The Cottage Smallholder

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Photo: Mystery plant

Photo: Mystery plant

I love this time of year.

I watched a pair of butterflies canoodling for ten minutes this afternoon. Settling on the grass and then opening their wings for each other. If I had wings that beautiful, I think that I’d have opened mine too. They fluttered about the garden in between the wing displays, beautiful and intimate creatures on a mission.

Meanwhile I had been getting acquainted with giant spiders. The higher you climb on a ladder propped against a house, the bigger the spiders you meet. At the apex of the barge boards I met a giant. It was just an unsuccessful speed dating moment as the spider glanced at my brush and scuttled away. Throughout the afternoon this spider ventured into my life apperaring at key moments. Not helping, although it was large enough to wield a brush. It just added a frissance of apprehension. What will I do if I flush it out and it runs for freedom down my bare arm?

Meanwhile back at the cottage we are harvesting strawberries and raspberries. Finally after four years our raspberry patch is bountiful. I pick every morning for breakfast. You can’t beat just picked raspberries, yoghurt and honey. The evening pickings go into the freezer. This year I’m determined to make raspberry wine. A real winner according to Joanna’s Food. We have already made several bottles of raspberry gin. Doubling up the raspberries this time.

The autumn raspberries have the best depth of flavour but the July harvest is perfect for raspberry gin or vodka. The Guinea Fowl and chickens love any fruit that is tossed into their lair. The main fruit cage is beside the chicken run. When I step under the nets they are watching my progress carefully. I have two pots. One for perfect fruit. The other for more dubious specimens. The latter are guzzled gratefully by our flock.

On the peaky laptop front, The Newmarket Computer Company have finally decided that my old pal cannot be mended. Luckily they are a no fix no fee company. So as D snoozes above my fingers fly across his keyboard.

Meanwhile this beautiful perennial has started to bloom in the pond garden. Can any plant expert identify it? It was bought from the secret garden stand and the label was lost a couple of years ago. Even when it wasn’t flowering I loved its fronds. Our unidentified visitor is framed by Rosa Complicata and a very pretty pink fuchsia that was given by our friends Jocelyn and Miles.

Incidentally Seraphina and I went to the secret garden on the second Saturday in June to find no fete in progress. A few weeks later I bumped into the lady that tends this paradise. The local church had dilly dallied – planned to have the fete in their grounds and then realised that the uneven earth was a health risk so the fete is now going to be held on July 25 2009 at Shrublands, High Street, Fordham. If you would like to dive into a wonderful garden – don’t give this a miss.

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  1. davmc

    ye4s it is goats rue,Galega officinalis alba

  2. Joanna

    Very keen to hear how the raspberry wine turns out …. I’d forgotten that I recommended it – I’ve got a very good wine book bought on Abe for less than the postage which came on your recommendation, but I have yet to find a good wine makers’ supply shop, as I no longer have any kit, and can’t get any in Oxfam on Freecycle, etc. Any ideas?

    Sorry about your laptop


  3. jackie

    aarg. I’ve tried to grow goats rue for years from seed, (for the above reasons) and never succeeded. So *that’s* what it looks like!

  4. magic cochin

    Hi again Fiona

    Like Kate I was pretty sure it’s a form of Vetch (Vicia …) and Meliot has only three leaflets per leaf – but has very similar flower spikes.

    But I now think your plant is the white form of Goat’s Rue – Galega officinalis ‘Alba’. Goat’s Rue has another leaflet at the tip of each leaf; vetches will have a tendril for clinging onto other plants. I think this is the case with you mystery plant.

    Goat’s Rue is from southern and eastern Europe where it’s an important fodder crop (supposed in increase milk production) and it was introduced into Britain from France as a garden plant. The usual flower colour is pale mauve and the plant can colonise large areas of waste ground as it out-competes native plants.

    There’s a variation Galega x hartlandii ‘Alba’ (UK sources spell this hartlandii, but European nurseries use harrlandii, which I think might be correct). And seems to be a popular herbaceous plant.

    Always happy for a excuse to get my nose in a botanical tome 😉


  5. kate (uk)

    It’s a vetch-but a cultivated version of a vetch! Two wild vetches that are really worthwhile for the garden are Sanfoin and Meliot-meliot forms a tall clump- there’s a white and a yellow version and it can be seen on roadsides at this time of year looking lovely, full of flowers ( and insects) way too lovely to only be growing on roadsides!You can get seeds for both and they are easy to grow.
    No rain here for weeks now- 30 even in the shade, stuff is starting to wilt badly, even long-established plants and plants that are supposed to be tough. We see the rain clouds, we smell the rain, but none falls here.Garden looking so sorry I broke my ‘no watering, things have to cope’ rule last night.Blackfly on EVERYTHING. Yuk!

  6. Pamela

    Hello Fiona, sorry to hear that the prognosis on your laptop is terminal, still you have the prospect of a shiny new one to look forward to. I have no idea what the plant is. I do know, though, that it probably wouldn’t have survived the storm we had here this afternoon. Huge thunder claps and lightning, hail stones and rain like stair rods. I was in and ran round closing all the windows yet still have wet carpets and curtains! All that and the windows weren’t even wide open – the local pigeons are still opportunists where open windows are concerned! It seems to have been a very localised storm – with my flat in the epicentre – as I didn’t walk far tonight before it was quite clear there had been no rain just up the road! How can you have hail stones when the temperature is so high?

  7. Michelle in NZ

    The spider that found a safe place to lurk in the spout of the earthenware teapot is still there. i even open up the kitchen window at night in the hope moths will come in to keep spider nourished.

    I do similar for bathroom spider – a different type. Based on past experience this female will head out of the window in late Spring.

    Sad stuff for your laptop. Super happiness for the replacement.

    Care and huggles, Michelle and Zebbycat

    (pulling holes in his “quilt” – all okay, is a dacron and shower curtain material one from the early 1970s, maybe Zeb uses the fabric to floss his teeth???)

  8. Catofstripes

    Might your mystery plant be Liquorice? I’ve never managed to keep one going for more than a year but this summer might just be the perfect conditions for it.

  9. Andrea

    Keep your camera at the ready, Fiona. I would love to see this spider!

    The plant does look familiar to me, but I can’t put a name to it.

  10. magic cochin

    Mmmmm? tricky one, but I love identifying plants so I’m in danger of not getting distracted by this!

    The leaf structure seems to be like a species of Vetch (Vicia …)

    Rats … hate to be beaten on this … where are my botanical books?

    Noooooo … must get on with doing something more productive


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