Cherrie's Notes Oct 13

How lucky we were this week to spend a perfect early autumn morning walking in the lovely gardens at Rowallane in Saintfield.

This time of year belongs to the trees, doesn’t it and you really feel their presence as you make your way along the approach to the house and the heart of the gardens. Fern-softened rocky outcrops, ornamental stone cairns, and the odd scampering squirrel add to the unique woodland atmosphere of this lovely place.

We were there to walk and talk autumn colour, both in the woodland and the walled garden. With us were Head Gardener Averil Milligan and plantsman Andrew Farmer, founder member of the band “Sons of Caliber” and self- confessed lover of all things green and growing. So much so that trees sometimes grace the stage when the band play and plants are offered for sale alongside cds.

Earlier in the year the band played a gig for The National Trust at Minnowburn, happily surrounded by trees which didn’t need to be manhandled in and out of a transit van, which must have made a welcome change for the roadies.

Autumn colour is really beginning to arrive isn’t it? As we walked down past the Pleasure Grounds to the Paddock where the wildflowers reign supreme in high summer, a venerable Acer proved it by shining out from behind an ivy-covered stone wall, it’s leaves turning the colour of Cox’s Pippins.

So a happy five minutes was spent talking about Acers large and small, bold and fine from “Bloodgood” to “Sango-kaku” and we were all agreed that no matter the scope of your garden or the size of the tree they are hard to beat for impact.

“Wow,” said Andrew as we came through the archway into the walled garden, where bright blue hardy geraniums had tumbled lazily over the path, azure blue Agapanthus stood tall, the last of the Japanese Anemones wafted in the breeze and spiky-haired Monarda and bi-coloured Salvias flew the flag for pink.

The gardeners were there too with barrows, shears and hoes tidying what needed to be tidied before winter sets in.

We’re not there yet though, thank goodness and we had harvesting in mind when we went to visit the Bell family in Lisburn again this week to see how their kitchen garden adventures are going. As with our first visit Barbara Pilcher came too and she was quickly spirited off by Colin to talk tomatoes and apple trees and beetroot.

Having spent the summer enjoying home-grown salads, potatoes, onions, courgettes, tomatoes, soft fruits and more, the night before we arrived had been spent making a delicious spicy beetroot chutney and while we were there Sharon’s sister Julianne arrived with a truly splendid and absolutely delicious beetroot cake. Rather like carrot cake, only, you’ve guessed it, pink!

Watch this space for the recipe, but in the meantime it is the season for chutneys isn’t it? so why not have a go at Sharon and Colin’s Spicy Beetroot Chutney.

3 llb boiled and diced beetroot (boil for at least 40mins/1 hour)

1½ llb onions

Juice of one lemon

2 dessert spoons of salt

1 pint white vinegar

½ teaspoon of fresh ginger

½ llb brown sugar

1 chilli pepper

Put all ingredients in a pot and boil for 20 mins. Then add the beetroot and boil for another 15 mins. Cool. Et voila.

Then enjoy, as we did, served with cheese on delicious scones made with eggs from Karl’s chickens.

We’ll be back.

And next time with Christmas in mind.