Monday, 25 November 2019

Winter Comfort Food

Another miserably wet day on the Côte d’Azur, flooding and news of several deaths due to the horrendous weather makes me want to stay home and not venture out until the sun returns, not an option as we’re working tomorrow, but for today I’ve stayed put and baked cakes.
Baking isn’t just a case of a simple recipe from a book in our house, decided I wanted spiced apple cake, it’s one of my all time favourite cakes and so comforting when the weather is horrible, my old recipe has to be modified so it can be eaten by everyone else in the house and as the boys are gluten, dairy and sugar free I make one cake for them and one for us, ours also has to be modified as the OH has to have extremely reduced sugar!
So many modifications, but worth the time spent when the OH came into the kitchen to make coffee and pronounced “it smells like Christmas in here already”, followed once the cakes were baking by “it smells gorgeous in here” and after they’d wolfed down gargantuan pieces they all exclaimed “that was deeeeeelicious!” Definitely worth the effort of baking them.
When I have time I’ll post the full recipes, but for now here’s the finished cakes.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Six on Saturday - 23/11/2019

It’s that time of the week again!
Welcome to my Six on Saturday post, I’m extremely wet and soggy thanks to non stop rain, the flooding season has arrived with a vengeance. No surprise it’s raining this weekend as it always seems to rain on the weekend of the ‘Rally du Var’, but it’s serious enough to have stopped play this year. The last week has been one big storm warning on my weather apps, we’ve changed clothes so may times I’ve lost count and the lane has been filled and washed away several times. Despite the weather I still have a six to post, not surprisingly they’re mostly weather related.
Hope you enjoy, and if  you want to join in head over to the host with the most at and join the fun.

1) There’s still plenty of colour in the work gardens, as well as the plants in the photo there are lots of roses still flowering profusely, many shrubs are flowering too but as they’re kept clipped to shape there aren’t that many flowers on them - still enough for the bees that are buzzing around despite the crazy storms. The red of these hydrangea leaves is quite literally breathtaking.

2)  RAIN! The wooded area in the daily work garden has a concrete pipe at the top adjoining one neighbour’s land to allow storm water to run unhindered, it runs down the slope of the woods and exits via several pipes into the land of the other neighbour. Last year the bottom concrete wall and pipes were washed away with the force of the water and debris, it was rebuilt but whilst the weather is like this it’s an almost daily chore removing the debris that collects. Another tree in the woods
 has come down (well half of it), and once again the lane to our house is undriveable, it was filled in a few times this week but the guys with their lorry loads of stones are fighting a losing battle. This picture was three days ago and we’ve had torrential rain constantly since then, with maybe a 3 or 4 hour reprieve, so the gullies are now about 14 -16” deep! The cascading waterfall is actually rain water running from the land above the local cinema down into the car park, a crazy amount of water!

3) On the brighter side, the Erigeron in the daily work garden is still flowering, it looks vibrant and healthy, not quite the full on flower show we had earlier in the year but still looking good. I’m amazed it hasn’t turned to a soggy mess.

4) With all the rain comes the perfect conditions for the fungal beauties, I have absolutely no idea what any of these are (if anyone does then please enlighten me) but they’re all beautiful. The ones grouped together were in the woods, the others were on the lawn - I use that word in the loosest possible way, it’s more a muddy paddling area.

5) More rain! This was what it was like when we were getting ready to go to work (yes, gardening) the other day - thank goodness for waterproofs! 
Needs sound.

6) With all this rain it was time for the return of hot coffee, during the summer we drink iced coffee exclusively but it’s definitely not iced coffee weather any more so new coffee mugs were in order - just to add to the dozens we already have! 

Not part of my six but had to share the daftness that is our bundle of fluff, Tylor, we were busy shoveling leaves and debris from around the water pipes pictured above but that was too scary for Tylor so he ran and hid behind what he clearly thought was a tree that would save him from the scary flying leaves! He stayed there until we’d finished and emerged from the ditch. 

Well that’s it from me for this week’s Six on Saturday, hope you have a good week wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. 

Saturday, 9 November 2019

Six on Saturday 09/11/2019

The weekend is here again! The weeks seem to be passing by so fast at the moment, probably because there’s a lot to do in the gardens, this week has been a mixed bag weather-wise with equal measures of rain, sun and wind, temperatures have definitely turned autumnal too as it’s been down to 15°c mid afternoon during the week, and it was a decidedly chilly 9°c when we got home last night - brrrrrrr! I’ve been busy moving plants this week as we’re turning the fact that the nasty xylella killed off our Polygala Myrtifolia into an opportunity to create a new mood by prepping for some tropical style plants - still absolutely gutted that they were killed off though as they were some of the most prolific flowering shrubs we had. Elsewhere in the gardens there are still lots of flowers, the roses in particular are taking advantage of the fact that the sun isn’t trying to cook them.
So here’s my six for this week, as always, if you want to join in pop over to the host of Six on Saturday and add your own and feel free to leave a comment on my contribution.

1) Still in bloom and looking great in November, there are bucket loads of white roses in flower but I didn’t get a chance to take photos of them all.

2) Cactus and succulents are still happy despite rather a lot of rain, this  Opuntia microdasys is growing really well, although it might have to be moved as the nasty glochids come away so easily and just walking too close to the pot means a risk of getting them in you or your clothing, obviously the fact that it’s getting bigger increases the risk so this and the matching one in another pot might have to move home to the cactus bed where they can grow undisturbed.

3) More succulents, these Aeonium are one of my favourite plants, I adore the huge rosettes, the fine toothed edging and the way they change colour from one season to the next. This picture shows the same plant in May and again in October, it looks like a different plant. It’ll stay green over the winter as it’s getting low levels of sun and more rain (this garden is at quite a high elevation and gets frosts over the winter so I cover this and the others in the garden with a layer of  fleece to protect them), but come spring when the sun starts to get higher and hotter again it’ll return to the beautiful colours in the top picture.

4) Beautiful Bougainvillea, I love this but my OH hates it because of the spikes, he climbs the ladder to cut it back several times a year and curses like mad when they get at him through all the gear he wears to protect himself from them. I just see stunning colour in mid November, in fact this flowers for around 7 or 8 months of the year on our south facing wall!

6) Limes, this tiny lime tree has 20 limes on it and is about to blossom again! It stands at the grand height of approximately 30 inches tall. That’s one of the things I love about citrus, they’re prolific fruiters and sometimes you wonder how they take the weight of the fruit on them. This one needs to be put into a larger pot in the spring so it can spread it’s roots a little. It’s in the tiny little black pot, the blue pot has a rosemary and a pelargonium in it and is about the size of pot I’ll move the lime in to.

Monday, 4 November 2019

Edible Home Grown Flowers

This post came about when a fellow grower on Twitter asked if anyone had any suggestions for edible flowers for her plot, to add to those she was already growing. I said I’d send her some suggestions, and after gathering together many bits of paper with scribbled lists that have been stuck in books for years and going through all my files (physical and on line) I came up with a list of edible flowers... rather a long one!

Using flowers as food is great, it adds flavour, texture and colour to meals as well as a visual ‘WOW’ factor. Obviously the same rules apply to flowers for food as does to salad and veg. crops, they need to be free from pesticides and animal poop/pee - nobody wants to eat a flower that Pedro the poodle has peed on! 

You can buy edible flowers in supermarkets these days, they’re extremely popular here in France, but if you buy them to eat you need to check they’re for culinary use and not just a bunch aimed for sticking in a vase, those grown for the vase will have been heavily treated with pesticides and herbicides, definitely not what you want to be adding to your meals! That’s not to say those in the salad section won’t have been treated, they’ll just have what the food agencies deem to be an “acceptable” level of the chemicals on them. We prefer to avoid anything that’s been treated this way so either buy organic or grow our own. 
It’s the same if you buy plants to grow on for edible purposes, those in supermarkets and garden centres will have been heavily treated (unless labeled to the contrary) so will need around 12 weeks of chemical free growth to be safe - do NOT eat any flowers already on bought plants. 
Anyway, to the list of edibles which is compiled from 30+ years of flower eating as well as from books, magazines and websites, some I eat lots of, some, like chrysanthemums I’ve never tried, simply because I have an extreme allergy to them.

Check that all flowers/buds are free from pests and disease, and rinse thoroughly before use. It’s also a good idea to check that they’re safe for those who are pregnant, ill or very young/old just in case they’re contraindicated in those groups. Unless otherwise stated remove pistils and stamens and just use the petals of flowers.
Remember, if in doubt, leave it out! Better to be safe and not eat it if you can’t identify it properly

To see the list of edible flowers click here

Yucca - one of the many flowers on the edibles list.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

Six On Saturday 26/10/2019

What a week! Crazy storms with enough rain to see us through winter, needless to say our lane has been washed away to huge gullies and bedrock AGAIN. The gardens are grateful though, and they’re looking extremely green and lush, it never ceases to amaze me the difference in plants when they get real rain instead of tap water. Missing days at work due to the weather means we’ve spent the rest of the week doing extra hours to play catch-up but the ground is now softer which makes weeding a far easier task.
Anyway, hope your week has been a good one, here’s my Six on Saturday, as always it’s hosted by The Propagator at
Join in and add a link to your #SixOnSaturday

1) My first this week has to be propagating, these are pieces that were broken when a neighbour’s succulent plant was blown from their upstairs window ledge into our garden in the Mistral, luckily the pot didn’t break but there were lots of plant pieces scattered about that I just couldn’t leave, so they were brought inside, dried for a few days then laid on soil, out of the forty broken off pieces twenty seven have so far produced roots, another couple of weeks or so and I’ll pot them up - if there’s one thing I love more than new plants, it’s new plants for free!

2) Sedum Panache - this and numerous other succulents are in pots waiting to be put into the cactus bed at our main work garden, they’ve been hanging around in their pots until the weather cooled down to be planted, thankfully temperatures are sticking around 22°c -24°c now so it’s ideal for getting them in, this one is flowering at the moment and is so pretty, I adore the flowers on cactus and succulents, always such a contrast to how they usually look.

3) Yucca - talking of flowering, it’s that time of year when the yuccas in our area are all in full bloom and boy do they put on a striking display! So big and bold yet the individual flowers look so delicate. They most definitely aren’t delicate though as they’ve survived the crazy storms and Mistral winds this week with minimal damage, just the odd spike can be seen bending over where the wind was a little too strong for it. These ones are just outside our garden next to our car parking area, I snapped the photo in between downpours at the start of the week.

4) Magnolia seed pods - Oh boy do I love these, they’re simply stunning, last year was the first time I’d ever noticed them, amazing that I managed to get to my mid 50s without doing so, they look like Christmas decorations (apologies for using the ‘c’ word in October).

5) New plants - even though plants here are far more expensive than they are back in England, sometimes you just can’t resist. This week I bought a eucalyptus for my garden along with another citrus, this one is a clementine - I will never have enough citrus trees. 
I love eucalyptus and even though I’ve spent years growing plants for health and well being purposes, as well as for culinary use I have never owned a eucalyptus, no idea why as they’re extremely useful, not to mention lovely to look at. 
I also bought numerous houseplants this week to add to the indoor jungle, the OH is convinced we’ll soon have parrots moving in! 

6) Tools - more new tools this week, this time secateurs and snips that are just the right size for my hands. I have several pairs of secateurs but all are a bit too big for me to use comfortably, these are the perfect fit, you can see the difference in size in the photo.
As much as I love them though the secateurs have a loose closing clip which slips when I’m using them and stops the blades from closing together, it’s ok if I’m using them upright but if they’re facing sideways or down when in use then it prevents me cutting and is very annoying so I might be taking them back to get them changed, not what I expect from Spear & Jackson ☹️

Well I hope you enjoyed my #SixOnSaturday, there’ll be another six next week but until then, have a great week.


Tuesday, 15 October 2019

It’s Soup Night!

Roast Butternut Squash & Ginger Soup
Rich, creamy and filling, perfect for an autumn night! 
This delicious soup was inspired by a juice I had years ago from a small Indian takeaway deli in London, whilst I was doing a shoe making course.The mix of carrot, orange and fresh ginger root was addictive, and using home grown squash with the carrot ticks so many boxes on the "yumminess" scale!  This soup gets a huge thumbs up from everyone in our house.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Six on Saturday 12/10/2019

Six on Saturday 12/10/2019

I’m not sure where this week has gone, it’s been one of those weeks where Monday felt like Friday but Friday felt like Tuesday, and here we are at the end of Saturday and I have no idea how! 

Here’s my Six on Saturday and the link to The Propagator blog, the host of Six on Saturday.

1) Sternbergia lutea, these little rays of sunshine have been brightening up the field next to our house for the last couple of weeks or so, they almost scream out to be admired.

2) I have a new pitch fork! Spent a nightmare day this week trying to turn compost bins with a pitch fork that didn’t want to stay together, an old style fork where the end had a long stump that just pushed into the wooden handle and was supposedly held in place by a metal sleeve. Needless to say the air was filled with a few choice words so it was time to get a new one that would lift the composting material without falling off.

3) More new tools, this time tiny tools, these are no taller than my sunglasses are wide and I just couldn’t resist them, perfect for small house plants - or just to admire for their cuteness.

4) This beauty is just starting to flower, once it’s in full bloom it’s amazing, last year the client missed it but this year they’ll be here to enjoy it. 

5) This is not exactly garden but it’s garden related as most of the fruit in my home made muesli is home grown and dried, and even more will be next year. There’s something extremely satisfying about being able to preserve your home grown goodies for out of season use.

6) This job has been on my to do list at work for several months, I finally got it done this week, I really dislike weed suppressant matting under gravel, it seems to me to be a futile exercise laying it when so many weed seeds are dropped by birds or blown onto it by the wind, then the weeds grow down through the matting into the soil, this just serves to make weeding it harder so I prefer to have nothing under the gravel to make weeding it easier. Thoroughly satisfying seeing the pile of horrible stuff head to the poubelle.

Six on Saturday 05/10/2019

Six on Saturday 05/10/2019

So another week has gone by in a flash, it’s still hot but slightly cooler with temperatures hovering in the mid to high 20s, it’d be nicer if the temperature was down to around 22°c/23°c as it’s much easier to work in. It seems that we’re never satisfied with the weather we get! Having said all that a week of sub zero would be gladly accepted at the moment just to get rid of the mosquitoes, they seem to multiply by the day both at home and in the work gardens, we all look like we have chicken pox with the number of bites we have! 
Enough of the mozzie moaning, on with my Six on Saturday, as always you can leave a comment or join in here and where it all began at:

Enjoy your weekend.

1) A visitor to the garden who thought sunbathing in the middle of the terrace was a smart idea! He wouldn’t have lasted long with our clodhopping heap of a German Shepherd charging around so after having his photo shoot I moved him to the safety of a flower box.

2) Dahlias, no idea what types I have as all the labels for mine and clients’ went astray in part down to the eldest fraggle when watering but also thanks to the Mistral, all the dahlias in mine and the work gardens have been late to flower but now they’re covered in buds, just as well our good weather lasts for some time yet.

3) Lawn invader! In one of the work gardens where we cut the lawn at least once weekly, often twice, this suddenly appeared approx 7 feet from a flower bed in the middle of the lawn and managed to put this much growth on in under a week (top picture), I dug it out and stuck it in a pot, the bottom is the result three weeks on. Not sure where it came from or if it’ll flower but I had to at least give it a chance.

4) This lot is still blooming like crazy on my terrace, they’ve been in full flower for several months and show no sign of letting up, sheer joy! 

5) This was a stowaway several months ago in one of over a hundred new agapanthus plants I bought for one of the work gardens, it was a tiny little shoot but as I have an innate need to give every plant a chance I popped it into one of my handy dog food trays that I save for small cuttings and seeds with some compost and stuck it on the nursery shelving to see how it would get on, fast forward a few months and it was producing lots and lots of babies! The new babies are now sitting on a cactus/succulent mix in dog food trays so they can gain weight before being transferred into real pots. I don’t know what it is, other than it’s a succulent of some kind.

6) Figs glorious figs, fresh, dried and frozen…
This year has been a brilliant year for figs, I’ve picked and dried at least 10 kilos from various trees, also eaten some fresh or used in cooking, the parcels in the photograph were filled with goat's cheese, onion, figs and local thyme honey. A few have been frozen but freezer space is scarce so I prefer drying, especially as we use so much dried fruit in muesli making. Still some ripening but not as quickly as last month.

That’s my six for the week, looking forward to some time to read what others have had in their gardens this week.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Six on Saturday 28/09/2019

Six on Saturday - 28/09/2019

Since my last Six on Saturday post there has been a huge change (and loss) in the Dizzy house, my beautiful daughter and her OH who have been staying with us for a couple of months since all their belongings headed north back to England finally followed said belongings, taking with them the crazy granddogs and “bump” our future granddaughter who is due in mid December. It’s suddenly very quiet and to say I’m missing them is a huge understatement!
Other than that, the days are much the same, it’s still scorching hot and the gardens are still desperate for their waterings but we have fruits ripening (and being eaten by various bugs), flowers still blooming and a hope that it’ll soon cool down a little as the nights are drawing in and it’s dark by 20.00hrs now.
Anyway, here are my six for this week and if you want to join in pop over to
see what others are posting and contribute yourself, you can also comment and leave a link here.
Hope you enjoy mine this week!

1. A friend in the garden: I startled this poor little guy whilst watering dahlias in pots at work, he jumped from the pot onto my chest, ran down my arm and came to a halt on my hand where he was happy to just sit. My no.2 fraggle is bug and animal mad and was desperate to have him/her on his hand, Monsieur Gecko seemed happy to oblige.
2. Someone is having a feast on this rose! This rose is hidden amongst the agapanthus in one of our work gardens so it tends to get overlooked, but I noticed it had a case of blackspot on it, I took my neem oil in so I could make up a spray only to find that there wasn’t much in the way of leaves left as they had been eaten. I have no idea what’s eating it there aren’t any bugs visible, a gardening friend on Twitter suggested leaf cutter bees, he has a similar nibble pattern on his roses and was lucky enough to get video evidence, but the lack of a visible culprit here is frustrating.

3. Talking of bugs, I don’t mind sharing my fruit, veg. and flowers with the bugs, just as long as they play nice and actually let me enjoy some of the fruits of my labour (pun intended). This year is not one of those where the bugs are playing nice, both the peaches in a client’s garden and the peaches in my garden have been completely ruined and not one has been edible. It makes me so cross, especially after I went to so much effort to successfully prevent peach leaf curl this year, next year I’ll have to think of a bird friendly way of protecting the fruit after pollination; pesticides are a no-no as I garden organically.

4. Campsis Grandiflora (Chinese trumpet vine), Not the best picture but I love this plant and see it everywhere here, I think this one in a client’s garden has been cut back a bit harshly as it was a bare twig when we took the garden on 12 months ago and has struggled to put on any growth, it’s now shooting well and has flowered (sort of) but it needs to be fed, sadly I can’t get to the base of it to feed it as it’s coming up through a wood/iron walkway and I don’t know exactly where under the walkway it is!

5. Ripening fruits, I absolutely love watching the progress of fruit ripening! Pictured are a few of the things currently ripening; limes (other citrus we have are lemons, clementines, oranges and grapefruits, along with a few kumquats as we’ve not long since finished picking those), pomegranates and figs. Lots of the figs have ripened but there are still loads coming.

6. Visitors, these little guys were in my plant pot storage spot under a table in the garden but clearly thought being inside with us (me, my OH, 2 grown up and very noisy fraggles, our very large German Shepherd, my daughter and her OH along with their collie and Rhodesian ridgeback X) and all our noise was a better option. Three dogs and not one showed any inclination to chase or catch them even when they trotted across the floor in broad daylight! 
It took several days of them getting the food I left in the little traps without getting shut in before I finally wedged cheddar at the top of the clip so they had to pull to get any. The first little chap we caught on his own on Saturday night and I stuck bedding, food and water in with him as I knew we weren’t going to the woods where I planned to let him go until Monday morning, I chatted to him when I was in the kitchen and he took food from me quite happily (confirming the OH’s hunch that I am in fact bonkers). On Sunday night the other trap I’d set went off whilst we were watching TV and the other two had gone in together! They too were given bedding, food and water for the night then on Monday morning we took them a few miles away and let them out in the woods so they could find new shelter during daylight hours. I was quite sad to see them go off but on the other hand glad not to have them running riot around the house going through my cupboards. Letting them go some distance away ensured they wouldn’t find their way back.