Saturday, 21 November 2009

Ultramarine Diamond

On a recent visit to the Phillips Collection in Washington, I found myself mesmerized by this painting dated 1967. It was by Jack Youngerman. Was it the depth of colour, the vibrancy, the symmetry, the clean shape? Was it that I saw a wonderful floor to a modern pavilion, a mural, a rill, a grass parterre? Only hours before I had been researching the garden archives at Dumbarton Oaks where so many wonderful ideas were executed to the highest degree.

Checking the Stevington Bees

In May 25,000 bees flew into our garden, just when we had an Open Day. It caused quite a stir! Chris Lewis, our local beekeeper came to the rescue and collected the swarm. He housed it elsewhere for a couple of months and then in August he brought it back with another hive. Now he comes at regular intervals to check them.

So our hive had 25,000 bees to begin with (obviously I took his word for it!) then apparently it grew to 50,000; now its down to 10,000. That's normal apparently, reflecting summer excess and winter poverty of food.

It so happens that I noticed lots of larger bees buzzing around the hives the other day, not going in at all. Apparently the queen chucks the males out at the onset of winter as she doesnot want them eating all the precious honey. Seems a very tough regime to me!

Chris donned his suit, took off the netting and then inspected inside the two hives. The netting apparently is to stop woody woodpecker reaching the honey; he doesnot like putting his feet on the wire so he goes away. Well, if it isn't wasps in Summer, its woodpeckers or badgers in winter; maybe even muntjac deer. The netting went back on, the bricks went on top of the netting and all was well with the hives. Its fingers crossed now that they are still healthy in March. Good job there are no brown bears around!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Stevington Floral Ice Bowls for Visit Bedford

After my Visit Bedford visitors had left, I popped the ice bwols back in the freezer where they might wait for a special occasion...should it be for orange liqueur ice cream, or a chilled soup. The marigold bowl had marigolds, bayleaves, rosehips and rosemary around the sides with juniper berries and pumpkin seeds for good measure. I love it from the inside just as much as from the outside. The rose bowl had little roses, a sprig of lavender and even a few violets. Now I have been asked to do an edible flower demonstration for some American Visitors to Bedford next May from ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). That should be easier than November, but there will be no roses!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Rose Petal Macaroons for Visit Bedford

On Saturday morning we welcomed over 60 representatives of tourist groups from the West Midlands and East Anglia as part of a 'Visit Bedford' weekend. Luckily, it was a beautifully clear, sunny morning and Simon was able to take two tours of the garden, relishing the autumn colours but also bringing in many local historical aspects from Danes to John Bunyan!

My task was to perform an edible flower demonstration....quite a feat for November 7th! I had previosuly frozen some rose petal butter, and also frozen whizzed up rose petals with icing sugar. Now out of the freezer, all I needed to do was add some rose water to make the actual icing. Fortunately lots of tiny roses were still blooming on Rosa 'The Fairy' so, once the cake was assembled and iced, I was able to arrange them all around the pretty plate.

I had a little icing left over, so I put a tiny spot on some rose petal macaroons I had made with rose water, icing sugar, coconut and egg white (they are always a good standby as they are wheat free). Into each tiny spot of icing I placed a rose bud; they looked so gorgeous I could hardly believe we were in November!

I made another plate of them today so that I could take a photo and then gave them to a dear friend whose birthday it was so that she could enjoy a special birthday treat with her grandchildren Poppy and Sam. Apparently they loved them!

I also created a couple of ice bowls with roses, violets and rosemary and another with marigold flowers, bay leaves and berries. Plus some pretty violet flower ice cubes for violet fizz made with violet liqueur (such a heady perfumed drink, its unbelieveable), and tiny rose petal ice cubes to add to rose 'sparklers' made with rose liqueur and Prosecco. Then, I made a full blown Bloody Mary with rosemary ice cubes, each with a sprig of rosemary each holding an exquisite tiny pale blue flower. Needless to say my guests enjoyed tasting them all!

In the afternoon I joined the group at Elstow Abbey where they enjoyed the tales John Bunyan's younger days.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Misty morns and misty cows

We have some wonderful views from the garden looking out into the wider North Bedfordshire landscape where the River Great Ouse, meanders slowly through the rich meadows, where herons swoop and cattle gaze. On a late autumn morning, powerful changes emerge, with misty shrouds and ephemeral cows. Here in the garden, even the fountains are transformed, with vapours rising as dawn breaks. Just click on the photos to enjoy the atmospheric swirls!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Russet reds of autumn

I have been to New England and back, but nowhere were the colours as good as in my own back yard! True I don't have the gorgeous reflections in broad rivers, or tranquil lakes, but here in Old England we do have a super range of foliage tints. Here at Stevington, we have heavy clay soil and so I can never enjoy the rich reds of the maples or American oaks, but gingko and metasequoia certainly come up trumps, the first with their golden lobes and the second with its ferny sprays of orange mixed with shades of pink.