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.

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 roofs cape 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Busy bees

We are pleased to announce that Cressing Temple honey is now available to purchase from the well house. We extracted the honey from three hives last week resulting in 42lbs of delicious, golden, runny honey which we are selling in 1lb jars for £5  and 8oz jars for £3. Twelve jars were sold on Sunday at the Vintage Fair. The Essex Festival of Food and Drink is next weekend, so don’t delay if you would like some.

The ‘supers’ containing the frames of honey have been cleared of bees and are ready to be taken into the dairy for extraction.

Jan removes the wax capping from each frame with a heat gun.

Each frame is carefully lowered into the extractor where it is held in place by the metal carousel.

Once all the frames are in place David spins the carousel by winding the handle.

The honey is flung out of the frames, hits the side of the extractor drum and runs down to the bottom, where it flows out of a tap, through a sieve and  into the waiting bucket.

Hey presto. Lots of glorious honey from our busy bees who will go on collecting nectar for the rest of the summer, possibly giving us a second crop by the end of August. We must ensure the bees have plenty of stores left to feed themselves through the winter so we will only take a second crop if they have been very productive. All the more reason to come and get a jar now to be on the safe side.

Last week we had a visit from The Woodbridge Society for a tour of the barns and gardens. Despite the risk of thunderstorms in the forecast, the weather was glorious and our visitors were able to enjoy their refreshments, baked on site in our traditional bread oven, whilst relaxing on the knot garden lawns.

Before this they were treated to a tour of the barns, lead by Elphin and Brenda Watkin and a tour of the garden with me.

While this was all going on, Monika was busy baking bread, foccacia and pastry treats in the rather sweltering bakehouse.

For most of the group it was their first visit to Cressing so it was lovely to share our enthusiasm for the site and send them away with a better insight into Cressing Temple’s history and development.

With the hot weather continuing all through the week, the greatest challenge in the garden, once again, was keeping everything watered and alive! The benefits of this are very evident in the veg garden, where the quantity and variety of crops is increasing week by week. Volunteers and staff have been taking fresh produce home and two members of the public visited the plot on Tuesday for a bag of goodies. We ask for a donation to help us sustain the project, so if you would like to try some, come up to the veg garden on a Tuesday and one of the gardeners will harvest a selection from what is available. Each week the Tiptree tearoom is taking a basket of our home grown veg and transforming it into the tastiest, freshest, healthiest food you could get. Why not visit and ask what they are using this week?

And here is one of my favourite soup recipes to get your taste buds tingling:

Spinach and courgette soup

1 Medium sized onion

1 Medium sized potato

1 large courgette

100g Spinach

2tbs oil

Few sprigs parsley

1.2 litres vegetable stock

142ml double cream

Salt and Pepper

 

Chop the vegetables. Heat the oil in a saucepan and saute the onion and courgette until the onion is transparent. Add the potato, spinach, parsley and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before blending until smooth. Stir in the cream and adjust seasoning. Reheat gently.

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

Midsummer’s day

Well, there it is, we reached midsummer’s day on 24th June and everything was at a peak in the garden. From now on, us miserable gardeners, determined to look on the bright side, start saying things like “nights are drawing in” and “it’ll be autumn before we know it” but really, where does all the time go? And are we the only ones who rejoice when it rains? This week we saw some significant and much needed rain on the garden and most of it fell over night – perfect I’d say. For once we were not spending all day with watering cans, hoses and sprinklers on the go and we could get on with other things.

The community garden veg plot is looking fantastic and has started rewarding everybody with some produce and flowers.

We have been able to start offering fresh produce from the plot direct to the Tiptree tearoom and to volunteers. We hope to be able to make it available to the general public on Tuesdays, when the gardeners are there to harvest it and dependent on us having enough to offer. A bag of the freshest veg you can get, grown with no artificial fertilisers, no insecticides or herbicides, no transport or packaging costs. Just from the plot straight to the plate!

If you want to see what’s available, call in at the plot on a Tuesday between 10.00am and 4.00pm to see what we have each week.

Of course it doesn’t appear by magic and the garden team have been hard at work this week making sure the harvest gets better and better.

Nellie was keeping watch over the potatoes while Barbara got stuck in with some weeding.

Bob was busy constructing a display bench for all the lovely produce.

It’s not all hard work and Brian and Andy found time for a chat. Brian has been helping us tackle a mole problem and Andy was planting out the Occa and Ulluco, the South American tubers we trialled for the first time last year.

In the walled garden the jobs list doesn’t get any shorter, with trimming box hedging and the start of haymaking being priorities this week.

One cut now and the maze should look smart for the rest of the year and will continue to thicken up to fill the gaps. This maze was planted about 7 years ago and is just beginning to look like a solid hedge. It sometimes gets a battering from little feet, as our youngest visitors gamble precariously to the centre or older ones take a short cut and leap through, but it’s a tough plant and seems to be growing nicely.

Dwarf box (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’) is very slow growing, only putting on between 3-5cm of growth in a year. For a taller maze the common box, Buxus sempervirens would be a better choice. Hedge mazes in English gardens date from the sixteenth century and became popular as a result of travel to French and Italian gardens where they were already well established. Strictly speaking, a maze of this period and this type should be made of low growing plants such as thyme or hyssop but box was chosen here for its practicality and the ease with which it can be clipped into tight shapes. Box became popular from the middle of the seventeenth century and soon became the plant of choice for this purpose, but it took a while before everyone was convinced of its virtues. Before then it had been regarded too smelly, it was thought to kill bees and it was believed to ‘corrupt the air’.

The leaves of all box species contain buxine, a narcotic and sedative used medicinally well into the twentieth century. The wood and root of box is very dense and close grained, making it very heavy and strong. Traditionally it has been turned, carved and engraved into flutes, pegs for musical instruments, combs, nutcrackers, chess pieces and used as the blocks for printing. Six hundred tons per annum used to be brought to England from Turkey for use in the printing trade alone.

The meadow flowers have largely gone over for another year and the gradual process of reclaiming the areas to a shorter sward has begun. Using a scythe rather than a strimmer is a much gentler, process, allowing the wildlife a chance to escape instead of being whizzed to pieces. We cut the meadow grass small section by section to allow an escape route for small mammals and insects.

Alison is using a continental scythe to mow through the meadow area in the walled garden orchard. This is much lighter and easier to use than the traditional English scythe which is more rarely used these days. For those interested, you can find out all about scything and the differences between English and  the Austrian scythe here. I like to use these traditional methods of gardening where we can. They interest the public who often stop to watch and then share their memories of seeing scything done in the past. One lady was telling us how her father almost completely severed the leg of their dog when it ran in the way of him scything. She had a distinct memory of watching it being stitched back on again – ouch!

What has been the most asked about plant this week? It has got to be the Life of Man plant, a type of morning glory called Convolvulus tricolor, flowering cheerfully in the vine border around the Veronica spicata.

Any plant with three colours or an association with the number three would have attracted the Tudors, with its symbolic link to the trinity, as the meaning of plants had far greater significance then than it does now. This plant is an annual and loves a sunny position where it will flower its socks off before succumbing to the first frosts. This particularly eye-catching variety is called ‘Blue Ensign’ and is available from Chiltern Seeds if you would like to grow some.

I love noticing which flowers attract which pollinators in the garden and seeing which are clear favourites.

The bumblebees certainly favour the teasels and this one, Dipsacus sativus, flowering in the dye border is hardly ever without a bumblebee visitor. Their long tongues are clearly well adapted to probe deep into each tubular flower to reach the rich nectar.

I like this description of the wild teasel (Dipsacus fullonum) by Richard Jeffries in the 1879:

“The large leaves of this plant grow in pairs, one on each side of the stem, and while the plant is young are connected in a curious manner by a green membrane, or continuation of the lower part of the leaf round the stem, so as to form a cup. The stalk rises in the centre of the cup, and of these vessels there are three or four above each other in storeys. When it rains, the drops, instead of falling off as from other leaves, run down these and are collected in the cups, which thus form so many natural rain-gauges. If it is a large plant, the cup nearest the ground – the biggest – will hold as much as two or three wine glasses. this water remains there for a considerable time, for several days after a shower, and it is fatal to numbers of insects which climb up the stalk or alight on the leaves and fall in. While the grass and the earth of the bank are quite dry, therefore, the teasel often has a supply of water; and when it dries up, the drowned insects remain at the bottom like the dregs of a draught the plant has drained. Round the prickly dome-shaped head, as the summer advances, two circles of violet-hued flowers push out from cells defended by the spines, so that, seen protruding above the hedge, it resembles a tiara – a green circle at the bottom of the dome, and two circles of gems above”

The insect seen on this yarrow, Achillea millefolium, is a hover fly or some kind of solitary bee (sorry I’m not an expert), and having a much shorter tongue, it chooses to feed on plants of this type with broad, flat heads of flowers which are easy to land on and the nectar is much more accessible.

It is a fascinating how plants and insects have evolved to mutual benefit. If you would like to know more about different flower shapes and the insects they are best adapted for, take a look at the Pollinator Garden website. This is a good time of year to pay a visit to the walled garden which is full of all kinds of pollinating insects visiting our wild flowers.

And finally, how about this for a good bit of accidental flower combining? As the flower heads of the Scotch thistle, Onopordum acanthium emerge they are the perfect match for the same coloured but different textured flowers of purple loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria. A wild flower garden can be trendy too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sizzling summer

What a scorcher! We chose the hottest day of the year so far to hold our summer volunteer BBQ  and we sizzled almost as much as the sausages!

 

It was a very enjoyable event and a chance to sit down for a change and celebrate the hard work and achievements of the year so far.

We feasted on some of the first produce from the plot, including a couple of mammoth onions wrestled from the ground by Paul, as well as broad beans, lettuce, radishes and strawberries.

It was also an opportunity to christen our brand new, fabulous extension to the potting shed, funded by our Big Lottery award and built with lots of hard work and great skill by our maintenance officer, Peter Eplett.

This building is going to be so useful, not least giving us a bit of shelter from the searing sunshine and a place to serve the party food.

We can’t thank Pete enough for his efforts. He even reclaimed an old butler sink that has been languishing in the nursery for years, to give us somewhere to clean up all our lovely veg.

Thanks Pete. It will make a big difference.

Before the BBQ we held a recruitment event for volunteers and managed to attract four new members, for the gardening, for shedding or for both.  I was particularly impressed by how many of our existing team turned up to chat to the potential recruits and encourage them to sign up. It is quite amazing to consider there were just two or three volunteers only  a few years ago  and now we have a strong and thriving group of 27!  You only need to visit Cressing to look at all the work that has been done to appreciate the difference they are making and in these hard pressed times of a reduced workforce we certainly couldn’t achieve much without them.

In the gardens we have reached that time of year when the list of upcoming jobs seems  longer than the ones ticked off, and with this hot summer weather, when watering becomes the number one priority, it can feel as if we are chasing to catch up all the time. It is hedge trimming time of year so the shears have been sharpened and cleaned all ready to begin the box hedging and topiary trimming.

Where was that Bay tree topiary?

 

Oh yes, here it is after a much needed haircut and standing proud in the Nosegay garden with a lovely blue sky backdrop.

 

The sweet laurel (Laurus noblilis), ancient symbol of victory, was a common feature of medieval gardens.  Better known as Bay, the Old English word for berry, it was also a symbol of evergreen constancy and man’s failure to achieve the same. A single, central tree, reminiscent of the central tree in Eden, grew in many medieval romance gardens often placed next to a well, casting shade and providing a place for the ardent declaration of medieval love and devotion.

While we bask in the heat and sunshine this weekend it seems hard to remember the downpours and damaging wind of the previous week. But life goes on whatever the weather and we certainly can’t choose sunshine just when we want it. So it was unfortunately on the rainy week, sandwiched between two very sunny ones, that we paid host to a couple of groups of hardy garden tourers. The first was Braintree Rotary Society who refused to have their summer evening ruined by summer storms and carried on regardless, brollies in hand.

The hard rain was held at bay for most of our tour around the garden but the summer Pimms had to be served in the farmhouse. In true British spirit they were determined to have  a good time whatever the circumstances and it was lovely to have them visit.

The second group, Action for Carers from Maldon, were luckier later in the week and were able to enjoy both a tour of the barns and a tour of the garden, followed by tea in the Tiptree tearoom without getting wet.

Here they are, watching me demonstrate the wools dyed from plants in our dye border. The golden flowers of broom (Cytisus scoparius), smelling of vanilla, are particularly dazzling in that border at the moment and have produced a clean but subtle yellow dye.

Broom, along with other plants such as gorse, heather, holly and butcher’s broom was once used for sweeping, and the long whippy, thornless stems of this plant made it one of the most effective for the purpose. But the flowers were also used, in bud or fully open, raw or pickled, as an ingredient in salads, particularly in a popular seventeenth century version of twenty or thirty different ingredients, known as Grand Sallat, or Salmagundies. The green tips of the flowering branches have long been used in herbal medicine, and were gathered during the Second World War for use as a mild diuretic to counteract fluid retention.

 

 

 

 

 

Volunteer recruitment

Cressing Temple Gardens need your help

 

Gardening

Mending

Making

Tuesdays and Thursdays

Contact Rebecca for more details

rebecca.ashbey@essex.gov.uk

07747670058

Would you like to spend a few hours a week in our beautiful gardens and help to make them even better?

We grow herbs, wild flowers, fruit, vegetables and cut flowers.

There are all kinds of gardening jobs or you could put your hand to making things for the garden such as bird boxes, planters and cold frames. We have a small friendly volunteer group who meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Find out more?

Come along to our volunteer information day:

Saturday 17th June at 2.30pm

Meet at reception

See the gardens, meet the gardeners and garden shedders, join us for refreshments.

 

All coming up roses

Rose time is here again and they are looking fabulous. The garden reaches its peak in early June and the recent warm, dry weather has kept the blooms in peak condition and intensified the aromas, resulting in plenty of appreciative oohs and aahs from our visitors this week.

Rosa x alba ‘Alba Semiplena’, the white rose of York, is seen here on the trellis in the nosegay garden. It is the white rose that the Yorkists chose as their badge in the 15 th century. Alba roses are very hardy, vigorous and long-lived, with grey-green leaves and one of the most refined fragrance of any rose. You will need to visit to appreciate the scent of these old roses which, in my opinion, can’t be beaten.

Another good one is the Kazanlik rose (Rosa x damascene var trigintepetala). Damask roses made their way to Europe through the Middle East via Damascus (hence Damask) during the early Middle Ages. They are especially valued for their natural oils which have been used for centuries in the production of Attar of Roses.

I have just started drying rose petals to make our own pot-pourri. This French word, literally translated, means ‘rotten pot’ and for centuries has been a method of preserving dried flower petals, together with herbs, spices, salt and other ingredients in a closed container, leaving them to ferment or ‘rot’. Popular in Tudor times was a moist pot-pourri, rather like a flower pickle, which matures gradually to produce a pungent, distinctive scent, very long lasting and pervasive. The mixture would be left in the jar, occasionally moistened with a little oil or spirit and the lid would be removed when it was necessary to perfume a room and then replaced to contain and preserve the scent. The appearance of the mixture would not be very attractive, as it would be the sad colour of dead leaves and flowers! Far more popular today are the dry potpourri mixtures which  are easier to prepare, more adaptable and certainly more colourful in appearance. I will let you know how I get on, with perhaps a recipe or two for you to experiment with at home.

The cut flower patch  in the community garden is producing a lovely range of blooms to tempt our visitors who fancy gracing their homes with English country flowers. We have sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus), Cornflowers (Centaurea cyanus), marigolds (Calendula officinalis) to name but a few. Only £1.50 and £1 a bunch, they are a real bargain and so much nicer and better for the planet than those shipped in from far flung places.

The flowery mead is also looking flowery, as it always does at this time of year, delighting anyone  looking for that idyllic camera shot of meadows from a bygone age. It is a fleeting spectacle of daisies, birds foot trefoil, clover, vetch and the occasional bee orchid, all alive with busy insect life and the perfect wildlife refuge.

 

Martin Brooks, a local drone enthusiast paid us a visit this week and he took some fantastic pictures of the site for us, including this marvellously detailed one of the walled garden.

What a view of the garden and such a sharp image! Even the lilies in the pond and the daisies in the meadow can be seen. I love the way these arial shots show the symmetry of the walled garden in a way that is often missed from the ground. Just look at the knot garden, looking for all the world like a piece of intricate embroiderie.

Martin also managed to get this one of the community veg plot.

Compare it to the first drone picture before any work had begun on the plot and you can see how much has been achieved. A credit to all the hard working volunteers who have put in so much effort over the past year.

Still on the subject of the community garden we have an update on the potting shed extension. Pete has done an amazing job constructing a strong and great looking structure for us to do all our outside jobs out of the rain! Just the finishing touches to go and we are almost ready to move in.

Finally, a few more pictures for those of you who can’t make it over to Cressing at the moment. I would hate you to miss it just now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A touch of summer

What a scorcher! The first real taste of summer weather and the gardens seem to be swelling with the joy of it all. The end of May and beginning of June have got to be about the best weeks of the gardening year. The growth is lush and healthy, flower buds are bursting out everywhere and nothing has yet ‘gone over’ or flopped. If you only visit Cressing gardens once in the year, make it now, for its best moment is just about upon us.

Our own cut flowers, grown in the community garden, have been available for the first time this week, and very tempting they look too. Alison put her artistic flair to good use making up bunches on Tuesday, adding a new and colourful dimension to our plant sales area.

What a colourful splash. Tuesday would be a good day to come along if you fancy some country garden style flowers and they are selling at £1.50 a bunch.

Despite the heat, work has continued as usual this week, with plenty to do in the walled garden and on the veg plot.

We were kindly donated a large number of dwarf box plants which Andy was busy potting up for sale. They would make a perfect low hedge or you could try your hand at clipping a bit of topiary. They are well rooted, good sized plants. Let me know if you are interested.

Getting on top of the spring flush of weeds was a priority in the veg garden. Nellie didn’t seem very impressed with the offer of salad – where’s the real grub?

We will have our first harvest of veg very soon, including broad beans, onions, peas and garlic. Beans and courgette, tomatoes and peppers, sweetcorn and summer squash – just some of the delights to come. I can hardly wait.

In the walled garden I decided to keep cool by taking a dip in the pond!

We are trying an experimental planting of the native yellow flag iris (Iris pseudocorus) which we have put in a large pond basket. It is very vigorous so we will need to lift it regularly to divide it but, if happy, it will provide a lovely show and add extra interest for wildlife in our pond.

The plant below  is only ever commented upon when it does this – puts up spikes of dramatic yellow, star shaped flowers. It is called King’s Spear or Asphodeline lutea and what a dramatic sight it is at the moment.

Introduced from Italy in 1506,  Turner speaks of the asphodel in 1551 as a rarity, and it is still  uncommon in our gardens. Prepared in various ways, they were used as food by the Greeks and in the Middle Ages were held in high esteem, and called Cibo Regia, food for a king.

The areas of long grass with short mown paths meandering through the walled garden orchard are a lovely sight at this time of year and will look even prettier in a few days time when the majority of oxeye daisies (Leucanthemum vulgare) are in full bloom. The first of our garden weddings this year is on 10th June and I will be cutting the grass short to allow for the wedding guests to be seated. So, if you want to see it like this, visit soon!

 

Do you have sage flowering in your garden? It does look a glorious sight when in full bloom like this one in the forecourt garden. People often ask why their sage doesn’t flower. The purple and variegated ones never seem to but the plain leaved varieties flower beautifully, grown with maximum heat and good drainage. If you keep pinching out the tips for cooking you will stop it flowering and get better leaf growth. Sages are short lived plants and best replaced after about 5 years. They are easy to grow from cuttings and we always have young vigorous ones for sale through the summer, so if yours is looking long and lanky why not start again with a new one?

The intriguing plant below is called Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum x hybridum), the flowers dangling below the leaves like pairs of ballet slippers. Also called David’s Harp or Ladder to Heaven, this species is indigenous to Britain. John Gerard was very enthusiastic about its ability to heal broken bones and goes on to advise that the fresh green root, when applied, ‘taketh away in one night or two at the most, any bruise, black or blue spots gotten by falls or women’s wilfulness, in stumbling upon their hastie husband’s fists, or such like.’ Hopefully I won’t be needing that!

Our three bee colonies are doing extremely well and stores of honey are building up nicely. Jan and I inspected them on Wednesday. The first hive had one super full of honey and lots of signs of breeding in the brood box. Lovely gentle bees. In the second hive we didn’t spot the queen and there were a few queen cells. We left one sealed in case a new queen is needed. The third hive has a very strong colony and there were swarm cells developing. We didn’t see the queen but with so many bees it’s hardly surprising. We are in the process of buying our own honey extractor. I will let you know as soon as Cressing honey is available. In the meantime we have Jan’s honey from their Great Leighs beehives for sale at £4 a jar.

Enjoy your gardens this Bank Holiday weekend or pay a visit to Cressing and linger on a bench to soak up the sun.