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.

NATURE ~ ALL AROUND US

“A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people to whom it is easy to do good, and who are not accustomed to have it done to them; then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one’s neighbour—such is my idea of happiness.” —Leo Tolstoy,

“I think about this, not like someone thinking, but like someone breathing,
And I look at flowers and I smile…
I don’t know if they understand me
Or if I understand them,
But I know the truth is in them and in me
And in our common divinity
Of letting ourselves go and live on the Earth
And carrying us in our arms through the contented Seasons
And letting the wind sing us to sleep
And not have dreams in our sleep.”
― Alberto Caeiro

“If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” —Vincent Van Gogh. 

Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole. Ralph Waldo Emerson

The laws of nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God. Euclid

I’ve enjoyed sharing some of my favourite quotes about nature and some of my recent photos of our garden. My own thoughts on nature are also reflected in the quotes that I picked. When I am in nature, on my own or together with my grandchildren, my daughter or with Ian, I feel totally at ease, calm and joyful, yes especially joyful. And I can but join in the sentiments of Sylvia Plath when she said that she felt her lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. and she thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.”‘

UPCYCLING THE AGING GARDENSHED

Long in the planning, a planning that I enjoyed as much as I now enjoy doing the work. However, the work has caused me some challenges along the way. The plan was to make a start back in January 2020, but before the work got underway a lockdown was called, and the most important section of my clearing out, the moving of the stuff to the dump, was thwarted. Without being able to get rid of all the old stuff, which happened to be the key to making progress with the shed, I had to shelve my plans until the lockdown would be over. But the lockdown took longer than I thought it would and before I knew it the weather was deteriorating and nothing had been done. However later in 2020 we came to know Brendan, and Brendan made a start with repairing the sheds. Again another level 5 lockdown was called and Brendan had to stop his work, but by then, it was just after Christmas, he had a good part of the repair work done, and when the restrictions were eased last week Brendan came back and got going again. Meanwhile I had made great work of almost emptying the sheds and pilling all the stuff up for Brendan to take away. The first load went last week and the next load is ready to go this week. As well as that I started to clear the back of the garden, the old wooden fence was rotting and I took that all away. My plan is to use the bit of land that I am freeing up to plant one or two small apple trees, a lilac tree and some extra raspberries bushes. It is a work in progress. Below is a photo taken before the work was done.

And here is a photo taken after the work was done

And now it is on to a new vision of the inside of the potting shed (read SHE-shed)

The following photo below is a picture of what I have had in my mind for our shed, that is, I am just using this beautiful illustration to work on my imagination and not to copy it exactly. I will probably use some of the colours eventually on the shed walls, and certainly will use the idea of the flowers. I’ve kept this image in my mind as an aim to achieve what I want to achieve, like an encouragement ~ and it works!

(Picture borrowed from (ideastand.com) on Pinterest)

And here a look at the very unfinished work at the back of garden after I took away the old fence. The oak tree is doing very well after my son-in-law, who is a tree surgeon, did some work on it. Now it is my turn to cut the ivy that is growing on it away. There is an old tree trunk which we cannot move so I will grow some flowering plants in its nooks and crannies. I need to organise a new compost heap too. Another two planned projects are making a potting bench (dead easy if you follow YouTube advice), and repairing and painting the old bench. Enough work to keep anyone busy and out of mischief for a while (and sane during Covid times).

Watch this space my dear friends and followers, in another few weeks I will let you catch up with my achievements. Meanwhile I hope that you are all well and even enjoying some of the new freedoms that are now being allowed. I am sorry though for all those suffering bereavement, I am thinking of India in particular having such a difficult time. May you be strong!

HEALING FOREST AND WILD PLANTS

What is nicer and more calming than a walk in a forest. Listening to the sounds, the wind rustling in the canopies, smelling the trees and the herbs, looking at all the different shades of green or brown, feeling the roots or the rocks underfoot. Walking in a forest can be the ultimate sensory experience. When I walk in our local forests with my grandchildren I see them clambering over branches and rocks, paddling through some of the muddy paths, picking up pinecones and twigs with lichens or piece of old bark, and the youngest girl picks up and carries with her any dead branches and trails them behind her all along the walk. Their young minds are open to everything they see and experience no matter how often they actually do these walks. My daughter and son-in-law are real nature lovers and outdoor people and they take the children out on hikes, walks or beach days whenever they can. West Cork has good opportunities for this, and even the unsettle weather or rain does not faze them.

Right now the Irish native forests are full of new life, young plants, flowers and mosses. There are still night frosts and it is still a bit chilly but the sun is getting stronger by the day to our delight. We have had a real light April shower yesterday which refreshed everything and was good for growth. In the forest the spurges are giving a lovely show, the celandine, wood sorrel, blue bells, violets, stitchwort, and wild strawberries are equally blooming. The willow trees which are among the first to provide blossoms for the bees are now almost in full leaf. And already the bumblebees are buzzing!

I find a walk through the forest very calming but also refreshing, I think that it is the good air provided by the trees, the extra oxygen. But there is something more at work, Erich Fromm called it “Biophilia.” which is a love of life, an instinctive fondness for all that is living, our fellow humans, the plants, the trees, the animals. Our human brain craves greenery and an interaction with other living things. I read that we are naturally drawn to natural settings, and apparently things like ‘forest bathing’ can reduce our blood pressure, heart rate and lower our cortisol levels. But most of all it relaxes us and can quieten our often overstretched minds.

From a young age I have found it a need of mine to be surrounded by plants, whether it were houseplants or garden plants, now-a-days to see the green fields from some of our windows gives me great pleasure. But to actually be out in nature and get the full benefit of it has got to be far better still.

I hope that everyone is enjoying either spring or autumn seasons and also looking forward to less restrictions all over the globe.