Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Living Gold

When you invest your time and money into a greenhouse you want it to saturate every part of your life. The obvious benefits are registered by the leisure and pleasure receptors that are fired up and illuminated by simply taking time out to garden, grow and reap the fruits of your labour.

image SeptThe sense of satisfaction as colanders of herbs and ingredients dry on the greenhouse benches knows no bounds. It’s that same feel good factor that you get from a smooth, rich taste of red wine, that first morsel of dark chocolate or the scent of ripe vanilla pods. It’s divine, it’s lush and it feeds the soul.

Too much of a good thing spoils the effect, variety as they say is the spice of life and in my greenhouse and garden, it’s the morsels of flavour, the splashes of colour and the taste of heaven that makes every gram of every crop a precious commodity. In days gpne by the spice route circumnavigated the globe, but these days we are spoilt for choice and greenhouse growers are spoilt more than most. The glass protected growing space enables a huge variety of culinary delights to be grown, harvested, dried and stored for use all year round; and thatnks to some fantastic listings by some of the seed and plant suppliers, the variety gets more and more adventurous year by year, feeding the quest for exotic tastes and flavours. This Septermber in my greenhouse, there’s bowls of golden calendula petals for ointments and salves, cat mint to fill little fabric mice for the local felines, lavender for the quintessential lavender bags, all ripening and drying in the last sunbeams of summer. All ingredients for those thoughtful, perfect homemade gifts for little impromptu visiting thank you’s and get well wishes. Bowls of tomatoes of all shapes and sizes and in various stages of ripening – each one a little packet of sweetness, and a huge temptation to taste the flavour of summer before it’s just a memory of another plant enriched year.

image Sept 2014Dishes of orange red, spicy hot chillies, all languishing in the last rays of sunshine, ripening slowly in the rich, heady warmth under the greenhouse glass. It’s these little delights, rich and small that punctuate my year and season the preserves and concoctions made and stored for winter. Chillies to enhance the crab apple jellies, to colour and spice winter breads and bakes, to flavour oils and add their warming touch to muscle rubs and cough mixtures.

Each ingredient a reminder of the past summer’s bounty and a marker for the year ahead too. The rich flavours a stark bookmark for what to sow and grow for the year ahead and the bland, if any exist, a black mark for the order book and lesson to be learned. Some like the tomatoes and chillies even offer up the seeds of their lineage for next year’s crop and the greenhouse again provides drying space before they are packed into little brown packets and stored away until spring.

New Experiments

image Sep 14Autumn has descended upon us out of nowhere. Suddenly there’s a deadline to meet in the garden. The time is up for harvesting and the days of productivity numbered. There’s a rush on to keep up with the produce, to bottle, jam, preserve and dry and it’s full steam ahead to get everything in before winter arrived.

Keep your soul fired up as winter approaches. Plant something new, something rich and something enviable. I’ve got a few botanical delights up my sleeve and one of them is a spice, its worth more than its weight in gold and while you don’t need a greenhouse to grow it, I‘m planting mine in the greenhouse in pretty Victorian flower pots where I can protect every bloom from the weather and watch over these bulbs as they grow and flower. It’s actually a crocus, an autumn flowerer and a domesticated strain of this Mediterranean marvel that has been selected over centuries for its long, luscious stigmas.

image 5It’s what is known in cytology as a triploid, so it’s vigorous but doesn’t make viable seed; instead each little corm makes diddy corms that will form new plants the following year. A batch of purple flowering Crocus sativus and the white flowered Crocus cartwrightianus albus have arrived from Suttons Seeds and I can’t wait to plant them and watch them grow. I’m not expecting a bumper harvest, but when a recipe calls for just a few strands, then there’s sure to be enough for a winter treat. It’s hailed as a mood enhancer as well as a colouring and flavour, but to be honest; the sight of fresh, blousy flowers in October is enough to raise the spirits. For me the jars and bottles of all the summer splendour create a real buzz and warmth.

You just can’t buy that feel good factor, but you can bottle it in your mind and uncork the memories when the mid winter gloom envelops your soul and the icy fingers of Jack Frost claw at your plants, your heart and your soul. It’s manna from heaven and something to truly cherish and value. Whoever said gardening was a pastime and a career for “ne’er do wells” simply didn’t get it. It’s their loss not ours. Indulge your passion for plants and gardening, it’s something that you can eat, you can treasure and it’s a gold that will go on growing whatever the market dictates.