Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Garlic varieties - November 2010 update

I finally got around to pulling together some notes and photos from my garlic harvest. Rather than writing a long blog about each variety, I'm linking here to my Garlic Varieties record sheet (Nov 2010 version). This has a photo of each variety I have grown, plus comments about using each in cooking.

This is a work-in-progress, as I haven't cooked with all the varieties yet! I'll update every now and then. I'll also be keeping a record of the storage viability of each. Many of the ones I am growing are Hardnecks, which don't necessarily have long storage traits (Softnecks store for longer*). I found it hard to track down information on most of the varieties quite difficult to non-existent, so hopefully keeping a record of how I have found growing, storing and cooking with each variety might be of use to others.

When it comes to taste, remember, this is all just my personal opinion, and my taste buds may be quite different to yours!

Thanks again to Patrick from Bifurcated Carrots for giving me many of the varieties that I now have to play with!

And here is the list of varieties you'll find in my record sheet:
  • Arno
  • Burgundy
  • Estonian Red
  • Georgia Fire
  • Georgian Crystal
  • Gypsy Red
  • Irkutsk
  • Martin's Heirloom
  • Metechi
  • Music
  • Persian Star
  • Purple Glazer
  • Rosewood
  • Silver Rose
  • Solent Wight
  • Susan Delafield
  • Vekat Czech
*For more info about Hardnecks and Softnecks, garlic varieties, pests and diseases, and storage, I find Bifurcated Carrots (search 'garlic') and the Boundary Garlic Farm websites useful.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Garden visit: Audley End

Last weekend we were in Cambridge visiting Audrey, and the three of us ventured out to Audley End to enjoy some late autumn sun and see the gardens. As you will see from the photos, the sun disappeared by the time we got to Audley End! However, it was lovely to be out, even if it isn't really a winter garden.

I was most interested in Audley End because of the Kitchen Garden which is run by Garden Organic, of whom I am a member. Of course, it wasn't exactly the right time to see a kitchen garden, being the end of the growing season...

So I'll clearly need to go back in summer. I still found some things of interest though. I was fascinated to find some apple trees that still had all their leaves on, like it was early autumn and not nearly the end of autumn.

This is a Wanstall Pippin, c. 1800s. I don't know anything about why it still had all it's leaves, when almost all other apple trees had lost theirs.

I was also intrigued by the clearly very old grape vine. It's base and roots were growing on the outside of the greenhouse, with the rest of it, ie. the fruit-producing parts of the plant, on the inside.

Turning to the rest of the garden (ie. non-kitchen) at Audley End. I'm not someone who likes topiary. As someone who is a bit of a control freak, topiary is an step beyond even my control freaking ways. There is something about the deliberate attempts to squeeze nature into oversized representations of rabbits and Roman columns that I find a little frightening. Some would say all gardening is an attempt at controlling nature. There is some truth in that, but good gardeners, in my view, work with nature, not torture it. So given my opinion of topiary, it was interesting to see Audley End's interpretation of a hedge-come-topiary.

Although I wouldn't want it in my house (ok, the hedge is bigger than my house, and garden...), I found it interesting, kind of arty and tactile, in the way it's been shaped. It's not quite topiary, but it's more than a hedge. I'm not quite sure what I think, to be honest, but it didn't bring a chill to my bones, which is what topiary usually does.

The parkland at Audley End was designed by, yawn, Capability Brown. I have little time for the 18th century landscape movement, of which Brown typifies. I'm sure admitting to dislike of Brown and his ilk is probably sacrilegious amongst much of the English gardening world, but there you go, so be it. It bores me. Stowe - big yawn. So it's not surprising that the part of the garden that I really enjoyed (outside the kitchen garden of course), was the Elysian Garden. I suspect that was because it was the most 'natural' part of the parkland.

At one end of the Elysian Garden is the 'Temple of Concord', seen here graced by Audrey's and my presence.

However, it was the stream and autumn leaves that really appealed. I suspect this is because it could be a view of any pretty part of the English landscape in autumn, that I love.

What is it about autumn leaves that is so beautiful?

Behind the house, (or is it the front?), is the parterre. I read it was a must-see, but I didn't feel that way. I think the beds of not-yet-flowering polyanthus rather put me against it. I don't like polyanthus. Give me primula vulgaris any day. I think they really should add some plants with structure to help hold interest during the late-autumn and winter months. Under the bluey-grey sky I found it a little bleak and flat.

The verdict. Apart from the 'interesting' hedge, and the 'natural' Elysian Garden, I found the parkland rather uninspiring. Though that's not surprising given I'm fairly anti-Mr Brown and his lot. However, even at the end of season I still found things of interest in the kitchen garden and I do want to go back and see it in summer. They grow quite a lot of heritage vegetables and I would be interested in seeing them in full bloom and fruiting.

I picked up a couple of very interesting looking heritage pumpkins/squash from the Audley End shop. The shop sadly didn't know what varieties they were, so I've taken photos of them and will send them to HSL for identification. I'm going to make lots of yummy pumpkins dishes, gratins, roasted, soup, and will save the seeds and try growing them myself next year.

Despite the parkland and parterre, the final scene as we were leaving, was quite peaceful, and reflected the point that we did have a very enjoyable few hours walking around Audley End.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Yoghurt lid day

Merlyn loves yoghurt*. He cannot hear us call out to him to come in at night, but can hear a yoghurt pot opening from a mile off.

Of course, you are not really supposed to give cats dairy, even though they really love it. So what we do is just give him the yoghurt lid. About once a week, when I've finished my breakfast yoghurt pot, rather than scraping the yoghurt off the lid for me, I give it to Merlyn. Merlyn loves yoghurt lid day.

 Mmmm, yummy yoghurt

Hey - it's trying to get away and there is still some yoghurt left!

Get that damn camera out of my face and give me more yoghurt!!!

*which for some bizarre reason, English people call "yog-it".

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Garden visit: Savill Garden

For my birthday this year Kevin and I took the day off and visited the Savill Garden down on the Surrey-Berkshire border. As my birthday in England corresponds with autumn, it's become a 'tradition' to visit autumn gardens as my treat for the day.

Savill Garden is purely an ornamental garden, i.e. no kitchen gardens or veg patches. Autumn seems to have only just arrived from a tree point of view in the last week or so, somehow seems later than previous years. We had a cold snap early-mid October, maybe that slowed the trees down. However, plenty of the Savill Garden trees did put on quite a show. Here's my favourite, a composition of the different colours of autumn in southern England.

It is so rich and warm, it takes the chill out of the approaching winter air.

Next to the Rose Garden was beds of Molina caerulea 'Heidebraut' which I found especially beautiful.

My garden isn't big enough for a whole beds of the grass, but I'm sure I'll be able to fit in a clump or two. Kevin took a 'Gwenfar in her natural habitat' pic...

The biggest surprise for me, and my favourite area of the garden, was the rose garden. I'm not keen on roses or rose gardens. Don't get me wrong, scented roses can be beautiful, but on the whole, they require way too much attention. Between black spot and aphids, and the fact they often only look good for a few weeks in a year, I consider them more effort than they are worth. I love flowers, but I want them to largely look after themselves whilst I focus most of my energies on growing veg. Roses don't really meet that criteria. The Savill Garden have done something interesting though. They have mixed the roses with grasses, such as the Molina, and Miscanthus sinensis 'ferner osten' and with great effect.

I'm curious about what they have done, in that the roses are quite bushy, instead of the usual sticks with lots of soil showing, and they are still flowering even though we have had some hard frosts. Though maybe they didn't have the hard frosts in Surrey that we had in Oxfordshire in October?

They also had this wonderful viewing platform, which gave great vistas over the garden, as above, and looked great from the paths looking back at it.

Kevin and I had a bit of a Titanic moment when on the platform. Minus the iceberg.

As well as foliage, autumn tends to bring the bark of many trees to the fore. I was rather taken with the bark on this Arbutus x andrachnoides.

Although Savill Garden doesn't have a veg garden, they had a great display of pumpkins and squashes, some of which were grown by local children. After having such a poor pumpkin harvest myself (a total of one medium and one small pumpkin), I was in a fit of jealously about this bunch!

The Savill Garden is a good autumn garden to visit if you are in the area, and I really recommend it just on the rose/grass garden itself. It was relaxing, I enjoyed turning 42 again, and we had some fun with the grasses.

October round-up

October was rather busy with work, and my back continued to give me problems, hence the lack of blogging. Here is a round-up on a couple of things that I/we got up to.

Earlier in the month Kevin, Jackie and I went to Waterperry Garden's Apple day. Apart from taking one of their tours around the orchard and learning about the process of making apple juice, we (Jackie & I) also bumped into an ex-Fam (ex-Oxfam) friend, Alison. Alison has set up her own small business, Felt Special, and she makes rugs from the fleece of rare breed sheep and lovely hand-felted wool and silk scarves.

I bought a scarf not dissmilar to the one showing here, only mine is more teal/purple. It looks smashing on me!

Kevin and I were delighted to catch up with our friend Suad, who was over from Santa Fe. Kevin originally worked with Suad's partner, Scott, at CSIRO in Melbourne. We've all moved on, us to the UK and Suad & Scott, first to San Antonio and now to Santa Fe, but managed to stay in touch and manage to catch up once every few years.
Scott's schedule meant we couldn't catch up this time, he had various scientific conferences to attend, but it was great to see Suad again. Just as cheery and lovely as always, and doesn't she complement my garden!

My reading group was at our place this month, and it was interesting seeing 11 people plus cat squeeze into our lounge room.

Merlyn was quite determined to sit in his usual place despite the number of people trying to crowd him out.

It was my birthday on 28th October, and I turned 42 again. Again?! Yes. I've decided to stay 42 until I get to 50, because 42 is the answer to life, universe and everything it means I'M THE ANSWER to life, universe and everything. Cannot fault that logic, right?!

Kevin and I took the day off and we visited the Savill Garden. It's becoming a bit of a tradition that for my birthday we go and visit a garden. Last year it was Painshill and Westonbirt.

I'll write a separate blog about the garden visit itself, but I can say we had a lovely day and suitably celebrated being 42 again.