Tag Archives: garden bloggers

Bliss at the Brum Botanical Gardens

I spent this morning, having something of  botanical, therapeutic adventure. It’s book release day; I didn’t want to stay inside and sit on my hands. A few days ago, whilst walking through the greenery around Sarehole Mill, I decided to plan a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Despite the fact that I’m a born and bred Brummie, I’ve never actually spent any time there, enjoying it. I remember going to a wedding reception, by the Arid Glasshouse and making a mental note to come back.  It’s taken me  few years, but I made it!

There wasn’t a concrete plan, not really. I had a thermos of tea, some lunch and a pair of walking boots.  A class of kids-Year 2 from a local school-were also wandering around, so I made sure I was well off their radar. Their teachers, have my empathy. Not my school kids, not my trip. I carried on.

As I sit here and type, I’m actually creaking. Who knew, that such a gentle, aimless and ambling walk could have an impact?

Anyway. Using the map from the entrance desk, I did amble and quite aimlessly. Everything is labelled clearly, the information is presented concisely for everything. Better, in my mind, than most museums.  I could spot Camellias-Dad has two in the garden-so I didn’t feel completely clueless. There were daffodils in dots and splodges, all very timely as we kick off with spring.

 

Whilst not a huge site, Birmingham Botanical Garden is best savoured slowly. It didn’t take long for me to take a walk around. So I made the conscious decision to sit, stare and take tea a couple of times. Least of all when three pea hens and a peacock were in the vicinity. Taking that one picture, the peacock more or less posed and looked me in the eye as though I was crazy. Even the pea hens shuffled around as though indifferent. I had hoped that the peacock might shake a tail feather to give everyone a display, but alas no joy. To sit, stare and sip tea was part of the deal for today’s adventure. To be completely immersed in greenery, to take stock and just absorb everything has been crucial this week.

A special mention, goes to Alison Levey, who made me smile today. A couple of days ago, she posted an image of a Magnolia. I happened to read the name as Lionel Messi. Yes, the footballer. I forget now, the proper name of this plant. It struck a cord today, whilst I was adventuring. In walking through the memory garden, I saw a sign in the boughs of a pink Magnolia. I read it as Lionel Messi. In the image above, the white magnolia does cover the pink footballing one in the fore-ground; it genuinely made me giggle and out aloud.

I nearly missed this, but on the way out, I found the Japanese Garden. I’m glad I did too. This is a pocket of serenity, that I might have otherwise missed had the universe not nudged me to head out of one of the glasshouses. This garden is tucked away, and there is just something about it; even the air is different.

Carefully observing, I was wandered in, and there were three red camellias sat in water feature. Whether they were put there, or landed there through serendipity I don’t know. There is a sign, that details how in Buddhism and Shinto, fallen blossoms are a sign of the transience of life. That really did strike me; life is too short, to sit back and not smell the Magnolia. I edged in and I found this one.  A Saucer Magnolia. Something was ringing, and for three seconds I had no idea where the sound was coming from. Then I realised it was the chime sat in the middle, caught by the breeze.

saucemagnoliajapanesegarden

There was just something about that moment that felt almost ephemeral. I don’t have any other words to describe it.

I’m glad that I went, even if the gardens are half asleep. I want to go back and see the rose garden in full bloom. I do think, that when the whole thing wakes up, it will be even better.

 

Tomatoes on my mind

 

It’s that time of the year again. I’m thinking about what tomatoes to grow. At the moment, I have a handful of chillies, growing very slowly and pretty much left to their own devices. They are relatively happy, so it’s logical to think of the next phase of sowing.

There are tonnes and tonnes of tomato varieties out there, and I’ve certainly collected a few varieties to have them in my seedbox. These have all been road tested in different forms over the years, so choosing the annual crop is actually quite challenging.

I’ve gravitated away from the dwarf, bushy varieties that produce cherry type tomatoes. This was, in the first instance, about sowing something different. Cherry tomatoes are certainly a good starting point; they are easy growing, abundant and offer a tasty harvest. As a salad tomato, they do serve a purpose and are quite effective plate fillers. I grew a variety called Minibel for a long time, and I suspect I will try another cherry tomato in the future at some point.

Seeds have been located, and wait to be sorted in my seed box. There are standard seeds such as Gardener’s delight and money maker; varieties that have been part of the GYO armada for many, many years. There are also heritage varieties; tomatoes that for one reason another, we don’t find in supermarkets, that are older in origin. I find these varieties really interesting, particularly when it comes to the Beefsteak types. In my experience, these are slow-growing and the crop is quite small. The plant puts so much power into a handful of whopper fruits, you need quite plants to have a substantial harvest.

Heritage tomatoes also open your world up to different shapes, sizes and colours of tomato. My favourite non-red tomato, has to be yellow stuffer. This, when combined with sweet yellow peppers, makes a fantastic chutney. You won’t find yellow tomatoes very often in the supermarket or fruit and veg markets, so growing your own is rather magical. I need to get some more yellow stuffer seeds, I rather fancy making that chutney again! We shall see if yellow brandy wine, yellow pear and cream sausage are in anyway comparable.

There are two varieties that I know I will definitely have on my list. These would be Marmande and Roma. I have found that Marmande is a brilliant cropper; it is wonderfully abundant. Roma is  a plum tomato, really very resilient and also a good cropper. In sorting out seeds, I did stumble across tomatillo seeds as well. I’ve been meaning to  sow these, as an experiment to see if they would actually work. I’m rather intrigued as to how this small piece of Mexico might take off in the middle of England.

You might ask, how many different plants does any one allotment need. All of the tomatoes that are grown will get used. Be it in chutney, salads or used in the base of Indian dishes.  Growing different varieties, having lots of plants does make for an interesting experiment, and any extras do got to good home.

At some point this week, I will take the plunge and sow tomato seeds. As with all the seedlings, I will be keeping an eye on them in case we have a cold snap. In comparison to the chillies, tomatoes do tend to be more resilient and less susceptible to keeling over-she says, crossing her fingers- but do need monitoring anyway. They do grow quickly and will need potting up as they develop. It will be late May before anything is planted outside to they will need to be hardened off in time.

I do tend to grow tomatoes outdoors, with no cover. I did try to cultivate them in a polytunnel, but found that they became leafy and didn’t crop that well. With being outdoors, plants are exposed to pollinators and the winds. There is a lower level of maintenance too. You do get cordon/indeterminate tomato varieties, those that need shoots removing. I have defoliate plants when there has been a lot of foliage to help ventilation. Having too much foliage can also be a product of what you feed and water the plans with as well. So make sure to see what is in the make up of any fertiliser if you are using it.

Plot Pumpkin gets curried

Mum has just used the second half of the pumpkin, so now all of it has been used. Needless to say, we are probably going to be eating pumpkin for a few days. You can watch it via youtube here.

With one pumpkin we have created straight forward dishes. Both have contained fenugreek which despite being a green manure, is really very useful in Indian dishes. The recipe used here for the curried pumpkin can also be used with squashes and it’s entirely upto you as to how much of everything you might want to use. I have found that pumpkin can be either be quite sweet or bland entirely. With both of these you can add different spices and condiments to make it how you want to.

The curry and the soup were always going to be the plan for the pumpkin, I have yet to make pies!