I don’t think I will get many more flowers before winter sets in so this will probably be my last post in the series. My August entry featured photos taken on August 5th but this month I didn’t get snapping till the 29th. So almost seven weeks have passed and in that time the flowers on my hibiscus came and went but the hydrangea which was in bloom back then is still not done, as you can see.
Hydrangea still flowering.
Time for another in the series of posts looking at what is currently flowering in my garden, though I actually took the photos on August 5th and have only just got round to writing about them. The first two are of the spectacular hydrangea outside my front door. I have been in this house for nearly twenty years and I planted it fairly early on so I guess it is at least fifteen years old. It is getting rather large for the situation but I have been reluctant to prune it back hard for fear of missing a year of blooms.
Just over a month ago I posted an entry called June Flowers featuring photos taken in my garden. I am not promising to maintain this but I took some more photos a few days ago so here is your July instalment of my garden diary.
About a hundred metres down my road is the entrance to Oxleys Wood, also known locally as Badger Wood (though I have never seen any evidence of badgers). Just inside the wood there is a marshy pond which currently features an amazing display of Hottonia palustris (Water Violet, Featherfoil). In the foreground and somewhat out of focus is Iris pseudacorus (yellow flag), and though not an aquatic plant I couldn’t resist including a photo of Rosa Canina (dog rose) growing a few feet from the water’s edge.
At he end of April last year I posted an entry called Spring Flowers with photos taken in my garden of cowslips, bluebells and forget-me-nots. I had good displays of those again this year but things have moved on and now in early June I thought I would do a similar post.
Last Thursday morning a friend stopped by my house and picked me up on her way to Wales. We have mutual friends in Pembrokeshire and I had been thinking about a visit so it was too good an opportunity to pass up. On the Friday night we stayed with a friend in Goodwick, which is basically a suburb of Fishguard, and on Saturday morning I set off on my own to walk to Strumble Head along the Wales Coast Path. I didn’t have a map so I just started walking from the harbour and assumed it would be obvious where to go.
Church and boat at Llanwnda
As I left Harbour Village I was distracted by a footpath signposted to a burial chamber and decided to follow that, which took me somewhat inland of the official coast path. Just as I was thinking how much nicer it would be to be closer to the sea I came across some small cottages at Llanwnda. There was nobody around but one of the doors was open and there was a sign inviting people to go inside and make themselves a cup of tea or coffee. I stayed for a while and read some of the interesting literature on display but nobody else turned up so I signed the guest book and continued my walk with the idea of visiting again on my way back.
Strumble Head Lighthouse
About 10 minutes later I came to the the coast path proper and turned left. After a grey start to the day it was nice when the sun broke finally broke through and after such a long wet spell of weather I felt incredibly lucky to have picked this day for a walk. The path only dropped down to the sea once, where I lay in the sun for a while on a pebbly beach listening to sound of the waves. Shortly after setting off again I rounded a corner and got my first view of the lighthouse at Strumble Head. I carried on till I reached a WW2 coastal lookout post which was opened as a bird observation point in 1988 (apparently it is also well known for monitoring cetaceans and Sea Trust uses it to carry out shore based porpoise surveys).
View from observation point
I could have caught a bus back to Fishguard but I had plenty of time and preferred to walk, even though I would be retracing my steps. On the way I met a couple carrying binoculars who told me they had just seen an adder basking in the sun about twelve feet from the path. They tried to describe where it was but I failed to spot it. When I got back to Llanwnda there was still nobody about but I went back into the cottage and made myself a cup of tea. I sat reading a book and after a while I heard someone walking past with a dog who said she would send her husband down to see me. He turned out to be an interesting chap called Buzz Knapp-Fisher and we ended up chatting for a couple of hours about all sorts of things mainly related to renewable energy and green transport. He has a website called Us Energy.
Cottages at Llanwnda
By the time I said goodbye to Buzz it was getting fairly late but rather than heading straight for Goodwick I hurried back down the way I had come to rejoin the coast path and walked the bit I had missed in the morning. As the harbour came into view I phoned the guy I was staying with to see what his plans were and since he hadn’t eaten yet I walked into town to pick up some supplies before heading back up the hill to his place where he cooked a late dinner while I had a shower. I spent three nights in Wales and did a lot of other stuff but I had been looking forward to a long coastal walk and this was just what the doctor ordered.
It has been so wet recently that I have not spent much time in my garden but during a brief sunny spell I went out to take photographs of some of the spring flowers. Ever since I moved in 18 years ago I have been encouraging wild flowers by leaving an area of grass uncut till the end of the summer. Two things are doing really well there, wild marjoram which I harvest as a herb, and cowslips, which are looking particularly good at the moment.
I don’t actually remember planting them but for the last few years I have had bluebells under the apple tree and they are slowly spreading. According to Plants for a Future bluebells have no known edible uses but the bulb has diuretic and styptic properties. An excellent paper glue can apparently be obtained from the sap of the bulb and stem.
Underneath my redcurrant bushes next to a south facing fence seems to be the ideal environment for forget-me-nots which are growing in profusion. The scientific name is Myosotis, from the Greek “mouse’s ear”, after the leaf. Henry David Threau wrote, “The mouse-ear forget-me-not, Myosotis laxa, has now extended its racemes very much, and hangs over the edge of the brook. It is one of the most interesting minute flowers. It is the more beautiful for being small and unpretending; even flowers must be modest.”
Autumn has arrived but today was warm and sunny so I took the opportunity to cut the grass again, which meant first picking up a few day’s worth of windfall apples. Last week I stewed up a big batch and made three apple crumbles which went down a treat. After putting the mower away I took some time to have a good look round and it inspired me to get my camera. The first photo is of the largest of my three woodpiles, about half my supply for the winter. The lighter coloured wood is ash and above that is sweet chestnut, most hand sawn and all hand split. That should keep my Ulefos stove going for a while. In the upper left of the photo are some of the apples which haven’t fallen yet and on the right is rain water collection from the corrugated iron roof of the shelter – I just slit a piece of green plastic pipe using a jigsaw and clamped it round the edge of the roof. It is only a couple of square metres of collecting area but I used the water to help keep my pond topped up through the summer.
Ready for Winter
The second photo is of grapes ripening on the vine. Last year my grapes and potatoes got hit hard by a late frost but this year conditions have been favourable. I will wait a while longer before harvesting and juicing them. They taste fine straight off the vine but they are small and seedy so I prefer turning them into juice. I just put them in a big stainless steel pan or clean plastic bucket and mash them with a potato masher. Once they are all mushed up I pour the pulp into a large stainless steel colander, pressing down to get as much of the juice through as I can, and then leave it to settle before decanting into plastic bottles. I am not interested in making wine because it is apparently easy to end up with something almost undrinkable and I am not really into alcohol anyway. The juice on the other hand is amazing – almost like a syrup. I expect to end up with about a dozen litres of the stuff so the question of storage arises. I could pasteurise it by boiling but I feel that would somehow diminish its powers so I plan to freeze most of it.
Bunches of Grapes
This morning I had a walk round my back garden and noticed something strange about the pond. It was covered in hundreds of floating needles of ice, all roughly the same length, about 40mm. I put my hand in and fished a few out. The ice must have covered less than 1% of the surface at this point. The pond was in sunshine and although it had clearly been below freezing during the night I guess the air temperature was now approximately two degrees celsius, certainly above freezing at any rate. I assumed that the needles would soon melt and I went back in the house. I think it was about half an hour later when I went out again, and to my great surprise the pond was entirely frozen over! The ice was no more than 1mm thick but it formed a continuous layer. My only explanation is that the surface layer of water had supercooled during the night and something had caused nucleation to occur just before I first went out. I wish I had stayed and watched because presumably the needles were growing when I saw them and I could have watched the freezing process.