Blackcurrant recipe – Tarte aux cassis

Earlier this month I visited the Hampton Court flower show, which reminded me of the time I won some tickets to the show – along with a rather nice goody bag – entering a recipe competition in Good Housekeeping magazine. If you remember the perfume Anaïs Anaïs, they wanted recipes that captured the main fragrance notes of blackcurrant, orange and rose. Blackcurrants are in abundance in our garden right now so it was a good time to dig out the recipe (which daughter #1 says is one of her favourites of my bakes).

If you have fresh blackcurrants to use – rather than tinned, as suggested in the recipe – you’ll need to gently stew them first. Rinse around 400g of blackcurrants, making sure you’ve removed any stalks, then pop them into a large stainless steel pan with about 3 tablespoons of caster sugar and about the same tablespoons of water. Bring to the boil – keep an eye on them, don’t let them burn – then lower the heat and stew for 5 or so minutes until the skins are popping and they start to release juice. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, here are some blackcurrants being picked in the kitchen garden of River Cottage HQ this week:

blackcurrants being picked at river cottage garden axminster

Tarte aux Cassis

For the pastry:

115g (4 oz) plain flour

70g (2 1/2 oz) butter

40g (1 1/2 oz) caster sugar

zest of 1 orange

1 egg yolk

 

For the filling:

400g blackcurrant fruit filling (tinned or freshly stewed)

115g (4 oz) butter

115g (4 oz) light brown sugar

115g (4 oz) ground almonds

1 tsp either rosewater or orange essence

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

icing sugar, to dust

 

8″ loose-bottomed flan case, greased lightly

Preheat oven to 160C

tarte aux cassis blackcurrant tart recipe by julie skelton food photographer surrey

  1. To make the pastry, put butter, flour, caster sugar and orange zest into a large bowl and beat together (I use my Kitchen Aid).
  2. Add the egg yolk, mixing again to bind the pastry together. Leave the dough to rest in the fridge for half an hour.
  3. Lightly flour the work surface and roll the pastry out to fit the greased flan tin.**Confession: I find very short pastry pretty tricky to work in summer, so actually there’s no harm in adding your pastry dough to the tin and then pressing it in with the back of a large metal spoon – still use a bit of flour to stop it sticking. It saves having to patch lots of holes in your rolled pastry and, as long as you’ve lightly greased into the fluted edges of a loose-bottomed tin, you’ll have no trouble getting it out afterwards**
  4. Trim the pastry, use baking beans if you have them, and bake blind for 10 minutes at 160C.
  5. When you have removed the pastry case from the oven, fill with the blackcurrant filling.
  6. For the topping, melt the butter in a small saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, ground almonds and your choice of flavouring (my original recipe stated rosewater, but the flavour may be too delicate to hold against the blackcurrants. Try orange essence if you’d rather, or maybe save the rosewater and mix with some good crème fraîche when it’s ready to serve). Add the lightly beaten eggs and mix well. Pour the almond mixture over the blackcurrants. Aim to seal the fruit filling inside completely.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes at 160C, or until golden and risen.
  8. Allow to cool before removing from the baking tin. Serve dusted with icing sugar and some crème fraîche.

blackcurrant tart like bakewellhome grown blackcurrants food photographer garden photography surrey

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Orkney Folk Festival

Last month I took a trip to the Orkney Folk Festival with my violin-playing eldest, for a musical long weekend. Orkney is somewhere I first visited as an 11-year old on a school trip – we ate a lot of Smash instant mashed potato and somehow managed to get sunburnt off the north coast of Scotland… There was no Smash this time and definitely not any sunburn weather, but my goodness it was memorable.

Orkney Folk Festival is in its 37th year and has gone from strength to strength – I first stumbled into a gig there many years ago, and since then the committee have managed to attract world-class acts from across the globe, performing at multiple venues throughout the islands. Stromness, though, is really the home of the Folk Festival, with the town hall and community centre hosting a great number of events over the four days.

hills of hoy seen over stromness harbour orkney

I like the upstairs window here displaying what my family would refer to as a pair of ‘wally dugs’…

wally dugs in a window of a colourful stromness street orkneycottages behind stromness museum orkney harbourstreets of stromness orkney scotland

The pubs of Stromness buzz with music every day as bands and instrumentalists host sessions for all-comers to join in.

coig in session at orkney folk festivalbenedict morris performs at the community centre orkney folk festival 2019

The community centre was transformed completely into an atmospheric club with table service and a bar menu that included amazing homemade pies, special Kirkjuvagr ‘Orkney Foy’ Folk Festival gin, and local ale.

coig from cape breton perform at orkney folk festival stromness community centrecape breton's coig orkney folk festivalmain street stromness orkneygraham place stromness colourful houses orkney main street stromness during orkney folk festival as audience heads to an evening gigryan young violin and jenn butterworth guitar orkney folk festival 2019orkney session swanky brewery ale folk festival stromness community centrepies and gin at the folk festival club stromness orkney cape breton's coig perform at orkney folk festival 2019the ring of brodgar standing stones orkney on a rainy day

Robin Barr (below) was a violin tutor, who – to mark his 70th year – embarked on climbing 7 Orkney hills and composing 7 fiddle tunes to play on each of the summits.

robin barr fit as a fiddle talk orkney folk festival 2019

The ‘Between Islands‘ collaboration showcased music from the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, to present their common heritage as well as their unique differences.

julie fowlis kathleen macinnes jenny keldie saltfishforty perform at between islands orkney 2019

My fiddle-playing daughter (left) was able to hire an instrument thanks to the fantastic Reel Life Foundation in Kirkwall, and was thrilled to be able to join in on a session with Dermot Byrne, Éamonn Coyne and John Doyle

orkney folk festival pub session evening

…as well as Sunday’s Fiddler’s Rally at Stromness Academy.

Some images of capital Kirkwall’s 12th century St Magnus Cathedral. It is awe-inspiring – striped layers of red and yellow sandstone that have stood through hundreds of years. Founded as a resting place for the relics of St Magnus, and at that point under the Norwegian archbishop of Trondheim, the Norwegian connection is strong. My family tree traces ancestors who had settled in Orkney from Norway, so this historical richness of Orkney is fascinating to me.

st magnus cathedral orkney kirkwallstriped sandstone at the doorway of 12th century st magnus cathedralst magnus cathedral interior kirkwallview of st magnus cathedral kirkwall from orkney librarythe poozies orkney folk festival 2019

The Folk Festival really does offer a welcome to all – not just to listen, but to participate. This community choir had downloaded music online to learn at home, and met together for the first time on the morning of the day that they performed several times for the public. Here’s their first set of songs outside the Stromness Museum.

Experimental trio Lau create their music not just with traditional instruments and voice, but with ‘Morag’ the sound machine which is programmed – by all three – to deliver the sort of other-worldly accompaniment that makes their gigs stand out.

Before we left, we had a spare morning to pay a visit to the neolithic village of Skara Brae – uncovered from the grassy dunes during a storm in 1850, and so beautifully preserved due to the stone (rather than wooden) construction.

Another historical site that fascinates me is the chapel built by Italian POWs during the Second World War, when they were constructing sea barriers as part of the naval defence. The construction workers, housed in Nissen huts here, had more freedom than many prisoners and were paid for their labour. They requested a place to worship, and were granted permission to construct it themselves, from the materials that were available to them and the skills they had. The resulting church, from scavenged materials and with intricate paintwork, is testament to both their faith and their artistry.

Sunrise over Stromness Harbour and the hills of Hoy from our accommodation, on the morning of packing up to leave.

And home via a stopover at the best city in the world – do you recognise it, its most famous landmark reflected in the window of my favourite gelato shop?!

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  • Kat - Gorgeous collection of images. I’m definitely putting the folk festival on my must visit list. ReplyCancel

  • Jo Koszel -  Brilliant images, Julie. You have taken me back to the Festival and captured the magic – thank you!ReplyCancel

BBC Gardeners’ World Live

The twin summer shows of BBC Gardeners’ World Live and BBC Good Food have been in full swing over the last four days, at the NEC in Birmingham. I was invited to photograph a preview of the exhibition gardens, as well as the awards ceremony, prior to the show opening to the public earlier this week. There was some fantastic inspiration in planting ideas and layout to take away – but the fact that the gardens were completed in time, and to such an exceptional standard, was a huge credit to the gardeners and landscapers who had to work through some of the most atrocious weather in the preceding days.

You can watch the Gardeners’ World round-up of the show here, and I have some more glimpses of the corners that drew my eye while I was there.

Award-winning garden designer Alexandra Froggatt won Platinum, and Best in Show, for her exquisite Watchmaker’s Garden. Based on Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter of the late 1800s, and including loaned antique watch parts laid out on the workbench, it was an inspired nostalgic mix of vegetable allotment and dahlia border that many of us remember grandparents aspiring to – and now very much the self-sustaining goal of today’s gardeners, as well. The fact that the dahlias, self-seeded native plants, and heirloom and heritage vegetables were in such perfect condition, only added to the charm. Many of us were drawn back several times for another look around.

watchmakers garden alexandra froggatt gardeners world live 2019details of native and self-seeding flowers in the watchmakers garden birmingham necvegetable and dahlia plot with reclaimed materialsself seeded wildflowers and native flowers in a corner of the watchmakers gardenwatchmakers garden birmingham necallotment vegetables in trug gardeners world liveheritage and heirloom vegetables in rows

Reclaimed materials and a handpainted sign were eye-catching features of the Watchmaker’s Garden.

indoor details from the watchmakers garden including antique parts to represent birmingham's jewellery quarterindoor details of watchmakers work bench at birmingham nec gardeners world livereclaimed materials and native self seeding plants at BBC gardeners world live

Garden designer Alexandra Froggatt with her Platinum-winning ‘The Watchmaker’s Garden’.

garden designer alexandra froggatt with her award-winning watchmakers garden at bbc gardeners world live 2019

dahlias and vegetables allotment details of dahlia border on allotment with reclaimed materialsnative flowers and heritage vegetables for mixed planting at gardeners world live alexandra froggattdahlias and mixed borders watchmakers gardenheritage and heirloom vegetables BBC gardeners world livemacro photograph of bee at gardeners world livemixed vegetable and dahlia bordersalexandra froggatt is presented with a platinum award and best in show for her watchmakers garden at bbc gardeners world liveassociation of professional landscapers mixed borders gardeners world live

Over the time of the Press Preview and opening day of the show, filming of Gardeners’ World was taking place – always nice to see behind the scenes!

filming of gardeners world with monty don and frances tophillfrances tophill and monty don film a segment for bbc gardeners world at birmingham nec

The New York- inspired Highline Garden, designed by Lucy Bravington, blended cool green planting with burnished metal structure and railway-style benches.

adam frost films in the new york inspired highline garden for bbc gardeners world

These details might give an indication of how wet it was at times!

paeonia peony and costa with raindrops at bbc gardeners world live

This South-East Asian inspired garden for Timotay Landscapes would be perfect for someone wanting to reminisce over the places they’d visited in their time! Secluded lounging areas with lush planting, and the sound of a waterfall, fused ideas from the landscapes of Indochina.

Inspired by trips to Australian rainforests, Dr Catherine Macdonald and Rhiannon Williams designed- for Gadd Brothers – a garden featuring metal, stone and lots of green textural forms.

Joe Swift films a segment for bbc gardeners world live at birmingham nec

I really enjoyed the Canal and River Trust Garden, designed by Chris Myers. Birmingham has more waterways than Venice and so it seemed a fitting way to celebrate life on the water. This calming garden looked as though it had been there for decades – in fact, the build had taken no more than 10 days, a tribute to the volunteers who had added many authentic touches to the wildflower-strewn scene.

canalside garden by the canals and rivers trust to represent birminghams extensive canal networkthe canalside garden by the canals and rivers trust gardeners world livecanal and river trust canalside garden representing birmingham's extensive canal networkmacro detail of kale 'kalbri' in dahlia and vegetable garden at bbc gardeners world livedahlia and vegetable garden bbc gardeners world live birmingham necpeter seabrook mbe, veteran garden writer and broadcasterdetail of white dahlia in the watchmakers garden with rustic fencing

Inside the Floral Marquee, a display by collaborative Flowers From The Farm was really eye-catching. and showed the versatility of styling with cut flowers.

display in the floral marquee by flowers from the farm demonstrating many different ways with cut flowers

The Gardeners’ World show runs parallel with BBC Good Food, and for me appreciate the chance to tie the two together – particularly where health and wellbeing cross over, and when gardens and farms are put to work – with home-grown produce being turned into fantastic-tasting, environmentally conscious products such as these crisps by Herefordshire-based Two Farmers. Award-winning potatoes cooked in top-quality oil, with locally-sourced flavours and a fully compostable crisp bag (even in sea water) – one to keep an eye on. The audience really enjoyed the taste test!

bbc good food presentation by two farmers herefordshire crisps homegrown with compostable packaging

Celebrated and Michelin-star winning chef Raymond Blanc gave a passionate interview about the benefits of eating seasonally, eating local produce, and avoiding chemically-treated food – all things I heartily believe in.

respected michelin star award-winning chef raymond blanc is interviewed on bbc good food stage

Roxy Pope and Ben Pook signed copies of their cookbook ‘So Vegan in 5‘ at the WH Smith bookstall. Their aim is to show that it’s possible to put together delicious vegan meals with only 5 ingredients or less.

roxy pope and ben pook sign copies of their cookbook so vegan in 5 at the WH Smith bookstall BBC Good Food summer

Nadiya Hussain demonstrated a couple of dishes on the Big Kitchen stage – someone I admire for encouraging her audience in family lifestyle, mental wellbeing, and good food!

cookery demonstration by bake off winner nadiya hussain at the bbc good food summer eventnadiya hussain chats with marcus bean while demonstrating on the big kitchen stage at bbc good food summer

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  • Sharron Gibson - Oh wow theses are gorgeous and so inspiring. Beautiful photos. I want all the gardens now! ReplyCancel

  • Angela - There isn’t one of these gardens I wouldn’t love to soak up the sun in – but those horses! ❤️. Gorgeous report & images to die for ReplyCancel

  • Helen Lisk - Gosh Julie, these are so gorgeous! What wonderful spaces to photograph – you get such a sense of calm through these images – just such lovely gardens. ReplyCancel

  • Kelly Green - ooh these photos make me wish I was more green fingered!!ReplyCancel

  • Nicola - Oh wow, I love these photos! These gardens are sensational aren’t they. So so beautiful., and full of inspiration. Thank you for sharing these. ReplyCancel

Borde Hill Garden

If you’re looking for summery days out, then I really recommend taking a wander around Borde Hill Garden. Situated near Haywards Heath, and with a beautiful Elizabethan country house at its heart, this outstanding English garden has something of interest in all seasons. It is renowned for a number of rare shrubs and is home to 73 champion trees, as well as breathtaking themed garden ‘rooms’ such as the Italian Garden and – my favourite – the walls of the Victorian Old Potting Sheds. I plan to visit again very soon, particularly to see the rose garden at the height of the season – keep an eye on my Instagram Stories as no doubt I’ll be sharing the view on there.

I visited in the middle of Spring with the Garden Media Guild, where Borde Hill owners Andrewjohn and Eleni Stephenson Clarke were warm & generous hosts. Head gardener Andy Stevens is the most enthusiastic guide, particularly proud of the champion trees including three magnificent magnolias in the Garden of Allah, abundant with vibrant green leaves and heavy with buds at the time.

borde hill house gardens haywards heath sussex garden photographysculpture and champion magnolia in the Garden of Allah at Borde Hill Garden Sussex

Enormous lotus-like flower of the Chinese tulip tree (Liriodendron chinense) shown below, collected by EH Wilson in 1903 and planted here in 1913.

liriodendron chinense chinese tulip tree flower and rhododendron at borde hill garden sussex

wild garlic and bluebells in woodland at borde hill garden sussex

Another champion tree native to China, Meliosma alba displays a mass of creamy-white flowers in the Spring.

meliosma alba flowering in Spring at Borde Hill Garden Sussexborde hill garden known for its rhododendron and azalea displays in Spring

This ‘Infinity Box’ installation houses a subtropical display in an area of the garden that had otherwise challenging growing conditions. Peering through the portholes feels a little bit like stealing a glimpse of something forbidden!

infinity box of subtropical planting at borde hill gardeninfinity box of subtropical planting at borde hill gardenMeconopsis cambrica Welsh poppy yellow

Paeonia ‘Mai Fleurie’ – took us a while to identify this beauty!

peony paeonia Mai Fleurie cream and pink Italian Garden at Borde Hill Sussex Haywards Heath gardenan early Spring view of Jay Robin's Rose Garden at Borde Hill Sussex

Head gardener Andy Stevens rounded off his tour by taking us through the abundant azalea ring.

The sculpture exhibition – included in your admission – continues until the end of September.

I enjoyed walking through the sheltered garden rooms of the Old Potting Sheds, particularly the play of plants against textured old walls and brickwork – here a chaenomeles (quince) set next to a leaded window.

 chaenomeles quince in the old potting shed garden at Borde Hill

Borde Hill Garden, Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1XP.

 

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National Garden Scheme: Chilworth Manor

As part of the National Garden Scheme open gardens – look out for the yellow signs throughout the year! – Chilworth Manor in Guildford is ready to open to visitors on Sunday 19 May from 11-5. This beautiful site housed a monastery in the 11th century, with ponds in the grounds that were installed by the monks who lived there. It is home to an exquisite terraced walled garden, settled against the gentle slopes of St Martha’s Hill and designed by Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, in the 18th century. The wisteria here will take your breath away – not just the usual purple variety, but also windows of white wisteria forming a spectacular pathway and paired with alliums in the Spring.

The National Garden Scheme raises millions of pounds for charity each year with visitors paying a small entrance fee to spend some time in a thoughtfully planted space – gardens generously opened by the homeowners to aid charitable schemes such as one of this year’s chosen charities, MIND. As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, the NGS has been championing #APathToHealth – encouraging people to take a walk in a green space, having seen and heard the benefits felt by visitors of spending some time in a garden. It really does lift the spirits, and Chilworth Manor gardens are feast for all the senses.

Chilworth Manor and Vineyard, Halfpenny Lane, Chilworth, Guildford GU4 8NN. Entry fee £6, children free. Open Sunday 19 May, 11am-5pm with refreshments, garden tours and wine tastings throughout the day.

view of the 18th century tiered walled garden Chilworth Manor Guildfordalliums and roses in the walled garden at Chilworth Manor Guildfordwisteria in May at 17th century Chilworth ManorChilworth Manor wisteria National Garden Scheme open garden Guildford Surrey

wisteria through walled garden gate professional garden photographer

view towards Chilworth Manor from the walled garden terraces

details of Spring planting at Chilworth Manor National Garden Scheme open garden

This is the right time of year to see the prolific flowers of the Judas Tree (Cercis Siliquastrum) – below.

Judas tree Cercis Siliquastrum in Guildford professional garden photographer

purple wisteria on brickwork in a Surrey garden Chilworth Manor

windows of white wisteria

white wisteria planting on the terraces of Chilworth Manor walled garden

spring details and pond at Chilworth Manor Guildford garden photographer

Chilworth Manor is also part of the collective of five Surrey Hills Vineyards, launching their partnership in June. Throughout the day you can sample this year’s rosé wine – a light, refreshing, summery blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes grown here on the slopes beneath St Martha’s.

Chilworth Manor Surrey Hills Vineyard at the foot of St Martha's Hill Guildford

details of vines growing in Spring Surrey Hills Vineyard

Chilworth Manor rosé reflecting the house in the glass

this year's rosé at Chilworth Manor Vineyard

terraces of wisteria and alliums garden photographer Surrey

this year's rosé wine by Chilworth Manor Vineyard Surrey Hills Guildford

view of the parterre and terraces in the walled garden Guildford

wisteria windows in the walled garden Guildford Surrey garden photographer

pond installed by 17th century monks at the former monastery Chilworth Manor

views of the wisteria and terraces in the walled garden Surrey

By purchasing any of the National Garden Scheme greetings cards at Chilworth Manor, featuring some of my photographs of the gardens, you’ll be donating more to the excellent charitable causes they’re supporting in 2019.

National Garden Scheme charity cards for sale Julie Skelton professional garden photographer

white wisteria in evening light in the walled garden terraces

view of Chilworth Manor Guildford Surrey professional garden photographer

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Watercress week

I love that watercress is grown all over the world but that the local Hampshire area is so well known for it. The Watercress Line is a clue (from the late Victorian times when the locally grown watercress was transported by train to the London markets). This Sunday marks the beginning of Watercress Week (19-25 May), with Alresford’s Watercress Festival (Sunday 19th) the celebration to kick it all off in the town centre.

As a garden photographer particularly interested in produce, I’m all for eating as locally and seasonally as possible, so watercress is right up my street. It’s also the original superfood: full of protein and Vitamins A, C, E and K to support the immune system, and fibre to help maintain a healthy gut. It’s also a natural source of iron, calcium, Vitamin B6, and folate – SO much more antioxidant-rich and nutrient-dense than other salad leaves.

watercress aquatic plant growing in Alresford Hampshire

The UK actually eats more watercress than anywhere else in the world, but if you’re not one of them yet, here’s why it’s really worth using it for more than just a sandwich or garnish… Firstly the taste is deliciously peppery and crisp. It’s a vibrant green aquatic plant, a member of the mustard (brassica) family and related to wasabi, broccoli, radish, horseradish and cauliflower, amongst others. Compare it to a regular mixed leaf salad bowl (cos, iceberg, spinach, lambs lettuce), and watercress smashes the nutrient stats with more than twice the amount of Vitamin K, twice as much iron, almost three times as much calcium, and nearly SIX times the amount of Vitamin C. On the Aggregate Nutrient Density index, this scores it an incredible 1000/1000 which, per calorie, makes it one of the most nutrient dense foods in the world!

I’ve come up with a couple of recipes that will make the most of watercress whatever the typical British summer weather throws at us – one for chilly days, and one to cool you down! And keep reading for a glimpse of where and how it is grown.

Watercress and Pear Soup – inspired by Gilbert White’s House

I visited Gilbert White’s House gardens a few years ago and when it started to drizzle outside, popped into the cafe for a bit of lunch. The staff told me that the day’s special was Watercress and Pear soup but that not many people had opted for it as it sounded an unusual combination. I’ve been experimenting to try and recreate it as it was SO tasty with a little gingery kick, and let me tell you – it’s a great pairing (jokes). It absolutely works beautifully well.

watercress and pear soup food photography Surrey

Ingredients:

A knob of butter and a dash of olive oil

2x 85g bag watercress

2 good-quality pears (I bought mine at Noel’s Farm Shop – choose the most flavoursome, organic where possible)

1 small onion, chopped

1″ piece of root ginger, finely minced

500ml vegetable stock

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Salt & pepper to taste

 

Melt the butter with the oil, add the onion with a splash of water, and cook on the lowest heat until transparent and soft – about 10 minutes. Peel, core and chop the pears. Add the watercress to the pan with the pears and the minced fresh ginger. Pour in the stock, add salt and pepper to taste, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

I use a hand blender to combine everything into a smooth soup; add the lemon juice and mix well. Enjoy with crusty bread – serves 3 / 4.

watercress and pear soup with crusty artisan bread

Watercress salad with pomegranate, watermelon and feta

This summery salad is so fresh it could be the Prince of Bel Air – served with a citrus dressing. The peppery watercress is set off deliciously by salty feta and the sweet fruit additions.

watercress salad with watermelon and feta food garden photography

Ingredients:

Juice of 1 orange

1 tbsp olive oil

100g watercress

150g watermelon cubes

100g feta cheese

3 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Salt and pepper

 

Mix the orange juice with the olive oil – I used a bottle of oil from Leonardslee Gardens – and give it all a really good twist of seasoning.

Combine the watercress, watermelon and crumbled feta. Drizzle with the citrus dressing to taste and scatter pomegranate seeds on top. Give it lots of black pepper (I love pepper!) – also really nice with some spring onion and served with a poached egg. Preferably eaten in the garden!

watercress salad and leonardslee gardens olive oil

I visited Winchester Distillery in Old Alresford where the Watercress Company were busy beginning to harvest the crops. It’s the first time I’ve been able to see where watercress is grown, with the sound of fresh running water and birdsong in the sunshine…

If you haven’t tried Winchester Distillery’s Twisted Nose gin, it’s a must! There’s a distinctive peppery twist thanks to the use of on-site watercress being used as one of its botanicals.

Do let me know if you visit the Watercress Festival or if you experiment with watercress this month!

 

 

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New season of garden events

I suspect that most of you who love the outdoors and getting into the garden are enjoying the signs of Spring and the prospect of British Summer Time right now! The garden season ahead looks set to be a really exciting one. Recently I attended the Garden Press Event in Islington, where businesses are able to present their new-to-the-market gardening products and inspire enthusiasm for the busy year ahead. I met with a number of the Garden Media Guild members to have a look around the products and ideas on offer, and to chat to the people behind them.

garden press event at the business design centre islington

Sunday 12 May is a date to set aside to celebrate Garden Day! Why not put together a floral crown and enjoy tea & cake in the garden with friends? These are the people behind the scheme, and also the app Candide, which is like an Instagram-style knowledge-base to share your garden photos, identify plants, and to ask questions or find solutions to gardening problems from other users. Download it for free on your phone or tablet from the App Store.

team from candide gardening app wearing floral crowns to promote national garden day

These parcel-in-the-post subscription boxes from Mud & Bloom are suitable for 3-8 year olds (Key Stage 1 – I used to teach this age, and the boxes are pitched perfectly!). Each box has some seasonal activities including gardening, craft, and garden quizzes, all designed to help children understand the growth cycle and seasonal changes. They start at £7.95 per box including free shipping, and I fully support their ethos of encouraging children to enjoy the outdoors, for the sake of their wellbeing and to have that thrill of having a hand in the raising of plants.

mud and bloom garden subscription boxes for children

There was a buzz around the pretty stand of Dalefoot Composts all day – based in the Eden Valley, Cumbria (which I know well), they produce organic wool and bracken based composts that retain moisture and encourage healthy crops. I’m currently raising some tomato seeds in the wool compost pots they gave me! There was a strong emphasis at this year’s show on organic solutions, as well as mental health and wellbeing benefits of getting out in the garden – keep reading below to find more announcements in this area… I must also mention Strulch who produce a mineralised straw mulch suitable for deterring slugs and snails (you might know this is my ongoing battle). I’m trialling their mulch which is also used at RHS Wisley, the Eden Project, and Alnwick Castle Gardens amongst others – so far, so successful!

dalefoot composts display stand at the garden press event 2019

I visited Hever Castle for their ‘Dazzling Daffodils’ displays, and although the weather decided to be grey on that particular week, the daffodils were bringing their own ray of sunshine to the gardens.

hever castle edenbridge kent in spring with daffodils

details of spring flowers at hever castle kent open gardens

Plus, how beautiful is this Clematis armandii ‘Apple Blossom’?!

clematis armandii apple blossom growing at hever castle kent

dazzling daffodils garden display in spring at hever castle childhood home of anne boleyn

spring daffodils and blossom at hever castle kent

camellia walk hever castle italian garden

dazzling daffodils seasonal opening of gardens at hever castle kent

This week, the National Garden Scheme launched their yellow bible, the Open Gardens Handbook for 2019. At the Press Launch in London’s Royal Festival Hall, guests were addressed by Lord Gardiner – of DEFRA – and Mary Berry, President of the NGS, while Chief Executive George Plumptre announced donations to charities totalling £3m over the past year. The NGS guest charity for 2019 will be MIND, aiding those with mental health struggles, and one slide showed a comment from a garden visitor that “visiting different gardens really helps boost my mood…not just the time that I’m at a garden but for several days after”. During the week of 11 – 19 May this year, the Gardens & Health Campaign will emphasise the importance of garden visiting as an act of self care, demonstrating the positive impact on our wellbeing of visiting, and being inspired by, the outdoors.

mary berry president of national garden scheme with chief executive george plumptre

The NGS will have 3,552 gardens open for visitors this year – 759 of which are new, or returning after some time. 34 of the open gardens will be allotments – something I’m really interested in as I aim to get my own dedicated vegetable garden up and running this year. 9 of the available places to visit are school gardens, and 14 are hospice gardens. There really is something for everyone, on top of which you’ll often find tea & cake being served and plants on sale. Do take a look at the NGS website and plan visits through all seasons of interest – you’ll be contributing to a considerable charitable fund for the coming year.

national garden scheme press launch for 2019 at royal festival hall southbank

Also announced was a £75,000 donation and 10-year support plan for Horatio’s Garden, who design and create the most beautiful accessible garden spaces for NHS spinal injury units. The idea of the garden as a therapeutic space was never far from anyone’s mind at the media launch for open gardens this year, and I hope that you’ll find joy in visiting one of these places in 2019. Here are Julia Palca, Chair of Macmillan Cancer Support, Martin McMillan OBE, Chair of NGS, and Dr Olivia Chapple, co-founder of Horatio’s Garden – the scheme is named in memory of her son.

charity trustees and fundraisers events photography for national garden scheme horatio's garden macmillan cancer care

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The light came back

“Every year, in the third week of February, there is a day, or, more usually, a run of days, when one can say for sure that the light is back. Some juncture has been reached, and the light spills into the world from a sun suddenly higher in the sky.”

~ Kathleen Jamie, ‘Light’ from her book Sightlines.

This is one of my favourite-ever quotes. I’ve hung onto it through winter for a few years now and it’s absolutely right and bang on time, every February. It always fills me with hope, when winter is dark, that the world still turns and the light will come back. So here we are, the second-half of February and the light reappeared as always. I visited the Sir Harold Hillier Gardens near Romsey because I’d been told how beautiful the Winter Gardens are. It really felt like an energy-giving visit, to see the colour and structure and texture of plants bringing winter to life.

sir harold hillier gardens hampshire grasses in sunlight in the winter gardens

Here the appropriately-named Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter fire’ looks aflame next to the creamy peeling bark of Betula ermanii.

cornus sanguinea midwinter fire and betula ermanii at the harold hillier winter gardens hampshire

a walk through the harold hillier gardens marked by acer 'gingerbread' planted by the Queen

Hellebores in their element on the woodland floor but I especially like the acidic-yellow of these Ashwood garden hybrids.

I always think witch hazel in the right winter light looks really eye-catching, but it’s more tricky to capture the details and bring out their best. I like the contrasty light and colours here.

hamamelis at sir harold hillier gardens hampshire garden photographer

I love the ruby-red peeling bark of Prunus serrula in our own garden – the pairings with golden grasses, the acidic colours of this witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Sunburst’) plus the ‘Black Mondo Grass’ (Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigresecens’) makes for a stunning corner in the winter sunshine.

professional garden photographer at sir harold hillier winter gardens prunus serrula and hamamelis

galanthus at sir harold hillier winter gardens hampshire garden photographer

delights of light at the winter gardens, sir harold hillier gardens, hampshire garden photography

sweet box sarcococca hookeriana digyna purple stem evergreen at hillier gardens winter gardens borderLonicera purpusii ‘Spring romance’ – so fragrant…

Lonicera purpusii 'Spring romance' garden photographer surrey

I used the National Garden Scheme website to find out about snowdrop garden openings, and planned a visit to Welford Park near Newbury. These beautiful gardens open regularly throughout snowdrop season but this special ‘yellow book’ day through the NGS raised money for several charities, as well as having well-stocked plant stalls from galanthus specialists, Elworthy Cottage Plants and Foxgrove Nursery.

national garden scheme snowdrop open day at welford park berkshire

Snowdrops and winter aconites welcome you to the woodland walk.

snowdrops and winter aconites lining the way to the woodland walk at welford park galanthus open day NGS

Did you know that the leaves of snowdrop have hardened tips, to break through the earth while it’s still frozen solid? And that their sap contains a form of antifreeze? Amazing nature…

galanthus in the beech woods at welford park NGS

The beech woods had a thick, sumptuous carpet of galanthus. This spot by the River Lambourn provides them with their perfect growing conditions.

welford park newbury river lambourn galanthus snowdrops in the beech woods

A crew were filming a segment on snowdrop season for ITV’s ‘This Morning’, with Heather Skinner from the National Garden Scheme presenting the Puxley family with a commemorative sundial – a thank you for FORTY years of opening their gardens to the public!

national garden scheme heather skinner presents a commemorative sundial to deborah puxley of welford park

filming of ITV's 'This Morning' at Welford Park for the National Garden Scheme snowdrop open day

welford park berkshire in february beech woods carpeted with galanthus snowdrops

(Welford Park has also been home to the filming of ‘The Great British Bake Off’ for the last few years. Appropriately, there was an extended cafe area in a marquee for this open day, and I can thoroughly recommend the tea & cake!).

 

 

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  • Susan Banting - Beautiful photos showing how much colour can be found in a month usually thought of as drab.ReplyCancel

  • Melissa - Beautiful work as always, Julie! Such a feast for the eyes!ReplyCancel

Winter in the gardens

sunrise on frosted vineyard chilworth manor surrey garden photographerRound here in Guildford, it seems as though there haven’t been many properly frosty, frozen mornings this winter. Perhaps they’re on their way later than we’ve been expecting… The down-time of late winter brings a bit of a slower pace, which I enjoy more than I used to – I look forward to the return of the light, and the new growth in the garden. This is valuable replenishing time for people and plants alike! I wouldn’t be able to do this job if I didn’t think I was able to be useful to people, and so it gives me time to think about what I do and why, and to plan ways in which I can be productive and helpful through the year.

I used to think that there was little to be enjoyed through the winter, but – although they might not shout as loudly – there are plenty of quietly beautiful elements in the garden waiting to be found.

deep frost on winter vine

melting ice and frost on hellebore at RHS Wisley Gardens Woking Surrey

I was wandering around RHS Wisley Gardens when I spotted this hydrangea skeleton dripping with melted ice like the most beautiful chandelier… I am obsessed with it <3

melting ice on a hydrangea skeleton seedheads with frost in morning sunlighthydrangea skeleton with beads of melting ice macro garden photography

A morning photographing around the gardens at Chilworth Manor found a few wintery delights too. I love the contrast of textures, light and dark in this picture.

snowdrops with fern garden textures in wintersnowdrop galanthus with melting ice and frost, hydrangea seedhead in sunlightwitch hazel caught in a shaft of winter sunlightcatkins in a woodland garden in Guildford, Surrey garden photographercream hellebores on woodland floor detail of hellebore flowers in sunlighthydrangea seedhead caught in dramatic sunlight in winter

The dormant vineyard at Chilworth Manor still has spectacular structure in the winter.

A viticultural demonstration to teach about checking for vine health.

(By the way, a flying visit north didn’t yield any snow either – appropriately, a morning at the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead offered fairly Baltic temperatures outdoors, though!).

view of the tyne bridge Newcastle at sunset from high bridges, millennium bridge towards BALTIC centre Gateshead with frost

  • I am a Guildford-based member of the Garden Media Guild and the Professional Garden Photographer’s Association – if you’re looking for a garden photographer to capture images for print, publication or media in the Surrey / Sussex / Hampshire area, please contact me here.
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Florence flying visit

While we’re in the depths of winter, I wanted to show you some of the pictures I took in magical Florence during a visit with friends last autumn. A small group of us from both the UK and Europe enjoy meeting up for what has become a Photography, Food and Friends time that we all look forward to! Florence wasn’t somewhere I was familiar with and, with the focus on spending some time making photographs in the city, I think we probably missed a huge element of art and history by not wandering around the numerous galleries that visitors flock here for. So, we stuck to places where photography is permitted, ate very well, drank a lot of Yogi tea, particularly enjoyed a surprise rooftop bar one lunchtime, wandered the streets looking for interesting light at odd hours, and laughed and talked…

early morning cyclist by florence cathedral italy travel photography

The view from our AirBnB apartment window. Should come with sound so you can hear the opera singer buskers every evening…

airbnb apartment view from window in florencesunlit florence street with mopedschandeliers in a lighting shop florence italycourtyard and cafe in the backstreets of florence tuscany travel photographycouple holding hands walk in sunlit backstreet of florencea carriage driver takes a break in florence italybell towers of Florencevisitors to the Piazza della Signoria with ice cream, cameras, statues and pigeonsreflection of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florencepitti palace palazzo pitti in the boboli gardens florence

As a Garden Media Guild member, I was really interested to see the Boboli Gardens and the Medici’s Palazzo Pitti – more of a home to an extensive sculpture collection, with less planting than we’re used to in UK gardens. However it did have wonderful views of the city and the Tuscan countryside. Sadly this little planted garden was inaccessible and I had to take a picture through the locked gates!

tuscan countryside viewed from a planted area in the boboli gardens florencethe pitti palace and hills of tuscany

Sunrise on the ancient Ponte Vecchio is the only time you’ll catch the bridge without throngs of people.

ponte vecchio early morning at the Cellini fountain with love locks on the railingsearly morning sunrise glow on the 14th century ponte vecchio with moored boatsearly morning sunlight on ancient florentine stepsearly morning commuters and tourists in florence italyearly morning activity Piazza del Duomo Florence Italysunlit morning cycle ride at Piazza del Duomo Florenceview over Florence and the River Arno from the rooftop bar at SE-STO on Arno Westin Excelsiordesigner shop windows of florence prada gucci

The breathtaking 14th-century basilica of Santa Maria Novella is a sanctuary from the busyness of the city.

santa maria novella basilica florence artwork frescopanoramic view over florence at sunset from piazzale michelangeloantonio stradivari viola and violin in the museum of musical instruments florence

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