The Ice Saints, May 2020

Modern art, you may ask?

No, it’s a young Gingko tree, given to us by friends when we moved here, and wrapped up in garden fleece!

In Germany the final frosts of the year according to ancient folk sayings are mid-May, on the four Saint‘s Days from 12th to 15th May. And until today they are surprisingly accurate. Last night the 11th-12th was Saint Pankratius and we had a couple of degrees of frost. Tonight is Saint Servatius and temperatures could drop below zero again… a nightmare for gardeners who have been tempted by an exceedingly mild and warm April and early May to plant up pots of Pelargoniums and vegetables and sow annuals…

The Cold Frame

Thank goodness for garden fleece and various bits of packing materials saved for wrapping up sensitive plants. And for our trolley, which came in handy for gathering up these pots to put under cover for the night.

The zucchini and butternut are in pots this year as the ongoing drought deterred us from starting a vegetable bed again this spring. Maybe next year… In the meantime, it means wrapping up pots overnight. These looked a bit peaky this morning when I took the photo, but by the afternoon they had perked up, albeit with some slight leaf damage despite the fleece wrapping.

With our greenhouse plans also postponed for at least another year, I invested in this mini patio greenhouse. It has been worthwhile, with room for twelve trays. And with a bit of garden fleece it stays above freezing overnight. It was delivered in a trillion pieces though, so don’t ask how long it took me to put it together! 😫

At the beginning of our lockdown in mid-March I panicked a bit and worried I would not get any tomato plants, as even if our garden centres ever opened again there would be a rush for them. So I ordered a mix of tomato seeds from a Russian lady not far from us who has a private nursery and usually sells young plants in spring. They are all old varieties brought over from Russia by her parents, and so are not EU certified (so I can‘t eat them… 🤪🤣😉) and ALL of them germinated! So I now have 28 healthy young plants and cannot give them away as I can‘t visit anyone! I think I will be spending all summer watering…

Tomatoes, Tithonia, Sunflowers, salad leaves and a couple of leftover zucchini plants

Some dahlia tubers freshly planted in pots were brought indoors, as were my Lemon Verbena plants. I have been coddling these darlings, bringing them indoors every night.

I love lemon verbena tea and dry the leaves so I can enjoy it all year round. Last year my plants did not thrive and I had to ration my remaining tea. I hope this year I can refill my stock. 😀

The last of our Ice Saints is the dreaded ‘kalte Sophie’, cold Saint Sophia on the 15th, and it looks like that might be our last frosty night…. I do hope so as the wrapping up and unwrapping is getting a bit ridiculous!

How do you cope with late frosts? Is there a specific date for the last ones where you live?

🌷❄️🌷

All Good Wishes for a Very Happy 2020!

‘Hope’ is my word for 2020.

As we enter another new year, another decade, I look forward to seeing our trees grow, the garden flourish and our surrounding countryside recover from two severe drought years.

There IS always hope.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year, and may your gardens provide you with much pleasure and joy in the year 2020!

In a Vase on Monday: Midsummer

This Monday is Midsummer’s Day, St John’s Day or in Germany ‘Johannistag’, still celebrated in smaller communities with bonfires or beacons and perhaps a party too.

I am celebrating it with flowers – in a vase of course, as it is Monday! And on Mondays gardeners from far and wide join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to put materials plucked from their gardens or foraged locally into a vase to share. 🙂

Our meadow and the perimeters of the garden are full of summer flowers and they seemed so appropriate for Midsummer’s Day.

I’m not sure I can put a name to them all, but will try! There are still lots of the large Moon Daisies (Ox-Eye Daisies), but the other daisy-type white flowers are two different types of Chamomile and Fleabane. The clustered white flowers are Achillea…

… but sometimes the midsummer magic turns the Achillea pink… 😉

The purply pink flower is Centaurea (Knapweed) and the yellow flower next to it in the next photo is Bird’s-foot Trefoil…

Naturally a midsummer vase needs St. John’s Wort (Hypericum), which never fails to flower just in time for this date…

This tall flower bud hasn’t opened yet, but I think it is Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s Lace)…

A few snippets of perhaps not so useless information : according to tradition here, rhubarb and asparagus should not be picked after midsummer’s day. It is also traditionally the date when the mowing of meadows began, although often it is two or three weeks earlier these days. And also the date when I shall start watching out for glow worms. 🙂 (P.S. This evening we did indeed see the first ones on the edge of the garden near the woods. Midsummer magic. 🙂 )

I found a lovely Beth Chatto quote on the NGS website recently, which I find true on face value but today in particular on another level as well…

‘Grow contented plants and you will find peace among them.’

Worthy of thought.

Have a wonderful week, and if the heatwave in western Europe is headed your way too, stay cool! 😎

World Vegan Day 2017 and a Fabulous Sponge Cake

After a rather busy start to the week I spent Tuesday lamenting the demise of the garden after our first frost of the year. But today I am celebrating…

Why? Well, the first day of November is not normally a reason for celebration in our part of the world. In Germany, for example, it is a national holiday where people commemorate those who have died and visit their family graves. And for gardeners here November is a dreary month too, with the dreaded onset of frosty weather and the approach of winter.

And yet for me today stands out in the calendar as it is World Vegan Day! According to figures from the German Nutrition Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung)  there are now over 800,000 vegans in Germany, and research in Britain claims almost 550,000 people in the UK are vegan too. Now that is a very good excuse to celebrate so I have baked a fabulous vegan cake to share with you!

After trying so many recipes for a basic sponge cake, I was over the moon when I finally found the perfect one on the Vegan Recipe Club website, which is the recipe reservoir put together by Viva!, the British group promoting animal rights and a vegan diet.

Here is the link to the original lemony recipe: Our Favourite Sponge Cake

And here is my vanilla version…

The Best Vegan Sponge Cake Ever

For the sponge you will need:

  • 175g (1 and 1/2 sticks) vegan butter (I use ‘Alsan bio’. Find a UK or US brand here)
  • 175g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 330g (generous 2 and 1/2 cups) SR flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 330ml (1and 1/3 cups) plain soya yoghurt (I use the zero sugar sort)
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal mixed with 3 tbsp warm water)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 vanilla beanpod

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F, grease and flour two 20cm/8 inch cake tins.

2. Melt the butter then add the sugar. Mix in well till the sugar has partially dissolved. Set aside.

3. Sieve the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into a bowl. Rub in the vanilla bean with your finger tips. Add the butter/sugar mixture, yoghurt, flax egg and vanilla essence. Gently fold in until you get a soft dropping consistency and the flour is incorporated. If it isn’t soft enough, add a splash of non-dairy milk.

4. Spoon the cake mix into the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until risen and golden. Test by inserting a sharp knife or toothpick into the centre of each cake. If it comes out clean, the cake is cooked. If not, return to the oven for another 5-7 minutes. Let the cakes cool completely before removing them from their tins. Carefully place them upside down on a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely.

5. For the filling, spread jam of your choice on one of the cakes. (You can also spread buttercream on the other cake – see recipe below*) Put the cakes together like a sandwich. Sprinkle a little icing sugar on the top and decorate as you like.

* For the buttercream filling: Mix 125g sieved icing sugar, 75g vegan butter, 1/2 tsp vanilla essence and a tiny splash of non-dairy milk until creamy.

I do hope you will try this vegan recipe. If you would like more inspiration, there are others on my recipe page (see above), all vegetarian and many vegan!

Happy Baking! 😉

 

 

 

 

 

A Very Happy Christmas!

The beautiful countryside around us has been shrouded in thick fog and covered in layer upon layer of frost for most of December. When I heard the lovely carol “In the bleak mid-winter” the other day I found it quite apt to describe our surroundings here – the earth is hard as iron (although it has thawed a little in places in the last 24 hours) and the water in the bird bath is hard as stone again. But no snow still. (Sigh)

So I’m afraid I cannot post any pretty photos of frost covered pine trees, glittering in the sun with a blue sky beyond…. but I can offer a glimpse of our black and white world instead.

frosty22nd

And I can wish you all a very Happy Christmas too!

I hope you have the opportunity to relax over the holidays, spend time with loved ones, read a good book or just chill out in front of a warm fireplace with a hot mug of tea…

frost22nd

Many warm wishes to you all!

😀

 

In a Vase on Monday: THREE

Three cheers for Cathy at Rambling in the Garden!

Today we are celebrating the third anniversary of her wonderful meme ‘In a Vase on Monday’, which has inspired me and many other bloggers from all over the world to go out into their gardens or the countryside each week to gather materials for a vase to share. Come rain or shine. Snow or heatwave. Summer or Winter.

Not only has this meme changed the way I look at my garden, it has also influenced my choices regarding what to sow and grow, ensuring that I have flowers or foliage for indoors almost all year round.

Thank you Cathy!

Cathy has chosen a theme for today’s celebration : THREE

I think the easiest way to interpret that would be to create three different vases, so my tube vases seemed ideal. I think Cathy will approve of the flowers I used: a common favourite is Persicaria ‘Red Dragon’ on the left, with Persicaria ‘Blackfield, then Persicaria ‘Lance Corpoal’ in the centre, and my stalwart Persicaria ‘Firetail’ on the right.

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Sorry I can’t send you the chocolate cherry brownie Cathy! (I am sure it will find a good home though, and I will post the recipe soon! 😉 )

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Here’s a closer look at the Persicarias, with Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ as companion.

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I also chose three of my favourite vases from the last year as part of the celebration…

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 So, now we move into the fourth year of In a Vase on Monday. If you are not already on board, why not join us! But first, go and visit Cathy!