I obviously hope you enjoy browsing through the postings on here - do feel free to leave comments as it's always good to see who's visiting and to hear about other people's experiences - after all you never stop learning do you?

If you've any gardening questions or you live in Brittany and are looking for some gardening help - be it design work, planting or general gardening or you simply would like some advice, please don't hesitate to CONTACT ME or call me on 0033 661 77 23 89 (from UK) or 0661 77 23 89 (from France).

Happy gardening!

Sunday 1 September 2013

Amazing what you find when foraging...

hedgesIt was whilst foraging on the Internet for books when I discovered a complete gem!  It's an absolute must for anyone who has a love of the countryside and who enjoys the excitement of discovering wild food sources.  It's also fabulous if if you want to gain a deeper understanding of the many health benefits that come from plants which are growing wild, even as close as your own front door!  "The Hedgerow Handbook" has been beautifully researched and written by Adele Nozedar.  
It is full of suggestions on how to use plants that in some cases would be easy to overlook - such as  Water Mint -an infusion of this simple plant can be great for settling an upset stomach and relieving symptoms of colds and flu.  Haw berries (from  Hawthorn) - they are full of Vitamin C, so why not try the Haw Syrup recipe for warding off winter colds?  If you're a keen gardener you'll be all too familiar with Ground Elder - after reading this book you can discover a delicious recipe for Ground Elder Pancakes so at least you can put this menacing weed to good use!
I certainly couldn't leave out a mention for the gorgeous illustrations in this book.  It is full of stunning botanical drawings and watercolour paintings by illustrator Lizzie Harper.  For anyone unfamiliar with the plants mentioned in this book, would find them easy to recognise due to the excellent quality of Lizzie's artwork.
It's not often I get moved by opening a new book but this one certainly had that effect - a high quality book in every sense and I hope this review might just encourage you to go and discover it for yourself.  It would make a beautiful present for a  friend; I've just bought this for my best friend who recently celebrated her 50th Birthday and she was thrilled to receive this; it reminded her of all the camping holidays we went on when we were younger when gathering up things from the hedgerows to have for our supper!
This book is available on Amazon ... click on the link to order your copy!
Foraging in the hedgerows for wild food is not only a wonderful escape from the business of everyday life that consumes us all but it never ceases to amaze me as to how much natural and nutritious food sources can be discovered in your average hedge (for free!).  
Only today I've been out gathering up a number of kilos of brambles... the wafts of bramble and apple coming up the stairs as I type are wonderful and very reminiscent of my own childhood. 
Whilst I noticed the large quantities of rose hips which are around this year, so with a bit of time they'll ripen up and I will look forward to making some rose hip syrup - you'll find a recipe for this too in the Hedgerow Handbook.

The Sloes are also in abundance this year - found in Blackthorn bushes.  If you've never made Sloe Gin before, you can find a recipe for this along with another for Steamy Sloe Gin, Caramelised Apple and Sloe Pudding - sounds fantastic for a cold autumn evening in front of the fire!

Be inspired and get outside to discover the hedgerows for yourself!  Not only full of food waiting to be foraged but the hedgerows themselves provide an abundance of habitats for wildlife.

Many thanks Adele for writing such a fantastic book and to Lizzie for her fabulous illustrations!

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Blue Tit babies in abundance!

I just had to share these rather cute pictures taken this morning from our bedroom window... we have a wild garden bursting with plant life - there is some formality about the planting but lots of informality too!  Beyond the main garden is about half an acre of woodland - mainly Oak trees and Hazel with a stream running along the bottom.  This is great for attracting all variety of wildlife.

This is one of my favorite photos... this little chap doesn't look too happy that Mum or Dad has flown off!  Looks like the parent made a hasty departure!

We started off as I posted a week or two ago now losing two families of Blue and Great Tits from the nest boxes - down to hungry Great Spotted Woodpeckers but since then there has been an abundance of fledged Blue Tits in particular (also some Great Tit babies)... they've been getting quite bold now coming as far as the dead Fennel stems from last year and waiting there till Mum comes back with beakfuls of fat ball from the bird table!

They aren't the only birds feeding from the feeders and bird table - we've had Blackbirds, Robins, Sparrows, Gold Finches, Green Finch and even Magpies coming to feed which I've never in 10 years seen at this time of year... food must be a bit short!

The other v. exciting news is that I've discovered two other regular visitors to our garden recently - a pair of hedgehogs which are the first ones in 3 years... watch this space.

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Bees & Blooms in Brittany...

Some good news this end is that there have been numerous fledged Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long Tailed Tits appearing this week which has kind of made up for the horrors of my previous posting. I found some off-cuts from decking squares which seem to have made ideal material for re-cladding my nest boxes with - judging by the difficulty I had banging in the nails! I'm hoping that this should deter the Woodpeckers in the future... time will tell I guess.

It was great to see such glorious weather return here at the weekend and all the bees were out in abundance... and many flowers coming into bloom which have stayed in bud for much longer this year than previously due to the colder start... not sure they need much introducing... so hope you enjoy the photos I've taken, and hoping that good weather is with you also wherever you are in the world when you read this..
An interesting observation this end is the distinct lack of butterflies at the moment - we've quite a number of the Speckled Wood and the little Blue butterflies but not a great deal else... have other people found this too?
Whilst watching Chelsea Flower this year I learnt something new which I'd never noticed before... Chris Beardshaw talking about the name of Columbine given to Aqualegia (that bit I did know) but that Columbine infact means dove... if you look at the top of an Aqualegia flower it is like five doves all coming together - quite beautiful!  This is easier to see in some forms of this flower than others.
The bees infact take the nectar from the top of the flower as opposed to going inside as with others...


I'm not going to profess to be an expert on bees but much enjoyed the variety of bees that I photographed on the various clumps of Chives we have in the veg garden!  If anyone can tell me more about the species of bees shown here I'd be very appreciative!

What I've tried to show in these photos of the plants in our own garden is the variety that can be grown that really benefit not only bees but insects too!
This was a Foxglove which I grew from seed - bought from Nicky's Seeds - it's taken a couple of years to come into flower from sowing but worth the wait!

The Geranium Phaeum varieties we have in our garden are fantastic for bees - especially with their open blooms offering easy access to pollen.

These wonderful Wood Poppies - Stylophorum diphyllum are great for the honey bees - notice the heavily laden pollen sac on this one!

The poppies are also a real favorite for the honey bees - this variety "Patty's Plum" is a beautiful colour!

An interesting observation here in Brittany is the distinct lack of butterflies at the moment - we've quite a number of the Speckled Wood and the little Blue butterflies but not a great deal else... have other people found this too?    Enjoy the rest of the week... lots to do outside this week before we get thunderstorms forecast on Thursday and over the weekend :-(