GREETING SPRING

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“I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.”
Ruth Stout

A recent visit to the walled garden at Holkham Hall in Norfolk, UK gave us a fine variety of flowers already in full bloom.  How lovely a day it was, many birds were singing, and the scent of some of the flowery shrubs wafted towards us while we were watching the bees and other insects fly from one flower to another.

No better introduction to an English garden than in the early spring.

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A large variety of beautifully coloured and fresh spring flowers

The Witch-hazel catkins, Quince blossom,  Hellebores, and Rhododendron

Edgeworthia chrysantha flower and shrub, beautifully scented and new to me.

Ceanothus arboreus is a lovely shrub which blue flowers are loved by the insects.

 

Holkham Hall dates back to the 18th century, its extensive grounds consist of some 25,000 acres.  The walled garden was originally developed by Samuel Wyatt during the late 1700s and is now still under restoration.  It comprises 6 acres and is surrounded by a high red brick wall.  This was our second visit to Holkham hall estate and I have enjoyed both visits very much, last time we saw the deer grazing among the most beautiful ancient trees that are on the land.

A beautiful  Italian iron-work gate brought from Venice in 1908 makes for a great entrance into the walled gardens.

The few days we spent in Norfolk with Ian’s family, and this visit to Holkham gardens allowed us a nice transition from Gozo back to West Cork, it was a nice introduction to spring in the more northern islands of Europe.

 

 

FIRST DAY OF SPRING

This morning we awoke to another beautiful day, it was warm and sunny, with a fresh breeze. After a long breakfast with Ian my legs could not wait to get going again, a nice walk around the areas of Victoria which I did not get to see yet was in order. I had actually not planned anything in particular, but had to do some shopping on the way home, so I decided to go direction Xaghra, this walk would take you up a steep hill, but it looks interesting. However when I reached the bridge just before the hill I noticed some water fowl, some ducks among which I thought were a few Muscovy ducks, red head, interesting looking.  So I decided to follow the ducks, under the bridge they went away from the reservoir and into a river or is it a watery storm drain, I am not sure.  The one side is very smooth and is dug out in the limestone, with what seems blue clay toward the bottom, the other side is a path, and that is the path I decided to follow, along with the water fowl.  A class of school children were walking ahead of me but otherwise it was a very quiet place with lots of fresh greenery along the path’s borders.  I found, a little yellow flower, which at the moment is flowering all over Gozo, it is the creeping wood sorrel.  On the water side there were castor oil plants with their beautiful red leaves and dark red seeds.  Some borage gave splashed of bright blue, and the prickly pear cacti, tall and impressive made good fencing.  The path was smooth to walk on, and flat which I took note of because it would be an ideal walk for Ian too.  Toward the end of the path there are two very large eucalyptus trees, the ground at this moment is covered with the halve circle leaves, and some seed capsules that came down with the last high winds were lying around too.  I smelled them to see if I should take some home as they are good against colds (not for internal consumption though).  And then all of a sudden I was on the main road to Xaghra and turned again toward the centre of town.  Here along the road I found goosegrass growing, it is a plant that I have used before, stewed in soups.  It is great to see so much greenery around the place, when we first arrived in autumn everything was brown and dried out.

Signs of spring are everywhere, it promises to be a beautiful summer!

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SUCH IS MY GARDEN RIGHT NOW

I had a look at what’s growing right now in my garden, just before I am going away for a while. There are still quite a few vegetables doing well and looking rather lovely and fresh. Mainly leeks, purple flowering broccoli, some Brussels sprouts, kale, round white radishes, some beetroots, and chives, rosemary, lavender, sage, oregano, tansy, comfrey, lady’s mantle, hypericum, and mint. The three corned wild leeks and the goosegrass have come up as they do every year, so though the garden does look very disorganised and a bit dismal, there is still a lot happening.

Included in my plans for this year are a lot more flowers, the borage has already made a little bit of an appearance, and I am happy about that because that plant attracts so many bees and other insects.  This is going to be most important this coming summer.  I have bought some seeds, but mainly for a good deal I will have to rely on buying plants this year as I wont’ be here to do much sowing.  Fine that is no problem around here, there are many plant sellers on the weekly market, their plants are good, grown organically and I’ve used them on and off for years.  I am relying on some other bloggers to find out about advice on which flowers are best for our bees, butterflies and insects in general.  Like what I read tonight about Bee Catnip-Mountain Mint on https://thegardendiaries.wordpress.com

Here some very pretty veggies in the garden right now.  And today  I saw my first bumblebee, a good start.  I was with my grandchildren for the weekend and we all did some sowing and some potato planting, it was a good all round, and delightful to hear their comments on growing vegetables.

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PART TWO OF A WINTER GARDEN IN CAMBRIDGESHIRE

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.

 

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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.

 

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Ferns, and also Euphorbias make a lovely display.

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The colorful leaves of the Epimedium versicolor are a great ground cover.

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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.

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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.

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 Winter scenting Sarcococca confusa sweet box

Sarcococca confusa or Sweet BoxThis 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.

 

 

YOUNG TENDER SHOOTS AND COLOURS

I took a walk around the garden this mild spring afternoon. I went to see what vegetables are still growing, and what young tender shoots or flowers are hiding here and there, and of course they were. I came across a whole range of fresh young growth that shot up all of a sudden because of the sunshine in the past week.
The comfrey, tansy, lungwort, hypericum, foxglove, wild leeks, are all throwing out young shoots, some are near flowering. My winter garden did not produce as much as I had planned, partly because the slugs ate some of the produce, and partly because the rain and storms destroyed some of the vegetables, in fact the soil became too wet for anything to grow. But the Brussels sprouts are still growing strongly, small as they are, they are looking good enough. My white round radishes are doing well, as are the beetroots and the leeks. And the kale is still lasting, even if we ate from the plants regularly. One of my kale plants has grown over 1.50m and is looking fabulous, I am leaving it as an experiment, it is now growing new small leaves among the large old ones, I want to see what happens next.  The lavender plants are shooting up well, the grey green young leaves adding to the variety of colours now in the garden, as are the primroses and grape hyacinths, they are just about flowering, they too are bringing some very welcome colour to the garden.  And our little Korean fir tree is really doing well, ever since I put it outside again after Christmas it has been showing an abundance of shoots, leaves but also cones, beautiful.

In another week or so we shall be going away for a month, and so my garden will have to take care of itself, which I am sure it is very well capable of, I am already curious what I will find when we return, will there be a lot of wild plants, to be sure there will be, I remember from last year that the goose grass had overtaken the garden fast enough.  I will let it be, I’ll tell my grandchildren to come and take away the produce that is there though.  One job that I will try and fit in is to spread some leaf manure over the raised beds, I think the soil will benefit from it greatly and I have plenty of it.

And now soon for us it will be looking at the flora, the insects, the architecture, the folklore, the rocks, and the people of the island of Malta, a whole new experience awaits.
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EASTER ART AND FUN WITH MY GRANDDAUGHTERS

Today my two oldest grandchildren came over to have some quality time with gran. We had a lovely time painting and colouring duck eggs for Easter. The girls were in great form and soon the place was full of brightly coloured arty decorations. Branches were picked out of the garden and decorated with eggs. But the girls then got side tracked and started sewing which turned out go be great fun, they surprised me with their handy work, sewing on buttons and ribbons, we then decided to go visit the local sewing shop and after much deliberation they both bought some really fancy buttons. After shopping we passed the playground and I thought it a good idea to let the get rid of some of their energy. The rest of the day was filled with more art, some seed sowing, and a yummy dinner. Tonight I am wrecked, had a lovely day, and happy to hand the children back to their parents, ready for bed.  These times though, are very precious.
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ITS ALL FLOWERS TODAY

Today we went to visit an organic farm some little way down the road, nearer to the coast. The farm was fabulous with lots of vegetable beds, several tunnels full of seedlings and much more, I did not think it right to photograph the place, so while the farmer and my partner were talking I found some lovely flowers to take photos of (with my phone). So here they are.
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I WANDERED LONELY AS A CLOUD

I picked a nice bunch of Daffodils in the garden yesterday, and they opened up during the night in the warm room.  There is a slight scent coming from them, some are doubles, only one is a single Daffodil.  Looking at them here from where I am sitting, and enjoying their beauty, I am thinking of planting some more of them for next spring!  I thought I’d share part of one of my favourite Wordsworth poems;  “I wandered lonely as a cloud”

“I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
William Wordsworth

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