As the old year rolls on and we venture into 2019, it’s award season at Reclaiming Paradise. In a year of weather extremes and personal complications, we celebrate all that is great, good or frankly unsuccessful in my garden and allotment. This year I cracked a bone in my arm, helped my mother move house, acquired a second cat and was overcome with day job commitments. But the garden, the allotment and the blog bring me joy, and the Reclaiming Paradise awards help me to celebrate that with you. Here are the award categories:
Most impressive garden developments; Most unlikely collection of sporting equipment found in a hedge; Most extreme weather; Most successful vegetables; Most unsuccessful vegetables; Most promising, but ultimately disappointing, fruit; Most unsuccessful recipe; Best use of garden produce; Most colourful vegetable; Most awe-inspiring wildlife; Best cats.
Scroll down to find the winners:
Most impressive garden developments
This was the year that I finally got round to having the conifers and the giant sycamore removed from the garden. This was done, not by me, but by professional tree surgeons and a professional stump remover. It was expensive but necessary. The space left behind enabled me to have a go at creating a garden bench and several raised beds:
of which the bench was fun at best and hopeless at worst while the raised beds produced bumper cucumber and tomato crops. I still have plans to do more with the space left by the conifers but they were thwarted by the broken bone and other commitments.
The winner in this category, however, is the allotment, for which I got a key in February, moved my wellies and gardening gloves into the shed, observed flooding in April, found a use for my 25 year old hoe and entered a bumper crop of vegetables into the allotment show, winning a few prizes but it was the growing that mattered, not the winning:
Most unlikely collection of sporting equipment found in a hedge
This award goes to the footballs and other useful items which emerged during the giant conifer hedge removal:
Most extreme weather
For 2018 we must reinstate the most extreme weather award, with the Beast from the East providing Bella with many photo opportunities:
and an unexpected use for a cow shaped boot scraper as a ‘cowometer’ to allow me to see the increasing depth of snow on the pond:
The impressive snow was followed by equally impressive ice on the pond in early April:
Most successful vegetables
Reclaiming Paradise is all about growing vegetables. As always there were several contenders, including courgettes and marrows:
which were very impressive, even though not enough to win any prizes at the allotment show. The peas were beautiful and very productive both in the garden and the allotment:
but they will qualify for another award, as we will see.
The amazingly hot summer certainly helped the cucumbers to flourish in their newly built raised bed/cucumber frame:
But the outright winners have to be the tomatoes:
which started slowly but then flourished in the hot sun and continued into November. They provided enough surplus to make soup which we were still enjoying in December.
Most unsuccessful vegetables
You may be beginning to believe that my fingers are so green that everything flourishes in my garden. Not so. My biggest disappointments this year were the onions, which I sowed in newspaper tubes in early spring and transported to the allotment:
They succumbed to the drought. A few of them made it but most did not. These, I admit, were meant to be autumn sown and I was taking a chance with them. We were compensated by a very successful crop of ordinary spring sown onions in the bed beside them. I learned something about how not to sow onions.
Most promising, but ultimately disappointing, fruit
The fig tree produced some fruit for the first time ever:
I suppose I knew they would never get any bigger than peas but a gardener is ever hopeful. A close contender for this award was the cherry, of which there was only one, and it got snaffled by a passing bird between this photograph and going back to pick it:
Most unsuccessful recipe
While dwelling on the year’s failures, I think the rhubarb curry was probably the least successful of my cooking experiments. On the other hand, the rhubarb did win a prize at the allotment show, and was very successful in cakes, crumbles and jam:
Best use of garden produce
The summer gluts nearly overwhelmed us but we were assisted by visiting musicians, who moved in for the summer and helped to cook and eat a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. We made cakes and stews, soups, jam, chutney, pickle:
We made a wonderful Christmas Day smoothie, lemon curd (although not from the garden), a very successful summer pudding:
but the winner, out of these many, has to be the musicians’ giant stuffed marrow, so huge that it overflowed the serving dish and had to go in the oven at an angle :
Most colourful vegetables
The Reclaiming Paradise awards always include a most colourful vegetable prize. The purple radishes again produced lovely flowers but no radishes and the Swiss chard continued to provide rainbows:
For the third year running, however, the award goes to the peas:
with which I am now so besotted that I have saved the seed of the salmon pink and may need to venture into other varieties as well next year.
Most awe-inspiring wildlife
The annual awards cannot pass without an award for wildlife in the garden and allotment. This year we have outright winners. As well as the bees, robins, snails, foxes, ladybirds and other creatures, we had a multitude of frogs, congregating in the pond during the heatwave:
and bringing us joy.
Finally, 2018 brought a second cat into the garden. Chelsea helped to build a pond in my mother’s garden but then moved in with us, leaving the pond to new owners and new cats. I won’t let her and Bella compete for this award as they have enough to fight about already. So the best cats award goes to them both for being awesome and in the hope that they will learn to share in 2019:
So that’s the awards for this year. Much has been missed off but it is nice to look back and see what has happened in the garden and allotment over the year. Happy and productive gardening and best wishes for peace and happiness to all my followers for 2019.