Monthly Archives: January 2011

A weekend treat

What a fabulous weekend it has been. I was whisked off to The Olive Branch at Clipsham, Rutland to celebrate my birthday and what a wonderful place – it never lets you down. The twice baked soufflé was superb, as always, and the desserts are to die for. It being my birthday we were treated to complementary petit fours and champagne all presented on a plate beautifully decorated with Happy Birthday in chocolate! Breakfast for me was kippers – I won’t cook them at home as they smell so! It’s a real treat to have someone else prepare them and these were from Norfolk so they were superb. I’d usually have to wait until we visit our cottage in Blakeney for a treat like this. I’m now preparing for my visit to the NEC, Birmingham for the annual Interiors show. I’ll be visiting old suppliers like Whitehead Sofas, Valsan Lighting and Lloyd Loom and looking for new ones too. This year there are some Scandinavian trade stands which I’m sure I’ll be taking a good look at. I’ll let you know how I get on later in the week. Until then… Alison

Check out Pimpernel Cottage with the www.blakeneycottagecompany.co.uk

Pimpernel Cottage, our bolt hole in Norfolk

www.theolivebranchpub.com

Garden tidy up

I saw my first snowdrops this week: it’s a sure sign that Spring is now just around the corner so it’s time for the inevitable garden tidy up.

Now is a great time to tackle your pruning. Many plants appreciate a haircut while they are still dormant and their sap isn’t rising up the stems. It’s an especially good time to prune stems of Salix and Cornus to encourage new growth. These will then reward you with fabulous colour next year. Plant two or three Cornus together and use contrasting coloured stems for the best effect. They look particularly good planted near water.

Plant a bare root hedge, on a clear day when the soil isn’t frozen. The most cost effective is to plant whips (single stemmed rooted plants) but they do take a few years to establish. If you want something more instant opt for bigger plants but ensure you prepare the ground well and keep them fed and watered.

Prepare your garden now for stunning borders later in the year

Sow hardy annual flower seeds where you want them to flower later in the year. If you have a cutting garden which you use to provide flowers for the house then you’ve probably already stated to think about this. But if you simply want to add some colour to existing borders this is a great way of doing it.

Pre-warm soil with clothes or fleece before sowing vegetables. It’s amazing what a different a few degrees can make to the germination and growth of seedlings. By warming the soil prior to planting you are giving plants the best chance of germination and growth. Many garden centres sell ready made plastic or fleece cloches or you can make your own, often better if you have an unusual shape or long area to cover. Simply buy or make wire hoops and secure them in the soil and stretch clear plastic or fleece over them. As the air within the hoop warms up so it will warm the soil. The more air you can trap to warm up the better.

Tidy and re-cut lawn edges. They say that the cheat’s way of making the garden look well looked after is to edge the lawn. It’s possibly true as a sharp lawn edge gives a smart finish to the lawn and border. If you’re fed up with this time consuming job then opt for a lawn edge which is in place year round. A soldier course of brick or cobbles works very well or opt for one of the metal edging strips which you hammer into the soil, these are great for curves and can be changed if you decide to extend or reduce a border. My favourite is a product called Everedge which you can get from some garden centres or direct through the internet.

Add a top dressing of compost to potted plants. If your plants have been in the same pot all winter now is the time to freshen them up. Remove any weeds and add a layer (2 – 3inches) of fresh soil. This will provide a feed for the next few weeks until you start using a slow release fertiliser or liquid feed in the late Spring and Summer. Remember that a plant in a pot can’t take nutrient from anywhere else so is dependent on you to feed and water it, especially in windy weather when they dry out more quickly.

Clean tables and chairs. Don’t forget it won’t be long before you’re enjoying a meal outside so give your garden furniture a Spring clean. A pressure washer will bring up most garden furniture and a light oiling for teak or fresh coat of varnish or other protection will keep everything ship shape. If you’re looking for new furniture there are some bargains to be had right now so get shopping.

Finally, once you’ve completed all your chores, sit back and admire your handiwork, it won’t be long before the garden is rewarding you with fresh blooms.

Turn over a new leaf

January is a great time for gardeners. There is still plenty to do in the garden but not too much that you can’t enjoy perusing the seed catalogues from your favourite armchair. You also have time to think about what worked for you in the garden last year and what you could do differently. It is often the smallest changes that make the most difference to the garden. Last year I decided to add 30 cm to my long border so that I could edge it with box for a more formal look. It has made a huge difference to how the plants behind it are viewed and has really anchored them in the border. But if there is anything I am going to do in the garden this year, it’s to be more organised and plan in advance.

A garden's structure is so much stronger when covered in snow

Last year I looked at planting by the moon’s cycle and it has been very rewarding so that’s also something i’m going to continue to research. I asked Ursula Cholmeley, Owner and Head Gardener at Easton Walled Gardens, what she would be doing differently in the garden this year. Last year Ursula added a vegetable garden to the already extensive gardens at Easton Walled Gardens. She trialled a selection of Italian seeds from Franchi, a family business linked to the slow food movement, and really encourages growing your own. “One of the key things I’ve noticed since I started gardening is how Spring is getting later, with many late frosts, and how milder our Autumn’s have become. This means we are going to look at planting more Zinnia’s and Rudbeckia’s to prolong our flowing season,” she explained. Late 2009 saw the final planting of David Austin roses for the gardens meaning that they now have over 60 varieties of roses in the pickery and kitchen garden as well as the wonderful display of cutting garden plants. “Last year we linked the new vegetable garden to the tea room much more closely with many seasonal ideas coming through in our recipes. We’ve learned a lot in the vegetable garden and this year we’ll be growing more cabbages for the tea room’s coleslaw as this was such a huge success as well as remembering to thin out our beetroot so they bulk up,” she continued. Ursula runs a series of events in the vegetable and cutting garden throughout the year to inspire would-be growers. They offer both unusual seeds and expert advice for the vegetable garden as well as the cutting garden.

Dahlia's in the cutting garden

Easton Walled Gardens, re-opens on 12 February 2010 for snowdrops. Easton, Grantham, NG33 5AP.

Tel: 01476 530063.

www.eastonwalledgardens.co.uk

If you would like some inspiration for your home or garden this year then please get in touch. Tel: 01572 747318. Mob: 07973 843020.

Happy New Year

Hello and happy New Year. It’s been so busy and yet it’s still only 5 January 2011!

So time is passing; resolutions are being made all over the world, it’s a tradition that has been practiced for approx 4000 years. But many New Year resolutions don’t even last the week, most have been completely forgotten by May. So for me I’m not going to give anything up but to do something different: to be more positive in myself and in my relationships. So here’s to a fabulous year ahead and to still looking on the bright side when the peonies appear in the summer!