The Rocks in the Rockery (and the Tuesday View)

If you have seen summery pictures of my rockery in this year’s ‘Tuesday View’, you may be forgiven for wondering why I call it a rockery… Apart from the large rock in the foreground on the right there is hardly a rock in sight.

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The rockery in early August

But when you see this view in December it is quite a different story, and the rocks become a focus when the plants are no longer able to provide interest.

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Shapes, shadows, moss and wintergreen ground cover create a very different feel to the summer abundance of flora… especially on a frosty day like today.

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When I first cleared this area, which was covered in thick layers of ivy, I remember smiling as each rock was revealed. I particularly like this one with the little ‘window’, and try to keep it free of growth for most of the year.

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And this one too…

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Others vanish completely in summer, and in the shade of the perennials moss gains a grip, becoming more and more visible in the autumn as the surrounding plants die back.

Even on a grey day I can take pleasure in the rocks themselves. But when the sun shines on them they are even more attractive.

If we get snow in winter it can turn the rockery into a moon-like landscape for weeks. However, in a snowless winter I often look at it despairingly, convinced everything has died and it will never be green again! Do you get that feeling too?

And then I need to look at some of the photos taken in summer, to remind me on a dreary winter’s day of what it will feel like to step outside, barefoot, and walk across the warm patio paving to the steps – those steps from which photos of the Tuesday View are always taken – and sit down with a cup of coffee and look and dream and listen to the sounds of nature.

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The rockery in June

To finish off, a short video from June last year at the bottom of the rockery…

Both summer and winter views are lovely in their different ways. But I know which view I prefer…😉

What is your favourite feature in your garden on a dreary grey winter’s day?

In a Vase on Monday: Recycling

This second week of December I am once again joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden with a Monday vase. As it is very cold and very frosty I decided to just add a few snippets to the remains of last week’s vase with the lovely Mahonia at the centre.

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I added some Hypericum and some sprigs of lavender, box and pine. The grasses and seed heads from last week were also reused.

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A Christmas tealight holder was used as a container and all the other paraphernalia is my seasonal windowsill decoration. (Elvin the Elk is making his annual appearance on this blog!)

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If you think there is nothing to pick in your garden, why not go and take a second look… it is amazing what you may find!😉

P.S. I have also got a few small branches of Forsythia in a jug, hoping they will open by Christmas Eve… if you have already had a cold spell and cut a sprig from spring-flowering shrubs or cherry or apple trees now, they should flower indoors within 3 -4 weeks.🙂

A Hearty Bake for World Vegan Month

I have been cooking my way through the World Vegan Month of November and to finish off the series I decided to share a staple recipe I have been making regularly for some time now. Since I always have a few tins of various beans in the cupboard this hearty bake can be ready on the table in 30 minutes and is not only filling, but also tasty and nutritious.

Cannellini and Tomato Bake with Garlic Bread Topping

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For the bake:

  • 1 x 400g (14oz) tin cannellini beans
  • 1 x 400g (14oz) tin tomatoes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp mixed dried herbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Optional ‘glug’ of red wine or sherry!

For the topping:

  • Half a baguette, thickly sliced (you could use leftover bread of any kind here)
  • 3 tbsps olive oil mixed with 1 clove garlic, crushed

Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and gently saute the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add all the other ingredients. Gently cook for a few more minutes until it starts to thicken. In the meanwhile preheat your grill to medium – high and put a baking dish under it to warm.

When your dish is nice and hot, pour the bean and tomato mixture in. Arrange the slices of bread on top and distribute the garlic oil evenly over the slices. Place under the grill for a couple of minutes – be careful not to look away as the bread will burn very quickly if you don’t watch it! Add a little chopped fresh parsley as a garnish if you have any at hand.

 

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That’s it. Dinner in 30 minutes!😀

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I hope you have enjoyed this series of recipes. I will be posting a vegan Christmas cookie recipe for you soon!

🙂

In a Vase on Monday: A Vase for Alys

Last week was grey and damp and I was feeling rather despondent about my vase contents for today.

And then magic happened, and a surprise parcel arrived all the way from sunny California from my dear blogging friend Alys, at Gardening Nirvana.

😀😀😀

The package contained a beautiful handmade card displaying a vase full of flowers and the calendar marking Monday…

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It is so pretty, and so ‘me’.

And the icing on the cake was a pack of vase arrangers that Alys also sent along – these are soft wire discs/’nets’ that can be bent to shape for any vase and help keep individual stems in place. I have wanted one for ages after seeing them on someone’s blog, but have never seen them here.

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This was the inspiration I needed for my vase, and I spent this morning happily playing around with stems and seed heads. One of my favourite vases has quite a wide top and so I was pleased I could use it for fewer stems this week.

A big thank you to you, Alys, for cheering up my week and being so thoughtful! This vase is for you! xxx (I hope you have read my mail Alys!)

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The main components are red stems and foliage, with the Mahonia at the centre. The Fennel seeds are a favourite element for Advent vases, as when the seeds drop they leave behind little stars…

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I included several different grasses – names forgotten for the moment.

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Some Iris sibirica seedheads still look good in the garden and I found some fresh red Cotinus shoots as well…

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To top it all, we had sunshine today – the first for what seems like weeks! (It was very frosty too this morning).

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Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme and getting me out searching for vase materials even on a cold and frosty November morning.🙂

And thanks again to Alys.🙂

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Have a great week everyone!

Pumpkin Pie for World Vegan Month

As Christmas approaches, and with Thanksgiving in the US this week, I thought my vegan pumpkin pie recipe might go down well. I adapted my original recipe (which you can also find on my recipes page) using alternatives for the eggs and milk, and the result was amazing… it tasted fantastic, full of flavour and nobody would ever guess it’s vegan!

I invited a friend over to test it, and the verdict was a definite thumbs up!

So here it is:

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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Pie crust:

  • 225g (1 4/5 cups) plain flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g (3 1/2 oz) vegan butter

Filling:

  • 425 g (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 125 g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
  • 4 tbsps maple syrup
  • 100 ml (2/5 cup) canned full-fat coconut milk
  • 4 tbsps unsweetened almond or soya milk
  • 3 tbsps cornflour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger

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Method:

Grease a 23 cm pie or flan dish. Rub the butter into the flour and salt until fine and crumbly, then add just enough cold water to bring the dough together. Wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Roll out the pastry to fit your pie dish. Place some greaseproof paper on top and fill with baking beans. Bake blind for about ten minutes. Remove the beans and paper.

Blend all the filling ingredients together. Pour into the pastry case and bake in the oven for a further 40 – 50 minutes.

Leave to cool and then chill for a few hours or preferably overnight.

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Serve with vegan whipped cream and enjoy! 

Wishing all American readers a Happy Thanksgiving!

😀

In a Vase on Monday: Now what is that thing called again?

After the frosts ten days ago the past week was just so incredibly wet that even the Persicaria has given up the ghost. Which leaves me with very little to cut for my Monday vases now. The Golden Euonymus usually stays golden all winter though, so I picked a large sprig of it and some grasses; Miscanthus and…? Then the last Echinacea seed head (the others have gone mouldy), a Skimmia flower, and some of that silvery foliage…

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Now what is that called again! I have a mental block concerning that plant. Marrubia? Or something similar?

I am not at all keen on Skimmias, but this was in a basket given to me last month and has at least added a bit of colour to the patio.

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The vase, with its tree silhouettes seemed appropriate for the season. Most of the leaves have come down now, but there are still some birch hanging on, and the larches are turning golden too.

If you are joining in Cathy’s meme I hope you have better luck than I did finding something for a vase this week. But if you hop over to Rambling in the Garden I am sure our dear host has created something lovely once again to inspire us all.🙂

Chocolate Amarena Brownies for World Vegan Month

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Yes, it IS possible to make delicious vegan brownies without eggs and butter!

As promised, here is the recipe in my November ‘World Vegan Month’ series, and it is in fact relatively healthy compared to most other brownie recipes I have tried… relatively.😉

The twist to these particular brownies is the amarena cherries I used – the sort that come in syrup in a small jar. They are incredibly sweet and have a lovely slightly almondy flavour. If you can’t find them, try using an alternative syrup and ordinary tinned cherries.

Vegan Chocolate Amarena Brownies

(in a heart-shaped tin, just because!😉

Dry ingredients:

  • 150g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour (I use one third wholemeal)
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 50g (1/4 cup) raw cane sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp vanilla sugar or 1tsp vanilla essence

Wet ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps syrup from the amarena cherry jar
  • 2 tbsps vegetable oil
  • 150ml (2/3 cup) sparkling mineral water
  • 50g (1 3/4 oz) vegan dark chocolate, melted in a bain marie
  • About 10-12 amarena cherries

Grease and flour a 15 x 15 cm (6 x 6 inch) baking tin (or a heart-shaped one😉 )

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350° F.

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Stir the syrup, oil and water together and mix in, whisking lightly with a fork. Fold in the melted chocolate. Pour into the baking tin and spread evenly. Scatter the cherries on the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Leave in the tin until completely cool, then turn out, sprinkle with a little icing sugar if you like, and slice. Serves 8.

Delicious with vegan whipped cream!😉

 

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Enjoy!

(I dare you to resist!)😉