English Gardens

Pansies are ‘in’

I personally don’t think pansies were ever ‘out’ … but they are now definitely ‘in’ fashion.  I love them. Masses of them.  We have lots and lots of them in stock at The Potting Shed and they will cheer you up through the cooler months when everything else is asleep. Pansies can be grown in the garden or in pots, hanging baskets or window boxes. They like a sunny spot through the cooler months but in warm areas (Sydney to Perth and north) light shade in spring and early summer will mean they keep flowering longer. Prepare the soil  well before planting by digging in compost and aged manure.  Liquid feed regularly and pick the flowers, or deadhead them to keep plants blooming. Plant seedlings in autumn for winter and spring flowers. In cooler climates delay planting until late winter, for a summer flower display.IMG_6711

Asparagus love


In May this year, following a memorable visit to London’s Chelsea Flower Show,  RHS Wisley, Hidcote, Daylesford and various theatre and gallery outings, we had lunch at Petersham Nurseries .  It was impressive – simple, seasonal, perfectly prepared and presented.  Paul and I ordered the asparagus starter – served simply with boiled eggs, a capsicum and chilli coulis and sprinkled with edibles.  So fresh and full of flavour … truly delicious.  Inspired, I came home and planted more asparagus in the garden.  You have to wait for a few years to get a good crop, but once established your crowns will deliver daily  delights each Spring for 20 years or more.  There is nothing like the taste of those spears cut early in the morning and poached quickly for the breakfast plate.  Just add butter.  Don’t mess around with asparagus … it’s paradise just on its own if picked fresh.  And then overnight, as if by magic, up they come again, little lovely fat spears waiting to be cut again the following day.  I’ll never forget one year at Country Trader‘s very swanky Christmas party there were giant bowls of asparagus in the most extravagant display I’d ever seen … voluminous bunches accompanied by Hollandaise sauce. Dip, sip, dip, sip.  Bollinger Champagne and fresh, warm asparagus … heaven!

So whether you’re growing your own or buying from the local Farmers Markets here’s what goes well with asparagus, as advised in Stephanie Alexander’s Cook’s Companion:

gruyere cheese
light soy sauce
olive oil
parmesan cheese
raclette cheese
sesame oil
smoked salmon

Petersham Nurseries visit

I visited London last May to attend the Chelsea Flower Show which was, as always amazing … but for me, an even more enjoyable highlight of this visit was a trip to Petersham Nurseries.  It had long been on my list to visit and I was keen to try the restaurant made famous by Australian chef Skye Gyngell.  As it turned out Skye had recently left and another Aussie girl was heading up the kitchen.  The food was sensational and the atmosphere of this unique venue is uplifting and inspiring.  These lovely old glass buildings have been converted into restaurant (still with dirt floor), chic cafe, gift shop and nursery.  It’s gorgeous.  Completely stunning.  Be sure to add it to your list when next you’re in London.   It’s not a garden persay, but so lavish in gardenalia it’s a must see for gardening enthusiasts and anyone who appreciates really clever retail and creative merchandising.

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