THE SEASON CONTINUES

While we are well into November we are still experiencing mild, dry, and even windless weather which is a little unusual for West Cork at this time. What I observe in my garden is young growth all around, the garden is bursting with life! It promises to be an abundance of wild plants next spring and summer. I see strong young plants of foxgloves and borage, sturdy young nettles, feverfew, and tansy plants, mullein and forget-me-nots, comfrey, evening primrose and lemon balm, lemon verbena too. And fabulous displays of herb robin! The variety of green shades is wonderful and the vibrant energy coming from all this young life is super! I’m not worried that these plants will die during the winter unless we have an extra cold one, as this growth happens every autumn and you can see what you have in store for the following season. I might have to thin out some of the foxgloves even as there are so many of them coming up. I did not sow any of these plants, they self-seed, they get on with their own lives and I let them be. Such a pleasure to see them grow.

Flowers are still brightening some spaces in the garden which is important for any pollinators that are still around. We saw bumblebees well into October this year, it was so mild and there was very little rain and wind. This summer, late summer I should say as they did not arrive until August… there were more butterflies than I normally see in the garden. In the beginning I only saw the whites, but then it was mostly the tortoise but also some admirals and peacock butterflies. I will be making a better record next season after I recently read a book on butterfly conservation, I will also leave some branches at the back of the garden which I was planning to clear. Nature gives us less work if we start to understand it properly!

Some inside snaps, as the days draw in our attention also goes inside the house a little more. I am lining some of the curtains with thermal lining. Ian is working on his project, while I am enjoying my study very much too, it is cosy and we both enjoy each other’s company and are excited about our separate projects.

We have started to feed our wild birds again too, we are still waiting for the chaffinches to arrive. Last winter we had one or two with the dreaded disease trichomoniasis, it was sad to see this. We are really looking forward to their return soon, some of them are migrants, some are home-birds. Apart from a whole host of wild birds we have three collared doves that feed everyday in our garden.

Well, this is more or less what is going on during this first part of November. I wish you all a good autumn, enjoy and hope you are well wherever you are.

AS I LOOK OUT MY WINDOW

This morning over breakfast my attention was drawn towards the hills and I noticed a change in their colours. This lead to a pleasant conversation over our coffee, a positive change from our usual topic of… what’s going on in the world… so we were discussing what makes these hills change colour in the fall. It is a well known phenomena in these parts. I first remember seeing this in the landscape around the village of Glengarriff, a seaside village lying a bit more to the south of here on the Beara peninsula, it is almost surrounded by quite high hills, Sugar Loaf being the highest at 501 metres, and I remember, while I spend time there, that the hills took on a beautiful brown in the fall. Not only that but the lower lying parts would show a most beautiful beige, almost blond shade. And why that was is easy to explain as it is of course due to the foliage of plants growing on the slopes and higher up changing their colours.

The view through the window from our breakfast table
A closer look at the colours (as good as my camera could get it)

The colour palette of browns is very attractive, browns like sienna, russet, or burnt umber are surely seen in this autumn landscape, and during the winter the shades might be darker, like deep coffee brown which is a rich, dark shade. These ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) but called bracken around here, are a very wide spread fern in Ireland, they grow all over the hills and tree-lined roadsides, they even came growing in our garden. I think that it is the damp weather that makes them thrive so well. They are beautiful especially when their leaves unfurl, or like this in the autumn season.

Another close up towards the hill that separates the town of Skibbereen from the Atlantic ocean

In this photo the grasses, which have the lighter colour, can be seen higher up on the hill. These grasses of which I do not have a photo at present, are very beautiful and growing along the road at the slopes of Priest Leap mountain also in Glengarriff, they give the best show of all our surroundings when it comes to colour. I am trying to think what the best way is of describing their shade, it is between straw, cream and beige, you could almost call it blond! It is very bright and light and gives the landscape a wonderful glow.

Yes, that is how I remember seeing them, a wonderful glow that is very easy on the eye.

OCTOBER IN THE GARDEN

October has always been one of my favourite months in the year, the light is mellow and the colours are so beautiful. This year the Rudbeckias have done very well and are still flowering strongly. I will certainly grow those again for next season. The colours are just fantastic and every time I go into the garden I feast my eyes on them.

I grew some pumpkins for the first time, I grew them from seeds that came out of Halloween pumpkins that I bought in the shop. I hope that these are edible but just for sheer autumn feel they are a joy to behold. I love seeing them grow and become bigger and bigger (some of them) 🙂

These blue flowers (Salvia) have been flowering since spring time, it was the first time that I sowed them, they are down for re-sowing for next season as well, definitely.

This morning
An African marigold of some sort, they grow tall, first time growing these also from seed.
This was during September when the first signs of autumn started to show.
A few minutes away from our house is this wonderful view, partly over the town below in the valley and also toward the hills of Dunmanway, and on some days further mountains can be seen. This view does a lot for me, it gives me a sense of place, a sense of where I live in the greater geographical sense.

It has been a while since I visited my blog (or any other blog) and did some blogging, a change in laptop and photo editing apps has slowed me down a bit, but hopefully I am going to be on track again further on in winter. I am hoping that all my old friends and followers, together with all my new ones will keep enjoying my blogs ~ as I do yours.

Stay well, happy and blessed everyone.

SURPRISES IN A LATE SUMMER GARDEN

Not having worked in the garden for over a week, I am being surprised and delighted with all sorts of late summer growth. Our pumpkins (if indeed they are pumpkins) have really come on well, apart from having the most beautiful flowers, they have a subtle scent, and then there are the actual pumpkins that keep appearing among the foliage and surprise me with their fast growth, spreading over paths and over our bit of lawn, they are a joy to behold and I am thinking… pumpkin soup! In Gozo, while we were there, I used to make it often. The shops there are full of pumpkins during the winter and they sell these in slices so that you can buy a fresh supply everyday, it makes the most delicious soup.

The flowers are almost golden, such brightness cheering up an overgrown and sometimes tired late summer garden.

Pumpkins surprising me everywhere between the foliage, and many more in the earliest stage of development. If the weather stays kind then we should have a good harvest. Last year I saved seeds from a pumpkin that I used in cooking and these plants are the result. They actually don’t look to me like the orange pumpkins that I know but we’ll see what they turn into. It’s an experiment. The little yellow one came up as Lemon summer squash on Google.

A willow herb (epilobium hirsutum) that came growing beside the patio has almost totally covered the path down to the rest of the garden, but this wild plant has been so beautiful all summer and it has attracted so many insects. The large daisies were a gift from a kind neighbour, these will be lovely in the border next summer, they grow well here and multiply fast. The oregano I grew in an old bottomless bucket and it’s given us much joy all summer. A lone rudbeckia flower has a beautiful dark pink colour, and a tiny little bumblebee is taking nectar from a marigold.

Above are the variegated oregano. Some marigolds, one of our wild purple marsh woundwort (Stachys palustris) and the wild scented roses have finally flowered and show some lovely red rosehips now. The gladiola is flowering for the first time and that was another nice surprise for me. The mallow I had planted this past springtime and it’s nice to see how this has spread and flowered all summer.

A little word about our variegated oregano (origanum vulgare) plant. I planted it about five years ago, it flowers during august and it attracts an enormous amount of insects, from bees to hoverflies, a variety of bumblebees, butterflies, ladybirds, drone flies, and many more lovely creatures. Oregano stays green all winter long although it dies down a good bit, the climate here is mild in the winter (so far so good) and that is why the plant survives so easily. Until I looked it up I never realised that oregano is a plant from the Mint family. Looking at it closely I can see it alright. It is a culinary herb but I don’t use it quite enough, I usually leave it to the insects.

Another nice surprise is that several young plants are now appearing by themselves, from experience I know that they will survive the winter and will flower beautifully next spring and summer. So far I have come across borage, foxgloves, comfrey, and feverfew, too many of them to leave them all grow, all of them self-seeded. Last year I had several evening primrose plants, but this summer they did not show up. My kale plants that I grew last winter is also self-sowing and some young plants appearing here and there. Last month I have planted some autumn leeks and they are doing well. Our potatoes were a disaster so hopefully next year better. In the next few weeks I will plant some more winter vegetables when I get to the market to purchase the plants.

Plenty to think about and to plan, the garden, as ever giving us much pleasure and also quite a bit of work, but that is good for me.

DRISHANE HOUSE AND GARDENS

On this peaceful Saturday morning I am finally sitting down to do some more blogging and I am checking out some of the exotic plants and shrubs that we came across during our visit to the Drishane Gardens. We also visited the house and the museum, where a remarkable woman spent most of her life in the late 19th and early 20th century: Edith Somerville, the great granddaughter of Thomas Somerville. She was a writer and an artist, wrote several works together with her cousin Violet Martin, among their works the one considered the best is The Real Charlotte a book that I am not familiar with but that I have now requested from the library as I have become interested in what those women had to say, even while they said it through the medium of fiction. I loved visiting her studio, now a small museum where some of her correspondence, drawings and photographs are displayed, giving a real impression of Edith’s life. She was a feminist and familiar with Emmeline Pankhurst and her activism, though far removed from all the action itself here in West Cork, it inspired Edith’s thoughts. I want to explore this more for myself, I find reading about her spirited artistic life here in rural Ireland fascinating and in a way very inspiring. Living here for many years now I have never made myself familiar with Edith Somerville, all I ever did was watching a televised version of The Irish R.M. which was written by Edith and her cousin Violet.

The gardens are particularly beautiful and lush, I was there with my daughter Tjorven and my five grandchildren, all of whom love nature, the children loved exploring these gardens. For us adults there were some exotic shrubs and trees to enjoy, some of which I took photos of and looked up some information about them. The above beautiful and fragrant white flower is the Eucryphia Lucida also called ‘Leatherwood’, an Australian native plant it flourishes here very well and bees love.

Walking through the lovely foliage the paths wound down towards the orchard and towards this view of the Castlehaven Bay.
This is the Clerodendrum trichotomum, also called the Peanut butter tree, the leaves release a Peanut butter odour when crushed. It is native to China and Japan. I could get a subtle scent from the flowers. The fruits, which turn a bright blue in autumn, contain the pigment called Trichotomine. I would love to see the berries when they turn colour, they would be a splendid sight I think.
Here is the ancient Macrocapa cypress which you can see has a huge girth, one of the great ancients, much enjoyed by the children, was a swing on one of its large branches
View towards Horse Island, on which there is a tower that was used to guide the ships belonging to Thomas Somerville returning from foreign journeys.
The view out of the window of a small stone built hut we came across in the gardens in which, according to the information leaflet about the place, one of the ancestors, Thomas Somerville, liked to watch his ships returning from their voyages, a great vantage point. My grandchildren were delighted to explore this hut and we all spent some time inside discussing what it would have been used for (that was before any of us had read the leaflet)

We all enjoyed this visit very much indeed, it has made me so some research and I will enjoy continuing with reading up more about Edith Somerville and her life and times.

I hope that you enjoyed our wander around this amazing and inspiring place, probably one of the most memorable visits of summer 2021. I will be curious to read stories of your summers too my dear readers.

Thank you to my dear sister Josephine. She has spent her life editing literary magazines, and she is now my editor, most of her work with me exists in correcting my use, or not use, of commas, and I am entirely grateful to her for doing that.

A VISIT TO BREENY MOR GARDENS

Last week saw my daughter Tjorven, my five grandchildren and myself visit a most lovely and atmospheric open garden in West Cork. It had been a very long time since we had the privilege of doing this and luckily the weather was with us. The garden is situated at the site of a 19th century dairy farm and there are fabulous ruins to be found there. The townland of Breeny Mor (Na Bruine Mora in Gaelic – meaning “Great dwellings of the fairies) lies a few kilometres south of and uphill from the village of Kealkill. Close by is the beautiful Mealagh Valley and also Coomhola. I tried to find some more information about this dairy farm by checking the Census but the earliest records I could find for Breeny Mor was of one family by the name of Cronin where both the man and wife were dairy workers and that was in the Census of 1901. There were no other records of dairy men to be found and so I am wondering if this farm was still a working farm in the beginning of the 20th century and if these people were descendants of the original dairy farmers or were they just working at that site.

The ruins are quite well preserved and I found the window slits interesting, the present owner of the place said they would have been great for airing the place. In my imagination this building was a dairy where from the fresh milk the butter, cream, cheese, and yogurt was made, but maybe this was just a stable for the cattle? I am not well up on this sort of thing. I’d love to know more, visiting this place has made me very curious about the history of farming and especially dairy farming in this region of West Cork.

Close by this garden there are to be found a stone circle and boulder burials, which we did not visit this time but I would like to do this in the near future.

But for now I will let you all just wander around this place via my photos, I let you loose on this garden and hope you enjoy it too. For us and for the children it was a magical place.

In the photos just above here I am showing some of the old farm bits and pieces.

More information on this garden can be found at: Click on this link please: Breeny Mor – West Cork Garden Trail

ONE MORNING EARLY

This morning nature is calm, mature and mellow. 

I am sitting in the garden, it is early.

The trees, their canopies heavy with foliage are at their most impressive, not a wind is stirring in their rich green leaves.

There is a different feel to the world right now.  The frantic twittering of the young sparrows in the hawthorn tree has eased now that the fledglings are looking for their own food. 

Last night, after a really warm day, there was rain and the refreshing scent of earth and herbs is exhilarating.

A light mist hangs over the long valley, the blue sky is nowhere to be seen yet. Cows are lying in the gently sloping fields.

Yesterday I heard the young swifts in the nests under the eaves of our neighbour’s house. The young are being fed by swooping brigades of adults, they are feeding the fledglings’ purposefully so that they will be strong and ready for the long flight to Africa in a few weeks’ time.

Days like this remind me of Constable’s paintings and of Elgar’s music, of the English countryside of years gone by, and of their beautiful cottage gardens.

Many plants are in full bloom, others are busy creating their seeds.

It is mid-summer, nature is coming into its own, rich variety of wild plants and flowers cover the garden around me. I wish that I could stop time right now.

But breakfast has to be made, the day’s work has to start. Thank goodness that there is a moment for everything, for rest and for work, all in its own time.

MY GARDEN ~ AT THIS TIME

It is just a few days short of midsummer, and at four in the morning the light appears on the horizon. Equally at eleven thirty in the evening there are still streaks of light to be seen in the western sky. Summer is moving along smoothly even if the weather does not always help to remind us of the ‘lazy summer days’ of the past. We accept that, no two summers are alike and this year we have a cool one with a few days here and there of stunning sunshine. It is then that we think we are living in a paradise here in West Cork!

Meanwhile there is a lot happening in the garden, albeit slowly.

There are corners in the garden that are special, that remind me of older, walled-in gardens, these areas give a lot pleasure and it is nice to quietly take some time to soak in their atmosphere. As well as that I am mindfully creating such areas, they don’t need to be large, just certain well placed plants or items can work to create such views and feelings. Here are a few.

And more regular features in the following photos, the garden is coming up to its most mature time.

Though I am introducing more shrubs this year, I also still need to grow vegetables. I failed to get the potatoes in before it was too late, and I only have a very poor show of a few of last years potatoes that came up. At the market this morning I bought autumn leeks, and a variety of leaves, scallions, and spinach, delicious salads are promised but planting out in the next few days will be essential. I’m growing a few endive plants too and runner beans.
The Tansy is now taller than the Lavender, I am awaiting its yellow herby flowers to display a nice bouquet inside.
Lavender harvest

While observing our garden I came to the conclusion that what grows best are the different herbal plants and the wild plants. Some of the vegetables do well also, for example last winter’s kale and chard did extremely well, those not eaten became gigantic plants in the end and I left whatever was still there after the winter go into flower early in spring to provide food for the bumblebees. A beautiful yellow show it was. I cannot seem to grow beans, no success at all, but leeks do great every winter. Lavender does marvellous too.

A little catch up on the shed restoration. Brendan, the man that has been helping us did great work but has not been able to come for several weeks now and so the work has been stopped for a while, hopefully next week that will get moving again. I am still determined to finish this project before the end of summer. It is funny that Pinterest keeps sending me ideas on how to build my potting bench, a subject I was exploring recently. Well, I am a bit of a dreamer too and I like to look at ideas, partly for inspiration but also just to dream…..and Pinterest is great for that.

Wishing all my dear friends, family and followers a blessed midsummer time, and I hope to connect soon again with all of you.