Sunday, April 27, 2014

Making Hawthorn Tea

This week our hawthorn is in full bloom and as planned, we wanted to make Hawthorn tea.
Three wood pigeons are devouring the blossom non-stop so I can't leave it for next week.
Hawthorn in bloom you spot the pigeon?

The process to make Hawthorn tea is pretty simple: cut the branches, nip off the leaves and flowers and place them in a food dehydrator tray flat. A food dehydrator comes with 5 or six trays, which stack on top of each other. So even though the process is simple, it requires a bit of tedious manual labour.

Finally you need to switch the food dehydrator to the lowest setting(35 celcius) and wait approximately 12 hours. You will know when its done because the leaves will crumble when you touch them.

My son doing the hard work

The tray after its full

The Hawthorn tea is supposed to have lots of health benefits. For a start it can increase the blood supply to the heart which is very beneficial for those who suffered from heart attack.
Obviously don't take my word, as I am not a doctor. I am just doing this tea for fun and I am not looking to use it as medicine.

I have tried the tea and the taste is nothing to blog about - not bitter - just not much taste. However it is the first tea I have made with my son - which kind of makes it special and especially fun.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter day and Spring week 4

Today is Easter Sunday, the day of the resurrection of our Lord. A day to celebrate. Believe it or not today I was relieved that it rained. It hasn't rained for almost two weeks now and the garden was needing it. Mind that I got wet just when I came back from church.

The strawberries are thriving, at least for now while they aren't ripe yet. I am starting to search for bird nets on the internet as I suspect that as soon as the strawberries ripen they will disappear.

My other strawberries seem to have a sticky substance in the leaves. I found the bug that seems to be responsible for this - but I yet do not know its name. It is some kind of green larva. It seems to prefer strawberries as other plants are nearby with no visible sticky substance.

The apple trees are still in blossom and the cherry trees started doing what they do best: to produce cherries. I am yet to buy tree nets as I struggle to find the right kind on Ebay.

In the meantime I have started some tomatos, string beans and french dwarf beans from seed. They are still indoors and growing well. I will have to wait until May to plant them as right now is too cold.
Bardsey apple tree in blossom

The Lilac tree is more Lilac than ever. Quite beautiful actually. 

Lilac tree blossom
The May tree(also known as Hawthorn) is getting there. I can already see the flower buds. But not worth a picture yet.

Finally, the Quince tree is also in blossom now.  Currently I am not happy with the tree shape but I will wait until its in full leaf to see how I am going to prune it.

Quince tree blossom

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring In Action - Week 3

This is Spring week 3 - and here is my garden update.

The Stella cherry trees blossom is nearly gone. So now it is just the question of waiting for the fruit.

Mini Sylvia Cherry tree with cherries growing

The Morello cherry tree, the only cherry tree that I am growing in a pot, surprised me as it is also in flower! I bought it over winter and I am not disappointed.
Morello Cherry tree in blossom - I
Morello Cherry tree in blossom - II

Now I need to work out tactics for defending the cherries. This week I spotted the resident squirrel. I was starting to think that may be the local cats scared him off. That was wishful thinking I am afraid. If I want to taste any of the cherries I need to net the trees and maybe distract the squirrels with peanuts. Will that work? I guess that I will find out.

The quince tree hasn't flowered yet - but I am certain that it will. I have to confess - that I am a bit disappointed with the look of the tree - the shape is very odd. I am still trying to figure out how I can prune it to an appropriate shape.

Quince tree with odd shape

The  potted Brown Turkey fig trees are doing very well. I am hoping that with a warm weather I will be able to enjoy some nice figs in July. Unfortunately that will also mean that I need to net the trees to protect the figs against birds.

The apple trees are in blossom! For me it is the most spectacular blossom of all. I have two types: James grieve and Bardsey apple. The reason that I have two varieties is because apples are not self-fertile.  The Bardsey apple is a rare type - which is supposed to be disease resistant. The point is that the two cultivars flower roughly at the same time and can cross pollinate. The question is, will the same bee find the two trees in one go? The James grieve is in the front garden and the Bardsey apple is in the backyard. Perhaps I need to put up a sign? :-)

Bardsey apple tree in bloom
James Grieve apple in bloom

The Czar plum tree still has shown no signs of life. I will give it another month. I did plant it a bit late in March, furthermore all the shade doesn't seem to be doing any good.

On the other hand the Victoriam plum tree is doing very well, despite not having a lot of blossom. But its the first year only.

The strawberries are doing very well. Plenty of flowers which hopefully means plenty of strawberries. I am hoping to get some extra pots. Strawberries seem to thrive in pots. A lot easier than growing on the ground.

Elsanta strawberries thriving in pot

The Lillac tree has started flowering.
Hawthorn on the left, lilac tree in the middle

The Hawthorn is in full leaf. It should flower soon. I think I mentioned this before. I will try to make some herbal tea out of the hawthorn leaves and flowers. I have already had a go at eating the leaves and don't seem to taste anything like cheese. The leaves of the Hawthorn are called the bread and cheese. See earlier post.

The raspberry canes are also showing signs of life. I learned my lesson. It is best not to cut the canes immediately after planting. It is better to leave the canes alone and wait until they establish themselves first. This is of course my personal experience. Other gardeners may find that the exact opposite is true. I have very little experience, don't forget that.

I am really loving it. Three weeks of spring and so much has changed.

And I was going to forget. The mulberry tree is awake. I am certain there will be no mulberries this year, but miracles do happen.

God knows how my garden will look in 10 years time, but one thing is certain. If every tree thrives I will be doing a lot of pruning.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Greenwich Park, Shard and the Walkie talkie Sky Garden

In the morning I took my family to Greenwich park in Greenwich. We go there regularly as it is close to us. Now it is the right time to visit the flower garden and enjoy the flowers, especially the Cherry blossom. We were not disappointed. It was great to see the park full of colour.

Pink Cherry blossom

Cherry tree with pink and white blossom???

It is  the first time that I notice that the same cherry tree can have white and pink blossoms. This is likely the result of grafting two varieties of Cherry together. The result is quite spectacular.

Parakeet eating blossom

I was also pleased to see that the Deer park site was cleared up. I spotted two parakeets on top of a cherry tree eating the blossoms. At least that's what it looked like. The floor was awash with petals...

Greenwich park as usual was teeming with tourists eager to visit the meridian line.

Finally I took a picture of the most famous tree in Greenwich park: the Queen Elizabeth Oak
This tree was planted in the 12th century and it was standing until 1991 when it was brought down by rain. The tree is thought to have died in the 19th century but it was able to stand until 1991 because it was supported by Holly and Ivy. It is completely hollow in the inside and apparently it was use to lock up for the day any park visitor that broke the rules.

Queen Elizabeth's Oak

In the afternoon mywife and I visited the Oblix at the Shard as we wanted to do something different. In London there is always plenty of choice :-)

The Oblix is a sleek restaurant on the 32nd floor of the Shard. We didn't go for the food but just for the view and the drinks.

The cocktails, coffee, tea and beers were quite reasonably priced taking into account the view of the London skyline. £3.50 for a tea? That's a bargain taking into account the cost of the ticket to the top of the Shard(£22).

I went for a Martini Americano, a rather strong cocktail which instantly warmed me up.

The Walkie-talkie and Tower 42
Canary Wharf and river thames

The Walki-talkie above is a special building. Not only because of its Walkie-talkie shape, which is derived from the fact that it gets wider at the top, but also because it will have a rooftop sub-tropical garden i.e. sky garden. This sub-tropical paradise will be free to the public!
You will need to book a time slot before visiting as there a limited number of visitors allowed per day.
In addition to the sky garden, there will be a view to match. I am really looking forward to the opening in December this year. Recently there has been a lot of negative press about an excess number of skyscrapers planned for London, which to be honest is deserved. But for me the Walkie talking is going to become a top London attraction.
It will definitely give the Shard a run for its money. Did I already mention that its free??!

Friday, April 4, 2014

Pineapple Guava or what?

Just before Christmas I bought some pineapple guava seeds. For those who don't know what a pineapple guava is, here is a brief introduction. The pineapple guava tree originates from Brazil and it is very popular in New Zealand where it is sometimes called the New Zealand banana. The fruit tastes like a pineapple mixed with strawberry. But in all honestly I've never eaten one so I am only saying that because that's what I read on the internet. The pineapple guava favours a subtropical and low humidity climate. So not exactly the match for a London garden?

Well I decided that I didn't want to spend too much money buying a pineapple guava tree but that it would be worth trying to grow it from seed - it only costed a couple of pounds. Only two of the seeds germinated properly.
Now three months later, I have two tiny plants. Trouble is that they should look similar but they don't. One is a pineapple guava and the other is obviously an impostor.
Feijoa Sellowiana or what?

Feijoa Sellowiana or what?

The second question is then what is the other mysterious plant? I am really curious so I will let it grow for a couple of more months and hopefully I will discover the mystery plant. Any specialist in Pineapple guavas please let me know :)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cherry Blossom - Spring week 2

So the second week of spring is full on. It is early April now, and three out of four of the cherry trees are in bloom.

Stella Cherry tree in blossom - backgarden
Stella Cherry tree in blossom - front garden
The Morello cherry tree hasn't flowered yet and I don't know if it will flower - fingers crossed. I bought it this winter and its the only cherry tree that is in a pot.
Every time I ask myself why I bought so many cherry trees all I have to keep in my mind is the cherry blossom. Also there can't be an easier tree to grow in England.

Another tree that is flowering but not in a dramatic way is the Victoria plum. I can see now two lonely flowers. But this is the first year that I planted the tree and I am confident that next year it will do far better.

The pear tree is another spring surprise. For the first time - the second year after purchase, I can see flower buds! Only a month ago I was doubting that I would ever see any flowers. I am not exactly the patient type.

On other developments in the backyard orchard. The strawberries plants that I planted a couple of weeks ago have been half eaten. The other half is ok. I suspect slugs - the strawberries that suffered the most are at the ground level. The strawberries in the raised bed are almost intact.

This past weekend I went on a trip to B&Q and saw some really healthy looking Elsanta strawberries - and couldn't resist buying them. I have placed them in a pot rather than planting in the ground. Proud to say that they are doing really well so far - i.e. not yet eaten by slugs.

I have also planted plenty of autumn bliss raspberry canes with mixed success. The instructions I saw on the internet quite often call for trimming the canes to ground level after planting. However the canes that so far haven't shown any life are all trimmed to the ground level. The majority of the canes that already show some sign of growth haven't been trimmed. So is it really a good idea to trim newly planted raspberry canes to the ground level? Or perhaps it is better to give the canes sometime to adjust to new soil before before trimming....
If you know the answer please let me know.