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.

Sunday 30 June 2013

The Three Sisters (plus support act) 2013 gig

Yesterday, with enthusiastic help from Cheep and the team of under-gardeners http://twitter.com/celiahart/status/350924596121333761/photo/1 I tidied up and filled the Three Sisters pit with compost from our two-year-old heap. The compost mound is now planted with this year's 'sisters' . . .

Beans: Runner Bean 'Black Salford' plus one plant of Climbing French Bean 'San Antonio' (the only one that I managed to germinate)

Corn: 'Rainbow Sweet Inca'

Squash: 'Black Futsu' x 2 and Marina di Chioggia x1

Interplanted with Sunflower 'Earthwalker' (because I needed somewhere to plant these and I don't trust Cheep not to peck them if they are planted in the new cut-flower bed).

This was posted directly from the vegetable garden by the magical means of wifi :-)

Thursday 27 June 2013

The 5th pea in the Pigeon Proof Pen is . . .

The Salmon-Flowered Pea

Isn't she pretty! Like a Thomas Hardy heroine in a cotton sun bonnet.

It's not a purple-podded pea, but it's a must-have decorative vegetable. If it wasn't for the pigeons, I'd grow this in the flower borders. 

It grows to about 1.5 metres and as it gets taller the main stems thicken and the top gets bushy.

Clusters of buds appear at the top of the plant.

 The flowers are smaller than the other pea flowers but because they are in clusters they make quite an impact; posies of white and salmon pink.

These will be followed by clusters of small pods containing tiny sweet-flavoured peas.

I'll compare the pods from all five pea varieties next month.


Sunday 23 June 2013

More pea portraits from the Pigeon Proof Pen

In the previous post I introduced you to the first two peas to flower in the Pigeon Proof Pen, now here are two more and as you can see in the following photo, they are very different from each other . . .

On the right is a shorter more compact group of pea plants, they are a new variety and have obviously been bred not require tall supports and it also looks as though it will have a large yield, it's named


I don't usually grow modern commercial varieties of pea, but Shiraz promises to be a purple-podded mangetout, which is the holy grail for pea breeders! Here is a review of Shiraz by plantsman Graham Rice. As you can see in the photo above, the  whole plant is much more compact than an old fashioned tall pea; the flowers curl over coyly and there are two or more flowers on each stem. The wine red splashes where the leaves join the stalk is a tell-tale sign that the pods will be purple, I can't wait to see if the pods really are the colour of red wine AND tender enough to eat as a mangetout.

The pea on the left couldn't be more different in character . . .


When I saw this offered in Heritage Seed Library catalogue a few years ago, I couldn't resist adding it to my pea collection even though it doesn't have purple pods. It made up for it by having an amazing provenance:

"Thought to be originally from the garden of Lord Carnarvon at Highclere Castle, Berkshire. Lord Carnarvon, along with Howard Carter, discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in November 1922. Could this variety be a descendant of the peas allegedly taken from the tomb? A tall pea (150-180cm) that produces its white flowers followed by pods of sweet tasting peas at the top of the plants making them easy pick."

Well, it probably isn't a pea from King Tut's Tomb, but I discovered it's a beautiful pea to grow. Everything about it is big and robust – it towers over the Shiraz, it towers over me! and the leaves and tendrils are sturdy and huge. The flowers are pure white and are held elegantly on the end of long slightly arched stems, like art deco lanterns. I love growing Tutankhamun alongside my purple-poddeds, and he's already almost reaching the roof of the Pigeon Proof Pen!

The fifth pea variety in the Pigeon Proof Pen has yet to flower, but when it does I'll take some photos . . . and this one really is something different!


Tuesday 18 June 2013

Blooms in the Pigeon Proof Pen

At last! a post about Purple Podded Peas . . .

This morning two of the pea varieties growing flourishing in the Pigeon Proof Pen, have their first flowers . . . and what beauties they are! Proving that growing heritage peas is not just for the shelled peas, it's also about the beauty of the plant, the pods and the flowers.

Let me introduce you to . . .

Curruthers' Purple Podded

Well, just look at the deep colour of the wings! the intricate veining on the standards!
For me, not the most productive of peas (although that may have been down to pigeon attacks in the past) but supposedly one of the best purple-poddeds for flavour. I see Curruthers as a polite, elegantly attired, gentleman gardener. My seeds were originally from a swap with Rebsie, you can read her expert review of Curruthers here.


I don't just grow peas with purple pods . . . Robinson is a green podded pea and my selection this year from the Heritage Seed Library. The donor of the seeds had acquired them from a Mr Robinson, who had got them from somewhere in Scotland. The HSL catalogue describes Robinson as being vigorous and a favourite amongst exhibitors for their long, slim, slightly curved pods produced over a long season. The peas are reputed to be "extraordinarily sweet" . . . I'm looking forward to tasting them and if I'm impressed I'll save seed to grow lots next year.

As you can see in the photo, its flowers are white with beautiful green shading and a very attractive shape . . . I think Mr Robinson is a very handsome chap indeed!

More reports for the Pigeon Proof Pen soon,

Wednesday 12 June 2013

The mystery egg

I have just checked the nest boxes in the henhouse, this tiny khaki dark speckled egg was in the very back corner of the nest, I moved it closer to the other Holly and Ivy's eggs for the photo so you can compare size and colour.
I wonder which hen laid it . . . If indeed it was one of the hens and not another bird using this as its nest box!

I'll wait to see which hens don't lay today . . . my guess is that it could possibly be Ginger-Spice's egg, she hasn't laid for many many months but often sits in the nest. She used to lay large blunt ended sage green coloured eggs. I wonder? What do you think?

PS: my friends at Linton Kitchen think it is a pheasants egg, because it is just like the ones they sell in their lovely shop! Gosh... could it be? Will she be back to lay more?

PPS: the egg is so small, I now think it it very unlikely to be a pheasant's egg... veering back to thinking Ginger-Spice laid a random tiny egg.

Monday 10 June 2013

The shingle will hide the secrets

Very early on Saturday morning Cliff and I drove to the coast, although we live in Suffolk it's a 2 hour journey zig-zagging eastwards to the far edge of the county. Months back we had booked to go on a tour of Orford Ness, we'd never been before. We hadn't payed much attention to what we were signing up for . . . and that turned out to be THE tour for 20th century military history enthusiasts!

For most of the 20th Century (1913 to 1993 to be precise) the 16 kilometre long shingle spit that hugs the coast of Suffolk just south of Aldeburgh, was the top secret research site for everything from the first forays into air warfare, parachutes and aerial photography through to testing the aerodynamics of the UK's atomic bombs and at the height of the Cold War the huge array of aerials of 'Cobra Mist' secretly eavesdropped on the Soviet Block. If this is your thing, read more here.

Luckily for me the sign above no longer applied! It was a grey day and there was a cold wind blowing off the North Sea, I settled for taking photographs rather than sitting on the shingle freezing sketching.

Orford Ness is now owned by the National Trust, the shingle spit is a nature reserve of international importance . . . you may have seen it featured on the BBC Springwatch (watch Richard Taylor-Jones stunning film here start at 31mins in, available until Thursday 20 June 2013). I found the juxtaposition of the mysterious architecture and the encroaching shingle and plants, fascinating.

Inside the buildings, while our amazingly knowledgeable guide talked of boffins (and apparently the word was first ever used to describe one of the top researchers in these very buildings!) I searched out textures and geometric shapes in the decaying laboratories.

Glassless windows framed views across the vast expanse of shingle . . . much of it still out of bounds because of the danger of unexploded ordnance.

The next chapter in the story of Orford Ness will be about the plants and wildlife that are now the only inhabitants (apart from the day visitors that come across by boat from the mainland) and gradually they will hide the secrets for ever.

On the seaward side of the Ness stands a lighthouse  –

Trinity House have made the decision that in these days of satellite navigation, lighthouses are no longer required the light will be turned off in a few days time and it will be left to the mercy of the North Sea which is eating back the coast at a rate of 5 metres a year.

Eventually it will collapse onto the shingle and be smashed apart by the waves.

You can see more of my photos of Orford Ness here:
the buildings
the windows
the textures
the plants

I hope to go back to explore again soon... and hopefully see more of the birds and hares.