The first garden post of 2016 and what a wonderful Summer we are having! Apart from a few scorchers, followed by recuperative rain, the days have been long and sunny and in the very civilized mid-twenties!!! Perfect for eating ice creams, swimming at the beach (or pool, if the thought of swimming with sting rays doesn’t appeal! See Caro’s great photos below), sun baking, feasting on plums, seed saving and …. making Mint Jelly, of course!!!
Our mint, like the pumpkins, zucchinis, sunflowers, tree dahlias and hydrangeas, was indulging in EXCESSIVE growth, so my son gave it a severe haircut and brought in 2 massive jugs of Garden Mint and Peppermint. The kitchen smelt divine!!! I tied the latter into bunches for drying in the shed. We love our Peppermint Tea!And obviously, Mint Jelly was the way to go to make the best use of that beautiful Garden Mint, but we had no pectin and the apples, which we had bought before Christmas, were looking far too old to have much pectin in them still!!! Luckily, we have lots of new green apples ripening on the tree, so I picked a basketful from the lower branches. Ross had been wanting to prune them, as they were scraping the ground, but I had wanted the apples first, so it was a win-win situation and now there is much more light under the tree for the camellia to grow.
I found a lovely recipe for Mint Jelly on the internet. See : http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/mint_jelly/, though it only yielded 2 jars (compared to the 4 jars cited)and I did have to suspend the muslin bag of mushed apple & mint over the bowl overnight. I boiled the juice and sugar mix for a full 20 minutes and was VERY impressed with the jelly formation!! It’s a beautiful golden colour- I decided not to add green food colouring, which is what gives commercial Mint Jelly its green colour! Can’t wait for a leg of roast lamb now!!! Don’t you just love these preserving jars- a Christmas gift from a dear friend.
My next task was to make plum jam. There are far too many fallen fruits on the grass below the plum tree. Why should birds have all the fun!!!There was a very quiet Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (hard to believe, I know!), munching into the plums when I took this photo and all you could hear was the slight rustle of leaves and the gentle plop of fruit as it hit the ground! The cockatoo in the last photo kept on eating while we were harvesting plums.
There were also a couple resting in the nearby poplar tree- having their lunchtime nap, grooming, surveying the fruit canopies for future plunder and generally minding their own business- for the moment anyway!!!
Last Wednesday, the huge population of Little Corellas suddenly vanished into thin air! I’d love to know where they went to and why then?! It is SO quiet without them (and rather relaxing I must admit) !! We still see the odd little grouping and a few galahs, but the majority have gone. There must have been a great New Year’s Eve Party somewhere else!!!
While I was photographing the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos from the verandah, a resident pair of Striated Pardalotes were feeding on insects in the old Pepperina tree. They are such lovely quiet little birds!
And on the evening of New Year’s Day, Oliver decided to pay a visit- no doubt wanting to start the year the way he meant to carry on. Alas, Ross wouldn’t let us succumb to his advances (the King Parrot that is!)!!!
All fired up with the success of my Mint Jelly and wanting to make the most of the plum crop before those cockatoos ate them all, we harvested the closest ripe plums, then made 6 bottles of Wild Plum Jam, following this lovely recipe : http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/two-wild-plum-jam-recipes-38/.
Because quite a few of the plums were deep red and fully ripe and the rest were soft, we decided to use the 2nd recipe, though we did split the plums, which weren’t fully ripe. It is a very easy straightforward recipe. We had 1.5 Kg of fruit and I used 1 Kg of caster sugar. The most tedious bit (and it really wasn’t too much of a problem!) was fishing out the pips at the end, though I managed to remove many of them during the last stage of the boiling process, using a slotted spoon and long tweezers.
Then we bottled the setting jam in my friend’s beautiful jars, labelled them and stored them in the pantry. I love the red glow through the glass. It reminds me of the wonderful image in Salmonberries (the film with the beautiful haunting soundtrack, which introduced us to the magnificent voice of KD Lang)) of light filtering through Summer-made jams on glass shelves in the window of the librarian’s cottage in the depths of the freezing snowy white Alaskan Winter! Quite magical!!!
This week, I also processed all the dried poppy and tulip seeds for sowing next year, though I just couldn’t discard the attractive tulip seed heads. Next time, I will cut them with longer stems, as I think they would look great in flower arrangements! I should have saved some of the poppy heads for this purpose too, but had to cut into the seed heads to get all the seed. Mind you, there were millions of seeds, and there are still a few poppy plants in the Soho Bed, so I will definitely reserve a few flower head stems next time!!! Amazing that those tiny little seeds hold so much life potential and grow into such enormous plants with such beautiful blowsy blooms!!! Nature really is a miracle!!!
Pity help me when it comes to processing sunflower seeds! The heads are enormous!!!
They dominate the garden and the lead plant is now taller than the maple behind it in the photo. I love the way their nodding heads follow the sun – the 1st photo was taken in the morning (flower head facing east- full face on in photo), the 3rd that afternoon (flower head has turned to the south – towards the left edge of photo).The Soho Bed looks so lovely, now that most of the brown dying poppy plants have been removed and the garden has been weeded. Time for some more mulch!!!The roses are still superb …
We are starting to really enjoy the produce of the vegie garden. We ran out of our supply of store-bought potatoes the other day and Ross was able to pop down to our own ‘store’ to collect some Desiree potatoes and some small Dutch Creams. I still get such a kick out of being able to pick our own vegies straight out of the garden with maximum nutritional goodness and freshness! The tomatoes are just about ready to harvest too.
We planted Angelica in the cutting garden, pink Bergamot and yellow Geum in the Soho Bed and Sage in a pot by the kitchen door. I love Angelica- not only is it a pretty plant, but it is a great sugar substitute! It will grow much larger than the photo below, so we have planted it at the back of the Cutting Garden.And the first of the Zinnias is flowering! I love their bold bright colours!!It is so hard to believe that we have almost been here a full year! The garden has developed so much and we are very happy with the basic design. It is wonderful seeing established beds, as we had envisaged them, compared to the bare lawn when we first arrived. Ross is a fantastic gardener and the resident blackbirds have done a stirling job under his supervision! I am looking forward to seeing the shrubs and hedges reach their full potential, as well as building all the garden structures : the Main Pergola and wooden arches to mark either end of the central path, the compost bays and chook shed & yard and finally the glass house!
Because we have completed the seasonal cycle for 2015, rather than repeat myself, I will focus on new developments in the garden and special events, as well as perhaps taking a more in-depth look at some of the stand-out flowers of the month. I will leave you with a photo of my neighbour’s front hedge of 4 O’Clock Flower, also known as Beauty-of-the-Night or Marvel of Peru (Mirabilis jalapa), which contrasts beautifully with her lovely blue house. I love all the variation in colours, especially when combined in the one flower! Another marvellous creation of Mother Nature!‘Mirabilis’ means ‘wonderful’ in Latin, so on that note….!
All our Love and Very Best Wishes for a Mirabilis 2016!!!P.S. Fireworks over Merimbula to usher in 2016! It’s obviously going to be a year full of music!