Reclaiming Paradise Awards 2020

So we come to the end of 2020, a difficult year for all of us, but here at Reclaiming Paradise we like to celebrate what’s gone well (and not so well) in the garden and allotment. Every year we have some prizes and each year we add some new ones.

Most Dramatic Vegetable

This has been a good vegetable year. Most things have grown well and we haven’t had any unmanageable gluts. For an update on most of them, see my post on the 26 vegetables for the 2.6 challenge. Some stars have been: onions, peas (of course), marrows, cucumbers and sprouts.

The tomatoes had a great year in the garden (but not the allotment where they got blight), with my stalwart San Marzanos and Tigerallas joined by impressive and exotic looking Costoluto Fiorentino. Some ripened, some didn’t but they all tasted good.

The peas were wonderful with varieties Duke of Albany, Blue Prussian, Salmon Pink and Norli all doing well. My experiment with sowing seeds in egg boxes was a great success although I got a little mixed up with the seeds – see here.

These are standards, they do well every year and I love them all the more for that but this year’s prizes go, in second place, to the broccoli whose tiny seedlings began in the seed house in March, were planted out under the runner bean wigwam in May and then took over, still producing little florets in December. The pigeons are eating them just now but there will probably be some regrowth and they’ll continue on into March.

The winner, however, is the giant radish, self-seeded in the allotment and providing enough salad to feed about 50 people:

Most disappointing seeds

You may remember, back in February, I discovered some ancient seeds, lurking at the bottom of my seed tin: poppy seeds from 1997 – sow by 1999 (years which were, in the best of ways, good years but not for seed sowing).

Egged on by my faithful readers, I sowed these carefully in pots but alas they came to nothing. It was worth a try. Other contenders for this award were the peppers and the runner beans, which did quite well but not as well as hoped for. It wasn’t the seeds though, it was the growing conditions because the pepper plants which made the pilgrimage to my son’s flat were much more successful. I’ve saved seed from lots of things and looking forward to seeing what they do next year (and not wait 21 years this time). These are wallflowers, broccoli, garlic chives and peas:

Most successful baking

As with gardening, apparently everyone discovered home baking and cooking during lockdown. I’ve been doing these things all my life but even I found myself doing even more baking this year, using up garden produce of various kinds:

There was also a lot of soup, chutney and jam but fewer photos for some reason. I made a festive apple strudel (recipe from a previous year here) for the winter solstice and to celebrate a very small family reunion when my younger son made it home from university:

The prize, however goes to the muffins, a versatile recipe which I discovered could be more easily consumed by a smaller household and fewer family visits. They also allowed for a variety of different fillings and flavours, depending on the glut situation, whether onions, raspberries, apples or chocolate fudge crumbs.

Most exciting garden development

I haven’t had any actual more time this year, what with the day job keeping me glued to my laptop but I did manage a couple of garden developments. I painted the bike and garden sheds over the Easter holiday, and on a few days when the sun shone in the summer I tided out the garden shed :

You’ll be pleased to know that it has stayed tidy since then, surely an achievement in this household. The prize however goes to the new raised bed, dug in March when things were beginning to look tricky and producing a wonderful crop of potatoes in the summer:

Raised beds are for life, not just for lockdown so it has had a covering of phacelia growing over the autumn and winter and will be ready to receive next year’s vegetables in the spring.

Fabulous flowers

As you know, my garden passion is vegetables, but the flowers sneak in, bringing joy and bees. They’ve been great this year too. In no particular order: roses, phacelia, primroses, osteospermum, wallflowers, witchhazel, daffodils, violas, camellias, snowdrops, viburnum, chives and yet more roses.

They all bring me joy. The most fabulous flower award this year goes to the sweet peas, particularly the ones at the allotment which have flowered continuously since about June, right through the autumn and were still flowering on Christmas Eve. I suspect the last few days’ frost and snow may have finished them off now.

Finest fruit

The fruit has also been magnificent this year, with the usual highlights: apples, plums, raspberries, redcurrants, rhubarb

We had some pretty good gooseberries, strawberries, apples and blackcurrants at the allotment too but I forgot to photograph them. They’ve all been good but the Howgate Wonders win the prize, again, for being the most awesome.

Allotment highlights

It’s been a strange year at the allotment. I didn’t get along as much as I’d like to have and we had some big disappointments (runner beans, broad beans, tomatoes, plums). Other things did fantastically well: sprouts, strawberries, potatoes, squashes, sweet peas, marigolds, nasturtiums, apples, onions.

There was no allotment show this year so we couldn’t add to our collection of rosettes in the shed. It was maybe just as well as we had a big leak in the autumn – the shed roof disintegrated with the help of resident crows we think but has now been fixed. As well as leaks we also had these kinds of leeks which will help to keep us going over the winter:

My allotment prize goes to my allotment partner who persevered throughout all the lockdowns when I couldn’t always be there and kept everything going despite family worries. Let’s hope next year is better and I will try and do more of my share of the endless weeding.

Wondrous Wildlife

I always love the wildlife in the garden but this year, working from home, I’ve been able to pay particular attention to the bees and the birds. Some highlights have been a caterpillar climbing up a stalk, frogs in the ponds, foxes at the allotment and in the garden and bees, lots of bees.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the birdsong in the early months of lockdown when there was no traffic noise and we saw lots of lovely birds on our daily walks but I don’t have photographs and lots of these were not really in the garden so don’t quite count.

The wildlife winners this year are the goldfinches which finally found the teasels in the front garden and stayed long enough for a blurry photograph.

So that’s my highlights of the year. I’ve probably missed lots of things and I often forget to take photographs. It’s been a tricky year for us all but the garden and wildlife keep on giving. Here’s hoping 2021 brings joy to you all and to your gardens. Happy New Year (when it comes).

8 thoughts on “Reclaiming Paradise Awards 2020

  1. Happy New Year, Jackie. May 2021 bring with it all the joys and successes you have had in 2020 as well as the good things about life before lockdown.

  2. I really like this awards post, and your photos are so lovely. I’ll be trying that muffin recipe. Veg are my passion now as well, but I found myself paying more attention to the flowers in 2020 as individuals, rather than just bug providers or patches of color. Hope your new year is off to a good start.

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