Shipton Mill Garden - May Update
The march of the plants..!
I was in two minds about whether or not to post an update on the garden this month, as it’s currently in the midst of what Emily terms the “hungry gap”… By which, she means that there is pause of sorts for the next three to four weeks before the peas and beans start to emerge around mid-June, and there’s not a great deal growing at the moment that’s edible (apart from our herbs). However, there is a lot of activity and preparation for the warmer months going on – now is the time that we transition many of our plants to prepare for what we hope will be a fruitful summer. The fruit, vegetables and salad that we grow here often form the basis of my recipes, along with the wild produce from the surrounding trees and hedgerows.
Right now, what has become a sort of annual ritual of shifting the plants from their winter home of the greenhouse into the outdoor beds is taking place. This only happens once we can be sure that we’ve seen off the last of the frosts before the summer, so to me, this movement also signals the start of the warmer weather. Although the plants aren’t currently at their most exciting or beautiful, it is a critical period of time to lay the foundations for delicious summer food. Some of the food you will undoubtedly see later here on the blog is quite literally taking root now, so I thought I would go ahead and share a snippet of this food journey for those who are interested.
The dahlias and pelargoniums are being cleared out of the greenhouse, to make room for what will become walls of tomatoes. After three solid days of rain, there has since been a little sunshine to welcome them. This year, Emily and Debbie (our gardening team) have decided to place the focus on growing crispy lettuces, kale, potatoes, leeks, chard, peas, beans, and carrots, as well as a few onions and some garlic. At the moment, a lot of our salad is going towards supplying a local restaurant in Nailsworth, Asparagasm, so if you are local to the area let us know how it tastes! Because we are running out of space in the beds, we are focusing on growing vegetables where we think we will be able to taste a real difference in the fact they are homegrown, and where freshness really matters – so lots of leafy greens and crispy lettuces.
In terms of our cut flowers, the spring blooms are now dying away, but we managed to supply RHS Malvern with enough for a bed before they had passed their best, for their spring festival. Summery blooms are now beginning to bud and take their place. My grandmother, Estie, always grew purple wisteria and yellow banksia roses together, for the colour combination. My mother has since planted the same combination to grow up the side of the house to continue the tradition, and this week they are at their absolute zenith, a riot of purple and yellow with a fabulous wisteria scent.
Although everything is looking a little rain sodden and thin on the ground with the edibles, there is something exciting about the anticipation of what the change in the seasons to the summer will bring. Tiny figs are beginning to grow on the old fig tree, miniature pale green alpine strawberries are forming, the apple blossom is falling to the ground, and the peonies and roses are beginning to open up. Right now, the garden is all about the promise of what’s to come.
On a slightly different note, I was jumping up and down this week dancing a very inelegant jig to hear that “A Handful of Flour – Recipes from Shipton Mill” has been nominated for the Guild of Food Writers “First Book” Award. If you fancy a little taste of these pages, there’s a recipe for my calvados and apple tart here. This can be made to look very pretty with hardly any effort, and I’d highly recommend it with a scoop of clotted cream or ice cream.