Jun 02 2007

The Valley in June


As we march into June the valley puts on its thick summer coat. The skeleton shapes of winter, clothed, oh, so gingerly in spring, are suddenly engulfed in furry foliage. Shapes merge and disappear; hillsides take on different contours, swathed in green lushness. Strong winds blow huge cumulous across the transparent sky. Giant shadows come and go playing tricks with the light. Sparse pastures are replaced by shimmering grass and the hedgerows are littered with wild flowers.

Bluebells have faded and gone to seed, red campion linger on. Sorrel springs up casting its own red tinge to the grass, clover and buttercups push through amongst hawkbit and daisies, tiny specks of brilliant blue speedwell and shining yellow spiky crosswort. Herb Robert and cranes bill, hoary plantains, foxgloves, toadflax and alkanet all grow beneath a canopy of huge plate-like elderflowers. It’s time to make cordial again. Pink and white briar roses sprinkle the hedges with their delicate petals. 

Lambs, fat now, are pigging out on the sugary sward. Donkeys must be strictly rationed. Like erstwhile Labradors,they have no stop button and laminitis is always a lurking danger.Min is getting used to life without Truffles now and bounces once more through fields of uncut hay, follows rabbit scent and baths lingeringly in the sheep trough ; old dog, happy once more.


June is a wonderful month in the garden. The herbaceous borders are a mass of colour this year. I’m not sure if it is the result of such a warm spring heating up the soil early, followed by plenty of gentle rain. Maybe it is simply that plants are getting established now and bursting into celebratory bloom. Huge cerise peonies jostle with big blousy poppies amongst great clusters of astrantia. Blue and yellow iris stand tall beside billowing clumps of libertia grandiflora and, oh joy, the mecanopsis survived the winter and is exploding into huge, fragile, luminous blue flowers.


Poppy Astrantia Mecanopsis 

Tiny Dicentra peep out beneath floribunda roses. Gertrude Jekyll fills the border with her luscious scent. Seagull and Kiftsgate climb wildly by the pond. What was I thinking when I planted two such thugs side by side, I wonder. But their huge combined cascade of simple white flowers is breathtaking.


A nameless pink rose, a star every year, smothers the pergola. I bought it as a tiny plant years ago from the wonderful Hill House nursery near Ashburton. Of course I lost the label almost immediately. The messy little pink flowers tumble over each other for weeks on end tangling through honeysuckle.



The pond glistens with water lilies, a gift from a dear friend who died two years ago. I look at the huge waxy cream flowers and remember him with love and laughter.

Buddleia alternifolia drips blue branches onto the waters edge. Dark delphiniums spike up between David Austin’s Sweet Juliet and Abraham Darby. I love the English roses. Foxgloves are on the march everywhere and the Embothrium, scarlet against the blue sky positively hums with working bees.


This year I’m trying to turn my vegetable garden into a true Potager. It’s beginning to take shape as I dedicate more squares to herbs and promise myself some box hedging in the autumn. I like the lay out of small square beds in a formal pattern. Somehow I find it less overwhelming to dig and plant one at a time.  The sight of a vast solid stretch of weeds defeats me before I begin!

I love to mix the herbs and cutting flowers amongst the vegetables; sweet peas climb up in the middle of purple headed chives and blue sage. Thyme and marjoram form a border for sweet corn and leeks. Sorrel and fennel guard beetroot and chard seedlings.

Purple peas, runner beans and climbing French beans are all accompanied by courgette, parsley, potatoes and rhubarb. Broad beans stand stiffly to attention between supports, their regimented white and black flowers promising wonderful summer salads and winter soups.

Reluctantly I take the last leaves from last years’ spinach and chard. The plants tower over me and collapse in the wind.  I hate to throw them on the compost until the last leaves are eaten or frozen. Once they are gone I must wait patiently for this year’s harvest. Then the cycle starts again; eat some now, freeze some for the winter.

The little greenhouse is doing a fine job with the tomatoes plants. For once I’m remembering to pick out the side shoots. No fancy varieties this year after last year’s disappointment. “Trustworthy cultivars” as my dear old book says; Tigerella, Golden Sunrise, Gardeners Delight and little tiny Floridity.

The garden fills me with joy at this time of year. I cannot think of a more pleasurable day than one spent working in the sun amongst herbs, vegetables and flowers. Digging and planting, weeding and pruning, helping the valley transform itself into colour and shape. I come in finally, as the light fades in the evening, covered in mud, my limbs singing with the tingle of stinging nettles. I climb in the shower, watch the dirt slither away, put on clean clothes and pour a glass of wine. I flop delightedly into a chair; that wonderful feeling of exhilarating physical tiredness suffusing my body. Minutes later I’m on my feet again cooking supper for friends. Perfect!

I will cook them chicken Supremes with fresh tarragon cut from the herb garden. We’ll have tiny early potatoes and the last of that spinach and, maybe, some asparagus too; a bottle of Chablis to help it down. For pudding we’ll have pears in a sticky red wine syrup with ice cream, then a runny French Brie, grapes and coffee….


Tarragon Chicken For two….

Gently poach two chicken Supremes or chicken breasts in enough stock to just cover them. Add a little white wine and a few sprigs of fresh French tarragon. Cook for about twenty minutes. Set chicken aside in a warm place (not a hot oven!!) while you make the sauce.

Strain the cooking juices through a sieve. Melt 1 oz of butter in a little pan, stir in a tablespoon of flour…..off the heat…..gradually add the strained juice stirring all the time to make a smooth mixture. Return to the heat and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Cook two more minutes. Add a large spoonful of crème fraiche or cream. Warm gently, don’t boil!

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve with the new potatoes, spinach and asparagus!


Pears in Red Wine

Peel four pears,then slice a small piece off the bottom of each one so that they stand up.

In a pan heat half a pint of water (300ml), 4 ounces (125gms) of caster sugar and a quarter of a pint (150ml) of red wine. Bring to the boil. Add the pears and cook gently till soft. They will turn pink and shiny. Remove pears and stand each one on a serving plate. Boil the syrup quickly for a few minutes to reduce a little….don’t make toffee!!….and spoon the syrup over the pears.

They can be prepared in advance but not the day before because the juice will run out of the pears and spoil the syrup…

Top_barn .






5 responses so far

5 Responses to “The Valley in June”

  1. Tanaon 02 Jun 2007 at 5:43 pm

    What a beautiful entry! Thank you. What is that blue, blue flower?

  2. Joanneon 03 Jun 2007 at 11:27 pm

    Thanks for another lovely entry! Question – what’s a “supreme” chicken? I don’t think they come that way in the States…

  3. panini sandwichon 04 Jun 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Yes love the photos maybe you should have one of those fainting goats on here..hehe

  4. Robbynon 05 Jun 2007 at 10:05 pm

    Oh, reading this has refreshed me like a vacation. Oh to be your neighbor invited to dinner! Thank you for sharing the unfolding season 🙂

  5. chicken enchiladason 09 Jun 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Wow the photos look beautiful i wish i lived there..lol

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply