Many words sum up the sound of running water to me – tranquillity, mesmerising and relaxing to name but a few. No surprise then to find that rain chains originated hundreds of years ago in Japan. They were used as a decorative and practical water feature for capturing rainwater for homes and Buddhist temples. The Japanese name for them is ‘Kursari-doi’. They were originally ‘chains’ (a series of chain links), similar to our Om rain chain, which quickly guided rainwater off the roof into a storage barrel whilst providing the tranquil sound of running water.
They have been gaining popularity in the UK since the 1998 Winter Olympics which were held in Japan. Cup designs (such as the Lily and Tulip) in various metals have become very fashionable. They do the same job as a chain but the rainwater flows slightly slower. They are a series of cups linked together with a chain; with small holes in the bottom of each cup to allow the rainwater continue its journey to a container at the bottom.
These kinetic sculptures provide great value to the garden environment, providing movement, beauty and sound. The water sound being music like, gives one a feeling of peace and tranquillity, one of the Zen arts.
Various containers can be used – barrels, pots, copper basins designed to match the rain chains or simply allow the water to drain into the earth.
An added bonus of having a rain chain in the garden is the environmentally friendly factor. Collecting rainwater for your plants is possibly something for all gardeners to consider especially in areas where summer droughts are becoming more frequent.
I find it’s always good to have some easy to grow annual flowers ready to pop in the garden. They require little care but are quick to brighten up and fill in any dull spots in the garden! As a bonus they are edible too!
Nasturtiums with their glorious red, orange or yellow flowers will grow almost anywhere and the bees love them! As well as looking beautiful, they have a long flowering season, right into the autumn and they’re also edible – both the flowers and leaves are great in salads or as a garnish.
Sow them where you want them to flower once frosts have passed. They can be grown as:
Ground cover – sow the large seeds where you want them to grow for a colourful flower border.
As a climber – sow them at the bottom of some trellising or allow them to clamber up a shrub.
In a planter or hanging basket – just pop a seed into the container for a wonderful flowing display.
These annuals have pretty daisy like flowers and are an easy way to add colour to the garden. I usually sow the seeds into trays in the greenhouse before potting them out but they can be grown directly into the earth where they are to flower.
The golden flower petals are edible and good to cook with or to colour up salads.
These are flowers that make a feature in the garden, especially the giant variety. I always loved to grow these in my little garden plot as a child – it’s fascinating watching a tiny seed grow into such a tall plant. Sunflowers do need a sunny and sheltered spot in the garden and I usually start them off in a small pot in the greenhouse but they can be grown straight into the garden. Just watch out for slugs!
Once the flower heads die off, don’t forget to collect the edible and healthy seeds! Or leave them over winter for the garden birds to feed on.
An herb with pretty star shaped blue flowers.
Taste: Similar to cucumber, fresh cool flavour, not overpowering.
Use: The open flowers. Add to salads, pastas and fritters. Borage has been used for centuries in cooking.
You can crystallise the flowers and use them as cake decorations.
Fluffy shell pink flowers.
Taste: A delicate onion flavour. Use the young pink flowers once they open.
Use: Add to salads and cold soups.
Bright sunny yellow flowers.
Taste: A soft peppery taste, with a hint of melon.
Use: Add to pasta as a garnish, or deep fry in a light batter.
A range of colours from crisp white to deep purple.
Taste: The taste is often likened to a cross between green beans and asparagus with a peppery aftertaste.
Use: Add the flowers to salads, rip the petals apart. Chop the unopened flower buds into salads and stir fries, or pasta. You can use in Desserts as the base to Sorbets.
Lavender – Rich lavender purple flowers of the English lavender are hard to beat.
Flavour: A rich and heady taste similar to the fragrance.
Use: Add a little to baking such as shortbread, biscuits and muffins, the flavour is very strong, so be careful.
Flowers range from bright oranges to clean reds and yellows.
Flavour: A classic peppery taste, with a hint of spice.
Use: Add to omelettes, sandwiches, salads and pastas. Lovely with fish dishes.
Brilliant yellows and vibrant orange flowers.
Flavour: An Indonesian flavour similar to saffron.
Use: Add to savoury dishes such as risottos, pastas and scrambled eggs.
Classic pink and purple flowers are very attractive.
Flavour: Can vary from variety but in general the taste is crisp piney flavour.
Use: Add to jams and jellies for flavour. Use in tossed salads.
Clean pale and dark blue flowers, very aromatic.
Flavour: A soft rosemary flavour similar to the leaves.
Use: Toss into a fresh salad at the last minute. Pound with sugar and add to a cream or fruit puree.
A rainbow of colours can be used. Choose smaller flowers, so the petals won’t bruise as much.
Taste: A soft delicate musky flavour, similar to Vanilla.
Use: Add to jams and jellies.
Lavender blue flowers and dainty pink and white look lovely on any plate.
Taste: A fresh carrot type flavour with a rich aroma.