Clementine yoghurt cake

Something a little different on my blog this time…..

Other than gardening, a love of mine is cooking. Of course i cook all the time, but i wish i had more time to bake, or maybe i just wish i had more friends to eat it. I feel seriously guilty baking an entire cake and then eating it all!

I actually made this cake last Winter, but i loved it so much that i wanted to share. Citrus season is almost here again, and the stores are slowly becoming filled with oranges, lemons, lime and mandarins, which they call clementines here.

Clementine Yogurt Cake
– 2 eggs
– 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt
– 1 cup sugar
– 1/3 cup olive oil (or vegetable oil)
– 1 tsp vanilla (extract or powder)
– zest from 2 clementines
– juice from 1 clementine
– 2 cups all purpose flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1/2 tsp baking soda
– good pinch of salt
clementine zest

clementine zest

My delicious creation

My delicious creation

Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180ºC and butter a 9″ springform pan.
Mix the top ingredients (eggs, yogurt, sugar, oil, vanilla, zest, juice) lightly in a bowl until incorporated.
All at once add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix until blended together, without over-mixing.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let it cool for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire wrack.
I should also mention that this is a super easy cake!  Pour in a bowl, mix and bake.
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Plant of the month- Clivia

Clivias are wonderful, almost unkillable plants, which brighten the garden during late winter and early spring with clusters of vibrant yellow throated, orange or salmon trumpet flowers. The flowers are held on stalks above the clump of dark green strap-like leaves.

As well as orange flowered forms there are also newer colour varieties of clivia available including red-orange, yellow and cream. These cultivars however are still new and may need to be hunted for in specialist nurseries.

Details

Common name: Clivia or Kaffir lily
Botanic name: Clivia miniata
Best climate: Clivias come from South Africa and grow in most areas of Australia – from Tasmania to the Tropics. In colder areas such as the mountains and Tasmania clivias need protection from frost and extreme cold. In warmer climates plants will become bleached and stressed if grown in full sun and allowed to dry out. In very cold climates clivias can be grown in pots which are moved into shelter or a glasshouse during the winter.

Cliveas look best planted in clumps, in a shady position beneath a tree or on the shaded side of the house. Suitable for potted plants on shaded patios.

Brilliantly coloured flowers – bright oranges, apricots, reds and yellows which are currently very fashionable. There is also a pale cream or white clivia which is rare at present. Lush green foliage all year round. Some of the newer varieties which are not readily available have variegated foliage which is more disease prone. Extremely tough in dry conditions so grow well in shade underneath trees. Grow in a wide range of climatic conditions but need shelter from cold or frost in cool or frost prone areas.

They like summer shade, good mulch and plenty of water in Spring and Summer.

The dislike hot, dry conditions which may burn or bleach leaves. Frost could mean the end of your Cliveas unfortunately.

Water well in spring and summer but keep soil drier in autumn and winter. Use a complete fertiliser in spring. Dead head after flowering if desired (this removes seed heads). Otherwise leave them to set seed. Seedlings will take about four or five years before they flower.

 

Orange Clivea

Orange Clivea

Yellow Clivea

Yellow Clivea

The beautiful red clive a

The beautiful red clivea

Cream Clivea- very similar to the yellow colour

Cream Clivea- very similar to the yellow colour

Patrick Blanc vertical garden

Last weekend i headed off very early on Saturday morning for Milan. My week was fairly busy and part of me was wishing that i could sleep in and have a lazy day at home.

Then i thought to myself…snap out of it…you’re going to ITALY!!

Last time i visited was December, and there had been a huge dump of snow so it was freezing cold. Beautiful but freezing. This time the weather was beautiful and i couldnt wait to explore the city.

Unforunately it took an hour just to find an ATM, then get our train tickets and finally get to our hotel. Things in Italy, definitely dont work the same as Switzerland. It frustrates me…..because i am one of the most structured and organised people, but when in Italy i need to learn to relax and just go with the flow!

So after checking into our hotel we headed to the city and had lunch at Cafe Trussardi where there is an amazing green wall designed by the famous Patrick Blanc.

Patrick Blanc is a french botanist and creator of the green wall.

I am a huge fan of his work and i was so excited to be able to see some of his work in the flesh!

Blanc describes his green wall as:

On a load-bearing wall or structure is placed a metal frame that supports a PVC plate 10mm thick, on which are stapled two layers of polyamide felt each 3mm thick. These layers mimic cliff-growing mosses and support the roots of many plants. A network of pipes controlled by valves provides a nutrient solution containing dissolved minerals needed for plant growth. The felt is soaked by capillary action with this nutrient solution, which flows down the wall by gravity. The roots of the plants take up the nutrients they need, and excess water is collected at the bottom of the wall by a gutter, before being re-injected into the network of pipes: the system works in a closed circuit. Plants are chosen for their ability to grow in this type of environment’

So basically, Blancs theory is that plants don’t need soil to grow. He shows this with all of his green walls and how well they flourish….although i know that he has also had many failures.

A few photos of the green wall…..

The green wall from outside the cafe

The green wall from outside the cafe

Inside the cafe

Inside the cafe

Rooftop view

Rooftop view

Another shot from outside

Another shot from outside

Changing the colour of your hydrangea

Have you ever wanted to change the colour of your hydrangea?? Well it is possible!

Hydrangea varieties possess a unique ability to change color depending on the amount of acid in your soil. This is measured by your soil’s pH.

pH 5 = Acidic

pH 7 = Neutral

pH greater than 7 = Alkaline

Change the color of your Hydrangea by changing the pH of your natural garden soil. Flowers are standard pink at the high end of the pH scale, around pH 6.5. But as soil becomes more acidic, around pH 5.8, flowers begin to change and grow bluer as you move toward the low end of the pH scale at 4.5

To change the colour of your plant, here is my how to list below!

A gorgeous blue hydrangea flower

A gorgeous blue hydrangea flower

Sulphur

This is the common acidifying material. Soil organisms convert sulphur into sulphuric acid, so acidifying the soil. The more finely ground the sulphur the more quickly the bacteria can convert it; sulphur dust is quicker acting than sulphur chips. However, acidification by sulphur takes weeks to have an effect, and when the soil is cold in winter, months might be needed.

Although sulphur is the cheapest acidifier and least likely to harm plants, other materials are sometimes used:

Aluminium sulphate

This is used in hydrangea ‘blueing agents’ to obtain blue flowers where the soil conditions are not sufficiently acid to give blue flowers naturally. Aluminium sulphate can also be used as a soil acidifier. The effects are rapid, but large quantities can interfere with phosphorus levels in the soil and may also reduce pH excessively. In addition, repeated applications can result in a build-up of aluminium in the soil to toxic levels.

Ferrous sulphate (sulphate of iron)

This has a similar acidifying capability as aluminium sulphate and supplies iron but, when used in large quantities, it can interfere with the availability of phosphorus.

How to acidify soil

Quantities to apply

Soils rich in clay have a buffering capacity so much more sulphur is needed to change their pH than is needed to alter the pH of a sandy soil. Organic matter also acts as a buffer, so soils rich in organic matter will need more sulphur than ones with a low organic content.

Very alkaline soils will need very heavy doses of sulphur. If free lime or chalk is present, the soil cannot realistically be acidified. You can test for free lime or carbonate by adding vinegar to a soil sample. If ‘fizzing’ is seen, then free calcium carbonate is present.

To reduce the pH of the top 15cm (6in) of soil from neutral (pH 7.0), or slightly alkaline (pH 7.5), to slightly acid (pH 6.0-pH 6.5) sulphur powder may be required at 135-270g per sq m (4-8oz per sq yd), depending on whether the soil is sandy (lower figure) or clay (higher figure).

As some tree and shrubs roots penetrate deep into the soil, sulphur may have to be incorporated down to at least 30cm (1ft) which is much more laborious and costly. Because making the soil too acid can be very damaging to plants it is best to err on the cautious side and make multiple small additions over several months than to risk one large dose. Be prepared to experiment.

Method of application

Sprinkle sulphur over the soil to be treated at the rate required. Do this in still weather as the dust is very fine and drifts readily. Gloves, goggles and dust-mask are sensible precautions if treating large areas.

Sulphur is best incorporated, by cultivation, into the soil in advance of planting so it has plenty of time to take effect. Applied to the surface it can take years for the acidity to be changed at root depth. If deep-rooted trees and shrubs are to be planted it may be necessary to dig half the dose into the soil and cultivate the rest into the surface by hoeing, raking and cultivating. A rotovator is ideal, where available.

Soil-acidifying materials can be applied at any time of the year, but products containing sulphur take longer to work when the soil is cold so are normally best applied from spring to autumn.

Before adding any acidifying materials you need to check your soil pH to see how much (if any) you need to add.

A soil pH test measures the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. A pH 7.0 is considered neutral. Above pH 7.0, the soil is alkaline and below pH 7.0, the soil is acid. See our page on soil pH testing for more detail.

It is especially worth testing soil pH before designing or planting a new garden that will contain ericaceous plants, or when growth of ericaceous plants is disappointing or shows signs of chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves).

Testing can be done at any time but, if carried out within three months after adding lime, fertiliser or organic matter, the test may give misleading results.

If your soil pH test comes back at 7.0 or lower, you already have acidic soil, but acidifying further, to between pH 5.0-6.0, may be necessary if you intend to grow ericaceous (lime-hating) plants. For other plants, if the pH is much below 6.5, you may wish to increase the pH by adding lime. 

All white

All white

Pink hydrangea

Pink hydrangea

 

Anna Garforth

The Big Bang Exhibition in London

The Big Bang Exhibition in London

 

Anna Garforth is an  installation artist known for her exceptional moss installations. Using a secret method which she refuses to divulge, she creates beautifully precise, elegant moss typography.

I love the simplicity of her ideas and execution. Who knew that moss could look so spectacular!

What do you think of Anna’s work?  I think my favourite would be the monkeys…but then again I am an animal lover 🙂

The Big Bang

The Big Bang

 

SoHo, London

SoHo, London

 

SoHo

SoHo

SoHo

SoHo

SoHo

SoHo

A self initiated project, searching for hidden, wild spaces around London. This small wilderness was locked away behind steel gates. A disused plot of land awaiting development.

A self initiated project, searching for hidden, wild spaces around London. This small wilderness was locked away behind steel gates. A disused plot of land awaiting development.

w_grow_2

 

'rethink' is an installation set up in front of regents canal in london, england

‘rethink’ is an installation set up in front of regents canal in london, england

'Rethink' in London

‘Rethink’ in London

headgardener006

'head gardener' is a guerilla gardening project that turns milk bottles into plant containers.   showcased around urban areas, these containers are treated like characters with   overflowing plants doubling as hair.

‘head gardener’ is a guerilla gardening project that turns milk bottles into plant containers.
showcased around urban areas, these containers are treated like characters with
overflowing plants doubling as hair.

 

What to do in the garden this month – October

Its Spring! Now get outdoors and enjoy the warmth.

October is a great month to prepare your garden for the hot Summer ahead, because as soon as Summer arrives unfortunately the weather is too hot to be planting and adding new things to the garden. Summer is the time to sit back and enjoy all your hard work.

So, this time of year is a real treat for the senses with all sorts of scented flowers in full swing, from roses and michelias. Also look out for murraya, star jasmine and gardenias and in the cooler zones Lilacs.  October brings a sea of blue flowers with Agapanthus, Evolvulus, Convolvulus, Plumbago and Jacarandas.

Agapanthus in bloom

Agapanthus in bloom

WHAT TO DO 

Feed your plants. All that growing is making your garden hungry, so give it a boost with an organic fertiliser such as cow or chicken manure which breaks down slowly. Make sure not to buy fresh as the acidity will burn your garden. The bags from the nursery have been broken down enough that they can be directly applied to your garden.

If you have potted citrus trees give them extra tender loving care while they are coming into flower. Use a liquid citrus fertiliser.

WHAT TO PLANT

In Spring, you can almost plant anything. The weather is warmer, chances are frosts are fading. If you would like edible plants then see my story on growing tomatoes from August.

Happy gardening!

The beautiful blooms of Lilac

The beautiful blooms of Lilac

Iceberg Rose

Iceberg Rose