A different kind of tea

I'm delighted to offer a different kind of cuppa for #nationalteaday as I'm allergic to the usual stuff*. Instead I'm exploring a different kind of tea via those found in Henriette Kress's Practical Herbs 1.

For those in the know, Kress's double volume has been available in a pdf format for a number of years and it's clear from the interweb she's a well regarded herbalist in her field. Now it's available in book form and for me, the first volume I received to review for today's tea blog tour has the clearest and most detailed explanation I've found of the preservation of herbs and their use as herbal oils, salves, syrups, vinegars, tinctures and teas. There's the added bonus of what to do when it all goes wrong - which is often omitted in all kinds of reference books - and here we have the voice of experience to help make things better, in the herbal world at least.

We're quite early in the foraging season which combined with our slower…

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day: Rethinking the plot

Writing a post for Blooms Day after an absence of several months is a sure sign that things are beginning to get back to normal, at last.

However, I decided to start this post with a photo from outside VP Gardens. It's hard to resist the first sunny bloom-filled scene of the year from yesterday's walk with friends, especially when we found a host of golden daffodils in nearby Allington, with more yellow springtime goodness* sprinkled beneath a willow tree just beginning to sprout its cloak of green.

Like most of you reading this, spring has come late here this year. The farmers are saying they're a month behind with their work because it's been so cold and wet. I must be one of the few people taking comfort from that because of my enforced 'holiday' from gardening. It was good to get out in the sunshine at last - not just for yesterday's walk - but also to see and smell my favourite 'Thalia' daffodils in bloom.

To be honest I've spent the past …

Things in Unusual Places #22: Tea cup

In the past I've dismissed the giant cup and saucer planters you can buy as a bit twee and kitsch. However, this understated blue one stuffed with large succulents - which graced the shop window of a local funeral directors - made my day yesterday.

Veg Plotting in the news

Yesterday's gardening section in The Telegraph was HUGE! I had a little slot in there thanks to my friend Naomi. Sadly the weather forecast is against most of the tasks mentioned, though today's weather looks generally OK for a spot of raised bed making or plot mulching*, and there's plenty of opportunity for sowing seeds indoors**.

It was so relaxing (and less painful currently) to do this over the phone rather than bashing it out on the computer. Thanks to Naomi who did the latter as well as our call. There are lots more hints and tips here -  not just from me - with some that are doable whatever the weather. Note that the full online version is only available to subscribers.

As NAH says, now I've got to get on with it myself. What are your garden projects this weekend?

* = unless you have a broken wrist
** = which I will be doing... gingerly!

Cocktail and mocktail fun

I'm easing back slowly* into bloggage again. There's been lots of reading over the past couple of months, and my sole foray into garden-related-ish activities was to make some fun, delicious cocktails and mocktails for WI last week. These went down well, and I thought you'd like to see the recipe leaflet I put together, especially as many of you'll have family gatherings and get togethers planned over Easter.

I couldn't resist tweaking slightly Marc Diacono's gin recipe using Seville oranges to make 'marmalade gin' from his late January newsletter. Mine is a cheeky nod to the 'Jam and Jerusalem' WI stereotype, which is so far from the reality in ours. Flavoured gins whether distilled or infused are super trendy and I've found the latter are easy to make**. After a month of infusing, marmalade gin makes a fine Tom Collins. You don't need to wait until next January to make a start on your own as the usual oranges available can be used for…

A clean break

Sometimes fate conspires to take us in an unexpected direction, just like it has with my quest for fitness this year. In the last five minutes of a 5 week trial of walking netball, my feet got carried away in chasing after a ball. I eventually crashed into a cupboard then onto the concrete floor. Ouch.

I've got off relatively lightly. My pride at playing a better and swifter game suddenly came crashing down, which is a good lesson to learn. The more obvious results are a goth-like face without the need for make-up, minor concussion, bruised knees and a fractured wrist. 10 days later, yesterday at last brought good news... the bone has stayed in place without pinning, so I can look forward to 5 more weeks in a plaster cast. No driving in that time and no return to netball for around 3 months.

As is my usual wont, I'm concentrating on what I can do rather than what I can't. However, I'm also having to face up to reality. What I need to do in the garden is out of the que…

How not to look after your Pilea peperomioides

I was really happy when Barbara gave me an unusual looking Pilea peperomiodes aka Chinese Money Plant last summer. Little did I know then just how cool and trendy they are, being at the forefront of the houseplant revival. They even have a dedicated Pilea Lovers page on Instagram with over 21,000 Followers - it's not often you'll find me amongst the hipsters!

I nearly wrote an article on my new treasure back then, but Jane beat me to it with a far more comprehensive guide than I could have managed with loads of links to further information. Jack's written a great blog post on how to divide them too.

When I noticed my plant wasn't looking quite as happy as it should as you can see above photo, I knew just the right people to consult on Twitter, along with Andrew who's acquired quite a houseplant collection recently.

From their replies it's clear I am a perfect example of how not to look after a Pilea as follows:
Place it on your sunniest windowsill - south facin…

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day: Do Something Today...

"Do something today your future self will thank you for" ~ Unknown. This is a great quote for New Year's Day and the ultimate resolution!

Looking at the last few Muse Days I've posted, it's obvious I'm ripe for trying out new things, just like I was when I started this blog. I've signed up to try walking netball and Rock Choir already, and I'm looking forward to the Try Something New event at the Neeld Hall soon. I wonder if this is the year I finally pluck up my courage and go to the Chippenham Ukuleles sessions ('scuse pun).

Garden and travelwise, I'm looking forward to a trip to Ashwood Nurseries in February and the Garden Bloggers Fling in Texas in May. It'll be interesting to see gardens from a totally different climate to mine, as well as experiencing what Texas has to offer, Austin in particular.

I'm going to try growing Lithops from seed in Jane's Houseplant sowalong and my Flowers for Mum project is set to morph into Toma…

Unusual Front Gardens: Baubles

Decorating your garden for Christmas isn't a new idea, but I've found a new variation in the form of giant baubles dangling on trees in various locations.

The pictured ones are from Tetbury on Boxing Day last year after we'd gone for a walk at Westonbirt Arboretum with friends. They and the crisp winter's day added a real sparkle to my mood; I also have tree seat envy.

Have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, wherever you may be :)

Unusual Front Gardens: Christmas Greenery

Christmas wreaths are increasingly common feature on front doors in my corner of the world, and to make your own is a popular workshop (here's my attempt from a couple of years ago - I made something similar on Saturday).

I think this simple arrangement of Aucuba japonica and red Cornus stems tied together with ribbon is an equally effective seasonal welcome. It's an easy idea to source and copy using festive looking greenery and stems foraged from your own garden or nearby.

The doorway hails from Holt and it isn't the first time this delightful Wiltshire village has featured in my Unusual Gardens strand. I found an equally beguiling Statue nearby in 2014.