Archive for the ‘Plants Herbs and Pots’ Category

Betty Teapot nester - Robin Brown

Although the British weather is, as always, four seasons in one day, our feathered friends are on their annual hunt for nesting sites. For all those tea lovers out there, this Betty tea pot is just the perfect nesting option – it comes with pre drilled holes, and you can find it at the splendid shop ” The worm that turned”. I can think of no better alternative use for a teapot this spring.


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For those of you familiar with the film “The Quiet Man”, you’ll recall the scene when Mary Kate, in her very practical Irish manner, chastises Sean for not growing a cabbage or a potato in the garden of their new home.

But no, Sean was creating the rose garden his mother described, when she dreamed of her Irish birth place from all that distance in Pittsburg, after their immigration to America. Sean wish was to recreate that place his mother had described and still yearned for, the land her heart belonged to.

Tea with Mary Kate has reached a happy compromise in her Kitchen Garden this year

Alongside the onion’s and potatoes, Dahlia’s and Mollucella are happily thriving with the herbs, the kitchen garden providing a supply of both vegetables and flowers, the practical and the aesthetic.

But do remember to take time for a lovely cup of tea

A picnic in the kitchen garden is a wonderful experience, it is just like being on holiday. Flasks of hot water, or a small gas stove to boil water for that all important cup of tea between weeding and digging, just splendid!

Blackfly 3: Ladybirds 0 – An almost disaster with the broad beans!

Organic principles are a guiding force in the kitchen garden. There is a tension here though – my darling other half is all for getting the chemicals out, and I laughed out loud at his football analogy for the broad beans. Of course, he is right but I am trying not to admit it – not since I accidently ran into our resident nest of young beautiful mistle thrushes. They have after all eaten all the snails, the graveyard of shells provide the evidence, and it seems to me a few black flies are a small compensation to see them happily bouncing along.

Back at our old allotment, one of the old boy’s mentioned that to get rid of blackfly, you take off the top part of the plant . I thought he must be joking, playing a trick to see if I actually do it, how an earth is that going to work? But I was desperate, and needs must – and it turned out to be an absolutely top tip! I still have no idea how it works – all I know is that it does, and I hoping it is going to work its magic again. As a bonus though, I do have a rapidly growing ladybird population!

Simple and effective idea to maximise Space with growing Runner Bean’s

Planting the runner beans across the at gap at the end of the rows has meant that instead of using valuable space in the raised beds, it has used only a fraction of the raised bed, with the added bonus of an attractive arbour over the path, can you tell I am quite pleased with it?!

Dare I mention Christmas in July?

I know, it is shocking – it is only July I hear you cry! The strawberries bushes are still in full production……The reason I will beg your forgiveness  for this premature mention is now is the time to plant your festive sprouts. I have planted nasturtiums and marigolds for summer colour –  and as an attempt to keep the kitchen garden organic so that we can have our very own spouts at Christmas

Tea with Mary Kate’s new favourite mint – Basil Mint

A few leaves of this variety steeped in hot water produce a lovely refreshing, minty brew.

Tea With Mary Kate is inspired to Grow your own

Fresh salad, crisp radish, courgettes that you know have never been touched chemicals, all ready to be picked straight from your garden direct to your plate. Weeding and watering the kitchen garden, surrounded by the lush growth and bright flowers, the smell of the earth always transports me back to my grandfathers garden, his patience and attention, the warmth in the green house enhancing the distinctive smell of geraniums, neat pots all organised in rows.

Tea with Mary Kate seeks to highlight the seemingly ordinary events in life, and highlight them for the special moments they are. Feeling the earth between your fingers, watching the kitchen garden grow, taking time for tea are all precious times that allow us to connect, time actually feels like it slows, moments that can encourage us to live life to the full every day, every interaction is important. As someone mentioned to me recently, life is so very precious, do live it.

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It’s such a perfect day! Having arrived in some splendour aboard the Northern Belle, the RHS flower show at Chelsea is more than a fitting destination, but how to see it all?! Here are a few of Tea with Mary Kate’s favourite things:

Favourite Stand in the Great Pavilion – Sweet Tea Cafe

I confess to never having heard of Heucheras, but I just fell in love with them, and absolutely adored this stand. I’m reliably informed by Jooles, a self confessed heucheraholic, that the inspiration for the Sweet tea cafe theme came from the names of the varieties – and with names like creme brulee, vanilla spice, strawberry swirl, key lime pie cappuccino, chocolate ruffles, tiramisu, it’s easy to understand why! Of course how could Tea with Mary Kate resist the wonderful green shed and amazing purple tea cups!

These pretty plants are great for shade, and with such diversity of form. Rather worryingly, I am beginning to understand the obsession – Geisha’s fan and blackberry jam just two more gorgeous names for equally gorgeous plants.

Favourite Dragon

The first sight that greeted me at the RHS flower show in Cardiff was an amazing Red dragon, aptly surrounded by the turrets of Cardiff Castle, and I was delighted to find Dragonswood Forge, at Chelsea too. These amazing dragons are designed and created by the blacksmith Neil Lossock. You can see his screens with fern patterns seared through them just behind the dragon, really very clever too. Neil has also made an amazing mechanical water fountain, which as the tuberous flower fill and tip their water, makes a magical bell like sound against the mushroom shaped bells below – just wonderfully creative!

Favorite Practical Gardening Item

Nutscene, gorgeous, practical twine, manufactured in Angus, Scotland. In business since 1922, it has a rather cleaver patented lock tie spool so you never have to get into a knot with garden twine again – and the lovely bit – they are in gorgeous colours – lilac is a personal favourite.

After having read all about the businesss in Country Living magazine, it was an absolute pleasure to meet its inspiring and enthusiastic  managing director Shona Young, who welcomed me into their stall. There was a lovely British flag made out of the round ends of twine. Sadly readers, I neglected to take a photograph, as literally, I stood in front of the stand unable to move, bedazzled by the array of beautiful and practical products. Shona assures me they’ll have the Saltaire when they are back in Scotland! Quite frankly, I was like a child in a sweet shop, I barely knew what to choose, but I plumed for the Tins of twine, with its recyclable authentic vintage label redrawn from the Nutscene archives, just perfect!

Favourite Leaf Tea

Tregothnan – Beautiful tins of leaf tea, grown at the Cornish estate – and who could resist the wonderful giant red teapot!

Favourite  Willow Sculpture

Tom Hares “Tree of Knowledge” skillfully crafted from greenwood willow, is fabulous! The personal pledges to support biodiversity (ensuring that we keep both common and rare species of everything, not only plants!) hug on copper leaves were poignant and very thought provoking, the whole idea really for RHS support for UNs international year of biodiverity.

Favourite Ethical Business

Zimbolic – Jonathan is so passionate about what he does, it is truly humbling. Designs are crafted from recycled oil drums, giving stable employment in Zimbabwe, while creating these beautiful garden ornaments. I adored these wonderful  hogs on the hill, looking quite at home at Chelsea.

Favourite Cottage plant

Blackmore & Langdon’s gorgeous majestic Delphiniums

Favourite Inspiring Idea

Garden organic Heritage seed Library the UKs leading organic growing charity, committed to conserving varieties of vegetables that would otherwise have disappeared – I loved the red flowered broad bean, and my one pot pledge is to grow my courgette organically (Ok, so I already grow everything organically, even though last years cauliflower crop was eaten by caterpillars, it means lots of beautiful butterflies and healthy birds!)

Favourite Moment

………….in the floral marque suddenly hitting HW Hyde’s wall of amazing lily fragrance, breathtaking!

Just like the Chelsea flower Show. If you have never been, promise yourself a visit, it’s an inspiring day out, full of idea’s for your own gardens, absolutely gorgeous plants, all in the grounds of Chelsea hospital, London.

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Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always To be Blest.

So wrote Alexander Pope as long ago as 1733. I believe hope is one of the most precious gifts – it can lift us at our darkest moments, it can sustain us, allow us to believe, to continue. Without it, we are utterly lost. I’m not saying that we never lose our way, and sometimes we wonder where hope has disappeared to. What is critical though is to know how to get it back for you.

It may be a great triumph over adversity, it may be the sun on a beautiful day, it may be making the start of a small plan for whatever project you are interested in, it may be seeing that first snowdrop, or receiving a beautiful bouquet……whatever it is, hold onto it, as it is more precious than you can ever know.

I was completely enthralled by the gift of this beautiful spring bouquet

The captivating scent of Blue Hyacinths with the fragrant addition of eucalyptus, blue thistles that resonated with my Scottish leanings, with just a perfect amount of white alstromeria and spider chrysanthemum to capture the essence of spring, all hand tied with a cream satin ribbon and wrapped in power blue tissue.  I adored it completely.

What enthralled me too was the consideration and thoughtfulness that had been employed to create such a ccompletely unanticipated gift – the surprise of it was all the more pleasurable, as there was no expectation, no preparedness for a particular response.

The gift of this bouquet was such a ray of sunshine, a delight, not only in its intrinsic beauty but as a gift in the expression of art in its creation. It was perfectly made for me. The shining knight is sometimes unable to solve everything on the white charger, a wish may not granted but you can always hold onto your inspiration for hope. My wish is that it motivates you to delightfully surprise someone close to you too.

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Delicate snowdrops herald the start of spring

Spring feels finally like it has finally sprung after what has been a long and hard winter. The snowdrops are braving their beautiful heads into the brighter and brighter sun. I love the spring, the light after the dark, everything is fresh and green, full of hope & possibility. It also could be the time to create something rather special – your very own beautiful and productive kitchen garden.

Spring has sprung

Although much has been written on the practicality of growing your own, the reality of a kitchen garden can be overwhelming. I believe this is why many would love the idea of a beautiful kitchen garden but very few act. So here are a few useful pointers to guide your way, with more to follow as the season progresses. Of course, this creation takes time and patience but March and April is the time  to take action!

Environmentally friendly Pots for nurturing your seedlings

Growing seeds has a few simple but critical requirements. Warmth and water of course but essential is sufficient light to ensure the first shoots are not etiolated (all pale, yellow and elongated).  Get that first stage right and the rest is pretty much plain sailing. I love these gorgeous wooden paper pot makers from Cox & Cox, a creative, practical, beautiful, and totally environmentally friendly way of potting up your new and precious seedlings.

Beautiful and practical paper pot maker

Inspiration for growing your very own fresh edible favourite vegetables

Salad is another easy and great crop to grow.  Last year, I used my beautiful Victorian cloche from Crocus, an inspiring gardeners web site. This allowed me to start crops early in the season and effectively monitor the slug situation, as I’m a total organic aficionado. Once you have  had the joy of stepping outside and cutting your lettuce that is minutes later served on your plate, you’ll never be able to taste another leaf without reference to that freshness. Yes, you are utterly spoilt after that experience but the economics of doing it this way are also pretty compelling. All that’s needed is a small area, even a window box, and you can have fresh salad all summer for next to nothing.  You’ll be able to buy seed from many garden centers but my choice this year is from the excellent Sarah Raven with her wonderful vegetable seed collections, and really great practical advise on what to do.

Growing your own can be both wonderfully aesthetic as well as producing a fresh crop of gorgeous vegetables

Beautiful and practical Victorian Cloche

Connecting to the knowledge of the past – your own Kitchen Garden is your own small haven of tranquility

I remember being asked to sign for my allotment in which I planned and created my kitchen garden. When the book was produced, it looked really rather scruffy. The pages were creased and a bit worn, the front of the book a little threadbare. I then  put my signature at the bottom of a long list for plot 14, and noticed that the first signature was dated 14th May 1895. After that, I revised my opinion of the book – it had been kept and cherished in that village parish for over a 100 years. It was wonderful to be part of that.

I confess that it took quire a bit of work to clear the site. I decided that raised beds would be the way forward for optimum production and minimal management. Start small, with a few simple crops. Keep your enthusiasm going by imagining  just stepping outside your door to your very own favourite fruit and vegetables, into a kitchen garden of your own. It’s actually quite like being on holiday, a day out, with a flask of hot water to make tea and a picnic basket full of wholesome goodies to keep you going while you are digging and planting. My advice is to grow what you love to eat, as you’ll have plenty of it from even a little plot.

My wonderful kitchen garden

Growing your own food allows you to witness the time and skill that it takes to produce it.

My wish for this blog is that you are inspired to start your own kitchen garden, even on a small scale. Feeling the earth in your hands and looking out for the weather takes you beyond yourself to ensure your latest plantings will survive. Nurturing a garden connects you to the world in a way that is unique and inspiring. The fresh air, the physical enterprise, and community, especially of the allotment, are wonderfully connecting and healing. Give yourself the time to watch things grow. The slower pace of the garden takes you with it and you are the better for it.

Sean and Mary Kate debate whether it is potatoes or roses

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