Red, Red, Red

Paeony poppy

This had nothing to do with edible and useful, I just wanted to mention how much pleasure I am getting from the red flowers in my garden. Probably the most dramatic is the blood red paeony poppy. This one self sows around my garden, popping up in odd corners, often flowering where I don’t want it, but I try to leave it in place at least until it flowers. I then hoick it out leaving room to plant something else. At least one plant is left to set seed, and there are thousands. I sprinkle these around the garden, thus ensuring that the whole process will be repeated next year. Read more


Bright orange, edible nasturtium flowers

One of the most cheerful plants in my garden at present are the nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus). The bright yellow, orange and red flowers are jewel-like highlights, scattered around the garden, in odd spots, tumbling over other plants. Nasturtiums grow easily from seed sown where they are to grow and once established they will grow, flower and set seed for months. Intense heat, or later cold and frost kill them off but in my garden they reappear every spring, colonizing waste spaces and protecting soil until I am ready to pull them out and plant something else. The only work involved in looking after them is to keep them under control. Any plants that you don’t want are simply pulled out and added to the compost where they rapidly break down. Read more

Elders for hay fever, sunburn, jellies, jams, to repel flies and even to make champagne

The clear white flowers of the elder tree

Elder flowers can be used to make champagne or a wash for sunburn

Elders (Sambucus nigra) are small deciduous trees with leaves that are matt green and flowers that are creamy white and sweetly-scented.The flowers grow in clusters up to 20 cm across and are followed by purplish-black berries. There are now numerous cultivars with varying leaf shapes and colours (gold, variegated, green, purple), as well as dwarf and pink-flowered forms.
Elders will grow in most soils in most positions and in colder regions can be problem weeds. The trees need cold to set fruit, birds feed on the fruit and deposit seed through bush land where the seeds sprout and grow into new trees. So if you live in a cold region with nearby bush, make sure you harvest the berries before the birds can get to them. Prune elder back hard every year, either in late autumn or before the new growth appears in spring. The pruned pieces can be used as cuttings to propagate new plants. It will also grows easily from seed planted in autumn. Read more

  • All words and images © Copyright Penny Woodward 2021.
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