May merrily tiptoed in accompanied by the distinctive cry of oyster catchers heralding an explosion of vibrant colour across the garden, where over three thousand tulip blooms illuminate tubs and flower beds;  from rich golds, to pastel pinks, ruby reds and every colour in between.  Tulips are a member of the lily family so where did they originate?

During the sixteenth century when the Ottoman Empire invaded the Kazakhstan they discovered tulips growing wild in the mountains there. The Emperor Sultan Suleyman the first so prized the flowers that they became a symbol of wealth and power. Often worn on the turban, the name tulip is derived from the word ‘tulipan’ the Persian word for a turban.

The garden is filling up becoming brighter and greener by the day. It is all go as the soil heats and the sun shines blossom covers the fruit trees, the incredible futuristic alium domes will soon be in flower, plants are donning a mantle of bright green and the trees are coming into tender leaf as if someone has shaken a pepper pot of green over their bare branches. In the soft fruit garden strawberries are in flower, raspberry canes are thriving and already clusters of would be berries are forming on the currant bushes.

The crab-apple orchard is already forty shades of green as the seedling break through the earth and the trees sway gently in the soft breeze.  In the pastel wild flower meadow the sweet peas have already begun the ascent of their birch wigwam homes surrounded by sprouting wild flower seedlings.

As busy as the bees collecting nectar and pollinating are the gardeners as they tackle the job of weeding and planting. The colder weather delayed the big plant out and now it is definitely full on!  Over one thousand vegetable, cut flower and herb plants have been waiting in the greenhouse wings to join the main cast in the garden so there is plenty to do!  Twelve varieties of heritage tomatoes are now potted up and installed in the large greenhouse. With intriguing names like Golden Crown, Black Opal, Ailsa Craig and the delicious stripped Tigerella ( as the name suggests)  to name a few; already we look forward to a ‘tasty tom!’

The first salads, broad beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, leeks, onions, brassicas  and more – what a harvest to come!

An urgent job is to replace the rosemary hedges which divide the areas of the herb garden. They were adversely affected by very low temperatures during the winter of 2021. At last five hundred healthy young bushes have arrived to replace them. As the old bushes are removed and the new ones take their place imagine the wonderful aromas which will pervade the gardens!

Round the tulips in the flower beds the gardeners are planting hardy annuals such as cornflower, calendula and aquilegia and dahlias will soon be joining them. What a wealth of colourful flowers of all shapes and sizes will grace the garden in the months to come. The first plants are now installed in the cut flower trial beds.

A fabulous burst of colour ranunculus (a form of buttercup) is to be found in the large greenhouse. The Queen of Sweden and Roald Dhal roses opposite are budding profusely. Roses too are on the way.

At last the asparagus has born fruit or should I say ‘spear’, such a short season eagerly anticipated but worth the waiting. The rhubarb this year is prolific. Providing plenty of produce for the restaurant which serves freshly prepared meals and snacks daily Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm.

Both asparagus and rhubarb are for sale in the Potting Shed Shop. Perhaps best to pre-order asparagus so it can be cut fresh for you.

The Potting shed shop also has a huge selection of plants for sale. Lettuces, tomatoes, vegetables, chillies, herbs, perennial and annual flowers ready to plant in your own garden as the growing season begins in earnest. Don’t delay now is the time to get them into the ground!

Let us all hope for good sunny weather to welcome back the ever popular Highland games on 15th May where there will be a sale of The Walled Garden plants such as various vegetables, tomatoes, chillies, flowers and herbs.

Not to mention ‘Recipes from The Walled Garden’ ;a handy cookbook.

So you can buy it, grow it and then cook it. Saving food miles.

Come visit for a daily dose of nature’s benefits as one gardener called it ‘Vitamin G’’

‘A flowery green, bird-singing land’ (William Henry-Davies).

There is great solace in the garden.

There is prolific crop of rhubarb this year, here are some simple recipes to try at home!

Quick rhubarb and ginger relish
A last minute invention by my chef friend Christopher Trotter, delicious with roasts and smoked meats and fish.
Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan. Add a little mustard seed, chopped root ginger and a little de-seeded chopped chilli.  Stir fry quickly then toss in plenty chopped rhubarb and stir fry to coat and soften. Slosh in a little cider or fruit vinegar, add a generous spoon of soft brown sugar along with a little salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cover the pan to steam cook for up to 3 or 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve as a relish/chutney. Pour into clean jars, seal and store in the fridge up to two weeks.

 

The Walled Garden rhubarb and custard crumble cake
Makes a tray bake 20cm (8in) x 30cm (12in)
225g (8oz) butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) golden syrup
200g (7oz) self raising flour
45g (1 ½ oz) custard powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs – beaten
175g (4oz) chopped rhubarb

Topping:-
60g (2oz) butter
60g (20z) caster sugar
30g (1oz) self raising flour
85g (33oz) porridge oats

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil the baking tin. Cream the butter, sugar and syrup till light. Sift the flour custard powder and baking powder into a bowl. Beat the egg into the butter mixture alternately with a little flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the rest of the flour along with the rhubarb and spread evenly in the tin. Melt the butter and stir into the other topping ingredients and scatter over the top of the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes till risen and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin cut into 18 squares and enjoy freshly baked.
 
Chewy rhubarb slice
5 weetabix or oatabix – crumbled
225g (8oz) Hamlyn’s porridge oats
1 teaspoon ground ginger
140g (5oz) soft brown sugar
115g (4oz) chopped rhubarb
115g (4oz) butter
115g (4oz) syrup

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tin 20cm (8in) square. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt the butter and syrup and stir into the mix Press evenly into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till golden but not too brown – you want it to be chewy. Cool in the tin. Mark into squares while still warm.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

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