Chocolate zucchini slice

One of my favourite ‘foodie’ websites is Fraiche Nutrition. Tori has some beautiful recipes, and all the ones i have tried so far have turned out brilliantly! http://fraichenutrition.com

I made this loaf a few weeks ago and it was seriously delicious. The added zucchini doesn’t make it feel so unhealthy….at least it has a small vegetable content!

The first time i made this loaf, i was unable to find hemp seeds so i omitted them and it was still great. Second time i cooked i added the hemp seeds….so totally up to you! Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup raw shelled hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 packed cups grated zucchini (don’t peel it)
  • 2/3 cup dark mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven at 180c.
  2. Grease two loaf tins and line with parchment paper. Alternately you can flour them after greasing to prevent the cake from sticking.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together flours, hemp seeds, walnuts, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  4. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Add the oil, vanilla and zucchini. Add to the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated: fold in the chocolate chips. Stir just until combined, and divide between the loaf pans.
  5. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the tops are cracked a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Makes 2 loafs.

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Attracting wildlife to your garden

Personally, i love butterflies and birds in my garden. My parents neighbour has a large Bottlebrush in their garden and every year it gets filled with Lorakeets feeding on the flowers. My Mum curses every time they are there because they create such a mess, but i quite like the sound of the chirping. But then again, i am not the one who has to clean up the mess!

If you would like to attract wildlife into your garden, then you need to entice them with some beautiful flowers!! I have included a few options below!

Shrubs

Buddleja davidii- Butterfly Bush 

Buddleja can be evergreen or deciduous shrubs, occasionally trees with simple leaves and panicles of small, tubular fragrant flowers. They like full sun to partial shade and grow 2-4m in height. The colour range is pink, purple, and white.

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Prunus laurocerasus- Cherry Laurel 

Prunus laurocerasus is a vigorous, large, spreading evergreen shrub with lovely, glossy dark green leaves to 15cm in length. Small white flowers in racemes to 12cm in length are followed by cherry-like glossy red fruits soon turning black.

Easy to grow in any moist but well-drained moderately fertile soil in sun or partial shade. Superb hedging shrub but may become chlorotic on poorer, shallow chalky soils. Grows to approximately 4-8m in height and likes full sun to partial shade.

Prunus laurocerasus Rotundifolia

Escallonia hybrids

Escallonia are evergreen shrubs with glossy, leathery, toothed leaves, sometimes sticky, and 5-petalled white, pink or red flowers in terminal racemes or panicles in summer and early autumn. The like well drained soil and will grow to approximately 0.5m-1.5m in height. Grows best in full sun.

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Erica spp- Heath

Erica can be prostrate or erect, evergreen shrub with fine, needle-like leaves in whorls, and racemes of small, bell-shaped or tubular flowers. They like full sun to partial shade and can grow between 15cm to 1.5m (depending on which varieties you choose) and moist but well drained soil. They have pink or white coloured flowers.

Erica cinerea

Hebe – Hebe spp. 

There are so many varieties available in the Hebe species. They can grow anywhere from 30cm to 1.5m. There are many colours including pink, purple, white and blue. Most like full sun to part shade with moist and well drained soil. On occasions, Hebes will get a leaf spot or mildew on the leaves. This is treatable by removing the effected leaves as soon as possible and also making sure there is enough air circulation around the plants and to water the plants from below, and not above which is when all the leaves will get wet and the mildew could begin to grow.

Hebe-garden-beauty

Lavandula spp.- Lavender 

I have written about Lavender on many other occasions before. A very hardy growing shrub with purple flowers and grey/silver aromatic foliage. Depending on variety they can grow between 0.5m to 1.5m in height. Prefers a full sun position. If planted in shade it will become straggly and not flower well.

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Spiraea japonica- Japanese Spiraea 

Fertile, moist but well-drained soil in full sun. Most Spiraea species have fine arching stems and simple alternate leaves that are often toothed or lobed. Usually as the new foliage develops, they burst into bloom, bearing masses of tiny 5-petalled white to deep pink flowers. The flowers can occur right along the stems or may be clustered in spikes at the tips. They like full sun and will grow between 2-4m.

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Annuals and Bienniels 

These are all very small shrubs that will only have a short life. But will add a huge burst of colour to your garden. 

Tagetes erecta- African Marigold

Ageratum houstonianum- Ageratum

Lobularia maritima- Alyssum

Centaurea cyanus- Cornflower

Tagetes patula- French Marigold

Heliotropium cultivars- Heliotrope

Calendula officinalis- Marigold

Matthiola incana and hybrids- Stock

Dianthus barbatus- Sweet William

Verbena rigida- Verbena

Erysimum cheiri- Wallflower

Zinnia elegans- Zinnia



A cottage garden

One of my favourite type of gardens is a cottage style garden. I’m not one for formal gardens or native gardens…..i like the idea of having a messy  and unstructured cottage garden, and all those beautiful blooms! I dream of one day having a little country house where i can grow my own vege garden and a lovely cottage garden. Cottage gardens don’t look designed. In fact, they’re usually exuberant, free-flowering, and sometimes even unrestrained. To get the informal look, avoid planting in straight lines or defined patterns. Let plants cascade over paths and weave through each other. It adds to their charm. And grow self-seeding plants that pop up in unexpected places. Some of my favourite cottage garden plants are below. Foxgloves

Digitalis purpurea is a biennial, seeding freely when happy. Since it does not produce flowers (nor, therefore, seeds) until its second year, you must plant them two years running to have foxgloves every summer.
Seeds can lie dormant for years if conditions are unfavourable – if there is inadequate light or moisture. Typically, foxgloves are purpley pink and spotted inside their flower bells. Their colour varies subtly and colonies of pure white plants can occasionally be found in the wild. Most foxgloves thrive in light shade. Digitalis purpurea loves to be cool. Although foxgloves prefer lighter soils, they can survive on heavy clay with the addition of good compost to the top few inches of soil. The fibrous roots spread out vertically making vast mats to support the flower spikes, so mulch well to retain moisture. b155c2a6db0fd0fbf1cdfb7546c4d818

Wisteria Wisteria  are vigorous woody climbers with twining stems bearing pinnate leaves and long pendulous racemes of fragrant pea-like flowers in spring and early summer. Wisteria sinensis is a large deciduous climber with twining stems, dark green, pinnate leaves and drooping racemes to 30cm in length, of fragrant, mauve or lilac-coloured flowers opening before the leaves. It likes full sun to partial shade, sheltered position. They like moist and well drained soil. It can grow to a big as 12m high and 8m across. Wisteria does have quite a large and vigorous root system, so be sure not to plant to close to any pipes or pools. Can be grown informally through large tree or more formally against a house wall or trained as a free-standing half standard in a container.  Will grow in most soils that are moist but well-drained. PL2000005198_card2_lg Roses There are thousands of rose varieties out there, which can be quite confusing. My favourite is the Rosa floribunda ‘Iceberg’ and is definitely the easiest to grow. If you start looking at the hybrid tea roses, then yes you will have the larger more fragrant blooms but you will also end up with many more pests and diseases. The floribunda roses have smaller blooms and less fragrance but are a lot less maintenance than the hybrid tea roses. So i would choose a Rosa floribunda every time! Floribunda roses offer a bouquet on every branch. The small flowers look like elegant hybrid tea blooms but appear in clusters instead of one flower per stem. Floribundas combine hardiness, free flowering, and showy, usually fragrant blooms. Sizes of these hardy roses vary from compact and low-growing to a more open habit and heights of 1-2m, ideal for tall hedges. The foliage on floribunda roses tends to shrug off diseases, making for a low-maintenance plant that delivers maximum impact with its continuous bloom cycles. Most floribundas require very little spring pruning — just removal of dead or damaged wood. Nature-Flowers-Beautiful-Rose-Bush-In-The-Garden-067027- Lavender  Lavandula species are small aromatic evergreen shrubs with usually narrow, simple, entire, toothed or lobed leaves and small tubular flowers in dense spikes in summer. It likes full sun and well drained soil. Lavender can happily go with long periods of dry weather. Prefers a well-drained neutral to alkaline soil but tolerates acidic conditions. In heavy soil improve drainage as lavender does not tolerate waterlogging. Potash will encourage flowering but high nitrogen fertilisers and manure will result in ‘floppy’ plants. lavenders-on-rooftop2 Daisies  Argyranthemum are evergreen woody-based perennials or sub-shrubs, with simple or pinnately dissected leaves and white, yellow or pink, daisy-like flower-heads from late spring to autumn. They like full sun with a moist, well drained soil. Grow in moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Deadhead regularly to prolong flowering and pinch growing tips to keep compact. Best used as a summer bedding plant. Mulching helps to conserve water. Water in prolonged dry spells. Deadhead regularly as well. SONY DSC Delphiniums  Grow in a fertile, well-drained soil in full sun; shelter from strong winds and stake well. Apply a balanced liquid every couple of weeks in the growing season. For best flower spikes thin shoots when 7cm high to leave a minimum of 2-3 shoots on young plants and 5-7 shoots on established plants. Pruning- Deadhead by cutting spent flower spikes back to small flowering side shoots. Cut down all growth to ground level after it has withered in autumn. Pests- Prone to slugs, snails, leaf miners and caterpillars delphiniums-at-wisley

Things to do in the garden- February

Southern Hemisphere 

My Mum has been telling me that it has been really hot in Australia this month (which is fairly normal) so make sure that you keeps things quite simple in the garden. I recommend no new plants as it is unlikely they would survive the heat!

– Mulch all garden beds to conserve moisture.

– Buy Spring bulbs

– Apply rose spray

– Check Azaleas for lace bug. Spray with Confidor.

– Plant tulips and hyacinth bulbs

Northern Hemisphere 

This month there are signs of the approaching spring, with bulbs appearing and birds and wildlife waking up as light levels and temperatures increase. There’s plenty to do indoors this month, all in preparation for the season ahead. Outdoors, the garden is coming to life again, and its time to prune shrubs, such as Wisteria. 

– Prepare vegetable seed beds, and sow some vegetables under cover

– Protect blossom on apricots, nectarines and peaches

– Net fruit and vegetable crops to keep the birds off

– Prune winter-flowering shrubs that have finished flowering

– Divide bulbs such as snowdrops, and plant those that need planting ‘in the green’

– Prune Wisteria

– Prune hardy evergreen hedges and renovate overgrown deciduous hedges

– Cut back deciduous grasses left uncut over the winter

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Some of the beautiful summer flowers i photographed in Australia

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Easing into 2015…..

I have taken a really long break from blogging…..my trip home to Australia was sensational. 3 weeks back home was bliss! Its been a while since i have had that long with my family!

Arriving back to Zurich was a difficult transition…its freezing here and you rarely see the sun. Coming from Oz where its sunny almost all the time, i did find it tough.

It’s also difficult to get motivation to talk about flowers when there is nothing but snow on the ground. So, to begin my 2015….i am going to share some photos of my trip back home and then i promise some more blogs on gardening .-)

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Crunchy top pear muffins

I have been doing a huge amount of cooking and baking lately. I think its the cold weather and my need to hibernate…and whenever i have any spare time i usually spend it cooking!

I made these muffins when it was raining outside, and they really were super delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain yoghurt
  • 1/2 cup walnut or any other nut oil
  • 1 pear, peeled and diced

Topping

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 180° and line a 12 hole muffin tin

Sift the flours, baking powder and cinnamon into a large bowl, add the oats and the 1/2 cup of brown sugar and stir together. Make a well in  the centre

Whisk together the eggs, yoghurt, oil. Pour into the well in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold through pear, don’t overmix.

Spoon into muffin tin.

To make crumble topping: mix pecans with remaining brown sugar and sprinkle over muffins

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

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Protect plants from frost

If you are one of my readers who are preparing for Winter, then here are some tips to protect your plants from the frost!

It is getting mighty cold here in Zurich, and I’m not actually preparing my garden for winter because my balcony is very tiny. But if you are someone with a large garden then I’m sure you will benefit from my suggestions!

Frost can cause the water in plants to freeze, which breaks down the cell walls. The result can be a browned, soggy or scorched appearance and if tender, the plant may die. Early spring frosts can kill new growth and reduce fruit crops. Snow is often less damaging because it acts as an insulator, but tender plants still require protection from it.

Which plants need to be protected? 

Tender shrubs such as bay, pittosporum, myrtle and tree fern. Tender perennials such as dahlia, pennstemon, and agapanthus. Tender climbers – passion flower, evergreen shrubs container plants, fruits and vegetables.

When to do it?

October or November or wait until frost is forecast. Fruiting plants with the exception of figs, which do not need to be covered until they begin to produce blossom buds in early spring.

Attractive protection

Hessian looks rustic, so makes a pleasing wrap for shrubs. Hazel stick teepees are smart too: pack the plant with straw, then wrap hessian around the teepee. Alternatively, coil bundles of a lengthy grass around it. Tender perennials can be cut back and covered with straw over which a wooden cloche is placed. (a cloche is a small translucent cover)

Tender shrubs

Pad the main branches with straw secured by netting or string, then encase the whole plant in insulating material (hessian and biodegradable fleece are eco friendly) During rainy spells, cover with plastic, remove when dry, to prevent the plant from sweating and rotting)

Evergreen shrubs

Apply mulch around the base of the plan

Hardy shrubs and trees

Gently shake the snow off weak branches so they do not snap

Tender perennials

If large, wrap in hessian, cover small plants with a dry mulch. If the plant has woody stems, place a hat of wire netting over the plant and sit the mulch atop this, to prevent rotting. Hardy perennials can still be bitten by frost. Wait until spring to cut them back, as the years growth provides protection.

Tender climbers

Insulate the base of the plant with fleece or hessian

Container plants 

Move to a sheltered spot and swathe in bubble wrap, put small pots in a cold frame.

Fruit 

In early spring, fruiting small trees and bushes require a shield of fleece or hessian on nights when frost is forecast. Remove during the day so pollinators can reach the blossom. Young vegetable plants and strawberries need the protection or waterproof cloches or a ploy tunnel in early spring. Remove in mild weather to prevent rotting.

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Travel diaries – Venice

To be honest with you, Venice was never high on my list of places to visit in Europe. I was reading my Lonely Planet ‘Europe’ book, and it is included in their Top 25 destinations. BUT they recommend in Winter to avoid all the tourists. I am aiming at doing the entire 25 things before i leave Europe, and Venice makes it half way for me…..so 12 to go!

Arriving at the airport, you then need to take a ferry or water taxi, and this depends on how much money you want to spend. I opted for the ferry because it was night time, and therefore couldn’t admire the view coming into Venice. But it was still a pretty site with thousands of lights. When i say ‘ferry’ i don’t mean a huge ship with hundreds of people…their ferries seat 30 and it takes about an hour.

I am fascinated by the fact that Venice is a floating city. Everything revolves around the water. Ferries, taxis and even ambulances are boats. You are completely surrounded by water and sometimes dead end streets lead you into the canal. I fell in love with the colours of the city and how unbelievable gorgeous it was.

It rained on and off for the entire weekend, but i still thought it was beautiful!!

Going in Winter also means that you will experience ‘high tide’. Our first morning there we heard loud bells ringing around the city. Only 4 times. Then it stopped. Later as i was reading my travel book, i found out that this is the high tide alarm. But we found this out soon enough anyway!

The San Marco piazza was under water as were many other places. In this case, the city provides elevated walkways for people to move around, but this is only in the major tourist areas, because the locals wear gum boots and very easily make their way through the water. At some spots in the piazza the water was half a metre deep as well.

All weekend we walked….and walked. It is my favourite thing about being a tourist…i rarely take public transport unless entirely necessary and you will never catch me doing an organised bus tour. I like to immerse myself in the culture by getting lost and finding places that most other tourists don’t know about. Both nights we were walking the tiny streets until 2am…only a few people were around and the atmosphere was beautiful.

I had read a lot about the terrible but expensive food in Venice.  I had prepared myself and done a lot of research for our two evening meals and was not disappointed. As for the other meals we had- they were also fantastic. Friday night we had dinner at De Mamo, a pizza and pasta restaurant in San Marco. Cheap pizza, and good food. Saturday night we ate at Ristorante Le Bistro de Venise. This was a little more fancy than the pizza place. The food was divine. We had a beautiful seafood meal there with some lovely matching wines. Staff were very helpful and friendly. I would definitely go back here when i return to Venice.

The Peggy Guggenheim Museum was amazing!! The artwork she collected was unbelievable. I highly recommend a visit if you are in Venice. We also visited the Galleria dell’Academia which is a gallery showing Venetian Art.

We spent a half day on the islands of Burano and Murano. Burano is famous for its lace and Murano for its glass. They are both gorgeous, but i preferred Burano with its hundreds of brightly coloured houses. Unfortunately 2 days was not enough. I would have loved another day or two to finish exploring and have some more delicious Italian food!

I hope you all enjoy the post and my photos!  Let me know if you have been to Venice and what you thought!IMG_6356 IMG_6349 IMG_6348 IMG_6324 IMG_6313 IMG_6288 IMG_6283 IMG_6272 IMG_6264 IMG_6258 IMG_6247 IMG_6237 IMG_6233 IMG_6223 IMG_6222 IMG_6221 IMG_6220 IMG_6218 IMG_6217 IMG_5714 IMG_5707 IMG_5668 IMG_5663 IMG_5660 IMG_5659 IMG_5639 IMG_5638 IMG_5634 IMG_0141 IMG_0085

Plant of the month – Passionfruit

The reason that i decided on passionfruit as plant of the month, is because a friend of mine recently sent me photos of her passionfruit vines that she grows on her balcony and they just look divine!!
The photos that i have attached at the end are actually the photos she sent me.
Passionfruit are one of the most bountiful backyard crops.
For my Australian friends – Spring is a good time to get started with planting a new vine or to give one that’s already growing a helping hand.
Passionfruit can be grown from seed.‘Nellie Kelly’, a grafted passionfruit variety that originated in Victoria, Australia which is the best choice for our gardens.It has large white and purple flowers and purple black fruit, which it produces without a pollinating variety, so there’s no need to grow two vines.

Nellie Kelly’ is grafted onto a vigorous understock called blue passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) to give it tolerance to cold and to soil-borne disease. This understock occasionally creates trouble for gardeners when the fruiting vine is lost and the understock begins to grow in its own right, often suckering from along its extensive root system. Digging in or around vines can also cause suckering.

You’ll know if you have suckers growing from the understock as its leaves, flowers and fruit are very different from ‘Nellie Kelly’. Instead of large, lobed, bright green leaves you’ll find smaller leathery green leaves. Pretty blue and white flowers appear rather than the large white and purple blooms and, the clincher, inedible orange fruits appear rather than the mouth-watering black passionfruit you were expecting.

For good growth and lots of fruit, plant vines in a sunny, frost-free spot and lavish them with care and attention. Passionfruit vines develop extensive root systems to fuel all that growth and fruit production, so allow plenty of room for roots to grow. As well, keep the surrounding area free of weeds and competing plants, including grass. Also give the vine space to climb. One passionfruit can reach at least 2.5m across and several metres high. An ideal spot to grow a vine is along a wire fence, across a balcony, or over a pergola where they provide year-round shade. If you want to grow a vine along a sunny wall or fence, install some wire, trellis or mesh as support for its tendrils.

Keep the root system in mind when feeding a passionfruit vine. Spread the fertiliser and mulch over the entire root system, not just around the base of the stem. Passionfruit thrive on a diet of pelletised chicken manure or any fertiliser designed to encourage flowering and fruiting, such as citrus food. Apply fertiliser in spring and then every four weeks through summer. Always water well when applying fertiliser. It can take 12–18 months for a newly planted vine to reach fruiting size, although some flowers may be produced in summer or early autumn.

Passionfruit vines perform best with regular watering. Water is vital when the vine is newly planted and when it’s flowering and forming fruit.

Although passionfruit do not require special pruning techniques to produce fruit, they are pruned to control their size and spread, and to allow sunlight to filter through the vine to help ripen fruit. Pruned vines also produce strong new growth that in turn produces fruit. Established vines that have fruited and are growing well can be carefully pruned in spring, before flowering, to remove excessive growth and to avoid the huge tangle of stems that develop naturally. Follow a stem along carefully before you cut it to ensure you’re not removing a major branch. Later in the year, excessive summer growth can be tied back onto the trellis or support, or simply cut off wayward branches.

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What to do in the garden this month – November

Yesterday i thought that November might be turning out to be a really beautiful month, BUT today its freezing and raining. Only 5 degrees!! I thought i was actually prepared for Winter, but as i look through the window to my balcony from the warmth of my living room….ive changed my mind. My balcony looks sad….my daisies are still looking quite fresh and still flowering but everything else is not looking so good. November is that transition month where you need to prepare your outdoor areas for the winter ahead!! Which makes me think that i need to go and get some soil for some hyacinths and tulips i have! Here is what to do for November in the garden…..

Southern Hemisphere – Fertilise roses – Lightly prune natives – Sow seeds- Celosia, Zinnia, Cosmos, Zucchini and Pumpkins – Spray Azaleas for Azalea Lace Bug. Use Confidor. – Prepare your garden beds for the hot summer ahead. Use water storage crystals. They actually have a liquid form that is much better and absorbs better into your soil. I recommend this one, and then a good dose of mulch. – Fruit fly can be a problem in some areas. Now is the time to treat them.

Zinnias are a really hardy Spring annual

Zinnias are a really hardy Spring annual

Northern Hemisphere – Plant bulbs now. Especially tulips. – Deadhead Hydranges. – Mulch your garden well in preparation for the cold months and the snow. – Lift Dahlias, Begonias and Gladiolus if your garden is prone to freezing. – Brighten your balcony or front door with annuals. Such as violas, pansies, polyanthus and primulas. – Plant Hyacinths (but remember to bring them inside during the very cold months of Dec and Jan) – Start to plant bare rooted roses now. – Start raking!! – Prune pear and apple trees between now and February. – Remember to set your mower on a higher cut height for Winter. – Aerate your lawn. – Plant deciduous trees now.

Pumpkin shopping at the farm this week

Pumpkin shopping at the farm this week