The Friends group

Take a look at our Apple Day 2016 video.

The Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens were set up in 2013 to support the  gardens and Jubilee Orchard, at Cressing Temple in central Essex.  The Friends work with the garden’s horticulturalist providing financial and practical support for plants, materials and specific projects.  Their contribution is welcomed by Essex County Council Country Parks who manage the site.

The Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens became a registered charity in April 2016 (registered charity No. 1166431).

There is always something going on in the gardens. To find out the latest, read our regular snippets from the walled garden, Cullen garden, Jubilee orchard and Community garden.

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A smelly week

With the warmth and and fragrance of summer herbs and roses well behind us, this week has been filled with more autumnal aromas, and not all of them pleasant!

It was time to give our fishpond a thorough clean out, following a summer of very poor water quality. We knew there were fish in there somewhere, we just couldn’t see them!

Having used the pump to empty the water to as low a level as we dared without having to remove the fish, it was time to reach for the waders and roll up our sleeves. First problem, will I be able to see over the top of the waders!

Not the most flattering of outfits but let’s hope they are watertight.

And in I go.

At times like this it is hard to remember the delightful scents of summer or imagine the sparkling jewel like flowers of the water lilies. People often say to me how lucky I am to have a job like mine!

And this is what we dredged out.

 

With Carol’s help we managed to remove a proportion of the thick sludge that had accumulated over the years at the base of the pond. A large population of goldfish and an overhanging D’Arcy Spice apple tree results in the build up of a large amount of decaying organic matter which was contributing to the poor water quality. Our intention was not to remove all the sediment, which is full of insect life and nutrients providing food for the fish. We just wanted to restore a healthy balance for fish and plants alike, whilst also improving the appearance for our visitors. The smelly sludge was emptied into the moats so none of the insect life was lost. Now we just need to return the repotted water lillies, fill the pond up to its normal level and see if it has all made a difference. In the spring we intend to add some extra oxygenating plants, introduce some water snails and treat the pond regularly with a dose of barley straw extract to limit the growth of algae and maintain a healthy ecosystem with everything in equilibrium.

Pond cleaning was not the only smelly job we tackled this week. On Tuesday we all went home smelling of kippers after an all-day bonfire up at the fire site.

It was hard work as the waste pile had become very large over the summer but by the end of the day about a third of it had gone and there was a huge pile of wood ash which we can add to the compost heap in small amounts or dig into the vegetable garden. Wood ash has the benefit of raising the soil Ph, so is good for brassicas which benefit from an alkaline soil, and it has high levels of potassium which is good for promoting better fruiting.

I thought I might be in for another smelly experience this week when I visited the compost loo at Runwell allotments, an option we are considering for our community garden and community  Shed area. This time I was pleasantly surprised to find no unpleasant smells  and was rather impressed with the practical installation they have there, on a site with no mains services.

Lynda Payne, parish councillor for Runwell, kindly showed us their facility and explained how it all worked and how they had secured funding from the National Lottery.

They have had their loo for over two years and are delighted with it. No smell, no maintenance so far and what a difference it has made to all the allotmenteers who no longer have to cross their legs or dash home when nature calls!

It seems like a great option for us at Cressing if we can get the necessary permissions and raise the funds. At the moment the only option for community gardeners and Shedders who are caught short is to take the long trek on foot to the main public toilets or use the allotment taxi – Carol’s bike!

This week has seen the first frosts of the winter which is a lovely sight on those crops that can withstand it like this parsley (Petroselinum crispum).

On a bright, sunny morning with a blue sky and a slight mist hanging in the air it was a beautiful sight first thing in the morning up at the vegetable plot.

It is well worth leaving some plants standing through the winter months, especially if they have valuable seed heads like these sunflowers which the blue tits and great tits have been feasting on for their rich, energy giving oils.

The cold weather is also a good time to make sure there are plenty of places for the insects to hibernate over winter. An insect box like this is ideal, but also leaving piles of twigs and sticks in the corners of the garden and leaving some leaf litter under hedges will all provide valuable cover for wildlife facing the rigours of the colder weather.

Whilst we and many creatures feel like hiding away and keeping warm as the weather turns colder, there are some advantages to the gardener of the onset of the first frosts: and one of them is the sweetening of certain vegetables like parsnips and brussels sprouts.

Plants produce sugars through photosynthesis, which are usually stored in the plant as starches but in response to cold temperatures, some plants break down some of their energy stores into “free” sugars, such as glucose and fructose, and stash them in their cells to guard against frost damage. Sugar dissolved in a cell makes it less susceptible to freezing in the same way that salting roads reduces ice. Clever stuff. And we benefit because the vegetables taste sweeter.

Despite the gradual slide into winter it is still a good time to lift and divide perennials so long as the soil is still workable. Mary did a fantastic job in the Cullen garden on Thursday splitting and replanting hardy Geranium macrorrhizum and Osteospermum jucundum in the central island bed. These plants have proved to be very good ground cover, reliable and healthy and relatively untroubled by our resident population of rabbits! We are gradually getting a good idea of what plants are rabbit proof in our conditions. Peony, Hellebore, Catmint, Hydrangea, Bergenia, Agapanthus, Red hot poker and several grasses seem pretty resistant and we will go on looking for more. Ground cover is really useful where rabbits are concerned as they prefer uncovered, loose soil where it is easy for them to dig. We intend to make it as inconvenient for them as we can!

Thanks to Mike, we now have a lovely, efficient composting process going on and have been using the products to mulch our beds this week. Chopping or shredding the material as it is added to the pile is a great way to speed the whole thing up, in addition to it being a good workout and warm up at the start of a chilly day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A thriving apiary

What a fantastic year it has been for our bees and their honey. Thanks to all the hard work of our beekeeper, Jan French and ably assisted by our chairman, David Andrews, our honey has scooped three awards this year:

We are delighted with this recognition and feel very proud to have such a healthy and productive apiary at Cressing. We have been able to collect 5 buckets of honey this year and so far have sold 104 8oz jars and 65 1lb jars, making a total income of £637. This has meant we could invest in in our own honey extractor and build up our supply of honey jars and wax foundation for next year. We hope to buy a warming cabinet in 2018, by which time we will be more or less self sufficient for honey production.

We are delighted to be doing our bit to support and protect our local honey bee population and all the gardeners are to be thanked for helping maintain such a healthy, diverse and species rich garden for them to feed upon.

There is still one bucket of honey to be put into jars, so if you have missed your chance to sample some of our award winning honey take a look in the well house when you next visit and snap up the last of this year’s harvest.

We are well and truly into the autumn jobs now in the garden. Mary has been tidying up the fading Iris leaves and planting out Pulmonaria in the pool garden.

Howard has been adding mulch to the culinary beds and removing all the unripe figs from the fig tree.

Denise, Carol and Lisa were cutting back the spent flowers of the Germander and giving the knot garden a good leaf clear up.

For myself and Pete, the week has been spent grappling with pond plants and pond sludge as we attempt to give the pond a major autumn clean up. We removed all the plants, dredged some of the silt, cleaned up the filters and then pumped out a proportion of the old water.

Yuck! Not a pretty sight, or smell, but hopefully will result in vast improvement in the appearance of the pond next year. We might even be able to see the fish!

I was so up to my neck in the pond waders and pongy plants I forgot to take any pictures of the messy proceedings. But for any of you interested in such things, here is the pond pump, which is situated in the garage. You can see the yellow stretch of hose being used to drain the water from the outlet  valve. All very simple now we have discovered how to do it! No such things would have troubled the Tudor inhabitants of the garden of course, but it does mean we can have the fountain running continuously for our visitors rather than having to pump furiously by hand whenever the need arose!

Work on the veg plot is slowing down now but there are still veg to harvest, as Becky was pleased to discover the other day when she called in for some supplies.

As you can see, the bunting is still flying, celebrating our success at the Garden Soup Day on 21st October, which was a blustery but dry occasion  when about 40 people visited to talk about community gardening and share some soup. We came second in our bid for the pot of donated money. First place was awarded to  a great new community project to renovate a garden behind Earls Colne library. This is just getting started and needs anything and everything going in the way of tools and equipment. The other beneficiary was another fantastic project in Dunmow, called Get Diggin It. All three projects went away with some very valuable winnings. Our £261 will be used to purchase our own apple press to turn some of next year’s apple harvest into our very own Cressing Temple apple juice. Thanks to all who came and supported the event which was a most enjoyable and successful occasion.

 

 

 

 

Apple Day 2017

A fantastic day, with record numbers of visitors and a lovely family atmosphere. Here is a medley of photos to remind you of the event or show you what you missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn leaves

I feel like breathing a huge sigh as we move into autumn and the stresses and strains of keeping everything going through the summer months gradually recedes. It seems the trees do this too, as they relax and allow themselves to drop their heavy burden of  leaves, giving us one of the best treats of the year, like a golden rain shower.

Well, enough of the poetry, what has been happening in the gardens lately? Let’s bring you down to earth with a spot of compost! There is nothing more satisfying about gardening than the feeling of getting something for free and the pure magic this………

gradually turning into a pile of this……..

in a matter of months is a real joy. Mike has been working steadily, shredding our garden clippings and turning it over, one bin into another, until, hey presto, we have a wonderful source of organic matter, black gold,  to return right back to the garden where it began. The best form of recycling there is.

Lots has been going on in the community garden this week, including the painting of the garden shelter, a job Andy seems to be enjoying! It now blends nicely with the potting shed and makes the whole thing look like one.

Bob was the lucky taster of one of Howard’s trial apple pressings this Tuesday. Each apple has had its sugar and acidity levels measured and we are now investigating which would make the best single variety  juice and which might produce a good blend. The one being tasted here was ‘Lady Henniker’, with a sugar content of 14.5% and acidity (Ph) 3.6 and it got the thumbs up from everyone who trialled it,  a perfect sweet juice with good background acidity.  ‘Edith Hopwood’ came in second place, a much sweeter juice, suiting the pallets of some. More testing will be going on this weekend but if you really want to taste for yourself the results of our 2017 Cressing Temple harvest, come along to APPLE DAY on 22nd October where we will be selling both juice and apples.

 

On the plot itself, the clear up and preparation for next year has begun and the beds are gradually being cleared and dug over.

The gardeners are working really hard to get it all spic and span in time for the Community Garden Soup on 21st October, when community garden groups from around the County will be visiting us to see how the project is progressing and share their ideas. There will be soup for all and various projects will be pitching for funding so if you want to take part, come along between 11am and 1pm on the day and make your way up to the Cressing Temple Community Garden and Shed.

We have the most wonderful crop of bullace plums in the hedgerow this year and it has caused much debate amongst us as to what is and what isn’t a bullace plum and how it differs from a sloe or a damson.

I found this description in a book called ‘Fruits of the Hedgerow’ by Charlotte Popescu:

Damsons came from Damascus originally and were found there by the Crusaders in the 12th century. It is thought that the Duke of Anjou brought them back to Europe after a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Damsons are larger than bullaces with an oval shape and blue-black fruit. the flesh is green yellow.

Bullaces are the wild ancestors of plums and are native to Europe and Asia. They were grown by the Romans and Anglo Saxons and were popular in medieval orchards. The bullace makes a large bush or small tree which has some thorns but less than you would find on a sloe bush. The bluey black bullaces known as Black Bullaces are similar to sloes but slightly larger. There are also green yellow ones, known as Shepherd’s Bullaces. The fruits are round and very bitter like sloes and so are not usually eaten raw. The flesh is yellow. A third variety, White Bullace has small, flattened fruits and a yellow skin mottled with red – these are sweeter than the other types.”

So there we have it. A bit more clarity to our confusion. Somebody brought in a branch of a bush she had in her garden and had always known it as the Bullace.

As you can see, the fruit is entirely different to ours but perhaps these are Shepherd’s Bullaces.

In the walled garden we are starting to cut things back but there is still plenty to entice the visitor.

I thought the gardener’s shelter looked particularly inviting seen here as I peered through the apple trees from the culinary beds.

The saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) has had its brief but exuberant shot at flowering and every time it appears I find myself trying to imagine harvesting those delicate stamens by hand with 4000 flowers being needed to produce an ounce of saffron. No wonder it is the most costly spice in the world!

Now here’s a curious plant that has been attracting a lot of comment recently. It is French mallow (Malva  verticillata var. crispa). A strange plant and somehow it makes me think of underwear whenever I see it – must be all those frills! It is an annual  that was a popular addition to medieval ‘sallets’ (the medieval form of salad, a highly fashionable craze at the time!). It is a great plant – a bit of a late summer curiosity as it doesn’t start growing until well into August and then, all of a sudden it is there – tall and green and frothy. It self seeds each year so we never need to sow it and I have never known it to be troubled by any pests or diseases. I have never seen it growing anywhere other than our garden at Cressing. Perhaps we should start adding it to our salads and make it fashionable again.

Something else showy I saw this week, but not at Cressing this time, was in the walled garden at Marks Hall.

That poor peacock must be thinking somebody has stolen its tail and pasted it onto a huge ball!

This is part of an exhibition of sculpture in the gardens and arboretum that is well worth a visit. I especially liked the careful placing of various sculptures in and amongst the plants in the walled garden, complimenting them very well, I thought.

Now, I know Halloween is not quite upon us but we are getting ready for it with our ghostly thistles, Onopordum acanthium, looking like they are about to spook us any minute. Visit us for spooky fun on 26th and 27th October to see if they come alive!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apples, apples and more apples

I am very fond of apples and always enjoy this time of year when I can select a different variety from our trees every day to enjoy with my lunch…….Well, up to a point. Like every harvest glut, the novelty can soon wear a little thin and the enthusiasm for finding new ‘ways with apples’ becomes sorely tested. But a fresh apple picked straight from the tree, with so much juice it is hard to keep it all in, is a treat not to be missed. For information about the varieties we grow, see our page about the orchard.

Some apples

Some more apples

And yet more bags and bags of apples. Everywhere you look there are apples!

The fruit harvest this year seems particularly bountiful and it’s all hands to the task on volunteer days, just to keep up with the windfalls, let alone pick off the trees.

And they all need sorting and grading and putting into trays to be kept until APPLE DAY ON 22nd OCTOBER. Anyone with a few spare hours to help out would be very welcome on Tuesdays or Thursday mornings for the next few weeks and of course you could take a few bags home with you. We have a heavy crop of bullace plums too, which make a heavenly jam.

In collecting the harvest, things don’t always run smoothly: Here we are, all loaded up and ready to deliver another buggy full for storage and….ooops suddenly our precious haul was left on the tarmac. That will teach us not to lean back on the tipper switch!

Of course this bumper crop is thanks to the busy work of our bees earlier in the year, pollinating all those blossoms. Without them there would be no apple harvest so well done to our bees. And congratulations are also due to them for producing award winning honey this year.

Ok, so it was first out of three, but I am assured no prizes are awarded for undeserving entries so we can be very pleased with this result. Chuffed with our success we are going to enter some jars in the National Honey Show this year too. I will let you know how we get on. In the meantime, if you are keen on tasting some  award winning honey, come along to APPLE DAY on 22nd OCTOBER to claim a jar. We have just jarred another 55lbs and this will be the last batch of the year.

Cressing Temple is a great place to spot wildlife as you can see from our record of what has been spotted on site since May this year. Nice to see we are a local hotspot for wildlife of all kinds. Please let us know if you see anything to add to our list.

The Buzzard (Buteo buteo) was almost extinct at the start of the 20th century after years of persecution but now it is one of the most commonly seen hawks, after the kestrel. They have a long history of unpopularity.  James I of Scotland ordered their  destruction in 1457, Henry VIII excluded them from his law forbidding egg stealing and they were persecuted in the nineteenth century in a desire to preserve game. With the myxomatosis outbreak of 1952-55 seriously depleting rabbit numbers, which are a major source of prey, it is amazing how well they are doing today. But then, judging by the number of rabbits we have at Cressing Temple, perhaps I can understand why!

Buzzards were thought to foretell rain, as John Clare in his ‘Village Minstrel’ recounts:

Slow o’er the wood the puttock(buzzard) sails;

And mournful, as the storms arise,

His feeble hole of sorrow wails,

To the unpitying, frowning skies.

I spent an enjoyable day last weekend with four keen people who wanted to know more about propagating plants, in one of our craft and rural skills workshops. It looks like serious concentration was needed as the cuttings collected from the walled garden were trimmed and potted up.

Followed by a drink in the water bath to stop them drying out. It’s not too late to take cuttings of things like lavender and sage and they will make good plants to go in your garden by next spring. There is nothing quite so satisfying as making a new plants from old – recycling at its best!

The next workshop we are offering is garden design on Saturday 7th October, lead by an experienced  garden designer, Karen Chamberlain . If you fancy giving your garden a makeover this winter, maybe this course can help.  Contact Gemma Clayton on 03330132738 if you would like to book a place.

The community garden harvest is still going strong and the stall is still well stocked with produce on a Tuesday, with runner beans, beetroot, carrots, summer squash and, of course, apples, in plentiful supply.  Eager to try something different, I  enjoyed a tasty meal of stuffed summer squash  last weekend, made with Turks Turban and Flat white custard squash from the plot.

Here’s the recipe, courtesy of Rachel Demuth’s Green Seasons Cookbook.

 

Autumn Roasted Baby Squash with Haloumi Quinoa

4 Small squashes

1 tbs olive oil

100g quinoa

225ml boiling water

1/2 lemon, zest and juice

pinch of sea salt

125g haloumi, cubed and dry fried until golden

60g cashews, dry roasted for 5 mins in oven

20g pumpkin seeds, dry roasted for 5 mins in oven

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp paprika

2 tbsps flat parsley, roughly chopped

Pre-heat oven to 200C

Cut the tops off the squash, remove the seeds and rub the inside with olive oil. Roast for 30-40 mins until they are soft but not collapsed.

Rinse the quinoa in a sieve. Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a saucepan, add the quinoa, stir to coat the grains and stir fry for 1 min. Add the water, lemon juice and zest and pinch of salt. Simmer for about 15mins until all the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa grain has burst.

Stir in the fried haloumi, roasted cashews and pumpkin seeds, cayenne, paprika and parsley. Season to taste.

Fill the squash with the quinoa mix, replace the tops and reheat in the oven until warmed through. We made a roasted red pepper and tomato sauce to go with it.

 

There will be an opportunity to visit the community garden and find out more about our community projects at Cressing Temple on 21st October. As part of the Art of the Possible Festival, we will be hosting a ‘Garden Soup’ at the community garden and workshop. Other community projects will be represented and it will be a chance to celebrate their success and publicise what is going on in Essex in the way of community groups.

See below for more details of the event.

GardenSOUP: celebrating community gardens and growing

 

Green fingers?  Interested in community gardening? Keen to learn more?

GardenSOUP is a chance to mix with others who love gardening, from enthusiastic amateurs to horticultural experts.  There’s more than that, though – explore a new community garden, created by local people for local people; help with the harvest; and explore the new Men’s Shed that is also on site – whether you consider it day care for dads, or garden for gramps we can guarantee fun for all.

We close with the chance to be part of a SOUP. SOUP is a global microfunding phenomenon – donate on the door, eat soup, hear from local people with good horticultural ideas and vote for the idea you like best.  The winning schemes can take the money and start making a difference there and then!

Dust off your wellies, and come explore the community garden at Cressing Temple.

 

Saturday Oct 21st

11am-1pm

Cressing Temple Community Garden

You never know, there could be a pot of gold at the end of it!

The medlars (Mespilus germanicus) are plumping up nicely with all the recent rain.

The Medlar is a native of Europe and Asia Minor but has been growing in the Uk since ancient times. It is a member of the Rosaceae family and is closely related to the Hawthorn (Crataegus app). The fruits are like large brown rose-hips which can be eaten straight off the tree in the Mediterranean region but in our climate they only become edible once ‘bletted’ – made soft and half-rotten by frost. They used to be made into jellies, preserves and fillings for pies or were baked and eaten directly out of their skins with a spoon. Anyone wanting to try, come and see us sometime in October and we will be happy to give you a bag full.

The European Woodworking show is on at Cressing Temple this weekend. It may be the last time this event runs, so if you like all things made from wood and the wood working skills that create them, why not visit us this weekend and pop into the walled garden while you are there.

 

Harvest time already

Is it just me or is autumn upon us rather early this year? Already the apples are falling off the trees and we were busy in the orchard today gathering up all the windfalls. If the weather hadn’t been so warm it could have been October.

The top quality, blemish free ones will be stored, hopefully in the peak of condition until Apple Day on 22nd October (make sure you have it in your diary).

The next grade may have the odd mark or two or a bruise or bump as they hit the ground but are perfectly useable and we put these out for the public to take home. We just ask for a donation towards upkeep of the orchard.

The duds, those affected by brown rot, eaten by wasps or too tiny to eat, are tossed into the wheelbarrow and taken up to the fire site where they can be feasted on by birds, mammals and insects.

We came across another new fungus as we were collecting up all the apples.

This one is called a Tawny funnel fungus (Clitocybe gibba) and it commonly grows in leaf litter in deciduous woodland and rough grass or heaths. Very common throughout Britain and Ireland, the Common Funnel also occurs in most parts of mainland Europe and in North America. It is described as a ‘gregarious’ fungi because it often occurs in groups. All sorts of interesting information about the identification, distribution and uses of this fungus can be found on the First Nature website if you care to take a look.

The harvest is also going strong in the community garden, with an ever abundant looking stall on display every Tuesday. We need more visitors to use up the glut – anyone know what to do with a tonne of courgettes going on marrows? Please remember to drop in on a Tuesday if you are passing and see what we have.

Keeping watch over us all was our jolly new mascot with a veg stall to rival ours!

Somebody’s got nimble fingers! Thanks to Pete’s mum for this masterpiece. More of her knitted goods can be purchased in the Visitor Centre, including a Knight’s Templar in full battle attire.

One of the less usual things we have for sale is the patti pan squash or flat white custard marrow, which was grown in Tudor times. When small it can be used just like a courgette. Once it has grown large it is better stuffed and baked. See a recipe at the end of the blog, sent in by one satisfied customer this week.

Not to be left out of this productive week, our bees have produced enough honey for us to do a second extraction, so another 50kgs is heading for jam jars and will be out for sale by Apple Day. They would make a marvellous Christmas gift for those of you who like to think about such things at the end of August!

The liquid gold pouring through the strainer into the bucket below.

More news of our bees and their honey. We are entering some of this year’s honey into the The Essex Honey Show which will be taking place at the Orsett Agricultural Show, Orsett Showground, near Grays Thurrock,  Essex, RM16 3JU on Saturday 2nd September 9am – 5pm. The Friends of Cressing Temple Gardens has entered two honey classes:

Class 2 – One jar of clear honey – Gift Class. The Honey will be sold in aid of St Francic Hospice.

Class 17 – Two jars of medium clear honey – for beekeepers of 5 years’ or less beekeeping experience.

So, let’s see if we can scoop our first honey award. Fingers crossed.

If you fancy going along to the show the entry fee is £10. And a huge thank you to Jan French and David Andrews, our beekeepers, who put in many hours of dedication to look after our bees and process our honey. If anyone fancies learning about beekeeping and has a little time to spare, Jan is a great teacher and would love to have a beekeeping group at Cressing. Contact Rebecca if you are interested (rebecca.ashbey@essex.gov.uk)

In the walled garden, guess what, we were doing lots of weeding again. One minute we are saying thank goodness for a bit of welcome rain, the next minute we are cursing the weeds. Never satisfied some would say!

Jane tackles one of the culinary herb beds. The strange frilly looking thing at the end of the bed is French mallow (Malva verticillata) an annual herb used in sallets in tudor times.

Deadheading, cutting back and mulching are other useful tasks for this time of year, keeping everything looking neat and tidy as the garden gently slides into autumn.

Lynn is applying mulch to a bed of marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), Veronica (Veronica spicata) and chicory (Chicorum intybus).

Friends of Cressing Gardens are now the proud owners of three new benches for the walled garden, made especially for us by Stephen Westover of Westover Woodlands, Gosfield. They are lovely pieces of craftsmanship and will provide extra places for relaxation and contemplation in the garden. Stephen will be attending this year’s Apple Day, so if you like what you see, don’t miss him at our event.

Roses are such versatile plants. Some are all done with their flowering by now and have already launched into their autumn show of hips. One such rose is the wild dog rose, Rosa canina, seen here on our rose arbour.

Others are late starters, are only just getting into their flowering swing now, like the lovely sweet scented Rosa moschata, looking delicate and pretty on our arbour right now.

This is a very old rose, in cultivation at least as long ago as the 16th century. Its wonderful musky scent and useful characteristic of late season and long flowering has lead to it being used for breeding other roses, such as the damask roses  and the noisette roses. I love the simplicity of these flowers, and so do the bees, as the nectar and pollen is much more accessible than in our multi-petalled modern roses.

As promised, here is the squash recipe.

Patti pan a la Cressing

Stuffed patti pan per Person:

1 round patti pan squash

1 raw pork sausage skinned and chopped (or veg sausage)

1 heaped teaspoon finely chopped onion

1 heaped teaspoon finely chopped celery

pinch dried mixed herbs

Tomato and pepper sauce:

1 finely chopped onion (minus onion used in squash stuffing)

1 finely chopped pepper

1 finely chopped stick of celery

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 finely chopped fresh chilli (optional)

1 clove finely chopped garlic

Vegetable stock cube

Half teaspoon mixed dried herbs

Method

Earlier in the day bake the squash(s) in the oven in about an inch of water for 30 – 40 minutes at 200ºc until just soft and leave to cool. Once cool, cut round just inside the outer rim so you have a “lid” and remove all the pips with a teaspoon.

Sauce: gently fry the fresh veg with chilli and garlic until soft, then add tomatoes and stock cube and simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Stuffing: fry the reserved onion and celery until soft, then add chopped sausage and cook, stirring frequently so sausage breaks up a bit more. Cook until sausage is all cooked through.

Assembly: fill squash with stuffing mixture and put the “lid” on. Put about half an inch of tomato sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish that is just a little bit bigger than the squash to be cooked. Place the squash(s) on top and bake for half an hour at 200ºc.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up sauce. If you have cooked 1 or 2 squash and have spare sauce, it can be kept for a couple of days in the fridge and reheated as a pasta sauce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Athens and back

Sorry for the gap in my regular posts but I have been away on a rather exciting trip to Athens and back, via Milan and Florence by train and ferry! Here is a glimpse of where I went and what I saw:

The Duomo in Milan. View from the top. A beautiful structure and a city that surprised me.

The fountain of Neptune in the Boboli gardens in Florence, built by the Medici family in the 16th century.

View of the Florence roofscape from our apartment.

The famous Ponte Vecchio over the Arno river.

Endless delicious gelato!

Hard to get away from home sometimes! Look what we found for sale in the market.

 

Fantastic churches and artwork.

The deep blue Adriatic as we sailed past Greek islands.

The Acropolis – and we think our Cressing barns are old!

The Roman Olympian – like a giant Jenga.

The Odeon of Herodus Atticus – where gladiators might once have fought, now orchestras play!

Through the Italian Alps, near Turin, with vineyards a plenty.

And home again. Welcome back to English weather!

So…….. back to Cressing and work. Life can’t be one long holiday.

Into August  already and everything in the gardens is looking lush and green after all the rain you had while I was away – ha ha. Thank you to everyone who helped out while I was away, keeping it all going and looking lovely and making sure there were plenty of plants for sale and produce from the Community Garden for our visitors to buy.

Before my holiday, one of the priorities was to complete all the clipping of Box hedging – a mammoth task which would be impossible without such a great team effort.

The result is rather well worth it, I think you’d agree.

This is the centre piece of our Tudor garden and demonstrates how popular this type of ornamental gardening had become in the 16th century, for the wealthy at least. The Tudors were very fond of complicated, symmetrical patterns and they could be found in their architecture, art work, carpentry and gardens, in the form of ‘knots so enknotted, it cannot be exprest’ (so said George Cavendish, loyal courtier to Cardinal Wolesly). The idea was to view them from the galleries of castles and manor houses or from raised terraces, outdoor pavilions and summerhouses, as might have been the case in the Cressing garden. The designs for knot gardens were often taken from books of patterns, more often associated with embroidery than gardening. They would sometimes have the initials of the owners or lover’s initials interlaced in the middle, as was the case at Hampton Court in 1533, where there were many knots with the intertwined initials of ‘H’ and ‘A.’ The knot was a representation of eternity, something without beginning or end and a sign of an everlasting bond associated with marriage (or not so everlasting in the case of Henry VIII!).

Production on the Community veg plot has reached its peak and we have been delighted to have members of the public and staff visiting our produce stall on Tuesdays to make their selection of  fresh vegetables and herbs straight out of the ground.

If you would like to see what’s on offer, come over to the garden on Tuesdays and one of the gardeners will tell you what we have available that week, and even harvest it then and there for you. What could be fresher!

Other priorities in the garden have included cutting the final areas of meadow grass and wild flowers. You may have thought that growing wild flowers in meadow grass is as easy as sitting back and watching it all happen, but not so. A lot of work needs to be done to manage the mix and avoid the dominance of the thugs over the delicates. To this end, we set to, pulling out a lot of knapweed (Centaurea nigra) which had started to choke out other species. This is a tough perennial species found in all kinds of grassland across the UK and the bees love it.

 

Long ago, there was a love divination game played by village girls using the pinky-purple flower heads of this knapweed:

They pull the little blossom threads

From out the knapweeds button heads

And put the husk wi many a smile

In their white bosoms for awhile

Who if they guess aright the swain

That loves sweet fancy try to gain

Tis said that ere its lain an hour

Twill blossom wi a second flower

And from her white breasts hankerchief

Bloom as they had ne’er lost a leaf

Clare 1964

 

Well, delightful though that may be, we have too many of them and some had to go.

We are hoping to introduce a greater variety of species into this meadow grass for next year so I will let you know if all this yanking and tugging has had the desired effect. We will be sowing new seed and planting new plug plants in its place.

An interesting mushroom came to our attention as we were working in this part of the garden.

We think it is a scarlet wax cap (Hygrocybe coccinea), a fairly common fungus found in cropped grassland and woodland clearings; it sometimes appears on old lawns, parks and well-managed churchyards. Not poisonous but not a good eating mushroom, those budding mycologists among you can read more about it here.

And finally this week, to all you honey lovers out there, some more of our Cressing honey has been put in jars and is out for sale in the well house. We are entering some of it into the Essex honey show this year so you never know, we might have award winning honey soon!