Scented Geranium Tea

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I’ve got herbs on my mind at the moment as it’s all go in the new Herb Garden. The last few months have been mainly all about Project Cut Flower but last weekend Mr Fig surprised me by striding out through the Cut Flowers into the “Herb Garden To Be” wielding weed matting, pins and muttering about string and straight lines. Looks like my hints at cultivating another bit of the paddock had worked. I was Chief Tape Measure Holder…….and look at what we achieved!

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Not very pretty yet but at least it’s now a properly marked out area so I can hone my design a bit. I find that plans that look good in my head look totally different when I actually stand in the space I’m working on.  I have re-jigged my design again and again; each time making it more simple. The centre will be a small circular Chamomile Lawn and the hard landscaping will be pavers and gravel with little herbs tucked here and there in between. The L shaped beds round the sides will be packed with a mix of herbs – not many culinary ones though as I keep these nearer the house. There will also be 4 small square beds in symetrical pattern around the lawn. Not much to do then……!

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One of my more exciting new leafy additions will be scented geraniums (pelargoniums). I’ve been accumulating quite a collection. I have to admit that the flower isn’t anything special but the leaves are quite extra ordinary. Gently rub the leaf and sniff…..

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……..chocolate? Really? Try another and you might smell mint. I’ve also got orange, rose and anise.

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I find geraniums really easy to grow.  You don’t need to fuss too much about watering but apparently they do need a bit of shade and, being a tender annual, they are frost tender. It’s a good idea to take little cuttings and pot them up in the greenhouse or sunny windowsill over winter just in case the frost gets to your prized plants outside in the cold. Geraniums are very obliging plants and are obviously geneticlly engineered to multiply so taking cuttings is a cinch. Just snip off a stem and pop it into a pot of compost. It’ll happily put down roots and, with a bit of warmth in Spring, it will grow surprisingly quickly into an established plant.

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So why the new obsession with scented geraniums? Well, I’m quite partial to  scented geranium tea. It’s so easy to make and you can choose from a huge array of flavours or even go mad and combine a few for the ultimate Scented Geranium Tea Experience! I like mixing Perky Peppermint with Chocolate. This is what I do…..

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Pick a handful of your chosen geranium leaves. I pick the whole stalk to keep the plant looking tidy. Harvesting leaves for tea is a great way of controlling growth and pruning into shape. Wash the leaves and remove stalk. If the leaves are large tear them up a bit and you can chop up the stalks and add them in too if you like.

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Pop them into a teapot and pour on not-quite-boiled water. Leave to infuse for about 10 minutes.

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There you go it really is as simple as that.  My other favourite is rose scented geranium tea – just like my fav chocolate bar Turkish Delight but healthier :-) Of course these teas are great chilled with some ice – especially the lemon flavoured one. Or you can even pick a small posy, tie it together and hang over the bath tap. As the water runs through the leaves it will infuse the water with yummy geranium scented loveliness. What a plant!

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Gone Wild

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Something very exciting happened on Tuesday! The stretch of dead looking land that flows like a ribbon around the new paddock gardens was finally rotavated and sown with hundreds and thousands of tiny little wildflower seeds!!

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Here’s the tractor ploughing up the soil so it’s nice and soft for the seed to take root.

We hummed and harred a bit about the small-ness of the seed. What would be the best way to distribute them evenly? Finally decided on the smallest bit of equipment they had….

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and even so….1.5kg of seed look pretty pathetic!!

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We were advised to sow 2-3 grams per 10m square so that’s what we did.  Not sure if my fingers will uncross this week before I see evidence of the tiny wild shoots peeping through. We were lucky enough to get a big shower of rain overnight which can only help. I chose quite a tall mix of wildflowers including marigold, lupin, cosmos, nigella, coreopsis, cornflower and poppy and the idea is to mow  a path through the field with little stopping points along the way. I’m thinking of adding a couple of fruit trees for shade too…..

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Talking of trees…..the Nuttery has been planted up with a mixture of almonds and hazelnuts and also some hawthorne, crabapples, kowhai, elderflower, Magnolia, Pomegranite, Taxodium, Eucalyptus and willow. Quite a mix! We planted in small groups of the same variety to avoid a “spotted” look and our choices were led by a desire for blossom, fruit, Autumn colour, appeal to birds and produce to eat or display in a vase. I hope we’ve got it right. The winding path takes you through the wood into a hazelnut circle and out onto the wildflower meadow where another path will begin. I was given some beautiful foxgloves from my Farmer Friend which I planted the very same day along the Nuttery path. They seem to like their new spot and are flowering happily.

The Cutting Garden is beginning to take shape slowly but surely. I’ve planted out almost two beds full of annual and perenniel seedlings. I can’t wait to see them in a few weeks as they bulk up and begin to flower. Some other flowery highlights from around the garden include this Cecil Brunner rose.

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It’s best to pick it when the buds are just open. If you pick a closed bud it will just droop in a vase. The scent is very delicate rather like the flower but it looks fabulous on it’s own or in a little posy. The climbing rose Casino that I planted in the vege garden last year is rampaging away and producing beautiful delicate yellow flowers on very strong stems. This will looks gorgeous with white scented stocks and purple cerinthe.

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The purpe cerinthe was transplanted from a shady spot to a sunnier position and it’s thriving. It’s foliage is as gorgeous as it’s flowers.

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I’m wondering how well chamomile will do in a vase. I know that Feverfew is very happy to mingle with others in a posy as are many other herbs so I’m going to experiment with Chamomile seeing as I have so much of it that self seeded from last year’s Spice bed.

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I’m really hoping that I’ll get the tall spiky pink flowers from my clary sage this year. I’ve lined the chicken walk with this very robust plant with it’s large hairy leaves and I’m hoping for a bit of colour from it this year.

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I’ve been experimenting with many of the spring flowers from the cutting garden although I left my tulips alone to hopefully build strength for next year because I was a little late planting them. I think ranunculus and anemones are amongst my faourite flowers ever. Picked regularly they go on and on and on – such a generous flower.

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Here is a red ranunculus with purple cerinth, frothy bronze fennel (smells delish!) and  what I think is a type of hypericum. There’s nothing like picking flowers from the garden!

 

 

Almost ready to cut in the Cutting Garden

It feels as if I’ve been working on my Cutting Garden for a loooong time; since about June in fact. Still I love a challenge and I’m lucky that Mr Fig is happy to lend some muscle and a sharp eye for straight lines! The Cutting Garden is being carved out from a rectangular paddock that used to be home to many, many apple trees. It is being slowly transformed into a very different kind of productive space with a fig orchard, a Nuttery, a Herb Garden and a Cut Flower Garden. This is how the Cut Flower Garden looked in June.

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Pretty Bleak. It’s at times like this that you have to have a strong vision! The bare bones are in place with paths marked with weed mat and blue stakes to indicate lines of bulbs.

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The next stage was building very simple edging to contain the soil and the gravel paths. I really like neatness in a garden and the straight lines please me enormously!! If only my house had this kind of order!

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We spent (the Royal We) quite a bit of time flattening the path before weed matting and gravelling.

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Finally the last bit of gravel was raked into place and this is the basic structure. The general idea is to start with bulbs in the spring and once these die back I’ll plant out annuals and biennials in between to grow over the dead foliage. The perimeter beds will house mainly Perennials and the sweetpeas. Dahlias will go in the central square beds. I started this project too late to do an autumn sowing of biennials like poppies, stocks and sweet williams but this will be the plan for next year.

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Other structural work included adding some posts and netting for the sweetpeas that have been overwintering merrily in the greenhouse. I started with two supports but ended up needing four – there were a lot of very happy sweetpeas to re-home!

It hasn’t been all plain sailing with this project. Apart from being very time consuming we’ve had a few pests to deal with.

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An army of Pukekoes have invaded the paddock and have taken great delight in playing in the Cutting Garden. I say playing because Pukekoes are like toddlers – they do things randomly and without much thought. So, iris bulbs were plucked from the soil, branches were snapped from perennials and the tips of tulip leaves were ripped off. Bad pukekoes! I think I’ll need to plant a hedge around for protection. However, it’s certainly not all gloom and doom. There’s plenty of colour to be seen and enjoyed even from this embyonic Cutting Patch.

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Tulips…….

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Anemones….

And here’s a photo of the next part of the project; The Herb Garden. As you exit the Cutting Garden you will move through to the Herb Garden. I haven’t quite decided on a theme (if any) yet. Possibilities are Aromatherapy or perhaps a mixture of fragrance, medicinal and a few culinary. I like to keep culinary herbs near the house so there won’t be many of these. Not sure but it’ll all come together eventually! In the meantime I’m busy sowing cut flower seed and pricking out and potting on. More about that next time.

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Sugar Free Ginger and Date Muffins

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It’s the start of the Busy Season here and what with seed sowing and orchestrating a huge School Fundraiser my blog has been sadly neglected. However, recently little ideas for posts have been popping into my head so hopefully I’m back on track again. I have to say I’ve a lot to blog about what with choosing trees for The Nuttery, sowing seeds for the Cut Flower Garden not to mention my plans for a Herb Garden (Aromatherapy and Tea) and of course the usual vege seed sowing. I’m exhausted just reading that list!

To even begin a To do List like that I highly recommend a little toothsome snack. It’s a Sugar Free Date and Ginger Muffin. Strictly speaking you will of course find sugar in the dates and the apple juice but…..for a pretty healthy, tasty option this little muffin is hits the spot! It’s such an easy recipe too; no butter to cream or melt just a little light date chopping and you’re halfway there.

To Do List Muffin

Ingredients
150g dates
140g self raising flour
1 egg
125ml apple juice
3 Tbsp veg oil
1/2 tsp powdered ginger

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Sieve the flour and ginger into a bowl. Chop up the dates and add to the bowl. Mix all of the wet ingredients in a jug and pour over the dry ingredients.

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Give it a mix but don’t go mad and over do it. Spoon into prepared muffin trays. Bake for 12 minutes at 200c.

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It’s a cute little cake and not too heavy. Just enough sweetness to give you a mid morning boost after an hour or two of gardening. So next time you’re staring at an endless To Do List make some of these to lighten the load!

 

Sowing seeds for the Cutting Garden

Seed scene

I know my blog has been a bit quiet recently but I’ve been quite busy behind the scenes. I’ve been planning and dreaming and just recently sowing seeds. You know all about the vege seeds I’m growing but I’ve also started sowing flower seeds for my Cutting Garden. I’ve been a bit cross with the cutting garden or rather the man who ploughed and grassed our paddock. I marked out my Cutting garden with canes and asked him NOT to grass inside the canes. Yep you guessed it. As my carefully planted bulbs began to peep out from the soil so did millions and trillions of grass. The air was as blue as the grass was green that morning. Annoyingly I had to spray the whole lot and I HATE spraying but what can you do? So, I’m back to square one but progress is on it’s way in the form of tiny little seeds.

While I’m pretty excited about all the seeds I’ve chosen to grow there are a few Stand Out Stars that I really can’t wait for Here’s my Top 5 seeds to grow for the Cutting Garden.

Stocks

These are stock seeds (Matthiola Incana). I can’t wait to smell their spicy scent! They were a very popular Edwardian flower that went by the name Gillyflower. There are two types of stock; hardy annual and biennial. Brompton stocks or ‘ten week stocks’ are treated as an annual and take ten weeks to flower. They produce just one stem so are definitely not a cut and come again flower. They often produce fancier flowers though and have a greater variety of colour. The biennial type of stock are sown in the Autumn, put on growth over winter and flower in early Spring. They form branched plants so you can pick them over a long period of time. Biennials are a great idea for the cut flower garden because they will flower earlier than any spring sown seeds. The variety I found (and there wasn’t a huge amount of choice) are hardy annuals. It seems that they’re a mix of singles and doubles as they advise to select light green seedlings for doubles and darker green ones for singles.

Ammi Majus

Ammi Majus is another flower that I’m really looking forward to. It’s a member of the carrot family so has a long tap root which doesn’t like to be disturbed when potting on. It’s white umbrels are very similar to cow parsley that froths and frolics in English hedgerows. It’s a filler plant and can be used with a huge variety of flowers to add bulk and a relaxed meadow feel. I much prefer natural looking bouquets and posies. They have  a sense of quirkiness and vitality that glossy imported perfect specimens lack.

Antirrhinum Princess White

Snapdragons or Antirrhinums are such charming flowers with their dreaming spires of individual blooms. You need to get the taller varieties for a good cut flower option. Garden centres prefer the bedding varieties but you can still buy seed for the taller varieties. I found three varieties; Princess white with purple eye, Snowflake and Brazillian Carnival. All grow to about 85-90 cm and will simply fizz with colour (Brazillian Carnical) or radiate peace and calm (Snowflake).

Briza Maxima

Briza Maxima is a grass that also goes by the name Quaking grass. The grass heads have a pearl lustre to their coats and they hang from gossamer thin stems which naturally tremble and shake in the breeze. I love the idea of adding this energy to a bouquet so I really hope they germinate. Apparently you need patience as they take their time.

The final cut flower in my Top 5 is Larkspur the smaller cousin of the delphinium. This seed requires stratification which means pop it in the fridge for a few weeks. It needs a cold spell to break it’s dormancy and germinate. These flowers benefit from pinching out the growing tip to produce a bushier plant.

It’s the first day of spring tomorrow! My favourite season of them all!