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 ūüôā

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.

THE GARDEN IS AWAKENING

I guess it is – or rather – the gardener is awakening! Because a good crop of herbs and vegetables was growing all winter long in our little garden. But today I started getting organized because there is lots to do, and I cannot wait to get going!

Vegetables in abundance – overwintering colourful Chard, Rosemary, Kale and Celery.
The Lavender is in good condition after the winter, and the Rosemary bush is getting larger by the day.

Much of my space is still taken up by winter vegetables but some of the beds are ready, one for potatoes, and another one for flowers, this season the emphasis is going to be on food for the insects, that is so important today.

This book I took out of the library, lots of information on what to grow to help butterflies survive, great for ideas.

So yes there is lots going on even as early in spring as right now. We have enough food coming from the garden, and that helped me make the decision to grow a lot more flowers seeing that insect population is under such threat. But personally I am also very happy with this decision because I am very fond of flowers.

Dear friends, followers, and readers of my blog, I would like to thank you for all your encouragement. I’m coming up to 800 followers now and I treasure everyone of you.

AN UPDATE ON MY GROWING EXPERIMENT

I already notice quite some difference even though the plants have barely been able to establish themselves and have been fighting lots of slugs despite my efforts at keeping them checked. ¬† Plot one (compost from organic waste) is way ahead of plot two (leaf mould & organic seaweed fertilizer).¬† The young plants in plot one already look much healthier than those in plot two, but of course there are variables, like plot two is getting the evening sun while plot one is getting sun most of the day.¬† Both are overshadowed by now with tree canopy’s.¬† Weather has been very warm with no rain in the last fortnight.¬† Terrible trouble with slugs despite going out every night and picking them off, even now resorted to using organic slug pellets.¬† Cats have also done damage by uprooting young plants and messing soil, hence the covering of my two control plots.¬† I’ve lost some bean plants but have sowed more of them.

Top left is a bean plant of plot two, underneath a bean plant of plot one Рbig difference so far.  On right are the spinach seedlings and beneath on left the radish seedlings all of which are part of the experiment and are ready to plant out.

And besides the ongoing experiment I have quite a few other young plants ready to be planted out, such as leaf beet, kale, marrow, marigolds, borage to name but a few.

The broad beans which I planted out a month ago are now in flower, I did have trouble with some black mould or fly on them, someone called it Chocolate Spot. I sprayed it with a combination of tea tree oil and a natural soap, I also nipped out the affected parts and it seems to have solved the problem.  Today I can see young beans appearing on the plants already.

Some of my variety of herbs growing good, two different types of thyme, two different types of oregano, lemon balm, rosemary, lavender, and more to be added.

Garden is absolutely full of insects especially bumblebees and bees.  The cat is the culprit that does damage, but she is rather beautiful!  The two comfrey plants are flowering and have grown enormously, the variety of bumblebees visiting these plants is fantastic!

And finally some good reading.¬† I started ‘The Butterfly Isles’ a while ago, it is a slow read but delightful and so informative – learning such a lot about butterflies habitats in Britain.¬† The other one I’m reading is great too, ‘Earth Matters’ is all about the soil and the importance of it and how soil underlies civilization, it contains so much good information and is told¬† in an interesting way – enjoying this, it’s written by¬†Richard Bardgett and published by Oxford University Press.

Some weeks ago after I finished my course about the soil (with FutureLearn).¬† Then just recently¬† I started another online course this time with Coursera.¬† Its run by the University of Tel Aviv and it is all about plant physiology, quite deep and intense but also very interesting.¬† I’m sure happy to be able to avail of these on-line courses, they are a great discipline and education.¬† I am extremely busy and hardly find the time to write a blog post, but I hope all my friends and followers have enjoyed my update.

An interesting facebook site of GROWOBSERVATORY

https://www.facebook.com/GROWObservatory/?fref=mentions

DANCE OF THE SPIDERS

Yesterday I took a look at some of the spiders which were hanging around the garden, seeing that the turn of the season is almost upon us and with the morning mists and the evening becoming cooler, the spiders seem to become much more noticeable. They immediately reminded me of ballerinas, especially the three first ones that I came across, they are garden spiders, Araneus diadematus, also called the Crowned Orb Weaver. You see those a lot around here, they are quite beautiful and have sometimes huge webs.  They rarely enter the house.  In autumn the gardens are full of them.  I took the first three photos, of two different spiders just outside along the wall beside the rainwater barrel.

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The fine slender spider is quite unfamiliar to me and I cannot locate it, I did not see it before in the garden either.

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Here in between two leaves (the leaves looked as if they had been pulled together into some sort of hammock),¬†there are two garden spiders, sleeping perhaps, not sure but they looked quite cosy in there. I’ll be keeping an eye out for other species with the autumn starting. We are still getting nice weather, perhaps we might even get an Indian summer. Schools have started and everyone is getting back into routine, we saw a great number of swallows gathering on a neighbour’s roof, another sign of the season’s changing and their farewell to our shores, and we ourselves¬†are preparing for our journey to warmer climate too.

BUTTERFLIES, HONEYBEES AND THE NEIGHBOUR’S CAT

A happy Monday morning wishes to all, hope that your week has started well. My week could not have started any better when early on I woke up to glorious sunshine. I happen to glance out of the window to the front garden and the buddleia bush and there I saw the most beautiful butterflies, five different species.¬†They were¬†fluttering among the honeybees of which there were over half a dozen.¬† ¬†I stood watching them for a long time and only then thought about taking some photos and I’m glad that I did because in a way I feel that I have captured their beauty to share with so many others, and that makes me happy!

What a beautiful time of the year it is!
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This is a peacock butterfly, it is found all over Ireland. It hibernates during the winter. It’s got to be the most beautiful of the butterflies in Ireland.
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This was amazing, so many species on the one flower spike, there is the red admiral, these feed on over-ripe fruit and also in particular you see them on the buddleia bush. There is also a painted lady and a small tortoise butterfly.¬† Not to forget the lovely honeybee, it’s so nice to see many of these around isn’t it, knowing that they are on the decline.

Painted Lady butterfly
Painted Lady butterfly

After I had stood there for a long time watching them, there came a neighbour’s cat and she could think of nothing better to do but to try and catch the butterflies, she managed to get hold of one branch of flowers and destroyed that, but the butterflies were able to escape and of course, much as I love cats, she got chased away very quickly by me.

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GIFTS FROM MY LATE SUMMER GARDEN

Half way through August in Ireland is already considered to be ‘late’ summer. Some years the month of¬†August would bring autumn-like storms and lots of rain with chilly evenings, but this year, however, it has been warm, yes even warmer than usual, and the past few days the temperature has reached into the twenties (C). It’s just a lovely time of the year I think.
I’ve been away for a while and now that I am back the¬†first thing I did was to go and have a good look around my garden. I have a lot to consider because in another few weeks we will be away for several months and though the house will be lived in, the garden will not be looked after. So there is planning to be done, so that when we arrive home again I can start planting and sowing straight away.

Here is what I found in the garden at present:
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Still beautiful flowers, I love hydrangeas, especially the blue coloured types.¬† These won’t need any attention as they are perennials, so they grow from year to year, all they might need is a little pruning.


Though the start of the summer brought very few insects, lately the garden has been full of them, bees, bumblebees, beetles, all sorts of flies, and so on, also the ants are ever present. The insect hotel has been quite occupied it seems and that is encouraging.

Seeds are starting to ripen.  Here in the garden it is the evening primrose plant and the thistle especially that are ripening fast, both of which I want to save for sharing later with my local GIY group.  The seeds of the thistle of course I grew especially for the gold finch, so far I have not seen any but the they will come, they do every year.

I used the last of my comfrey tea and the barrel is ready for another brew, fortunately the comfrey grows enormously fast and another large plant is ready to use to this end.  The straw I have put in the two cold frames on top of cardboard, this will help to prepare the soil for next year, and keep stuff growing there.  Montbretia flowers still brighten up corners here and there in the wild areas.

The garden is still gifting us with raspberries which are sweet and tasty, I also love the tansy flowers and of course the white hydrangeas at the back of the garden which this year are giving an amazing display.

This is an update of sorts, I needed to have this on record above all, and it has done me good, if anything, writing about my garden, and taking the photos is a really relaxing activity for me, I enjoy it very much and that has got to be good.