Archive for August, 2007

10
Aug
07

Lavender

Lavender is one of my favorite plants. The blossoms smell deliciously, attracting bees and butterflies throughout the summer. Thus it fills gaps between roses and other bright flowers, underlining their beauty. Even in winter the silvery leaves of the small bushes enlighten the otherwise drab and dull garden. The essential oils it contains are said to keep aphids off roses, however the aphids in my garden unfortunately don’t believe in this tale. To keep those little (plant) bloodsuckers under control, I have to rely on ladybirds.

Lavender needs to be cut regularly, otherwise only the bare wooden branches will remain with hardly any flowers. Usually I cut the plants twice a year, first in early spring when there is no danger of hard frosts anymore, and second in midsummer, after the first bloom has worn off. To encourage fresh growth, I cut as far into the wood as possible, however there should always be at least one fresh bud. If you cut too deeply, the branch may die off, which can eventually lead to the end of the complete plant. In order to grow fresh plants, I simply stick the cut-off stubs into a bit of moist soil and forget about them until they have grown roots. If the weather is not too dry, about half of these cutlings make it. Actually I enjoy pruning lavender. The scent sticks on hands and arms for quite some time, and you don’t really want to lose it by taking a shower ….

In fact, there is another — easy — way of saving some of the scent for all the long lavenderless months: drying. For this I cut the buds (late morning is the best time), bind them together, hang them up and let them dry in an airy place. These can be used in dried flowers bouquets, for decorating greeting cards or presents or for little lavender pillows that are placed in the wardrobe to give a fresh scent to your clothes.

07
Aug
07

Mice

This year has been a good one for mice. I can see them running through the flower beds in the middle of the day. My son said he even heard one scratching right under his window sill.
As his room is upstairs, they must have managed to creep up the walls
within the insulation. One family is occupying my compost, which has split at one side, so when we dispose garden waste there, we can see the youngsters buzzing around. And another family has dug their hole in the middle of my green beans. First I thought it was the slugs being responsible for those sad almost leaf- and fruitless plants. But then I saw leaves and beans being dragged down the hole! Even though I don’t mind the odd guest in my garden nibbling away at one or the other plant — this was too much. I’ve taken down the mousetraps from the attic and placed them in between the beans hoping if not to catch, then at least to scare away those grey little monsters.
By the way, the falcons who live in the church tower of our village have managed to raise four chicks this summer — at least it said so in the news. I’d love to invite them into my garden, if I only knew how.

06
Aug
07

Holy Shrub

Ever since my three hawthorn bushes have grown from tiny seedlings to a massive part of my wild hedge, I have understood why this plant used to be sacred. Not because of its value as a drug for heart diseases and all other sorts of illnesses (in Germany the flowers are still used in teas against low blood pressure; and some people make jam from the berries which contain quite a bit of vitamin C — although I have never bothered with that). The true reason for our ancestors venerating hawthorn trees is that anybody who gets too close is punished immediately by long sharp thorns hidden between the leaves (so there must be some powerful god in there — at least that’s my personal opinion).
Even though that part of the hedge is left pretty much to itself, once a year I need to cut the hawthorn so that the neighbouring haw tree and the buddleia have some room to breathe. This is one of the rare occasions that I wear garden gloves, although I still haven’t found any that keep off the thorns successfully. Even the thick leather ones from my husband are pierced through so that when work is done I have to operate the remnants out of my hands with a pin — a fairly painful procedure.
Nevertheless I wouldn’t want to miss this shrub in my garden. As their nest is well protected within the thorns, a pair of whitetroats breed there regularly. I also love the intensive smell of the cream-coloured flours in May as well as the bright red berries in September.

02
Aug
07

Potatoes

In German we have a saying “Der dümmste Bauer erntet die dicksten Kartoffeln” (The thickest farmer gets the biggest potatoes — meaning that intelligence isn’t necessarily needed to be lucky or successful). As can be seen from the picture, I don’t qualify, which is not much of a consolation. I had really been looking forward to a neat crop of these beautiful rose-coloured potatoes, however, spring was too dry and both June and July too wet, so that only this sorry little heap could be dug out.

kartoffeln07-1.jpg

At least there is enough of them for a few meals. My favourite is roasting them in the oven with sesame seeds. For this I grease a baking tray, then spread it with sesame seeds, salt and pepper. The scrubbed and halved potatoes are then stuck upside down on the seeds and then baked for about half an hour at 200°C. Served with sour cream — delicious.