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.

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.

 

 

 

 

WINTER GARDEN

taking stock of garden winter 2018

Beginning of January, and even though the days are still quite dark, there is a change to be noticed and it does the soul good.  The mist and heavy clouded days have left us for the last few days, and though we have still not seen any sunshine, there seems to be more light in the sky.  It is good, I think that one could learn to live without any sunshine, though it is hard to get used to it – it seems to be here to stay!

This morning I went into the garden and took stock of what is happening, and there is lots!  There are the strong rigid and juicy looking leeks, the bright red and colourful chard, the celery and the cropping cabbages.  There are also the many different herbs which are flourishing right now, oregano, thyme, lavender, sage, feverfew, dandelion, mullein, broad leaved parsley, three-cornered wild leeks, young cleavers, and even some young and tender nettles.  It’s a very mild winter here, though we had very much rain during October, November and part of December.  The temperature has not gone much below 10 or 11C and the soil temperature has only just now reached 10C whereas it kept to a steady 12 to 15C before Christmas.

The days for planning my garden for the next season are now, that is always very enjoyable.  This year my plan it to grow many more flowers, wild and cultivated, so that as many as possible insects will have food.   For ourselves I plan to grow some flowering shrubs that will cheer us during winter.  Bright yellow Forsythia comes to mind, but more research is wanted.

What I take away from this winter is that there are certain vegetables that will grow easily and that we eat every day, these would be leeks, kale, chard, and herbs, these I will grow again and more plentiful next winter.

I wish those of us who garden a great season and much fun and happiness in their garden! 🙂

 

HENHAM REVISITED

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Autumn can conjure up a variety of different colours and heart warming scenes, and this past October has been more mellow and beautiful than most. And a lovely golden sunshine has illuminated everything that it has touched.

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We have been staying in the ancient stables of the parsonage in the village of Henham in Essex. The cottage is lying next to a fine church built with use of flint stone. A fine square tower rises against the blue sky, and surrounding, the magnificent trees shed their leaves over ancient graves. Ugly gargoyles feature here and there, some almost completely erased.

The trees are most lovely this time of year, colours varying from deep dark red to pale yellow , gold, ochre, or sepia, a beautiful pallet. But it’s not only the colours that are like velvet to the eye, it is the shape and size of the ancient trees that attract the attention.

The architecture found in this village has always fascinated me, the thatched roofs, the variety of cottage styles, the village green, all make for a picture card scene. But that is only me romanticising because this village is also a vibrant and dynamic community and that has perhaps got to be of more importance for the people living here.

 

READING THE LANDSCAPE

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The landscape that I am thinking about if not some wild stretch along the coast or hill side here in West Cork.  It is, rather, my immediate surroundings – our garden, where I have access any time of day or night and can make observations in any season of the year.  Let it be during my early morning stroll past the vegetable plots to the back where everything is disorderly and where wild things grow, or let it be during the height of day when the sun is streaming through the tree canopies, or at times when Irish mist engulfs us and brings the clouds real close to the earth.  Night time too is good to find and learn to understand the many creatures that are about.

Our garden is small, it slopes down slightly and it has four mature trees giving shade, a chestnut, silver birch, hawthorn, and a Mediterranean oak.  These all provide shelter for the many birds that frequent on a daily basis, from the little wren to the hooded crows – all are very welcome.

I find it a source of immense pleasure and joy to observe not only all the plants that grow, but to see and know all the wildlife – every little creature, to find out their species, their lifecycle, their name.  To take photos of them helps me sometimes to study one or other aspect of them in more detail.  There is always more to learn and discover, and I find a lot of information on Google as well as in books.

Why my garden, and not the larger landscape around me.  Well it is down to logistics really, my garden I can go into at any moment, it is a daily ritual, a meditation that I have got so used to that it would be hard to live without it.  The wider landscape does get observed too, but not that frequently.

In the garden next door the people keep a pony, this attracts a certain amount of flies to the neighbourhood and that is good.  The other neighbour keeps a small hive of bees, and it is nice to have those come into the garden at times.  Behind our dilapidated sheds at the very back, where some rotting wood also gives shelter to a variety of insects, the ground, covered in wild plants and grasses, slopes down towards the town, well below us.

And so this small bit of nature, filled with wild plants and herbs has an eco-system all of its own, rich in variety and brimming with creatures, a goldmine for anyone with an interest.  Great joy can be found in reading this landscape and finding new discoveries every day.  The changing seasons, even the high temperatures and drought recently brought about unique or forgotten surprises, like the very large wasps that we had not seen for many years.

I watch, and listen, and observe, and I find that the natural world is a great source of joy!

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Red Admiral - Vanessa atalanta,

Aglais urticae - small tortoiseshell

SUMMER IS UPON US

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I saw a heart in the sky the other day, and I would like to wish all my friends and followers love and kindness in their lives.

Lots is happening in the garden of course at this time of the year, wonderful things;  strawberries ripen, some are eaten by the birds who then give us their beautiful singing in return.  Basil mint is about the nicest scented mint I ever smelled, I am glad to have been given a pot of it.  The empty beehive on the little roof in our next door neighbour’s garden has of today received a swarm of bees.  We have to find out yet what type they are, they came buzzing around my head quite aggressively while we were drinking tea outside, so I wonder.  The comfrey flowers got destroyed by a week of wind and rain and it is now all manure on some of the raised beds.  There are but few flowers left in the garden at present but more are on the way to blooming.

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I think that there is something so nice about seeing clean linnen blowing in the wind outside, the will be so fresh when I take them in.

But more importantly here is an small update of my experiment in plot 1 and plot 2.

In Plot 1 the beans are finally growing better, they are well established and are climbing up the poles.  The spinach on the other hand are bolting, though they are growing leaves too.  There is a lot of wild plants growing in between the beans beside the spinach, the beans, and the radish (for the experiment).  I have found double poppies and also borage plants which I want to keep so I am not touching them at the moment.  In Plot 2, and there is a huge difference, there is nothing growing from under the leaf mould.  I am still giving this plot seaweed fertilizer every week.  I have sown radish there also.  The bean plants are doing ok but they are only 42cm high whereas the ones in plot 1 are already 82cm high.  So there is a marked difference between the two plots already.  In plot 2 also I have found a few flowers on the beans.  When not raining I give both plots water.  I have also noticed that now that the leaves on the trees in the canopy above my two plots are throwing a huge amount of shadow – I think that this is interfering with the growth of my plants.

And here  in the following photos are some of the other vegetables growing such as asparagus, onion, marrow, rhubarb, chard, kale, leeks, orka, several different types of herbs, and finally runner beans and broad beans.  If they all do well we will not be stuck for vegetables next winter.

This beautiful Cinnabar moth was on the leaves of the lemon balm.

CINNABAR MOTH - TYRIA JACOBAEAE

I was given this lovely window hanger by my daughter, I like it very much.  White and blue (in this case the sky) are some of my favourite colours.

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And so ends my present story of my garden.  I’m in the garden everyday, planting out young vegetables and tending to seedlings.  I love it very much.  The birds are singing, blackbirds have nests quite close by and are feeding their young.  I find that the closeness to the earth and the soil is what gives me solace and is what keeps me very happy indeed.  I can only say one thing about it….

IT IS PURE MAGIC!

GREEN-VEINED WHITE – Pieris napi

Today while gardening a lovely butterfly came to check out some dark pink Oxalis flowers, it was a warm and sunny day here in West Cork, and because the two previous days we experienced soft Irish rain the garden was fresh and beautiful. The colours and the green shades were easy on the eye. And since we have quite a few wild flowers in bloom, we are visited by a good variety of visitors from the insect world. But today it was the butterflies that took away first price.  Yes, since I started reading the book “The Butterfly Isles: A Summer in Search of Our Emperors and Admirals” by Patrick Barkham, my interest in butterflies has intensified. Patrick Barkham first went butterfly spotting as a child with his father in Norfolk. His book documents his search for different butterflies found in the British islands. It is a slow read but quite interesting, I am hooked.
I think that the butterfly in my photos is a Green-veined White (Pieris Napi).

Biodiversity Ireland is holding a Butterfly Bash this week and we are sending records of all the butterflies we see into https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/start-recording

Lovely to have seen this striking butterfly today and I will be on the look out for more. I hope you enjoy them too.

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“WE ARE ALL BUTTERFLIES. EARTH IS OUR CHRYSALIS.” LeeAnn Taylor