Friday, 23 November 2012

Sculpture in my garden...I wish

Aristide Maillol

 I first encountered Maillol in a very cold winters stroll near the Louvre in Paris at the Place du Carrousel, the grass was covered in a silvery frost and the landscape seemed monochrome, his sculptures rose from the ground like shadows of real women, still and silent and very powerful that morning. Do go there and have a look early before Paris awakes, the very silence underscores the serene calm power of the sculptures.

 Widely considered one of the greatest French (or Catalan) sculptors of the 20th century, I love his work for the passion he shows for female form and his many tributes to the idea of Nature. He is quoted as saying “give me a garden and I will fill it with statues”. I’m so glad that his companion of many years Dina Vierny was able to create the sculpture garden at Place du Carrousel.

If you are in Rotterdam from now until February 2013 you can see a major retrospective of his work at the Kunsthal. Or you can read a wonderful book about him by Bertrand Lorquin, lavishly illustrated in colour.

Snow in Summer - Clematis Montana

This clematis is more like an igloo now or a mini Mt Fuji tucked in an enclsed rectangle next to the house and surrounded by a giant hedge of Rosa Edna Walling (one of my favorite roses). Joy!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

November bouquet

A lovely cluster of David Austin roses planted this time last year as bare rooted stock from Trelors; Brother Cadfael, Eglantyne, William Shakespeare, Heritage, Alnwick Castle and Dublin Bay which is not a DA but doing marvellously well this year.  

Hello I dont know your name but I love you!

We have three beautiful oriental poppies flowering in the garden now, bought as individual plants from Lambley's about 3 years ago and they have self-seeded to about four plants each now, a long wait but so worth it! The first are loved by my mum and I - Papaver orientale "Raspberry Queen"  and Papaver orientale ‘Fatima’.

 I don't know why Mum does not like at all the last un-named orange that is growing most successfully, I love it and love it more because It has been so unreasonably maligned - much to my benefit though as mum keeps digging it up and I get an instant happy family of I believe "Allegro". Do let me know if you recognize this vibrant lovely oriental?

I highly recommend these poppies as a seasonal flourish as they seem to float across the garden like giant dinner plates - they are at least 10 inches/25cm across. In late Autumn the seed heads make great dried flower displays as well.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Rivers of blue

Of the spring bulbs or corms the anemone and ranunculus seem to be least lauded. I love them for their laissez-faire manner -just toss them in and you should be rewarded with many years of stunning colour and when they die down you don't have lots of messy foliage and in my forgetful manner I always have a happy surprise when they show the following year. They are generally inexpensive and are a great way to enhance colour themes. This year my blues ones seemed like the most precious exotic flowers one could grow -truly you could imagine them as the tears of Venus as she wept over Adonis 

For me they are my flower of love as they were the first bouquet (the exception rather than the rule!) my husband gave me on our first date 21 years ago. I see them as fresh as yesterday in my mind's eye, a happy meld of pinks to blues and purples embraced by frills of green -oh love!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

New leaf

Everywhere there is sweet golden green of new growth. One minute a slight haze and almost overnight a striking river of green in that wonderful hue of lemony lime.


Friday, 2 November 2012

Spinach Harvest

I think my spinach is the best value as a crop, taking up only 2sq foot (most of my crops are done this way this year), with the early leaves mixed thru salad and the larger leaves so far have been used in stir fry's and spanakopita or Börek.

I have also taken bunches each week to freeze, quickly blanching the leaves and stalks with boiling water and then plunging into cold to keep the fresh green colour. Now at the beginning of November the crop is just starting to fade but we have been harvesting most every day for the last 2 months. I must remember to plant it even earlier next year. I'm hoping to get into gear and use some old windows to rig up a mini green house, so stay tooned!

Here is my favourite stir fry recipe -Black sauce tofu with fresh greens. I add noodles for the boys but otherwise I just have the fresh green loveliness of the spinach (add any veg you like- at this time my broccoli and kale is go to use) and the crisp texture of the tofu with dark river of sauce.

Black Sauce Tofu stir fry

Wash and then cut up one block of firm (preferably organic) tofu into small bite size blocks, dust with some corn and plain flour that has been sprinkled with Chinese five spice (I use about 1 full teaspoon as I like a strong flavour). Fry these off over a high heat so they get good colour on them and crisp up a bit.

While the tofu cooks you can make a black sauce -essentially a reduction of your favourite Asian flavours. I use 1 cup soy, 1 tbls oyster sauce, half a cup of honey or Thai sweet chili sauce in a heavy bottom pot as it can burn easily otherwise. Then feel free to add in other flavours- I like to grate in some fresh ginger or a squeeze of lime. Bring the whole to a boil and allow to reduce without burning it so you need to keep an eye on it.

When ready to serve bring the tofu pan up to high and toss in the fresh greens (and chili) until they wilt - serve straight away with the black sauce on the side as its quite rich and sweet. My kids love to drizzle it over the noodles but dip the tofu separately.