August Bank Holiday weekend has one juggling priorities. Does one spend the extra time doing garden tasks shelved ‘for another day’, or bottling fruit or making jam, or take the family out for the day to some lovely garden that is bound to inspire. Our own garden is in a sorry state of affairs, as we have been away for most of the summer – walking around it this morning, it’s hard to decide where to begin. Good news is that my pears are prolific this year and almost ready for making pear juice or a speedy sort of perry (like cider, but using pears) and the damsons are fast ripening ready for a jam-making sessions. The grafted tomatoes left to their own devices have taken over one raised bed but are producing ripe fruit as if there was no tomorrow. Sweet and juicy, and worthy of repetition next year.
Then there’s the artichoke. It’s the first time ever that I have actually managed to get these to flowering status. I have always wanted to grow these for they are such an architectural plant, attract bees once flowering and are great to sketch and paint. Mine are not for eating! I’ve tried growing them from seed and from purchased mini-plants and they are really so easy – except for the slugs when the plants are at a young stage. But that is my fault; neglect at the wrong moment spells disaster. In my gradual re-conversion of the whole garden, I plan a perennial vegetable bed; and these are ideal. Note to self to keep an eye on the slugs.
It’s also time to harvest the lavender. Such a useful plant with medicinal, culinary and craft capabilities, and a genus that can become an obsession. Not everyone can grow it successfully for it requires good drainage and full sun. With our clay soil, I have resorted to growing lavender in tubs and only grow the hardier varieties. Intrigued? Just published to whet your appetite is ‘The Lavender Lover’s Handbook’ by Sarah Berringer Bader. The author runs her own lavender farm in the USA and describes and illustrates 100 of the easiest varieties with tips for successful growing and suggestions for harvesting, cooking and crafting. Published in the UK by Timber Press, buy it online here.
When harvesting, clip on a dry sunny day when the florets are fully open – easiest to cut the whole stalk so you have a lavender ‘bouquet’ and then stand in a vase (no water) and allow to dry. After a few weeks, you can either cut the heads and pile them into a bowl where they will scent a whole room, or rub off the dried florets to make lavender bags from muslin tied with a pretty ribbon. And if you would like to discover how to make these little gift bags to hold your lavender sachets, the instructions are on the ‘Try This’ page in my Journaling blog.
And now for a bit of fun! Many villages are holding their annual flower show this Bank Holiday Monday (as we are in our village). Why not enter into the spirit of the event and decorate your own hat for the afternoon, as our Flower Show Chairman did one year recently? Ivy or traveller's joy is readily available, as are grasses and herbs. A veritable ‘green man’; and the red ticket means he won first prize for his efforts.