One of the wonderful things about having a home you take pleasure from is that it makes coming back from holidays all the more bearable. For me, this year, it was the garden I was eager to be back in….
Once, several years ago now, we returned to our flat after a holiday to find the deck we had spent so much time filling with pots of flowers, herbs and vegetables had dried to pot-pourri. I cried. Big, fat, childish tears. Similar happened during our brief spell as alotmenteers where we returned after what we had felt was a short break to find it was ample time enough for weeds to have reclaimed the plot. This time I accompanied my tears with a tantrum which I think may have involved a few garden tools, hurled dangerously across the vast plain of unwanted vegetation. I’m not sure they were seen again. A few tomatoes were salvageable from the triffid-like infestation but to be honest it spelled the end of that particular endeavour.
Now the proud owner of a garden in fairly good shape considering it has only had a year to get going, I knew I couldn’t risk the same thing happening.
Bottom: snapped hastily from the bedroom window on our return last week.
Had I come home to find my borders brittle and my vegetable patch parched I would have been beyond distraught. Luckily for me a kind neighbour offered to look after it and look after it she did. We came home to find homegrown french beans in the fridge, fallen apples in the fruit bowl and the garden thriving.
In fact it’s rather astounding that a garden which seems to mature so very slowly when it’s being watched goes a bit bonkers when it knows no ones home. The beanstalks were dripping in beans, ripened tomatoes could be found (enough for a homecoming breakfast she adds, a touch smugly….) nestled amongst the tomato leaves (the upkeep of which has faired little better this year and is once again an unkempt jungle. But hey. We’ve an excuse in the arrival of a small person perhaps?) And courgettes were found hiding under huge lily-pad shaped leaves, one grown into a club-sized marrow. Strawberries had put out their runners, the raspberry canes had expanded from soldier-like verticals to a prickly fan, the cherry and plum trees had sent new growth up to the sky, the various climbers ..honeysuckle and clemetis (the main survivors from my bargain-bucket Asda haul) were busily establishing themselves whilst a Virginia Creeper, a plant given to me by next door when they dug it out to make way for a conservatory (built for the sole use of their pedigree cats…) was romping it’s way happily up the side of the shed.
A black leafed dahlia which I had thought was dead and gone had popped up half a metre or so from where it had been planted, dislodged (and disregarded) when I had been tinkering about it the bed earlier this year, and was putting on a burnt orange show.
Penstemons were still tirelessly flowering, as they have been doing all summer long, and grasses which up until now had remained fairly small were starting to assert themselves and claim space for their stripy green and yellow tendrils. And talking of grass, the lawn was a foot high ….something my mother-in-law would not have approved of….she is timed by neighbours on any return from holiday to see how long it takes her before she’s out the back with the lawn mower. The record, I’m told by S’s dad, is fifteen minutes.
Another thriving addition to the beds are my perennials which you may remember I bought from Gardeners Workd magazine as plug płants. There were so many varieties, most of which perished under my sporadic care, that I neglected to label them and am now suspicious that I’ve lovingly potted on weeds. Their drop-shaped, slightly furry leaves looking suspiciously like dock.
I’ve decided I’ll give them until next year to see what happens…(or sooner if anyone reading this confirms my suspicions) and in the meantime have opted to give that bed a little more colour. So in a mad family dash around B&Q looking for handles to adorn O’s bed (something onto which he can grip whilst lowering himself down the ladder) I scooped up an armful of new płants for a mere £30……two huecheras, (Buttered Rum and Honey Rose), a fuschia, three more tiny pots of variegated grass and a spiky Cordyline (Red Star). Space, as I’ve said before, is at a premium in the garden and some of these are destined for patio pots but will I figured everything could just budge up a bit…..
Meanwhile the kitchen has been turned into a veg-patch processing factory with vats of beans blanching for the freezer, courgettes roasting in tumeric and cumin for lunch and the marrow turned into both chocolate cake
(next time I’d leave out the mixed spice) and zucchini and cheddar bread. The bread recipe, for any of you with a similar glut of courgettes, is worth noting. My first attempt was passable and wolfed down, even by O and his friends, with soup. For my second attempt I utilised a stronger cheddar, upped the temperature a bit and added a tray of hot water to the oven to create steam and in doing so a crispier crust. It was heralded by the recipient as a winner. And with the courgettes showing no signs of putting the brakes on I think I’ll be baking plenty more. Move over, Paul Hollywood…..