Tuesday, 19 August 2014



After a glorious start to summer, August has been a little disappointing don't you think?  I am sure my UK readers will sympathise anyway!  

Being a great believer in 'silver linings' though, we are grateful for the rain here at home, as it saves us hours of watering each evening, which is always welcome!  Sadly this doesn't mean we can rest on our laurels too often….as there is always much to do in the form of mowing, weeding, and picking, let alone the constant evolvement of new projects that 'Mr. SH' and I can never resist starting.

As well as all these regular garden jobs, we have the mammoth task of trimming all the box hedging, and considering our penchant (addiction?) to continually adding to this, it is turning in to a serious annual undertaking!  What can start as quite a satisfying activity, soon starts to loose its appeal and we think to ourselves 'what on earth have we started'…. 

But when we look back at the garden after a long day of clipping, the reward outweighs the hard work.  If you are a lover of topiary as I am, I am sure you will understand!

A new 'Portuguese Laurel' hedge is now planted around the kitchen deck….beautiful and evergreen, and will be a great wind break…the price we pay for our view and being on top of a hill!

Having established the shape and structure of three identical square box edged parterre beds, part of which you can see above, my aim is to inject more colour into the summer planting next year.  Something tall and blue, to contrast with the existing Alchemilla Mollis perhaps?  Salvias or Catmint?  Any suggestions would be very happily received!

New gravel beds sit at the back of our side lawn…still in their infancy but we hope they will add 'formal' interest and contrast to the rural backdrop beyond.  Box hedging in time will grow up to contain more of my beloved 'Hydrangea Annabel' which I hope next year will increase greatly in size.  These are interspersed with simple home made planters of box balls….a slightly mis shapened bargain buy, which with patience, will start to look better next year!  Beyond that are tall posts, painted in Farrow and Ball 'French Grey' (still waiting for their finials) with young 'Hornbeam' trees between, which we are pleaching to train along their wires.  A Hornbeam hedge along the fence behind is also a new planting and in time, the aim is for the gap between this and the pleaching to form 'windows' to view the beautiful view beyond. 

Between these gravel beds, we have planted three 'Weeping Pear' trees…their silvery leaves will be a lovely contrast I think, against the green of the Hornbeam hedge and the green
box hedging and balls?

The 'Agapanthus' have been gorgeous….

 Both in pots, and in the long beds at the back of the house, but sadly coming to an end now.

Then there is the kitchen garden…my special sanctuary…which has been feeding us with an array of delicious produce, particularly French Beans and of course, as my regular readers will know, courgettes…perhaps a few too many!

Gorgeous Artichoke 'Violet de Laon'...

The warmth of the greenhouse...

Rewarding us with cucumbers and aubergines…

Going back to that courgette glut, thank you so much to all you lovely readers who took the time to send me your delicious recipe suggestions! 

I leave you today with a favourite, which is from the Sarah Raven 'Garden Cookbook', and uses the beautiful flowers of the courgette plant.  A little fiddly, but so well worth the effort.  

For 8:
16 courgette flowers
200g podded peas (frozen is fine)
300g Philadelphia or other cream cheese
Salt and black pepper
small bunch of parsley, coarsely chopped 
2 tablespoon olive oil
olive oil, for frying

For the tempura batter:
225g plain flour
plenty of salt and black pepper
2 eggs
375ml cold lager 

To make the tempura batter, sift flour into a bowl with salt and pepper and make a dip in the centre.  Add the eggs and with a balloon whisk, mix in the cold lager to make a batter the thickness of double cream that is not too smooth.  Keep this in the fridge until you need it.

Shake the courgette flowers to dislodge ants and earwigs (!) and remove the stigma from the centre.  Cook the peas in plenty of salted boiling water for 3 minutes.  In a mixing bowl, combine the peas, cream cheese, salt, pepper, parsley and a little olive oil.
Although not in the original recipe, I added a little chopped chilli at this stage, which we enjoyed.

With your fingers, gently part the flower petals, leaving one finger inside to keep it open.  Take a teaspoon of the mixture and carefully stuff the flower.  The stickiness of the mixture will mean that you can seal the pointed end easily with a little twist.

Heat about 10cm of olive oil in a deep pan, making sure the oil doesn't come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pan, until it reaches about 170 degrees C.  Deep each stuffed flower in the tempura batter, then fry them in the hot oil.
These are at their best eaten hot, sprinkled with sea salt and black pepper.


Wishing you a happy week ahead…

Sophia xx


  1. Hi Sophia,
    This post has exhausted me!
    I know only too well how time consuming the garden can be - and you have many projects on the go. How do you manage to fit everything in? plus your interior design business and blog too! - I am in awe.
    I tend to go hell for leather in the spring/ early summer in the garden, then let everything do its own thing until its time to cut it all back and start again.
    I love the photo showing an over view of the whole garden.
    Hope you have a lovely week,
    Liz x

  2. Hi Sophia
    Your garden is looking beautiful! You and Mr "SH" have certainly put a lot of thought into your garden design and layout and it looks fantastic. Love the kale crop - green smoothies?


  3. Look at all that delicious Cavolo nero. One of my favourites. Love the new boundary planting Sophia. I'm inspired. Have a great weekend. Paul.