Friday 31 January 2020

Garrya elliptica

via wiki
A favourite winter shrub in our garden is the Garrya elliptica, also known as the silk tassel tree. It's catkins are one of winter's delights, and this year the shrub is covered with them.

Garrya is a small genus distributed along North America's western coastlands, from Mexico to Oregon. Garrya elliptica, the hardiest species and the one best suited to the British climate, was introduced to us by Scottish plant hunter David Douglas in 1828. He named the plants after the Hudson Bay Company's Nicholas Garry, who helped Douglas with his forays in western USA.
Garryas enjoy growing in well drained soil in full sun or partial shade. They dislike root disturbance and once planted and established will often die if they are transplanted elsewhere. It is, therefore, important to site them in an ideal situation from the beginning. The protection of a north or east facing wall often proves to be an ideal location for them in this country.
It is best to purchase a male plant as their catkins are far more showy and attractive than the ones seen on a female plant.  The male catkins hang together in elegant pendulous clusters, are about 6ins - 8ins long, and gently swing to and fro in a breeze. 

Sunday 26 January 2020

Mid Winter

Both December and January have been reasonably mild for the time of year, but also rather damp, and gloomy. However, there have been some lovely sunny, blue sky days, which really do lift the spirits. During the whole of the winter so far, this corner of the world, has received just two early morning frosts - both of which completely disappeared before there was time for me to venture outside with the camera.
In the garden the snowdrops and hellebores are flowering, and happily the hours of daylight grow noticeably longer as each week passes.

In the fridge some Stilton blue cheese was still hanging around from Christmas along with a large handful of shelled walnuts. I then remembered that I had a sheet of puff pastry in the freezer so decided to make a tart. I covered the base of the pastry with some caramelised red onions which I made by gently cooking the finely chopped onions in a little olive oil, and then adding balsamic vinegar along with some sugar until it turned into a 'jam' like consistency. However, I wanted something else to add to the mix and couldn't think what else to use. Luckily inspiration came along in the form of Lorrie's blog where I saw that she had used grapes on top of her blue cheese and flat bread recipe, thank you Lorrie. 

I cooked the tart for 20mins in a fan oven at 180ᵒC - it smells delicious - can't wait to try it later.

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Ten Pounds

If you are a British pensioner, did you discover an extra ten pounds sitting in your bank account during December? You may have wondered or forgotten where it came from, but others amongst you probably realised that it was a 'Christmas Gift' which came to you courtesy of the government. 
via wiki
The pensioner's Christmas gift was launched almost half a century ago in 1972 by the then Prime Minister, Ted Heath, but it has remained at £10 per pensioner since then! I recall my mother telling me about the payment at that time, and how delighted she and my father were to receive an extra £10 each. At that time £20 per pensioner couple was enough to cover the cost of a turkey dinner along with all of the trimmings for the whole of the family, and there was plenty of change left over to go towards the presents. In 1972 the £10 gift was worth more than the then weekly state pension which stood at £6.75, so the £20 gift per couple represented 3 weeks state pension at that time. Today that £10 gift is almost meaningless. This Christmas I purchased a large free range turkey breast which cost me £40, so a gift of £20 paid for just half of it.
Apparently giving a £10 payment to every pensioner costs the Government around £130 million each and every year. 
I consider that a once meaningful payment has now become a nonsense and I wonder if you, like me, think that the money would be better spent on schools, hospitals, mental health, or other current issues?