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!








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