This is the journal of my endeavours to grow a range of fruit, veg and flowers from seed, grow organically, and my attempts to create a personal paradise with 1/2 acre of maintained gardens and 1/2 acre wild meadows. Northern Ireland's average daily high temperatures are 18 °C (64 °F) in July and 6 °C (43 °F) in January. Soil type: Clay

Sunday 28 November 2010

1st Snow in N Ireland

We had a dusting of snow on Saturday and Sunday. Lovely large snowflakes! 
Headlines in the local paper read 'Northern Ireland unseasonably cold freeze'. Last night temperatures were 10 degrees lower than normal for this time of year. Even so, it looks beautiful...

 Around mid-day the snow begins to melt... until more snow arrives...
So I've gained a little weight (haven't we all!); besides my fur makes me look a few pounds heavier.
Carex Grass
 The holly caught my eye walking through the garden. I have so many projects I want to be working on but will have to wait until better weather.

Other snowy pics can be seen at: 2010 First Snowfall Project.

Friday 26 November 2010

Frosty visits again...

It's cold outside! 2C (35F); Northern Ireland is forecast for light snow over the weekend. We've had several frosts this week. Bbbrrrrr!

The roses have just about given up blooming. I've noticed the 'professionals' cutting back the roses in Belfast Bontanic Gardens over the past couple of weeks reminding me that I need to cut my roses to about knee level before mid-December.
Frosted Snapdragon (Antirrhinum) - this half hardy annual has been faced with several hard frosts and although its not flowering much it hasn't started to die off yet so I've let it be (for now). I grew these from seed and I find them hard to part with!

 Frosted Sedum Autumn Joy - I have this clustered all around the garden.It didn't seem to flower too well this year. In the past it has been very reliable, easy to care for and has given a great Autumn show of colour.
Icy sweetpea - I'm not a big fan of growing sweetpea... this one is growing in a containter beside the house so it's still blooming. If only my sweetpea didn't always grow into a tangled mess. Variety: Sweet Pea Old Spice Mixed (grandiflora). 

Above Left: Frosted Nasturium Dayglow photographed in Oct.
Above Right: Soon after the first hard frost the Nasturtiums gave up. I was sorry to see them go.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Have a berry-tastic Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving America!
Autumn is a Berry Spectacular time of year...everywhere there is still beautiful colour. I love walking in parks and forests and I'm loving all the berries on show.

Left: Cotoneaster Shrub - the berries and the changing leaf colour are fab!
Cotoneaster earns its place in the garden this time of year, adding a little pizazz to evergreen areas.
Above & below: Pyracantha (Firethorn) has heavy clusters of yellow berries in autumn and evergreen foliage. Photographed at Belfast Botanical Gardens. 

Left: At first I thought these were red currants, however, I'm not sure what they are. Photographed at Belfast Botanic Gardens.
Right: This evergreen tree is in my garden... perhaps a 'shrub' turned 'tree' as its about 8 feet tall. It has very shiny leaves and lots of little berries. I tried numerous website searches to identify both these plants with no luck.

This little plant appeared in my garden this year. It's Hypericum St Johns Wort; I'm delighted with it. There are beautiful little yellow flowers in summer and then berries in Autumn that go from red to deep purple. It's also a good plant for flower arranging.
These 'marshmallow' berries where photographed in Belfast Botanical Park (they look like they need to be roasted on an open fire!); the proper name Snowberry or Symphoricarpos albus. Below is a picture of them used in a very creative flower arrangement
And finally, an interesting way to decorate with berries. I found this on a fab blog I came across by Enzie Shahmiri who has given me permission to use this photo. Flower arrangement designed by Stef Adriaenssens.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday 19 November 2010

Autumn Photo Favourites

I wanted to share a few of my favourite Autumn photos. Today was a glorious sunny day in Northern Ireland... after last week's gale force wind and this week's torrential rain. My electricity was off for 20 hours last week and this week I've lost my phone / internet connection due to recent adverse weather conditions.
Here's hoping for a rain-free weekend to get outdoors!
I just love all the leaves this time of year!
This photo was taken at Belfast's Botanic Gardens near Queen's University.
Don't you just love his chocolate-coloured 'bug' eyes!
Above - this is one of my favourite photos.

This frosted cornflower doesn't quite go with the Autumn colour scheme, however, frost has been a visitor on quite a few mornings! A wintry Autumn for Northern Ireland so far.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Apple Strudel

I'm still working on using up the cooking apples. Today I decided to make apple strudel with raisins and a wee bit of chocolate. In terms of a taste test, the strudel has won head over heels over the apple pie (13 Oct blog) and the apple chocolate crumble (8 Nov blog). Easy to make too!

I used two large sheets of frozen puff pastry defrosted. I peeled  and then chopped 4 large cooking apples. I added a couple handfuls of raisins. I coated the fruit with just over 1/2 cup caster sugar, 2 tsps of cinnamon and a dash of ground nutmeg.
I put in about 20g of dark chocolate at the top before laying a puff pastry sheet overtop the fruit, and sealed it by pinching the sides. At this stage it looked a bit like a wedding cake gone wrong, so I dusted it with nutmeg and some brown sugar to try and improve things a bit.
Above - This is what it looks like after baking for 35 min at 220C (425F). Yes, it's a giant puff pastry (about the size of an A4 sheet of paper.)
This is 1/3 of it eaten. So very yummy. I serve it with Maud's Pooh Bear ice cream (vanilla ice cream with honey and honeycomb candy). Can't wait to have a piece tomorrow.

Friday 12 November 2010

Autumn thru the trees

Don't you just love Autumn! The beautiful colour, the leaves of all shapes and sizes (raking them); the chill in the air; the cold nights; the brisk wind. Speaking of wind, this week in Northern Ireland we had gale force / 70 mile per hour wind and my electricity was off for 20 hours... burrrrrrr!

Pictured above: an Autumn painting I adore by my favourite artist Egretta Wells. She's having a painting giveaway on 1 Dec in which one of her followers will receive a small original painting. Check out her blog:
Above: This was taken in Belfast's largest public park 'Botanic Gardens'. I'm lucky to work near this park and take the occasional dander.
Above & Below - Native Cherry tree along my driveway. At one stage I had about ten of these planted until I was advised they'd get too big so I took out most of the trees one Autumn and gave them away. I really love their colour and the white flowers in Spring.
Not sure what this tree is?
Conifer/pine tree at the end of the garden turning yellow and producing lots of cones this time of year.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

New 'My Garden' page

In celebration of my three month blog anniversary I've added a new blog page called 'My Garden' that gives a bit of an overview of my garden. The property is a 1950s 'modern' farmhouse. Not sure it looks very Irish. I'm lucky to be surrounded by grazing pastures and my neighbours are mostly beef cattle. My biggest challenge is weeds. Hope you enjoy the pictures!

Left: Dogwood with its red stems looks fab in Winter.

Monday 8 November 2010

Apple Chocolate Crumble

I'm a chocoholic! It runs in the family. This week I was aimlessly staring at Mr Farmer's cooking apples... thinking of how I could make them taste more like chocolate! I remembered a recipe I'd seen in the Autumn 2010 'Tesco Real Food' magazine for Blackberry and Apple Crumble and decided to use the recipe as a starting point for 'Chocolate Apple Crumble'. I don't exactly follow recipes... so here's the results...
I mixed together 2 tbsp flour, 2 tbsp brown sugar and 2 tbsp cinnamon (I like cinnamon so I added alot) and then coated 750g of cooking apples, before putting them into an ovenproof bowl. I then added about 70g of dark chocolate pieces, pushing them in between the apples.
 For the crumble topping, I mixed 75g of brown sugar, 4 tbsp flour, 2 tsp cinnamon, and worked the mix into 75g of butter; I added a handful of pecans.
Above - this is what it looked like after 45 min baked at 180C (350F). It looks like treacle - yum!
Served with the world's best ice cream, Northern Irish 'Pooh Bear' by Maud's (aka Poor Bear). It doesn't look very pretty (I'm trying to improve my food presentation skills!). The chocolate definitely made the apples a little more interesting. I love super rich desserts!

This is what the picture in the magazine looked like lol. I have to admit, I forgot to add the oats in my crumble topping; the recipe called for 50g. Wow, total different look than mine; I put chocolate in mine instead of blackberries - a chocoholic must!

Saturday 6 November 2010

Gardeners' Playground

Private gardens at The Landscape Centre, Donegore.
When I feel like I need a little inspiration (whether it be Autumn, Winter or Summer) I take a trip to my local garden centre... I really love wondering around and they often have their private gardens open too (I love this). Its a magical place, even if the prices are very high! I have to admit I enjoy their coffee and cakes (homemade and very yummy) however I get the most pleasure wondering around the nature walk or private gardens, which most people don't realise are open to the public. By the time I get home I'm full of ideas!
Everyone needs a mini beach resort in their back garden
(even if there's no ocean within miles)!
Private gardens, The Landscape Centre Donegore.

Above - I discovered this little gem in a newly planted section of the private grounds and it's the BIGGEST hydrangea flower I've ever come across. I guess the little plant has put all its effort into producing one giant flower. Love it! Variety: Hydrangea Midnight Blue.

I wanted to buy some of this (I was too 'cheap' to pay £6.99 for a little plant). Looks like it has a good spreading habit & would suppress weeds.
Variety: Polygonum Darjeeling Red (herbaceous perennial).
I like the idea of mixing old and new and recycling items; this area of the garden at Donegore is relatively newly landscaped. Photo taken 10 Oct 2010. I'll be following progress on their gardens and getting ideas for my own. Too bad they don't have a veg plot!
 I love all the rocks they've used. Not many people could afford this.
Click on the photo to enlarge.

Did I buy anything on my day out to Donegore? Apart from coffee and cake, I bought five winter primrose plants in the 'discount' section at 50 pence per plant. A bargain!