tomatoes harvested at Easton Walled Gardens

We grow a fair number of tomatoes at Easton and have been growing sweet cherry and big fat cheeked beefsteak varieties for some time. We use them in the tearoom fresh and roast the glut for using in soups overwinter.

Here are a few of our favourites:

Tomato ‘Cuor di Bue’:

Also called Tomato ‘Bull’s Heart’ – we grew this last year under Paolo’s instruction (he runs Seeds of Italy) We weren’t excited by the first fruits but as they ripened they were spectacular! Big beefsteak type tomatoes, virtually seedless, make the perfect salad tomato or for passata. Needless to say we are growing it again this year.

Tomato ‘Black Cherry’:

A regular with us. Really long trusses of smallish dark pink/black tomatoes, easy to eat whole or halve for salads or cooking. We grow it undercover with Cuor di Bue.

Tomato ‘Principe Borghese’:

This fantastic tomato is a vine tomato suitable for outdoor growing. It’s egg shaped fruits are good with salads and then, at the end of the season can be dried. Lucy, our florist used them like this last year.Lucy cut the toms in half, laid them out flat on baking tray sprinkled with salt and pepper and olive oil. She put in the bottom oven of an Aga or plate warmer overnight until semi-dried then put into air tight jars with olive oil.Summer in a jar!

Tomato baby plum ‘Red Cherry’:

This is new to us this year. The description from Seeds of Italy describes it thus ‘produces sweet long oblong fruits, is ideal for containers and can be grown outdoors.’

Tomato ‘Cumulus F1’:

An early ripening variety with typical tomato shape fruits that has good resistance to disease. Can be grown in or outside.

Tomato ‘Gardeners Delight’:

Well named, this is a cherry tomato with trusses of sweet tasting tomatoes on a compact bush that can be grown inside or out.For us, this grows better outside than in and produces a heavy crop of medium sized fruits with very little side shoot removal required. Easy if your whole world doesn’t revolve around growing perfect tomatoes.

tomato plants for sale at Easton Walled Gardens
We have some of these for sale in the shop as young plants or seeds at the time of writing. The fruiting plants can be seen in the greenhouse or cottage garden with chillies and spaghetti squash from May onwards.

A beautiful tulip for March

Tulipa neustruevae and chionodoxa at Easton

Not a good beginning for a bulb, to have an unwritable and unpronounceable name. This is a survivor though and worth a mention for any garden. I was given this bulb along with a host of others, by Johnny Walkers Bulbs  (superbly successful gold medal winners) to trial in the gardens. Last year I noticed it had made a good clump and rashly divided it in the green, that is, just after it had flowered.
In spite of this, every bulb has flowered and I have introduced it into short grassland where it looks as happy in the sunshine as the shaded border it came from. For us, a tulip that not only survives but actually bulks up is a wonder. It has a great deal of charm particularly amongst other early tulips which seem too large for their short stems. This is gracefully tall (15cms) and with a flower reminiscent of the fading crocuses around it.

Identifying this bulb is not easy. It came to us as Tulipa neustruevae ‘February Gold’ but I cannot find a mention of named varieties. On the internet, some agree with the look of my bulbs, yellow on tall brown stems with brown colouration on outside of the petals, but others opt for pure yellow, floppy stems etc. It is undoubtedly closely related to Tulipa dasystemon syn. T.tarda but comes from lower down the slopes of its native Tien Shan (more of which to follow.) An Australian nursery catalogue suggests that it likes dry acid sandy soil in warmer areas. We have cold alkaline soil but it is dry and free draining.

Now, this description of plant places of origin. It’s all very well saying it comes from the Western Tien Shan in Central Asia but so do circuses, wars and sometimes, Michael Palin, so it’s not very helpful. I  look up Tien Shan and its habitats.My initial research takes me to Wikipedia where I can just about work out from all the geographical data that the Tien or Tian Shan is a huge mountain range covering 6 or 7 countries. Not much information there for the gardener except this little nugget – the lower slopes of the Tien Shan contain forests of wild walnuts and apples. How evocative. Immediately I get a better picture of where my little tulip might grow. Lower mountain slopes, probably shortish on soil and by the forebears of trees that grow in my garden. A little more delving around a travel site reveals that it is full of ‘warm-hearted locals,’ alpine lakes and canyons.

There is plenty more research to do but by now I am really taken with this little fellow who may grow along alpine passes crossed by smiling nomads. I plan to spread him through the gardens under the walnuts and the new apple orchard we plant this autumn.

Sources for this bulb include Broadleigh bulbs and Pottertons Nurseries.

Birdlife at Easton

Winter is a good time of year to watch our native birds.There are no leaves to obscure them and some of the smaller species are easier to spot. Here is a selection of images taken in the gardens over the last few years.
The chaffinch is one of our most abundant and visible birds.In the spring, he sits on a branch while we are weeding calling in a loud monotone.
An assortment of tits. Long tailed tits, great tit, blue tit and willow or marsh tit (I am not sure how to tell the difference between these two but his long shiny black cap should help an expert) We feed the birds during the winter down at the birdhide.

Goldfinches have increased noticeably in the gardens since we started 10 years ago. Here they sit on the high points of the gardens watching and chattering.In late summer, Goldfinches and Greenfinches feast on the sunflower heads in the pickery.

The pied wagtail. In the summer we see grey wagtails busy around the river.

Out in the park that surrounds the gardens are lapwings, buzzards and the french partridge. The buzzards compete with jackdaws, rooks and sometimes, red kites for the skies.

The swallow arrives in April and shown here are two fledglings on the potting shed where they hatched. When we first started reviving the gardens we were down to one pair but since then there has been a steady increase. We cut holes in the doors so they can fly in to nest and the meadows we have developed have bought in plenty of new insect life. Since 2001,we have become a stopping point for migrating swallows, house martins and swifts.