A cool and rainy Easter weekend when not much gardening got done. The plot has really benefitted from the damp weather with everything taking on a new vitality and colour (including the weeds). Still lots of empty beds to be planted up but the potatoes are in and the greenhouse is full of seed trays so the air of abundance and expectation is all around.
Parsnip heads showing signs of new growth
Rhubarb patch showing real signs of life and productivity
At this time of year Bleeding Heart (or Dicentra spectabilis) is one of my absolute favourite plants. Originating in China, it is a beautiful perennial plant with gorgeous foliage that is interspersed with graceful, arching fronds of delicate, heart shaped flowers. As well as being beautiful it is also very hardy and easy to grow. It prefers a site that is in full sun or partial shade and is tolerant of just about any soil that a garden or allotment may have to offer.
Clumps of Dicentra will happily return year after year without too much bother, but if you want to increase your stock they can easily be multiplied by taking root cuttings in spring. And this is exactly what I'm planning to do with the plant in the picture sometime soon so that I can have a bit more of this pretty and troublefree plant in my garden in future years.
I love nosing around other people's allotments and gardens. Whether someone I know is showing me around or I'm peeping over a fence to take a look it's always fascinating to see what other people are growing and how they're growing it. On this basis I have decided that this year I am going to let all of you have a good nosey around my allotment (and sometimes my garden too!) Every week I will post a selection of pictures that will give you a good idea of what's happening on the plot. I know I already post pictures on here but they're the nice ones that support the different things I'm writing about on the site. These new Plot Shots will be different...
They will give you a warts and all impression of what's going on on Plot 45 from plants that are doing really well to weeds I can't get rid of and damage that the rabbits have done. I hope it will serve as an honest portrayal of the ups and downs of maintaining a veg plot, and will offer inspiration and commiseration in equal parts to those of you who are having a go at growing their own.
So here I go... Plot Shots #1 - I hope you enjoy it.
Even though we grow lots and lots of food on the allotment we still like to grow some in the back garden too. In particular salad crops and herbs that are perishable so are best grown close to the kitchen so that they can be eaten fresh. In fact, one of the first things that I ever grew that started to get me hooked on growing was a trough of salad leaves in my backyard. You only need to grow them once to understand how easy they are and how much money you can save by growing your own.
This weekend Jo decided that he'd have a go of making some new planters for the garden to add to the old ones we've got that struggled to fit in all the salad we wanted to grow last year. This is the design that he came up with this time which I really like because of the multi-levels that he's created. I thinking of have lettuce leaves in the bottom layer and cascading beans and tomatoes coming down from the top layer - a really handsome combination I'm sure you'll agree? We just need to stain them now to protect the wood and add a plastic liner to plant into (we normally use old compost sacks and staple them inside). Then the only thing left to do is to plant them up and wait eagerly until they are providing gorgeous fresh salad all through the summer. I promise I'll share a picture when they're planted up to let you know how they get on.
By the way, if you look carefully you can see one of the first planters that Jo made for me propped up in the back of this picture. This one is nearly seven years old now showing how long they can last if you give them a little tlc and maintenance every winter.
This was a full day to ourselves so we planned to spend the day exploring Cienfuegos. Following a delicious breakfast we headed out of the house into the sun that was already getting horribly hot by 10am. We started walking down to the little beach at the end of our street where there were children playing in the water and a gentleman snorkelling and trying to catch fish close to the shore. After a lit while there we followed the Malecón into the town, spotting a wide variety of fish in the bay as we went by.
Relaxing by the bay in Cienfuegos
In Cienfuegos we had a general explore to get a feel for the place with its busy but laidback town centre, including a buzzy little shopping street. Then we walked down to the beautiful town square where we sat for a while to relax in the shade. This was also where we spent time talking to a pleasant young guy who was happy to meet someone from England who spoke Spanish – an uncommon occurrence in his experience. He taught Spanish Literature at the local high school. His mother had a Phd in the same subject and worked at Santa Clara University. Once again a general sense of melancholy came across as to how tough his life in Cuba actually was. He also helped us learn some more informal ways of saying “hello” in Cuban Spanish. The we exchanged a UK £ coin for a 3 NP note – it was at times like this that I wished we had bought some more small change with us as it was nice to be able t make this kind of exchange with people.
After talking to the teacher we had a look around the local theatre which was built in 1889 and which is one of the most beautiful and oldest theatres in Cuba. So beautiful that when we found out that there was a dance performance that evening that we decided that we had to come back to see the theatre in action.
One thing that was noticeable in Cienfuegos is that there is much more begging for money, soap and pens than I had seen anywhere else. I don’t know if this was because the location of tourist drop offs and spots is much more concentrated but the level of begging was certainly much more noticeable than in Havana.
Lunch was another peso pizza from a guy on the main drag who had a really slick set up on the patio in front of his house, Including a great little oven he had rigged up and a couple of benches where customers could wait for their food. We order two pizzas with onion and he also threw in two free glasses of deliciously refreshing lemonade.
When it was time to head back to the casa to clean up before our show we decided to take a bici-taxi. Rather bizarrely the drivers will not give you a price for this but instead make the suggestion that you pay what you want. Slightly frustrating to say the least, as you aren’t quite sure how generous or tight you are being. We have tended to pay 2CUC and haven’t been blacklisted by the drivers so am assuming this is (hopefully) reasonable enough.
Extraordinary theatre in Cienfuegos
Following a freshen up we walked back into town to watch our contemporary dance matinee. A small but appreciative audience were treated to a surprisingly good quality of dance. It was particularly special to see such a glorious old theatre in action. When the show finished we walked out into the refreshing Cienfuegos evening and strolled back along the Malecón, which was now full of people out enjoying the evening in typical Cuban style. People of all ages out to savour the cool of the evening and the company of their friends and family. Such a lovely, sociable way of doing things that hardly exists in the UK at all anymore.