Who would have thought to see a rural craft in action on the way home from a shopping trip to Croydon. I was more than surprised recently to see, from the bus, a house roof being thatched. I just had to go back later with the camera.
The thatched roof, once in common usage all over the UK, was replaced in the 19th century by Welsh slate a cheaper form of roofing. Today thatched roofs have become something to be sought after – by those wanting something fairly unique in their area and very eco-friendly. Not for the average pocket however.
As a gardener I wanted to know what plants were used in thatching. Seems there are three commonly used types of grasses –
Norfolk Reed (Water Reed, Marsh Reed, Continental Reed) is the most popular as it has a long lifespan and is the least labour intensive to prepare.
Combed Wheat Straw (Devon Reed) takes longer to prepare and has a shorter lifespan so is less popular than the above. Probably the oldest type of thatching material used.
Long Straw – Very labour intensive in preparation with relatively short lifespan. However this type of thatching material gives that “tea cosy” look. Suitable for older or historic homes.
Autumn tilt, is the astronomical start of autumn, marked by the earth’s tilt and the sun’s position in the sky for us in the northern hemisphere (opposite season in the southern hemisphere.) The date always varies by a couple of days, this year it was 23 September. Autumn will last for us until the winter solstice on December 21 or 22. A solstice, there are two each year, indicates the sun has reached its most northerly or southerly point relative to the equator. The seasons of the year are determined by reference to both the solstices and the equinoxes.
It was around Easter time this year I saw several articles heralding the return into fashion of the rockery based on the increased sales that garden centres were reporting of boulder sized rocks. Rockeries were being marketed as low maintenance.
I have always fancied having a rockery. Some years ago when a neighbour dug up an old path I asked for the broken rocks and cement and I thought I’d try out a bargain basement rockery to see how I got on. Obviously, there’s no real substitute for boulders of real stone. Sadly, my bargain stones are still reclining where I left them – one of several things I haven’t got around to yet in my garden.
I’ve often said in this blog how important I think it is to display plants to their advantage and if you like alpine plants, as I do, a rockery offers a great home for them. I think a rockery might also be a good way to display small succulents – we get a lot of these plants on sale at this time of year and I think they’re gorgeous but, I suspect, not easy to display – a problem with most small plants that don’t reach eye level. So I think a rockery might be a very desirable addition for next Spring. Low-maintenance? Hmmmm. Not sure about that.
It seems hard to believe but it is no more than a handful of weeks ago we enjoyed some days of sweltering, tropical heat. On one of those days I chose to revisit Eltham Palace and I did so because I knew I could spend time hanging around the cool of the watery moat which, for some reason, I had completely missed on the previous visit. The palace grounds are beautiful and timeless – I half-expected Henry VIII and the court to come around the corner at any moment. He spent a great part of his boyhood growing up at Eltham Palace, then a very popular palace but then later replaced by Greenwich Palace in popularity.
I found many other people lounging around the shallowish, fish-filled moat probably also because of the heat. The very large fish, each one as long as your arm from elbow to fingertip and twice as fat, would swim up and stare back at you as you bent over at the water’s edge staring at them – more interested in food than the people I would guess. They were dark brown in colour but several had golden scales along their backs that flashed in the sunshine.
I saw the house on my last visit, stunning and not to be missed particularly if you are a fan of Art Deco. This time I wanted to focus on the gardens. Eltham Palace is a series of buildings rather than just one and it is tricky to get a whole view of it from the gardens, you get glimpses every now and then. Admission is on the expensive side but there were lots of very pleasant staff on hand to help visitors, places to eat and drink and a well-stocked gift and card shop. It is now closed for the winter.
As usual people were enjoying the great weather, children were climbing trees, picnics were being spread out and eaten and then people stretched out and went to sleep. I spent most of my visit “hugging” the moat because of the heat but there is plenty of estate-type land to walk around – peaceful lawns with very mature trees – plus gardens with herbaceous borders and a rose garden and the new rockery I mentioned above.
Not only people were struggling with the temperature – and they weren’t the ones wearing fur coats. This lovely creature, who maybe chose this path for the patch of deep shade, doesn’t look too happy as it was also the main route to the visitor centre and he/she had hundreds of people clattering past with their children and picnic baskets.
At the Allotment
As ever the annual harvest differs quality wise from one year to the next. This year myself and other plotholders have had pale coloured sweet corn but still good to eat. The cobs are on the small side. Some on our site have had good yields. Mine was fine but as I write this I am still waiting for some to fully ripen.
Courgettes were over-abundant early in the year. Next year I’ll probably sow in two batches early and late to combat the glut but, who knows, every year is entirely different. Sometimes I am so relieved not to be a farmer. I roasted and froze the courgette glut weeks ago and I can use this as a base for soup or pasta dishes.
French beans have been super-abundant. Cosse Violette do very well on my plot but I must find something other than Neckargold for yellow French beans as they are not evenly productive in our conditions. Runner beans took an unusually long time to get going but then were pretty productive.
As mentioned in earlier posts onions grown from seed have proved to be the best onions I have ever grown, thanks to the advice from Gardening Which.
The apple tree that saw light and sunshine for the first time in years (thanks to clearance of the railway section backing onto my plot) gave a great harvest of pounds and pounds of dessert apples. Never before had a crop like it from that tree.
The leek crop was also excellent and I have discovered a delicious recipe – see below – for leek and apple bake using dessert apples – I did however increase the apples and leeks to five of each.
A couple of days ago we had a deluge (country wide I think) and good job, the soil was dry far deeper down than I have ever seen before. Soft damp soil also makes the end of season clearance much easier.
Very good crop of Bramley’s Seedlings cooking apples but here again – new experience – some dried out and rotted on the branches.
I made a kilo plus of Piccallili and pickled roughly the same amount of cucumbers. I also made Apple, Ginger and Cinnamon jelly. I am also going to attempt Medlar cheese and Medlar jelly.
Home made garden potions
Don’t miss the recipe kindly sent to me you will find in the comments section at the very end of my previous post. Use with fungal problems like mildew. If we continue to have dry summers we can expect more mildew to tackle – at least one variety of it.
In my own garden I am still painting up my planters and I must get that finished before the cold weather sets in, that plus countless other tidy up jobs. Better get going. Bye for now – don’t forget to get in touch with any gardening ideas, queries or comments – would love to hear from you.