These are lovely memories of our time spent in Connemara. I hope you enjoyed a bit of our journey too.
We took this journey during early autumn 2019 to celebrate our marriage a few days earlier, it was a fantastic journey and I am thinking back to it during this time of lockdowns, no doubt we will be travelling in Ireland and no further afield this coming summer, we hope so anyway – a staycation they have called it – well we cannot complain, we are not short of interest or beauty in this island.
Yes a little detour in this remote part of Ireland is always exciting to say the least, I knew that I was going to do it, I knew that I was going to take photos and I also knew that it was going to be a lovely break. So after my appointment in Bantry I drove into a little side lane off the N71 and followed it down to the rocky seashore. Magnificent views of Bantry bay with the Caha mountains in the distance greeted me. I strolled along the path leading beside the air-strip, quite a few people and dogs were walking there and one man had his fishing rod out into the sea. The rocks were colourful. The air smelled of seaweed and was very fresh. Somewhere far away I could hear a blackbird singing, one of my favourite birdsongs. When I walked back to my car this last view surprised me, I thought that I could easily have been in Canada probably because of the lovely pine trees. Peaceful and at the same time invigorating, this little diversion to my day gave me plenty, I realised all of a sudden that I had been doing an exercise that my recently bought book on photography in nature advised me. That is, spending 10 minutes in nature, breathing deeply, really observing nature, taking note of what you see, hear, smell and how that makes you feel, how that affects the photos, and all that even while I often spend much longer in nature, but then I probably don’t always take it in so intensely.
It’s that time of year when work starts seriously in our gardens. But the first outdoor job for me is to walk among my plants, see what is growing, analyse and decide what to leave and what to move or remove. And that’s what I have been doing during the week. Lots of delightful discoveries came my way. Many self-seeding plants had already come up during last autumn and survived our mild winter, others are still only appearing, delicately but vigorously. Foxgloves for example have self-seeded last autumn and have shown strong leaves even after the frosty nights. The garden is full of them, I’ve moved some of the young plants to other areas as they packed out the vegetable beds, but many I left where they came growing because of the beautiful natural arrangement they made. The base leaves of the foxgloves are very nice, very symmetrical, so satisfying for the eye. At this time of the year the leaves look fresh and vibrant.
Three-cornered Leek is another wild plant that is flourishing right now, loads of it, and even while I use it in cooking, it has overgrown some of the vegetable beds so a decision has been made to eradicate a lot of it by pulling the little bulbs from the soil. Many Dandelions are now in flower and feeding the pollinators. Most of these bright yellow flowers will stay, some to be used in salads later. Young nettles are starting to make an appearance too, I picked some for tea, some I removed but others I will let grow as they are an amazing food filled with minerals both for humans and plants. Borage and Feverfew are growing nicely, and the comfrey (for compost) are all appearing healthy and robust, in fact the Borage is coming into flower already.
Most of my herbs are starting to look healthy but apart from Sage, Rosemary, Bay leaf and Mallow they are still to tender and young to use in the kitchen. My Lemon Verbena died during the winter, I should have grown this plant in a pot and taken it inside as it is not frost-proof, I now realise. It makes a wonderful tea so I will buy a new plant and pot it up.
All the flowering shrubs are starting to look more vibrant now, some, like the white Azalea, the Daphne, and the Californian Lilac are already in bud and the Viburnum is fully in flower and spreading its scent over the patio, wonderful! I was looking for signs of the Houttuynia but could not see any yet. The Hypericum on the other hand is showing strong signs of life and even the Spiraea is carefully starting to show some leaves. Our Forsythia is finally giving us some lovely flowers but our Camellia has not flowered for several years, it needs attention. Then there are the perennials some of which I bought, some I sowed last year. Here Erysimum is a wonderful plant, it has been flowering from early spring last year until well in the winter and already it has started to flower again. I think we used to call this plant a wallflower. The small blue flowers of the Lithodora have flowered most of the winter, this is a wonderful border perennial. Marigolds are self-seeded in our garden and are always around, I use the petals and I love their bright and cheerful colours. I also found quite a few young Herb Robin and Willow herb plants, some of those I leave as they are rather nice and very good for the pollinators. One of the plants in our garden that attracts most pollinators, bees, bumblebees, hoverflies and others is the white little flower of the oregano plant. Different spring bulbs are flowering too giving plenty of cheer in the awakening garden.
And among all these there are still last autumn’s Leeks, Kale, Broccoli and Spinach to be found, we are eating from those.
Now it is a case of finding space for our potatoes which are presently chitting inside. Other vegetables have been sown and are sprouting well. The abundance of plants, wild and cultured is welcome and amazing, and lording it over it all our Hawthorn, Birch, Chestnut and Oak trees are filled with the sound of finches, sparrows, black birds, a wren, a robin and a dunnock singing, chattering and mate calling… our wild garden… it is a wonderful place to work in or sit with a cup of tea taking a rest, admiring all this growth.
No matter how small, our gardens can be an oasis of rest and replenishment of our energy, and giving us solace for our souls.
The colours of the pre-dawn are magnificent, it is also the expectation of what is to come, the light! The light that will colour the world once again for another day.
Last week saw me travel up to the city several times for appointments and one of those was early in the morning, so it was that I was able to enjoy the dawn albeit from a bus window. To see the first light appearing and the mist rising has always had me spellbound and needless to say I enjoyed it very much.
I was in a reality all my own
It was as beautiful as any of my other realities
Another day started and I was thankful to make it a good one
On my walk today I noticed an old rusty barn in the middle of a large field. It looked interesting and colourful in the landscape. The long valley in which Skibbereen town lies and where the river Ilen flows through on its way to the sea at Baltimore was this morning filled with sunshine, a beautiful early spring day. I was thinking that this barn would have had great use in the olden days, or maybe it is used still. It has its own beauty. I wonder at its story.
Signs of spring are also upon us, the buds of trees are to be seen all around. I think that it is a little early in the year to talk about real spring as it can still get very cold in February and March, but this winter has been mild and we have not seen the usual stormy and very wet weather. That the daffodils are open is normal for this time of year though.
A nice short walk and yet so much to be seen even at this time of year, a real pleasure showing that things do not have to be perfect for us to enjoy them and that older building can have a beauty all of their own.
I feel that the old barn does make this landscape beautiful even in all its imperfection. Its colours blend perfectly into its surroundings. Along a modern highway it connects us with the past and with the people that were working the land, and maybe still are. I am particularly interested in the older buildings around town and around the area, always wondering about their story and the story of the people that lived and worked and built those buildings.
While preparing this post I came across a quote by Diana Athill which spoke to me so strongly, I know that what she is saying has been true for me and so I never take anything special that I see for granted. I have a large collection of these hidden gems in my mind that I can access anytime I want and I do and I find it very beneficial.
Here the quote: “Looking at things is never time wasted. If your children want to stand and stare, let them. When I was marvelling at the beauty of a painting or enjoying a great view it did not occur to me that the experience, however intense, would be of value many years later. But there it has remained, tucked away in hidden bits of my mind and now it comes, shouldering aside even the most passionate love affairs”. Diana Athill
Even as a young girl I have always loved keeping houseplants and our mother allowed me to take care of those we had at home. Our collection consisted mainly of clivia’s and sansevierias, also busy lizzies and geraniums. Later after my husband and I moved to Ireland and lived in a lodge house, there I started a new collection. Houseplants were not so much on the agenda here and so in the beginning I grew mostly geraniums and primulas which I grew of my own seeds or cuttings. I always had houseplants except during the years when I was travelling a lot, then it was not practical. At some period I had a whole collection of cacti and they flowered beautifully. Now I like to vary my collection, my most recent addition are some bromeliads, small ones which I bought in Lidl. Some of the plants were gifted to me, or came as cuttings from friends and one of them even came from a long way away. Having them around me in my kitchen never ceases to give me good feelings, every time I pass they fill me with joy because of their beauty. They grow by artificial light because our house is fairly dark and this light needs to be on anyway all day. I need plenty of light myself to function! I also cultivate some orchids, peace lilies, a money plant and an Easter cactus. So here I am sharing some of my plants with you all and hope that you enjoy.
My dear readers, friends and family do you have plant collections too? I would love to hear what collections you have. I’ve enjoyed sharing mine with you.
The other day saw me taking the bus up to Cork city, it had been two years since something like this happened and it excited me more than a little. A bus ride always reminds me of travel and of course that is what has been missing in most of our lives and especially in mine. The unromantic reason for the journey was an hospital appointment, but I did try to look upon it as a little adventure, and yet I did not expect to feel so free and refreshed by walking through the city, it had not been my intention!
It was a journey of necessity, it turned into a pleasant and relaxing experience.
Early one morning about a week ago there had been a night frost. Everything in the garden looked sugar-coated until the first rays of the sun touched the plants. I took my chance to go out and enjoy all the beauty while shooting some pictures to share here, an enjoyable activity first thing in the day ! We have had a few small roses flowering since summer, this bush was a potted plant we received as a gift and I eventually transplanted it into the garden. It is doing very well. The young camellia bush does not seem to have large buds yet, but then it is only January. It only gave us one flower last year so I am hoping that in another few weeks we will get a nice display.
Iced grass blades, and a look down the garden
Somewhere in the back of the garden I discovered this beautiful summer flower, still in full bloom and beautifully covered in crystals.
My thoughts at this time of the year turn to plans for next season’s growth, and this year I am going to revert back to what I did a few years ago – letting the wild plants do what they want to do – grow. I’ve made a list of over 38 herb and wild plants, some of which I use for food, that are growing now in our garden. And another list of a few that I need to buy at the market.
Plants already established are: Feverfew, Borage, Nettles, Mint (3 different types), Rosemary, Bay leaf, Lavender, Sage, Oregano, Thyme, Herb Robin, Dandelion, St. John’s wort, Lemon balm, Plantain, Sow-thistle, Tansy, Three-cornered-leeks, violet, comfrey, Lemon Verbena, Mallow, Rue, Cleavers, Wild Rose, Nasturtium, Willow herb, Calendula, Solidago, Shepherd’s Purse, Clover, Purple Loosestrife, Ivy, Dock, Mullein, Groundsel, and wild garlic. Quite a few of these self-seed every year, and some of course are perennials.
And those that I want to buy are: Yarrow, Fennel, Parsley and Evening primrose.
Most likely we will be seeing some of the larger purple Thistles which are good when they come into seed as they attract and feed Gold finches.
It is a time to get very excited about seeing all the wild plants and the herbs doing so well despite it being winter. I am looking forward very much to enjoying them all once spring starts, but for the moment I let them be dormant and let them enjoy their winter rest.
So how is your garden doing my dear readers? I will be most interested in reading your comments.