“The earth is growing quiet. It is making its bed, a winter bed for flowers and small creatures. The bed is white and silent, and much life can hide beneath its blankets.” In November by Cynthia Rylant
The earth is quietly resting. However, the gardeners are not, for they are tackling two huge projects which will take several weeks to complete.
The planting of a new yew hedge in the north west side of the garden has begun. Part of the long-term garden plan it will stretch 130metres to enclose the cherry orchard. It is an ongoing project designed to provide more interest by creating ‘garden rooms.’
Evergreen and slow growing a further yew hedge will reflect a similar one which is now established round the soft fruit area.
Already trenches are dug with wooden edges in place awaiting 20 tons of top soil prior to planting the 500 yew trees which will create the new hedge screen.
Project number two is labour intensive and will take some time to complete. ‘Watch this space,’ as they say because the renovation and replanting of the 70 square meter herb garden is ‘quite some undertaking!’ One consolation is that digging out aromatic plants such as fennel, lemon balm, camomile and rosemary releases heady aromas redolent of the approaching festive season, scented candles and cosy winter nights by a crackling log fire.
Planting a combination of medicinal and culinary herbs is at the planning stage. Head Gardener Ed Bollom and his team continue to remove overgrown plants while retaining the rosemary hedges which divide the area. The groundwork is almost half way to completion; followed by replanting to create a diverse area of interest which will be more easily maintained.
With the flower beds tidied and the garden put to bed for the winter, this is the best time to prune because the apple and pear trees are in a dormant state. The pear trees which grow over the archways are first, to encourage new spring growth to further cover the arches. It is a long job taking several months to complete.
Meanwhile the Potting Shed Shop is bursting with apples, freshly dug leeks, parsnips and winter cabbage. This much overlooked vegetable grows well here, there are an abundance of tasty recipes to be made. Brussels sprouts sweetened by a nip of frost will soon be on sale. There are also on request, Jerusalem artichokes, which though fiddly to prepare make a delicious bowl of soup.
Then there is the enjoyable task of decking the halls with holly and more in time for;
Christmas afternoon tea served in the Garden café from the end of the month.
Find more information here.
The Walled Garden Gift shop is filled with unique decorations and gifts, I love the baubles filled with plum or raspberry gin! What a clever idea! Come have a browse, our shop is open 7 days a week 11am-4pm.
Now is the time to think about ordering a Christmas Wreath. Completely hand made with foliage and flowers specifically grown in the gardens for this purpose. No ‘plant miles’ or ‘plastic ‘ involved. Made with care and joy to provide pleasure and cheer deck your halls for Christmas. Pre-order your wreath here.
At this time of the year a cook’s thoughts naturally turn to cakes and more besides, so here are a few recipes to try using fresh garden produce;
JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP
Serves 3 to 4 people
You will need:
440g Jerusalem artichokes – scrubbed, trimmed and chopped
150g potatoes – peeled and chopped
500mls vegetable stock
½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or garden thyme
Zest of ½ lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
Gently cook the artichokes and potatoes in the butter slowly stirring for 5 minutes. Add stock, lemon thyme and zest. Bring to the boil, then simmer 20 minutes or till the vegetables are tender. Add lemon juice and season to taste. Blend smooth and serve hot.
GARLIC BUTTER WINTER CABBAGE WITH OATS AND WALNUTS
Wash and shred half a winter cabbage. Melt 30g butter in a saucepan, add a crushed clove of garlic along with the cabbage and stir fry for 2 or 3 minutes. Season well with salt and ground black pepper add a splash of water and steam for a few minutes till wilted and tender. Remove from the heat, drain retaining the juices. Keep warm.
30g chopped walnuts
60g porridge oats
Salt and black pepper
Melt the butter, add walnuts and oats and keep stirring to toast. Toss onto the cabbage while hot. For those who like a spice add chilli or garam masala to the mix. Alternatively freshly chopped herbs like parsley or coriander.
RASPBERRY GIN CRANNACHAN
Serves 2 people
You will need:
5 tablespoons Gordon Castle Raspberry Gin Liqueur
60g (2oz) medium oatmeal
115g (4oz) raspberries
30g (1oz) honey
1 tablespoon crème fraiche
150mls double cream
15g caster sugar
Toasted jumbo oatflakes
The day before, put the oatmeal in a bowl, cover with the gin and stir in the honey. Cover and leave to soak overnight. The following day stir in the raspberries and crème fraiche leaving 8 whole fruits to decorate. Whisk the cream with the sugar till thick. Toast the oatflakes. Assemble the dessert in tall glasses. Add a spoon of oatmeal mix then one of cream, repeat then decorate the top cream with toasted oat flakes and fresh raspberries.
GORDON CASTLE PLUM GIN CHRISTMAS CAKE
There is nothing like the tantalizing aroma of a slowly baking Christmas cake to herald the feast to come.
You will need:
225g (8oz) currants
225g (8oz) raisins
225g (8oz) sultanas
To soak the night before baking the cake:
2 tablespoon Gordon Castle plum gin liqueur
4 tablespoons hot water
Cover the bowl and leave in a cool place.
115g (4oz) cherries- washed and dried
115g (4oz) mixed peel
175g (6oz) chopped ready to eat apricots
350g (12oz) plain flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
225g (8oz) butter
175g (6oz) soft brown sugar
60g (2oz) honey
The grated rind and juice of 1 orange
5 eggs – beaten
2 tablespoons Gordon Castle plum gin
To feed the cake:-
Gordon Castle Plum Gin Liqueur
Put the currants, raisins and sultanas into a bowl add the water and gin and soak overnight. Oil and line a baking tin 23cm (9in) square. The following day, heat the oven at 160C (140C fan) 325F Gas 3. Weigh the cherries, mixed peel and apricots into the bowl of soaked fruits and stir together. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl. Cream the butter, sugar and honey till light then beat in the orange rind and juice followed by the eggs alternately with a spoon of flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the remaining flour along with the gin. Fold in the fruits and soaking juices. Gently spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and lightly tap the base of the tin on the work surface to even the mix. Wet a clean hand in warm water and use the palm or back of the knuckles to flatten and smooth the surface, particularly in the middle to help prevent the cake rising to a peak while baking. Bake 60 minutes then reduce the oven heat to 150C (130C fan) 300F, Gas 1 for a further 30 minutes. Test the middle of the cake by inserting a skewer or point of a sharp knife. If it comes out cleanly and the cake feels firm and springy to gentle pressure, the cake is ready. If not bake a further 15 to 20 minutes and repeat the test. Cool in the tin. Pour over 2 tablespoons of plum gin while warm and repeat twice as the cake cools. Leave 24 hours to set in the tin. Remove, wrap in foil and store in a cool place. Bake the cake at least 1 week in advance to allow flavours to mature. Marzipan and ice as required.