Monday, 26 April 2010

Superior scones and houseleeks

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Yesterday I took a trip out of town with the dog (am husbandless due to a certain sporting event in Sheffield). We went to one of my favourite places, to visit Jan at Pook Hill Barn in deepest East Sussex. In addition to endless cups of tea and gossip around her kitchen table, with assorted visitors, dogs and chickens, we popped down the road to Firle Place, near Lewes. It's one of those big houses that seems to have survived economic crises, and two World Wars, and avoided ownership by the National trust, so it still home to the same family that owns most of the surrounding land as well.
The gardens are on the wild side, and the best views were the swathes of daffs with cowslips coming up beneath. Nice to see some wordsworthian daffodils, thanks to cooler temperatures in East Sussex (I feel like I missed the daffodil peak while I was in San Francisco). The house only opens a few days a year and on Sunday it was for the National Garden Scheme. So I can tick off my first NGS visit for the year.
There were the usual country fayre purveyors of local jams, pies and cheeses, a man making willow trugs and some very fetching owls for the Falconry display. The 'art' area was full of rather unappealing 'crafts' - you know the sort of thing: plastic windmills, stained glass, sad watercolours, all utterly useless and undesirable; a pact has been made that if at some point in the future I walk into one of those tents of tat and actually want to buy something, I will have to be summarily shot. But thankfully, as I had hoped, there were lots of plant stalls - about 20 or so local growers with loads of plants for sale, mostly between £1 and £5, and not your usual run-of-the-mill selection.
My lovely friend is not a gardener, but she was very patient with me as I suddenly turned into a cross between a small child in a sweet shop and an eccentric aunt (I was suffering from a severely blocked left ear that not even some vigorous digging and weeding on Saturday couldn't shift, so was deaf and quite oblivious to much of what she was saying). But, under my instructions, she happily sorted out a whole veg patch's worth of plug plants for £15, while I found a lovely selection of houseleeks to take home, on second thoughts decided against an elphantine-leaved sedum (wrongly named s. matrona), and left with my plant cravings not quite satisfied. So had to stop at a farm shop that yielded a camassia, a couple of small aubergine plants, a small pot of basil and some gladioli, for under a tenner.
Shopping always whets the appetite and the cake situation at Firle Place had been a bit disappointing - not up to usual NGS standards. So, back at Pook Hill, Jan made some infinitely superior scones. In true lazy Sunday style, the promise to dig over the veg patch somehow never materialised. Sorry Jan: next time!

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