a garden AWAKENING

Forsythia in bloom

SPRING UPDATE FROM OUR GARDEN

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.

Our white flowering Azalea

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.

I feel very grateful towards nature.

SEEING

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
― Albert Einstein

AN OLD RUSTY BARN

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.

The barn looks a little uneasy here, and seems to be surrounded by rushes which we know grow in wet ground

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

IN THE ABSENCE OF INTENTION

It’s kind of beautiful to sit inside a bus and see a city from the windows. Yung Lean

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!

The colours on this cold by crisp January day were vivid, it pleased me very much.
There have been colourful changes in Cork city, much more eat and drinking places outside, very continental
This was the time of day when not that many people walked around
The river Lee and the quays never changing, always there
I came across some very contemporary architecture, that was interesting too
Striking colours and lines
River Lee is also the homestead of the many gulls

It was a journey of necessity, it turned into a pleasant and relaxing experience.

a GLIMPSE into our winter garden

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.

Young Camellia plant
The morning sun is already peeking through the hedge
A good supply of fresh dandelion leaves has been growing all winter, they are getting ready for our salad bowl!
Morning sun lighting up the background of these young foxgloves plants
As the sun melts the frost, the consistency of the ice changes
Early sunshine, like evening sun, has this special quality I always think and is more beautiful. And of course can look great in a photo.

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.

AN IRISH BLESSING

A well known Irish blessing I would like to share with all my family, friends and followers.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May the wind be always at your back.

May the sun shine warm upon your face;

the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,

may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

I DID NOT LOOK FOR SIGNS

It is the 26th of December today and we are only moving towards the end of the year – so no I was not looking for signs of spring, it’s a little too early and as well as that I am trying to rein my energy in. Every year about the beginning of January my energy peeks and, like a run-a-way train, it is hard to hold it! So no I was not looking for signs of new growth but nevertheless I found fresh young plants growing all over the place. It was a mild and sunny day, beautiful weather for a walk. I woke up feeling full of the joys of life and found that the birds outside had similar thoughts, the sounds of the sparrows, the starlings and the crows was overpowering for some time during the hours of brightness. So here I was trying to experience the darkness of midwinter in order to get into the fullness of my energy once the new year would start and get going, but similar to what nature seems to be doing lately my internal clock seems to be a little mixed up. Hence I forced myself not to look for signs, signs of new growth, signs of an early spring.

This is such a typical view of West Cork, old trees and meadows ~ beautiful!
Looking towards the hills and part of the town of Skibbereen, so nice to walk here.

I have not written or produced many blog posts during the past year, something that I have missed doing. I know that it is partly due to a changing pattern, first with the lockdowns, and then with being out of the habit. With practically staying inside the home, garden, our little town and just the very immediate surroundings. I have to use a lot of imagination to be inspired to keep writing. During the year I started researching more of the local history and joined the historical society. We explored one village recently which I found very interesting. I hope to continue with my research of local history and of reading the old maps of the area. And writing about what I find or learn.

Wishing all my friends, my family, all my dear followers here on WordPress a really wonderful 2022, filled with good health and happiness.

And thank you all for your great support for my blog.

WISHING PEACE AND JOY TO HUMANKIND

To all my friends and followers all over the world at this time of the year, whether you celebrate Christmas or not I would like to wish you a peaceful, and joyful time, a time filled with love and the warmth of human company. As we move to brighter days, may all your wishes come true and may you be blessed.

My daily ritual and a little story

There is something very satisfying and grounding about a task that repeats itself on a daily basis, especially during the cold and damp winter months, for me it is getting a supply of fire-wood from the garden shed.  Though it might seem a very menial chore, it is no chore at all, on the contrary I am finding it and made it into a daily ritual.

My sleeveless coat, my hat and my wellingtons are ready at the backdoor, and while I trail through our at the moment water saturated garden, I check on our winter vegetables and on the fine young plants some being herbs but also next summer’s wild flowers. This is always a pleasure and my curiosity is aroused as to anything new or changed.

 In these testing days of the last 18 months it is a solace to find something that both calms one down and also excites the senses, we have to make do with whatever is at hand. And for me collecting my fire-wood from the garden shed is one such activity. I love the feel of the wood, I enjoy the patterns of the different type of bark, the musty smell, and the visible rings where the pieces were cut.

Cleaning out the ashes and lighting the stove is part of the ritual. As I scope the ashes carefully into a bag I make sure that there are no sparks left alive and shining bright red – sometimes this happens.  Putting the light to the kindle is always a nice feeling, especially when I light the fire while dusk is falling outside and I know that soon the room will be illuminated by the dancing flames giving off a beautiful glow and making us feel warm. Fire is one of the four classical elements in Greek philosophy. The combination of wood and fire literally soothes the mind and feeds the soul.

A nice little story that I would like to share is that a few days ago along with the wood, as for once I had just brought the bag inside and emptied it out in the basket, a tiny little shrew appeared in our living room. It was so delicate and beautiful, I caught it in my hands and it felt so soft. I went and put it back into the garden-shed hoping that it will live.

the little shrew

A nice warm space where I spend winter evenings with Ian

I hope that you are all well my dear friends and followers. Wishing cosy and warm evenings and days to you all.