The best way to end the symposium was to sit around the pantry table and try the different fruit vodka’s that we made in the summer. The star of the tasting was the Blackcurrant, it still had that good strong smell to it that you get when you prune the plant. Next was the Raspberry, it was one that you could have sat down to on a sunny afternoon and not got up till the bottle was finished. I am very pleased that we had made these and given them time for the taste to develop. I will make a lot more of the Blackcurrant next summer.
The great thing about having dogs is that you have to get them up at first light and give them a walk. It is also a good way of being in tune with the season and we seem to be in the very early stages of spring, there is movement in the woods, the leaves of the bluebells are up and buds on some trees are getting bigger. Now is a good time to have a look at your tools, give them some oil and make sure they are ready for the new season. I was also reminded of this today when John French came to show the symposium some of the old tools he cleans and sells on. I was able to give him my trowel to repair.
I went up to London last night and had a look at the new exhibition at the Royal Academy, ‘Painting the modern garden, Monet to Matisse ‘, there was one painting I had seen in the paper that I really wanted to see for myself by John Singer Sargent called Poppies, it was as if he had come up to the fruit cage two years ago and painted all those poppies I had in there. But this was painted in 1886 so I could not take credit for it. It is a great painting and I was very happy to see it for myself.
I do think that when you travel the thing that you miss most, well I do, is good fresh vegetables. So I try to serve a lot of good vegetables from the garden when people are here for the symposium. At this time of the year salad can be harder to find out in the garden but this winter I have turned to the young beetroot leaves and also the perpetual spinach, these the young leaves also. I do have to get in lettuce but there is still a good salad out there. The group do seem to be happy with it.
I was happy to get in the post a large box of seeds from Kyle. It really is a great gift to get and does make one look forward to the season ahead. It all does seem rather wet out there at this very moment but I am going to go away next Monday for most of the month so by the time I get back I will have to be starting to think about spring and getting seed in the ground. I do still have to order some seed from the U.K but it does seem that I am getting a better choice from the U.S.
The artichoke is said to be one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. I am not too sure how long the artichoke has being grown here at Great Dixter but if it keeps raining it is going to be a vegetable of the past. The plants that I put in last year have started to rot off, I was sorry to see this today. We are on a very heavy clay soil, it has had a lot of organic matter added over the years but with this much rain things do rot. There is very little I can do at this point but in the spring I may add grit to the area they are growing in.
The autumn raspberries are now ready for the spring, it is great to have another area sorted. I am a little worried about going away for so long but I feel the garden will be fine. I will just have to work hard when I get back. With autumn raspberries you need to cut them to the ground in the winter, they will fruit on the new wood from the next spring. They are plants that need to be kept in order or will really take over. We have put a mulch of comport on the top and less broken down compost in the middle of the row. It is an area that still has a little bind weed in, I will keep on top of this in the spring.