9 May 2021
’til May be out … There have been days this month when I feel as if I have woken up in another country, one that is situated far north of here. After a week of unseasonable heavy frosts, we have had three days of howling gales and pouring rain. The wind is still bitterly cold and if this had not driven me indoors today the heavy rain would have. After the storms the crab apple blossoms have been reduced to confetti. They have been replaced by the heavily scented hawthorn blossoms which are just as beautiful. I hope that the bees enjoy them as much.
Rhododendrons are not as robust as Camellias in this climate. They like shelter and protection from the salt winds. I never thought that I would be able to plant any here but I have gradually created a few sheltered areas in the garden and the plants are thriving. I have added two more this year and hope to increase this number in the years to come.
I have been growing vegetables since I was a young child when my parents gave each of us a small plot to plant our crops of choice. I have had to start all of my gardens from scratch as an adult. As a result, vegetable often did not get the attention they required as my time was taken up creating windbreaks, lawns and shrubberies. I feel that I have managed the art of growing potatoes, onions, leeks and salads well. To date most of my other selections rarely make it beyond the young seedling stage and never make it to the table. In my defence I am battling a ferocious, greedy band of natural predators including mice, slugs, birds and sadly my own dogs (two of my previous dogs dug up all my carrots and scoffed the lot). I also have to contend with the weather. Undaunted each year I make a new resolution to try and grow a few more vegetables. I have decided to choose a few varieties each year and to extend my skills gradually .
I prided myself on my cleverness when I planted the carrots in a raised bed with the onion sets. This is over two feet high and made of cement blocks. I was hoping that I could defeat the mice, dogs and carrot fly all in one go. Apart from sewing the seeds too thickly I felt that I had done a good job especially when I saw the seedlings appear in quick time. Today in a break from the teeming rain I set out to thin them out. My two rows of thick seedlings have been reduced to six carrots. I am baffled. There is no sign of any dead seedlings and no tell tail paw or other prints in the soil. If they had all been killed by the unseasonal frosts, I would still have expected to see some remains. Undaunted I have set another row but am not very optimistic about their chances.
At the moment the garden centres and supermarkets are full of brightly coloured annuals. I am often tempted to buy them for their colour alone but as I believe most are sterile, I resist the temptation unless I can find some that will feed the birds, bees and insects here. Last year I created a border of chives around one of my small vegetable patches. The bees love them and I hoped that they might deter some unwanted thieves. With my new policy of encouraging wild flowers these have now been joined by Red Clover, Dandelions, Common Ramping-Fumitory and Smooth Hawk’s-beard to name but a few. I do believe that the above border is far more beautiful than any planted with annuals. With luck the wild flowers will return year after year and will feed a multitude of creatures in the garden to boot. They are also very easy to restrain so that they do not overpower the leeks that are newly planted. Mostly all that is required is some light weeding to clear any grass. I am so pleased with the effect that I am extending it to all of my vegetable beds. The bonus is that I will never know from year to year what wildflowers will arrive.
I am always intrigued when someone comes up with a creative idea for a tricky part of the garden. A few years ago, the Royal Horticultural Society magazine had an article by a member who had brightened up their driveway by clearing the central strip and filling the area with creeping plants. I toyed with the idea for a while but when I calculated the cost of planting my very long driveway, I realised that it was way beyond my budget. All that I did in the end was to ignore the strip and get used to the sound of the underside of my car being cleaned on a regular basis. The above is a photo taken of my drive just a few days ago. Most of it is a haze of Red Clover but if you look closely, you can see Daises, White Clover, Lesser Trefoil, and Pink Dove Foot Cranes-bill. Lesser trefoil is also known as shamrock and has tiny, yellow, round clustered flowers as seen in the photo below.
Inish Beg island
Now that the 5 kilometres rule has been lifted, my first trip has been to Inish Beg island close to Baltimore. Fifty five of the ninety seven acres are dedicated to woodlands and gardens. The current owners have restored the woodlands and created new gardens closer to the house. Walks curve around the edge of the river and the whole garden had a sense of tranquillity in spite of the searing wind that was blowing in from the Atlantic on the day of my visit. The very natural look belies the work that has been carried out on the estate and everywhere there is a sense of respect and adaptation to the natural environment. We were the only visitors, but the extent of the woodlands means that it would be very easy to have a private walk when there are more visitors.
Details on a tree in the woods on Inish Beg
The wild flowers are continuing to arrive and I have another 10 to add to my log. It will be interesting to see if the birds have brought any new seeds to the garden. At the moment the only one that I cull is ragwort as cows graze in my fields and I would hate it to spread there.
The bank behind the house. In recent days the cat’s ears and other yellow dandelion varieties have joined the bluebells and the area will be a mass of yellow for the rest of the season.
20 May 2021
I can’t believe that yet again, the house and garden are being battered by gale force winds and teeming rain. As usual in this weather the dogs refused to go out this morning and I had to lead by example. This meant huddling behind the well house trying to stay warm and dry while they went about their business. I did not succeed. It did give me the opportunity to examine the large trees in the copse. The Italian alder and oak trees have already lost their first set of leaves and look likely to lose the second. I don’t know how they can continue to thrive with these regular batterings. Unlike their neighbours the whitebeam which seem untouched by the bad weather.
The echiums are still hanging on although the one above is now lying flat on the ground. Luckily it is full of blossoms so the bees are feasting on it. Three other branches remained upright after the last series of storms and the lovely blue one on the hillside has also survived so far.
I could not bear to go outside to assess the possible damage in the garden yesterday. I have had a little more courage today, but was upset to see that some of the echiums have been wrenched from the ground. They will continue to feed the bees but I am not sure if I will get any seedlings. Their relative on the hillside is a lesson in survival and is still standing although looking a little worse for wear. As it is completely exposed it should have been raised to the ground shortly after being planted there two years ago. These small miracles will always puzzle and delight me as I garden in this beautiful but exposed place.