Shades of Spring

Early and Mid-Spring Tulips

Throughout March and April an array of tulips have brought my garden alive. I have always had a few, but last autumn I went to town and planted a whole box of them!

The first ones in mid-March were these vivid orange Tulip kaufmanniana “Early Harvest”…

What I loved about these was how they just couldn’t wait to flower even when the stem was still so short. The stem slowly got longer and the flowers still looked great three weeks later!


The next one was a solitary botanical tulip, Tulipa Clusiana “Cynthia”, which has been around for some years. The rest of them must have succumbed to squirrels!


Early April brought on these pretty lemon yellow ones – Tulipa fosteriana ‘Sweetheart’. Very robust and long-lasting, they have been through a very cold, damp spell and now intense sun, and are only just beginning to go over. Note the way the fresh yellow fades in streaks to cream. Beautiful!


Mid-April this beauty appeared – the centre looks violet here, but is in fact almost blue – Tulipa humilis var pulchella ‘Albocoerulea’…


Then this one – Tulipa “Heart’s Delight” – and it really does delight the heart! The combination of yellow and pink reminds me of sunsets…


This one has been my favourite so far. Tulipa “Purple Dream” has really added some panache to the garden with its gorgeous depth of colour – and its shape…

Opening up here to worship the spring sunshine…


Tulipa “Prinzess Irene”…


Here are some of those whose names have been forgotten… the mystery tulips!


This delicious creamy tulip opened just two days ago, and is a kaufmanniana again…


Finally another botanical one – Tulip Orphanidea Flava…

This is an excellent way of keeping a record of all the names, as I am always forgetting which is which!

I hope there will be a few more to post in May.

Thanks for stopping by!

Afternoon Tea at an English Hall

Before leaving for the UK for Easter I booked Afternoon Tea for my parents and me at an English country hotel. I was curious to revisit this hall, which had been a ruin on a favourite spring walk in my childhood. Some years ago it was renovated and transformed into a luxury hotel and spa centre.

When we were shown into the Hall I gasped…

This was the view from my sofa, while my parents had two large armchairs next to me by the fireplace.

For fear of disturbing other guests I didn’t take many photos. But the memory will stay. It was amazing!

Kings and Queens looked on as we were served with our afternoon tea.

And that was amazing too…

… tiny sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, miniature cakes, and delicate pastries…

… and the surrounding countryside is so English too. The word pastoral comes to mind.

(Note the croquet lawn in the foreground!)

I felt like a foreign tourist!

Colly Flower Soup

(I know that’s not how you spell it, but it just looked nicer than “cauliflower”!)

However it is spelt, this soup, which I first made a couple of years ago, tastes full of spring. I was reminded of it when I saw some lovely fresh caulis in our supermarket… locally grown!

(So, they must have come out of a greenhouse I think, as the outdoor ones don’t come in for another couple of weeks – if it’s grown locally, but was produced in a heated greenhouse and watered is that “green”?)

Well, I bought this little head of cauli anyway. It was so fresh and perfectly round, with a clean white face and some perky leaves still attached! Not like those grey ones that have been stored somewhere all winter! Leeks are in season too. Wonderful! Time for some of my cauliflower and leek soup!

Cathy’s Cauliflower and Leek Soup

  • (Vegan) butter and olive oil for the pan
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, thinly sliced
  • 500g cauliflower broken into florets
  • 200g broccoli broken into florets
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 carrots, thinly sliced
  • 500ml veg stock
  • 200ml white wine (optional, you could use more stock instead)
  • 200ml (soya) milk
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsps mixed herbs/dried bear’s garlic
  • (soya) cream (optional)

Sauté the leeks and onion until soft. Add  salt and pepper, then add the cauliflower, carrots and broccoli. Add stock, herbs, wine and milk. Cover and simmer until tender.

Cool a little. Remove the bay leaves. Puree with  the hand mixer, and then reheat to serve if necessary. Add as much cream and freshly ground black pepper as you like! 🙂

This makes about 8-10 dishes, and freezes well.



As is the gardener, such is the garden.  

(Old Hebrew saying)

This garden(er)

  • is organized in an informal kind of way
  • can tolerate drought and heat but prefers not to!
  • is colourful
  • is growing and changing constantly
  • enjoys constant attention, but can survive without it!
  • does not like long, bitter-cold winters
  • loves bees, butterflies and other wildlife (except for lily beetles!)

What kind of gardener are you? 😉

Allium ursinum and the Bears in the Woods

The Teddy Bears’ Picnic

If you go down to the woods today
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go down to the woods today
You better go in disguise
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic

Song melody by John Bratton

Lyrics by Jimmy Kennedy

(Listen here!)

Yes, the bears’ garlic is ready for picking!

Allium ursinum is better known in the UK and US as ramsons or wild garlic, but I prefer the image of bears eating it and translate the German “Bärlauch” to bears’ leek or garlic! 😉

Apparently bears like this when they wake up after their long winter nap… they know what’s good for them; it’s full of vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and allicin, which has antibacterial properties.

Every year we are warned not to confuse this aromatic leaf with the highly toxic Lily of the Valley leaves, or – even worse – the deadly Autumn Crocus leaves, which appear at the same time.

Our dear neighbour has a huge clump under his Magnolia tree, and lets me pick it. It’s easier than hunting in our woods where it grows only sparsely. And after all, I don’t really want to disturb any bears, or even wild boar who apparently also love it… (And we do have wild boar in the woods all around us.)

 Last weekend we enjoyed two delicious bears’ garlic dishes.

Bears’ Garlic Soup

So simple! For two helpings just cook one diced potato in 450ml vegetable stock. When the potato is soft, take the pan off the heat. Add about 40g bears’ garlic (washed and shaken dry) and 100ml (vegan) cream. Leave to stand for about 10 minutes. Puree, reheat a little and serve!

Whoops! We ate it before I could take a photo! 🙂

Bears’ Garlic Pesto

Blend together 75g bears’ garlic leaves, 35g pine nuts, 75g parmesan cheese, and 75ml olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve with pasta or just on some of your favourite bread.

We enjoyed our taste of spring with some locally grown new potatoes and some delicate spears of white asparagus – a regional speciality.


By the way, the neighbour who has lots of this wonderful herb in his garden celebrated his 100th birthday on Monday, and there was a great party. I hope I get to live that long! 🙂

Arbor Day in Germany (Tag des Baumes)


Larix decidua


For 2012 the Dr. Silvius Wodarz Foundation has chosen the European Larch, Larix Decidua, as Tree of the Year for Germany.

Larches are very graceful trees, and their fresh green in early spring and golden yellow in autumn add colour to our forests. The flowers in March/ April are beautiful… take a closer look if you have a larch near you. (Larch trees like to be admired!) The female flower is red, and upright, while the male flower is light green/yellow and hangs downwards. They are pollinated by the wind, since they flower so early, even at high altitudes.

The larch is the only indigenous conifer that loses its needles in winter, which is believed to be a kind of protective, energy-conserving measure against alpine winters with permafrost, or summer drought. It grows at heights of up to 2,000 metres and in the German Alps the larch serves as protection against avalanches. It is also cultivated for building material, as the wood is very hard and weatherproof.

Yet the needles look so soft and delicate!

 I often collect the cones in December, and use them as part of my Advent decorations. The cones remain on the branches for several years, opening only when the weather is mild and dry, releasing just a few seeds at a time, then closing again.

The larch has also been the subject of legend since time began. Forest fairies inhabit their trunks and branches, giving magic self-replenishing purses, bread and cheese to the poor! These fairies are also said to put lost hikers back on the right track!

In the Alps you will often see a larch standing near a mountain cabin or farmhouse… the “house tree”. It protects the dwelling from evil spirits and lightning.

What’s more, these trees can possibly live for up to a thousand years. So just think; if you plant one today, who may be admiring it in the year 3012? How many fairies will have lived in it? And how many of its seeds will have successfully germinated into new young larches? How many generations have watched it turn golden in the autumn? Or will it have been felled and used to build a beautiful house, a bridge, a boat, or even a tower…?


By the way, the man who introduced our Arbor Day in 1989, Dr Silvius Wodarz, was active in the state forestry commission for over 50 years. He has been responsible for many changes in forestry management, and for increasing the awareness of both the forestry industry and the public regarding the environment and the threat to many tree species.

“We want to familiarise people with trees and create concern for this living heritage. We are planting trees in the hearts of people – young and old – in order to initiate a change in our way of thinking”.

Dr Silvius Wodarz

Black Thorn, White Blossom

The blackthorn is flowering – “spring stars” – with the promise of many sloes this autumn. Strange to think of autumn now, when the spring has only just begun. But that is the nature of things.

Prunus spinosa

In a Blackthorn Spring

Even if I knew
Icelandic names for snow,
or spoke a thousand
densities of white,
from Queen Ann’s lace

to campion to ice

or melted glacial crystals
on my tongue
to sweat new words

they would not paint
this blossom held to blue:
spring stars
hatched from rapier boughs,
the bitter sloes of winter.

by Lynne Wycherley