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Archive for the ‘Lavender’ Category

Well, what a fantastic day.  Many, many people picking lavender at the Stanley Road site in the name of the local community project, Carshalton Lavender.  It is so spiriting to see how many people came and enjoyed picking Lavender, buying lavender products and generally joining in.

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We even had a few Far Eastern tourists taking photos of the allotment, making us feel a bit like one of the exhibits.  All great fun – as our plot is right next to the bit where most people pick the lavender from, we are used to being a living demonstration plot.  One year we almost had a creche going on in the Wendy House, with lots of children joining in with our girls playing.  It is always so nice to talk to people, who are invariably interested, and if it means people see the possibilities of gardening with children, so much the better.

The lavender day is on tomorrow as well, so it isn’t too late if you fancy stocking your dried lavender supply.  I can vouch for the fact that it is the very finest quality.

http://www.carshaltonlavender.org/p_2009_Harvest.ikml

As I sit here typing, Jamie has arrived back with some more lavender.  The smell of the lavender is very powerful, almost medicinal, and has already filled the house.  It is supposed to be relaxing, so that bodes well for a chilled out evening.  I can feel the lassitude washing over me – it seems to be willing me to rest.

Lavender day

Happily, this co-incided with possibly our best harvest ever.  We have an abundance of fresh produce at present, and this is heavily influencing the menu in the Costello household.  We are getting large numbers of extremely tasty potatoes. I have to say that although they make a very boring photo, but they are delicious boiled and coated with butter and a bit of salt.

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Next on the menu is the set of novelty courgettes.  Novelty because there are different varieties, and also because some of them have grown into marrows – oops.  That will teach me to be more vigilant.  How they have soaked up enough water from our soil to get that big, I will never guess?  We did have thunderstorms last week I suppose, but they must have a decent root system.  The round ones look worthy of a new recipe, probably involving rice and parmesan.

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Other elements of today’s harvest are some french beans, delicious with the potatoes and some black-and-redcurrants from Doug’s plot.

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He offered them to us, as they were so small it hardly seemed worth him picking them.  He has got a LOT of fruit bushes.  I am hoping to make this later on, blackcurrant ripple parfait.

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I will take photos if I make it later – that is if the lavender induced lethargy doesn’t get to me too much.

Finally, we have discovered that the plum trees on the new plot yield the most delicious, tiny, fragrant plums.  They taste almost like cherries, only sweeter.  The girls had their fill, and this is what was left.  With a fruit-laden damson tree in the garden and three of these plum trees on the plot, I am looking forward to a glut and to all kinds of plum jams, crumbles and chutneys.  Friends be warned to expect plum related presents this Christmas, especially if I do give up work.

Lavender day 014Happy gardening!

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Lavender has held a very special place in my gardening heart since I have lived in this area.  A bit of digging into local history reveals that the areas round here were renowned for their lavender fields in the days before housing occupied most of the land.  Mitcham, Wallington and Carshalton were all very well known for their Lavender crop, and there are still hints at that past if you look carefully at the insignia on village signs and local landmarks.

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I always tended to think of lavender as a French crop, with French lavender holding the finest reputation as the best in the world, but it wasn’t always so.  Apparently even the ultimate patriot, Napoleon, once commented that Carshalton Lavender could not be bettered.  An accolade indeed.  The chalk soil and the clement climate of the North Downs, and presumably the proximity to London make for ideal conditions for these plants.  Even now, you don’t have to travel far to find evidence of that legacy.  Firstly, our plot is right amongst the lavender rows that are part of a local community project – Carshalton Lavender.  The 2009 harvest will be held on the weekend of the 25th/26th July.

http://www.carshaltonlavender.org/p_2009_Harvest.ikml

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Another local Lavender project has taken that success even further.  Mayfield lavender was started by the same group, and has now become a fantastic part of the local landscape.  Driving down from Woodmansterne to Carshalton at the moment, you are faced with a fantastic glimpes of purple through the trees by the roadside.  We stopped off at the end of a lovely day to see what was going on, and found a coffee shop and sale of other lavender products.  What a treat.

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You feel as if you could be in Provence, when in fact you are just outside the ring of suburbs in South London.  Well worth a visit.

And yes, I really do need to go on a photography course to learn how to take proper photos.

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Well, just in time for hottest weekend in about 3 years, the smallest member of the Costello family (Fern, 3 years old) has contracted chickenpox.  The poor thing is covered from literally head to toe in sore itchy spots.  None of us have had any sleep for days.

Anyway, a bit of research on the internet revealed that oatmeal baths are good for irritated skin, including chickenpox and sunburn.  I also know from experience that lavender is great for skin disorders, and honey and tea tree oil have anti-bacterial properties, so I made my own recipe for a bath bomb.  On such a long hot weekend, I thought it was worth sharing the bath formula that we are using on her, in case any fellow gardeners get caught out in the sun too long.

Oatmeal and lavender bath bomb


  • 3 handfuls of oatmeal (can be any type – mine is a cheap bag from Lidl)
  • dried or fresh lavender flowers
  • few drops of lavender essential oil
  • 2 tsp honey (runny or set)
  • about 8 inch square muslin, organza, or other porous fabric
  • String for tying
  • tea tree oil (optional)

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Instructions:

Put the oatmeal in the blender and whizz until powdery (optional – I couldn’t be bothered with this bit).  Spread out the muslin square and pour on the oats with the lavender flowers and the essential oils.  Put the honey in the middle and cover with the dry mixture, tying with string at the top.

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Put the bag into the bath as it is running and leave to soak  during bath.  Squeezing it makes more of the white liquid come out.  It is known as ‘colloidal’, whatever that means – something to do with the texture.

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Having tested the recipe on Fern, it really seems to have soothed her itching, so I feel entitled to recommend it.  In fact I can’t wait to try it myself.  Later on, Eden and I got carried away with them and made some more for presents for people.

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Finally, the peas are finally coming through in numbers, so I picked some for dinner tonight.

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I expect many more where these came from:

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This is the third year of having an allotment, and I have to say that the initial burst of energy has eased to a slower pace.  So it is really nice when something genuinely captures new enthusiasm.  One of these was the sweetcorn that I sowed direct in the soil a couple of weeks ago.  Horrendously late, it needed a soil temperature of 18 degrees C according to the packet.  I wasn’t sure whether UK soil ever reaches this temperature, but it really was my last chance to get them in before June began.

Here is the patch on the 29th May:

Sweetcorn seeds went in just before the warm spell

Sweetcorn seeds went in just before the warm spell

And again on the 12th June:

18 degrees and counting......

Sweetcorn shoots in just two weeks

Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw them!  They will even need thinning at some point because I was so pessimistic about their chances of success that I have crammed them in, expecting the odd seed to germinate.  I have got two varieties – Ashworth Early and Hopi Blue.  Another way of looking at ‘early’ crops is ‘faster growing’, so I am hoping this means I will still have time to get sweetcorn cobs before Autumn.

The other surprise this week was that the dark blue lavender bush is ready to crop:

Lavender ready to pick

Lavender ready to pick

It is a darker blue than the Carshalton Lavender plants which we  inherited.  I thought it would be good to dry out the heads for decoration rather than scent:

Lavender heads drying on the patio

Lavender heads drying on the patio

The later crop will be in July, when we will pick some of the silvery heads for lavender bags etc.

Finally, we got our first crop from the blackcurrant bushes given to us by Jamie’s Gramps and Mum.  The recipe of this week is a glorious blackcurrant frangipane tart, from Sarah Raven’s Garden Cookbook.  A bit like bakewell tart studded with blackcurrants, it is one of those recipes where the tartness of the fruits is perfect with the rich pudding.  Lovely with an afternoon coffee on the patio after work:

Frangipane and blackcurrant tart

Frangipane and blackcurrant tart

I will put the recipe on to follow:

Following the loss of almost all our Dahlias in the frosts this year, I bought a two at 70p at Chipstead fete this weekend.  Not even knowing what colour or type they are will add a frisson of excitement later this summer.

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One of the perks of the plot is that it has a number of lavender plants, inherited from the community project when they used to hold the plot. We have reached a kind of agreement with the lavender people that they pick the lavender from those plants, but in exchange we can pick lavender from what is left over on other plants near our plot. They also maintain the lavender bit of our plot – mowing etc.

In any case we always have more than enough for our own needs. During the week, Jamie took the lavender that has been drying around the house, and picked it off the stems ready to put into lavender bags. Then I made some lavender bags with Eden and proceeded to stuff them. They do smell a lot stronger than the ones you can buy, and they make a nice additional present for people.

Lavender bags

Lavender bags

Another pleasant surprise was to find that the lemon verbena leaves which I had picked and dried smell amazing. I have visions of lemon and lavender bags this Christmas.

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