Glorious July, flowers bloom, fruit and vegetables ripen, the garden beckons!
A giant hare statue, redolent of psychedelic art, stands on sentry duty. He is one of 40 exhibited throughout Moray & Aberdeenshire to raise awareness of Clan Cancer Support, which will be auctioned later in the year to raise funds for the charity. Hares had a significant presence in Roman mythology; a unique coincidence for this month takes its name from the famous Roman Emperor Julius Caesar.
After a ‘hare raising welcome’ I like to think he would have enjoyed a leisurely stroll in the garden grounds taking time to appreciate his surroundings because Romans were themselves dedicated gardeners.
The garden overflows with colourful flowers of every shape size and hue. Local florists save flower miles coming each week to select and pick fresh from the garden and, of course, the gorgeous Gordon Castle bouquets on sale each weekend are without doubt a wonderful way to take a lasting garden memory into your own home.
Lavender beds surround the lily pond in a sea of every imaginable shade of purple.
Sit a while, relax, listen to the buzz of happy honey bees, inhale the soporific perfume of lavender and let the world fade away.
The lavender flowers will be harvested at the beginning of August to extract the essential oils used in the fragrant garden bath and beauty range, so popular with visitors.
Each day fresh soft fruit and vegetables fill the new fridge in the Potting Shed Shop. The selection includes freshly picked garden peas, broad beans, courgettes, raspberries, and strawberries, black, red and white currants. Kale, cabbage and calabrese are also on sale. Don’t forget the potatoes, several varieties are harvested as they mature, Arran Pilot and Red Dukes of York so far have proved a plentiful and flavourful crop.
Take care when boiling the latter variety which tends to be a floury quickly cooked potato which disintegrates if over cooked. Simmer slowly to cook quickly through then drain and steam, they also make crispy roast potatoes and chips.
In the large greenhouse tomatoes are slowly ripening, clever planting of marigolds and basil at their feet serves to produce an aroma redolent of all things Italian tomato, mouth watering and appetising!!
In the middle part of the greenhouse, Jenny Abde, a local potter, is staging an exhibition of her work called ‘ Earth Informs Clay’ which is inspired by single use plastics. Last year Jenny displayed her pottery beside the lavender beds, and is delighted to return with her latest designs.
Summer pruning of espaliered, step over and arched fruit trees is necessary at this time of the year to keep their shape thus letting light and air circulate to allow the fruit to ripen. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, anticipates a smaller crop of apples, pears and plums this year. The cold spring affected blossom pollination because the pollinators found it too cold to venture forth – as we all did! The lack of rain in June has also caused some growing fruit to drop. However, there will be plenty of fruit come the autumn just not the bounty of previous bumper years.
And ‘Oh’ the wild flower meadows! Simply exquisite! On the left just beyond the big greenhouse lies the ‘Sweet Pea’ meadow. Twig wigwams covered in a profusion of pastel coloured sweet peas watch over an abundance of different wild flowers.
In bright contrast, beyond the herb garden, on the right ‘Crab Apple’ meadow is aflame with hot oranges, crimsons, yellows and reds. Both are worthy of a photograph as an enduring summer memory to illuminate cold darker days.
On the far side of the garden lies the grass maze, fun to walk; where you may be lucky enough to find some common spotted orchids, which Ed hopes will spread and grow more prolifically as the years pass. Wander here slowly listening for a skylark ‘soaring ever singing’ in the lazy summer air.
The Walled Garden Café serving a rich variety of freshly prepared garden produce is open 10am till 4pm Wednesday to Sunday. The Walled Garden Shop and gardens are open seven days a week from 10am till 4pm.
A warm welcome awaits; wind down and relax.
Take a taste of The Walled Garden home to enjoy, all fruit and vegetables fresh each day at the Potting Shed Shop.
Here are some recipes to try;
GARDEN SUMMER VEGETABLE SALAD
You will need;
225g broad beans – blanched and skinned
1 baby courgette thinly sliced
225g sugar snap and mange-tout peas sliced and quickly blanched
1 ripe tomato chopped
3 spring onions – peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Spicy sweet and sour dressing
1 tablespoon each of;
Cider vinegar, tomato ketchup, salad oil and soft brown sugar.
Mix together and season to taste with chilli powder and a little sea salt.
Prepare the vegetables, mix together adding the parsley last, then stir in the dressing and serve.
A similar mix can make a stir fry.
STIR FRIED SUMMER SALAD
Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan, add garlic and chilli to season then toss in the vegetables and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little salt. Add 1 tablespoon water or stock, cover the pan to steam for 1 minute, stir in the dressing and serve.
For the adventurous instead of water add whisky or gin. Flambee and when the flames die down stir in the dressing and serve.
The above recipe is just a guide line. Use any mix of tender freshly picked summer vegetables, they are at their best just now. Use any dressing of your choice mayonnaise, vinaigrette the list is endless.
German Strawberry cake
Makes a round tin 20cm (8in)
You will need;
60g (2oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g (3 ½ oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
175g (6oz) strawberries
Raspberry or strawberry jam
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan) 375F, Gas 5. Oil and line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together till thick and creamy, stir in the butter, flour and baking powder very gently to keep as much air as possible in the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and tap on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool a little in the tin then loosen the cake with the blade of a knife. Place the tin sponge side down onto a wire cooling rack, tap gently on the bottom of the inverted tin and the cake should drop out onto the rack. Leave to cool. Lift onto a flat serving plate.
Spread the top with jam. Trim and slice the strawberries, then lay overlapping on top. Melt the rest of the jam with a little water and brush gently over the fruit to glaze. Enjoy with lashings of whipped double cream!!
You can make a similar cake with raspberries – Himbeeren in German!