As the thermometer hits 30C here in the UK, I can't help but admire the ingenuity, tranquillity and beauty of Spanish garden design, especially the patios and cooling water features that hide behind dark and alluring entrances in labyrinthine alleyways. Here're some ideas we can all apply to our own gardens when the going gets hot....
As we fast approach mid-summer, there's an abundance of colour wherever we look. But spare a thought for the humble legume. From deepest scarlet to delicate shades of lilac and cream, the humble garden bean can add beauty and colour to the vegetable plot and beyond.
As April takes its final bow, with all its fickle moods, the tulips in their pots do at least provide a piece of cheer as I decide, yet again, how many layers of clothing to don before heading out to the potting shed.
Maywood, with its fancy fringed petals, and Grand Perfection, which reminds me of raspberry ripple ice-cream, are two of my favourite tulips right now.
Valentine's Day is here again, and whilst the shops may be heaving under the weight of red roses and chocolates, it's also a great time to get hot and spicy on the windowsill or in the greenhouse with the first sowings of this year's chillies..... These red devils can vary widely in the time it takes for them to germinate and produce fruit, (depending upon the variety), so getting a head start makes sense.
Yesterday was *Candlemas, the ancient festival which marks the halfway point between the shortest day and the spring equinox. The drifts of Snowdrops (Galanthus Nivalis)..... or Candlemas Bells as they are also known, can be seen peeping out of woodland banks, road verges, parks and gardens in profusion. And whilst the rhyme goes that 'The snowdrop, in purest white array, First rears her head on Candlemas day', it's truer to say that some snowdrops have been out in flower well before Candlemas and will continue to flower for a month or so yet. But it's not just their simple beauty that I find attractive. It's a sure sign that there is renewal and life, a sense of things to come, when the ground still seems locked in a frozen shroud.
*(Candlemas - also a Christian festival marking the purification of Mary, forty days after the birth of Jesus and the presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Candlemas is also the day that the Church's candles for the year are blessed).
It's all too easy to forget the power of scent at this time of year, something we might more usually associate with high summer and the heady scent of roses. But mid-winter can offer up some of the most seductive and powerful scents we could wish for in the garden. Here are three of my favourite.
Terracotta rhubarb forcers will give you an early crop of tender stems.....but a simple bucket would work just as well.
For tender stems, exclude the light from the newly emerging stems of rhubarb. Mulching around the pot with straw will help increase the temperature inside the pot, helping to speed those shoots along.
Microgreens are the seedlings, usually consisting of the first pair of seed leaves, of various vegetables and herbs. Beloved by chefs for enhancing the visual appearance, texture and taste of dishes, they are also a great way to get an extra veg hit in the darkest days of winter. They're high in carotenoids, vitamins C, K and E according to US research published in 2014. So with a nod to good health, Veganuary and the purse strings, I've decided to try out Johnsons Microgreens growing kit.
I'll always have my National Trust 2018 calendar tea- towel to cheer me up. Designed by the late, great Pat Albeck, it's beautifully designed with Victorian-style greenhouses, masses of fruit and veg and, of course, a robin, garden cat and perky blackbird to keep order in the border. Too good for drying up with though, so on the office wall it'll stay pinned.