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.

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.

MEETING WITH THE OMBU TREE

I hope to re-blog some of my earlier posts, this one about a tree I got to know while we were staying on Gozo.

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While on the island of Gozo I took notes of and enjoyed some of the trees unfamiliar to me. It is nice and interesting to find out what they are called and then to search on Google about their uses, growth, country of origin and so on, it keeps me quite busy at times. Then I will take many photos of all the different attributions, leaves, flowers, seeds, seed hulks, shoots, trunks etc. And of course I like to share this in my blog, my blog is after all a celebration of all that the earth so generously has to offer to us and to life itself. And so here goes, I hope you enjoy.

The Ombu tree, or to give it its proper name the Phytolacca dioica L. is an attractive tree. I found it growing in the area of Ghajnsielem along the main road. I was amazed to…

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WE ARE OF THE EARTH AND HEALED BY NATURE

We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts – William Hazlitt
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature–the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter – Rachel Carson
I think that I cannot preserve my health and spirits, unless I spend four hours a day at least – and it is commonly more than that – sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements – Henry David Thoreau

I hope that these nature photos and valuable quotes have been a solace to someone who is disturbed by earth’s current difficulties and dangers. I wish us all well.

BUSY TIMES DURING LOCKDOWN

These tulips have been flowering for well over a week and are still doing great, and very beautiful.
We have had some lovely days and then it is our delight to have our lunch in the garden, very healthy too now that we need extra vitamin D for our immune system. We are both under strict total lockdown which means that we cannot leave the front door at all, so our garden is the only place where we can get fresh air and sunshine, and we are grateful to have such.

SUNDAY MORNING THOUGHTS

I woke up early this morning. I found it very quiet, not a sound to be heard, not a car passing, nor a person, nor a dog… even the birds are not singing… Skibbereen seems to be asleep still. I am thinking… what will I do with my day. Suddenly I know what is different, there is not a blade of grass stirring, it is wind-still… quite unusual lately and nice.

I look around my room and I ponder, there are lots of things I could start doing, I have re-decorating ideas. Perhaps I could make a mood-board with colours, new shades for the room, and I plan to re-sew a curtain that covers the hotpress opening. There is an old chair, a delicate one that would look good in a pastel paint and there is the old secondhand desk that I am planning to paint too… I love my room, it is peaceful and looking at things from up here in my high bed this morning everthing looks fine.

The pale cream curtains that I found last year in our fantatic charity shops are just starting to become illuminated with bright rays of sunshine.

It is time to get up and get me a nice cup of coffee.

Sunday morning, I love it always.

I wish you all a beautiful day! Stay well ❤

THOUGH NATURE IS MEANT TO BE ASLEEP, I SEE MANY SIGNS OF LIFE

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Our garden does not know whether it should be asleep or begin to wake up.  On this peaceful and last Sunday of the year 2019 I took a little stroll to check on my vegetables and herbs.  So far it has been a mild winter except for one morning when all was white with frost.  We did have more than usual rain though, and one or two real destructive storms which blew over our bird feeder and destroyed it.

I found that the few bean plants which survived being served as someone’s dinner (the slugs), are doing rather well, the spinach and the kale are doing great too.  Among the herbs the oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary are all thriving.  The rosemary is even flowering, but then it flowered all summer too, perhaps it is an everlasting flowering type 🙂

The Camelia that I planted out weeks ago has buds and seems happy where I put it.  The Californian Lilac is also doing great and I cannot wait to smell its flowers, and to look upon the red Camelia flowers later when spring comes along.  Bulbs are pushing through the still very wet soil.  And the young Californian Poppy plant I found fresh and green, early flowering is expected.  It is always nice to take stock of the garden around the start of a new year I think, and to start planning.

A tender young Lupin plant has pushed through some leaf covering. And the Rudbeckias that I have been carefully tending since last spring when I sowed them, are so far doing fine, I hope that they will become strong plants and I know that they will last for years as I used to grow them before.

But I wanted to look a little further than my own garden today and took a walk through the Boreen and further-a-field.  Planning has been received and work has started on building 50 houses for a social housing scheme.  This will mean that from next year onward we will be surrounded by houses, whereas up to now we still had so many fields.  But I understand that housing is needed badly and that the plan for rural Ireland is to have satellite towns and not much housing in the countryside, this to give easy access to all utilities without too much need for new infrastructure.  Anyway that seems to be the plan for the future and the future is now.  While walking the Boreen I found beautifully fresh and healthy Yarrow plants, I also found that the Gorse was flowering, and that the sweet little plants of creeping Hypericum are still intact and have not been affected by the wet weather.

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There had been a certain quietness around the place here with some neighbours away over the Christmas period.   The land was also quiet this afternoon apart from some starlings, a wagtail and a thrush that I saw along my walk.  Year’s ending has that certain feeling about it in nature, a stillness that is a promise of new life and activity to come.  I like it.

Along my walk and in the Boreen, Yarrow, Creeping Hypericum and flowering Gorse.

And so we enter the last days of this year.  Tomorrow my grandchildren and their mum and dad are coming to open presents, that will be lovely.  The rest of the week will also be spent with family visiting and so we will enter the new year surrounded by loved ones.

 

 

 

 

ICE FLOWERS AND LEAVES

We woke this morning to an icy cold and beautiful sunny morning, yes it had frozen even here in usually mild West Cork. So I could not wait to get out and feast my eyes on all this frozen beauty, and I was not surprised to find that everything in the garden was gleaming in a sparkling white coat. Yes, old man winter had walked the land that was plain to see. The temperature was 4 degrees Celsius. But the sun had already come out and I could feel its warm rays on my skin, I had gone out without a coat or boots and soon my feet were freezing. The bright, beauty of the morning filled me with energy, it is such a change from all the rain.

This Rudbekia a plant which I sowed early last spring has finally flowered, and what a day to choose for it. Beautiful.
The leaves of the Calla lily (Zantedeschia aethopica) never fail to look good any day but especially this morning they looked wonderful!
I’ve been thinking what to do with all the many young Foxgloves plants coming up in the garden, now I am happy that I left them as the frost has decorated them so brilliantly.
This is the sort of photo that stops me starting to paint again, why would I paint if art is show me in nature just like that. How could I ever make it more beautiful.
And so another evening has arrived, and I made use of my extra energy to clean up the front garden as this was very overdue. The leaves of two smallish trees had nearly covered the cement tiles, and the Buddleia needed trimming. This was a rather slow job as the branches had overgrown and they all had to be cut and cut again in order to be brought through the house to the back garden for shredding. But recently I have found joy in doing jobs slowly, or rather in doing slow jobs, they are like a meditation and I know that I benefit from this. Also I have noticed this tendency in my reading habits, these days a really tick book does not put me off anymore, on the contrary I seek them out and relax into them for days, savouring the story. Same with cooking, I now very much prefer to cook totally from scratch, enjoying the extensive cutting up of vegetables, or shelling of peas.
I am grateful to have the time for all of this now that I am retired.

My dear readers and friends I hope that wherever you live, keep warm or cool as the case may be, and enjoy the moment.

SEASONS MIXED UP OR IS IT ME

So right, we live in S.W. Ireland, and that means that we experience a micro climate due to the gulfstream passing by these shores, and normally we do have a mild winter, it seldom snows or freezes here, though we do get some light frost during or after January.

Even though it is quite cold just now, and the mountains in the distance have their tops covered in snow, in the garden the plant growth reminds me more of early spring. The temperature of the soil seems normal enough, it was 6 degrees Celsius the other day, and at night the outside temperature is between 6 and 8 degrees Celsius. And even today the cold wind made it feel very chilly. But yet something seems out of kilter, and I cannot actually put my finger on it clearly. Questions like; Is the planet really warming up? Is the climate changing? beg for answers everyday and all around us now. Here are some of my own observations.

And taking stock of the garden the other day here is what I found.

And even while you would not think so, it is late autumn now, another few weeks and it is Christmas. Am I perhaps imagining that the season is out of kilter? All the same I am delighted with so much growth in the garden. As it stands I have not been able to work in the garden since September because we have been working inside the house and I have had no time. Needless to say I cannot wait to get going again, meanwhile I am using my herbs in my cooking. Oh and I bought a Camelia shrub yesterday, can’t wait to give it a lovely spot where we can see it bloom from the window later in winter.
Have you been busy in your garden my friends? I’d love to hear your stories.

PS actually Oca is only harvested after the first night frost, they are a reddish sweetish little potato-like vegetable. I have found them relatively easy to grow but hard to peel or clean before eating. They are a nice plant though. Check this website if you are interested in them. https://www.thejournal.ie/readme/how-do-you-grow-oca-3113951-Dec2016/