Category Archives: Garden

UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden

One morning, before the conference began, I had time to wander around the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden at the edge of the UCLA campus. I was so glad I could go and was amazed at the difference in vegetation between that of Europe and that of California. Even though there is a certain roughness to the plants, obviously designed in such a way due to harsh climate and to enable their survival, I still found a beauty applied to them. The garden was superbly kept and I was surprised at how underused it was. There was hardly a soul about while I walked about. There were only squirrels for company. I hope I captured some of that beauty in these photographs.

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I had never seen so many cacti before! I loved the many varieties and their shapes and sizes. Some looked positively lethal!

I  came across this beast of a thing, which kind of left me in awe. It was a tree but had spikes on its trunk. I loved the symmetry of the spikes and the leaves. I decided to give tree-hugging a pass this time around.

There were many plants with vivacious colours such as these Californian poppies, which really brightened up the place.

When I think of bamboo I am reminded of the fight scene which takes place in a bamboo forest in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Tall, vibrant green forests of the stuff. So I was amazed to see the bamboo below which has red berries, red rimmed leaves and is a smaller variety. It is known as Heavenly Bamboo.

Heavenly bamboo

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This plant’s leaves felt so thick and surreal, almost cloth-like in texture. Some trees were very surreal. For instance, the tree on the left reminded me of a hand sticking up in the air, in salute, and the tree on the right made me think of the mythological character, Medusa, who had a head of snakes for hair!

              I enjoyed watching the tortoises sunning themselves on the rocks in the stream and watching the world go by. Well for some, I guess :)

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Spring is sprung

We are nearly done with Spring in Ireland and we all keenly await the beginning of Summer. I feel like I missed out on most of the good weather, having had my head stuck in my books. Here are some photographs of the woodlands.

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Onions, anyone!

On a  recent trip to my father’s allotment, I came across these kings of the vegetable patch.

On guard!

I could not get over how beautiful these onions were. They stood tall and proud.

Here are some drying in the sun.

Hanging onions

This spectacular display attracted much attention from other allotment goers!

Drying onions

 Seemingly not satisfied enough with the huge amount of white onions, my father had also sown red onions, which he harvested when I was there.

Fresh red onions from the ground.

 Once my father picked the red onions, he set about putting them into storage, in his purpose-built shed. The smell coming out of the shed was overwhelming!

Storing red onions

There were enough onions to feed an army! I am expecting a lot of French onion soup to be served up to us on our upcoming visits in the autumn!

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Rocket fuel

It was a busy weekend trying to keep up with what to make with all the nice things growing in the garden. I finally got around to making the radish tops soup. This was actually amazing. It tasted so nice. The slow sautéing of the onion really added a sweet flavour. The children loved it too surprisingly. I made fresh rolls with ham, cheese, lettuce, radish and mustard to go along with the soup. It all just tasted like more once gobbled up.

After that bit of sustenance, it was back out to the garden to figure out what to do with all the rocket, which was about to flower.  I decided to give it the chop, with the help of Seren. Any opportunity to use her scissors :)

Helping me snip the rocket.

I decided to make the old faithful pesto. Can’t go much wrong with that. Rocket is peppery so I wanted to add something that would counteract that. I toasted walnuts as they are sweet, plus I like the smell.

I made two different types:

Garlic and Rocket Pesto

  • clove of garlic
  • two handfuls of rocket
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple of glugs of oil
  • spoon of honey
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of sea salt

Throw it all in a blender/mixer and give it a blast. I added some parmesan but this could be added before eating.

Rocket and sun-dried Tomato Pesto

  • three to four sun-dried tomato halves, soaked in oil
  • two handfuls of rocket
  • handful of walnuts
  • couple of glugs of oil
  • spoon of honey
  • squeeze of lemon
  • pinch of sea salt

Repeat the same process as above. Make sure to pour the pesto into sterilized jars. Use them whatever pleases you!

 By the way, does anyone know of a more appetising name for the soup. Radish top soup is not very appealing!

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For Emily

Seeing as you are missing nasturtiums in your garden, Emily, I am posting some photographs to give you a fix for this year! Enjoy :)

                                                                                                       

 

 

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The jewel in the garden.

I planted nasturtiums in the garden a while back and they are really taking off now. There is one especially that sits next to the raspberry bushes and it is flourishing in that particular spot. I had no idea that it could creep along the ground until one day I spotted a cheeky runner making its way to the wall! I am fond of this plant though (perhaps a bit unhealthily, as if it were my child). It is the first and best of the lot of nasturtiums and I watch it proudly growing each day. Every evening I go out to inspect its progress. Tonight I discovered that it was harbouring its own microcosm! Lo and behold there was the first flower bud holding its head up with great pride, as it should. Look at how aerodynamic it is. It reminds me of the shape of a raptor’s head (but much more beautiful of course :))

The flower is not alone however. On every leaf there is a different occupant. Here is a little yellow spider who has delicately spun his web using the leaf’s edges as his frame.

He’s not the tidiest little fella though, not having cleaned up after his dinner. Yuck!

Across the way, little white fly eggs have been laid with military precision. Peter sorrowfully informed me that these are not the friendliest things to ooh and aah over as they will devour the neighbouring carrots. 

Buh-bye eggies. Thank goodness for parasitic wasps to take care of these little things. They lay their eggs in the white fly eggs. It’s a cruel world. Not the prettiest thing to look at (turn away now if bugs make you want to vomit!).

Although the meandering lines across the leaves look nice, these are as a result of leaf miners. I enjoy squashing them between my finger tips, a bit sadistic, I know, but effective.

I guess that’s why the nasturtium is so suited to being a companion plant in the garden. It attracts all sorts of trouble by luring  nasty bugs toward it with its giant saucers for leaves and exotic jewels for flowers.

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I love radishes!

From little seeds great things grow!

The radishes have come up trump in the garden! At first, I was a bit reluctant for Peter to plant them. I mean, one is a bit limited when it comes to what to do with a radish, right? Thoughts came to mind of radish rose garnishes but besides that my mind went blank. Well, considering the amount of seeds Peter sowed, I had better come up with some ideas.  In his excitement at the prospect of future growth, Peter sowed all the seeds. We had reminded ourselves after our last glut of cabbages (which we fed half the neighbourhood with) to be strict advocates of successional planting. As you can see from the above picture, this was not followed through with. So now we have radishes coming out of our yahoos!

Luckily, I am now a reborn radish addict! I underrated the radish for far too long. Pulling up the first radish filled me with glee.

I spy with my little eye.

The moment of truth.

Et voila.

 This weekend I hope to make radish top soup. This name does nothing for it and my kids will probably think I am trying to poison them, ha. But I hear these leaves are high in antioxidants and all sorts of other goodness, so why not. It’s the same as with any vegetable soup. Sautee chopped onion and garlic. Add some leek or celery. Then throw in the washed radish tops. Wilt down. Then add a litre or so of chicken stock, with an added chopped potato or two. Simmer until cooked then blend. Serve with a dollop of cream. I would also like to try roasting the radishes. They will probably lose their crispiness but I bet they go good with a splash of balsamic.

I am so glad we have these growing in the garden now. It’s definitely been a learning experience for me anyway. But my children will probably have an aversion to radishes for life!

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