Monday, May 30, 2011

Love in the Mist...

Originally this post was part of an upcoming post on English borders and traditional English flower choices for that perfect country garden. However, it changed tac a bit because I wanted to share a recipe with you all...


Nigella damascena, or Love in the mist, is an annually flowering plant, belonging to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), which grows to a height of about 18 inches high. It comes in many colours, but blues and purples are the most common varieties...


The seed pods resemble something from a sci-fi film...

The pods are easy to collect each year, so One can resow the seeds elsewhere in One's garden. Even though, as the name suggests, they are natives to the Damascus area, they are a quintessential English country flower.

My favourite shade of Nigella is this pale blue specimen above.

Speaking of other English beauties in pale blue who go by the name of Nigella...

I love Nigella Lawson - I love a tart of ample proportions, and she can turn out some beauties. She is fun to watch and is as much an entertainer as a cook. Recently one of my colleagues baked Nigella's Gingerbread cake with Lemon icing for her going away party. It was divine, so I wanted to share the recipe with all of you dear readers...

Gingerbread Cake with Lemon Icing
from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of organic, unsalted, free-range butter
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
3/4 cup of treacle or golden syrup
2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, finely grated (powder will suffice if needs be)
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 cup of yogurt
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon of baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water
2 1/3 cups standard white flour

Lemon icing:

1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice
1 1/3 cup of sifted icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1 tablespoon of warm water

Method:

Grease a medium sized cake tin, lined with baking paper.

Melt the butter combined with the brown sugar, honey, treacle, ginger and cinnamon in a saucepan at a medium heat. Take care it doesn't catch. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and then add the yogurt, and baking soda and water. Blend and set aside.

When the butter is melted, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the yogurt and egg mixture.

Sift the flour into a large bowl and add the liquid ingredients to the flour. Beat together until everything is well combined. Pour into to the prepared cake tin and bake in a 160 degree oven (325 degrees Fahrenheit) for approximately 45 minutes, or until the cake rises and firms up.

Turn it out onto a cake rack and let it cool completely before icing. To make the icing, whisk together the lemon juice and icing sugar, adding only as much water as you need to get a nice thick icing. Pour over the cake and smooth out with a spatula. Allow to set before slicing and serving.

This is why We love Nigella...

video

Friday, May 20, 2011

Winter planting for Spring Bulbs..


Just in the nick of time, our bulb order arrived on the doorstep this morning, all ready for this weekend's bulb planting extravaganza (sounds better than admitting we have roped a few friends in to spend the day bending over planting thousands of little bulbs).

To ensure Willowbrook is a floral fantasy this spring, We are planting a huge variety of bulbs. Their placement has been meticulously planned on the garden maps. Firstly, we have the planting of the lakeside area with a variety of lillies, narcissi and irises...

Iris 'blue magic'...


Yellow Flag Iris...


Iris Versicolour...


and Iris Germanica...


Then we shall complete the Bluebell Walk with...

Bluebells (hyacinthoides ssp)


and Muscari ssp inc. 'Early Giant' and 'Americanum'...




Dotted around the Lake and Oak Grove will be various Freesias, including Cassis (pink), Yvonne (yellow), Ancona (purple), Oberon (red with yellow centre), and Argenta (white)...


We have a great many Narcissi species to plant as well. Under all the Tilia europea in The Lime Walk we shall plant Narcissus 'orangery' (split carona - below)...


Under the London Plane Trees up the drive we shall plant Narcissus 'rosy wonder' (both species below)...



and under all the Willows along the brook we shall plant...

Above: The early flowering Narcissus 'malvern city'

Below: The mid season flowering Narcissus 'carlton'


Below: The multiflowered Narcissus Erlicheer


By planting these species we should ensure a good long period of blooms.


We shall also under plant the woods with pockets of Croci...

Above: Crocus chrysanthus 'cream beauty'

Below: Crocus seiberi 'firefly'


Moving on to the flower border around the Potager garden, we shall plant...

Above: Hyacinthus orientalis 'Delft blue'

Below: Hyacinthus orientalis 'sky jacket'


and

Above: Hyacinthus orientalis 'Paul Herman'

Below: Hyacinthus orientalis 'pink surprise'


Around the potager and in the 8 standard bay pots we shall have a variety of 'flaming' and non flaming parrot tulips...




Below: The 'Air' Parrot Tulip - Pink with green edges


Below: 'Rococo' is a very dramatic red parrot with green frills.


The 'Super Parrot' - white and green. Very popular for bridal arrangements


Then there are the standard tulips. 'Spring Green' is another popular bridal option, with its similar colourings to the super parrot...


Below: The Standard Tulip 'London', is a great specimen of red tulip.


Below: 'Princess Irene' is an exceptional golden yellow specimen, a perfect seasonal compliment for One's Orange borders....


Some of the bulbs waiting to be planted...


I suspect it will take us a lot longer than one weekend to plant all the bulbs, but at least with a rotary hoe we won't have to prepare the soil manually like we did last weekend for all the buxus hedging. Whatever you are doing this weekend, I hope you have a colourful one.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bees, Boles and Bears...

Our Bees are back again, which has inspired me to write a small, random post for my friend D.R.L. - a bear of very little brains.

Some illumination from manuscripts about bees and beekeeping...




Catching a swarm...



Then releasing them into a hive...


Letting them do their thing....











And then harvesting their honey...



Whilst trying not to get stung...


Above and Below courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


Someone else who likes honey...




A bear of little brains, but a great friend....



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