This evening we took a walk along the cliffs at Xlendi. It had been a hot day and the evening cool was nice and refreshing. Where the path leaves the road it becomes interesting and I found many wild plants and flowers growing here. The landscape was beautifully lit by the setting sun, which throws a special warm light over the earth. Higher up along the cliffs there is an amazing array of terraced walls in the local stone, the walls are dry, stones just left on top of one another. It looks like they are terraced agriculture land but they are actually a pathway winding its way up to the top of the cliff, towards the tower, we did not get that far this time but are planning another walk and pick-nick soon up there. The moon was rising at the same time, full moon it seems too, it is so very beautiful here, photos just don’t do it justice.
Today I will just post some of the flowers that I have come across so far, and I’m in a village, I have not been out in the country yet, so I know there is much more to explore when it comes to Malta’s flora yet. I have taken these photo mainly while walking around the village, some in the wild, some in the front gardens of the people, all are equally beautiful and interesting. I hope you enjoy as much as I do. Names I do not know but some of the flowers I recognise from India, Greece, or Mauritius. Thanks to my friend, Mary, she identified the delicate blue flower as Plumbago – a native of South Africa.
So we had just walked through the arch and entered that part of the garden where nature does more or less its own thing, though on the right there is a productive kitchen garden, which put my own to shame when it comes to neatness. And on the left we walked across grass overshadowed by a variety of lovely trees, mostly native to the Uk, and some already fully in blossom. This is the wilder part of the garden, it is a very important area, thinking of the many bees, bumblebees and other insects which are near extinction, or have decreased in number in recent years, it is good to have an area where they can be undisturbed and feed to their hearts delight. Here is more shadow because of the trees, it is also the quieter part of the garden, where one could sit and read, or just watch nature’s magic happen.
Then in the yet another part of the garden a lot of clearing had been done just recently, overgrowth of roses from a neighboring garden had been removed. In a garden this size there is always some work to do, and this is reflected in the beauty and the variety of the plants.
Here the borders, even though it was so early in the year show a lot of different colors and textures, as reflected in my next collage. A variety of different Hellebores is to be seen nearer the house.
Ferns, and also Euphorbias make a lovely display.
The colorful leaves of the Epimedium versicolor are a great ground cover.
A succulent creeping among the black foliage, the black thin leaves conjure up images of being at the beach looking at some type of seaweed.
I see boxes for a variety of birds which I am sure they are happy to use, and the white bell-like flowers add a lovely touch, all these early flowers are so important for insects, it is where they get the first nectar of the season which will help them recover after the lean winter months. All of this has been thought of and planned for.
This is one more subject that I would like to highlight, it is called Sarcococca confusa or Sweet Box, its scent will delight anyone and perfume a whole area, and its black berries are very attractive too. I am glad that I got to learn about this plant, as one of my future plans is to bring more scent into my own garden.
I’ve really enjoyed my visit to this garden, there is more one could say about what grows there, I have not even touched on the herbs which grow close to the house. Of course as my visit was in winter, I am sure that there is a lot more to see in summer. I am already looking forward to my next visit. I get ideas from visiting other people’s gardens, some of which I will try and use in my own garden. I’m certainly very interested in creating colour for my garden in the winter, it would cheer us all up during those dull and misty days.
My thanks go to Ruth and Colin for their kind permission to use their garden in my blog writing.
What better to think about and plan while the weather remains wet and stormy, and yet we feel that the new gardening year will soon enough be upon us. Flowers, wild and cultivated, beautiful and colourful, reminding us of summer, of sunshine and warmth.
Looking back at many of the flowers we had in the garden last year, I know that some of them I will certainly repeat this time around. The sweetpeas gave us such pleasure, we picked bunch after bunch, the scent was heavenly and made for a very cheerful breakfast table, so that is a definite Yes. The coriander and oregano are also a definite Yes! These are herbs my kitchen simply cannot do without, and the flowers, though small are pretty, when plentiful they can be used as part of a herbal flower decoration. The nasturtiums are always there also, I sow them yearly, they are pretty for their flowers but I also use both leaf and flower in salads, or I might eat some of the leaves while walking in the garden. As for the hydrangea, I have four different bushes growing, a deep lapis lazuli blue one, a pretty pink one, and two pure white ones. Some years ago I tried to change the colour of one of my white hydrangeas with a product I bought in the garden centre, but I did not succeed, and it did not matter, I will try again some time. The Ph of the soil here in my raised beds is 7, so total balance between alkaline and acid, and the colour depends on the Ph of the soil.
Marigolds grew profusely in the garden last summer, they just kept on flowering, I like the orange types, they are definitely on the list for this season also. The poppies are self seeding, they are beautiful and great for the bees and other flying creatures, but they do have a habit of coming up among the vegetables and become too large sometimes. The fuchsia flowers are seen all over West Cork, in a good year some of the hedgerows are coloured red with them, lovely. They flower from May onwards, and might still be in flower in November. I have them only at the back of the garden, in the hedge.
The big bright yellow flower was going to be a lovely round pumpkin, only last summer all my pumpkins rotted, so while the promise was there in the flower, it did not come to fruition. The blackberry flowers are frilly and white, they also just form part of the hedge and I let them grow mainly for the bees and butterflies. It is great to see all the insects and butterflies come and feed in the garden.
Finally after about three years my wall flowers have started to produce lots of dark rose velvety flowers, nice, and they give off a faint scent, it brings me memories of gardens and flowers in another period of my life, precious memories of flowers.
Deep among the strawberry and raspberry plants I have discovered a little herb, one that I have actually known about for years, that is I knew about it’s beautiful appearance, but I knew nothing about it’s uses, and it is amazing how useful this plant really is.
So I did some research and came up with quite a bit of information on the self heal (Prunella vulgaris). I learnt that modern Western herbalists had almost forgotten about it. But in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine it has been used extensively to date. I was very surprised to hear that this plant belongs to the mint family. It appears that we can use the young shoots and leaves in salads, or we could add some of them when making soup. It apparently makes a nice cup of tea too, and the taste is said to be a little like rosemary. I don’t know yet as I did not acutally taste or made tea with the herb. But I will. And I like getting to know more and more plants that I can brew tea with, there is something fascinating about picking and drying your own teas, and then using some nice porcelain cups and teapot to drink in this health giving liquid, and serve them to friends or family.
Medicinally it appears that the plant is a real good wound healer. What also interested me very much about self heal is that in traditional Chinese medicine, self-heal is looked upon as a cooling herb, making it useful against fevers and liver and kidney disorders, and it mentions that it is often used as a tonic. It is also said to be good for throat infections, and historically it was used for just such ailment.
“A human should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Lier is a small but beautiful town in Belgium. Most of my immediate ancestors come from there though my mum and dad were born in Brasschaat and in Diest respectively. Goyvaerts is not a common name in Belgium, but in Lier you see quite a few signs with this name on it. I feel at home there, it’s a lovely typical Flemish town with a huge car free ‘grote markt’ and a beautiful cathedral, its bells and Carillion chiming out over the typical town houses. A most interesting beguinage dating from the 13th century, a fine library, a large school of music, the Zimmer tower with it’s astronomical clock, on it’s façade it gives the times from all around the world. And many more special cultural and scenic corners.
Anyway, my eldest sister still lives there and she has a small town garden in which I went to take some photos recently. It’s a neat garden, she has one raised bed where she already had a crop of herbs last summer, but trouble with cats is making her hold back this year, so we discussed how to make it so the cats cannot use it as toilet. But there are many beautiful shrubs and flowers in her garden. Since the soil is quite sandy and of course Belgium gets quite hot in the summer, her lavender is doing extremely well, so we did harvest a lovely bunch of these flowers to dry and use later for making sachets to use as presents. There is Turkish sage – Phlomis russeliana, growing in her garden, growing tall and showing bright yellow flowers, much loved by the bees! Along the verge of one of the flower beds it is full of ripe wild strawberries, very sweet and tasty. An arch made of willow twigs lets you enter the rear end of the garden, a woodbine trails along it and is also in flower. Some beautifully scented roses together with the privet hedge in flower make this garden full of wonderful scents, a garden that anyone would love to sit in on a summers day.
My sister Meave has a beautiful garden, it is situated on the coast of the beautiful Bantry Bay in the South West of Ireland. The area there is sub tropical and though near the sea everything grows real well. I went visiting the other day and with her permission took many photos to illustrate my writing in this blog. Meave has worked wonders with this garden over the last ten years or so, and by now plants have matured and a nice vegetable plot, in the raised bed that her husband Jay made, is giving her plenty of produce. A walk through this garden is truly wonderful, the more so as Meave has a love of the wild birds with plenty of feeding and bathing areas, it is a delight to see all the different birds, and listen to them too. The climate is mild due to the gulf stream coming from Mexico Bay, this means that many of the plants cultivated here are sub tropical. One of the trees growing here, for example, is the Arbutus, also called the strawberry tree. Palm trees are quite common, also the tree fern which is rather beautiful and special. Meave has let a lot of native shrubs such as the fuchsia and hawthorn grow and they make her garden really natural looking, she also cultivated many otherwise wild growing roses which do extremely well in her garden. She pointed out several plants and shrub which were given to her by various sisters and friends and which have special meaning for her, it is lovely to see these grow so well. Altogether a beautiful garden where butterflies, bees, and other wildlife find a welcome and good home.
A view towards the sea, the garden slopes down towards the coastline. Looking towards Sheepshead peninsula.
Palm trees are quite common around here. And a dark type of Marsh Mallow flower is growing profusely.
A flowering shrub that I don’t know the name of, and the Rose of Sharon, a shrub which is seen a lot here too.
Sheep in the surrounding fields giving a very pastoral feel.
An old Irish kettle filled with geraniums and one of Meave’s cats, this one is called Trooper!
The raised bed full of delicious looking vegetables and herbs.
Another little corner with loving attention to detail, and the bird table surrounded with protection from cats.
A wild thistle almost in flower, it’s seeds will be great for the goldfinches. This shrub I think is Berberis vulgaris.
Rose bushes everywhere with lots of different varieties, lovely scents.
Fuchsias and foxgloves growing wild in hedgerows, also in the garden.
Another beautifully scented rose, and I do not know the name of this yellow flower.