25 August 2012

Turtleheads and Bones

For a few weeks now, we've had a sort of summer. Most evenings we've been eating outside (one of the measures of summer for me), the bees are back in the garden and greenhouse, the late summer/autumn flowers are looking happy, and there are even a few tomatoes starting to ripen! For the last few years, this late in August, we've been well used to harvesting both the cherry and ordinary tomatoes and we've even been known to give some of them away. Not this year - walking into the greenhouse I look for the red glow that signals the minor victory of one more ripe tomato. Honestly, I think most of them will end up as green tomato chutney; it's hard to imagine how many of them might ripen this late in the season. I'll still grow them next year though - the taste is so different to the ones we get in the shops. The same goes for apples grown at home--I tasted one of ours today and it was literally mouthwatering: crisp and juicy and sweet with just enough sour lingering inside to give it a real bite. It tasted of childhood and warm slanting sunlight and open air, as opposed to something that's like a cross between polystyrene and a damp sponge, which sadly most apples in the shops taste like now. I have no room to grow proper apple trees and I have just one small coronet tree, but I plan to get more and have the tiniest orchard ever seen. If gardens represent Eden, then every garden should surely have apple trees.

In the greenhouse the bees have been working their magic on the tardy tomatoes and chillies. In the garden, they have been enjoying the last florets on the Agapanthus flowerheads, tackling the pincushion heads of the scabious, and have been nuzzling their way in and out of the turtleheads (Chelone obliqua). The Chelone plants I have come from a plant my Da gave me a good few years ago; he got his from Assumpta Broomfield in Altamont when we visited it not long after it was newly opened to the public. They're handy plants: they'll take dog's abuse (and I know whereof I speak), come back year after year without complaint, they divide easily and well, and they provide late summer colour with short columns of pink turtlehead flowers above dark green toothed leaves. You don't have to travel to old gardens to find them, I saw some for sale today in a standard garden centre. One of the other plants we got that day was Nicandra physalodes (the shoo-fly plant), which is an annual that seeds fairly well and can apparently get a bit weedy. Mine had disappeared from the garden only to return last year in the greenhouse. They love the warmth there and grow very happily so I always leave at least one to grow and produce more seed. They're a member of the Solanaceae family and seem more than happy alongside their relatives, the tomatoes.

I mentioned that we'd been having some sort of summer, but this week it ended (again! unlike a friend in the eastern US who this week wrote of an everlasting summer...) and Autumn arrived. Rain. For a change. And cooler weather. We've been losing the light in the evenings for some time now though I hadn't the heart to mention it here, but from now on it becomes ever more noticeable. I found myself blundering through the twilight in the garden to the water butt the other evening and it was only nine pm or so. Gardening in the gloaming...

Actually my gardening was a bit curtailed this week by some bones slipping out of place. A trip to the bone-cruncher has put me to rights but it did mean more sitting in the greenhouse and reading about gardening than actually doing a whole lot. But at least walks were still permitted and on one of them I was delighted to find a collection of wild carrot in the local park. Have a look at the pics below: the flowers make the most beautiful shapes, especially as the seeds start to ripen and the umbel starts to curve in on itself making the characteristic bird's nest. Keep an eye out for them: if they're in my local suburban park, you'll probably find them somewhere near you (at least if you're in Ireland). Have a good week.

A bee makes its sated way out of a Turtlehead  (Chelone obliqua) flower 
Autumn arrives
Wild carrot, Daucus carota

Wild Carrot, Daucus carota
Wild Carrot, Daucus carota
Nicandra physalodes; unripe tomatoes; temporary rest for a crocked gardener; oh, and a spot-the-schnauzer... 

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