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Sweet Peas: First Bloom of the Year...

    “Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight: With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white, And taper fingers catching at all things, To bind them all about with tiny rings.”

    -John Keats

    Botanical Name: Lathyrus odoratus
    Family: Leguminosae
    Ruled by: The element of Water and the planet Venus
    Magical properties: Friendship, courage & strength

      This morning I awoke to the sound of rain. Along with the rumbling purr of a happy cat, falling rain is one of my favourite sounds. As I pulled back the curtains to look out on the day I was delighted to see my sweet pea is now in bloom.

      This was especially important to me as last year I bought some sweet pea seeds from a local garden centre. I planted them and was shocked when sweet peas actually emerged! Not knowing how the whole propagation thing worked (duh!) I assumed I would have to buy more seeds this year. Imagine my delight when 2 months ago I started seeing the beginnings of a whole new sweet pea poking through the soil.

      It has now shot up to almost 1.2m and is a beautiful sight in my garden. Basically the seeds from some of the late blooming flowers last autumn went into the soil and presto….a whole new life began. Hurrah…….the magic of nature! Not being much of a gardener I am really pleased at how easy it has been to grow sweet peas. They are stunning plants which can bring magic to any garden.

      Here are some important and interesting Sweet Pea facts:

      • It is an annual climbing plant that can reach heights of 1-2 metres. Make sure you have something to support it. I have a stick but it has also wrapped itself around my Kilmarnock Willow Tree
      • Sweet peas come in a wide variety of colours; pink, red, white, purple and lavender
      • They like full sun and good deep, well drained top-soil
      • They benefit from regular deadheading but towards the end of the season keep some of the flowers to seed for the next year (that’s what I unknowingly did and it worked)
      • Sweet peas have been cultivated since the 17th century and the first sweet pea was introduced to England from Sicily in 1699
      • Their sweet fragrance is what gives them their name
      • There are different varieties including;

      Old Fashioned (these should be very fragrant)

      Spencer Cultivars (hardy with bright, bold colours but not necessarily fragrant)

      Bijou Group (Sweet scented variety that are suitable for containers)

      • Many gardeners call Sweet Peas the Queen of Annuals
      • Sweet Peas are long lasting as cut flowers but personally I prefer to leave mine in the garden!
      • They help attract bumblebees and butterflies to your garden

      IMPORTANT NOTE: Unlike most peas, the seeds of the sweet pea are poisonous, and should not be eaten. Sweet pea flowers are also not edible and are poisonous. According to the brilliant book ‘100 Flowers and How They Got Their Names’ by Diana Wells ( Published 1997 by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill) , there is a medical term to describe sweet pea poisoning – lathyrism. Symptoms can include convulsions, paralysis in the legs and unconsciousness.

      So best leave the sweet peas to the bumble bees and butterflies!

      If you are interested sweet peas here are some helpful and informative sites:

    Beltane Celebration: Get Out In Nature And Don’t...

    Despite the dark gloomy clouds and bouts of torrential rain we had in most parts of the UK we still managed to have a wonderful Beltane weekend. Beltane is the Celtic festival of fire and light and it is celebrated on April 30th – May 1st.

    It’s a wonderful time of year. The days are lengthening, flowers and plants are starting to blossom and bloom, butterflies and bees are making an appearance in the garden and everyone has a slight spring in their step.

    One of the best ways to celebrate this time of year is to get outside in nature. Whether it’s a walk around the block, a 10 mile hike, a visit to your local park or even just pottering around in your garden, make the effort to get out doors. This weekend I stayed away from my computer and spent as much time as I could (rain permitting) in the garden.

    We sowed some seeds, Rocket (Arugula) which is a wonderful peppery salad leaf and some Genovese Basil. My mouth is already watering in anticipation of a Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Salad. The pots are all lined up in our little greenhouse and we hope to see some spouting soon.

    Last year we bought some herbs from our local farmers market and they have really taken off. I have really enjoyed being able to cook with fresh Sage, Rosemary, Lemon Thyme and Tarragon. This year we decided to add a few more herbs to our garden; Coriander, Curly Parsley and Apple Mint. Although we had problems previously growing tomatoes and chillies we thought we’d have a go at some sugar snap peas. Our not so very green fingers are crossed!

    Beltane is also a very special time for working with Fairies. There are many things you can do to honour them and show your commitment to nature:

    • Look into recycling schemes.
    • Support animal and environmental charities.
    • Buy more organic produce.
    • If you’re in a park or on a hike and you see some litter then (if it isn’t too disgusting) pick it up and dispose of it properly.
    • Give away unwanted clothing and goods to charity.
    • Use gentler more natural cleaners in the home instead of harsh scary chemicals.

    Perhaps one of the easiest ways to honour the Fairies and to celebrate this wonderful time of year is to get off the couch, get away from the computer or television and go outside! You may also want to leave a little treat for Nature’s Angels as a thank you for all their hard work.

    For the Garden Fairies I like to put out seeds (sunflower and pumpkin are good) as well as chopped fruit (apples, pears, plums, blackberries and blueberries). For my House Fairy I like to leave out some milk and honey or mead as well as something sweet like organic chocolate, cookies or cake. If you have an animal companion please make sure they can’t get at any Fairy Treats you leave out, chocolate is toxic to many animals but especially to dogs.

    The leaving of a gift is a lovely way to acknowledge the Fairies and thank them for their continual help in watching over your garden and plants, protecting your home and animal companions, and to celebrate the beauty and abundance of nature. Breathe some fresh air, listen to the birds and don’t forget the Fairies!

    Fairy and Violets

    Sage, Lemon Thyme, Rosemary and Tarragon

    The Kent Coast: Fresh Sea Food By The Sea Side....

    It’s been a long difficult winter for us here in the UK and this weekend when the sun finally came out many people like myself took advantage and headed for the sea side. The English sea side is truly an amazing place; pebbly beaches, penny arcades, ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream cones and of course fish, chips and mushy peas.

    One of the most wonderful stretches of coast line is the Kent coast. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to explore all of it, I do enjoy the walk from Herne Bay down to Whitstable. Just make sure to cover up with sun screen and a hat – the breeze coming in off the water easily takes away the heat of the sun and you don’t realize until too late that you are burning. It’s hard to believe the English sun can be so strong!

    My walk began at Herne Bay, which has a pier full of penny arcades – a great place to get rid of a few 1p and 2p coins and maybe even win a prize! There are also plenty of fish and chip shops. Just the thought of a portion of chips wrapped in paper and generously covered with salt and vinegar is enough to get my mouth watering. Chips are actually pretty healthy (ok minus the generous sprinkling of salt) and they are a good way to fuel up for the long but scenic walk to Whitstable.

    A pretty little town, Whitstable has a fantastic fish market where you can get all sorts of fresh fish and sea food. The market sells little tubs of cockles, winkles, prawns, crab claws and roll mops which you can tuck into right away. You can also buy freshly grilled mackerel in a whole wheat roll which is delicious, especially with the addition of tomato butter. Then of course there are the oysters. Served on paper plates with ice and fresh lemon wedges, you can pay a little bit extra to have them opened on the spot (I definitely recommend this option). Honestly I was never very sure about oysters, but once I tried them on the beach accompanied by a pint of local ale (raspberry wheat beer), I was well and truly hooked!

    A big part of being a kitchen witch is making sure to take time and reconnect with nature on a daily basis. Usually I will go for a walk or potter around in my garden but when I get the chance, I love my trips to the sea side. The cool salty sea breeze, rolling waves and wide open spaces refresh and energize me. It’s a real joy to see excited dogs running into the water, kids with pails and shovels digging up treasure and sea gulls swooping and diving. Despite this abundance of activity the sea side is a great place to relax, unwind and really connect with nature.

    For those of you in the UK I urge you to make time to appreciate the wonderful coast lines we have in this country – our sea side truly is a magical place. For those of you planning a trip to the UK, make sure you include a trip to the sea side, you won’t regret it!

    Whitstable Oysters and Crab Claws

    Whitstable Kent Beach Huts