I heard a bird sing
In the dark of December,
A magical thing,
And sweet to remember:
“We are nearer to spring
Than we were in September.”
Oliver Herford, “Hope,” in The Century Magazine, 1914
As the garden is ‘put to bed’ for the winter it is wonderful to reflect that under the chilly earth the promise of spring is beginning to stir.
This month snow and ice has been a big issue which has caused much extra work to keep the roads open for staff and visitors alike.
The vinery for the moment is a ‘wreath making production line’, where freshly harvested greenery is transformed into a variety of stunning Christmas Wreaths. All the workshops were a sell out success and saw another forty two newly trained ‘wreath makers’ go on their way rejoicing!
Gordon Castle hand-made natural wreaths will be on sale until Christmas Eve at the price of £25.00 for a small and £40.00 for a large wreath, these are for sale in our potting shed.
The potting shed shop is bulging with fresh vegetables; the all important brussels sprouts, parsnips, leeks, potatoes, cabbage and kale join the never ending supply of Gordon Castle heritage apples. Local, no food miles, ideal for the canny Christmas cook or chef!
The gardeners are on the last tidy up of the year, weeding, edging and sweeping up piles of autumn leaves added to the composting collection to break down into ‘leaf mould’ which will enrich the soil in the future. Sets of secateurs and loppers are honed sharp ready to start pruning fruit trees and bushes at the start of the year.
The gardeners are keen to make sure all is tidy before a well earned break however; the garden still welcomes visitors while the café, serving freshly prepared festive fare, remains open Wednesday to Sunday over the holiday.
Plans are already in place for some exciting happenings in 2024 so watch this space!!
There will be seventeen courses and workshops taking place over the year and here are ideas for the gardening diary.
‘Grow your own flowers and vegetables,’ during April is followed by ‘Hand Tied Bouquet’ work shops from May until August. The autumn will see a return of the ‘Dried Flower Wreath’ making course and, off course, the very popular ‘Christmas Wreath’ making in December.
New, fun workshops for children start in spring with ‘Seed Sowing’ and an exciting one entitled ‘ Make your own Flower Crown!’
Not forgetting the opportunity to join the Gin School and create a bespoke gin ‘ just to your taste!’
Everyone involved with the Walled Garden would like to take this opportunity to thank visitors volunteers and friends for your support in 2023 and look forward to welcoming back into the garden in 2024 when Head gardener Ed Bollom says ‘the garden will be even more beautiful than ever!’
“May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The heart of Christmas which is love.”
– Ada V. Hendrick
Some more recipes from the Walled Garden to enjoy:
Sticky cranberry and redcurrant sausages
Serves 4 people
8 thick pork, beef or venison sausages
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle cranberry sauce with red currants
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
1 dessertspoon honey
Salt and pepper
Grated zest of 1 orange
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Line a roasting tin with foil and oil well. Prick the sausages, lay in the tin and cook for 10 minutes in the oven. Mix the cranberry sauce with the marmalade, honey, salt and pepper and orange zest. Remove the sausages from the oven and coat well with the cranberry mix. Roast a further 10 to 15 minutes till tender and caramelised. Serve hot or cold.
A Scottish take on an Italian favourite.
85g porridge oats
45g plain flour ( gluten free flour works too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
45g pistachio nuts
30g dried cranberries
Grated zest of an orange
1 large egg
Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325 F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tray and line it with non- stick baking parchment. Put all the dry ingredients into a bowl. Add the orange zest and the egg. Mix well till the mixture forms clumps then bring together using your hands. Turn out onto a floured board and knead into a long torpedo shape approximately 23cm (9in) x 6cm (2 ½ in) wide. Lay onto the lined tray and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till pale golden and set – the mix will spread a little. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray for 10 minutes. Turn down the oven to 140C (120C fan) 275F, Gas 1. Using a sharp long bladed knife slice the cooled torpedo shape into diagonal slices about 2cm (3/4 in) across. Lay flat on the baking tray and place into the middle of the oven to dry out for about 30 to 40 minutes, turning once. Cool on the tray and store in an airtight container – will keep for up to 4 weeks. Drying the slices at a lower temperature keeps the colour of the pistachio nuts.
An old family recipe.
1 teacup ( 150mls) milk or water
900g granulated sugar
1 tin condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
Oil a tin approximately 30cm (10in) x 20cm (8in), .Melt the butter and water in a pan. Add sugar. Stir until dissolved and boil slowly 5 minutes stirring all the time. Add the condensed milk and stir till boiling. Keep stirring. Fill a cup with cold water. When the mixture darkens and begins to thicken, test by dropping a little into the water. When it forms a firm chewy ball as it falls to the bottom of the cup the toffee is ready for the next stage. Remove from the heat, allow to settle and add the essence. Beat with a wooden spoon till it begins to grain then quickly pour into a prepared tin. When set mark into squares. Turn out onto a clean board, break into squares and store in an airtight tin or put into bags, seal and share with family and friends.