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August 2 2014 7 02 /08 /August /2014 10:33

elderberries.jpgThe flowers of the Elder tree can be used to make cordial but I prefer to wait until the tree has developed berries and they have turned black before I harvest to make jam. Forraged fruit gives a more complex flavour than that of usual berries. 

Picking the tiny berries off the tree and de-stalking the fruit takes time but it is worth the effort.

Fruit with minimal of no pips generally lack pectin so you need to use jam sugar or the pith of a lemon will work also to set the jam (it is the pith in fruit that contains pectin).

The normal recipe for jam making is equal quantities to fruit to sugar, so weigh the fruit and add to the pan and then add the same weight in jam sugar. 1-2 lemons should be sufficient to set the jam without making it too sharp.

Boil the jam until the temperature reaches 105c and continue for a further 10minutes, if you don’t have a jam thermometer when the jam coats the back of the spoon, or use the wrinkle test (where a spoonful of jam is placed on a place in the fridge to cool, push with a finger and if it wrinkles it is set).


Spoon off any scum from the jam and put into warm sterile pots, seal and store in a cool dry place. 

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January 18 2013 6 18 /01 /January /2013 15:55

waterlily-kew.pngThe Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew covers 132 acres on the river Thames in London. The grounds once belonged to the Royal family but in 1840 it was handed over to the state. Today it houses 1 in 8 of all flowering plant species in the world as well as endangered and the Millennium seed bank.

The Herbarium contains 7 million dried plant specimens.

Kew has one of the extensive botanical libraries in the world containing over 120,000 books, journals and papers.

The Jodrell Laboratory researches plant structure, biochemistry and molecular characteristics.

The Palm house is Victorian in construction and was built between 1844 and 1848 and is a Grade I listed building. The Palm house contains rainforest palms, trees and climbers from Africa, Asia, Australia and America.

The Temperate house was constructed in 1859 and house sub tropical plants such as camellias, rhododendrons, and jojoba and citrus trees.

The Princess of Wales conservatory commemorates Princess Augusta, the mother of George III who founded the gardens at Kew in 1759. The Conservatory was officially opened by the late Diana, Princess of Wales in 1987. Within the conservatory there are 10 different environmental zones including wet and dry tropics. Heating, misting and lighting are adjusted by computer to achieve the best possible growing environment and cost efficiency. One of the most popular attractions is the giant waterlily, with its leaves reaching 2 meters in diameter. Carnivorous plants, ferns and orchids are also housed in the conservatory.

There have been alpines at Kew since 1887. The first house was enlarged in 1891 and again in 1938. The Davies Alpine House, with cutting edge technology is the latest addition at Kew to house their collection of Alpine plants.

By the middle of the 18th century it had become fashionable to have decorative buildings or follies on their land. The Pagoda completed in 1762 is a 10 storey octagonal structure reaching 50 meters of Chinese design.

The Japanese Gateway is a replica of Karamon of Nishi Hongon-ji in Kyoto. The building is situated amongst 3 garden areas, Garden of Peace, Garden of Activity and Garden of Harmony. These gardens contain water, gravel and rocks as well as a range of plants of Japanese origin.

The Sackler Crossing was opened in 2006 and an elegant crossing over the lake.

Visitors enter the Rhizotron through a crack in the ground explores tree roots. The Xstrata treetop walkway explores allows visitors to wander through the canopy of trees.

The Marianne North Gallery was opened in 1882 exhibiting Miss North’s paintings of plants from her travels.

The Shirley Sherwood Gallery was opened in 2008 and is dedicated to botanical art.

The Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place was opened in November 2000 by HRH Prince Charles. The seed bank is the largest conservation initiative, aiming to store rare and threatened seeds from a quarter of the world’s flora in specialist conditions. The seed bank was built to last 500 years and is set in 200 hectares of gardens.


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December 21 2012 6 21 /12 /December /2012 13:39

cut down tree

Cutting down a Christmas tree to bring into your house is probably not the most ecological thing you could do. Every year numerous trees are hacked down, brought into our warm homes and we spend the next few months hovering pine needles from the carpet.

I have yet to see a convincing fake Christmas tree; however a good plastic tree and a ‘woodland pine’ air freshener may be an alternative. Although they are usually made from non-biodegradable PVC, use fossil fuels and release harmful gases into the environment in their production, transportation and disposal. At least real trees absorb carbon dioxide during growth rather than giving it off. And, of course, they are biodegradable, so recycle your tree.

Christmas trees grown on tree farms, rather than forests are replaced as harvested, and create domestic jobs in both production and distribution.

It is also possible to buy ‘living Christmas trees’, sold in pots with roots and soil. These trees are usually small and expensive which is due to the fact that Christmas trees take up to ten years to fully mature. A living Christmas tree will not appreciate being brought indoors, the warm indoor climate may bring the tree out of its winter dormancy, leaving it no protection once back outside.  

You could decorate a tree that is growing outside, and can remain growing long after the Christmas period has passed. Pick a tree, or bush close to the house so you can admire the twinkling lights through the lounge window.

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December 1 2012 7 01 /12 /December /2012 15:01

5209898419_093ae6bb43.jpgThe flower garden

Give hippeastrum bulbs as gifts which are forced to be in flower at this time.

Give poinsettia plants.  

Plant out new rose bushes.

Plant hellebores for winter colour.

The kitchen garden

Cut down Jerusalem artichokes.

Prune side shoots on gooseberries.

Earth up brussel sprouts to protect them from wind damage. Harvest as required.  

Harvest celery, beetroot and turnips.

Place forcing jars over seakale.

The greenhouse

Start to heat the greenhouse and remember to provide ventilation if using paraffin


Create a Christmas wreath using foliage, berries and seed heads from the garden.

Brush off snow from plants and structures before the weight damages it.

Grit paths.

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November 1 2012 5 01 /11 /November /2012 11:58


The flower garden

Prune rambling and climbing roses.

Cut down annuals and take to the compost bin.

Prune acer now to avoid stems from bleeding once the sap rises in the spring.

The kitchen garden

Mushrooms are growing at this time of year. Kits can be purchased.

Lift chicory roots to force.

Harvest celeriac and winter cabbage as required.

The greenhouse

Line with bubble wrap to provide insulation.

The pond


Check stored fruit and vegetables for rotting.

Store hoses and sprinklers in a frost free shed.

Protect ceramic and glazed pots from the frost. Raise on feet to assist drainage.

Wrap insulation around outside taps.

Stop feeding house plants as light and growth diminishes.

Gather fallen leaves to make leaf mould.

Replenish bird feeders.


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October 1 2012 2 01 /10 /October /2012 10:56


The flower garden

Cover large non frost hardy plants with horticulture fleece.

Cover newly planted bulbs with wire netting to prevent squirrels from digging them up.

Water cyclamen plants that have died down during the summer.

Lift and divide asters.

The kitchen garden

Sow green manure in empty beds, this keeps the weeds down and can be dug into the beds a few weeks before planting.

Gather leeks, artichokes, carrots, parsnips, pumpkins and squashes.

Sow broad beans and peas.

Prune blackberries after fruiting.

The greenhouse

Tidy the greenhouse. Clear and clean staging.

Lift and bring in dahlia, canna, azaleas, gladioli, begonia, pelargonium, and agapanthus in a frost proof place.

Pot up herbs and bring in.

Check heating equipment is working.

The pond

Remove pond filters and pumps.


Tidy and clear weeds.

Aerate lawns by spiking with a folk and brushing sand into the holes.

Reduce watering.

Pot up pots of hyacinths and paper white narcissus for indoor displays.

Dig in farmyard manure to all beds leaving a thick mulch.

Collect and compost leaves as they fall.

Ripen green tomatoes on a window sill or make green tomato chutney.

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September 1 2012 7 01 /09 /September /2012 10:54


The flower garden

Continue to dead head dahlia and salvia to keep them in flower until the first frosts.

Prepare to bring in tender plants. In the South it will be ok not to bring them in yet.

Herbaceous perennials mat be lifted, divided or relocated.

Plant daffodils for spring flowering.

Plant trees and shrubs while the soil is still warm.

Plant crocus and tulip bulbs.

Plant lily bulbs.

Pinch out this tips of wall flowers to achieve bushier growth.

Sow hardy annuals such as nigella and calendula for early summer flowers.

The kitchen garden

Cover late crops of salad.

Plant spring cabbages.

Harvest broad beans, sweetcorn, cauliflower, cabbages, main crop potatoes, onions and garlic.

Harvest squashes before the first frost. Place in a sunny spot to fully ripen.

Pot up herbs.

Prune cane fruits.

Harvest blackberries some of the thornless varieties are the nicest to grow/pick.

Pick and store apples.

Plant garlic.

Sow hardy onions, lettuces, salads, beetroot, swedes and Chinese cabbages.


The greenhouse

Stop feeding and reduce watering of all greenhouse plants.

Continue to cut off non fruit bearing tomato branches from the base of the plant.

Sow lemon grass in a propagator.

Monitor the temperature in the greenhouse as the colder weather draws in.

The pond

Remove dead water lily leaves.

Thin out oxygenating plants.

Net the pond surface to prevent a build up of leaves.


Feed birds.

Prepare the ground for sowing grass seed or laying turf.

Raise the height of the mower.

Put grease bands around the trunks of fruit trees to catch winter moths seeking to lay eggs.

Hang wasp traps in fruit trees.

Keep poinsettias in the dark for 14 hours a day to encourage bract formation.

Vine weevils are active now so treat pots with biological controls.

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August 1 2012 4 01 /08 /August /2012 10:51


The flower garden

Trim lavender lightly to remove old flower heads and encourage new shoots. 

The kitchen garden

Tie in the main shoots of cucumbers. Shorten side shoots to 1 leaf beyond the flower.

Harvest runner beans, lettuces, beetroot, courgettes, onions, shallots, garlic, early potatoes, and globe artichokes. 

Cut and freeze dry herbs.

Prune back gooseberries, blackcurrant and raspberry canes now that all the summer fruit has been picked.

The greenhouse

Cut off non fruit bearing lower branches of tomato plants. Continue to feed.

Sow oriental vegetables such as mibuna and mustard greens for salad, they bolt less at this time of year.

Harvest peppers, aubergines and chilli’s.

Support melons as they ripen.

The pond

Check if dragonflies have laid their eggs in the pond.


Continue weeding/ hoeing.

Give hedges their final trim of the year. Clip to 1 third of their base.

Feed lawns with autumn feed.

Start collecting seeds from vegetables and flowers as heads start to ripen.


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July 30 2012 2 30 /07 /July /2012 15:30


London’s Olympic park gardens cover 111 acres. The gardens were designed by a British landscape company British LDA Design and the American company Hargreaves Associates. The planting design was led by James Hitchmough who specialises is in perennial planting, Nigel Dunnett whose focus is on annuals and Sarah Price who was the designer and gold medal winner of the Telegraph garden at Chelsea flower show.

The main concept of the gardens was to ensure that they would be sustainable for future use of the site. In the main plants that would be in flower for the start of the games were used although some spring flowers were incorporated. Flowers were deadheaded to ensure that they were in full bloom throughout the events.

There are four gardens running in sequence and forming a timeline. The regions each garden represents are
Western Europe, The Mediterranean and Asia Minor,
The Temperate Americas.
The Southern Hemisphere; South Africa, Australia, New Zealand.
Temperate Asia, particularly Montane China, Japan and the Himalayas.

The gardens are composed of three main elements: clipped formal evergreen hedges that create a permanent structure; strips of ornamental grasses or perennials and the 'field' planting.

The Western Europe Garden consists of the field of dreams which is a wildflower meadow of blue cornflowers and golden tickseed. The field is a mixture of perennials laid out randomly.

The North American prairie garden consists of grassland and summer and autumn flowering herbs including Asters. Prairie’s are packed with plants for wildlife which supply nectar and pollen.

The South African section consists of pink echinaea and yellow rudbeckia. These plants flower during the summer months and grow between grasses. Flowers that stick up in the air on the ends of tall stems makes them stand out to birds and insects. These plants are tender in Britain’s climate.

The Temperate Asia Garden focuses on the herbaceous plants of the woodland glade, forest edge and grasslands. There are cultivars of Japanese anemone, Hostas, Irises, and drifts of Tiger Lilies.


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July 1 2012 1 01 /07 /July /2012 10:49


The flower garden

Prune shrubs such as weigela, deutzia and ceanothus after flowering.

Pick off dead flower heads of rhododendrons, lilacs and azaleas.

Dead head roses unless they are valued for their autumn hips. Pick off any diseased leaves.

Trim early flowering alpines to keep them in shape.

Feed baskets and pots each week.

Keep picking sweet peas to keep them flowering.

Peg down shoots of honey suckle, clematis and golden hop to encourage new growth.

The kitchen garden

Harvest raspberries, blackcurrants and gooseberries.

Watch out for potato blight and cabbage white butterflies laying eggs.

Pick off damaged or deformed fruits on apple, plum and pear trees.

Regularly harvest courgettes and beans to keep plants fruiting.

The greenhouse

Boost tomatoes with liquid feed.

The pond

Keep an eye on pond levels and top up with rain water if required.


Set up earwig traps using upturned plant pots filled with straw.

Set slug traps using plastic bottles.


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  • : Poddington and P
  • Poddington and P
  • : Poddington and P is about life in the country. It includes their creations, the animals they raise, and the plants and produce that they grow in the kitchen garden.
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