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.

MY GARDEN ~ AT THIS TIME

It is just a few days short of midsummer, and at four in the morning the light appears on the horizon. Equally at eleven thirty in the evening there are still streaks of light to be seen in the western sky. Summer is moving along smoothly even if the weather does not always help to remind us of the ‘lazy summer days’ of the past. We accept that, no two summers are alike and this year we have a cool one with a few days here and there of stunning sunshine. It is then that we think we are living in a paradise here in West Cork!

Meanwhile there is a lot happening in the garden, albeit slowly.

There are corners in the garden that are special, that remind me of older, walled-in gardens, these areas give a lot pleasure and it is nice to quietly take some time to soak in their atmosphere. As well as that I am mindfully creating such areas, they don’t need to be large, just certain well placed plants or items can work to create such views and feelings. Here are a few.

And more regular features in the following photos, the garden is coming up to its most mature time.

Though I am introducing more shrubs this year, I also still need to grow vegetables. I failed to get the potatoes in before it was too late, and I only have a very poor show of a few of last years potatoes that came up. At the market this morning I bought autumn leeks, and a variety of leaves, scallions, and spinach, delicious salads are promised but planting out in the next few days will be essential. I’m growing a few endive plants too and runner beans.
The Tansy is now taller than the Lavender, I am awaiting its yellow herby flowers to display a nice bouquet inside.
Lavender harvest

While observing our garden I came to the conclusion that what grows best are the different herbal plants and the wild plants. Some of the vegetables do well also, for example last winter’s kale and chard did extremely well, those not eaten became gigantic plants in the end and I left whatever was still there after the winter go into flower early in spring to provide food for the bumblebees. A beautiful yellow show it was. I cannot seem to grow beans, no success at all, but leeks do great every winter. Lavender does marvellous too.

A little catch up on the shed restoration. Brendan, the man that has been helping us did great work but has not been able to come for several weeks now and so the work has been stopped for a while, hopefully next week that will get moving again. I am still determined to finish this project before the end of summer. It is funny that Pinterest keeps sending me ideas on how to build my potting bench, a subject I was exploring recently. Well, I am a bit of a dreamer too and I like to look at ideas, partly for inspiration but also just to dream…..and Pinterest is great for that.

Wishing all my dear friends, family and followers a blessed midsummer time, and I hope to connect soon again with all of you.

A LATE SUMMER EVENING SKY

When summer gathers up her robes of glory, And, like a dream, glides away.     
Sarah Helen Whitman

I took a walk this evening and felt a real bit of a chill in the air, but it was still lovely and the breeze was actually refreshing after I spent the day painting inside. And I did find some time to check a few herbs in the garden. I also include a couple of photos from a few days ago. I’m busy with my new herb course. I am also learning more about the wild plants that come growing into the garden, at this time of year the woundwort is still in full bloom and much desired by the bumblebees, lots of them. The flower bud on my ginger plant has not changed for the past two weeks, I wonder if it will reach actual flowering but I fear not as already there is not enough sunshine and we are slowly heading into the fall season.

Stachys palustris – Marsh Woundwort
Tagetes Lucida, Mexican marigold ~ I think.
Our endive plants are flowering, a lovely blue display.

EARLY IN THE MORNING ~ LENTICULAR CLOUDS

It was very early in the morning about a week ago that upon opening the curtains I saw this surreal sky out of my bedroom window. I had been hoping to see Lenticular clouds for a long time and I still don’t know what woke me that morning and gave me this amazing spectacle, because everywhere I looked I saw that the sky was dotted with these shaped clouds, I am not sure why Salvador Dali came to mind.

And so I walked out in the early morning air to check over the garden. Lots of lush growth has been happening since the rains started some weeks ago, the more delicate flowers and the lavender have been affected, but there are plenty of new flowers opening.

Some of the landscape around the lovely little town of Skibbereen, how beautiful it really is.

And so the summer is passing quite fast. We are not cocooning anymore but life is not yet back to normal. Nicest of all is that our grandchildren have been allowed to visit us again, and as we just heard that schools are to start again next month we are making the most of our times together.

At the moment I am working on an inventory of everything that grows in our garden, firstly because parts of it is very overgrown and I want an overview in order to plan better for next season. And secondly I like doing stuff like that. I find creating a word document with added photos works well, and I print out a page per raised bed and some pages besides for the rest of the garden. It’s a nice little project. I plan to grow at least some more flowering shrubs and right now I am checking out which ones would be most suitable for our smallish garden. I’m reading up on pruning too to look after the shrubs that I set last year. It’s such an absorbing activity. When I think of it my garden is my gym, it gives me a cardiac workout, it gives me fresh air, sunshine (sometimes), it de-stresses me and gives me plenty of possibility to meditate and enjoy its beauty and it even gives us organic and delicious vegetables.

What a fantastic blessing.

THE GARDEN IS A BLESSING

Yes it is great to be able to get out into the garden and see all the young growth, as well as the insects that are about already. So far I’ve seen two butterflies, small tortoiseshells, a bumblebee, a bee and some small fly types. The photo above is of an hoverfly if I am right. It is great to see the return of the insects. It gives us hope during these surreal days.

I actually spent time in the garden to plant out my 14 broad bean plants, and as today we had a lull in the stormy and very wet weather of recent times, it was ideal to do my work. Two broad bean plants the only ones left of what I sowed in the autumn are in flower.

We have been self isolating for a week as a precaution against the corona virus because of our age. For us it is not a problem as we are both retired and we can shop online for food. Of course as this whole situation is developing sometimes it feels to me like a surreal film that I am watching. Stay safe all my friends and followers. Much love to everyone.

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/

LATE SUMMER IS MAGICAL

Today the temperature went up to 28C which is very warm for West Cork. Beautiful sunshine and blue sky added to our pleasures, and a little breeze made it so that I could work in the garden. Our very overgrown and wild garden, our Ark, has attracted an enormous number of insects and butterflies during the summer months, and still there is a great number of hoverflies, a fair number of bumblebees, and many smaller flies, as well as butterflies visiting and making life very pleasant especially knowing that we are helping with the upkeep of biodiversity in Ireland. Very necessary.

A delicate thistle seed landed among some of the late flowers.
Nasturtiums have overgrown the Lavender and the Mellissa, flowering beautifully, giving bright colours.
This is my favourite photo of this summer, so lovely to see the insects feeding on the dandelion flower.
The Oregano is almost finished flowering, from my observations these flowers have attracted the most insects, they have flowered all summer and have been buzzing unbelievable.
I guess that it will take me a great deal of time during the winter to identify all my insects, I have so many photos of them and such a variety. Fun for rainy days.

Wishing each and everyone a very nice September, my month, this month I will have my 70th birthday! Again unbelievable 🙂

WHEN SEEDS ARE STARTING TO FORM

It is that time of the summer when the garden has about half of its plants in bloom, and the other half is busy forming seeds and dispersing them too. Summer breezes are helping. And despite the cooler weather and the rain, or maybe because of it, the garden is very lush at this time, and seeds are starting to be plentiful. Personally I find many seed-heads very beautiful and usually want to take them into the house for the winter, this far I have only photographed them in the past few days.
Above are the seeds of one of the Willow-herb plants (Epiloblum). I grow these in the garden, that is to say, they come growing by themselves, and this summer I just let them be.

The photo to the right above are the seeds of the Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus), a medicinal plant that I grow in the garden, it is not for use as it is a highly toxic plant and not suitable for self-medication. The flower is pretty though and I get satisfaction from growing any herbal plant. The photo on the left are the seeds of the broad-leaved plantain (plantago major) I have one large one growing in the garden and it is beautiful. I use it mainly for treating insect bites, as a compress.

So this is what happened to all my glorious poppies, I have now a myriad of seed-heads and will be able to share many seeds, and use a few of the beautiful seed-heads as winter decoration inside.

While looking over the garden for seed-heads I found this green shield-bug nymph, and not only one of them, the garden is full of these beautiful little creatures, and that is no wonder either as earlier this summer there was a multitude of the adult type mating all over the garden. This common shield bug is native to Ireland and feeds on tree and plant juices. They are harmless.

The nettles grew very tall this summer, they are now in seed. I used quite a few in cooking, but mainly I grew them for the caterpillars of Red Admiral butterflies.

And this is a most recent photo of part of my garden. It has been and still is a truly wild experience. I would go into the garden and discover more and more wild plants and many insects and creatures. The thistles are easily 3 meters high and not yet at seed stage. I will have to contain them a little when they do seed as otherwise the garden will be impossible to walk in. I firmly believe that nature is very strong, it will never be totally destroyed, it will always survive.
Apart from everything else, the beauty of nature is what we need to survive mentally and spiritually.

WILD SUMMER GARDEN ~ INSECT PARADISE

A look at our garden through the conservatory window on a rather dark day this summer, but it’s all good. This spring and summer I let all the wild plants grow wherever they wanted as first and foremost on my list was to give as much food as possible to the insects. It has worked too, we never had so many insects before. Some of the thistles at the back of the garden are now taller than myself, as are the poppies and some of the foxgloves.
It has worked, yes. At first we had a huge quantity of borage, then the kafir lilies started to flower and the marigolds, then in the beginning of May so many more flowers followed. Soon bumblebees, bees and hoverflies started to arrive. Honey bees seem to favour the kafir lilies, the bumblebees are partial to the foxgloves, the comfrey, and the borage. By now the lavender is also visited by all the insects.
As you can see, the garden is rather wild. My patch of garlic is totally overgrown with foxgloves and thistles. Unused leeks are growing and coming into flower soon, they are allowed and I am looking forward to see what they will add to the garden.
Apart from the kafir lilies we are having a super crop of red poppies which we are enjoying very much, as are the insects.
Foxgloves grow wild in Ireland, and so they just come to grow in the garden too. I love them and they are never without some insects visiting them.
Mostly herbs here, sage, oregano, lavender, Melissa, thyme, and some celery too.