In a Vase on Monday: Helianthus tuberosus

Helianthus tuberosus is making a statement in our garden at the moment. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

In winter, my Man of Many Talents decided to try this plant as an alternative to potatoes (which did not do well last year due to the wet and the mice). The two long strips of ground used for potatoes last year were tilled once more and he planted the tubers in early spring.

 

The tubers are edible, and are known as Topinambur or Jerusalem Artichoke. I must be honest, the flavour does not appeal to me much – earthy, nutty, and rather strong, they overpower other flavours if added to a dish. But sliced thinly and fried or baked they are a nice accompaniment to a meal. If you have eaten them and have any good ideas of how to enjoy them, please do let me know.

So the tubers are not a big hit, but the flowers ARE! They were slow to get started but by August the plants were enormous, and about two weeks ago they started floweringโ€ฆ.

The tallest must be about three metres, at least.

So my vase today is jam-packed with these gorgeous perennial sunflowers. They create the wonderful effect of a burst of sunshine indoors on a cloudy day. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The tubers can stay in the ground over winter and be harvested as we want them, or simply left to produce flowers again next summer. They were watered once in the middle of the drought, but I think you could definitely label them as very drought-tolerant. But be warned. Given ideal conditions they can take over, so should only be planted where they can spread happily. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

 

I do actually have two more vases to share today as well. This one is leftovers from last week – annual sunflowers, Chrysopsis and some Golden Rod.

And my last vase is rather an incredible one. Back in August (the 8th to be precise) I posted this photo of a vase full of globe-shaped flowers and seedheads.

Well, after about ten days I removed the water and a couple of wilted pieces, and let the contents simply dry in the vase. And this is how it looks nowโ€ฆ

I haven’t dared move it, and just dust around it, as the grasses and Echinops are very fragile. I am impressed with how well everything has lasted.

Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme. Do go and visit her to see what gardeners are picking from their gardens today! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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In a Vase on Monday: Relief

I am back to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with her lovely meme after a couple of weeks off.

The summer was a trying one, but the lower night time temperatures recently plus two whole days of light rain have provided some relief. I wouldn’t exactly say the garden has sprung back to life, but after chopping back the plants that suffered most I can at least bare to look at it again, and as you can see from my vases, I do have some flowers to pick still!ย ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

First the pastels:

Perennial sweet pea, Cosmos, Echinacea, Verbena, Agastache, Sedum, Scabiosa, Miscanthus and Asters along with a lovely creamy white Heuchera flower which gets ten out of ten for surviving the heat!

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Then a few hotter colours in my newest vase – a cheapie red glass bottle found at my local supermarket for a song. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Orange Cosmos, Tithonia, Calamagrostis, Gaillardia, Persicaria, Plumbago, a red and a blue Salvia, ย and a poppy seedhead.

I must admit the apples are also from the supermarket – we will have a few to harvest soon, but not as many as last year. But the vegetables should make up for that; the beans and zucchini were wonderful and I still have over twenty butternut squash to harvest!

Hope you have had a good summer and are looking forward to autumn as much as I am – my favourite time of year. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Six on Saturday, 13th August 2022

Here in Germany, like in many other parts of Europe, there has been practically no rain since late spring. The garden is parched, and no amount of watering seems to make a difference. The strong winds have been relentless here, drying the ground and burning up foliage. Our trees are wilting, shrubs in the hedges we planted are dying, and the flower beds have all but been abandoned to their fate. I know so many of you are also lamenting the lack of rain. It is frustrating, but we can do little about it. So I shall focus on some of the positive things this August.

1. My vegetable garden has done well and I have harvested more than we can eat. My freezer is bursting at the seams! The yellow wild cherry tomatoes are the most productive and easy to care for tomatoes I have ever grown, and taste good too. I have also grown some sweetcorn for the first time this year and we have eaten a few cobs already, although really we should wait another week or two for them to fatten up. Delicious!

2. My Japanese Anemone opened a few days ago and is looking happy, despite a few brown leaves. I love this deep pink one – ‘Serenade’ – a pleasant change from the paler ones that seem more common.

3. The Perovskia looks magical (with the Gaura just about hanging on in the background). In fact, it looks better for the lack of rain!

4. Stipa gigantea is still shining, here with the best of the Tithonia finally reaching about a metre (the others are less than 30 cm high) and a couple of sunflowers – sadly not as grand as last year when I had dozens of enormous sunflowers, but sunflowers nonetheless.

5. The Gaillardia are looking good – one of the toughest flowers I have, flowering non-stop despite gale-force winds and scorching sun. And loved by the bees etc.

6. And finally, a bit of an oddityโ€ฆ. a Hellebore flowering in the full sun in August!

I realised when finishing this post that I had six photos and it is Saturday. So I am finally participating in Jon the Propagator’s ‘Six on Saturday’ meme for the first time. If you visit Jon’s blog you will find links to other gardeners posting six garden-related things on a Saturday. Many thanks to Jon for hosting this meme. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Happy gardening, and wishing all those in a drought lots of long and gentle showers!

๐ŸŒง๐ŸŒง๐ŸŒง

 

Strawberry Season and a Vegan Sponge Flan

My strawberry plants are finally slowing down at last after a bumper season – that was a pleasant surprise, as I had never grown strawberries before and the slugs kindly left them alone (mostly). ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Six little plants bought from my local supermarket last year have produced several kilos of delicious fruit.

In addition, the wild strawberries in my Herb Bed have also produced more fruit ย than ever before. (The smell is heavenly!) We have been eating both the cultivated and wild fruit fresh every day, and have had strawberry ice cream and strawberry flan too. And (since strawberry season as usual coincided with some very hot weather!) several vacuum-sealed bags are in the freezer awaiting cooler weather for making jam.

๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ˜ƒ๐Ÿ“

I am sharing my sponge flan recipe with you because it is not only extremely quick and simple to make, it is also perfectly ‘spongy’ and vegan too!

I think the original was on a supermarket website, but here is my version:

Vegan Sponge Flan

  • 225g (1 4/5 cups) plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 250 ml (1 cup) plant- based milk such as soya or almond
  • 6 tbsps neutral tasting vegetable oil such as rapeseed or corn oil
  • 125 to 150g (about 2/3 cups) sugar (depending how sweet the fruit topping will be)
  • an optional dash of vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients with a food mixer. Pour into a greased and floured sponge flan tin. Bake at 180ยฐC (350ยฐF) for about 20-25 minutes. ย Turn out when cool and decorate with fresh strawberries or fruit of your choice. I also added a clear glaze – a ready made mix based on cornflour (e.g. Dr Oetker’s). ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Hope you are enjoying strawberry season too. What’s your favourite way to eat strawberries?

๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ“

The Vegetable Patch Takes Shape

Last year our spring was lovely and warm – and extremely dry. Lovely for working outdoors, but far too dry to dig over a new vegetable garden. So it got postponed.

This April I optimistically marked out the spot where the vegetable beds will be. There will be four beds within the marked area with wooden frames around them. Itย is an open space and gets lots of sunshine. And is also not too far from our water supply on the north side of the house.ย Here you can just about make out the yellow poles marking the corners.

I had been planning this for months, but the weather hadn’t been on our side again… too damp this time! Then finally it was perfect weather at the end of April and we were able to mow. Then my Man of Many Talents got out his trusty tractor and tilled over the area for me. ๐Ÿ˜„


Thank goodness I didn’t have to do it all by hand! There were some very large stones in the ground.

And after some raking and weeding it started to take shape….

Viewed from the top of the Herb Bed

Then it rained…. and rained and blew and rained again… So we got to work on the wooden frames in the meantime. Now, I don’t know what the situation is in your part of the world, but finding good and affordable wood is not easy here at the moment. Everyone is doing DIY projects and the supply chains have been messed up. My Man of Many Talents got some spruce planks, but the quality is not brilliant and it was a matter of either that or ‘wait and see’. But for the purpose I am sure it will be fine.

He cut it to the right lengths – four times 3m x 1m – and we assembled the frames. Then I sanded down some of the rough edges and oiled the whole construction with linseed oil.

The finished structures were carried to the bed and I spent the rest of the day shovelling soil around to level it up and get rid of weeds. And the supports for the beans and cucumber were put in.

A day later planting began. I have sown runner beans and soya beans, chard, salad leaves, and put in some small strawberry plants and kohlrabi (very well known in Germany). This will be a new adventure, as I have only ever grown vegetables in pots and containers up to now.

So, now you can see why I have not been blogging much recently… this took a lot of time and energy! But the final stages will hopefully be completed in the coming week… mulching around the beds, and also planting the zucchini, butternut and cucumber plants I have grown from seed. I will keep a record here of how things develop. (Both the failures and successes!) I know many of my readers are far more experienced in growing vegetables, so I will be glad of any tips along the way!

Have a great weekend and Happy Gardening!