Quite Contrary…

If you know me, you may wonder why I’m not called Mary, since I am indeed very contrary. Ornery. Stubborn. Awkward. Perverse and definitely willful.

If I were a horse, I’d be the one that always cantered off wherever it felt like it.


Anyway, this post isn’t about me being contrary, but about my lovely little garden. I spent two hours yesterday digging up more vegetables, pickling, bottling, cleaning, wondering why I’m bothering, thinking ‘I could buy this in the supermarket for 1€’ and then, finally, then, feeling damn bloody satisfied with myself, nay, even a bit smug.

A bowl of red onions for marmalade, more beetroot (and yet still not enough for my beetrooty needs!) and more carrots. By 9:30 pm, I’d pickled another kg of beetroot as beetroot and ginger chutney.

Here’s the recipe, by the way. It’s a Women’s Institute one.

700 g beetroot, cooked and cubed or mashed (depending on whether you like your chutney chunky or not)

225 g chopped onions

225 g chopped cooking apples

225 g raisins

600 ml cider vinegar

2 tsp powdered ginger

450 g sugar

Cook the onions for 5 min in 50 ml of vinegar. Then add the apples and the raisins (you can also use dates). Cook down til soft (about 25 mins). Add the chopped beetroot, the rest of the vinegar, the ginger and the sugar. Stir in and cook over a low heat until it’s at a caramelised consistency (between 45 mins – 1 hr) and then put into jars. This makes about 3 jars of 500 ml content.

It’s such an amazing colour and taste. My dad says it’s like Branston Pickle, but it’s not. It’s much more beetrooty and subtle. I just love the dark ruby-red glow. Nigella has a recipe for ‘slut red’ something-or-other, and this is about 50 shades more red than that. If her recipe is slut red, well, the colour of this must be whorehouse burgundy. I’ve already given away two jars, and I’ve made six, so I want to make another batch at the very least. It’s THAT yum. Couple it with some cheese and biscuits and it’s just heaven.

Anyway… that’s about the vegetable plot – the potager  – not the garden.

Now it might only be a key-hole shaped plot of roughly three big bags of soil, perhaps 1.5 m long by a metre wide, but this is the highlight of my gardening life:

Apart from 30€ for the soil and the manure and the posts and net, it’s cost me:

15€ for the sedum, the rudbeckia, the achillea, the coreopsis, the dicentra, the aquilegia and the monarda

1.60€ for the packet of marguerite seeds

29 cents each for the limonium, portulaca and asters

two packets were a gift from my mum – the ostrich asters and the calendula

3.99€ for the dahlias


£5.99 for the campanula seeds, the second achillea, delphinium seeds and the scabiosa. That’s 23€ for a garden that, should I maintain it properly, will either come back next year or give me seeds for next year.

And they’re all beautiful flowers. I’m particularly loving all the pinks, whites and purples. The limonium are wonderful, and for 29 c from Lidl, have to be some of my favourites. Likewise the portulaca. The limonium coupled with the scabiosa – well, that’s my favourite bit. It’s obviously a favourite of the wildlife as well.

Now, I’m not usually a frilly, pink, fluffy kind of a girl. Give me whorehouse burgundy every time. But that’s where I’m contrary. Because I love the fluffy pink and the frilly white together. And I’m going to be doing other patches with these next year, I think. It’s such a good look!

I’m also loving the purple and orange combo of the limonium and the calendula. The calendula are ‘Pink Surprise’ though I’d be very surprised if they were pink. They don’t look pink to me. Or to anyone with eyes. Spot the Jersey Tiger Moth, though. At least, that’s what I think it is. I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong!

The ostrich asters are also beautiful, some of them very pink and frilly as well. Perhaps it goes with the ‘knickers on a line’ signs? It’s kind of a boudoir garden. In fact, I’m sensing a theme for my next border. I think I shall call it ‘pink and frilly’ and put some real boudoir knickers out there.

I admit… I’m entranced by the colours and the ‘Wow!’ of it all. I’m a fan of all those crazy plants in together, as it gives you something to look at. And yes, the annuals are the show-stealers. I’m going to look for some perennial scabiosa and then at least I can have half a site that won’t need quite so much looking after.

I think it’s also Heston’s favourite part of the garden because he loves to chase butterflies and moths. Watching him chasing butterflies is just about the cutest thing ever. Love my doggies.








4 thoughts on “Quite Contrary…

  1. I think I’m going to have to whip up some of that whorehouse burgundy chutney! We love Branston Pickle but it’s hard to find here, so making this may be a good alternative. Of course, I shall be purchasing my beets and onions rather than pulling them out of my very own garden though! Your flower patch is so pretty.

    1. The best alternative I found was peach chutney… will be making more of that. Believe me, I seriously thought about concreting the whole garden and buying vegetables instead… when you’re sweating in a house that’s 28 degrees C over a stove, with no air con, or when you’re digging them up in 30 degree heat outside… being smug is the only reward!

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