At last the sun is out again and I have been giving the garden a mini makeover to celebrate. As explained in previous posts, we were due to have an extension, which is now not happening this year, and I had cleared out my courtyard garden in readiness. To avoid having a summer with no flowers or prettiness, I’ve had to make some quick adjustments to make it all look inviting again. There’s an odd little side return in our back garden, just outside the kitchen, and it is quite scruffy and unappealing. Despite this, it does catch the sun first thing in the morning, and it is not overlooked like the rest of our garden. I worked out that there was just enough room to fit in a bistro table and two chairs. I freshened it up by sweeping and washing the slabs, cleaning the windows and repainting the wall with some masonry paint. I also gave the old drainpipe a coat to camouflage it. I have created a new seating area which is a pleasure to spend time in. The cleaning and painting cost nothing as I used materials I already had but I did treat myself to a new orange table set, as I wanted to inject some instant colour.
Before I put the table and chairs in their permanent place, I set it out for tea by the raised bed, as my son was popping home for a night.
I am pleased with this bistro set, which came from www.rinkit.com. It cost £86. I like the design as the seat slats are rounded, so they don’t cut into the backs of your legs, and the chairs are also comfortably wide. I love the range of colours (they also have a yellow option) and I have no regrets about going bold! However, Argos do a similar style for £50 in softer colours (sage green and grey).
The summer berry roll is a great recipe for hot days as it is very light (and fat free, if you omit the fresh cream!). Here is the recipe:
Summer berry roll
3 medium eggs, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
75g plain flour
a pinch of salt
Mixed berries, e.g strawberries, redcurrants, raspberries and strawberry jam, whipped cream.
Heat the oven to 225C/gas 7. Beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale and mousse-y (ideally using a electric hand mixer or food mixer). This may take about five minutes. Sift the flour and salt and add to the egg mixture, folding in carefully with a metal spoon until all traces of the flour are incorporated. Spread the sponge mixture on to a greaseproof-lined swiss roll tin (that’s a flat tin with shallow sides). Shape into a rough rectangle. Bake for 9-10 minutes, until golden and springy to touch.
Meanwhile, line a baking sheet with grease proof paper and sprinkle with caster sugar.
When the sponge is cooked, flip it on to the baking sheet and peel off the lining paper. With a sharp knife, cut a 2cm slit in one of the short sides, and roll up the sponge. Leave it to cool completely.
When it is cool, unroll the sponge. Spread on a thin layer of strawberry or raspberry jam, followed by a layer of whipped cream and some chopped strawberries or any berries you prefer. Re-roll the cake and dust the top with caster sugar. Chill and slice when ready to serve.
TIP Garnish the summer roll with frozen berries. They look extra-pretty with a sheen of frost.
Meanwhile I’ve been busy planting herbs. I bought this old planter at an antiques fair recently. It has a lovely weathered patina which is what I always look for when I’m choosing pots. While I was travelling in Suffolk for work recently, I came across a lovely walled garden nursery, so I picked out some plants to put in my new acquisition.
I chose some lemon thyme, woolly thyme, pineapple mint and a curry plant.
In my happy place
This is perfect for my tiny garden. I found some old slate plant labels in a little antique shop in town for £2 each, so I added one of those as well. I always have my eye open for little garden accessories like this one as I love adding details. The floral dress was a charity shop find for a fiver and fits my garden theme!
I planted a lot of seeds this year, and my cosmos, zinnias and marigolds have all done well. I’m running out of pots to put everything in, so a couple of days ago, I picked up two bargain ones from Morrisons, £8 for the pair. I don’t like the colour of brand new terracotta, so I gave them a lick of leftover shed paint in a soft grey.
I planted an orange wallflower, plum coloured nemesia and the daisies are pink marguerites. They should fill out nicely over the next few weeks.
Finally, nothing says summer like these pink roses in my parents’ garden. Despite some health issues this year, and the fact that dad is 90 and mum not far behind, they are still managing to keep their garden looking beautiful. They grow vegetables and flowers, and it has kept them very busy over the last year.
I hope you are enjoying some summer days and time outside.