inspired him to become a gardener.

I have been fascinated by plants ever since I was a little boy, but my love for them was fired by my grandmother’s garden. Her garden will always be my favourite garden, as it has an air of magic about it. It always rides the fine line between chaos and order, but is undoubtedly packed with life!

ollie's granna

Looking towards her house from the cul-de-sac outside there is no sign of anything special, just an ordinary bungalow amongst many, but when you go through the garden gate I always feel like I am entering another world.

My grandmother (Granna to me) is not a trained gardener, but she has a passion for plants. She is always developing something in her garden, be that digging another pond, adding to the herbaceous borders, hacking back an overgrown shrub or turning a neglected part of the garden over to a productive extension to the veggie patch. These ventures aren’t always successful, for example one of her ponds leaked badly, but not to worry because she decided to turn it into a bog garden and grew a Gunnera in it instead.

Her garden is home to some ancient raspberries, which have never been pruned properly but produce the most delicious fruits in abundance. There are also small cordon pear trees with the most unconventional habit, some of which are enveloped in Ivy. They were at some point proper cordons, but have subsequently had their formal pruning regime abandoned and have developed rounded crowns on slanting trunks. They never failed to crop though.

The countless nooks and crannies of the tamed and wild parts of the garden are home to a plethora of creatures…insects, newts, birds, frogs, snakes, snails and not forgetting Sherpa, her much loved pet tortoise, all playing out their lives in this suburban oasis.

What I am trying to say is that Granna’s plot is in no way “by the book,” but she always has a go and enjoys interacting with her garden. Some of the best outdoor spaces are created by accident or by people just having a go.

There is one word to sum up my favourite garden and that is ALIVE, and to be a gardener is to be in tune with what brings outdoor spaces alive. So have a go, get stuck in with our leafy friends.

Thanks to Granna who fired my love of plants and keep doing what you do!