Saturday, 28 March 2015

Talking about tomatoes, part 2 - March 2015

Tomato season is coming to an end, so I want to quickly jot down some notes here to refer back to next season. We had a great summer but the tomatoes took a while to really get going, especially the outside ones, so next year I will need to think twice about whether it's even worth planting them outside - perhaps just the tried and true varieties. (Oh who am I kidding, I always have too many seedlings and I'm not going to just throw them out, am I?) Anyway... when you are picking that sweet, savoury, juicy, delicious fruit and putting it straight into your meal (or your mouth), you forget all the challenges and it all becomes worth it.

Tomato notes - glasshouse

  • The caterpillars were slow arriving but they did come at last. Not as bad as previous years.
  • Tomatoes succumbed to blight at the end of the season as usual, but fruit not affected.
  • I usually like to make my own fertiliser from comfrey but I just couldn't be bothered this year. I also had a bag of Tui Novatec to try, which did a good job.
Tomato notes - outside

  • Tomatoes outside were much slower to flower and ripen. The plus side is that they are continuing after the glasshouse ones have finished.
  • The best performers are Juliet and Kumato... the rest really aren't worth the trouble.
  • For fertiliser I used Novatec, sheep pellets, compost and neem granules (for pest repellant).

Tomato varieties

  • Juliet - always reliable. First to ripen, prolific. Firm skin and fruit, not really the best texture but they store really well, and fallen fruit don't tend to rot and will continue to ripen.
  • Brandywine - same growth habits as other beefsteaks. Nice flavour, but didn't beat my favourite Black Krim!
  • Brown Berry - Prolific cherry tomato with nice flavour.
  • Black Cherry - slightly more pink/maroon than Brown Berry, otherwise very similar.
  • Black Krim - didn't set a huge amount of fruit this year but I think that's normal for beefsteaks? As the fruits they do set are so big. My favourite sandwich tomato!
  • Yellow Pear - the slowest to get going, but good once it did. Doesn't set quite as much fruit as the other cherry tomatoes.
  • Green Grape - I remember this one being fussy when I first started growing it, but I've been saving my own seeds for several years so I must have kept the good ones! They have chartreuse skin and green flesh with a lovely sweet taste. 
  • Kumato - this was the wild card this year and it's proved itself. It did ok outside and would have been even better in the glasshouse. Medium size, brownish maroon fruits with firm skin. They had a nice smoky flavour and were good in sandwiches, also the firm skin meant it was easy to remove when blanched, so they are good for making sauce/relish. I've saved seed and am looking forward to trying it again next year.
I've been gorging myself on fresh tomatoes, in sandwiches and salads, on toast and mixed into almost any dish I've cooked! I made a batch of relish and several batches of semi dried cherry tomatoes in the dehydrator. I dry them for about 8 hours so there is still some moisture in them, then pack them into bags and freeze them. They are a treat in winter.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

March flowers

Hi and welcome to March in my garden! Summer might be winding down but the garden is as flower filled as ever, and the lowering light makes blooms and petals even more beautiful. There are seed heads and berries forming and it's fun to look each day and spot new changes.

Clockwise from top left: an unknown climbing rose grown from a cutting, autumnal tints on a hydrangea, viburnum berries (these plants have always been in one of my side gardens but I never noticed berries on them before. They are so vibrant - wow!), white rose grown from a cutting, a patchwork looking cosmos, pink penstemon, lupin and lavatera, water drops sparkling on a hydrangea, burgundy scabiosa, autumn cyclamen, apple blossom geranium, scabiosa seed head. Middle: lupins and gaura backlit by the evening sun.

What is blooming in your garden this month? Is it spring or autumn? I'm linking this post to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Styling the Seasons - March 2015

Hello, and welcome back to Styling the Seasons for March! This is a monthly styling challenge hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots.

This month I've created a relaxing little corner on my deck. In New Zealand, March is late summer/early autumn. The weather is usually hot but you have that creeping feeling that the gorgeous weather won't last all that much longer, and so some advantage needs to be taken. (Also, the angle of the sun has shifted a little bit, and this corner is now a bit shadier... that's appreciated on a summer's afternoon!)

I made myself a refreshing basil and raspberry mojito drink. You can find the recipe here, just leave out the booze if you're drinking at home alone on your deck at lunch time... or leave it in, I won't tell! Just don't forget the mint.

My calibrachoas are doing really well - they are perfect deck plants! They have flowered nonstop since about October. I have three and I'm going to make a real effort to look after them over winter so they will hopefully bounce back again next year.

It might be summer but I still want a soft blanket for padding, or pulling over my bare feet if a breeze comes up. My Summertime Patchwork Quilt blanket is perfect, nice and lightweight but warm. This is exactly what I imagined using it for when I made it. I also have pillows for snuggling and a hat to pull over my eyes while I take a nap!

Well, the wind came up, the garland fell down and my set was photobombed by the cat. Hey, that's late summer for you... I still sat back in my chair and drank my mojito! Here's to a few more weeks of happy sunny days before the dreaded daylight savings kicks in. Cheers!

Monday, 16 February 2015

February flowers

Here we are with my February flowers post. This month my garden seems a bit more muted, or perhaps I've just chosen to focus on the softer flowers rather than the brash, end-of-summer colours of dahlias and salvias. I like the soft shades here as a respite from the hot weather we've been having!

Clockwise from top left: lavatera and gaura, carnation, Peace roses (currently opening as a bright yellow bud then fading to pastel fondant shades of pink and cream), gypsophila, white echinacea, dahlia, sweet alyssum, poppy seed heads, hydrangea, penstemon Blackbird, Claire rose, scabiosa. 

I'm joining in at Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, where gardeners all around the world show what is flowering in their patch right now.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Styling the Seasons February 2015

 Hello there! Well, it's February (a week into it, oops) so I'm joining in again this month with Styling The Seasons, hosted by Katy at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts and Lots. Each month we are invited to style a surface in our home reflecting that month and season, and since it's February I've gone with my kitchen shelf. Late summer for me means hot, sunny afternoons and evenings, and lots of produce to harvest in my garden. I'm busy chopping, packaging, preserving and freezing, so I want nice things to look at in the kitchen while I do that!

 I have four sets of curtains in the kitchen/dining room and they are all different shades of green. It wasn't exactly intentional but I ended up loving the matching-yet-mismatching look of it!
This is the first time that I've used yellow as a feature colour deliberately! It's not normally among my favourite colours, but I found the rose patterned plate a few weeks ago at a market and decided to use it as the basis for my display. I don't know if I'm a yellow convert now, but it does add a nice pop here!

 I found some pink trim in my suitcase of vintage trims. It's very soft and was probably used for trimming flannel nighties. I'm going to make sure I edge a pair of pyjama pants with it before winter!

I love the delicate fronds of this maidenhair fern. It's right at home in its little enamel pot.

Hope you like my little shelfie this month. It's bright pretty colours are definitely lifting my heart and making my kitchen chores a little more bearable!

Monday, 2 February 2015

Urban Jungle Bloggers: Plants and Coffee

Welcome to my post for Urban Jungle Bloggers' February styling challenge! If you haven't come across Urban Jungle Bloggers before, it's a monthly challenge hosted by Judith from and Igor from Happy Interior Blog. This month's theme is Plants and Coffee. I decided to take inspiration from a cafe that's recently opened in Christchurch called The Lemon Tree Cafe - it's a gorgeous little cafe filled with vintage china, lace, doilies, shabby chic furniture and lots of plants! Before I show you the rest of my styling, let me show you some photos of my inspiration.

I loved the beautiful lace tablecloths and crochet doilies. The tables were covered with a sheet of safety glass, you can imagine what a mess they would get in otherwise! All the tables also had packets of sugar in little cups or jugs, and various sets of novelty salt and pepper shakers. Such a fun touch!

 I especially like the row of plants on the wrought iron table. Old chamber pots make wonderful planters! Also, African violets! I had two leaf cuttings which survived for a while but both eventually died. I really should find some more and try again.

 Back at home I decided to recreate the vintage display. The obvious place to put it was on top of my china cabinet which I've just finished repainting and refurbishing! I've got plenty of doilies at home to choose from (I may be just a touch obsessed with vintage doilies) and I had a vintage rose print to prop up at the back.

 My cyclamens are just gearing up for their winter flowering season. This pink one is the first bloom... looking forward to many months more. The wooden house frame is an op shop find from my mum. I think I'll paint it, just need to decide what colour...

 In the green enamel pot are some cuttings from my goldfish plant. They were getting a bit leggy. I was going to trim them back, but then I thought of making a frame from some wire. Now I love the way they look wrapping around it.

 Here's my silver tray and spoons. They are a bit tarnished and I like them like that. In a nod to the Lemon Tree Cafe I've put out my favourite set of vintage salt and pepper shakers. I think this mug goes quite well too... though it happens to be brand new from Briscoes!

The roses are Sexy Rexy from my garden. They have such a compact and beautiful form.

I wasn't going to buy new houseplants for the purposes of this post, but it's funny the way they just jump into your shopping basket of their own accord isn't it? I really do like this zebra plant - it's bold graphic leaves are such a perfect contrast to the soft and feminine planter. And the funny little succulent is right at home in my teapot.

Well, it's taken long enough to write this post that I really am craving a cup of coffee now. Hope you've enjoyed my vintage display. There are more beautiful stylings to be enjoyed at Urban Jungle Bloggers - make yourself a cuppa and head on over!

Monday, 26 January 2015

Talking about tomatoes, part 1 - Jan 2015

 It's tomato time... finally! We had a cold, late start to spring last year. I sowed my seeds inside and usually I just need to put them on a sunny windowsill and they sprout fine. Not so this time - they sulked, refused to come up, and those which did poke up a sprout wouldn't go any further, so I had to resort to putting them in the hot water cupboard. That worked, but I was well behind schedule, and even though the weather's been great for the couple of months they've only just started ripening. Better late than never though and I am now going to gorge myself on fresh tomatoes for hopefully the next three months at least. (Pictured above: Juliet)

 Tomato notes - glasshouse

  • Juliet - first to ripen as usual. Always reliable, has lots of green fruit and flowers.
  • Brandywine - I noticed very sporadic fruit set with a lot of unfertilised flowers on each truss.
  • Brown Berry - looking promising with lots of ripening fruit.
  • Black Cherry - lots of fruit. Starting to ripen. I'm not sure how dark the fruit has to get - I tried to pick one and it didn't want to release so I'll wait a bit longer.
  • Black Krim - sporadic fruit set as well. Is this typical of beefsteaks? I grow Black Krim every year... I think it is normal as they grow so big.
  • Yellow Pear - not much fruit yet, still flowers. As I recall it was one of the last seedlings to pop up.
  • Green Grape - still lots of flowers. The fruit is starting to ripen too.

 The potager is filling up. The tomatoes are right next to the glasshouse. They are a forest of leaves and laterals... I need to spend some time in the evening pruning a bit!

Tomato notes - Potager

  • Kumato - I was given two cuttings of this by a friend. I'm not sure of its qualities, but it's grown faster and developed fruit faster than the other tomatoes planted outside. Also it's less bushy than the other plants - I wonder if this is because the plants are lateral cuttings. Fruit is not ripe yet, but looking promising.
  • Green Grape - has flowers and green fruit
  • Brandywine - no fruit yet as far as I can tell
  • Juliet - the winner again. Just started ripening.
  • Brown Berry - some green fruit and flowers.
  • Black Krim - some fruit.
So that's how the tomatoes are faring so far. It's also worth noting that so far, I haven't had any trouble with pests like caterpillars. I did add neem granules at planting and have also top dressed with neem granules again. I've used Tui Novatec as a fertiliser along with sheep pellets and compost.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Snapshots: January 2015

Here are some snapshots from my phone and Instagram. Summer has been great so far - it's been really warm and with my long Christmas holiday, I had a lot of time to relax as well as getting jobs done.

• This is my summer book stack. It's a mixture of library books and loaners. Picks of the bunch so far are Days of Blood and Starlight, Icons and The Giver. I still haven't read The Fault in Our Stars, Doctor Sleep and Gathering Blue, but the rest were average.

• Lui is SO HAPPY when it's warm. He just flops onto the nearest couch and sleeps all day. He wakes up to eat and then sleeps some more. Often he can't even be bothered to tuck his legs or tail in, which leads to some very odd poses.

 • The sunsets lately have been amazing.

• A posy of flowers from Mum's garden. The roses are Compassion which have a beautiful scent.

 • I bought myself Decorate With Flowers as a Christmas present and didn't even crack the cover till after the day. Such self control!

• The flower garden is full and abundant.

 • It's relaxing to stroll around the potager in the evening.

• I love my calendar for this year... each month has a different animal portrait. Disapproving deer is disapproving...

 • There are a few more things to look at in town these days. New Regent Street is up and running with a fresh paint job and some pretty Christmas lights.

• I love this mural by Rone.

 • Dahlias in my German pottery vase. I thought it looked like a painting even before I added the filter.

• Another gorgeous sunset.

• One way to beat the heat is by mixing up refreshing drinks. This is a raspberry and basil mojijto. Don't forget the mint!

• You know it's summer when you find chewed up cicada wings on the kitchen floor. Thanks Lui!

And just like that, the weekend was over. Hope you've had a good one!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

January flowers

Hooray, it's summer in the garden. I've just finished my Christmas holiday and I'm back to work, which is a little depressing, but I have great memories of long relaxing days at home and in the garden. The grass is brown but the flower beds are full, and there's plenty of choice for the vase. I head out with basket and secateurs and wander around, picking flowers.

Clockwise from top left: lavatera (I'm not sure if this is a weed, though I did grow some annual lavatera a couple of years ago so it's probably self sown from that. Either way it's good filler), white tuberous begonia, soft pink geranium petals, hydrangea, godetia, calibrachoa (doing really well in the hot spot on my deck), lacecap hydrangea, another calibrachoa, the show stopping cactus dahlia, Christmas lilies, penstemon, Peace rose.

Special mention goes to this lacecap hydrangea. It's changed colour every season... when I got it about 4 years ago it was pink, then mauve, and now it's getting more violet. Maybe next year it will be blue. I've loved it in all its incarnations.

I'm linking up to Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens. Hope you are having fun in your garden this month!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Talking about garlic and spuds (and a summer harvest)

It's full swing in the potager as my various summer crops begin to come due for harvest. I love to put my basket over my arm and head out with a pair of secateurs to fill it. It's best done as a lazy potter in the late afternoon, when the brick paths are sun-warmed and a glass of wine awaits me on the deck.

The basket above was a bit more work as I had to dig up my spuds! That's always fun though, like searching for buried treasure, and the thought of melt-in-your-mouth new potatoes kept me going. I grew my usual Laratte heritage potatoes, which were a bit small when I dug them up - probably they could have gone on growing for a few more weeks but I needed the space in the bed. There were also a few purple-skinned potatoes which are probably Heather, and must have grown from an overlooked small spud from last season. This year I shifted my potatoes to a new bed to see if they fared any better as last year they were quite small... but as I didn't grow Heather again (at least not on purpose) I can't quite tell. I did plan to grow my spuds in grow bags or straw this year but I didn't quite get around to it - so maybe next year!

Also in my harvest basket are runner beans, sugar snap peas, strawberries and raspberries, a zucchini, and a cheddar cauliflower. (The caulis did well this year - they were planted in early spring. There are a few small caterpillars on them at harvest time but they are still small enough to wash off easily and not have caused much damage.)

 The main point of this post was going to be to talk about my garlic and shallots. (Garlic pictured top, shallots bottom.) I harvested them around New Year's when the weather was warm and dry. The leaves were dying off and had been for a few months actually - they started looking a bit sad in spring and I must make a note here to water more in spring! When there aren't any other seedlings in the potager I don't tend to put the sprinkler on it, but I must make sure I do it next year.

The size of my garlic bulbs is average-to-small this year and here are the possible reasons why...

- not enough water in spring
- some bulbs being crowded by pansies (though not all of these ones were small)
- there was an infestation of those little black bugs that like onions. These horrible bugs also took out a lot of my chives! Very annoying as pests aren't supposed to like to munch on alliums!

 When I had dug up my bulbs I spread them out in the sun on this old wooden trellis. At night Jon and I moved it into the garage. When they have dried like this for a few days they can be tied together and hung in bunches. I cut the leaves off and store them in baskets hanging from my garage rafters.

 I'm much more pleased with the size of the shallots. To replant shallots, you just break up the clumps and keep the biggest bulbs for replanting. You put the bulb back in the ground in winter and it sprouts and divides itself into a clump of bulbs. Easy as anything and you get a very high return for putting just one bulb into the ground! I usually plant 4 (the bulbs shown come from 4 plants) but next year I'm going for gold and planting 5.

All right, enough talking about all this food, I need to go and either cook, freeze or otherwise store it. Are you harvesting any crops from your garden right now?


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