Spinach soup

The murkiness of the pool has been a problem for some time now so on this gloriously sunny day we decided to investigate the filters and give them a good clean. With Mike on hand to scoop me out or throw me the rubber ring I took the plunge, attractively clad in a pair of waders made for a gardener of more generous proportions! We may try adding more oxygenating plants and water snails have been suggested. Barley straw is reputed to be good at controlling algal levels but the quantity needed for this pond might be impractical and unsightly.

Our efforts to make the water clearer and less algae dominated will continue through the summer but I suspect a change of water in the autumn/winter might be needed to make a significant difference. I would be pleased to hear suggestions from anyone else with pond experience.

Removing the debris of last year’s water lily while the fish took a dash for cover.

The same day I decided to harvest some of the community garden spinach to make my favourite, spinach and courgette soup for supper, which was delicious except for its resemblance to the pond!

The knot garden obelisks, now smartly repainted and planted up with new honeysuckle (Lonicera peliclymenum ‘Sweet Sue), have been moved back into position and are looking fantastic, set against the green box hedging. Thanks to Mary for the hours of painstaking restoration work. They will grace the knot garden for many years to come and there is still half a tin of green paint left for next time (don’t tell Mary!)

Another job of restoration was started in the custodian garden at the back of the farmhouse. These roses have stood for many years unpruned and, as you can see, the result is a bare woody base and all the growth on top. Renovation pruning consisted of cutting out most of the old wood to encourage new growth from the base. With a good feed and water these roses should appreciate this TLC and soon be back to blooming glory.

Most plants are still just waking up and concentrating upon strong root growth before they even give a thought to flowers. But the Alexanders (Smyrnium olustratum) in the walled garden have shot up and are flowering already. Primarily a pot herb related to parsley it was very useful in Tudor times because of its early appearance and flowering time. They have a strong aroma and taste, a bit like a bitter celery, and all parts of the plant are edible and were liberally added to potage and sallets. Even the hot tasting black seeds were eaten, chewed like fennel seeds to ward off  hunger. They are a common weed today often gracing our road verges at this time of year but they have long fallen out of fashion as a culinary herb.

The orchard meadow and other meadow areas of the walled garden are looking pretty, with a profusion of cowslips (Primula veris), snakes head fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris) and, as seen here, our native tulip, Tulipa sylvestris. Looking all the world like a strange shaped daffodil it is a lovely, understated tulip which naturalises well in grassland and looks perfectly at home with other early spring bulbs.

The Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is also looking spectacular at the moment and despite it being a commonplace herb it takes some beating both for its aroma and beauty. The history of this plant is legendary and there is so much to say about its traditions it’s hard to know where to begin.  For the Tudors it was the herb scared to remembrance and therefore to friendship. Almost universally used in funeral ceremonies but equally essential for weddings, for its symbolic association with loving memories and faithfulness.

‘Let this Rosemarinus, this flower of men, ensign of your wisdom, love and loyalty, be carried not only in your hands, but in your heads and hearts…..’ so said Robert Hacket in a wedding sermon 1607.

Other more practical uses included burning it as a cheap form of incense, using it as a hair tonic or as a toothpaste. It was also believed to be such a good protection against the plague, that in a bad year, such as 1603, the price went up from a shilling an armful to six shillings a handful (simple economics of supply and demand just as relevant then as now).


This must have been a very memorable day for the people on this balloon ride, though I doubt many were carrying a sprig of Rosemary.  What must the barns must look like from up there? – pretty impressive I would think.











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