Sunday 31 July 2011


After last year's huge success with Tomatillos, this year's experiment with the related Physalis (Cape Gooseberry) has been a disappointment. I didn't want huge plants like the Tomatillos were, but I did hope to get some nice fruit. My two Physalis plants have grown to the size I expected (the seed-packet said about 50cm tall).

They have produced a mass of flowers.

The flowers have mostly gone on to produce the characteristic little "lanterns" which are supposed to contain the fruit.

The fruits inside should be about the size of a small cherry, and yellow to orange in colour when ripe.When they mature, the "lanterns" dry out, achieving a papery sort of texture. At this point the fruit inside should be ripe and ready to eat.

 Only mine are tiny and have no fruit, just the dry husks, which have started to fall off the plants.

I can only suppose that the absence of fruit is due to lack of pollination, though I was mindful of this and planted two plants close to each other to aid pollination, since the plants are apparently not self-fertile.

Unless the plants have a very good late-season rally I don't think I will be growing them again. I'll use the space for more tomatoes...

P.S. I've put a few more photos on the Wildlife page, including one of a very handsome grasshopper.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Fennel, Hoverflies etc

I originally went out to photograph the Fennel flowers, set off against the bright greenish-yellow leaves of the Golden Hop...

Which I duly did.

And I was quite pleased with the results, until...

Once the Hoverfly came along, my camera started working Overtime... The flowers went into second place and my interest switched to the insect.

Realising that there were actually lots of Hoverflies around, I went over to the Asparagus bed and took some more photos of them there, where it was easier to get the camera into a good position.

There were also bees collecting nectar from the Asparagus flowers.

By then I was well-and-truly in "David Attenborough mode" and started searching the garden for any type of wildlife I could find, like this bee (perched on a Dogwood flower).

And this Ladybird larva. Can you see the one diminutive green aphid in this picture? It's hiding in a crevice (bottom left), hoping to remain so unobtrusive that the Ladybird larva doesn't see him. I know that Ladybirds eat aphids, so maybe their larvae do too...

Who's lurking in here then? This is a green Shield Bug trying to hide in a Calendula flower.

And then I went back to the Fennel for "just one more shot". The light conditions made for a great contrast between the bright flowers and the subdued background. And the flowers themselves are fascinating too. Almost "fractal-ish", if you know what I mean.

Friday 29 July 2011

Harvesting beans now!

My climbing beans are just beginning to yield a harvest. The tall poles smothered in red, white and mauve flowers form a striking focal point in my July garden. The foliage of the Runner beans is quite dark green, but that of the Borlotti is a much lighter, almost golden, green.

The pods of the "Selma Zebra" bean are a mottled mix of purple and green.

The Runners are probably my favourite. The long straight pods seem so full of promise!

The climbing French bean "Cobra" is an excellent variety, which I have grown for many years now, and I have never been disappointed. The pods are cylindrical, straight, light green and very long.

This is "Coco Blanc a Rames" (aka "Lazy Housewife"), one that I have not grown before. I'm not sure yet if I will eat the pods young or leave them to be used as shelling beans. I'll probably try a few young ones and make my decision then.

Over on the other side of the garden the Dwarf French beans (in pots) are coming on apace. There are already lots of deep purple flowers on the the "Amethyst" ones.

Whilst "Yin Yang" has bright white flowers.

Further down the "production line" are a couple of pots of "Delinel", which are just producing their first leaves. This variety has very slim pods that are excellent in fine dining dishes. I am growing them in the same pots I used for the new potatoes. As each pot of potatoes has been harvested, I have been putting the compost back into the tub and sowing a few beans. I know the beans would prefer fresh new compost, but I expect I will still get a decent enough yield to make my method worthwhile. I will water the pots with liquid plant food from time to time, so they will not lack nutrients.

I don't expect to be short of beans for the next couple of months!

Thursday 28 July 2011

A Black Day

Inspired by the awesome photographs published by my blogging friend David P. Offutt (aka The Gastronomic Gardener) I thought I would try taking some shots against a black background. I went out to the Art shop and bought an A1 size sheet of stiff card in matt black. Today I used it for the first time. Please let me know what you think of the results...

Tomato "Maskotka"

Runner Bean "Aintree"

Runner Bean "Aintree"

Climbing French Bean "Cobra"

Carrot "Amsterdam 3 Sprint"

This is my opinion: taking photographs against a black background is more difficult than you would think. I found that in many of my photos the card appeared grey rather than black. The camera obviously found it difficult to capture the true colour of the veg at the same time as the black of the background. When one came out right, the other was wrong! However, from an artistic point of view, I think the photos are very striking. I think I will use this technique occasionally, for dramatic effect, but I will probably stick to using my usual lighter background for the "functional" photos.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Scleroderma Verrucosum

Do you remember I posted a few days ago a photo of some fungi that Jane described as looking like chocolate meringues?

Well, there are lots more of them appearing now. I think they are "Scleroderma Verrucosum", a type of Earth Ball fungus. The Latin name means something like "scaly-skinned verruca"! Their appearance changes a lot as they grow, but they are definitely scaly at some points in their lifecycle.

When they first show through the soil they are pale and smooth, but as they get older the top surface cracks and goes brown and scaly and the very old ones develop a deep chocolatey brown colour.

Not being a fungi expert I am not proposing to eat these things, but just for curiosity I picked a few in order to study them more closely and photograph them in more detail.

They are heavy. The pair in the photo above weighed 110 grams. I cut one open to see inside. The flesh was dense and white in the centre, but there was a definite outer layer like a skin. If somebody could persuade me that they are edible, I'd say they looked pretty appetising. As it happens, I think they are classed as "inedible" - meaning not poisonous, but not nice to eat either. Bizarrely they smelled to me like leaf coriander - which is a smell I am very aware of since I am allergic to that herb.

Arty shot to finish the post...

P.S. Since becoming reasonably knowledgeable about fungi, and having observed these things develop in my garden, I have realised that the fungi I described in this post are NOT Scleroderma verrucosum, but immature fruitbodies of Geastrum triplex, the Collared Earthstar. You live and learn...!

Tuesday 26 July 2011

July colour

Whilst July is the peak of the veg-harvesting calendar for me, that doesn't mean that everything in my garden is green and drab - far from it!

This is the Buddleia Davidii "Royal Red" plant that I bought from Duchy Nurseries back in the Spring. I love the colour (though it is hardly red!).

Buddleia "Royal Red"


Oxalis "Burgundy Wine"

This fern is also one of the plants I bought from Duchy of Cornwall Nurseries. I have been very pleased with what I bought from them. The young fronds are a beautiful bronze colour, which gradually fades to a yellowish green as they mature.

The seed pods form on the undersides of the leaves. I wonder if this plant will be easy to propagate?

The Hypericum flowers have gone now, and have been replaced by these little berries, which start off white and then develop a bright pink colour.

Hypericum berries

The Dogwood bushes are always giving me something new to look at. Right now most of them are covered with delicate little white flowers.


This is Coreopsis "Early Sunrise". It's an untidy plant, but you have to admit that the flowers liven things up a bit!

The potted Chives are having another lease of life. After their first flowering I cut them right down, and they have sprung up again very vigorously. The backdrop for this photo is the Oxalis "Burgundy Wine".


Lots of the Oregano and Marjoram plants are flowering now. The bees will be happy!


The Swiss Chard is bolting but even that can look quite decorative. I have cut the flower stalks down to ground level in the hope that the plants will produce another batch of leaves.

Swiss Chard, bolting
The Runner beans have produced masses of vibrant scarlet flowers. And of course, when the flowers fade you end up with lovely beans too. With plants like these, who needs Sweet Peas??