We come to the end of another year. What is there to say about 2021? Too much really but here on Reclaiming Paradise it is time to celebrate all that has been good, surprising or downright disappointing in the garden and allotment.
The winter brought some wonderful frost, snow and ice
The cowometer came back into use – for a view of its highest reading since records began, see here
We also had impressive thunderstorms and flooding in July (no photos) but the award goes to the ice on the pond in February which enabled Bella to perfect her skating and just sit on the ice contemplating the eternal verities:
Most effective garden developments
Not much got done in the way of new developments but the neighbours’ new fence (which was technically a 2020 thing, and which was not so much the fence as the absence of the dreadful conifers which preceded it) enabled me to find a whole new growing spot for foxgloves, a new rose, ‘Maigold’, and a gorgeous purple salvia
It also gave Bella a new perch from which to observe her territory and, we discovered, a route on to the roof of the house, adding more excitement for her, and us when she couldn’t work out how to get down again.
I also replaced my very old and tattered bench with a shiny new one – in the hope that it would bring lots of visitors and socially distanced get-togethers. Somehow that didn’t really happen but if this bench lasts 21 years like the last one then we’ve got time to catch up.
Reclaiming Paradise is all about vegetables, so how have they done this year? Well we’ve had very good tomatoes and peas, chillies, cucumbers, rainbow chard and overwintered onions and broad beans (in the garden anyway)
Runner up is the amazing lettuce ‘Cocarde’ which I tried for the first time this year. It’s an all round winner, tastes great, seems to evade slugs, has kept going right into the cold months of November and December and looks rather beautiful too.
First prize however must go to the runner beans, which have had the most productive year I’ve ever had in over twenty-five years of growing –
They won second prize at the allotment show but on here they have come first.
Most colourful vegetable
My vegetables all seem to compete for this prize. Runners up include red onions, the amazing Blauschocker peas, the Cocarde lettuce, the ever reliable broccoli and these amazing red peppers (overwintered by my son in his student flat from a plant I gave him in 2020).
First prize goes to the Rainbow chard, not for its amazing stalks and leaves but for its astonishing pink roots, which I discovered when transplanting at the allotment.
Most disappointing crop
There were no complete disasters this year but the onions and broad beans at the allotment were very disappointing – we suspect birds and other visitors dug them up before they got a chance to grow. The redcurrants in the garden were mostly consumed by pigeons, though I did save a few. As always the blackbirds got the cherries before we did. The tomatoes at the allotment got blight but the garden ones did ok. Probably the most disappointing were the marrows – there were two monsters but that is all. As previous winners in my annual awards, that was indeed a disappointment.
There was only one contender for this – this amazing little squash from the allotment, which valiantly went forth to decorate my son’s Halloween birthday celebrations.
pictured beside a giant Howgate Wonder apple for scale
Vegetables are great but fruits are fabulous too. This year there has been a plentiful supply of gooseberries, strawberries, blackcurrants (at the allotment), raspberries (in the garden), redcurrants – somewhat depleted by the pigeons- plums and apples
The prize goes to my ever wondrous Howgate Wonder apples, which outshone even their previous years’ achievements – here they are, flowering in April, weighing down the trees in August, first harvest in October and a big glut in November – I reckon there were over seventy of these beauties this year
I always say that flowers come second in my garden but I love them too and I have some firm favourites, starting with the spring beauties of snowdrops, crocuses, irises and daffodils.
I was delighted that the Snakeshead Fritillaries had spread around the pond
Self seeded flowers are also amazing: poppies, foxgloves and this tiny violet.
The roses have a had wonderful year:
The prize goes to the various garden flowers which I have picked and taken to my mother in her tiny flat. She has been a great flower gardener in her time and, although no longer able to manage a garden, she greatly enjoys these little gifts.
Cooking and Eating from the garden and allotment
2021 has not brought quite the massive bakings that 2020 produced or at least I haven’t blogged about them so much. But there have been a few treats and new recipes: oatcakes, soups, pies, jams, an Easter bunny feast when I went a bit wild with the biscuit cutter, strawberry scones, a long overdue Christmas pudding in August when we finally got enough family together to enjoy it and the newly discovered Heaven and Earth soup. (All the recipes on the recipe tab).
This chocolate apple cake with fresh raspberries, for my Mum’s 85th birthday, served with the posh teacups and shared with more family than we’d been allowed for a while, is the winner.
My garden is full of wildlife and we’ve had the usual bees, a few frogs, an amazing buzzard overhead, pigeons, annoying but leaving lovely footprints in the snow…
The most impressive was the young fox which has been visiting the garden all year, frightening Bella but apparently fearless
Most missed cat
Bella has kept us company all year and loves the garden despite her encounters with the fox. However we all miss our beloved Chelsea who featured on the blog when she moved in with my Mum and then came to live with us, left again to join my son and his partner and we sadly lost in November. She was loved by all of us and will be fondly remembered, joining all our previous family cats in our memories – here are all the others
I don’t usually award my own blog any awards but this year we’ve had a few notable achievements – reaching the blog’s seven year anniversary and taking part in a podcast about the blog. I don’t spend much time looking at the visitor statistics on the blog, but the all time favourite post, for reasons unknown, is my recipe for green plum chutney, written four years ago and receiving visits from all over the world, particularly Australia and New Zealand. I’m rather proud of my plums and the various things I make with them but who knew there was such a demand.
So we come to the end of another gardening year – with ups and downs in the garden and within the wider family and across the world but we’ve more or less made it to the end of 2021. Let’s hope that 2022 brings joy and hope. Happy New Year, when it comes, to all my readers and best wishes for a fantastic gardening season ahead.