April arrived with chilly winds and squally showers, however, mother nature is undeterred. A host of golden daffodils toss their heads in hearty welcome perhaps a reminder that although storms may come the blessing of spring always arrives in the end.
Fruit trees are coming into blossom. First the plums, then the apple & pear trees are not long behind.
Ed Bollom the head gardener is optimistic that good will come from the cold snap because conditions are now perfect for hundreds of budding tulips to burst into full flower providing a unique display just in time to celebrate Easter.
The greenhouses are filled with seedlings waiting for warmer weather which will allow them to be transplanted into the garden itself.
In spite of the cold break some vegetables will be transplanted during the next week. Potatoes first, followed by brassicas, peas and broad beans.
Although later than predicted the asparagus harvest looks promising. After a rest of two years and plenty mulch and fertiliser there should be a good crop hopefully by Easter. As I write the first heads are just emerging from the ground.
Cold dry weather is not the ideal condition for rapid rhubarb growth however the first tender stems are on the way at last and with a little warmth and moisture the plants will soon put on a spurt.
Exciting plans for two new insect friendly wildflower meadows are work in progress.
One features birch wigwams which will support a riot of brightly coloured sweet peas surrounded by a sea of pastel coloured wild flowers. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, hand sowed the seeds last week. His tip is to mix minute flower seeds with vermiculite which acts as a carrier ensuring even distribution. I wonder how soon those seeds will germinate!
The second is a crab apple orchard where trees specifically chosen for their culinary use such as golden hornet and red sentinel will be planted, and, growing at their feet a vibrantly colourful mix of bee friendly wild flowers.
It will be exciting to watch as the two meadows become established in the months ahead.
Trials of new and heritage varieties will be grown among other crops this year. In order to identify these Moray Reach Out have created eye catching white wooden labels which will be strategically placed in the garden. Look out for the labels to find out what is growing there.
A cut flower trial bed is neatly laid out striped with narrow pathways to allow easy access to the flowers. Here it is planned to grow new types of dahlias, larkspur, cosmos, snapdragon and many more. Of great interest to many I am sure.
The cut flower work shop planned for the 23rd April is fully booked although it is still possible to access the course on line instead.
There are plans to host cut flower work shops lasting approximately two hours during July and August when flowers are in full bloom. More details will be available soon.
Easter is early this year so plans for an Easter Extravaganza are gathering momentum at the gardens. Special hand made and painted Easter eggs are hidden round the garden for the famous Easter Egg Hunt. Easter Bunny is preparing his costume and the café will be serving some delicious Easter bakes.
Easter bouquets and a wealth of bright spring plants will be on sale at the Potting Shed Shop.
And more besides for there will be the blessing of the brightest best display of tulips ever to say ‘Happy Easter’ while the bright yellow flowers of the majestic mimosa tree smile in the greenhouse.
Happy Easter to you all from everyone at Gordon Castle Gardens, may this spring and summer bring all that is good to you and yours. There is always a warm welcome for all.
Some Easter recipes to enjoy!
Wee egg nests
Makes 8 – 10
175g (6oz) chocolate
4 shredded wheat – crushed
Mini eggs or Chocolate dipped grapes or blueberries
Place 8-10 paper cake cases on a baking tray. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Stir in the crushed shredded wheat then spoon into each case using the back of a teaspoon to make a hollow in the middle so it looks like a bird’s nest. Cool to set. Fill with mini eggs.
Healthy ‘mini eggs’
Skewer grapes or large blueberries with a cocktail stick, dip in melted chocolate. Stick in a raw potato to set. Enjoy.
Chocolate orange cake
Makes a cake 23cm (9in) square
350g (12ozs) self raising flour
60g (2ozs) cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250g (9oz) caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
300mls (1/2pt) vegetable or sunflower oil
300mls (1/2pt) milk
Grated rind of 2 oranges
85g (3oz) pure Scottish Honey warmed a little
85g (3oz) golden syrup
Turn on the oven to heat at 160C (fan 140C) Gas 3, 325F and line and oil the baking tin. Use a food mixer if you have one but can be mixed by hand. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl add the caster sugar and mix. In another bowl beat the eggs with the oil and milk, pour into the flour mix and mix on low speed to combine. Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the warmed honey and orange rind and beat again for 1 minute.
Pour into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, reduce the heat to 150C (fan 130C) 300F, Gas 2 to allow the middle to bake and firm for a further 15 minutes. Insert the point of a skewer or sharp knife, if it comes out cleanly the cake is baked. Cool in the tin
An alternative decoration to finish the cake.
150mls ¼ pt) double cream
Oatmeal lightly toasted in the oven or under a low grill.
15g (1/2oz) pure Scottish honey or caster sugar
A few drops of vanilla essence
Whip the cream and honey together till softly thick, add a few drops vanilla essence if liked. Beat in a handful of toasted oatmeal to stiffen the cream slightly but leaving it still of a consistency to spread easily. Spread over the top of the cake, sprinkle with chocolate vermicelli and serve.
This cake can be iced formally and decorated as a celebration cake.
Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden