Morfydd St. Clair

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since Feb 09, 2015
Hamburg, Germany
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Recent posts by Morfydd St. Clair

Are you planning for the bay tree to be the overstory?

My current sad little tree in Hamburg is now about two feet tall, from one foot tall.  I want to keep it as a small shrub, so should it ever look other than sickly I'll keep it hard pruned.  I just planted some hostas around it to protect it from encroaching grass.  Otherwise it's in partial shade from hazelnuts and there are a number of raspberries in the area.

My experience in Seattle was that, height-uncontrolled, it became a tall handsome tree.  It would prefer to be bush-shaped, and it will sucker madly, so if you want to plant underneath it you should expect to prune it into shape, which it accepts easily.  It throws a really deep shade, though.  So maybe it would be better as an understory tree or bush layer.  Also, YMMV, but there are only so many bay leaves I can cook with in a lifetime.  I have heard that Penzey's Spices uses bay leaves as packing material, so that's another fine use.  Are there other functions you're expecting to get from it?
2 weeks ago
I'm in Zone 7, with hot (to Seattle-raised-wimpy me) humid summers regularly in the 90s.  The weather charts don't back me up, but trust me the last few summers have been unpleasant.  Meanwhile, it's currently snowing.  Sigh.

I inherited several currants and 1 Jostaberry in full sun and they are doing fine.  The Jostaberry is about 5 feet tall and badly feeling its age, but it's usually covered in berries.  (I let the birds have them as I like the currants better and tend to be overwhelmed at harvest.)  I've also planted several currants in part shade and they're small but started berrying in the second year, healthy amounts (for scrawny shrubs) the next year.  I also inherited 1 black currant in partial shade and it seems to be not as big and not as fruitful as the one in full sun.

So my personal inference is that currants/gooseberries/Jostaberries would prefer full sun, but will bear fine in shade, and let's face it most of us have about fifty other things competing for sunny spots, so might as well plant the currants in shade.

But if you've already planted it, it should be fine in full sun.  If all else falls, let some suckers air layer and plant them in a shady spot to compare.
1 month ago

G Prentice wrote:

Jonathan Cole wrote:One other thing to consider is that trees don't necessarily have to be tree shaped. There's a lot of options around training them. For instance, training you plum as a fan in front of the fence by the stairs (so the south-facing side if I am reading the plans right) would provide fruit and keep it flatter to the fence. That might then give you space for another tree where you had the possible tree marked, while ensuring your plum gets lots of sunshine and produces easily accessible fruit.

The current possible tree location may also shade the concrete area you were considering for a greenhouse, so keep that in mind. Will be more or less of an issue depending on the type of tree (so how dense the crown is), the height and the way you prune it.

Yes, I need to think about the location of the tree-shaped trees carefully to avoid too much shading. The possible location marked on the diagram is roughly where I was thinking of having a tree-shaped tree (the biggest tree in the garden), but I definitely intend to have trained/espalier trees and shrubs elsewhere - especially along the left-hand fence. I'm hoping that I'll get good crops of fruit on that side as it gets the most light. I will also have some trees/shrubs away from the fence around the rest of the garden, but I'll either choose small varieties or they'll be pruned to avoid them getting too high. I haven't planned the forest garden layers in any detail yet - I'm currently thinking about where I want the seating areas and pond to be, and view lines from my flat's windows.

Popping in to plug Anna Ralph's book Grow a Little Fruit Tree - great information about keeping trees small.

Unrelatedly, I think the nook in the corner would indeed make a very nice little water feature.  I don't know that you need a fountain if the plants are well-balanced.  (I don't have a pond, though I'm digging one.  Mine will be bigger than yours and I'm hoping to keep it algae-free though plants alone, fingers crossed.)  If you do, and a solar fountain doesn't work out, would it make sense to get a pluggable one + a big rechargeable battery?  I have an earlier version of this: which is no trouble to pack back and forth to the allotment and thus would be super easy for you to pack across the garden.  I'm not sure if a fountain needs to run every day for aeration, though.

While you're deciding what to do with it, I would plant some nice trailing nasturtiums down the side, as that white is a bit blinding.  Nasturtiums are easy to grow, often self-seed, and are pretty and tasty!
1 month ago
I am slowly reading through Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking and she has this to say about pressure cookers and stock:

"One would expect a pressure cooker to be the ideal stock-making instrument; but our experiments have shown otherwise.  After about 45 minutes of cooking under 15 pounds of pressure, a meat stock acquires its maximum pressure-cooked flavour.  To reach its optimum flavour, a meat must be simmered quietly in an open pot for an hour or two more.

Poultry stock, in our experience, acquires an unpleasant flavour if cooked for more than 20 minutes under 15 pounds of pressure.  After this lapse of time the pressure should be released and the stock allowed to simmer, uncovered, for an hour or so longer."

Since she otherwise calls for poultry stock to be simmered for 4 to 5 hours, there's still a time savings there.

None of her obsessively-described stocks are vegetable-based, though she adds them to meat-based stocks.  No French vegetarians in her world, apparently.
1 month ago
I just finished reading Grow a Little Fruit Tree by Anna Ralph and it was really inspiring.  And I wish I'd read it years earlier.  Amazing, and now none of my trees will be allowed more than 2 meters tall.*

I also just finished Gardener's Guide to Compact Plants by Jessica Walliser.  Not as groundbreaking, but a nice list of small plants and how to use them.

For ornamental and useful plantings, I can't recommend enough Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom.  Despite the title, it's full of gorgeous landscaping ideas, most of which you can eat.  Ooh, and it's $3 today on Amazon US!

*I lie.  I like shade, too, and have a few trees allowed to get big for that purpose.
Ooh, ooh, ooh, can I tell my Wedding Attire Fail story?

A guy I was seeing had a couple of friends getting married in a nearby town.  The friends were Very Wealthy, and he hadn't seen them for a bit, and the invites gave no clue, so he emailed the guy friend (tactical error) and asked what the dress code was.  "Formal-ish" was the reply.  This... is not a dress code.  The guy I was seeing, a theater costuming graduate, and I, owning every Miss Manners book in production, pondered.

Mind you, we were both young, skinny, and funny-colored-haired (mine the adorable bob in my profile pic but bubble-gum pink, his shoulder-length green).  He went malicious-compliance-correct and rented a morning suit for the 2pm ceremony.  I wore a tea-length sheath dress in dupioni silk, crossdyed lilac and pink.  We looked fab, but respectful of the occasion.  We showed up, and all the women were in Laura Ashley florals.  All of them.  I don't even know where they got them - LA stopped doing those dresses in 1989 and this was 2003 or so.  And all the men were in khakis and navy blazers.  All of them.

Ok, I had hot pink hair.  I was not unused to being stared at.  Whatever.  We had a few hours downtime between the wedding and "cocktail" reception, so we met up with friends, chilled, and I changed into a cocktail dress:  Strappy just-above-the-knee, exactly matching my hair, sheer overlay with silver embroidery.  Got to the veddy veddy fancy reception, and all the women were in Laura Ashley florals.  And all the men were in khakis and navy blazers.  

Sigh.  At least there were cocktails.  Did I mention the wedding party drank the Empress Hotel entirely out of vodka that night?  At least I killed it for the outdoor brunch the next day in an indigo silk tank top, black palazzo pants, and very, VERY large sunglasses...

tl;dr:  Be nice to your guests and give them a clue what to wear; when in doubt, apparently wear Laura Ashley florals.
1 month ago

Kim Huse wrote:IS this PDF anywhere else? I tried to  find it. and the main site said  the link does not exist anymore.

Check Jane Mulberry's post 2 above yours. Unless you've already seen it, in which case never mind.
Dharma Trading Company has been selling for decades.  I haven't bought anything from them in a long time but they were great quality back in the day.

Heather Sharpe wrote:I told him what I was doing and he just kind of nodded and said if it was a fish, I was using the wrong kind of knife. Then he disappeared.

The helpful advice then fleeing for his life made me giggle.  And then I thought about the person who can't tell a raccoon from a fish but can tell the knife type from that distance and think you should have been worrying about him. :D

I also love that you can't really top the previous owner.
1 month ago

Michael Cox wrote:

Morfydd St. Clair wrote: Because they get pretty big, you only need a few or you'll be drowning in rhubarb.

You clearly need to be introduced to the joy of rhubarb vodka. I would happily expand my rhubarb patch, if the rest of the family wouldn't protest so much.

Recipe - tender stems of forced rhubarb, chopped into chunks. Vodka. Sugar. Leave to soak for a month or so, then strain the liquid off.

Save the remaining soaked stems for the most heavenly boozy rhubarb pudding ever.

Ah, I've been drinking my rhubarb in Rhubarb 75s with a symple syrup per NWEdible: which also leaves a nice (tho non-alcoholic) mush behind.

But your solution sounds like less work!
2 months ago