Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Blackthorn in My Garden

        The Blackthorn tree also know as the Sloe bush (Prunus spinosa) currently is not common in gardens. I'd like to tell you about it.
Blackthorn is a deciduous tree, its leaves turn yellow in autumn and fall off in winter. In nature Blackthorn dwells on the edge of woodlands forming dense thickets and hedgerows. The Blackthorn ‘tree’ is actually more like a large shrub, it is absolutely undemanding and can grow in any soil and not demanding to watering. But drought practically does not happen here in Northern Europe area, rather there are days with prolonged rains. 

The tree bears small, delicate, white flowers with oval petals clustered into a star shape in early spring. They are usually white, but occasionally pink, with red tipped stamens. The fruit is generally good for picking after the first frost, when blue-black sometimes deep purplish fruit is ripe and its bitterness reduces, the small plum-like fruit is also known as 'drupes'.

Some years ago, when I almost planted all my new plants my neighbor brought a small twig with three roots. It was Blackthorn, she had dug it of the shrub in her garden. I planted the Sloe bush near the garden gate.
The first and second year my Blackthorn only grew, did not bloom, the third year small white flowers appeared on its branches and in the autumn it produced one fruit (!). After a year three fruit were and I told the neighbor that sloe berry harvest has tripled :)).
Last year black ground ants attacked my young Blackthorn. You're most likely to see these ants in your garden. They generally nest underground, sometimes in large colonies, invading homes and gardens seeking food. These ants are not dangerous to humans, but can be a nuisance in the garden when they protect aphids.

They began to grow up aphids on young branches and leaves and my Blackthorn was suffering. What could I do? I sprayed different means, but the ants still were growing up aphids, white flowers appeared, began to fade and to wither because aphids ate all that would grow on the branches. Then I began to search the internet for advice and the people told how they struggle with aphids. Gardeners apply a 3-inch wide band of masking tape to a tree, especially where ants are frequent visitors. Also people told to place sugar-based ant baits on either side of the ants' trails and around their nest's opening. I wanted ants out of my garden so I implemented all recommendations. 

At the fall I picked the fruit after the first frost and decided to use them at home in winter. I've read that Sloe gin or vodka is a wonderful Christmas drink, like this  one Spanish 'Zoco'.

Even if you don't like gin, it is worth making as it tastes more like a liqueur, as you can make it as sweet as you like.
Sloes also make a lovely tart jelly to go with game or with your Christmas dinner as an alternative to cranberry like this 'Sloe jam'.


I've made jam for pudding, but fruit do need sugar due to their bitterness. 

  Would you like to taste Sloe berry wine or jam?    Have you seen this tree or do you have it in your garden?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Arrival of Spring in Paintings

Ivan Endogurov 'Spring', 1890

    This year, here in North the spring slowly comes, although the snow has almost melted. But cold winds do not warm up air and the soil is still cold. I decided to search the Internet to see the paintings that depicted the arrival of spring in the past years.
It turned out that spring
is generally a capricious lady, at least in Russia judging the paintings. I saw slush on the roads, high water in the streets and woods,

Ivan Endogurov 'Spring', 1885

Boris Kustodiev 'In the street', 1920

Isaak Levitan 'Spring', 1887

the white birch trunks reflected in water, room filled with spring breeze, boxes full of seedlings and flowers on windowsills, swans flown in nesting,

Mikhail Nesterov 'Lada', 1905

Stanislav Zukovsky 'Easter' 1902


Stanislav Zukovsky 'Spring', 1923

pinky-white snow on grey grass, rooks' nests in trees and bright blue sky. The Russian artists depicted the arrival of spring in its different manifestations.

Vasily Polenov 'Spring' 1898

Vasily Bansheev 'Blue Spring' 1930

Konstantin Krizitsky 'Early spring', 1901

For me it was interesting to see the paintings of my city, in that time the capital of Russia. The river Neva, St. Isaak Cathedral and its golden dome in a distance, the central avenue Nevsky, sailing boats and barges, horse-drawn carriages and first electric lamps.

Alexander Beggrov 'Spring in Saint Petersburg' , 1891

Alexander Beggrov 'Vernal evening in Saint Petersburg' , 1882

Looking at these paintings I think that spring is not something anomaly this year but it is ordinary spring here in Northern Europe. Some years ago I'd been shoveling snow in my garden, the paths were looking like tunnels in snow. This March we have no snow and it's time to rake all old leaves from the garden.

What do you think about the arrival of spring in your place? Is the spring unusual? Thank you!

Friday, March 14, 2014

GBBD in March

       Finally spring came to my Northern garden, hurray! The weather was warm and I went to see if something changed in my garden. It was a surprise! My twisted willow had soft white catkins, it needs some warmer days to first green leaves grow.

I saw something yellow near the box that covers my roses. They were yellow daffodils, and after I raked old leaves and had lunch the snow and ice has completely melted and I've seen their young sprouts:  



Near the hydrangea there were the yellow hyacinth sprouts. When I had picked the leaves in mixborder I saw small red tulip leaves, don't remember what variety is, need to look at my diary.


In other corner of my garden, near rhododendrons I enjoyed two small buds of primrose, they are very early this spring.


The Leucojum vernum are on time, I always find them in March under the snow. And now when the snow almost melted they grow upright and high. I've taken the second photo after lunch as well when the temps were higher than in the morning.



 The black current bush has the buds too. These bushes start their growth early in spring and fade their leaves early in fall. 
My neighbor Ukrainian worked in her garden too, it was peaceful and quiet day as always.  
That's all my sprouts, buds and blooming plants in March Garden Bloom Day. I think I have a nice result this month!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Seabuckthorn: Beauty and Health

         I have 3 trees of Seabuckthorn (Hippophae) in my garden. They are deciduous trees or shrubs. The name is also referred to as Sandthorn, Sallowthorn, or Seaberry. It has many thorns and when I pick up the berries I often prick my hands. I have always known that Seabuckthorn fruit appears to be safe when consumed as food and is used in jams, pies, drinks, and other foods. I love jam and drink especially in hot weather.
Also I've read that Seabuckthorn berries are used for preventing infections, improving sight and slowing the aging process. Some people apply berry or seed oil directly to the skin for preventing sunburn. But I use seed oil for treating the wounds, the cuts and burrs on my hands when I garden. I've learned that like many superfoods, it is an excellent source of important Omega 7s that is linked to almost every illness and aging. 

As I've written I have 3 trees, they are female plants and produce fruit. It's said that is important to make sure that there is an even distribution of male and female plants in an area. So I think somewhere is a male Seabuckthorn tree near my garden! 

In autumn I love the brilliant orange berries that add an exciting touch of color to my garden design. If you are interested in growing Seabuckthorn in your garden so the spring is the best time to plant it. Or you might sow Seabuckthorn seeds and grow the trees of the seedlings. I had got the cuttings and planted them in April. In any case, Seabuckthorn propagates and grows well in any soil.

If you have no place to grow it so eat more Seabuckthorn jam to be young and healthy! Take care! 

Have you eaten  Seabuckthorn products before?  Did you like them?
 Would you like to have this tree in your garden or a jam jar in your kitchen?