09 September 2014

Mind the gap

The indiscipline of it ... there I was doing weekly blogs over the last couple of years, didn't miss one. I changed to once a month this year and see how standards have slipped. A gap--no a yawning chasm--from early to late summer.

But it was a sort of limbo-summer. B needed time to get through all sorts of medical procedures and to concentrate on healing... And we're there! Good news a couple of weeks ago means that we can look forward again, plan new things, head into the autumn and winter with a fresh outlook.

In spite of all, we took time to enjoy the summer - and the weather conspired to help us. Summer is after all the time for being outside: in the garden, in the woods, up the hills, on the shore, in other people's gardens. We did some short trips and a week in wonderful Donegal and on the way we saw cwms (corries/cirques) and coasts, gardens and meadows.

(By the way,I should apologise now for the quality of the photos here, most of them are phone pics. Hopefully normal service will resume next time.)

Cwm with a view: looking down to the Copper Coast from Mahon Falls -- a waterfall that tumbles out of a corrie or cwm,
scoured out by a glacier quite some time ago
A trip to Waterford in early/mid summer brought us from the abundance of Peter Stam's bamboo nursery to the perfection of Paddy and Mary Tobin's garden: not an easy place for us to find, but well worth it! It's a plantsman's garden created with a good eye and caring husbandry. Lots of mini-habitats abound, in which Paddy and Mary indulge their love of plants and gardening: a wall becomes a crevice garden filled with gorgeous alpines; a pond is the setting for a graceful collection of Dieramas; some island beds become a white garden, the grass nearby now turning successfully into a small but perfectly formed meadow, where--to Mary's delight--a wild orchid has bloomed this year. The kitchen garden is exemplary: filled with fruit and vegetables bursting with health and vigour, and where even the compost heap is neat!

Donegal worked its usual magic, helped immeasureably this year by the most beautiful weather this island had seen for some time. Walking with Iz in the early morning through still and silent woods down to a warm, golden, deserted beach for a quiet swim was some sort of heaven. In both places where we stayed in that lovely county we were so-o-o well looked after by great and generous friends: many thanks to all, you know who you are...

The path to the beach, early on a divine summer's morning

Clear Atlantic water
I have no pictures (so I've given some links here to some of B's from his Catchlight facebook page). but we also visited Philip Hollwey's beautiful garden near Bunclody in Co. Wexford and Knockrose garden closer to home near the Scalp. Both inspiring in different ways. Philip's meadow is beautiful and the whole garden is a coherent and cohesive approach to design and environment. The boundaries of the garden merge seamlessly with the surrounding fields and woods, and the garden itself becomes more formal and deliberate as it approaches the house. I loved it and hope to get back there again if he opens it next summer.

Knockrose is a very different place: it's on a north-facing slope at the northern tip of the Scalp: not a very promising location for a garden you'd imagine, but Patricia and Tom Farrell have created a series of spaces through which any visitor is enticed to walk, each one more delightful than the last, and each with a place to stop and savour where you are: garden seats, a Dutch light greenhouse, a home-built garden 'hut' (hut is too humble a word for it). The whole is put together with an artist's eye for texture and colour, a plantswoman's love of her garden inhabitants, and, I suspect, a philosopher's love of spaces to allow for contemplation. We had to go back a second time and there's no doubt we'll go again too. 

Back in my own garden, the opportunity to spend more time there than in recent summers meant that I was able to take the first step in growing some alpines from seed.

Some of the alpine seedlings in July (thanks to the AGS Seed Exchange)
As I write this in September, some of them have actually made it this far and I'm delighted, but there's a long autumn and winter ahead! If you're not a nerdy plant person, scroll down now, but for those of you with an interest, so far I have seedlings of:

Aquilegia flabellata alba
Androsace septontrionalis
Antirrhinum braun-blanquetii
Dianthus deltoides 'Albus'
Dodecathon media
Gentiana septemfida
Semiaquilegia ecalcarata
Silene pusilla

Watch this space to see how many make it through to Spring 2015.

As well as seedlings, the greenhouse provided a home for tomatoes (which didn't get enough proper care for me and so haven't done too well) and cucumbers, which were great! I grew the cucumbers along string up across the interior of the greenhouse and that worked very nicely indeed. A curious young robin came into the greenhouse to 'help' from time to time, and a very hot mini-schnauzer discovered that digging down into the soil below the greenhouse bench provided a shady spot to cool off. She wasn't a bit concerned that soil was then scattered all over the place and the alpine seedlings were in danger of being disturbed. Funny how these sorts of garden hazards don't make it into too many 'how-to' guides...

Cucumbers on the go
Always handy to have help in the greenhouse
Outside the greenhouse, the garden relished the good summer too:

No garden should be without fruit: luscious loganberries
One of my Dieramas blooms by the pool earlier in the summer
Late summer... Do you see that tall Joe Pye weed in the middle?
... no garden should be without Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium sp.) as the pollinators cannot resist it: hoverflies and bees earlier in the summer and then in autumn, the butterflies descend...

a Red Admiral stops by (thanks to catchlight for the photo)
So, with a busy summer on the go and a garden and greenhouse to be looked after, was there time for drawing? Well, yes, a little. And I'm trying to work on the basis that drawing can be done *any*where. Just have a pencil/pen and any paper to hand and you can always give it a shot:

if you want to draw, you'll draw anywhere (a welcome distraction from the ST crossword)
One of the goals I set myself this summer was to learn more about colour. I was going to stick with coloured pencils (Faber Castell Polychromos and Caran d'Ache Luminance, gorgeous pencils all) so I had some sort of control of the medium -- it's just not funny to see me sloshing watercolours around the place. Early in the year I'd been invited to take part in a sketchbook exchange and I was all set but had to decline as plans changed... I've been keeping an eye on the amazing and beautiful work that the artists who are taking part are doing for each other (you can find out more on their blog here) and a part of me is hugely relieved that I wasn't able to take part, I simply wouldn't have been in the right league at all... But I decided to soldier ahead in my own sketchbook and also to use it without any pressure and as a sort of diary too - small notes on what was happening on the day I sketched; bits of poems that I love; and so on. I've enjoyed it enormously and at least it has allowed me to flex the drawing muscles a little. So much still to learn though. Anyway, here are a few bits and bobs from the sketching over the summer. A very mixed bag and you can see I didn't have too much time, but it has been enjoyable and I've loved the learning.

purples... Wallflower and Rosa 'Rhapsody in Blue'
sketching seaweed from a Donegal beach

and turning sketches into a drawing: of  I think Fucus vesiculosis?, drawn with coloured pencil
and a mussel; well alright: a partly done mussel 

couple of little unripe rose hips (coloured pencil again)
conker in graphite

conker in coloured pencil -- too tentative!
can't leave those conkers alone ... more coloured pencil
I think that's enough for now. If you've made it this far, thank you! I'll end with an image from today; B had a final procedure to go through and afterwards we enjoyed lunch in the late summer sun in Airfield:

onward and upward
Go well all.


  1. Gorgeous blog, glad you have good news and your garden looks delightful. ������

  2. It has been a long day, and I can't think of a better way to end it than reading your blog. Now I shall dream of alpines and robins and min. schnauzers and cucumbers all in a row . . . and a sketch book that inspires me to get back to mine!

    1. Thanks for that Jane, so glad you enjoyed it. Would love to see any of your sketchbooks! See you soon.

  3. "Cym with a View". Classic FB. Photos from 'only' your camera phone ain't bad either! Congrats to B on his total clarity. S

  4. Delighted to hear your great news! Your drawings are really lovely too!! X

    1. Thanks Mary, you've some good news on the go yourself with your paintings at the world orchid conference! well done.

  5. Welcome back to blogland Erica! Lovely piece, and really beautiful drawings! Aido xxx

  6. So great to see you back blogging. Hope to see you this week, with the sketchbooks xx

    1. thanks shevaun, will be in touch about the sketchbooks.

  7. Hello! So good to see good news, gorgeous descriptions of tranquil places and beautiful images. And those cukes! I love the way you have them hanging.
    Bisous a toi et B de la foret, Rachael

    1. Rachael! How lovely to hear from you. Thanks for dropping by and for kind comment. I *will* write to you in person soon... fb