Archive for August, 2010

Well, this is nothing to do with gardening, and everything to do with my addiction to sweets.  However, I found the most perfectly retro, intact sweet shop from days gone by.

There were jars of sweets that I haven’t seen since childhood.  I didn’t even know half of these still existed?

They make their own sweets as well.  The speciality of the house is the eponymous Star Rock.  I bought some, but I haven’t yet had the heart to break into the packet, so I will have to report back on what it tastes like.

To my delight, they also make and sell Scottish tablet.  My scottish granny used to make it, and once I learnt the recipe I could make my own.  It sustained me for years as a teenager.

This place also sold home-made tablet.  The normal sort that you can get anywhere had the same grainy texture and sugary flavour, and was sold in squares.

Also in the counter I noticed another basket of what looked like tablet, but it wasn’t wrapped in a nice package with ribbon round.  Instead it was in blobs, and wrapped in ordinary food bags.  I pointed to it and asked the lady behind the shop counter what it was.  She told me in hushed tones that this was the stuff from the pan bottom.  Apparently for tablet aficionados this is thought to be smoother and something of a delicacy.

No prizes for guessing whether I bought some.  It’s nice to know whatever your poison, there is somewhere in the world where they are on the same wavelength.

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This has seemed like a year off tending the allotment.  Although we have visited often, the daily/weekly visits have not been possible.  Aside from mowing the lawns and paths weeding (of course), there hasn’t been a vast amount to maintain.  We definitely aren’t aiming for prize-winning standards, or even keeping up appearances.  The plot has to take its place alongside the other demands on our time.

We have also had a very odd year of weather for gardening.  It started off with a freezing cold spring (May), then overnight turned boiling hot and dry (June to mid-July), and late summer (Jul/Aug) seems to have been a monsoon (good old St Swithun).  In early summer, our crop plans were defeated by the difficulties of watering through a drought, whilst accomodating two full time jobs, two kids and a full calendar of holidays and long distance family celebrations.  We have had a fantastic year as human beings, but less so as gardeners!

So we were thrilled to find that the apple trees have been busy while we were away.

Every year seems to bring something special from luck rather than judgement, and here it was.  Jamie has promised to make a tarte tatin later, so I will post photos of the results later.

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The House of Dun is near Montrose in what I think of as “Golf” Country (Carnoustie and a billion other golf courses).  The Montrose Basin is nearby, with the nature reserve.  However, what I found most impressive about this National Trust property was the espalier fruit trees against the kitchen garden wall.

I have honestly never seen such amazing fruit.  The leaves were dark and glossy.  The fruit looked sumptuous – rich, ripe and plentiful .  My garden envy was at an all-time peak.  I want their secret!

It must be the climate, and I was quite prepared to up sticks and move to Scotland that instant.  That day, my eyes were opened to the possibilities for fruit trees, and one day I will fulfill those.

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We went on holiday to Scotland this summer, and it was a very pleasant oasis of cool and damp following our long, hot summer of drought.  The green made a vibrant contrast to our brown and yellow, and when the sun came out, you didn’t feel obliged to run for cover.  The reward for the changeable weather was a lush natural world and stunning landscape, with nature teeming from every pore.

We were staying in Kirriemuir, the hometown of JM Barrie, writer of Peter Pan, and were lucky enough to be staying in the cottage next door to his birthplace, pictured above.

Kirriemuir is known as ‘the Gateway to the Glens’ and I could not more highly recommend anywhere for a restful break.  The traffic levels were non-existent, and the gentle pace of life was the perfect antidote to city living.

It will come as no surprise to some to hear that most of Scotland started out as a separate island from the rest of mainland Britian, and in prehistoric times the continental plates ‘crashed’ together.  The rocks are radically different in composition, and this explains the different landscape of the highlands to the lowlands, and the ‘granite city’ of Aberdeen compared to the red sandstone of Edinburgh.  Well, the Angus glens are formed on the boundary of that historic join.  Where the two types of rock collided, you get the most fantastic waterfalls imaginable.

You can see salmon performing almost miraculous jumps up the waterfalls.  If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I couldn’t have believed it.  As well as stunning natural features, there were lush forests full of wildlife.

I have to say that it was very easy to start believing in magic too!  The Glens are peppered with castles, both inhabited and ruined, leftover from the days when the fertile lowlands needed protection from raiders from the mountains, known locally as ‘Caterans’.  The one pictured below is a ruin at Inchmark in Glen Clova.

Scottish Heritage maintain some of the remaining ones, including this one at Edzell, which has been enhanced with a picturesque knot garden.

In keeping with the emblem of Scotland, wild thistles grow everywhere, and along with heather were fully in bloom, adding a purple tinge to the green and browns of the countryside.

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