Summer Abundance

Summer Abundance

We woke up this morning to the first grey clouds and light rain in our part of the country for several weeks, but this has easily been one of the best summers we’ve had for several years and we’ve been reaping the rewards of all the good weather up to now in our little kitchen garden.

As we’ve only devoted a small part of the garden to growing fruit and vegetables and we have a relatively short growing season here (the last frost is usually in April and the first is in October with fairly unpredictable “summer” weather in between), we’re always trying to make the best use of the space with fairly low-maintenance and reliable crops.

We’ve been enjoying lots of salads with our own lettuce and radishes, and we’ve had steady crops of broad beans, as well as yellow and green courgettes. This year I’ve also been growing Hunter, Uchiki Kuri (also known as Orange Hokkaido), Sweet Dumpling and Spaghetti squashes to find out which grows best in our climate and soil. Meanwhile, my husband has planted his own experimental crop of rat-tail radishes, which have been allowed to bolt so we can harvest the edible seed pods.

Unfortunately, our little acer and ornamental cherry blossom didn’t survive the harsh winter, but after careful consideration we’ve replaced them with two little apple trees, Grenadier for cooking and Fiesta for eating. It may be a few years until we get any apples from either of them, but in the mean time we’ve been baking pies and crumbles made with our own rhubarb, which is thriving in a partially shaded bed with the strawberries.

While we’ve had a fairly successful growing season so far, there have been a few failures as well, the birds devoured the spinach before we could pick any of it, and the cayenne pepper plant has only produced five little chilli peppers. I sometimes think it’s the risk of disappointment and failure that makes growing some of our own fruit and vegetables so rewarding.

This weekend we sowed swiss chard and kale seeds, which will hopefully give us some fresh greens through the autumn and winter months. Have a lovely week! X

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An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

Sometimes it seems like our gardening to-do list is almost never ending as we slowly cultivate this space and bring our ideas to fruition, but the recent heatwave has given us an excuse to slow down and appreciate all the beauty of summer in our garden.

In retrospect, creating a flower border under the privet hedge was probably a mistake as the roots of the hedge stretch into the bed absorbing the nutrients and moisture from the soil, and the border is in full sun creating a challenging environment for anything we plant. There’s much more bare earth this summer than I’d like as some of the perennials we bought have struggled to establish themselves and I’ll probably have to move some of them elsewhere in autumn, but a few don’t seem to mind the conditions.

The Aquilegias were already flowering when we bought them, but the first of our own plants to burst into blossom was a little Sedum that my mum gave me from her garden, which is thriving in its new location.

Then all at once the annuals burst into flower – though just like last year, I’ve over-seeded the bed causing an unruly tangle of colour, and it seems like there’s something new to see every day as one flower fades and the petals of another start to unfurl. Have a lovely week! X

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

Cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae

The weekend was spent celebrating my husband’s birthday, and as he doesn’t like too much fuss, we decided to have a little day away together; he suggested cycling around the Isle of Cumbrae, somewhere I’d never visited before.

We took the ferry from Largs to the Isle of Cumbrae, which runs every fifteen minutes during the summer, and the crossing itself only takes about ten minutes. From the ferry slip, we hopped on a bus to Millport, the only town on the island, where we hired a tandem bike for £7 an hour and set off clockwise around the island.

I was a little apprehensive as my husband cycles to work most days and I can’t remember the last time I was on a bike, but it didn’t take us long to find our balance and a leisurely pace that suited us both. The road around Cumbrae is about 10 miles long and relatively flat making it ideal for walking or cycling, and there are very few cars on the road. It took us about two hours to cycle around the island, including stops to enjoy the scenery and a picnic lunch.

The Isle of Cumbrae doesn’t have many tourist attractions, yet it’s one of the most accessible Scottish islands to visit and it’s so peaceful that it feels further away than it actually is; we both enjoyed our little tandem adventure so much that I’ve no doubt that we’ll be back again. Have a lovely week. X

A Walk on the Wild Side

A Walk on the Wild Side

Throughout the month of June, the Wildlife Trusts are encouraging people to get outdoors and enjoy nature, and I wanted to share a little photo round-up of one of the ways that I’ve been participating in the 30 Days Wild Challenge this year.

Near my workplace, there’s a park where I like to eat my lunch and stretch my legs whenever the weather permits. My lunch-break walks are a welcome interval during busy work days, providing an opportunity to slow down and gather my thoughts, and at this time of year, I particularly enjoy watching the damselflies flit around the pond.

These photos were taken on my phone, and required a combination of patience, stealth and speed, but I’ve relished the challenge of trying to capture some of the little details I notice on my wanders. Have a lovely week. X

Making an Entrance

Making an Entrance

After such a long and cold winter, the warmth and sunshine of spring took us by surprise and we’ve been rushing to catch up in the garden. Our garden is very much a work in progress, and we always seem to have a mix of short and long term plans on the go at once, but over the last few weeks we’ve been focusing our efforts on improving the front garden.

We inherited four roses planted by a previous owner in the front garden: a yellow with pink edges, a sultry red, and two different pinks, one pale and modest, the other bold and slightly disheveled. At some point, I’d like to add another red and a peach coloured rose too.

It’s fair to say that the front garden has been fairly neglected since we moved in and probably for some time before judging by the weeds that have flourished with only the roses as competition, by far the worst of the weeds is horsetail. I’m loathe to use weedkillers, and I’ve heard mixed reviews about their effectiveness against horsetail anyway, but I’m hoping that I can weaken it by vigorous weeding and planting a selection of other plants that will hopefully be tough enough to compete with the horsetail.

A few weeks ago, we took my grandmother to a garden center near where she lives and spent a lovely afternoon catching up over lunch, helping her choose birthday cards for relatives and friends, and buying a few new plants for our front garden, including a hardy fuschia, a thistle and a tiny Kilmarnock willow. We’ve also added a perennial cornflower (Amethyst in the Snow), Rudbeckia Goldstrum, Geranium Ann Folkard and two Japanese anemones (September Charm and Honorine Jobert). It doesn’t look like much yet, but I look forward to seeing this part of the garden develop and hopefully thrive in the years to come. Have a lovely week. X

Spring Wanderings

We’ve been enjoying a prolonged spell of good weather in our part of the country, and a few weeks ago we took advantage of the sunshine and warmth to have a little day trip to Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden.

15 Cramond Island Causeway2

Cramond Island sits about a mile off the coast of Cramond village in the Firth of Forth. At low tide, it’s possible to walk the causeway that connects the island with the mainland, and Queensferry Lifeboat Association helpfully provide safe crossing times for every day of the year.

Cramond Island was part of the defences during both world wars and the abandoned gun batteries and searchlight stations are still standing today. It’s a small island and it took us about an hour and a half to meander around the buildings and along the beach at a leisurely pace.

Back on the mainland, we visited the nearby Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Garden set in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. Spring is my favourite time of year to visit the Japanese-inspired garden as the cherry blossoms are in bloom.

15 Kyoto Friendship Garden415 Kyoto Friendship Garden3

My husband and I wandered around the gardens reminiscing about the places we visited in Kyoto on our honeymoon, chatting about adding a few Japanese plants to our own garden and simply enjoying the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.

15 Kyoto Friendship Garden2

Both Cramond Island and the Edinburgh-Kyoto Friendship Gardens are a little off the beaten path and as a result weren’t overly crowded when we visited, and it was lovely to enjoy a leisurely wander in the spring sunshine. Have a lovely week. X

On the road around Iceland

Over the years my husband and I have had some wonderful holidays together from our first city-break to Budapest a few months into our courtship to our honeymoon in Japan, but this year we decided to return to Iceland for a second time. We first visited Iceland in September 2014 and though we spent most of our time in and around Reykjavik we fell in love with the vast, volcanic landscape, and this time we hired a car to explore the ring road.

OntheroadaroundIceland

We travelled clockwise around the ring road, taking it in turns to drive, mixing our favourite songs with a few Icelandic artists like Bjork, Of Monsters and Men and Sigur Ros, and watching the landscape change through the windscreen. Iceland is sparsely inhabited, beautiful and full of contrasts from crashing waterfalls, winding roads, snowy mountains and frozen lakes to moss covered lava fields, craters, bubbling mud pits, black sand beaches, colourful houses and quirky churches.

It was such a memorable adventure that it’s hard to pick my favourite moments – some of which weren’t even captured on camera. In Akureyri, we had the option of pony trekking or whale watching and my husband chose the former as he pointed out there was no guarantee we’d see a whale but 100% chance of seeing a pony while trekking. I was a little nervous as I hadn’t been riding since I was a child, but it was a lot of fun and the ponies were full of character.

We visited the fairly new Into the Arctic museum in Akureyri and as we had the place almost to ourselves, the curator gave us a guided tour. Both times we’ve visited Iceland, we’ve really enjoyed chatting to the locals, as most people speak English and they’re polite, friendly and funny, and it’s a great way of learning about the country.

We also spent a couple of blissful hours soaking in the Myvatn nature baths and we emerged feeling relaxed, refreshed and wrinkly as prunes.

Svartifoss

The first time we visited Iceland, we were lucky enough to see rainbows in the waterspray at Skogafoss, and this time the sun hit the spray in front of Svartifoss creating a perfect rainbow just for a moment.

We ended up spending longer than we expected at Jokulsarlon as we were fascinated by the contrast of the blue icebergs washed ashore on the black sand beach. It is truly one of the strangest and most beautiful places I’ve ever visited.

The Icelandic diet is heavy on meat and fish, but we didn’t have any trouble finding tasty vegetarian food, and the highlights were vegan curry-wurst from a little farm cafe called Havari near Breiddalsvik and tomato soup from Fridheimar, a farm where they use geothermal energy to grow fresh tomatoes.

It was an incredible adventure and although we saw almost everything we wanted to on this trip, there is still so much more to see and do that I hope we will visit Iceland at least once more. Have a lovely week. X