An English Summer

The lawn is peppered with tiny apples and Monty Don informs me that this is a natural phenomenon known as “apple drop”.  I’ve noticed this before, though never in such numbers and I didn’t know it had a name.  This year’s carpet of fallen fruit, a result of the prolific April blossom so well pollinated by our busy bees before swelling into a myriad of baby apples and then being thinned out by the tree itself, was aided by nature’s other forces as the rough May winds continued into June.

Summer is well and truly here now.  The 1st of June being the start of meteorological summer and the 21st, the summer solstice (our longest day), the start of astrological summer.  June and July are such busy months in the garden; the long days and warmer weather boosting the development of the plants in the borders, raised beds and greenhouse alike.  The green vegetables are in flower and “setting”, the soft fruit swells and ripens and the salad leaves are big enough to eat – at least the ones the slugs have left for me!

The harvest can begin.  The first sweet mangetout are ready just as the asparagus season ends, and so the two are sautéed together and eaten with fresh salmon.  As we go through July green beans and baby courgettes replace the asparagus on our plates and “courgette, pea and pesto pasta” appears on the menu once again.  Inevitably I will miss some of the courgettes, and in the warm damp conditions of their straw-lined bed they will mushroom overnight into small marrows.  They’ll not be wasted though, as they make ideal candidates for courgette lasagne (served with home grown salad of tomatoes, cucumber and cos lettuce) and taste amazing oven roasted with peppers, sweet potatoes and rosemary to be eaten on the cooler days.

For me, the most anticipated harvest of the summer has to be the strawberries.  For six to eight weeks these fresh, finely flavoured, vermillion berries are consumed with joy almost every day.  Then, as I see the ruby treasures in the raised bed diminishing, I remember to make some into jam.  Across the rest of the year these scant eight jars are a reminder of their delights – though a pale shadow of the summer glory that is a fresh strawberry.

Fresh fruit and veg is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre and is a great boost for your immune system.  Plus, you know what’s been added to your “home grown” lovelies and you can be as organic as you like for a fraction of the cost of the supermarket equivalents.  Many studies have linked eating adequate portions of fruit and veg to benefits in physical and mental health.  Put that alongside the health benefits of gardening and the joy of transforming your own plants into food for the table and you have a winning formula.

All around me the garden becomes a kaleidoscope as the showy shrubs share space with the tender annuals: sapphire blue delphiniums alongside pastel petalled cosmos, flamingo pink lupins intermingled with violet tinged sweet peas and creamy antirrhinums peeking from beneath the fiery sunflowers.  This time of year is a carnival for the senses, and nothing epitomises that more than the roses nestled into the cooler part of the sunny border: deep verdant leaves, soft velvet petals and a heady perfume that fills the air.  Fitting that my favourite plant should be related to my favourite fruit – roses and strawberries are both members of the family Rosacea.

I sit on the cool stone bench near the birdfeeders and trace the patchwork of aged lichen with my fingers.  I breathe in the scents of the summer’s evening and admire the shasta daisies glowing like pearls in the dwindling light.  A well-known quote comes to mind, expanded on by Bernard Kelvin Clive…

“Today, just take time to smell the roses, enjoy those little things about your life, your family, spouse, friends, job. Forget about the thorns – the pains and problems they cause you – and enjoy life”

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