Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

Water Features

6 March 2021

I was so pleased with the success of my single water lily last year that I did not realise that there was a serious design flaw in my system. In my memory frosts were rare during my childhood in Ireland and West Cork was particularly famous for its mild climate. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I certainly was not prepared for the week long frosts that occurred this winter – more than once. It was only when I saw my disintegrating terracotta pot that I realised that it could not survive the low temperatures when filled with water rather than soil.

Despite the fact that I had serious flooding this winter my ground is not suitable for a pond, as flat surfaces are few and far between. Before the terracotta disaster I had decided to expand my current system and, in lieu of a pond, imagined at least 6 pots, all with different lilies, artfully placed in a sheltered position. Now I am desperately trying to find a way to save the one that I have. Before the lockdown I searched the local hardware stores to see what was available. I liked the idea of the heavy cement water troughs used on farms. These are large enough to accommodate four to five lilies. They are not the most attractive items but I thought I could disguise them them by digging them into the ground. However, I require a digger just to get even the smallest one on to the site here and might need to move a few walls to place it in a suitable position. Neither option appeals to me. My latest idea is to use a large plastic log bucket which I will place in a hole in the ground. I am usually not keen to use plastic anywhere in the garden but am compromising to save the beautiful lily seen above. I might even find it a companion.

10 March 2021

For the last few days I have been tracking a series of storms moving across the atlantic and heading straight to this peninsula as their first port of call. The leader looked like an angry demon curled into a tight ball, but I was able to relax as it appeared to weaken as it crossed the atlantic. Today the meteorological office has upgraded it to an ‘orange’ status, so I have had to suspend all other activities and carry out my usual storm ‘rituals’. Almost all of these involve water in some form or another. Five days without electricity after storm Darwin (and of course no pump to operate the well) has taught me to be prepared. If I lose my electricity I also lose my water, as my well requires a pump to work. In addition the ‘lockdown’ means that I cannot prevail on my friends for a bed or even a shower. So any plans to work in the garden have to be deferred as I fill large pots with water, put hot water bottles in the bed and fill flasks with hot water for the essential cups of tea. Strangely enough, since I started these rituals, there have not been any power failures so my system is working I intend to continue with the indefinitely.

Wild swimming

The perfect swimming pool

Some months ago I was very taken by the title of a documentary on something called ‘wild swimming’. My imagination went ‘wild’ with the possibility of seeing people swimming in the antarctic or some equally remote area or extreme climate. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that ‘wild swimming’ simply appears to involve swimming in the sea. As this is what I, my family and friends having been doing for most of our lives I was bitterly disappointed to say the least and refuse to use the term ‘wild’ for such a day-to-day activity.

Since I moved here I have had the opportunity to indulge my love for swimming ‘in the sea’ and now manage to do so throughout the year. Only serious storms deter me. Apparently throwing yourself into almost freezing water is good for your immune system. I can heartily recommend it after a gruelling day digging in the garden at any time of the year. In winter there is nothing like the shock of icy water to cancel the pain of aching muscles or perhaps numb you to it.

Bare-root trees

I don’t think that I will win any prizes for timing as my bare-rooted trees arrived yesterday just hours before the arrival of the ‘orange’ storm. I was in a dilemma as to what to do about the trees, as it appeared that this front of high winds and rain would last for five or six days. In the end I decided not to plant any in the field as it is totally exposed to the south west and the forthcoming gales. I have planted the ornamental cherry and crabapple trees in the slightly more ‘sheltered’ part of the top garden and have given them a little extra support for a few days. This is a risky strategy even without the imminent storms but the cherries (Amanagowa and Oku-miyako Shogetsu) that I planted last year have done very well and I have decided to try and have a small avenue of them leading away from the house.

This cherry is doing very well despite it’s exposed position and both the leaves and blossoms can withstand quite strong winds.

12 March 2021

I managed some more tree planting today and only got soaked towards the end of my task. This is made more arduous as I have to protect each and every tree and shrub from the rabbits and/or hares that are decimating the garden. Commercial protectors work for upright trees with no lower branches but I have had to be creative with everything else. Over the years I have made dozens of my own protectors from chicken wire which can be reused indefinitely. Now that I have discovered that the intruders are knocking these down I am tying to fortify them with as many sticks as possible to the extent that the plant is invisible. There is no copyright on the design below and you have to admit that it is very hard to see the two elder plants hiding amongst everything else. However, no one could call it beautiful.

The weather has been so bad recently that I have not had much opportunity to see how my camellias are doing. These have to be the toughest (and the most beautiful) plants for a coastal garden, thriving despite the salt and wind. Mine are all still quite young and only one is over six feet high but I look forward to the day when they take over parts of the garden.

We still have a few more days of stormy weather and I am not sure if I will be able to plant my remaining trees. Even if I do I suspect that I will not feel inclined to throw myself into the bay to ease my muscles. It looks as if a hot bath will have to do.

The waves picking up again on the outer islands

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