The Weary Garden(er)

OrangePassion1

Live each day as if it were your last, and garden as though you will live forever.

(Author Unknown)

~~~

After two years of posting a Tuesday view it was very strange not to do so this week… but the view is getting ugly and I am tired of it. On Monday I had cut back most of the shrinking plants and finished mulching with shredded leaves – not a pretty sight! Perhaps I will come up with a new view in spring, but for now it’s time for hibernation reflection and dreaming of warm spring sunshine and colour!

SpringCorner1stApril

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.

(Henry David Thoreau)

~~~

Whilst tidying up I noticed that the Centranthus, which still had a couple of flowers on it, was already sprouting new leaves from the base. I am always amazed at how few Centranthus plants there are that fill the whole rockery in summer. One small plant that got pulled up by mistake has been replanted and I hope I will now have those red flowers all summer on the west side of the rockery too. I also noticed some Hellebore flowers and a few grape hyacinth leaves, although most of the garden is now looking brown and bare. But wasn’t it glorious in the summer!

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What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.

(Author Unknown)

~~~

In December I shall be quietly reflecting on the year in my garden and will share a few of my favourite moments. It would be lovely if any of you would like to join me and also share some of your best memories of your gardens in 2014.

What do you say?

🙂

In a Vase on Monday: Simplicity

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”

Leonardo da Vinci

~~~

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This week’s vase for In a Vase on Monday, hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden

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The grasses were what caught my eye today; some are silvery, some shimmer like gold when the sun catches them, and when I spied a white Centranthus flower among them the arrangement started to form in my mind and then in my hands as I walked around the garden.

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As I added a few more white Centranthus ruber ‘Alba’ flowers and a sprig of Daisy Fleabane I shaped the bunch of grasses around them, finally placing three white Zinnias at the front.

Do you have any pretty grasses in your garden at the moment?

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We had just gathered some hazelnuts from a small tree the squirrels have overlooked, so I have put a few next to the vase as a simple decoration (I usually forget to add a prop!).

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It was tempting to add a splash of colour, but the pink centre of one of the zinnias stands out all the more I think without any extra pink…. what do you think?

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Now take a look at some of the other vases being created around the world on a Monday for Cathy’s meme at Rambling in the Garden

Thanks Cathy!

Have a good week everyone!

Blog Hopping: Why I Write

"What's a blog hop?"

“What’s a blog hop?”

If, like me, you had never heard of a Blog Hop before, it simply entails writing a post based on a few prompts about a set subject…

Sarah at The Garden Deli surprised me with her invitaton to participate in this blog hop entitled “Why I write”. After all, Sarah IS a writer, and I’m not! I love reading Sarah’s posts. Her writing flows, and she somehow manages to move seamlessly from everyday stories about what she’s growing to wildlife topics to fresh seasonal garden ingredients, usually ending with a delicious homemade recipe.

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I think part of the blog hop idea is to introduce each other to bloggers who may write about the same things as we do, or maybe something completely different, as the blog hop also requires passing on the challenge to another handful of people.

I was a little taken aback, to be honest, when Sarah asked me, and my first thought was “How can I write about writing when I don’t write…?”! Erm, but I do write, don’t I? I suppose I have never thought about my blog in terms of “writing”.

Here are the questions to be answered:

  • What am I working on?
  • How does my writing differ from others in its genre?
  • Why do I write what I do?
  • How does my writing process work?

So here goes! I will do my best!

What am I working on?

My blog. My garden. Improving my photography. Working out how to make short videos with my camera… All of those things, as well as some translation work from home. A Herbarium was started a few years ago, which I may return to one day, and new recipes are constantly being tested and refined.

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How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

I’m really not sure! I don’t claim to be an expert on growing things and am certainly not a top chef, but if I do know something useful I like to pass it on. I suppose then that my writing is fairly informal compared to some. My photos are also often the starting point for a post for me, whether it be a haiku or a plant description, and I like to share the beauty of the plants and wildlife I see, or the food I eat; the words are important, but not always the main focus.

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Why do I write what I do?

Because I love words. Because I love plants. Because I love food. The blog was originally intended to focus on wild plants seen while walking my dogs down near the canal. But our old wolfhound hasn’t been able to manage walks for a couple of years now, so the focus became the garden and kitchen. In addition, my Tuesday Views have enabled me to keep a (visual) record of my garden over the past 18 months, which has proved to be an invaluable way to really plan future planting. Writing my blog encourages me to look for those discarded plant labels or to look up unknown plants to put names to them (and now butterflies too). So it is an incredible learning process for me.

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How does my writing process work?

Like most of you, I think, an idea pops up and you mull it over for a few hours, days, or even weeks. Then suddenly it materializes! My favourite place to write is at our dining room table… near the dogs, near the kitchen, and with a view of the garden. Perfect!

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So now I will hand the challenge over to just two other blogging friends. (I think three was mentioned, but I’m sure the rules can be bent!).

The first is a real writer whose blog I have been following for several years now. Nancy at StrawberryIndigo writes passionately and eloquently about life, nature, the environment and so much more. Her sincere and often humorous view of  life has made me one of her biggest fans!

The second is Alys at GardeningNirvana. I have only known Alys a few months and enjoy her site so much! She has a friendly and open tone that makes me feel as if we are talking over the garden fence. She grows beautiful plants and fruits, and also posts about her community Little Free Library project, the wildlife visiting her garden, garden design, as well as what she calls ‘Fairy Garden Frivolity’!

Please take a look at their sites. They will be posting soon on why they write… Thanks Alys. Thanks Nancy. I’ll link both of their blog hop posts on my site as soon as they’re published!

Thanks for reading everyone, and thanks again to Sarah at The Garden Deli!

Midsummer Haiku

June is a month for daydreaming.

Hammock

As I was cutting up strawberries for jam the other day, I took a trip down memory lane and thought about everything June is to me. Here are a few things that came to mind…

June is

Thunderflies!

Tickling my nose,

getting behind photoframes,

simply everywhere!

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Wimbledon! Walking home from the school bus on hot afternoons, the street would be quiet. Curtains were drawn against the sun, waving in the breeze – no sound except  the “pop”, “pop” of tennis ball against racket, heard from all the neighbours’ living room TVs. I would hurry as my thoughts turned to the glass of cold Ribena I would enjoy when I got in, and the match I would watch until tea time…

What’s for tea tonight?

Maybe there’ll be strawberries?

With a dash of cream.

Wild Strawberries

Strawberries! Early mornings, cycling to the strawberry fields before the sun gets too hot, daydreaming about lunch: a big bowl of strawberries with cream or yoghurt, or perhaps some creme fraiche? Picking them in the quiet is like meditating, and – totally lost in thought – the smell, sweet and sticky on my fingers, lingers.

Red, shiny plumpness

Waiting for me. The warm juice

trickles down my chin.

Elderflowers

Exam time! Being a teacher means I never left this behind after leaving school… June is always too hot for exams – sweaty hands, rolled up sleeves, long train rides for external exams with the air-conditioning barely cooling the carriages. And then the relief after it’s all over. Like the relief a thunderstorm brings after a heatwave…

The nervous laughter

rings out in the corridor.

Fears, tears, butterflies.

 

Hypericum

Glowworms! If they make an appearance, which doesn’t happen every year, the woodland path in our garden looks simply magical as they dance and hover silently in the darkness for just a few nights, and then vanish again until next year?

Little white beacon,

send your signal to be found.

A fleeting wonder.

Geum

What is June for you?

🙂

A Butterfly Diary: May

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Best-known for his carol “Hark the herald angels sing”, Reginald Heber was also a poet. His poem “The Harebell” is absolutely perfect for the view I had the day I photographed this beautiful butterfly…

 With drooping bells of clearest blue
Thou didst attract my childish view,
Almost resembling
The azure butterflies that flew
Where on the heath thy blossoms grew
So lightly trembling.

~

 Green-Underside Blue (Glaucopsyche alexis or Alexis-BlÀuling in German)

AlexisBlÀuling(Click on the photos for a closer look)

They are one of the gossamer-winged butterflies, flying from May to June, and in good weather again in July and August. The meadow where I found this one in early May (and there were several flying around me) is the perfect habitat, with plenty of nectar-rich wild flowers such as vetch, clover and harebells.

The wingspan of this one was just about 2cm. We have a few blue butterflies here, but I have never seen such a pretty one before.

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The more common one here is the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Hauhechel-BlÀuling)

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Its wingspan is only about 2.5cm, and it has beautiful orange and brown markings on the outer wings. The male is more distinctive than the female, and they can be seen all through the summer. They have been in the garden since early May this year. The Common Blue likes all sorts of vetch and clover, but I love the fact that a favourite of theirs is the Ononis spinosa (Spiny Restharrow/Hauhechel), which is one of the only thorny plants I gladly grow!

~~~

Around the 10th of May I spotted this Fritillary and decided it must be a Weaver’s Fritillary (Boloria dia, Magerrasen-Perlmuttfalter)

WeaversFritillary

(The photo was taken on a green mat, it’s not the lawn!)

I know very little about this butterfly although we often see it, but according to Wikipedia the larvae feed on Prunella and Violets, so again I have some good plants for these in my garden. The wingspan of this one is perhaps 3 or 4cm. The orange colour varies – some of them look much browner, but with the same markings.

~~~

In the middle of the month this brown butterfly made a brief appearance and I haven’t seen it since: a Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa, Rundaugen-Mohrenfalter)

WoodlandRinglet

The wings were very silky and the wingspan about 4 cm. I have looked it up and they fly from May to July, while their habitat is the edges of woodland, dry and chalky hillsides and in mountain meadows.

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The last one I could photograph towards the end of the month was the Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae, Kleiner Fuchs).

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The Centranthus is opening and these fairly large butterflies (3-4cm) are attracted to its red flowers. They will be in the garden all year – the first are in March on the spring flowers, and the last love to visit the Sedum and Asters in autumn.

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Other butterflies spotted were the Brimstones and Orange Tips as well as the Green-Veined White. I also briefly saw the first Hummingbird Hawk-Moths in a warm spell, just as the Centranthus was opening – they will be back and I hope to get some photos of them.

A few other flying vistors made an appearance too. Firstly this Large Red Damselfly…

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then this tiny dragonfly…

Libelle

And finally this amazing creature!

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It liked my metal butterfly decoration! I found out that it is a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly (Libellula depressa, Plattbauch) and is one of the most common dragonflies in Europe. This is a young male, with a blue tinge to the abdomen, and yellow patches which can also be seen clearly. It is pretty big – about 7 cm long and the abdomen as thick as my little finger. The Wikipedia page has lots of information on this dragonfly – perhaps you see it too?

That’s it for May – not bad, as The June Gap usually makes itself felt at the end of May and early June, when the spring generation fades away and the new summer generations are yet to emerge. (See Sarah’s post from last year on The June Gap at The Garden Deli).

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Finally, some words from the late poet and human rights activist, Maya Angelou:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”

~

Have you seen many butterflies so far this spring? What is the most common one near you at this time of year? Please share!

Links:

The June Gap

Big Butterfly Count (UK)

Identifying Butterflies etc (UK)

The Guardian – Dragonfly Gallery

Beyond the Garden Gate in May

Beyond the garden gate there is a lovely meadow, left to grow until early June, when it will be cut for hay.

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This year the dandelions were less profuse, making room for moon daisies and meadow sage, clover, buttercups and many grasses, but it was the harebells that drew me in…

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Several different kinds grow nearby, and can be seen all through the summer along the roadsides, nodding lazily in the breeze as we rush past… such romantic little flowers!

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Campanula patula

This one has pointed petals unlike the more well-known harebell Campanula rotundifolia (the Scottish bluebell). I call them all harebells, but Wikipedia calls these “bellflowers”…

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~~~

I love the fair lilies and roses so gay,
They are rich in their pride and their splendor;
But still more do I love to wander away
To the meadow so sweet,
Where down at my feet,
The harebell blooms modest and tender.

by Dora Read Goodale – Queen Harebell.

~~~

Do harebells grow near you too?

~~~

Have great weekend!

😀

Book Review: The Knot, by Jane Borodale

“Knowledge should run freely between men and women, readily available to those who care to know…”

(Henry Lyte, in “The Knot”)

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Henry Lyte was  a British botanist, living in the 16th century. He became well known for his translation of Rembert Dodoens’ “Cruydeboeck” – a register of mainly herbs and medicinal plants which was translated by other famous botanists into French and Latin as well as other languages. Other botanists around this time were Carolus Clusius (who gave Gentiana clusii its name), John Gerard (Geradia), John Tradescant (Tradescantia), or Mathias de l’Obel (Lobelia).

This novel is a fictional account of his life with his family on the Somerset Levels in the west of England.

“The Knot”, by Jane Borodale

TheKnot

While raising a large family, managing an estate, fighting a lawsuit by his father’s second wife for possession of his ancestral home, and creating a garden, Henry Lyte is also busy translating a botanical masterwork into English – a long process involving hours of dedicated and meticulous concentration, that will be of monumental importance to those who, in Elizabethan England, are unable to pay a physician and need information on medicinal plants in the English language. Henry dreamed: “Imagine a world where good health is a universal possibility!”

As the story slowly unravels, with Henry’s second wife Frances taking trouble in settling in, and the loss of several children to illness, we sense a secret regarding the death of his first wife, Anys. The sense of anticipation lasts throughout the book, though not affecting the gentle pace of rural life and the methodical progress of his work. In fact the tranquility of the garden and the down-to-earth gardener who always seems to be present seem to emanate peace and harmony, counterbalancing the annoyance Henry feels about his wife’s lack of interest in his garden, and his step-mother’s claim to his home.

Henry loves his garden and plants above everything it seems… One evening his wife refuses to accompany him to view the madonna lilies, so he goes out alone:

“He bends his head and breathes deeply. If only more men would take the chance to drink in the smell of lilies in the night in June, he thinks. There can be nothing so delicious. Nothing that could make a man so contented. He feels dizzy with love and tenderness for his garden. Above him is the clicking of bats, and a pale moth looms and flutters near the grass. He tilts his face to the moon and closes his eyes to its whiteness, bathes in its unflinching gaze. The air is warm. He feels enveloped, cupped between the sky and the earth…”

The passing of seasons and the constant references to plants and herbs growing in the marshy surroundings or in his own garden drew me into the story. As did the disparity between Henry’s love of nature and mankind, and his unintentional negligence to the needs of his family. He can, however, give his seeds and beans his absolute attention. On inspecting them he sees:

“… they are all – he feels quite overwhelmed with the sheer mass of them – waiting… And the promise they contain. These things seem dead, and yet… A few drops of water, the enclosing dark earth with minerals, the warmth of sunlight; and each of these dessicated, mummified little bits of toughness will hydrate, fatten and burst into vivid miraculous sweet shoots, climbing, sinewing towards the light.”

This book is not a masterpiece, but a gentle and enjoyable read. I personally felt that the storyline was lacking, but the journey through Henry Lyte’s life is pleasurable and calming. Little drama, hardly suspense, but I am glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the earlier pioneering botanists. The age in which he lived was so much slower and life was harder. The connection to the earth had to be suppressed where prayer was considered the only connection necessary:

“He wonders whether there has been any rigorous scientific study of the effects of spring on nature and man, and even idly toys with the idea of making some notes towards this himself… not as a counter to the truth of God, of course, but rather as an observational study of what actually occurs.”

Henry Lyte, sadly, does not appear to have had any plants named after him. Had he sacrificed the peace of the countryside for London he may have had more success and renown, but he is depicted here as a lover of plants and the earth above all, who hated travelling to the city…

~~~

So, if your reading list is not too long already, here’s another book to add!

😀