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.

INTERESTING SURROUNDINGS

On a bit of a ramble in our immediate area I enjoyed some spectacular sights and afterwards I researched some interesting little bits of history and knowledge of the area here.

I thought that I would take a drive as far as Traguma (Tráigh Omna), this beach is backed by marsh land and a small lake called Lough Abisdeally, this small lake (in the photo), is a real beauty it is very sought after by birdwatchers. This was a rather pleasurable attempt to get to know more about my immediate surroundings.  Tragumna is supposed to get its name from the stumps of oak trees dug up out of this strand. (The Schools’ Collection, Volume 0298, Page 061). Sounds rather interesting!

On the way there I took a wrong turn and kept driving along narrow lanes and got totally lost. Long ago there was a time when I wondered about all these myriads of little roads crossing the country side until I learnt about the famine roads. The Irish peasantry were made to build roads in order to get food under the strictures of the poor law during the famine. These included random and unneeded roads. That is what I am told. Anyway my journey became a little longer than expected. It was raining lightly and I took some photos out of the car window.

These are some views of the landscape that I passed, it was wonderful of course.

Then the open ocean, here to see some caves and rocky shores. And rain streaming down!

And that was it, what was going to be a within 5km (just about) drive to help with my cabin fever turned into a tour of the little roads around the countryside. I felt so good after it, ready for another week back into the cabin (which of course I do love very much too). Mental health is so important and it is our responsibility to take care of it 🙂

MEETING WITH A SPINDLE TREE

It was quite unexpected that I came upon a Spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus), I first noticed the red berries now mostly decayed in the mud, and recognised them as being spindle berries. When fresh they are so very beautiful! So I looked out for the tree and found it growing beside a much thicker trunk of a tree unknown to me. Part of it had fallen down and is probably dead. The crown of the tree though was still full of the berries. Do some of the birds feed on them? I do not know. The first I ever heard of the Spindle tree was from a Dublin lady called Hilary. She used to read out her essays on nature on Sunday morning in a radio program called Sunday Miscellany. Although I was fascinated this was before the internet and Google search. So I never really bothered to look up something about what was said to be a very beautiful and also a native tree to Ireland.

Apparently it’s easy to grow from its seed and I might try it. I found quite a bit of information on how to go about it. Germinate Seeds from Spindle Trees – BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine

And here is another website link, it is full of information about this interesting bush. Tree Lore: Spindle | Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (druidry.org)

Finding this to me new and interesting tree was the highlight of my week, we might be in lockdown but there are still always new wonders to discover.

I just want to add a little note here. I am not being very active at the moment both in posting and in reading posts from others. I am very busy but also my inspiration seems to have taken a downturn. I know this won’t last so I am just going with it. It is good to have a period of reflection as well as a period of posting a lot. I’ll soon be reading all your blogs again dear friends and followers and I wish you all the very best. Thank you for reading my words.

LATE SUMMER COLOURS

In the hedgerows the colours of the heathers and other wild flowers are adding spice to the landscape.
Finally my Mexican Tarragon is flowering. The leaves are very fragrant and it’s a lovely plant.
A collage of the colours of our garden at present, and a late small tortoiseshell butterfly.

A LIVING LANDSCAPE

Looking for signs of life whether in the past or in the now. This is what currently interests me in my photography. I’ve always been shy of taking photos of people, I have felt that it would be too intrusive, and because of my interest in nature I mostly take photos of plants, landscape or insects. This I enjoy. But recently it has come to my attention that I am always searching for signs of human habitation or activity, signs that the land has been worked, of structures having been used by humans; bridges, stone walls, gate posts, ruins, ancient pathways, old churches or houses or other structures. All these are interesting and give pleasure, not only from trying to find out more about them locally, from the internet or from books, but also from the sheer beauty of them.

My attention has been drawn by my friends and followers that you like to see this variety too in my blogs, and I find this very helpful and realise that by blogging and interaction with my other blogger friends I get to know myself better, and I define what I really want to record. I am grateful to everyone.

And so yes also on this walk last Saturday I did come across a broken old iron gate, rusty and fallen down, it has had its use in the past of that I am sure. And then I saw an iron gate post which is quite an unusual find around this area and I wonder how long it has been supporting this newish galvanised gate. Was this always a gatepost? Or did it start its life as something different on a farm in the area?

It is always lovely to see acres of crops, stretches of land that change colour according to the seasons and to what is grown on them, also fields or meadows sometimes with cattle. There is something so soothing and reassuring about a pastural landscape, I think that it goes very deep in a person, to see the land being used and crops being grown, it gives a deep feeling of safety and that all is still well with our earth despite all the environmental problems.

And then I spotted a red ribbon in this tree and it reminded me of an old tradition, not only in Ireland as I have seen it in South India too. People tie ribbons usually on hawthorn trees as a gift for spirits or fairies and as a symbol of a prayer or a wish granted, usually someone with an illness or unhappiness. This is done mainly during May around the feast of Bealtaine. I was quite surprised to spot this ribbon and it does add to the interest.

But here are also some of the wild flowers along my path, as always such a delight.

It has been another glorious day today after a real thunderstorm yesterday with a heavy rain shower, but it is this rain that makes the countryside in Ireland so green, lush and beautiful. We very seldom get thunder here usually only one clap and done, but this one took half an hour with brilliant skies and fantastic lightning and afterwards when the sky cleared and the rain stopped all was still, and then a blackbird started to sing!

JUST NOW

Just now we returned from catching some fresh air and admiring the beauty of Loch Hyne some 10 minutes drive from here. There were many people, young and old swimming and more people chatting over cups of tea. The sun had come out and it was now actually warm. A most beautiful evening and a great ambience.

I noticed two new flowering plants that I want to identify. Ok I think that both these two photos are Sea Spurreys. The one on the right might be Greater Sea spurrey (Spergularia media) but I have a suspicion that it is actually Rock Spurrey but in order to confirm that I have to go back and check the underside of the sepals. This little flower has 10 stamens and the sepals are shorter than the petals. The photo on the left, I will also go and double check this little plant, it is a Spurrey but I am not sure which one, probably the same as the one on the right but not in as good a condition. So some homework for me to do.

Lichens growing on the stone wall.

We both feel refreshed and ready to head into a peaceful night.

SOFTLY FLOWS THE RIVER ILEN ~ another walk

On a fine day like today I took a long walk along the river Ilen. After it has meandered through the town of Skibbereen it flows towards Old Court and this is where my hike took me. The Ilen river ‘An Aighlinnis’ in Gaelic, is beautiful. It flows from the Mullaghmesha mountain in the area between Drimoleague and Dunmanway. Skibbereen is the largest settlement along its way to the sea at Baltimore. Here, just outside the town and downstream a lot of young and sportive folks enjoy canoeing, and upstream it is salmon and trout fishing that attracts people to its waters. I have always personally liked the Ilen river because often when I pass it the surface would be like a mirror, reflecting the trees and houses, and that is so lovely. I think that this river makes Skibbereen and surrounding area what it is. A very scenic place.

On my walk today I crossed the ‘New’ Bridge, in my eye a beautiful bridge and I am glad to say that I found out some information about the design of this bridge. I love old bridges.

Here at low tide it is easy to see the abutments just above the water which act as support for the arches and strengthen the whole structure against the power of the flowing water.

‘New’ bridge has got beautiful arches, this bridge has been constructed with segmental arches.  This arch type is made from a segment of a circle, allowing for a flatter arch, which in turn allowed for flatter carriageways, and to reduce the hump-back profile. This hump-back profile was the result of an earlier design of a masonry bridge where the arch was constructed in a semi-circular form.  These bridges are still very common in County Cork.  The segmental style, however, became a common feature of 19th century bridges and ‘New’ Bridge in Skibbereen is a fine example of such a style. The bridge is constructed of limestone and sandstone which is the rock most commonly found in the area.

So I started towards Church Cross on the N71, this is a very popular walk with keep fit enthusiasts. Looking back towards the town I was surprised to see some horses grazing in a field bordering the river.
My walk took me over ‘New’ Bridge where plenty of wild flowers grown on its walls. Common mouse-ear and oxeye daisies among others.

This walk took me one hour and was most pleasant and, at the moment, at least it was very quiet. The sun was blazing and the wind played in my hair and was very refreshing. What a treat after all the gardening work which was rather intense during the past week. I decided that I will keep Sundays for walking, although around here it is better not to stick to a certain day as you never know what the weather will bring.

In the black circle is the route of my walk, when I see it on the map it is a tiny walk in the larger area of Skibbereen area.
While both Ian and I returned to this spot by the river today we noticed several fish jumping up and down. The river Ilen is known to be one of the cleanest rivers in Ireland. We are so lucky.

A NEW WALK

As from a few days ago, and after a lockdown period of over seven weeks we over seventies are allowed out for a daily walk. Well I did not have to be told twice and though it was raining for the last two days I did go out. But today the sun shone and it was mild again and beautiful. I badly needed to connect with nature big time, and so I choose a walk which was the last walk my grandchildren and I did together in early February. It is a country road close to our town, taking you right out into farmland, a sight to behold, beautiful.
The sun playing through the leaves of the trees threw dappled shadows on to the road, something that I love to see whether it is in a painting or in reality.
This is farm land, lovely to behold and behind those hills in the distance is the sea, the Atlantic Ocean!