Category Archives: Meadow

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…

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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!

 

I heart my meadow

I do, I really do.

Ever since I made the decision – inspired by laziness and a dislike of either floppy, browning dying back, chopped off or tied back daffodil leaves – to just let the top garden go for it, I have not regretted it for a second. OK, sometimes I might express the odd doubt (generally when the rain has flattened the grasses) and occasionally I might swear about it (either during the Great September Strim or when Next Door’s *?4£!!*%! Cat has created feline crop circles in it), but I don’t regret it. And this year the daffs have been great,

daffs

and I have – so far – picked or dead-headed just over 600. If you’ve followed Beangenie for a while you’ll know I’m a bit sad and count my daffs; if you’re newish… well, welcome to the madhouse, but I’m not as bonkers [IMO; they’re so small] as some people I know who count their snowdrops.

As of now, most of what I group together as the ‘big yellows’ (even though some of them aren’t that big, really, and they do come in several varieties) have finished and it’s the turn of the whites. Somewhere I have a list of all the ones I have planted, but I also inherited many and, as a result of not knowing what half of them were in the first place, and having lost the list in the second place, I cannot name every single one (bad gardener). But I love them all.

gorgeous

The weather has had some very strange effects; the dampness brought out the snails and slugs earlier than usual, and I lost many daffs to their slimy unpleasantness before I really realised what was happening. But I can’t slug-pellet an entire meadow, even a relatively small one, so I have to rely on the thrushes doing their bit. To date I’ve only seen a couple, so they’re not making much of an impression. And now the little flies are out, though I daresay the current cold snap might kill them off. But at least they don’t do too much damage.

fly on top

(Can’t spot it? It’s balanced on the top petal.) They do seem to enjoy basking like the one below; I’m sure the paler petals reflect the heat.

basking

It’s not just daffs (oh, all right, narcissi) which brighten the meadow. I seem to have a lot of white fritillaries this year, more than in the past. This is curious, though it could just be – as it were – a sampling error: some of my predominantly purple clumps didn’t appear this year or were blind (and some have been eaten). I don’t think they liked the hideously wet December. But the whites are stunning too and, as a bonus, I do seem to have some new clumps forming.

white fritillaries

The primroses, as always, are amazing; they have shrugged off damp December and don’t give a stuff about threatened snowstorms in late April – I can see it snowing out over Cardigan Bay, but happily that seems to be where it’s staying, fingers crossed. The bay tree isn’t bothered, either; it doesn’t even seem to have suffered from storm damage. The odd brown tip to a leaf, but hey.

bay flowering

I’ve got another one in a large pot that needs to go out. Since they seem to shrug off the weather so effectively, I think it can be an addition to the top garden / meadow boundary. We keep the existing one in trim, but at about eight feet; the ex-pot bay can join in.

And there are some more changes afoot, with more of my grass/moss/creeping thyme/sort-of green stuff in the bottom garden being incorporated into beds. But not here. Here, up in the meadow and for a couple more weeks, it’s the realm of the daffodil. Oh, I know. Narcissus…

narcissi

Spring is sprung – maybe…

Ok, it’s here. My snowdrops are over, the daffodils are flowering, the equinox is passed, the Garden Club spring show is on Wednesday: it’s spring. Of course, it’s still $3!!**5% cold at night (we’ve had frosts) and there’s a nasty bite to the wind, but I’ve almost run out of chopped logs so it has to be spring.

And anyway, this has happened. Colour has come back to the garden, and not before time:

chionodoxas

I do love my chionodoxas.

The wonderful chionodoxa carpet, which I feared had been disturbed by the taking down of the rowan and consequent rebuilding of the wall above which it spread, is back. The little darlings have shrugged off emergency tree surgery, gales, demolition, trampling, me helping, men with chainsaws, men with boulders and the attentions of the Hell Hound of Harlech. In fact, I think they’re better than ever. They’re spreading, too.

I love my chionodoxas, and I love my primroses as well. They’re coming out in their hundreds – it will soon be thousands – and they are everywhere.

prims and chio

They’re in amongst the chionodoxas, the daffodils, the hedges. They’re in paths, beds, the lawns, walls. They run riot in the meadow where they appreciate the lack of cutting (in a couple of weeks I’ll be able to see clearly where the paths have been mown in the past by the relative absence of primroses). At present they’re mostly the wild, pale yellow variety…

but then this happens:

coloured primrose

There are more and more of the coloured variants of the wild form, in everything from an almost grey yellow and greyish-pink, through salmon and pale pink to a really deep crimson. They’re not uncommon round here, and the primrose class at the Spring Show always includes a rich range of colours. I was bowled over with them when I first saw them, and I still am. Lovely things.

I’ve a newbie this year: hellebores. I’ve never been really into them; my brother adores them, and I let him fill the vacant hellebore niche in our gardening-mad family. But in recent years I’ve been given some lovelies, all singles, all orientalis:

hellebores

I need to have three perfect blooms for the show (I know I won’t win, but I’m determined to enter), all of the same variety, and they have to float in a bowl. As does my camellia, which is astonishigly still flowering though it’s been at it since November – it is beginning to look a bit ratty, mind. Or the double one is ratty, the single – well, we’ll see.

The meadow is really starting it’s thing, what with the daffs and the prims and everything – oh, the anemones, how could I forget the anemones?

anemones

Mostly deep blue, some paler and a few white. Again, they’re spreading, and I’m so glad they are. Go anemones!

Walking up this way I saw a sort of haze, a blur, a vagueness, over the old bonfire site. Last year I planted it up with some foxgloves from other places in the garden, but that wasn’t it. I even thought it was my glasses. But it wasn’t:

moss flowering

It’s been colonised by the prettiest, softest moss – all flowering away like mad. This is the meadow so I don’t care – and anyway if I tried to eliminate moss from this garden I’d be left with lawns that looked like an outbreak of a particularly virulent skin disease and a nervous breakdown. It’s not going to happen. You have to come to terms with some things. Like the sudden loss of rowan trees. Opportunities, not disasters. And I love the textures of moss. I could have been twisted away form the path of righteousness by winning moss garden classes in the village show when I was a child – and I’m pleased to say there’s a class for them in our show on Wednesday. My one regret is that I’m not either 5 and under or 6–11. Rats.

And it’s sunny, right now, so I’m going out to do a bit of tweaking before I go to work.

colour returns

Or I could just dance around the garden singing ‘The sun has got his hat on, hip hip hip hooray, the sun has got his hat on and he’s coming out to play…’

Daffodils for Dewi Sant

That’s it, it’s officially almost spring. It’s bitterly cold, there’s a sneaky wind off Cardigan Bay, but I can see the hills, an improvement on the last few days, and it’s not raining. And it’s Saint David’s Day, so it really is nearly spring.

Daffs

Rather than break into a loud chorus of Hen Wlad (too much coughing would be involved, due to the arrival of the jolly end-of-winter bronchitis), I thought I’d celebrate my daffodils.

But why daffs and Wales? Actually, nobody seems quite sure. Some commentators think it’s the confusion between the Welsh names for leek (cehinen, pl. cennin) and daffodil (cehinen Bedr, literally St Peter’s leek). Leeks, according to legend, were selected as an identifying symbol for Welsh troops – they were fighting the Saxons, no surprise there – by St David. What is surprising is that St David should be associated with a military context, though – a saint noted for his aceticism and restraint. Budge the legend on a few centuries, though, and leeks are supposedly used to identify troops, notably Welsh archers, fighting in France under Henry V (thanks, Shakespeare).

Leeks dropped out of favour as a national symbol because they came to be associated with odious stereotypes of the ‘Taffy was a Welshman / Taffy was a thief’ variety. So what could work? Well, daffs appear around the same time as St David’s Day – indeed, I’ve just picked my first fifteen and started the annual count – and Lloyd George (a local lad) wore the daff on this day and encouraged others to do so. It’s a recent tradition, and it’s pretty common. Unlike the general wearing of leeks, though several US commentators, including Wikipedia, insist we’re all going around today wearing leeks. Just consider practicalities. And smell. I know which I go for.

And here are some of my finest, from the meadow and previous years – natch; they need a couple more weeks to really get going (and, yes, of course some of them are narcissi… but then strictly speaking, they all are):

Tree following – January, and a year of birch watching

So here we are, a new year, and almost a whole year since I started following my baby birch. It’s been wonderful; I have learned so much. It seems a good idea to have a round up, because next time I will be moving on to a different tree. Which one, though…

When I began, I didn’t even know what sort of birch I had, other than it was a free sapling given to me by the library as some sort of promotion with, I think, the Snowdonia National Park. Now I know it’s a downy birch, and that it’s growing up – its bark is changing colour.

birch trunksIt’s the little one at the back, and this time last year its trunk was really orange. It’s shedding all that now on the main trunk:

trunk

though the branches and growing tip are still orange, and will be for ever.  It will still have a slightly golden tint to the bark, and I don’t think it will ever be as white as the elegant left-hand birch, but who cares? This isn’t Anglesey Abbey, with a glorious grove of white birches – they’re Betula utilis var Jaquemontii, and, beautiful though they may be, they look rather artificial – or so I think. Lovely but deliberate.

So I thought I’d have a look back at a year – OK, almost a year – of my downy birch. To the setting it’s in – in the meadow and straight in line for the south-westerly gales off the sea – and to the changes, to the insects, to the weather. A quick photographic tour, before I move on to another tree for 2015. I wonder what that will be? One of my apples, perhaps? I was initially envious of people who chose trees with more obvious flowers and fruit, though as I came to understand more about the birch that feeling diminished. Not a native tree, perhaps my ginkgo? But I think I’ve found the answer, though I’m still doing reccies. Watch this space.

And in the meantime, here’s a year of a downy birch. Click on an image for a slideshow.

Thanks so much to Lucy at Loose and Leafy for organising this brilliant meme.

One day of sun (a not-at-all wordless Wednesday)

Yesterday was lovely. It was mild, it was still and – shhhhh – the sun shone. To celebrate I took a quick turn round the garden, and I was surprised by how much is still in flower. Oh, there are the hangers on: the now-tatty cosmos still with a few white flowers, the dahlia still blooming away, the salvia ‘hot lips’ whose flowers are now almost entirely white. But some things have suddenly appeared which are a sign that we are in deep autumn, and heading towards winter.

The Viburnum is always the first, and sometimes it starts flowering really early, almost in late summer. Not this year, though; it’s getting into its stride now:

Viburnum

and the scent is lovely. It’s up at the top of the garden, near where logs are chopped, and its fragrance seems to merge with the sweet resinous smell of the cedar logs. (No clothes moths up there, then… OK, that’s partly the absence of clothes – hang on, no nude log chopping here, rather the absence of stored clothes. Oh, I’m just getting more complicated. Leave it… but cedar is a good moth-repellant.)

The yellow jasmine hedge is gearing up for the seasonal show too,

jasmine

and though I used to regret that this had no scent, I’m now convinced that it’s just as well. If it did, it would be overwhelming.

All the mushrooms in the meadow have gone, and I have a lovely show of autumn crocuses in the meadow proper instead (they were along one edge earlier). I’m becoming used to the fact that they are clearly migratory, as there were none last year – or any year – where I now have a substantial clump:

crocus

They’ve been flowering for a couple of weeks now, quite happily. (I marked their position with a large stake as P would be quite capable of hitting them with the mower when he’s in the zone – he’s mowed crocuses before, and other things like, agh, spotted heath orchids. No further comment necessary.) And then yesterday I spotted another collection,

crocus 2

which I swear I’d not seen before, this year or any year. Mind you, they were making themselves rather obvious in the sun, glorying in the warmth and light. I felt much the same myself!

The bottom garden is in more shadow at this time of year, but I couldn’t miss the cherry. Poor old thing, it really is on its last legs – we took a substantial branch off it recently in case it fell off and smashed through the roof of the chapel house next door – but it soldiers on. I have certainly no intention whatsoever of doing anything about it until it is absolutely necessary, because every winter, generally around Christmas, it does this:

cherry

It’s stunning. Keep your fingers crossed that it lives on for a few more years!