12 August 2012

Bilberries, Beads and Poets

Home to the east of the country this week. Home to harvests and tidying up. Home to smaller spaces and suburban walks.

I spent a few wonderful days (in Donegal/Dún na nGall/Tír Chonaill) walking along beaches or through springy heather, swimming in the Atlantic and trying to figure out how to poetically ask for a cup of sugar from neighbours (one of whom is a poet) who were having our Nobel Laureate to stay for a couple of days. Happily for us all, I forbore and left the bard and his wife in peace. I would have been tongue-tied and twisted anyway...

All in all, a lovely break (thanks again all) and I hope the alder tree we planted up there a couple of years ago, which was moved this time 'round, will be happy in its new home.

Home then, and some lovely weather at last. Tackled the loganberries and raspberries in the back garden  - this year's canes cut down and next years tied in. Took a bit of doing as all that rain this summer has meant a lot of growth. It was great to do it under no pressure of time as I had taken the rest of the week off. It's lovely to be in the garden with no 'have to' attached - you can take as long as you need (or wish) to complete any task. With the logans and summer raspberries gone, breakfast now includes blueberries, which are ripening nicely at the moment. Their wild cousins are too, and away from the garden we spent some time in the Wicklow hills, where the fraughans/bilberries were ripening nicely: deep blue-black with a wild taste of open air and a hard living - mountain bogs and heaths are not an easy place to make your way and the flora there need to be tough and hardy to succeed. We're coming into one of the best times for the hills - the heathers are just right now and the late summer and autumn light will show their gorgeous purples at their best. Erica cinerea (Bell Heather) is one of my favourites of the heathers but Calluna vulgaris (Ling) quietly contributes to the wonderful glow of purple on the hills too. I love heathers on the hillsides but can't be doing with them in small gardens or--worse still--in pots. It's just wrong: they should be in wide sweeps on open mountain heaths not bound and trapped in the wrong setting.

In Wicklow, as all over Ireland, the hills show many signs of the long departed glaciers (in this area it's around 10,000 years since there was last ice here in any measure - during the Nahanagan Stadial) and the place we walked during the week showed the classic U-shaped valley with its misfit of a river flowing through it, the bends in the river echoed coincidentally in tiny folded quartz veins in the rocks on the valley sides - rocks contorted by the pushy Leinster granite batholith.

Also in Wicklow is June Blake's garden and I couldn't resist another visit; if anything the colours are more fantastic (and I use that word in the sense of  'as if conceived by an unrestrained imagination') than ever. June's garden is large, by the standards of most suburban gardeners (such as me), but part of what this blog is about is showing what can be done in our small spaces, inspired by what we see in other places. Well alright, maybe it's copying... And so June has a large reflecting pond, and I have a small one. But it's not exactly Single White Female, I promise: there are only so many shapes for a pond in a garden and if you're not going for the natural pond look (which you can't really do in a garden as small as mine) then a formal rectangle will look best. Perhaps we could call it adapting rather than copying? Come to think of it, Helen Dillon has her canal too so inadvertently I'm in very exalted company. And I suppose ultimately we can all thank the gardeners of the Islamic world who had water at the heart of their courtyard gardens.

Anyway, this week in my own small garden I've moved some pots around the pool to see what the bamboos look like at the far end, and I think I'm happy enough with them. Although I'm still mourning the loss of the lovely, graceful Acer palmatum dissectum that I had to take out earlier in the summer. Also in the garden I delighted in the blue blooming Agapanthus and enjoyed the scent of honeysuckle that still fills the garden every morning and evening. I was less delighted to find what I'm fairly sure are slug eggs in the compost bag (I was rummaging for compost to re-pot some pelargoniums I planted up earlier in the summer). As an offering to some of our garden birds, I left the eggs--looking like a string of translucent prayer beads--on the edge of the compost pile; they were gone by the next day. Every garden writer on these islands has been bemoaning the slugs and snails this year - the wet summer has been very kind to them (the slugs, not the writers), and that same weather has meant happy frogs too. Izzy scared one of our residents out of the undergrowth near the pool and it hopped out to land on some pebbles. It can't have been too happy but it did the 'if I stay still they won't see me' thing until we went away.

This week I also mustered up the courage to head up to the allotment. And I was lucky enough to meet my lovely allotment partner (another poet! this blog is full of poets this week), who rather than dwelling on the knee-high grass and myriad thistles as I was doing, delighted in the harvest we both had: she gave me some of her potatoes (thanks CD) and in return took some of my broad beans and beetroots. I also took home my crop of red onions (we'd had a few sunny days but rain was forecast) to dry out before storage. Not a bad week, all in all.

And finally, the walks this week--while not as wonderful as walks by the wild Atlantic--yielded their own delights: tiny pale parasols of fungi in amongst the grass and clover in the park and a suitably magical looking tree in a late summer woodland.

Bilberries, Fraughans, Fraochán, Vaccinium myrtillis

Bell Heather, Erica cinerea

Ling, Calluna vulgaris

Wicklow Hills, after the ice has gone

Contorted quartz veins
June Blake Blues

June Blake, hot topics

June Blake, reflecting pool
And on a slightly smaller scale - in my own patch
Agapanthus blooms blue

Slug eggs, a small offering to the garden birds
You can't see me, I'm not here...
'Parasols': unidentified fungi and clover in the local park
Late summer woodland magic 


  1. Love the fat toad!
    There you are in 'nature' and there I was screamming my guts out at the Olympics! Graineweile

  2. Your pond edging is better than hers. Nah, nah. Nana nah!