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Food & Drink

Sunday Snap ~ Yellow

April 20, 2014

If you’ve enough dandelion flowers in your lawn and don’t want to add to them, pick the heads off, which will prevent them going to seed, and make some dandelion honey. Here’s the recipe. dandelion flowers

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them”

by Eeyore in Winnie-the-Poo (A.A. Milne)

Happy Easter


Rivers and Wildflowers

September 4, 2013

Vibrant Ireland is one of my favourite travel blogs that shares tips and tales of what to see, do, eat and special places to visit in Ireland, London, Norway and beyond. I was really pleased to write a guest post for Susan, author of Vibrant Ireland about an overnight stay Mr G and I spent at The Waterside Guesthouse in Graigenamanagh, Co Kilkenny which can be found here if you’d like to find out more. The post is more than just a diary of a night away in a riverside village. It’s a reflection on how rural villages are surviving under changing economic and social conditions. Do check it out if you have a minute please. One of the unexpected highlights of our weekend was the walk along the tow path of the River Barrow which was full of beautiful wildflowers. I’ve shared some of the images below which you can click for a slide show.

Sometimes the most beautiful things we experience aren’t chosen or placed, they’re quietly existing around us; we have to slow down, open our eyes and see.

Vegetable Garden

One little “weed”

May 16, 2012

I referred to my one little “weed” in my last video blog but if you missed it, here it is…

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea

Any ideas? I hadn’t a clue what it was when I first spotted it growing in my ‘roots’ bed. It was certainly nothing I’d ever planted or seen growing in my veg beds before.

I was intrigued – what could this stray little plant be? I didn’t pull it out as I had been doing all morning with the creeping buttercups and dandelions.

I let it be until it had been identified as a friend or foe.

Foxglove - Digitalis purpurea leavesI racked my brain – what had been growing in this patch in previous years? Nothing we’d ever planted of that I was certain. So I headed indoors with a cup of tea, fired up the PC and spent a half hour or so googling “weed” images but came up a blank. Hmmm dilemma, what to do now? Thank goodness for friendly gardeners – I sent off a picture to a gardening guru friend for some professional help – they were thrown too given it’s location. However, a couple of days later a simple text reply came back and I laughed, as no doubt they had too…

Haha! How could I have missed it? My little ‘weed’ was none other than a foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)! These biannual plants are currently popping up all around our hedgerows but I hadn’t dreamed of or expected to find one in my veg patch and it had me completely thrown.

Foxglove flower

Image courtesy of

Foxgloves are such pretty plants, the bees love them and as Ralph Waldo Emerson said

“What is a Weed? A plant who’s virtues have never been discovered”

Well in this case the foxglove’s virtues have most definitely been discovered – both ornamental and medicinally. I have no plans to use it for the later – extracts from it are used to treat heart conditions making it toxic to those of us who aren’t chemists. I love to see flowers growing in vegetable gardens though – from nasturtiums to marigolds, Calendula to borage. They attract insects and give vegetable gardens character and colour. My foxglove will be just another addition – albeit a stunning one.

“A weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place”

So as I’ve decided that all the stray foxgloves are staying exactly where nature intended them to be, that now puts them firmly in the flower category …

Do you have a favourite flower growing in your garden that others might classify as a weed?


Bee Cause – How we can help the bees

April 15, 2012

Image courtesy of Friends of the Earth

Last week Friends of the Earth (UK) launched a campaign “Bee Cause”, calling on the British government to commit to a “bee action plan to save bees and save the country billions of pounds in the future.”

If you’ve been listening to the news over the past couple of years you’ll have no doubt heard that the decline in bee populations isn’t just a UK problem, it’s worldwide. A combination of issues from colony collapse disorder, parasites and shortages in habitats are being blamed but whatever the cause, it’s serious.

Bees aren’t just about honey – they help to pollinate strawberries, nuts, herbs, coffee and cotton to name just a fraction of items we use daily.

According to research released this *week it would cost the UK £1.8 billion every year to hand-pollinate crops without bees – 20% more than previously thought. That’s just one country, imagine that on a global basis. Finances apart, can you image a world without bees? I don’t even want to…

In recent years Britain has lost over half the honey bees kept in managed hives and wild honey bees are nearly extinct.  Solitary bees are declining in more than half the areas they’ve been studied and some species of bumblebee have been lost altogether. These figures are replicated around the world.

One reason for the bee decline is a shortage of natural habitats, so Friends of the Earth have outlined simple steps people can take in their gardens to help provide it:

  • Sow bee-friendly seeds and plant bee-friendly flowers in your garden such as mixed wildflowers packets, single-flowering roses, open and flat-headed flowers like verbena and yarrow and tubular-shaped flowers such as foxgloves.

    Image courtesy of Gardeners World

  • Create a place to nest for solitary bees by piling together hollow stems and creating a ‘bee hotel’.
  • Try to provide a small amount of rainwater in a shallow bird bath or tray which honeybees need to keep their hive at the right temperature.

So please “bee aware” and encourage these very special insects into your gardens – they really do need all the help we can give them.

Have you come across bees in trouble? Last year we spotted a large bumblebee covered in parasites and clearly in trouble. It was distressing to observe but by providing flowers with pollen that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals, perhaps it will help to keep the bees strong and more able for pests and diseases. It might be a small step, but it’s something.


* conducted by The University of Reading on behalf of Friends of the Earth (Reference: Breeze et al, 2012 – Chapter 4.)