Nature is at its very best right now. The month of May is usually the most beautiful in Ireland I think. Insects abound, flowers are lush and beautiful and still so full of energy, deep colour and vibrancy. And the trees are mighty in their greenery, strong and filling up with juice taken from infrequent spring showers. I feel it, their strenght, when I sit on the bench under our enormous hawthorn tree. I take time there, every single day. It’s one of the best restoring pills nature has to offer.
It is nearing the end of March and though the weather is still quite wet, it is time to put some of the plans that I have made for the garden into action. The frost is gone and the temperature is now around 18 degrees. The soil temperature was 11 degrees Celsius today. However, the soil is still very wet. I’ve been working at the back of the garden taking roots out of the soil, roots from ivy, black currant, and nettles from a patch where I want to grow our potatoes this season. It’s hard but rewarding work and I just love working with the soil, feeling it and finding little creatures in it, even the colours of different soil is interesting. The plot that I’m currently working in has always been used to dispose of organic matter, and it has benefited this soil very much, its colour is more brown than the surrounding black. Originally our soil was mostly clay but over the years I’ve been changing it to loam by using lots of composted garden and kitchen refuse. So anyway, my plans for this year include introducing some of my favourite perennials and annuals, some of these I will be sowing and some I am buying. We do have two excellent garden centres here in the town, I can get anything I want. Talking about anything I want… one of my dearest wishes for many years is to get a small green house, think of what I could grow off season…
During the winter I covered the patch that I planned to use for the potatoes with canvas, it did make a difference when I uncovered it yesterday, a lot of the grass had wilted. Two robins where looking for grubs in the newly disturbed soil, they are so lovely and not a bit afraid of us humans.
Some of the vegetables that are currently growing still and ready for eating.
And some of the flowers that are heralding spring, they seem to brave the wind and rain so easily!
And these above are some of my more wild plants which I treasure too, some for cooking, and some for the enjoyment of the flowers when they show later in the summer. They all grow so easy and start to grow very early in the year, such a joy, so green and healthy looking. In fact most of these plants overwinter here as the climate is mild, we did get some frost, even a little snow, but mostly temperatures are a few degrees above zero during the night and in the day they vary between 8 and 10 Celcius.
During the past three years I’ve added several shrubs to my collection, and this year I’m thinking of buying a Mahony shrub, I see them growing in tubs around the town and love them. Their honey scented yellow flowers are beautiful and also flowering early in the year. The leaves turn a lovely colour in autumn. Inside I’m starting a Ribes plant from a cutting, and I’ve got a Skimmia sapling still sitting on the kitchen window-sill ready to plant out soon, it is a male plant so I will be looking for a female to join it, it is the female plant that develops the deep red berries. I have sweet pea seedlings on my bedroom window-sill, a bit too soon those plant out. It’s time to sow a selection of summer flowering annuals inside, but the marigolds I’ll be sowing outside during the next week, they thrive very well in our garden. I’m also setting a myriad of gladiola bulbs.
I am not your regular gardener, though I love the physical work that gardening involves, mostly I like to experiment and I like to see what comes growing into my garden without me planting it, I like the element of surprise and discovery. I like taking note of what my soil needs and so testing the soil, taking its temperature, making note of how much light a certain plot receives, how acid the soil is, and much more. I also like to propagate plants, grow from cuttings etc… It’s something I’ve done all my life. And I like to provide fresh vegetables for my family… well, my husband and myself that is, I love cooking with fresh produce that I’ve just plucked from the garden whether it’s wild or cultivated, a combination is great. Right now the wild plants that are plentiful are three cornered leeks, succulent tops of cleavers, young dandelion leaves and tender nettle leaves. The earth gives abundantly!
Yesterday was a lovely spring day, full sunshine and only a little breeze, dry. My grandson Ruben was visiting and after cooking lunch together we decided to go and see which flowers and plants we would find in the hedgerow along our favourite walk. We took off in a gallop as Ruben is a very fit twelve and a half year old, he leads an active outdoor life and loves his gymnastics. During this walk he wanted to take photos and so, as you do, I handed him over my phone. Following are some of the pictures he took. I think he did very well and he concentrated on what was to be found hidden away, and finding he did; some water plants and fresh grasses. He also took a couple of photos while half climbing a tree. And in his pocket he carried a bag in case he came across other people’s rubbish! He is a good citizen in the making who cares about his environment. We both had an interesting time and we also had a good laugh and fun as he pushed me or pulled me and called me an old granny if I lagged behind because I was looking at some specimen of plants I wanted to have a closer look at, but all in good spirit of give and take. I felt very refreshed after our walk.
Above are five of Rubens photos, taken on our walk. He came across a ladybird, and was fascinated by a little brook and of what was growing in there.
Searching, observing and finding that spring has started and that lots of signs are to be seen all over the place.
It is lovely to see buds enlarging on the trees. This walk is safe as not many cars drive here, it eventually connects to the Castletown road at Rusha Mill. With the town of Skibbereen becoming more built up, this is a very valuable piece of rural beauty and long may it be that way.
While I am recovering from covid infection my thoughts were turned to things that normally do not catch my attention so much. Of course I’ve had much more time to think, although during the first week it seemed my head was empty of any real musings and the fever probably was the cause of that. At the end of the second week now and finally starting to become human again. It was my first time having covid and it truly felt like a monster virus.
And so while sitting at my kitchen table, seeing some of the last of my Christmas decorations lying there waiting to be put away for another year, I was thinking… what gives me intense pleasure from the bling that I’m seeing? I’m not normally a typical bling person and in our tree my favourite bauble is no bauble at all but a little handmade piece of lace in the shape of a candle. And yet when my eyes chance to glance over these sparkling baubles it sets off a sort of childlike pleasure… is it the childhood memory of sparkling sweet wrappers which we only seldom were able to feast upon, or is it something more basic, is the reminder of a frosty morning when a winter’s sun makes branches and leaves sparkle like diamonds… I think it might be the latter, the beauty of nature when the sun illuminates the frost covered plants is definitely one of my great winter’s joys.
During this past Christmas I was given three books as presents, three wonderful books which I’ve already started to enjoy. All are about nature, one about the heartbeat of trees, one about the land and soil, and one about a journey into silence. In this last book the author talks about the search for the perfect moment, when there is a confluence of time and place and serendipity, all conspiring together to render a perfect moment (his words), He’s talking about his times he spent in nature and his meeting with the wild, with animals, birds and anything else he finds unexpectedly in wild places. I’m very much enjoying this book.
A lovely selection of reads for the foreseeable future that’s for sure.
On this first day of 2023 I took the opportunity to have a slow walk around the garden. A winter’s sun, now and then hidden behind some clouds illuminated the darker areas, where nevertheless I found colour and texture that pleased my eyes and delighted my soul.
Let me herewith wish all my friends and followers a peaceful and blessed year, filled with beauty and whatever your hearts desire. Enjoy!
Midwinter can be a most beautiful time of year, both because of the celebrations but also because nature can be especially magical, every season shows us something new and interesting of course. I love the Helleborus, some of their colours are subtle but beautiful. Last week we had the ice flowers here, this week it is very mild with plenty of rain. The buds are showing on some of the trees but are still small. I’m taking part in the garden bird survey and so far the usual winter birds are showing up in good enough numbers, I even saw a song thrush the other day to my delight. So far the chaffinches have only shown up in small numbers, hopefully that will change.
I actually started this post to wish all my good friends and followers a joyful and beautiful Christmas time. And a prosperous new year filled with many Blessings and Peace and Love.
A windless morning in the garden. A lone robin is singing in the birch tree. Some sounds are travelling up from the town in the valley. I’m having my morning coffee outside on the patio and enjoying this beautiful and peaceful scene. Our foxgloves are almost totally in seed now, only the tops of their long stems are still a beautiful pink, they have been very good for the pollinators. This morning only a few bumblebees have visited. Seagulls and crows are flying over our airspace shouting confident cries. Sparrows are chirping in the hawthorn tree, many of them. How I love all those sounds.
Of the usual two dozen that years ago were, there are now only four swifts visiting in our area, I so miss their summery sounds above our houses and gardens.
How I enjoy all this activity in nature, and this morning is a rare break in my own daily activities, a solace to the soul, a much desired rest for the body. And yet it is there for the taking – whenever and free. A true blessing.
Some weeks ago my sister Josephine stayed with us, it had been three years since she travelled to Ireland and we were overjoyed to see her. With her she brought me this beautiful gift. A little special notebook that she bought at an exhibition of works by Gustaf Klimt in Brussels. It is so beautiful that I decided it can only contain words about beauty, and so the thought came into my mind to use it to note down some of the observations of my quieter moments. Observations in nature and in daily life. I like to share them with you.
17 May 2022
Today, in the garden I enjoyed the wild freshness after rain. I saw that our elderberry tree is about to come into flower, and that will be the first time since I planted it. The foxgloves are opening pink and beautiful. There are buttercups among other wild flowers, everywhere the growth is abundant and the trees, we have four, are looking very lush, their leaves still somewhat laden down with drops of rain. The hawthorn also has started to flower and there is a faint, delicate scent in the air. Birds started singing. I felt a breeze and now and then rain fell from fast moving clouds. These were perfect moments, I love the scent that rises from the earth after rain, it is so refreshing.
19 May 2022
The intense colour from the cineraria flowers in the Ilen street in town, the deep sky blue was a sight to behold. The scent was faint, it just caressed my nostrils and soothed my brain. Early morning in Skibbereen, the sun has just started to warm the cement of the colourful town houses. I feel good in expectation of the day ahead.
20 May 2022
It was while on my course on biodiversity with Wild Work. We were having a conversation about native woodlands and native wild plants. What took my special interest was a little wild plant that I had not seen growing here in West Cork before, it is called Sanicle (sanicula marilandica). It’s native and a woodland plant, it belongs to the carrot family, we found it on the grounds of a large woodland area.
21 May 2022
Today we cooked with aromatic spices and lentils, an Indian recipe. Alice and I enjoyed seeing all the spices come together and release their aroma, the dish we cooked was dahl. So delicious and an good dish for vegetarian Alice to learn to cook, she loved it. Earlier I was very pleased to see how well our oak-leaved lettuce were doing in the garden, the brightness of their various shades of red was invigorating.
22 May 2022
From my kitchen window I noticed the unripe fruits of the krentenboom (Amelanchier lamarckii), and it reminded me of the cycle of life; Just recently the flowers appeared, then the leaves turned the tree quite green, and now the fruits are already ripening, slowly they will become red later on in the year. I could see the parallel with our own lives and the thought that our times are fleeting moments in the greater cycle of things, of times. It is a very natural happening.
23 May 2022
While opening our front door, I looked down to the yearly new growth of the lady’s mantle and it inspired me, very beautiful and delicate, its veins like capillaries in our own bodies, green instead of red, dark green actually on the light green leaf… spreading out from its twig. Perfection!
I hope you enjoyed a glimpse in my little book of observations, it has been a pleasure to share them with you.
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.