23 Jul 2010

I wish they’d just organise themselves

As I’ve blogged on previous occasions, I have a small garden. I love it, it’s very special to me, but it’s the size of a postage stamp and everything is grown in pots within a walled courtyard area.

Please click the photographs for a larger view.

As it’s tiny, the more it grows, the less space we have for us. I love eating out there, but the weather hasn’t been suitable for what seems like a lifetime now.

One of my very favourit-ist things to eat is raspberries. Especially naughty and decadent when teamed with something dark and chocolatey.

So for several years, since my husband gave me some sorry looking sticks in a bag of mud one Christmas, I’ve grown a few of my own. When the sunshine is kind, we get quite a yield from 3 large pots of canes.

But there’s the rub, the crop is spread over several weeks, getting a mere handful a day – and if you’re too slow picking them, something else visiting the garden beats you to it. My money is on the blackbird – I already know he loves fruit, as he stands on the bird table yelling at the kitchen window for sultanas if there are none out. So he’s still the prime suspect until I get any evidence to the contrary.

This would be a pretty typical daily haul. less than 10 ripe raspberries and 3 alpine strawberries!

A.K.A. ‘Waterer’s perks':

A considerable number of years ago now, my mother put a little packet of alpine strawberry seeds in my Christmas stocking. You can still buy the same ones, they look like a little book of matches, with pointed sticks of cardboard stuck with a cluster of seeds that you just poke into your compost, to sow. Couldn’t be easier.

I planted them the following spring and have had a garden full of self-seeded alpine strawberries ever since. If a fruit falls off the plant, it seemingly germinates with great efficiency and you find clusters of plants growing in other pots and between them. I now have quite a collection and I just leave them to it, allowing them to fill gaps in the garden. It’s a bonus when you see a bright red spot showing amongst the leaves.

Tiny, delicate Alpine strawberry flowers, some of which are already developing into fruit – photo above taken another year, the one below, in rain, today.

As the fruits are tiny – but super-concentrated flavour – and not that plentiful, they’ve always been known in the Boo household as waterer’s perks – whoever waters the garden of an evening, gets to consume any ripe strawberries they find.

So it has been with raspberries to some extent. But now I have more canes, the yield has increased a little, but it’s still not very efficient – as crops go. At this time of year, we tend to pick a handful each day – not enough for dessert each day for 2 people, as you can see, but I also lack the self-discipline to just pop them in the freezer and allow them to accumulate. My mother however does this and each Boxing Day we have a raspberry flan, as a delicious demonstration of her own self-control.

There may not be very many, but they’re pretty fabulous specimens.

So I just have to force myself to put them with chocolate ice cream and deal with the issue in that manner. But if they could get organised and crop all at the same time, I might not mind sharing with the blackbird quite so much and it would actually be worth buying some extra thick single cream for them.

23 Jul 2009

The biggest raspberry in the world . . .

. . . or the one that got away!

I’ve hardly had chance to get out into the garden this week – there has been torrential rain with a stiff breeze, punctuated by short – very short – spells of bright sunshine. No sooner to get I get my clogs on and head out of the door, than the heavens dump on me again.

But this afternoon I got a decent interval to catch up on some outdoor chores when it remained dry and the air was nice and warm.

As blogged previously, I have some raspberry canes which have done better at actually producing fruit this year than in recent years, largely due to the warm sunny spell we had a week or two ago – I think that was the summer of 2009 and is nothing but a distant memory now. So I had a few fruits to pick that I could see through the foliage. After the poor performance of my canes in recent summers, I planted two new pots of a different variety and the fruits they produce are fabulous – they’re huge, succulent, sweet and flavoursome.

One pot is in a slightly different position than the others and doesn’t seemingly get quite as much full sun and I didn’t help it by putting the least mature canes in that spot. Consequently, the fruit is somewhat behind the rest of my crop (I use this term very loosely, a handful a day hardly qualifies) and I haven’t yet picked any from that pot.

I haven’t grown sweet peas for years and these are my first blooms this year.
They’re such a vibrant colour that you would think it was man-made.

But the largest raspberry that was furthest on had reached absolute perfection today – it was perfectly ripe, flawless and absolutely mahoosive. This was perhaps the largest raspberry I’ve ever seen – absolutely gi-huge – certainly the largest I’ve grown by a significant margin. It was displaying itself proudly at the front of the bough, with a perfect bright green leaf either side of it and a cluster of smaller paler fruits behind. This needed to be recorded for posterity. Whilst my camera was to hand, the memory card was in the card reader upstairs.

This is not the raspberry in question, I took this a while ago to show the average size of the fruits these new canes produce. My fabulous specimen was at least twice this size.

So I returned a little while later with my card, grabbed the camera and headed outside to record this behemoth specimen of raspberry-dom. I actually did a physical double take. I took a few steps back and re-traced my steps, wondering if it had been on the other pot, not the one I was looking at. My prize raspberry was nowhere to be seen. All that remained was a shiny cream coloured hull and two or three pink drupelets of the fruit remaining.

Stop thief!

Someone had stolen my raspberry! I would have taken a photo of the crime scene, but I was too flabbergasted to think to at the time. I can only assume a bird has taken it, but there’s not really anywhere for a bird to perch whilst harvesting the booty and I rarely get birds in that garden because it is so enclosed within steep walls.

So now no one will believe how truly fabulous it was – but I swear – it was . . . . this . . . big!

Thankfully my tomatoes are still right where they should be.
But I shall be organising surveillance as they ripen.
2 Jul 2009

The best thing about summer . . .

. . . when we get one that is, is getting out in the garden and using it as an extension of the house.

The hot weather lately has made me thankful that I work from home, the house is relatively cool as we don’t get much sun direct into rooms and the thick stone walls of our old cottage ensure that the house stays relatively cool.

I love being able to work with the door to the garden open and my habit is to perch on a bench by the back door frequently during the day as I work, as it remains in shade until about 3pm and is right in the path of any breeze we get.

Please click any of the photos for a larger view.

The hot weather has brought the garden on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks and going outside to peg some washing out just now, I was surprised at how much difference there was since yesterday morning. I’ve been watching the progress of some fuchsia buds about to open – a week ago they appeared as little cream/green bulges and they fattened and the colour developed as the days have passed. When I watered the garden last night, they were still all buds and this morning, several have already opened.

Please click on the photos for a better view – they look rather dark and fuzzy here on the page.

My favourite fruit is raspberries, so having a very limited garden, all of which is grown in pots, I have treated myself to a few pots of canes – in fact the very first one was a Christmas present from my husband – at which time, it was a black plastic bag of earth with a few sticks protruding.

They haven’t done so well over the last two summers and I cut a lot of them down to nothing and bought new ones too. I think perhaps that was more to do with the quality of the weather than the quality of the plants as they’ve thrived this year and as you can see, the fruit is plentiful and large.

I wonder how long those will last in the fridge today?

I am also trying growing tomatoes this year – two varieties – to see how they do. I have a decent showing of flowers and now some green tomatoes of various sizes;

A friend visited a couple of summers ago on a nice day and I suggested we take our drinks in the garden. His comment; “I knew you said you had a small garden, but I didn’t think it was this small!” It always irritates me when gardening programmes offer ideas for small gardens and modest budgets, both of which are usually substantially bigger than my own understanding of small.

Despite our circumstances not allowing us to spend much on the garden this year and the plans to develop one end of it to be scrapped for now, I think we made the tiny budget (£25 – not the £15K that Chelsea designated a modest budget for a garden) give quite a good showing by making the best of what we had and planting new things carefully in between.

Some of my favourite things didn’t even cost money. In the photograph above, there is a piece of driftwood. We found that recently propped against a wall in our favourite car park alongside Thirlmere in the Lake District. By it’s smoothness, it has been bobbing about in the lake for a while and someone either retrieved it for themselves but subsequently decided not to take it, or a it had been thrown for a dog. But we decided if they didn’t want it, we’d give it a home. I have lots of such pieces of driftwood in the garden – I love the lovely sculpture mother nature gives us to enjoy.