June 30, 2010

Garden decorations

If I say now the word ‘garden’ – what comes to your mind first? Plants, flowers, veggies probably… then maybe furniture, paths, gravel etc. What about decorations? Do you have it in your mind when you think about the garden? And which garden you think are more beautiful with or without decorations?

Once I have written a post about plans to rearrange the garden and I have asked from what to start the change. In your comments, one of the best advice I’ve got is to start to think about decorations. I found it extremely inspiring, because decoration items define much better what kind of ambience my garden exhibits. Plants and furniture are important, but decoration items give the final touch and personalize the space. Beautiful garden decor transforms the spirit of the place, giving it a stylish, sophisticated feel. Sure, plants and flowers set the mood when you adore how they grow and bloom, but choosing unique accessories for garden will enhance the beauty of your plants.

Like every gardener from time to time - I am not so different - and I am also currently at the process of deciding what items to add to my garden and what spirit they shall reflect. I spotted some nice stuff at Grand Illusions: tea light holders, candle lanterns, zinc pots, planters and wire decorations. I like the design of the items and their beautiful, French inspired, rustic style. Have a look and tell me if you like it.

And remember bird feeders? When is better time to think about it than now? Maybe you think it’s early – you say, but I believe good planning is the key. The point is to start to feed the birds earlier, than the real winter starts, so birds learn and remember where the food is when the snow appears. In my zone 6 it’s good to start in October, latest in November. Sometimes I procrastinate and ‘wake up’ in December/January, but this year I plan ahead.

June 27, 2010

Recipe for macerated strawberries

Macerated strawberries recipe is coming! This coffee shop in Lublin’s old town looked really tempting. With ordered tea there came tiny plate where 2 preserved strawberries were sitting. I tried… mmmm… they were sweet and delicious. And although it was 7 years ago, I still remember very well the place and the taste...

While drinking tea I was wondering 'where is it possible to buy such tasty treat' - which I asked the  waitress. She didn't know and went to the kitchen to ask. It didn’t take longer than one minute. Lady appeared and asked ‘have you asked about strawberries?’ – ‘Yess...’ – ‘We don’t buy them – we make them in June, during strawberries season. It's old recipe we use in Russia….’ - 'How do they stay whole and fall apart?'

It was so nice of her to tell me their strawberries recipe – I learned later from the waitress, that she is the owner of the restaurant and comes from Russia. Here in Poland we don’t make this kind of strawberries jam, but it’s always nice to learn something from neighbors.

Based on the recipe for whole strawberries I make the strawberries jelly adding gelatin at the final stage. I haven’t tried pectin yet – maybe if you do, please let me know the results.



It’s wonderful recipe, giving you tasty jam with whole strawberries inside and not mashed strawberry jam. Put strawberries in a bowl or a pot in which you will boil it next day. Add sugar on the top – try to spread it evenly to cover all strawberries. Proportions strawberries to sugar 3:1 or 1:1 – according to your preference.. I am always trying to use less sugar. Leave your strawberries covered with sugar in peace for 24 hours. Next day you will see that strawberries got smaller and produced juice – this is the way it should be.

Boil it for 15 to 20 minutes – this is long enough. This way of treating the strawberries let’s them keep their natural shape and some firmness. When it stops boiling, I am adding gelatine to change the syrup to light jelly in the final product. Make sure to not add too much gelatine – you don’t want the jelly to become too dense.

At this moment you can decide what your final product will be. You can also separate the strawberries with such amount of syrup that it’s enough to cover it , close the jars and boil it for few minutes to make sure you get rid of all the possible molds in the jar. The remaining syrup is wonderful as syrup in the winter – can be used as topping for your winter desserts or added to your tea.

What are your favorite recipes for strawberries?

June 26, 2010

Land related career website

Do you know that there is a place in the web specializing in finding environment, land and garden related jobs? Recently somebody read my post about changing a career and how to become a garden coach and brought to my attention a website that is specializing in head hunting in environmental jobs.

Beside job offers, it’s possible to find there a comprehensive list of all the land-based colleges and the courses they run.

If you want to find a job in land related area – how you do it? Classified ads in newspaper or regular head hunting agencies? Until today I used to think that regular head hunters are covering most of the branches, but I couldn’t see any garden related jobs among the ads. When I saw Land Force first, I got very excited, because this makes things so much easier. OK, it is covering UK only – I think - but maybe you are interested in moving to the country of thousands of beautiful landscapes? I looked up today and as example there is a maintenance gardener searched by the Stowe Farm in Buckinghamshire.



This website covers many sectors: horticulture, landscaping, gardening, arboriculture, fencing, farm working, agriculture jobs, animal care, conservation, equine jobs, aquaculture jobs and forestry.

I checked the environmental conservation section, which covers recycling household waste, habitat management, protection of rural and urban landscapes, plants and animals, countryside recreation, community recycling, planning and parks, pollution, roads, areas of outstanding national beauty and global warming. Environmental conservation has gained in popularity, so it is more difficult to find the job. This is why there is a lot of volunteers in this sector who wants to gain at least some experience before full-time employment. The data says, there is in UK 6,000 organisations employing 56,000 and an estimated 200,000 volunteers.

If you search for a job, you may upload your CV, browse current vacancies, receive e-alerts to your e-mail, bookmark your favorite jobs,

It seems to be the young website, but let’s cross our fingers for it.

Images: British Organic Farmer - Derbyshire, England, Gardens in Bath, England

June 17, 2010

Best time for harvesting lavender

The time of lavender harvesting very much depends on your plan of what you’re going to do with picked lavender: for sachets as dried, as bunches/wreath as dried or as bunches dried or fresh. Every stage of lavender flowering has different aroma type – early are more soapy while later are more ripe. If you would like to check it by yourself, make the experiment – cut lavender every week, air-dry and make fragrance test.
Picture by mindwhisperings

The fragrance of lavender flowers is best between first corolla opens until all corollas shrivel. The more corollas shrivel the fragrance gets weaker, because there is less flowers despite of some fragrance is in the stems. The fragrance is the most intense when ¾ of the flowers on the stem are open.

In order to harvest lavender at proper time, some basic knowledge on anatomy of the lavender flowers and the natural process of ripening is needed. Each tiny lavender flower consists of the base called calyx that comes first and then opening corolla.

Corolla is the whorl of petals of a flower that collectively form an inner floral envelope or layer of the perianth, while calyx is the whorl of sepals (petals) of a flower collectively forming the outer floral envelope or layer of the perianth enclosing and supporting the developing bud; usually green. To complete the explanation perianth is collective term for the outer parts of a flower consisting of the calyx and corolla and enclosing the stamens and pistils (source of definitions Princeton.edu dictionary).

The process of opening and ripening the lavender flower is following:
- the calyxes show the violet color first,
- 1-2 corollas open,
- when the first corolla start to shrivel, more corollas start to open,
- the first corollas start to drop off and continue till you can see on the stem only lavender-grayish calyxes containing the early developing seeds.

For dried bunches – pick lavender stems when calyxes are fully colored and swollen – the easiest moment to decide “this is the day” – look for first open corolla.

For fresh bunches – pick lavender stems when few corollas are open (before any of them shrivels).

For sachets – for this purpose look of the flower is not important, so there is longer period for lavender harvesting. The period starts when first corolla opens, till first start to shrivel.

For heating pads – harvesting lavender same way as for sachets. For heating pads use same amounts of rice and lavender. Use mix of flowers and leaves for that purpose.

While cutting look where the new green growth starts and cut the stem just above it.

After rubbing the flowers off the stems, keep the stems – they still can be used for some aroma in the long winter days to resemble the beauty of summer. Lavender stems can be burned to get some fragrance or rubbed between the palms to help it to release remaining scent.

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks

Air-drying vs. dehydrator

The best way to dry lavender is to hang it in a warm place with no direct sunlight – although lavender flowers are sunlight resistant and don’t fade away, the temperature of sunlight may affect the amount of aroma left in the flowers. Heat speeds up the release of fragrance molecules from the plant, so drying it with dehydrator will remove some scent. I used this method on rose petals, that I use for making perfume and the result was very disappointing – no comparison with naturally drying petals.

There is no need to find special place for drying – make sure there is enough air circulation. I like to hang drying lavender stems in the places where I am passing by often in the day, or close to my desk – to get the beautiful scent while working.

Recommended reading:

17 Excellent Uses of Lavender

23 most beautiful lavender photos - hand picked 

Top 10 most beautiful lavender fields photos - hand picked

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Ewa Szulc is the garden designer, blogger and founder of the page EwaintheGarden.blogspot.com. She makes beautiful gardens, offers garden coaching lessons and garden design to help you to beautify your garden, make it healthier and organic. You can contact her at  http://EwaintheGarden.blogspot.com
 
The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World's Great Drinks

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Aruncus dioicus miserable flowers?

Are you also wondering why your Aruncus dioicus is having poor ecru colored flowers? I was wondering for some time why only 2 out of 7 plants I have invited to my garden, are showing off with their beautiful, white, fluffy flowers, while the rest 5 are sadly resembling same beauty.


This week I have discovered that Aruncus dioicus is 'dioecius' - which means females are separated from males. Ecru and more ascetic flowers are male and we don't want that in our garden. Female flowers are white and fluffy - and yes, we want them in our garden. Do you see the difference between flowers on both pictures?


I wonder why the sellers don't specify that. Actually why should I need male poor flowers in my garden, while there is no use of it? No fruits, nothing. Shops should supply only females with their beautiful feathery flowers. You can also spend your money better – right?

Aruncus dioicus - goat's beard - bride's feathers.

June 16, 2010

Hoeing by the Moon

This is a guest post by Torri Stevens - writer based in Suffolk who finds almost all her inspiration whilst gardening. She started planting her own moon garden two years ago which is thriving.



Gardening according to the phases of the moon, a little known practise, can have a profound positive impact on organic gardening. A wrongly believed notion is that only the sun affects agriculture. However, for centuries people have believed that the moon plays an important role in bringing forward new life and often plan their gardening chores around the lunar phases. Before scientific knowledge, it was the tides, lunar phases and celestial bodies which influenced human activity, especially on the harvest. The moon has been scientifically known to influence human behaviour, weather and nature, so why not the harvest?

The Moon’s Influence on Gardening

Farmers’ Almanacs, both ancient and modern, provide useful tips on how to organically plant according to the lunar phase. The moon is thought to influence germination, root and leaf growth, therefore planting according to lunar phases can both increase and speed up the germination process. This is because plants respond to the same gravitational tides as do the oceans, which are also influenced by the moon. When the moon creates a gravitational tide, it also causes moisture to be released into the ground, encouraging crops to thrive.

Lunar Phases

Each lunar phase produces optimal results for different types of crops, and it is important to plant correctly to yield ancient horticultural success.

Waxing-- During the new moon phase, it is ideal to sow plants that produce their seeds outside the fruit above the ground. Waxing moons provide an increase in light, while lunar gravity pulls water up into the soil. Ideal crops to plant during this phase include spinach, celery, cabbage, broccoli, corn, lettuce, flowers and herbs. Fertilizers also seem to work best when applied during a new moon.

In the second quarter, moonlight tends to be strong, encouraging leafy growth. Ideal crops to plant are ones that produce seeds inside pods or skins, for example - peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and grapes.

During the full moon phase, plants are said to be in equilibrium. Harvest is best collected during an autumn full moon, when produce and herbs are reportedly at their most ripe and potent.

In the third quarter, the gravitational pull is high, but the moon is in its waning face and therefore the presence of moonlight is reduced. To profit from increased moisture surge in the soil, root vegetables which grow below the soil will benefit primarily from this phase. Trees, shrubs, carrots, onions, potatoes, beets and radishes flourish well in this phase.

In the fourth quarter, there is both decreased gravitational pull and moonlight - planting is not recommended at all in this phase. Instead, the fourth quarter waning moon should be used for pruning and sheering.

Astrological Sign Planting

Another method of lunar planting, which examines other celestial consideration, is planting according to the astrological signs of the zodiac. The moon moves through various signs every few days. To maintain even greater equilibrium and harmony, consider respecting the astrological elements in addition to lunar cycles.

When the moon passes through fertile water signs, plant above ground. When the moon passes through earth signs, opt for root crops and transplanting. When the moon is in a fire or air sign, harvest and cultivate or prune.

Enjoying Your Moon Garden

Once planted, be sure to add an element of magical beauty to the harvest of your moon garden by decorating it according to the astrological elements. Add a small waterfall or fountain to represent water, rocks to represent earth, lanterns or light to represent fire and sweet smelling flowers to represent air.

If you are looking for moon garden decor and agricultural tools for your new moon garden, consider purchasing equipment from Argos, discount vouchers and Argos discount codes can be a convenient method of saving money on such purchases, and are easily found online.

June 15, 2010

Water lilies exploding! Could it be EM?

My water lilies are exploding! She was never soo happy before - I still wonder what has happened. One plant, so many healthy leaves and so many flowers! 6 of the them at the same time.





The only thing I suspect is effective-microorganisms (EM) I have added in May to the pond. They are also beneficial to pond life including fish. Although water in my pond is not completely clear, plants grow much better now.


Have a closer look at this water lily - there are diferent size of leaves. Smaller are grown before I have added EM to the pond. Recently grown leaves are more than double in size.

Effective-microorganisms were described first in 70-ties. In general this is a mixture of microorganisms consisting mainly of lactic acid bacteria, purple bacteria, and yeast which co-exist for the benefit of whichever environment they are introduced, they "help to maintain sustainable practices such as farming and sustainable living, animal husbandry, compost and waste management, disaster clean-up (The Southeast Tsunami of 2004, the Kobe Earthquake, and Hurricane Katrina remediation projects)".

I can say, that beside water lilies boom in my pond, it works perfectly for places sprayed by kitties. I couldn't get rid of that smell on my favorite bag. When I read that EM has the ability of neutralising bad smells I tried it on my bag - and tadadam! bad smell is gone.
I have just read the article on wiki full of scepticism about effective-microorganisms, which I think I don't really get. It seems to work for me.
Any observations do you have?

June 14, 2010

Flowers for each month - GBBD June 2010


Flowers for each month - this is what Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day is about. It helps me to keep the track of what's blooming each month and I can easily tell differences between previous June blooms. For that reason I am trying to fight the temptation to cheat and I post only flowers that are in bloom same day or day before. This year I have two conclusions: irises were blooming earlier and shorter than previous years, roses are not in full abundance yet, Philadelphus coronarius (English Dogwood) is still before blooming - is this all caused by short, cold and wet spring? Probably. 
My mom says, she never experienced such poor spring after so brutal winter... well, we also didn't see so big water in Wisła, river crossing Warsaw - they say the water level was the highest since 60 years.  
   

I am happy to see new promising arrivals - alpine strawberry grown from seeds and planted in March, now is setting flowers since 2 weeks is setting slowly its delicious fruits.


Hydrangea Anabelle is early this June, because I don't prune stem's tips this year. I usally have done it untill beginning of May to pronolog the blooming time. This year my Anabelle pruned high - got really large. New shots appeared from stem - sometimes when I look at it, its hard to believe there is just one plant.


Aruncus dioicus flowers early this year - as I am more 'wildlife sensitive', I noticed how many different insect species it attracts. In Poland Aruncus dioicus is under strict protection.  I also learned recently that male plant is having smaller, yellowish flowers, while female ones are white and larger.


Campanula poscharskyana likes to climb the nearest conifer. I am not sure that Picea glauca var. Albertiana Conica really likes it... hmmm... just to make sure I remove all stemr right after blooming - to assure Conica growing in well-rounded, natural shape.


Capucijner peas has such lovely flowers, that it deserves its place among June blooms - at the end vegetable garden shall be also lovely - right?


Clematis Niobe got well again after 3 years struggle with problems. 2 years ago I had to dug it out and exchange the soil for more loose, full organic matter and well drained. Last year she was growing roots and gathering the energy - I have never seen her setting so many flowers.


White digitalis is highy appreciated at Ewa in the Garden, so I am in the process of pulling all pinks before they set seeds.


Geranium cantabrese Bikovo - wonderfully scented flowers and leaves. I think they will make part of my own perfume production this year.


Lavender is getting ready to bloom - I harvested first flowers yesterday, but I am afraid I was too early.


Peony Sarah Bernhardt has too big flowers to admire them in the garden - they always look down. This variety is good for cut flowers - at least you may look at the flowers. And no fragrance.



Rose Louise Odier - fragrant, suitable for confiture - blooming poorly this June.


Spirea japonica Manon - even if growing in light shadow is not whimsy at all - blooming reliably no matter of what's going on around.


Thyme citrus scented.

Brutal winter didn't harm the water lily - I would even say she is better than ever. Growing large leaves and setting few flowers at the same time. It might be also caused by effective microorganisms I have added in May. I am really surprised how this water lily is performing this year!


Weigela florida Bristol Ruby - the most hardy Weigela I know. Look at the number of flowers! In my zone 6, usually weigela's are harmed by winter like that one we had. 
This post is part of Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day hosted by Carol at May Dreams Garden.

June 13, 2010

Gardening accessories and visiting unseen manor houses of Great Britain – what does it have in common?

Recently somebody brought to my attention The Travelling Souk an on-line gift shop. I checked it and its worth your attention as well, especially if you are looking for unique gifts or eco-friendly products. The shop offers wide choice of fair trade products that have the benefit of being eco-friendly. There are many interesting gifts ranging from eco home & garden, via eco toys to eco health and beauty. Among them I found the eye-filling Italian linen collection and storage baskets. Toys are fair trade, eco friendly, green, organic and recycled.

Among many sections there are two that caught my special attention, which are home & garden and eco souk. In eco home and garden section I spotted beautiful handmade lanterns made of plant fiber and leaf skeletons and which are fire-retardant. They look so charming - I wonder what was the technique used to make it from such fragile material?

In garden accessories I found herb shears! This tool is so interesting in shape - the shop says it's made of high quality carbon steel, so it will not rust and retain the sharp cutting edges. Does anybody have any experience with herb shears?

In every section you may choose your products according to your price preference that is time saving.

The idea behind The Travelling Souk is not only selling online, but also travelling with the products like merchants in old days have done.

If you are living in UK you may visit your local manor and help to raise charity funds, if you take part in one of the listed events, where you can not only see all the products, but also spend some time in extraordinary place. Venues are chosen carefully called 'unseen manor houses of Great Britain sprinkled with a liberal dose of revamped barns and racecourses'.

One of the last events took place in Leeds castle. Credit: Harrsch
Credit: Rutter

June 7, 2010

Better beans and bacon in peace than cake and ale in fear...

These are the words of Aesop - ancient Greek fabulist. Are they not true today?
Growing beans in own, peaceful vegetable garden is worth the work - beans are nutricious and tasty, can replace meat in diet and contain far less toxins.
I planted 3 different kinds on May, 26th. After 11 days majority of Blauhilde seeds sprouted, only 1 Piekny Jas (Beautiful Johnny) and Neckarkonigin is still asleep, which doesn’t surprise me - there is German word 'queen' in the name, maybe this is why – sprouting with dignity!

On the pictures Blauhilde – heirloom German variety, which takes 64 day to maturity. It has beautiful purple pods – one of the most intense available, changing to green color when cooked. Vigorous – yeah! - and resistant to bean mosaic virus.




Happy to see you Mrs Blauhilde - !

Don't miss inspirational post on how to support beans.

June 4, 2010

Vegetable Garden Plan 2010 - revised


Vegetable garden plan compared with the initial version is evolving with the time, new vegetable beds being constructed and unexpected problems with lettuce container and excessive water. My old wooden composting bin got old and I had to replace it with a new one. Also wooden and as a new, very practical feature, it has bottom opening for easy access to ready compost. 

After placing it together it became clear, that it will not fit the place planned for it. Frankly speaking composting bin fits the place, but my modest persona can't :)  if I want to do something there.

Gardener needs comfortable access to compost bin, so I had to reduce the number of raised beds from 5 to 4. Some veggies will have to wait for next spring probably. On the left side of the plan I added patch of Polka raspberries - this is variety bearing fruits on this year's growth. It grows together with calendula as companion plant that is beneficial for raspberries.

I found also there a stripe of soil, where 10 potatoe plants will fit! If you see how many plants can be grown in a small place if planned properly - as I've seen recently - imagination fed with images and pushed by higher expectation is producing better ideas :)    

Recommended further reading The Vegetable Gardener's Bible

June 2, 2010

Container lettuce to rescue. Too much rain. Wrong container in fact...

When too much rain comes, you want to have holes in containers you grow any plants, so water doesn't bother them. They are not aquatic plants - right? As you know, we had lot's of rain and floods in Poland. My house and garden was safe, but after few days of rain, my largest container where I planted lettuce and radishes looked like aquatic feature, not vegetable container. I wished there were holes. I emptied the water partially several times, but yesterday I gave up. No hope!
I decided to move my 2 months old lettuce to veggie beds to save it. Some radishes are still there, but majority was harvested.           


Lesson learned. Make holes in your vegetable containers. No excuses.

June 1, 2010

14 ideas for bean poles - Inspirational Monday

This is what usually happens, when you do something for the first time - collect ideas 'how to'. I am growing beans for the first time and deciding how to support it is not easy. Bean poles or bean pole trellis - is there any special way to do it? First inspiration came from Patrick and also I searched through different sources. You may see my choice of the ideas I found - how support beans if you want to grow fresh beans in your garden. Maybe you can use it in your garden also.   

























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If you would like to improve your garden to a beautiful paradise, let me help you to design it. We can work online. Contact me at ewamariasz [at] gmail [dot] com.

Happy Gardening!


Xoxo,
Ewa
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