Meadow watch, end of June

I cannot believe how much the meadow changes in one quick month.

Mind you, it’s been an insane month in terms of weather. Insane. The temperature has varied from over 30 degrees one morning, to under half of that the next. The nights were either impossibly hot or you needed a blanket. The garden wasn’t struck on the variation, and neither was I (though at least I could access that blanket).

The wildflowers – and escapes – in the meadow have coped a lot better than I have, though. A Verbascum chiaxii album has suddenly appeared up near the bonfire site, which was surprising,

but then there are all sorts of things up here which are not supposed to be around – more Japanese bloody anemones, for instance. Sigh. And I certainly didn’t plant the feverfew which is all around the base of one of the ashes, either.

Or the campions.

At the beginning of the month I decided that the ox-eye daisies which I’d spent years hoping would appear – and which did appear, splendidly, in the last couple of years – had vanished. But they were just being shy, and they’ve been lovely.

So the meadow is coping. The veg patch seems to be hanging on in there too, though I’m not so sure about the people who work in it. Tea helps.

And the pollen, oh, the pollen. People like P., who has never had hay fever in his life, have been suffering. My asthma has been the worst for years, and set off my ear and balance problems. ARGH – here’s hoping that July is a bit more stable. And that I am, too. Please…

Still growing – and still here!

Oh dear, so much time has passed since I promised myself I would blog more frequently and get back on track. All I’ve managed to do is feel guilty that I wasn’t doing either.

So while I am still stupidly busy I’ve decided to do some brief posts, and maybe the occasional meadow watch thing, rather than try and put together something long and researched and detailed at the same time as trying to edit books, write books and produce stuff for a makers’ pop-up shop over the summer.

Welcome to meadow watch for the start of June!

It’s astonishing how quickly the meadow goes from being a tapestry of primroses and daffodils to a tapestry of plantain spikes and dying-back daffodil leaves to a proper meadow, with different grasses and buttercups,

escapees from other parts of the garden which like it up here,

insane surprises,

and soon the effect of cutting paths is at its most pleasing,

and then it warms up, and the old bench at the back is a perfect place to sit with a cup of tea / glass of chilled fino / manuscript for marking up. And then it rains…

Back soon – promise!

 

On March and losing my mojo

I suppose it happens to all of us gardeners, except the most dedicated and professional, at some point over the winter: we lose it. I lost it, big time, plus I’ve been busy working. So I managed to ignore the beast outside (fortunately P. didn’t) while simultaneously feeling very guilty about it (can you feel guilty about something you can also ignore?) and about the fact that I hadn’t blogged for ages and ages and ages.

It ends now, with some daffodils for Dewi Sant (St David, whose day it is today, and no, I am not wearing a leek in my hat. Oh, please).

Daff

I haven’t been completely idle – well, in gardening terms, that is, and though I have yet to get my seed order in I am intending to do it today. The seed potatoes are chitting and the shallots had better not be sprouting, or else. This year I saved my own garlic,

garlic

(which went in on the traditional date, the shortest day) instead of getting it from outside, so we’ll see how that works out. It’s Germidour, which usually does well round here though it never wins anything at the garden club show. I find it more reliable than the other varieties, but that might just be my garden…

…which this year has been really, really worked on. By loads of this stuff:

yum yum bigs bum

No, not Levington’s compost, but what the bags now contain: organic horse shit. Lots of it. And it is fantastic stuff: the worm population exploded last year, and I was quite conservative with the magic gunk. This needs to rot down a bit more but it will soon be ready. Yay!

Through the winter the veg patch has been busy, I do have to say. Celeriac and kale,

and there’ll soon be purple and white sprouting broccoli, too, and – by the look of it – it won’t be long before the first of the globe artichokes brakes cover.

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This is one of the baby plants from last year; the parents are enormous. Everything suffered in the storms, but the artichokes just bounced straight back. There had to be an upside to developing onion white rot… oh, that’s not a non sequitur; I got the vileness that is OWR in this bed. That means that I can’t, at the most conservative estimate, plant any of the onion family in it for at least eight ears (some say thirty). The only answer – I love my alliums and would doubtless forget – was to stick perennial veg in. I can’t buy globe artichokes round here easily, so the obvious thing to do was plant the beasts. And this means I can enjoy them when they are small and tender and yummy and wonderful in a risotto.

Better go and check them, then… I’m back!

Warm your hands on this

It’s suddenly got nippy. I don’t know why anyone should be surprised, really, it is November after all, and my poor neglected garden got a bit of attention: the ceremonial burning of the Great Bonfire Heap of Doom. Just after the ceremonial cutting of the Great Hedge of Procrastination and Argument, and just before the last ceremonial cut of the Lawns of Wildness.

(I could have spent too much time watching Game of Thrones box sets. Possibly. Something of a refuge – what? – from current happenings in the real world.)

starting

I quite like a good bonfire. Just before I went off to Uni I was chatting to our family doctor – my father was very ill, so we saw rather a lot of him – who had studied medicine at Cambridge, which is where I was heading. He’s dead now, but I remember him saying that for him Cambridge was always associated with the smell of autumn bonfires as he cycled to rugby practice. Why that should have stuck, I don’t know, but I often think of him when I have a bonfire.

After I’ve finished thinking about the neighbours, the wind direction, the fact that the hedge clippings are wet, the risk of setting the ash trees alight, the prospect of burning any bulbs that have decided to stick their silly heads above ground early…

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I do try and minimise the number of bonfires, confining myself to – generally, barring emergencies like trees coming down in a sudden and completely unplanned manner – a couple of bonfires a year, but I think this one was my first since last November. Fortunately most of the material was pretty dry, but not all of it, ahem:

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And yes, the ashes did get a bit scorched, but as they were just hanging on to their leaves by the tiniest bit, this didn’t matter a lot. And the wind even took the smoke downhill. Mostly. Where it joined the smoke from someone else’s bonfire – it was the most perfect day for setting fire to stuff, you see.

Bloody cold, though. So it was wonderful to get almost singed. Ish.

fire

Heaven only knows what the temperature was in the core. It burned up pretty quickly, we got rid of the whole heap and then some (I roamed about with my secateurs, adding stuff, since the mini inferno was consuming things so fast and so efficiently) and then we began another traditional autumn ritual.

Somewhere in there is a marker. It is there, honest it is. Isn’t it? Where did you put it, P?

hot hotCould it have melted? Even the large metal tin the marker points towards?

Fortunately not.

nom nomI don’t think there is any better food than potatoes baked in a bonfire on a cold November day. Four Michelin stars at least, though the foil may let them down in terms of elegance of presentation. Cold butter, salt, spuds so hot you burn your hands. Perfection.

And now there’s no excuse. I have to do some actual gardening.

 

Back to autumn at Cadnant

In the spirit of experimentation – and optimism, and hoping that time has worked its magic on WordPress – I’m having another go at posting about Plas Cadnant in autumn. (Er, incidentally, time had not. But it’s a Safari glitch, only affects inserting a space after a photo gallery – at which point it wipes the entire post, arrrrrrggghhhh – and everything seems to be working in Firefox. Fingers crossed. Oh, no it isn’t. It’s something to do with image galleries, but I know no fear and at least in Firefox it only wipes out the gallery.)

Right, plants. Gardens. Sunshine.

Cadnant

I had planned a second visit, just to catch the last of the garden before it shut its doors for the winter – tomorrow is the last day of opening – but work got in the way. Boo and also hiss. I’ll have to want until the snowdrops, and hope that this winter’s inevitable storms don’t undo all the fantastic repair work which has been happening at Cadnant since the devastation of last December. Personally, I think it’s going to be better than ever, and is almost there.

It was a beautiful autumn day when we visited, just perfect. A little chill in the air, but not enough to stop us having lunch outside in the sun. And some of the plants seemed to be basking too, taking in the last certain warmth.

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Of course the stone walls – the top part of the garden is surrounded by high walls as well as being broken up by lower ones – do help to retain the heat, and they also give the plants a beautiful backdrop.

I’m not really an aster fan, but I think I may be changing.

For me, asters – or to be precise, Michaelmas Daisies – are inevitably associated with the return to school and an extremely boring harvest festival to which I went under protest, and clutching a giant bunch of stinky, shedding, purple, you-guessed-its. Ergh. BUt I can see their appeal – just not the purple ones. Well, not the paler purple ones.

Another thing I have a problem with is the hydrangea. Or rather the hydrangea I had in my garden until I emitted a great shriek and finally gave in to P’s desire to mattock it out (the root was about as big as the house and the resulting new bed is metres and metres wide and deep). It did not pay its way. The ones at Cadnant, however, do. Even the paler ones like mine:

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Oh, sigh.

The woodland at Cadnant is what I really, really love, though. It’s like a tropical forest down there… no, maybe it’s more like… oh, I don’t know. But there are enormous and beautiful tree ferns and gunners, and water and huge trees and mosses and lichens and odd fungi at this time of year and remarkably few visitors (but then it was a Wednesday).

I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to attempt to add another gallery of photographs, so I’ll just leave with another few shots at full size, which neither browser seems to find objectionable. Cadnant is so worth visiting, and by the time we came out the car park – ok, field – was chocka. Somehow the garden just seems to absorb people; until emerging we had no idea it was so busy.

geranium on tree

Yes, it’s a hardy geranium growing on a tree. There were many.

Cadnant

Stunning colour combinations with the bright red and the almost acid green behind, and a farewell from Plas Cadnant (and a bit of log store envy).

Cadnant walls

Incidentally, their containers are always good – casual and relaxed, but lovely. I’ve got container envy too.

Autumn at Cadnant

Having a few problems with WordPress at the mo. Trying to write a proper post about yesterday’s visit to the wonderful Plas Cadnant, but it keeps nuking my posts and not saving drafts. So this is a holding post, as it were. A taster. I’m going away for a few days, and hopefully whatever glitch this is will be sorted when I get back. So hello, Cadnant:

Cadnant1

and farewell for a brief while…!

Please stop….

I just want the garden to stop for a bit while I catch ip with it. Please… whimper…

First, the apples. Oh my lordy, the apples. Apples to the right of them, apples to the left of them, into the valley of apples rode the six hundred … well, me and P with a load of carrier bags. We’ve had heavy apple years, we’ve had light apple years. This year we didn’t have a June drop, more of an August avalanche. Despite that, I have given away 22, yup, twenty-two, completely full, handle-stretchingly full, enormous carrier bags of these,

apples

and have made over twenty jars of chutney, and have filled the downstairs freezer with purée. AND THERE’S THE OTHER HALF OF THE TREE TO PICK.

Incidentally, I have zero idea what this tree is. They are sharpish eaters, sweetish cookers, and mature really quickly once picked. They don’t keep brilliantly, which is a shame considering I have about 4,567,000 tons.

(That is, of course, not accounting for the fact that the meadow beneath this tree was so covered with rotting and freshly fallen apples that we had to scrape them off with spades before strimming the meadow, and that the jackdaws have had so many apples that they are about as fat as dodos and can barely lift off when you go into the garden and shout at them. I swear I can hear them burping.)

And there are two other trees. The ancient cox and the second mystery tree which is a lovely shape but hardly ever produces an apple.

Wrong.

FFS

These were going to be turned into autumn jelly (with hawthorn, sloes, blackberries, rowan berries), but then a friend arrived and I said ‘Would you like some apples?’ expecting her to run away making the sign of the cross as she did so, as has become normal. But she said yes (though in all fairness she did look a bit surprised by the sheer size of the carrier bags I gave her, but hey ho).

I don’t mind, though. There’s the other half of the big tree still hanging on; for some reason the ones on the south side are slower to mature than the more northerly ones. I suspect it is down to exposure, the south side of the tree to some extent protecting the northern side from the full fury of the sea winds.

And, in the meanwhile, the autumn crocuses are springing up in the newly shorn meadow,

autumn crocuses

as are the mushrooms; the squashes are ripening; the greenhouse has been cleared and is full of logs, and we are about to start the great shifting of plant positions. When I’ve cleared a few more million apples off everything.

And I’ve forgotten the two crab apples. Those trees are laden, too. Agh……