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Quite honestly, I’ve been wanting to make Elderflower cordial since I started gardening. At first I was thwarted by simply not having an Elderberry bush nor living near one that I could ‘borrow’ from. Then a couple of years ago I planted an Elderberry (Black Lace).

In the first few years the flowers were too few to even contemplate picking. They make such a beautiful, layered carpet effect that I didn’t want to spoil it all by picking the flowers. It’s been a few years now that my Elderberry flowers so profusely that, let’s be honest, it won’t miss a few flowers. But have I made Elderflower cordial? No.

Why? A combination of laziness and just missing my chance. Once the flowers start to go brown then the party is over.

  But this year I was ready with the secateurs.

I had already secured an Elderflower cordial recipe from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook that I got from the library. And I had bought some bottles from the kitchen shop. Although I quickly found I didn’t have enough.

So here it is. The 13-years-too-late Elderflower cordial. One to check off the bucket-list (yes my list is that sad). And it tasted sooooo good. And I haven’t even tried it in champagne yet. Cheers!

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It’s been a pretty good summer so I thought I’d post some photos of it. My greenhouse is still going strong. I do need to clean the windows a lot and I had it repainted recently for no small sum. So it’s not without its chores. But I love it so much. My husband calls it my ‘office’. If I could make it so, I would.

The sunflowers were tall and just kept coming and coming. I didn’t even need to stake them and they looked lovely with the fading summer sun shining through them in the evening. I used them as a garden ‘wall’ between the kitchen garden and our seating area on the other side. It worked really well. And as the seeds started to ripen the birds came to peck, peck, peck at them and you could sit and watch them argue with each other and fill their tummies.

So this is one of three Watermelons that I grew in the greenhouse. I forget the variety, Mama’s- Girl, I think. I grew them in the greenhouse because last year my outdoor Watermelons didn’t ripen in time before the cold weather set in.

Watermelons are tricky in a greenhouse because they need to be pollinated to set fruit. The greenhouse door is open all summer but there are still not enough pollinators braving the doorstep to reliably pollinate. So I did this. When the vine was long but still in the flowering stage I carefully moved the vine part of it so it was trailing outside the greenhouse. Once the bugs had done their job and three fruits had set I moved it back inside. I could have used a small brush to hand pollinate it too but I always forget to do it!

The Watermelons were yummy, by the way.

This is my crazy-messy fountain with circular path. The old poppy stalks were quickly taken over by this little annual vine called Cardinal Climber. The hummingbirds love it and make that drumming sound with their wings all around it. After that they take a drink, mid flight, from the fountain. And that little seat in the background is where I watch it all happen. With either my morning coffee or in the evening, a glass of wine. Love my stimulants!

I got heavily into succulents this year. I never realised how ridiculously easy they are to grow. You can literally just scatter them on the ground and they will root. If I accidentally snap a piece off I can never bring myself to throw it away so I make more! Now my greenhouse is full of tiny terracotta pots full of succulents. It’s great.

I have two espaliered Apple trees on the wall in the kitchen garden. They are about four years old and neither one has given me many Apples until this year. Both fruited. But it was this one that won out on flavour. It’s an Egremont Russet and, to be honest, the fruits don’t look that appetising. They’re all rough and tough and patchy. But wow have you ever tasted one? It’s amazing. All nutty and sweet but tangy too. You have to peel it. At least I did. And the flesh goes brown in an instant. But worth it. All worth it.

And by the end of the Summer it all got a bit jungly and you couldn’t see over the tops of the Parsnips. And the cucumber took over the pathway. But isn’t that the way it should be? I’m definitely less concerned by order these days. I let things self seed and plant things too close together and let things flop onto the path. By far the best things in the garden this year was a Rocket plant that went to seed. The bees flocked to its tiny yellow flowers and it hummed all day. Pure joy.

I had to laugh at this one. We’re having some building work done and the builders put up some scaffolding. Within a few days the Cardinal Climber had found it and wrapped itself around it a few times. Oh and the squirrels thought it was lots of fun too.

Love my brick pathway.

My Grapevine is still doing well and producing lots and lots of musky grapes that have a sweet and fragrant taste that is hard to describe. It really is halfway between a green and black grape. The ‘arms’ of the vine are getting too thick for the supports that I put up. I think this Autumn pruning season I will chop the whole thing back to one thick trunk and start again with some whippy ‘arms’. Here’s more about how I prune Grapes.

Roll on Autumn…

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Tonight, I stepped outside into the orchard to enjoy the sunshine after the past few days of rain we’ve had. There were about five or six blue dragonflies circling around and around. I couldn’t work out if they were eating bugs or trying to catch each other for mating purposes. They just kept circling and some were as big as those tiny RC helicopters you can buy.

I told Ryan he had to come out and see this. And once we started strolling around it was then we noticed just how many bees were on the clover that grows around the trees. It was humming with bees of all kinds, hoverflies and other unidentified flying insects.

We grabbed a chair and sat. A swallowtail butterfly flip-flapped past while the dragonflies carried on.

This is exactly what I wanted from the orchard. A busy, messy, nature-filled wild area. It’s really starting to work and I’m so happy. I can’t believe the difference between this side of the garden and the closely-mown, fertilized, almost neon green lawn. It feels dead compared to this! Although, less likely to sting small bottoms when they wrestle on it. I feel lucky to be able to have both.

I remember not so long ago when the orchard looked like this.

Above: The grass seed stands tall over the clover. It looks great in the afternoon sun.

Above: Only one Egremont Russet this year.

Above: But lots of Liberty apples.

Above: In some areas the clover has taken over.

Above: But in others the Achillea is in charge.

Above: The mown pathways allow us to wander around without stings and provide a source of endless fun for the kids.

Above: Stanley Plums just turning a touch purple.

Above: Looking forward to more evenings in the orchard this Summer.

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Here is some cool stuff in my garden right now. Cool stuff – I know, I’m getting too technical.

The main photo is a purple Azalea (don’t know the type) that I salvaged from the overgrown mess that was my front garden three year’s ago. I planted it with plenty of space around it and pruned it. I’m so glad I did. Its colour is amazing at this time of year.

Below is the view from my greenhouse right now. When I’m busy sowing seeds with my heater on and my cup of tea in hand I can glance over and see the Tulips popping up and beyond that the Black currant bush just coming into leaf.

This is a silly photo I took through the mirror in my greenhouse looking back at the plants that I saved from last year’s summer window boxes. You can just see the Purple Heart next to the white tags. And yes there is a mirror in my greenhouse.

 My Peach tree is trained as a fan on the south-facing fence. It’s a Q-18 and has never had peach leaf curl. Touch wood.

Brunnera Jack Frost just about getting going. It will flower for months! Pulmonaria Blue Ensign. You don’t seem for sale at many nurseries. It’s normally the pink one with speckled leaves. That blue…

This is one of two Camellias that I have that are forming an arch over an iron gateway. They are the first to flower in the Winter with this Christmassy red. The hummingbirds love them.

 The Forsythia in the front garden is huge and when it blooms it really goes for it. I have planted one on the opposite side of the garden to balance it out someday. But at this moment in time it’s about one foot high. Be thankful for those mature shrubs people. They take forever to grow big!

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