Archive for February, 2012

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Bathroom Hyacinths

At this time of year I love Hyacinths. It’s just so lovely to start bringing the outside in. Spring is here (on some days) and on others we’re flipping back into Winter. But that’s okay by me. I’m mostly staying indoors still and keeping warm. But it’s nice to have something growing and alive and promising in the house.

I bought the stubby bulbs from the florist at my local garden centre (she’s so smiley I can’t resist buying from her!). They came in a crisp brown bag and I ran out to plant them in the potting shed and ran back to get warm.

Now they are looking at me as I brush my teeth in the bathroom. And when they open up, that gorgeous Hyacinth-y smell will fill my morning. Can’t wait.

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My Botanical Painting Course

I finally made it onto a botanical illustration course. After I declared my interest last month I’d been looking for a local course to attend so that I could learn the basics.

Nothing materialised but then I got a newsletter from Alitex (purveyors of gorgeous greenhouses – hey, a girl can dream can’t she?). And in it there was a link to a botanical illustration course held at their greenhouse show site (another excuse – do I need any more?) with renowned botanical illustrator, Billy Showell. What a piece of luck?

Even though it was a two and a half hour drive from my house I signed up, immediately.

Firstly, Billy was amazing. She came prepared and we got down to drawing straight away. Her teaching style was spot on. She showed us how to do things, gave us tips and shortcuts and helped me when I hit a tricky bit. In short she was lovely.

Lunch was in one of the conservatories and since the sun had come out it was the perfect setting. And… it was decked beautifully with easy chairs, old wooden doors, Lemon and Olive trees and some nighttime ambience for that long summer evening.

We also had the opportunity to wander around the greenhouses and tick off features on our imaginary list and say things like, “Oh! I would definitely have that in my greenhouse.”

And then, after all this, I got to take home this painting.

Which, I can hardly believe, I created with my own bare hands. I’m thrilled.

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Kid’s Gardening Box

I just took delivery of this sweet little box of kid’s gardening paraphernalia courtesy of Innocent Kids. We love smoothies in this house so it was super exciting to get this box. But that’s not all…

They sent me two! So I’m giving one away in the Kid’s Gardening Group over at UK Veg Gardeners. Check it out if you know some little person who might appreciate this.

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The Secret Garden

If I could pin-point the exact moment in my life when my obsession with walled gardens began it would be here. Well, to be exact about halfway through this book. Probably the bit where Mary forces her way through the old door and finds the overgrown roses.

It all started in my local library. It was a small, mock-Tudor building about a ten minute walk from my house and only open on certain days. During the summer holidays I would go down there with my friend and we would sit hunched over in the children’s section, on chairs that were much too small for us, and read books. Occasionally we would borrow them and take them home. But only if they were really, really good.

You see, we didn’t come to the library on foot. Oh no. Since this was the 80s we absolutely had to go everywhere on our roller boots. And because of this I had no way of transporting books. As anyone who has ever tried to carry anything while on roller boots will testify, it’s almost impossible to carry anything. This is because you need both hands to hold on to the wall at tricky junctions.

I had a very small purse (with my name on, naturally) that would hang diagonally from shoulder to hip but it was only big enough for some sweet money and the front door key. What more did you need? And certainly not big enough for books.

Use a backpack you say? Well that would be the e-a-s-y option but what if some boy from school saw me wearing a backpack (totally reserved for school and not de-rigueur at weekends or during the summer holidays)? Yes I was vain too.

So… the fact that I actually bothered to take my library card to the library and actually borrow a copy of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett speaks volumes. I had to have it in my reading claw. If only to find out who the heck Dickon was and if he really could speak to the birds?

Yes, this is the point, in my life when I actually became obsessed with walled gardens. And if Frances was still alive I’d shake her by the hand and say a heartfelt thankyou.

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Site Maintenance

Hello all. Just a quick post to tell you that My Tiny Plot is undergoing some essential maintenance hence the new look. The usual theme is acting a little strange and we (that’s the royal we of course) are fixing it as we speak. Our usual look will re-appear very shortly. I have full confidence in my tech support/ under gardener.

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How to Grow Pineberries

My Pineberry plants arrived. Ten of them in total, in a teeny tiny little bag inside a teeny box. When I unwrapped them I found out why. They are indeed like small Strawberries. Each was no more than four or five centimetres long.

I planted them straight away in the sunniest part of the garden, in a patch that I manured in Autumn. They should like it there. I had a few spare so I planted the extra ones in a large terracotta pot and put it underneath my Grapevine on the South-facing wall. They’ll probably need some watering when Summer comes.

Here are the basics on how to grow them.
Courtesy of Mow it, Sow it, Grow it.

How to plant

  • Prepare the soil by digging over, removing any perennial weeds and adding manure.
  • Place the Pineberry plants every 30cm in rows that are 30 cm apart.
  • Plant with the crown at soil level and water well.
  • Check the plants every other day during the ripening period.
  • Regularly hoe between the rows and individual plants.

Caring for Pineberries

  • From May place straw in the rows and under the fruit to suppress weeds and prevent the fruit lying on the ground. This also keeps snails at bay!
  • If you can’t get straw use polythene sheeting.
  • Well rotted horse manure applied just after winter and once more just before growing will ensure a great crop.
  • Pick regularly to encourage growth.

So, they’re in. The newest addition to My Tiny Plot – Pineberries.

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Mossy & Green

At this time of year it’s gorgeous in the woods. All mossy, green, and sweet smelling. Moss is amazing isn’t it? The more you look at it, the more you see. It’s like a tiny world where everything stays green all Winter long. I love it.

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Seed Swappers

I went to my local seed swapping event today, Seedy Sunday. Now is a great time to swap your saved seed and get something new to grow that you may not have grown before.

Others thought so too as it was already packed with people swapping, chatting and consuming tea and cakes.

There was a book swap table, to which I donated my Alan Titchmarsh Kitchen Garden book,

Ian from More Veg, helped Jackson and I choose some seeds from his stand.

And even though we didn’t actually donate any seed we managed to come away (by way of a donation) with a packet of Cress and some Fennel.

And… I found out that Simpson’s Seeds nursery is actually in the old kitchen garden at Longleat house. So that one is on my ‘gardens to visit’ list for the summer.

mtp

Early Rhubarb Jam

I met a lovely lady today at Frome market selling these very pink jars of ‘Early Rhubarb’ jam. It wasn’t just the jam that caught my eye but the presentation of it too. The labels, the brown paper wrapping, the cute litte jars. Her stall was laid out with patience and attention to detail. She used wooden crates, vintage tablecloths, and lots and lots of glass cake stands to display her products. Her stall just shone out.

I love that. I had to buy some of course, that was a given. I asked her where the Rhubarb came from as mine wasn’t ready yet and she said she’d just had a huge delivery from Yorkshire (the Rhubarb triangle) and was busy making lots of jam for all the local farmer’s markets. What a lovely way to pass these cold, cold months.

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Cake Friday Flickr Group

Hello bakers! There has been such a great response to Cake Friday that I’ve decided to make a little Flickr photo group so that we can all share our lovely cake shots and recipes in the same place. The group is called Cake Friday and is invitation only (just so we don’t get lots of annoying spam comments). But all you have to do is join the group before you post. Happy baking!

In the photo: my boy anticipating that he might get a slice of this, sticky, three-tier chocolatey mass of goodness. I expect he will.

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