Introducing Tabitha


Lots going on here at The Fig Tree. Figs are busily ripening quietly, courgettes are sending out sunshine yellow flowers and I’ve had my first harvest.

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The stripy one is courgette Piccolo. I was keen to go for more unusual courgettes this year and this one hit the mark. You need to pick them small. The yellow one might well be the Flying Saucer squash Patty Pan.


I almost missed these Cobra Climbing beans. They start producing beans when they’re really quite short then they grow a bit and produce another crop and again and perhaps again….will have to see! It means less successional sowing which is a win win in my eyes.


I thought this was some kind of sugar snap pea but couldn’t remember planting it. Turns out it’s Blue Shelling Pea. Look….


…beautiful little peas snuggled up inside. Funny how they’re green not purple!


More delightful royal purple found with the Artichoke Purple de Jesi. I have to admit I’ve never tried to eat these. I love them for the architectural element that they provide and I have used them in a Christmas decoration which I may well do again this year.


Another bit of excitement….the greengage tree has fruit! I love this little cousin of the plum. It’s so delicious and after it’s poor harvest last year I was worried it might have had it’s day but it lives on and is thriving!


The fennel is flowering heavily right now and each umbrel is full of fennel pollen. I mentioned fennel pollen in this post in March 2014. I have to admit that I haven’t thought much about it since until a meeting with a foodie friend who has started a cool foodie business called My Kitchen Notebook. It was a joy to talk about edible flower, herbs, horseradish and liquorice root and of course fennel pollen! It actually made me inspired to go back to my old blog posts and also to start blogging again about the more unusual things that I grow and what I do with them. More of that to come……


This photo shows that even though the coriander has long gone the flowers are still delicious and quite beautiful. So the air is heavy with sheer hard work and abundance right now! I find myself walking quite a lot these days. I go from the vege garden to the flower garden to the herb garden to the nuttery to the wildflower meadow to the flower garden overflow……it’s exhausting!!!! Seed need sowings, seedlings need planting, shrubs and perennials need homes too. Everything needs watering and  of course the weeds are doing their level best to Take Over The World Mwah ha ha (evil laugh of the weeds….). I used to joke to Mr Fig that I’d need a Golf Cart to ride on around the place to save my legs. Oh how we laughed…..! However, I’ve recently found something far better than a golf cart! Introducing….Tabitha!!!


Isn’t she a beauty?! Classic moustache bar with leather look grip, 7 speed internal hub gears, full length alloy mudguards, front mount wicker style basket, alloy kickstand…… I had to look all that stuff up you understand. What I really love is THE COLOUR! and the BASKET!! The basket is so handy and not just for looking pretty with flowers! Of course I don’t really cut flowers straight into the basket because flowers should be cut straight into water. Couldn’t resist for the pic though.


So there I go… into the nuttery careful to avoid the prickly thistles…..


Might stop at the herb garden and check if the latest batch of sweet peas need watering (yes not strictly a herb at all but running out of room…)


…then a pause to admire the poppies and cornflowers mindful that their short season will be coming to a close soon….


….finishing up at the Cutting Garden to check everything is growing well and wondering when I’ll get my first zinnia…. all sounds idyllic right?! Yes well I don’t really do that. It’s more a case of zooming round doing the watering rounds, heaving hoses hither and thither and digging up hard, sun baked soil to plant yet more seedlings! But have to say I loooooove Tabitha! And she reminds me of being little when I used to zoom around on my red bike with Mr Snoopy clamped firmly behind the saddle….


Happy gardening!

The Fig Tree and Beyond……


An email popped into my inbox yesterday announcing that I have to renew my Fig Tree website contract. “That was a quick year I thought.” My next thought was “But I have two blogs now….can I do both?” Writing a blog is a funny thing. I’m sure many people approach it with a much more objective, scientific, ordered train of thought. My approach is more sporadic. I write when I feel inspired and, more recently, when I have the time. Ultimately I began The Fig Tree to connect to my friends and family back in the UK but also as a creative outlet and as a record of how we’re shaping and developing our land. I said in my last post that I love re-reading posts about projects that we’ve achieved and dreams of what else we’d like to do. And, ultimately I’d still like to record all of this. So, the day to day life as I know it will still be recorded here and the new fledgling flower business will be recorded on myflowercart. If you want to know how to become a flower farmer or indeed, how to take chrysanthemum cuttings or be successful at successional sowing then you know where to go!

So, going forward……what on earth is happening in my veggie garden this Spring 2015?! I showed you the little changes I’d made to the vege garden last time. Since then I’ve planted up a load of veg. In New Zealand it’s a time honoured tradition to wait until Labour Weekend to plant your tomatoes (and other tender veg). I was a bit naughty this year and planted them a week before (I know….its the English in me!)


My toms are looking pretty strong and healthy. They’re also looking very pretty with a stunning backdrop of sweet peas. I’m growing lots of baby toms because I know I have a good chance of eating them as they ripen so quickly! They’re also brilliant in a lunchbox. I’m also growing the larger toms too….because I’m an optimist….but a lot less than usual.


The cucumbers are nestled securely around an old willow tee pee. I like to grow my cucumbers vertically….because it takes up less space and they don’t drag about in the mud.


The beans are just beginning to take off as they start their twisty-turny journey up the metal supports. We’ve had an odd Spring. It’s been it’s usual windy self but the temperatures have been crazy. One minute mid 20s the next down to 9c. I don’t like fluctuating temps and nor do plants. I think this is always a frustrating time of year. I always feel that I’m so near yet so far away! I haven’t taken a picture of the peas but they have their first purple flowers. I’m growing Cobra Climbing because they are the most generous bean I know!


I have a real mixture of courgettes and pumpkins. I am so excited about growing Turks Turban pumpkins and Patty Pan squash I’m almost beside myself! It’s pretty simple this year but I’m growing things that we actually eat. No flowers as yet but they can’t be far away…..


Herbs like this parsley that I sowed in the winter are doing really well.


These chives come back every year which I love. Seeing them again is like welcoming back an old friend. I’m still sowing more herb seeds now though to keep it going through the summer. You might be wondering where the lettuce and spinach are? Well, ask the chickens. You’d think I’d have learnt by now to net the veggie garden but I’ve been battling the pukekoes who have been determined to destroy all of the cut flower seedlings! Anyway, lettuce/spinach batch number two on it’s way and will be well netted.

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The cheerful Johnny Jump ups never fail to make me smile. They appear randomly in the strangest of places. The clary sage is one of my all time favourite cut herbs for a vase. It’s so unusual and makes a real statement.


The plums are starting to grow and it looks like we’re going to get hundreds. I might try thinning them this year so increase the size.


Tiny baby quinces in all their knobbly glory! I’ll be using these in christmas decorations again this year. They looked wonderful on the wreath I made last year . By December they’ll be coated in a downy, hairy skin.


Had to include these little chaps. as far as I know they don’t wreak havoc in the cut flower garden so they’re very welcome! They are (I think) quail. They hang out in pairs and they have the funniest call. The photo isn’t great because I had to take it really far away….they are very shy. Love watching them pootling about together. So there you have my Spring garden update. Still lots to do and I have to mention that the single most effective and time saving thing that we’ve done to the garden this year has been the mushroom compost! A few trailer loads (and the rest) has saved us hours (read days) of time weeding. If you only do one thing in your garden this Spring let it be mulching! You won’t regret it 🙂


Step Away from the To Do List…..


Sometimes I need to remind myself of what I’ve achieved rather than think about what is still on the To Do List. I think to some extent we all do. This blog has been an invaluable resource of how we’ve developed our little slice of Hawke’s Bay. I enjoy re-reading posts of projects that we’ve accomplished and how we’ve chipped away at our little bit of land to mould it and shape it to suit us. We’ve had a fair few projects since we moved here notably the Figs and the Cutting Garden. I sometimes wonder if people think we’re a bit mad to lavish such attention on a garden….but then I have a cup of tea and get my spade out and carry on digging! This post is a bit of a Then and Now post. Looking back and looking forwards.


One of my most favourite Spring Sights is my Plum Tree. It always has a magnificent covering of blossom and this year it was completely drowning in the honey scented stuff. The bees have been going mad over it.  I stood underneath a little while back and took a good sniff and wished that I could bottle it for it’s scent is fleeting. Here’s my plum tree now after just a week.


Other Spring Goodies include the bulbs in the Nuttery that I almost broke my back planting!

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The trees in the nuttery are in bud and looking a little taller than last year. I’ve been raking up all the leaves that the oaks, chestnuts and gladitzias have been dropping steadily over autumn and transporting them to the Nuttery to get a good “woodland feel” and add some leaf mould goodness too. I was so happy to see that the three Hawthorne trees that I thought were dead as doornails last Autumn….


….are actually well and truly Alive! I love the shape of their leaves and I’m hoping to see some evidence of their berries this coming Autumn. In fact, out of all the 60 odd trees that we planted this time last year only one has turned up it’s roots and joined the great Woodland in the Sky  and that was the Eucalyptus. I thought these trees were indestructible but not this one. Just to recognise the progress from last year this is what the Nuttery looked like in September 2014


And this is the Nuttery now.


It’s difficult to capture everything that’s going on but there are little patches of foxgloves, bluebells, tulips, ornithagalum and narcissi all over the show. The shrubs have been transplanted from the Annoying Bed (it’s never worked in the 6 years years we’ve lived here so it’s going to be grassed over leaving the trees to stand alone in all their glory and to open up the view). The Nut trees are right at the back including a circle of Hazels and some almonds.


This was the Cutting Garden in September 2014. The Herb Garden didn’t exist until a few months later…..nor did the Wildflower Meadow. The Wildflowers were sown in November 2014.


This is the Cutting Garden in September 2015. Definitely more action around the edges, a few biennials that survived and everything nicely mulched ready for the seedlings…


The Sweet Pea Walk is new. Mr Fig had a great time putting these posts in (ahem!). However, they look fabulous and they will work as a great support for the Sweetpeas as well as being a gorgeous place in which to linger with a cup of tea.


The Herb Garden September 2015. Work in the Herb Garden tailed off as the heat of summer hit us hard in 2014. However, it was full of scented geraniums, mint, fennel and bee balm. You might be able to make out a small square bed in the the top right of the photo….there will be three more of these to create symmetry and provide beds for basil, chives and other culinary herbs. You might also be wondering about the circular mound of something in the middle? That will be a Chamomile Lawn (with a nod to Mary Wesley). Will need to start again as the weeds laughed in the face of my attempts to smother them with Chamomile…. Mwahahahaha they crowed (nasty weeds).


The Lime bush/tree has had a Severe Pruning and a good mulch and the semi edible beds have been mulched to within an inch of their lives too (I’m so over weeding that this is my attempt to never have to weed again!).


I’m using mushroom compost which is working well and feeding the soil too.


The honeysuckle had a massive haircut so that we could actually enter the Vege Garden without being poked in the eye….

I really neglected the veggies last year. I got a few beans and courgettes and toms but the cucumbers were rubbish and the pickles didn’t make it to become pickles. The butternut squash yielded a desultory harvest and the strawberries were all eaten by the feathered folk. Grrrrr….


This Year will be Different. What’s the difference? Well, I’ve added heaps of goodies to the soil….chicken poo…..compost……coffee grounds…..yum! I’ve also added netting to most of the beds to protect the veggies from prying beaks. I’ve also tweaked the layout a tiny bit (Mr Fig just groaned then….he’s changed the layout of the vege garden numerous times!).


All I’ve done is extend the Squash bed because I want to grow these gorgeous little spaceship squash that are essentially courgettes but packaged in a fancier shape. I also want more pumpkins too especially one called Turks Turban that I saw growing at Kew Gardens three years ago and Pumpkin ‘Kent’ which will just remind me of where I used to live.


Just need to add some compost and other goodies and it’ll be good to go. Must prune those feijoas too and let more light in…..


I’ve also added a path behind the Shadowy Bed (good for lettuces and coriander that need shade in the heat of summer) for easier harvesting. I often have to wrestle with the honeysuckle to harvest this bed. The semi edible bed has been reduced because the back of the bed is just a Weed Party in the summer. Yep take your Glastonbury Weed Party somewhere else this year thank you very much.


The old Florence Fennel bed has been weeded and a little path has been started by the green house. Hopefully this will stop weeds growing through the green house and means that I can walk all the way round to harvest this little bed underneath the Greengage tree. Quite shady so, again, a good lettuce/herb bed.


I’d like to store my pots here in a more organised fashion… in progress…..I have faith….I can just see garden tools hung up on nails in an orderly fashion on the side of the compost bins (it’s good to have imagination!).


I have some peas busily making themselves at home against these home made circular towers. I started the pea seeds in proper pea root trainer pots. Not sure if it’s made much difference but I love the look of the pearly white roots….



I have also planted out kale and rocket. Inside the house tucked up warm and cosy are some baby tomato seedlings and some rather healthy and rather butch looking beans. The squash and pumpkins are also germinating very, very quietly shhhhh….


And what about flowers? I’ve been sowing seeds. Quite a lot of them. I felt optimistic enough to sow Zinnia yesterday. They love the warmth so I bring them inside overnight. I planted out my March sown seeds into beds last week. Things like scabious, Clary sage and Nigella. I have a few biennials like Foxgloves, sweet william, larkspur, achillea and Clarkia/Godetia. I totally failed on the biennial front because I left the sowing Too Late. It just felt so hot last February I thought I could leave it till March – No You Can’t. Grrrrr…. However, there’s no point beating myself up about this. You live and learn and next year I will know.


As well as seeing to the green part of my business I’ve also been busily working away at the admin side too. I have a very talented friend who is not only a Graphic Designer but who also paints the most beautiful portraits of children and animals. Have a look at her website (and in particular at her latest work of Mud the gorgeous Labrador) on her FB page Zoe Reid Portraits. Zoe has been creating my flower cart business cards and generally being a Very Useful and Wise Sounding Board for my little flower business. In return I have been helping her with her Social Media and hopefully also being a Good Sounding Board for her Portrait business! I am so thrilled with the business cards. We (read me) spent ages humming and ah-ing over which type of card to use and I just love the textured card that we plumped for. It has that vintage, timeless quality to it that I love.

Enjoy your garden this Spring/Autumn (wherever you are in the world). If you have a Plum Tree in bloom stand beneath and sniff deeply – it will feed your soul. Happy Gardening!



Exciting Times

It’s Winter here in New Zealand; a time to hunker down, stoke up the fire and make plans. I’ve been doing a bit of all three but I have to say I’ve never had a busier winter. I’ve been mulching like crazy to keep those pesky weeds under control, and to feed the soil and protect the biennials that are bravely soldiering on in the cut flower garden. My mulch of choice? Mushroom compost at the  moment. Brilliant stuff!


I’ve been planting up sweet peas, making supports, planting bulbs in the Nuttery and transplanting hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of self sown cerinthe major seedlings to other parts of the garden ready to bloom their magnificent purply bracts in Spring.


I’ve also moved many narcissi bulbs, bluebells, snow drops and Belladonnas into the Nuttery because we are turning a very unsuccessful island bed back to grass. I can’t bear to waste a single bulb so I’ve been loading up the wheel barrow and moving each and every one to a new home.

All this activity has had a purpose. Not only to create a beautiful environment for my family and an enriching one for insects and birds but also to provide a firm foundation for my new, embryonic business. I’ve always known that growing things made sense. That assisting seeds to full their potential had meaning. That creating beauty meant creating a legacy. What I hadn’t realised was that, perhaps, I may be able to make a living from it…… So, I’m going to unveil my new business called myflowercart…da daaaaaaah!


Back in the summer I talked to my friend’s hubbie (an amazing builder with a very good eye for up-cycling – something close to my heart). I told him about my idea of a flower cart. I described it as rustic, vintage, tongue and groove wooden sides, a tin roof and all made from up cycled materials. Wow did he deliver!

Firstly we started with an old trailer base that my friend’s brother used to drag her around the paddock in when they were kids! Then the base was built and a cladding applied (old boards from an old house).


There are windows at the side to let light in and three shelves for optimal display. There was much discussion about the shelves and the windows and I’m so glad there was. I’m not very good at expressing the contents of my mind so it really helped to have practical advice from my friend and Mr Fig and Mr Builder.


The lower shelf just begs to be full of seedlings and Sunflowers will go in huge buckets down here.


I’ll fill these galvanised buckets full of blooms….


…..and use these blackboard tags for clear pricing.


I love the knot in the wood here.

My wooden cart won’t stop here either. Everyone who knows me will expect there to be bunting (and there will!).


It will also have vintage blackboards


I made them myself from an old mirror with a lovely frame


and an old photo frame from the op shop.


I’m also thinking rose hip heart decorations and willow wreaths. I’ll be operating an Honesty Box system so will have to trust people to be honest. I’ll also operate a Pay By The Bank App on your Mobile Phone system.


By the way, Eldest Figlet was responsible for this pricing! Note that the flowers are worth thousands and her baby Figlet brother 10 cents!


In full growing season there will be galvanised buckets full to bursting with Sweet peas, Larkspur, Foxgloves, anemone, ranunculus, icelandic poppies and mixed posies and bouquets…and that’s just early Spring! Summer will bring peonies, sunflowers, snapdragons, zinnia, clary sage, bells of Ireland, cosmos double click, kiss me over the garden gate, lemon balm, malope and nigella…. It will be a feast for the senses! I just love it and am eternally grateful to know someone who was able to make my dreams a reality (thanks Johnny aka Mr Builder and thanks Soph aka Mrs Builder for sowing the seed in my mind for actually selling my flowers).


I’ve been busy drawing on my IT skills from a previous life and creating spreadsheets for planting timetables, successional sowing, forecasts, actuals and budgets with the help of Mr Fig and his Financial Mind. We’ve had a happy time trying to outdo each other in the Nerd Stakes!  I’ve been researching pricing, irrigation techniques, marketing and sales. It’s pretty thrilling and daunting but the underlying emotion is complete fulfilment and satisfaction. I’m pretty realistic; from my research it’s obvious that flower farming is best learnt from experience. I’m also not likely to be a millionaire next year (or the one after that).  I’m starting small; just a cart, roadside sales and a couple of florists who liked my flowers last year. But I have plans to expand into the local community and social media and with inspiration from Common Farm Flowers in the UK and Floret Flowers in the US I’m hoping to be a fully fledged Flower Farmer before very long (and a Fig Farmer of course – I’ve been busy propagating and pruning those little trees too).


So it’s a busy and exciting time here at The Fig Tree. I’ll soon have a new website and blog focussing on the flowers which I’ll blog about as soon as it’s up and running. For now, if you’re interested in the Life of a Flower Farmer then pop over to my new Facebook page Until then…follow your dreams if you can 🙂

Home made crackers


Junk Free June in the Fig House is going quite well all in all. We’ve have had zero crisps/chips and zero shop bought biscuits woo hoo! However, the Figlets haven’t been missing out. They enjoyed the bird seed slice that I made last week, banana cake, popcorn and veg sticks and hummus. They’ve also developed an obsession with pistachio and cashew nuts. Funny because I thought they’d miss the junk but apparently not 🙂

To keep things interesting I’ve been browsing through My Petite Kitchen Cookbook which is chock full of whole food, gluten free recipes. This morning I tried the home made crackers.

Sunflower Herb Crackers
145g sunflower seeds
1 tsp sea salt
3 tsp garlic granules (or three peeled garlic cloves)
75g seseme seeds
1 handful chopped fresh thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil
Water to bind

Preheat the oven to 180c and line a baking sheet 32 x 42cm with baking paper.
Put the sunflower seeds, garlic and salt into a processor and blitz for 2-3 minutes until the sunflower seeds form a dense kind of breadcrumb.


Add the sesame seeds, thyme and olive oil and process again. Add 3-5 teaspoons of water one at a time as you blitz until the mixture comes together as a dough.


Transfer the somewhat crumbly mixture onto the lined baking sheet. At this point you need to cover with baking paper and roll to 5mm thickness with a rolling pin. My rolling pin is longer than my tray so I couldn’t roll any further down than the sides of the tray would allow. Therefore, you may find you need to transfer the baking paper onto a work surface to do the rolling. I also found that making a square shape was tricky because this dough is very sticky. That’s why I ended up with the shape of Nebraska…… will aim for a more square shape next time!!

Before popping into the oven, score lines across the dough, then cover with a sheet of baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure you score quite deeply as this will make it easier to break them up after cooking. Leave to cool completely on the tray then break into pieces and store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks.

I have to admit that I thought the Figlets would find these too garlicky but they loved them.


In fact, Mr Fig and the Figlets loved them soooooo much that when I went to take a photo to blog there weren’t many left to photograph!


Just one and a bit….. I think a double batch might be worth it next time seeing as they can keep for 2 weeks.

I’m wondering if I would be able to make a balsamic vinegar and sea salt flavour? If I have a go I’ll let you know how it turns out. One thing I am realising is that cooking with whole foods is very simple. Once you’ve got all the new ingredients it’s a cinch so don’t be put off if you need to buy a few extras from the supermarket or health food shop. Happy junk free baking!