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!









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