27 September 2012


To Montréal tomorrow! A son to visit, new places to see. Hoping a Canadian autumn will prove beautiful. Before I leave, just two pics - autumn trees interacting with the light.

The first in a wood a couple of weeks ago - looked up and saw these beautiful fretworked silhouettes.

Ash and hazel fretwork
The second I dashed out to catch the other evening from my own garden: this local tree is on a nearby green space and it caught those golden rays that you see only at this time of the year. It glowed.

Autumn glows
Have a good week all.

23 September 2012


Fragrant woodsmoke drifting through the damp air, a crackling fire, an old left-hand-drive green army truck, tents and canopies, a small group of men--young and middle-aged--doing 'manly' things. A clearing in a German forest? A Canadian campsite? Nope: 10:15 on a Sunday morning near Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, in a small area of protected native woodland (complete with 'No Camping, No Fires' notices, but this is Ireland...). Farther along the river, two other men were settling in to pan the river, presumably hoping to find gold washed down the Dargle river from the Leinster granite. I don't think they'll have too much luck (it has never been found in great quantities in Wicklow) but I hope they'll enjoy the looking. To be honest, they didn't look like they were having a great time, there was a lot of splashing and wading and the odd loud curse, and when I put on my best Maeve smile and hailed a cheery "Panning!?", I was met with a rather glassy stare from one of them. Oh well.

That particular walk is very appealing to one mini schnauzer and on one of the paths she found her own nugget of gold this week in the form of a burst football (left over from another manly pursuit in a forest clearing perhaps?).

Out in the woods wasn't the only activity away from office and home this week - we (and many others) enjoyed Culture Night on Friday. What a great idea this is: countless galleries, buildings, libraries and societies of all sorts open their doors to all, for free, on this one Friday night. The city was buzzing with people of all ages, from tiny tots to septuagenarians, all reclaiming a vibrant city for themselves. One of the lovely spaces I particularly enjoyed was the restored Georgian garden of the Royal Society of Antiquaries. BvG has taken some gorgeous photos there and throughout Dublin. You can see them here.

Back in the garden at home, the reds of autumn are emerging: berries and leaves and the harvest of a poor summer. Rose hips, honeysuckle and cotoneaster berries will all be welcomed by the birds in the coming months. It's going to be a rough winter for birds - the cool damp summer has meant that crops of nuts and berries are very poor on these islands. The hawthorns on the edge of the nearby playing fields have only a hint of their usual crop, and many of the blackberries below are small, hard 'crigs' (as my Da used to call them).

It's two years this week since my father died. The fading light (the Equinox has passed and as the Met Éireann person announced this week, from here until 21 December, there'll be increasing darkness each day...) and the colours of autumn are all tinged with an extra sadness now.

Have a good week all.

Rosa glauca, lipstick-red hips
Lonicera, Honeysuckle
Cotoneaster, Red berries will be welcomed by the birds later in the autumn
Dwarf Cherry
Acer petioles turn red in anticipation of the main show in a few weeks
Vaccinium, blueberries; the fruits are just about gone, the leaves glow red before winter
Red onions from the allotment have been drying off on a greenhouse shelf
Welcome red in the greenhouse
Fun is where you find it

16 September 2012


It's the turn of the invertebrates this week. I'll let the pics speak for themselves. All of them except the obvious odd one out were taken in my greenhouse.

Nicandra physalodes, flower open wide, waiting for pollinators
The traditional pollinator in this part of the world, a honey bee (with full pollen sacs), comes in to land
Bees aren't the only ones, a small fly comes in for a look...

... and likes what it sees

A hover fly (or 'steady bee') pauses...

... and then gets in on the action (this particular hover fly is called Helophilus pendulus) ...
... and here's another one trying out a tiny Allium 

Autumn is mating time for spiders and there are lots of spectacular webs around
(this pic is also this week's spot-the-schnauzer btw). 
Have a good week all. 

09 September 2012

The joy of warmth

All change - autumn in full swing and the blackberries and hazels are ripening. A lovely nephew comes to stay as he starts college (welcome RB!) and both sons prepare to start back too, one in Montréal, one here in Dublin. Best of luck all, may you have a great year.

For me--after formative years in school and college--this time of the year still feels like a start, which is a great feeling to offset the endings in the air as summer bows out and gives way to the ripening of autumn. On the morning walks with Iz, I meet a man who lives nearby foraging joyously for blackberries: deep shining blue-black drupelets staining his hands a wine-dark purple. I met the same man this time last year when we were both doing the same thing and I haven't seem him since. A handful of blackberries can make a nice difference in the morning though at the moment I supplement my breakfast with plums that fall onto the public path from a neighbour's tree. They don't seem to have any interest in their plum trees (how can that be?) and it's such a shame to see fruit go to waste...

The season may be autumnal, but the weather has been all about Indian Summer. At last the warmth of summer has arrived in a sustained way over the last few weeks. The water lilies have bloomed all over again - two gorgeous, pure white, many-petalled flowers in the pool; the late flowers are blossoming in abundance throughout the garden (the Verbenas, and, coming up fast, the Asters) and the bees and hoverflies are delighted. I cut back the old tatty flowerheads of the Anthemis but the warmth and sunshine have encouraged it to give flowering another go.

The warm weather was a bonus as I visited the (definitely) sunny south-east this weekend. A night and day combined perfectly to provide a starlit (well alright, there was a torch app on someone's phone at one stage) post-prandial walk on the beach on a warm night, followed by a day of unending sunshine, a long seashore to walk along, tasty food, relaxation and laughs with a dear friend and some good friends of hers - a great bunch. Many thanks for a lovely time LB!

On the way home from the short break I detoured to the Camolin Potting Shed, which I've read about but never had a chance to visit. In the Irish way, it turns out that Gerry (one of the owners) knows Hans from Kwerkerij de Hessenhof  (which we visited in the summer) well and buys some of his stock from there. Camolin have some beautiful plants, all looking very happy and I couldn't walk away empty-handed. For the first time--as I explained to Gerry's bemusement--I saw the point of Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum), especially as it was covered in butterflies and bees. We both agreed that it's the late summer warmth that has finally brought them flying again in our gardens. I also couldn't resist a Salvia (S. uliginosa) with the most sky-blue blue flowers I've ever seen - carried lightly on tall flowerheads. And finally, I took a chance on a plant I'd never come across before, an Althea cannabina, which apparently Gerry first spotted in Beth Chatto's garden. It's a beautiful thing, again airy and light and tall. Many thanks to Gerry for a warm welcome and great plants. I hope to return!

Have a good week all.

Hazelnuts on the way
Trá bán

Seaside house

Cormorants loitering on a groyne


Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum) getting used to my garden

Salvia uliginosa

02 September 2012


The faintest blush appears on the Sedum spectabile, like the pinkish-red glow on evening clouds as the sun sets. Acorns swell on the young oak trees in the field nearby; on the street the berries on the rowan trees glow yellow, orange or red. At eight in the evening, the light leaks out of the sky. September and Autumn have truly arrived. The twilight coolness, the mistiness in the air some mornings, the low angle of the light; all are a reminder that in spite of Indian-Summer weather, the season has turned.

In the garden, the ferns still hold their own, the tomatoes are finally ripening, the slanting light of evening is caught and held by the bamboos, and a photographer makes some lovely images.

Last week a full moon shone on the birthdays of two dear friends; this week my son's birthday--and also my late brother's--is just around the corner.

Happy happy birthday CM. See you soon.
Happy birthday too to DW and JW.

A short one this week.
Have a good week all.
Sedum spectabile blushes at the onset of Autumn
Autumn prises open the Sedum spectabile buds

Acorns swell
Rowan berries glow

An early morning run for some dogs, Iz looks on
Ferns are still fine
At last...

Bamboos catch the evening light