A Tiger or a Bear?

I am very pleased that this Buddleia has recovered after freezing back completely last winter, but was then doubly happy to see these two butterflies resting on it the other day, as they are quite unusual…

The English name is Jersey Tiger, but in German they are called ‘Russian Bear’… interesting! Another name used in both languages is ‘Spanish Flag’. I wonder what the Spanish call it!

When resting you cannot see the bright orange part of the wings, so here is a Wikipedia photo to give you an idea of the flashes of bright orange when they flutter away – too quickly for me and my camera!

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In southern Germany they can often be seen, but only near the woods or on shrubby grassland. They apparently like raspberry or nettle leaves, both of which are abundant in the nearby woods and hedges.

Have you seen this butterfly? And which name would you say is more apt – Tiger or Bear?! 😉

The Nepal Himalaya Park Revisited

In early July I returned to the Himalaya Garden near Regensburg, which I posted about here, but this time with my sister. It was very sunny, but the bright sunshine didn’t detract from the planting at all. As I mentioned in my last post about it, this is not a show garden, but more a plant lover’s playground. And yet some of the combinations were stunning! These Foxtail Lilies for example, with golden green Euphorbia and golden grasses…

The blues, silvers and golds all melded together too: here Eryngium with more grasses…

And here Eryngium, Lavender and Melica ciliata…

I particularly like this part of the garden, set in a former stone quarry on a well-drained south-facing slope…

We both enjoyed the amazing and unusual selection of plants and trees, some of which remain unidentified. Can anyone help us identify this tall flower in the foreground below, with large silvery leaves?

And those green ‘umbrella’ style plants on the right seem familiar too… now what are they!

I know I can count on my wise and curious plant-loving readers for help! 😉

The Nepal Himalaya Park

Last week we had a bank holiday here in Bavaria – Ascension Day. This meant that an ideal spot for meeting up with friends would be open… the Nepal Himalaya Park near Regensburg.

I have never visited a garden in Germany that captivated me quite like this one! It is most certainly not a traditional ‘show garden’, where plants are placed for effect and labelled with care. No, this was more of a plant fanatic’s paradise, a playground for the owner of the park to see what he can grow, with a mostly oriental theme; a little chaotic, quite wild in places, but absolutely charming in my eyes!

The Nepal Himalaya Pavillon

Photo from the Pavillon website: http://www.nepal-himalaya-pavillon.de

The garden is set into a south-facing hillside in part of a former quarry, and the main ‘attraction’ which inspired it is the Himalaya Pavillon. This temple was actually the Nepalese exhibit at the Expo 2000 in Hanover. It was painstakingly dismantled and rebuilt here in its new home. The garden then arose around it a few years later, so is still relatively young.

My photos are not brilliant as I used my mobile phone, but I think you can get the idea of what the temple looks like surrounded by enormous trees, rhododendrons and azaleas.

I was so pleasantly surprised when I walked through the gate, as it was not at all what I had expected. Along with the traditional perennials, native wild flowers and many herbs there were a lot of unusual plants unknown to me, which I had to look up when I got home. So if you see I have made a mistake, please feel free to correct me!

Only recently I had looked up Amsonia, when Jason from Garden in a City mentioned them. Then there they were – the first flower I laid my eyes on and the first time I had seen one.

Amsonia illustris

I found the foliage particularly striking.

As we walked down a slope past a pond, I noticed Anthericum everywhere, along with patches of blue Corydalis and various Euphorbias.

This plant kept popping up too… I believe it is a type of Echium, although I personally only know the blue sort that grows by the roadsides here.

Echium amoenum

The Japanese garden didn’t do much for me, but as we passed that we came to a shadier area where hostas and ferns were thriving…

I wonder if anyone can tell me what the tall plant is between the yellow irises and poppies… It looks kind of familiar.

Along the way there were small temples, bells and a prayer wheel – all original pieces shipped from Nepal. But I was focussed on the plants!

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The newest part of the garden is the Chinese Garden – it is very wild, overrun with native wild flowers, but still managing to make quite an impact with the wooden bridges and gateways placed at intervals and the setting itself in the rockiest part of the old quarry is fairly dramatic…

Finally, the plant of the day: Lupins!

On our way home we noticed blue ones growing by the roadsides – something we don’t see in our valley at home.

The website is unfortunately all in German, but there is a virtual tour of the garden here, navigable without any language.

And should you ever visit this part of the world, I would definitely recommend this to serious plant lovers! What kind of gardens do you like to visit best – wild and weedy or formal and tidy? 😉

In a Vase on Monday: Tulips from Amsterdam

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this lovely meme, has shared some beautiful tulips in her vase today. By coincidence I am joining her with some of my own tulips that have been such a show this spring.

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All of the tulips here originate from Holland (maybe not quite Amsterdam), but I must confess my little windmill on the photo below is from Norfolk!

The moment I thought of today’s title, that song came to mind… famously sung in the UK by Max Bygraves, but well-known in Germany too (as it was actually originally written in German!). Here is a fabulous German version of it from youtube (from 1961!) by the Dutch singer Mieke Telkamp…

She can roll her ‘r’s so well! 😉

I am not entirely sure of all the names, but the purple one is ‘Purple Dream’, the white one ‘Swan Wings’, the pink parrot tulip ‘Weber’s Parrot’, the three orange ones are ‘Princess Irene’, the creamy one with a yellow-green stripe is ‘Green Star’ and the yellow lily one is ‘West Point’, kindly identified by Christina last week. The rest are probably from the Harlequin mix from Peter Nyssen.

Have you got any tulips in your garden? Or do you find them a little brash?

😉

In a Vase on Monday: The Second Breakfast

‘Das zweite Frühstück’ – the second breakfast – is something I think of as being very typically German… school begins at 8am here, and most people are in their offices by then too, so the tum starts to rumble at about 10 am! (I suppose the British equivalent would be ‘elevenses’.)

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I went to the baker’s this morning to fetch fresh pretzels (how German can you get?!). This one here is a speciality pretzel recently made popular by one particular bakery chain, but now available at local bakers too. ‘Bierbrezen’ are sprinkled not just with salt, but a spicy peppery seasoning that is quite delicious, especially if the pretzels are still warm from the oven! Perfect with that second cup of coffee.

But before sitting down to my second breakfast I took a walk around the garden, which is still partially white, but rather muddy as the snow slowly thaws. No new shoots yet, but I managed to find a few bits and pieces for a Monday vase, so I could join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly meme.

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A few remaining grasses, some somewhat shabby Epimedium leaves, a sprig of reddish brown Mahonia (not flowering yet),  some Erica, a couple of sprigs of pine and some Silver Ragwort (Jacobaea maritima) that amazingly survived being in a (still) frozen pot all winter.

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I am so pleased I found something this week and am hopeful now that spring might not be too far off. If, like me, you are still looking for snowdrops in vain, go and visit Cathy and you will not be disapppointed!

😀

Freeze-Froze-Frozen

One of the major inland waterways for freight carried across Germany, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, is currently closed to traffic…

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It has been below freezing point for several weeks now (apart from a couple of days around Christmas), at times reaching -17°C and frequently staying at around -9°C during the day. I have seen the canal freeze over once before, but it never freezes completely, being built into the bed of a slow-flowing river. Last Monday it was officially closed to traffic, as the locks froze up and no ice breakers could get through.

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The canal links up the North Sea (Rotterdam in the Netherlands) with the Black Sea, and millions of tonnes of heavy building materials, grain and coal are transported via this route on long deep barges each year. Passenger cruises also regularly use this route, the most popular trips being from Rotterdam or Nurenberg, down past us to the Danube, and then on to Vienna and even Budapest. This part of the canal near to us was the last section to be built, involving high costs to reduce the environmental impact and secure habitats for wildlife. The completed canal is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

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Today it is a balmy +1°C, with +3°C  forecast by the weekend. Still cold at night though, so it will take a while before we see boats coming this way again. In the meantime it is pleasantly quiet…

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Have you seen local waterways freeze this winter?

Stay safe and warm everyone!

Christmas Cashew Shortbread (Vegan)

I have been experimenting a bit with my Christmas cookie recipes again, and after discovering a bag of cashews were coming up to their  ‘use by’ date I decided to incorporate them into a cookie recipe instead of the more traditional almonds or hazelnuts.

They are just how shortbread should be – slightly salty, buttery, sugary and crunchy!

So if you are looking for a shortbread recipe with extra crispness and flavour this Christmas, here is my recipe.

Cashew Shortbread

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  • 115 g (1 stick) vegan butter
  • 75 g (2 1/2 oz) raw cashews, ground to a fine powdery ‘flour’
  • 125 g (1 cup) self-raising flour, sifted
  • zest of an orange
  • 2 tsps cardamom (optional as the flavour was sadly lost during baking)
  • 60 g (1/3 cup) soft brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and work the butter into the mixture with your finger tips until it is nice and crumbly. Bring the dough together into a ball, adding a drop of non-dairy milk or water only if necessary to make it stick. Then wrap in clingfilm and chill for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180° C/350°F and line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. Roll out your dough to about 4 or 5 mm (about 1/6th of an inch) and, using a very small cookie cutter (mine was 4 cm, or 1 1/2 inches), cut out your shapes. Place on the baking sheets and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Carefully move to a cooling rack and let them cool completely before storing.

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This is definitely my second favourite after my vanilla cookies. (By the way, I have updated my original recipe for the Vanillekipferl here, so they are also vegan now and just as good as ever too!)

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Are you doing any special baking this Christmas? What is your favourite sweet Christmas treat?