Sunday, August 21, 2016

Enjoying an English Afternoon Tea at Home

During our June vacation in England this year, my husband and I indulged ourselves with having tea almost everyday. From the relatively simple Cream Tea (scones, jam and clotted cream), to having a cup of tea with a piece of cake, to the very elaborate English Afternoon Tea (sandwiches, scones and sweets) we always loved the experience very much. One of the most memorable English Afternoon Teas we enjoyed in Bradford on Avon at The Bridge Tea Rooms, which I blogged about here already, which was truly one of a kind.

Being back in America, we miss having tea the way the British do and this has inspired us to celebrate the art of having tea at home now. My husband and I have even started to bake our own little tea treats for these special occasions and have so much fun doing it.

In this post I show you our first attempt to prepare a full English Afternoon Tea. We set up our little tea table in the family room, since unfortunately it was too hot to have tea in the garden. And this is what it looked like!

We had whole grain rolls with chicken-celery salad, scones with clotted cream and jam, smoked salmon-cucumber canapes with Nicoise olive tapenade. Instead of further sweets we went with a healthier version and had a mix of fresh fruits. 

Traditionally you will find finger sandwiches as a first course for an English Afternoon Tea, but we chose our home made gluten-free whole grain rolls with chicken-celery salad for a little bit more of a heartier version. I really have to praise my husband, as the rolls were ultra delicious and so was the chicken-celery salad. Unfortunately I can not point you to the recipe, since my husband googled it on the internet and can't remember which one it was anymore.

The gluten-free scone was my doing, you see it cut into two halves on the lower tier, between the rolls with the chicken-celery salad. Usually you cut a scone horizontally and not vertically to spread the clotted cream and jam onto it, but my scone didn't rise enough to do this or maybe I distributed the dough to thin on the baking sheet. The taste was very good though. I used the standard gluten-free recipe from epicurious.

My simple scone became a delicious, melt in your mouth experience, which in my mind transported me right back to England, with a decent amount of clotted cream spread on top of it...

...and the clotted cream had to be crowned by an equally thick layer of jam, of course. Yum!

We found the English Luxury Clotted Cream from The Devon Cream Company at Jimbo's, our local health food store, which has a really authentic taste and texture.

The jam we brought back with us from England. It is an organic strawberry jam from Tonda Terra, which we bought in the little village shop in Blockley, England. What I really like about this jam is, that it wasn't overly sweet and it had a truly great fruity strawberry taste. The little jar is long gone and I haven't researched if the brand is available in the US as well.  

The creme colored roses on the table were coming from my own garden. The variety is called 'Auckland Metro'. The petals of this rose have a good substance, so they make a great lasting cut flower.

Coming to my second contribution to our tea time: The smoked salmon-cucumber canapes with Nicoise olive tapenade garnished with parsley. I wasn't too happy with those, I have to admit. First of all the visual presentation is not so appetizing. The cucumber pieces had to be cut smaller and I would have loved to be able to bring the salmon slices into a more rose or rosette shape, but my clumsy fingers just wouldn't do the job.

The tapenade was a little too salty for my taste, but maybe I have not followed the recipe precisely enough. I still think the idea of having these canapes for Afternoon Tea is great though, so I might try to do them again.

The recipe for the canapes is from the July/August issue of the Tea Time magazine, which I have subscribed to and truly enjoy reading. 

The fruits were a nice little finish for this rich Afternoon Tea and I didn't miss having any "real" other sweets at all.

We served an organic Darjeeling Tea to complement the tea treats. The china I set the table with is called Dibbern, from the maker Schoenwald Germany, which I brought with me from Germany, when I moved to the US many years ago. 

Honestly, I can't wait until we have time to prepare the next English Afternoon Tea for us! Do you also spoil yourselves with a lovely tea time occasionally? I sure hope you do, since it is such a pleasant experience.

Wishing you a wonderful week!

Warm regards, 


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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

July Roses

Sorry for coming in a bit late with my monthly post about the most beautiful roses that have been blooming in my garden, but here it finally is.

July is traditionally a tough month for the roses to bloom well here in San Diego inland, since most of the time it is way too hot for them to be comfortable. But despite the seasonal challenge and my neglect of not fertilizing the roses since spring, I got plenty of wonderful blooms. There were many more, than I show here in this post, but unfortunately I couldn't make the time to photograph them all. Lily, our little Doberman puppy girl, still keeps me pretty occupied!

Rosa 'Charles Darwin', a beautiful yellow David Austin rose, was a total standout in July!

It produced the most blooms out of all my roses last month and therefore gets the honor of opening this blog post. 

What I love about this rose is that it coloration is so changeable, even though I know that this trait drives some other people crazy.

But whatever its color is, it is never garish like some other yellow roses can be. Most of the time it is a muted warm yellow in my garden with hints of apricot fading to a very light almost cream yellow. But it can be a strong saturated golden yellow or beige as well.  

In addition to the beautiful coloration this rose has a warm fruity fragrance that I love very much. 

The blooms are very full and still have a decent size despite the heat. This is one of the few rose varieties in my garden that I have two specimen of, because it is such an outstanding rose. I enjoy them very much!

The reliable, very floriferous rosa 'Our Lady of Guadalupe'. If only this rose wouldn't be so powdery mildew ridden in my garden...

Another rose that I was very impressed with last month is 'Pretty Jessica'. I think this rose is having her best year ever. I am in love with the beautiful shade of cool pink of the rose and adore the cabbage shape of the flowers.

So far it never bloomed much in my garden, but maybe it is finally established enough to churn out a more decent amount of flowers. Fragrance is absolutely wonderful, too!

It always surprises me, that this rose is not more popular. David Austin himself, even though it is his creation, is not selling this rose anymore and I would be very interested to know why. 

Another rose that did astonishingly well in the heat of July was 'Pierre de Ronsard'. The summer flush was almost as good as the one in spring. Simply gorgeous!

The individual blooms of 'Pierre de Ronsard' are very stunning, too. All in all a wonderful rose in my garden, but it does get bugged by rose rust, if the weather conditions are right.

My husband did this shot of rosa 'Pink Pet'. It lets the bloom appear much bigger than it is in reality, but it shows how complex the small flowers of this cute, little but tough, rose really are, if you are looking closely at them. 

Rosa 'Rhodologue Jules Gravereaux' one of my most favorite Tea rose.

The Hybrid Tea rose 'Chandos Beauty' showing off her pretty blooms. I like the background in this photo. It complements the colors of 'Chandos Beauty' so well.

Zooming in on the flower spray of 'Chandos Beauty'.

Rosa 'White Meidiland' is planted in a very shady spot in my garden, where almost no other rose would do. But this one is able to flower well there and its leaves are completely healthy. So if you are looking for a rose that can take quite a bit of shade, this one might be your ticket. Just have in mind, that it has a very unique, low growing, sprawling growth habit.

The individual flower sprays are little bouquets in themselves.

Freshly cut flowers of rosa 'Mary Rose' on a very hot day. They are just plonked in a Guinness glass, to be brought indoors and arranged more carefully into a little bouquet. I never got around to take a photo of the finished bouquet, but I think this little informal plonk is worth making it on my blog.

It has been awfully hot here in the last three days (around 96 degrees F/36 degrees Celsius) and I am looking forward to the temperatures cooling down from tomorrow on, again. At least that is what they are supposed too...

I hope your summer is going well, no matter where you are!

See you in the garden!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

And What About My Own Garden?

Because of the three rescue Doberman puppies (if you have missed the two posts about them and would like to take a look, please click here and here) that we took in on April 24th, my garden was greatly neglected from that day on. But even though I love my garden dogs come before plants in our house, so I have made my peace with that.

The one puppy from the litter that we adopted, still keeps me very busy, since at that young age they need a lot of time and attention, but slowly I am starting to work in the garden, again. It feels like I have to care for each plant individually and nurture it back to health and beauty. That we are in the middle of the summer, which is very hot here, is also not exactly helping.

But each time I am out in the garden doing a little something I feel happiness welling up in my heart. It is so wonderful to be able to get my hands dirty, again! Here are some photos from my garden taken in July.

The plant that is my absolute favorite this summer, besides the roses of course, is 'Verbena bonariensis'. I tried to shoot a close-up of the delicate flowers in the photo above.

Even though I see this plant all the time on blogs now, the first time I consciously noticed it, was at HORTVS, Peter Jankes' garden in Germany that I visited last year. I immediately fell in love and when I was back in California, I tried to source it here.

And I was lucky! I found three plants for a reasonable price at Home Depot. I planted them in front yard, but one died immediately, the second barely escaped death and the third one also struggled to survive. Almost a year later though, one has become a wonderful big plant and the second survivor has grown into a very decent specimen as well.

In the photo above you see 'Verbena bonariensis' right behind the Pygmy Date Palm in the middle of the picture. It is about six feet tall, a very light and airy plant. It blooms for a very long time, attracts plenty of bees and other pollinators.

It doesn't take up much space itself, but adds needed height to my very small front yard. It mixes nicely with other plants and weaves through them, without casting too much shade or taking up too much room. Once it is established it has proven itself to be a wonderful addition to my garden and I intend to get more plants of it. The difficulty for me has been to get it going. But the moment the plant had accomplished that, it has been a pure delight. I simply love, love, love this plant!

'Verbena Bonariensis' has been a real challenge to photograph for me and my images don't do it justice, but trust me it is a very beautiful plant!

Another plant that surprised me positively this summer is stachys monieri 'Hummelo'. The leaves have a wonderful, fresh, light green color, that is so well received by the soul in the heat and drought that we have here during the summer months. I have three plants and non of them has bloomed, yet though. I wonder if this will still come?

My roses are all in desperate need of fertilizer. Roses are heavy feeders and without regular food they are just not able to bloom well in my garden. I started my second serving of fertilizer with 'Bewitched', which obviously doesn't look that great right now, but has given me already the most beautiful cut flowers. I featured two blooms that I brought indoors recently in a post, if you are curious what they looked like, just click on the link.

I enthusiastically bought the dahlia 'Thomas Edison', I believe in early spring, but never got around to plant it. Recently when I searched the garage for it to throw it away, because I thought the tubers were dead, I was very surprised that they had sprouted at least three green tips, which looked pretty much alive.

Even though July is totally the wrong time to plant a dahlia, I thought that they deserve a chance to survive and decided to pot them up. When I unpacked the tubers they looked like this.

I potted them up in five gallon containers and just watered them lightly in. I had read that you should be very easy on the water until the dahlias have started to actively grow, because otherwise the tubers will rot.

'Thomas Edison' looks like a very beautiful dahlia. Is someone of you growing this particular dahlia? Is it as pretty as the photo indicates? And, do you think I have any chance to see some flowers this year even though I potted it up so late?

My reliable salvia 'Mystics Spires Blue' dazzles me like each year with its wonderful blue color. Bees appreciate it very much, too.

Even though a lot of other plants have shut down, because of the summer heat, most of my roses are continuing to bloom and add lots of color to the garden. One more reason why I love them so much! Here you see an unfolding bloom of 'The Prince', a David Austin rose with an incredible strong and pleasant fragrance.

This is what the bloom looked like when fully open.

'The Prince' had a nice flush in July. In the background of the rose you see the former mentioned second specimen of 'Verbena bonariensis'.

I love this shot of 'The Prince'!

But unfortunately I am not the only one who likes this rose. This huge grasshopper munches on its rose petals. Aaargh...

It was really a humongous insect and even though it has a right to live too, I am not a fan!

I hope that I will find the time to blog more regularly in the future. I really do miss it! Unfortunately I also don't get around as much to read all my favorite blogs and leave comments. Please bare with me, things will get better as the puppy grows...

See you in the garden!