Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Let's get back to the plot

I haven't blogged about the vegetable garden recently, the winter has been harsh and long and like many gardeners, now that Spring is just about here at last, I feel well behind schedule. But, let's not panic – my Dad always warned me off starting sowing seeds too early and having to somehow keep the seedling from going too leggy and soft in the greenhouse because it was too cold to plant outside. I'll catch up . . . you just see!

Today I had an appointment with the optician, so I missed the postman's visit. On my return I noticed a pile of packages had been carefully put under cover within our courtyard – I was curious then excited . . .

. . . one was a parcel from Zoe (who used to blog and now tweets) – rhubarb crowns 'Timperley Early' and Stockbridge Arrow'. So far rhubarb has not been a success in my garden, but I'm making an extra effort this time and have prepared a bed next to the garden wall, well dug with horse manure. Thank you Zoe - the heritage peas and beans will be on their way to you soon.

The other parcel contained a very large heavy book, 'A Flora of Suffolk'. I ordered it at the pre-publication price and couldn't wait to spend evenings immersed in botanical heaven :-)

My plot is not all bare earth and uncleared pea wigwams – here's a round up of the best bits:

Crimson Flowered Broad Bean plants hardened off and ready for planting out; some healthy looking sweetpea seedlings which have had their tips pinched out so they will make strong side shoots; and some beautiful purple violets I brought home from my Mum's garden – these are for The Wild Wood, but I put them in an old terracotta flowerpot so we could use it as a table decoration at Easter (I dream of having lunch outside, but we may have to wear thermals!).

Sorrel! Doesn't it look wonderful – and it's very very good for you too. I like to finely chop the leaves and add them to scrambled egg as it cooks. The under gardeners love to eat sorrel too – I suppose they are adding sorrel to the egg at the production stage. And here's something to try, dip a piece of sorrel leaf in sugar and savour the flavour – like very good Champagne apparently ;-)

Chives edging the end of the raised vegetable beds. They've sprung up from nothing in little more than a week! It's chopped chive sprinkles on everything from now on.

Yes I know, I know, I need to do some weeding – you're supposed to look at the garlic! Doesn't it look good and strong after spending the winter frozen under the snow. The theory is that the cold weather triggers the division of the bulb into cloves – I'm hoping for a great garlic crop this year.

There are 'weeds' you can eat – which is very satisfying indeed! This is Hairy Bittercress, pulled from overwintering scented geranium pots in the greenhouse . . . and destined to give a piquant pepperiness to my lunch :-)

Lastly here's my favourite flowering shrub of early spring, cornus mas or The Cornelian Cherry. It's a more subtle shade of yellow than forsythia, and makes a beautiful large shrub or small bushy tree. I love to look at the flower clusters which spangle the bare branches – aren't they just beautiful! Tiny posies of miniature flowers held within a ring of pale green velvety sepals. It tells me that spring is here at long last :-)


  1. what a lovely springy post :-) Funny you should say about what you feed you hens going into the production of the eggs. We once gave our chickens some left over mackerel which they loved but by goodness the eggs they laid later smelt like fish! I couldn't bring myself to eat them as they smelt so strange :-(

  2. I am coveting your Suffolk Flora book Celia!

    I planted some garlic, shallots and onions at the weekend and will be very happy if they come up looking anything like yours!

    I look forward to seeing those pretty violets in The Wild Wood. Let's hope for some warm spring sunshine for Easter.

    Jeanne x

  3. Isn't it wonderful to see Spring doing its annual magic tricks?

    We don't see sorrel around here in NYC, even in the weekly farmers green markets, so I do thank you for putting me on to the charms and values of this plant. Of course, I've know the name for ages, but never quite had anything to match it up with.

    Thank you! xo

  4. Hope the rhubarb goes well. I never had any success with it when I had my allotment, but when I moved here there was a plant already in the garden which does really well. Next year I must try and force some of it.

  5. It is great to see things starting to sprout up again:-)

  6. One of the things I love about blogs is that some of them, like yours this morning, tell me something new and show me a lovely plant I had never heard of before.. and I agree that the yellow is definitely more subtle than forsythia, though on the other hand, I love the bright in-your-faceness about forsythia! But I never knew about the cold and garlic.... I have one plant left from last year and was going to pull it up but now will leave it.. and hope. Thank you. Love the blog by the way!

  7. That cornus mas is lovely, just the thing to plant as I've finally grubbed up the forsythia outside my study on the grounds that it's too yellow and too vigorous. But I've already put the Bodnant viburnum there, so I'll have to find another spot. Do you think the deer will ignore it once it's established?

    Thanks for such a good recommendation

  8. Oh joy, I love this sort of post! I want to read it properly, not rush it, so I'll be back later. Joy! Love Vanessa xxx

  9. My Dad had Timperley Early didn't live far from Timperley either - and I have Stockbridge Arrow. Both wonderful rhubarbs and never rush to go to seed like some varieties.

    My Crimson broadies are just about ready to go out too.

    My garden favours chickweed so the chickens get some of that, well torn up. You can't beat free food!

    Spring is such a heartening time of year.

  10. I think we were separated from birth...we seem to love all the same things...A tip, of sorts. My rhubarb flourished best when grows between a rosemary hedge...I have no idea if they are scientifically compatible but the crowns there are larger, bushier and healthier than the other rhubarb I have which grows on the opposite side of that part of the garden, far from the rosemary. Might it be worth an experiment?

  11. Just to pick up on the post above I can confirm that we have rhubarb planted next to rosemary and it thrives. I never gave it much thought before but maybe there's something in it? We have grown Stockbridge Arrow and it has a beautiful flavour but it was not long lived for us. Good old Timperley Early and Victoria are as tough as old boots but Stockbridge Arrow was as delicate as its flavour!

  12. It sounds like you are ahead of me although we had chives snipped into our quiche last night (still plenty of eggs) and my garlic is looking good.

  13. thanks for finding my blog and following me. Yes I reckon I'm pretty close to you geographically (just outside Sudbury)

  14. What a charming and cheery post for a very miserable day. Thank you!

  15. I'm glad I'm not the only one, who hasn't started sowing much yet, better to wait a wee bit longer I think.

    Will try the sorel and sugar sounds interesting.

  16. Lovely post Celia-I don't grow Cornus mas but I am wondering why-it is lovely.
    What a great idea to pot up violets for Easter. I may have to steal it! : )

  17. It is fun to find out a connection - I know Zoe and she and I have talked about rhubarb! Love your cornus mas. There must be room for one here. And my garlic is looking good too, a small reward for all that winter!

  18. Looks lovely, Celia. I'm so envious of your garlic; I've had to give up growing it because of rust.

  19. That is an interesting note about sugar on sorrel. Recently I discovered this plant at the garden center and decided to give it a try after pinching off a small leaf to bite into. It had a nice flavor and i thought it would be good in salads or scrambles.
    Good luck with the rhubarb.

  20. looks great everything's coming on well.

  21. Oooh those herbs look lovely. I'm ashamed to say I've never yet used my sorrel. Scrambled eggs, here I come...

  22. Your garden looks amazing and so healthy!

    Have a Happy Easter Celia.

  23. Between you and Alys Fowler I feel all geared up to get on with the garden now! I must look up your Three Sisters thing again. P x


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