Today In The Columbine Garden

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The columbines do as they please in our garden. Over the years they have moved in from who knows where, and done much replicating. I have made only one deliberate introduction which is a lovely lemon one saved from an overgrown plot at the allotment. Every spring we have additional variations in the indigenous colour scheme, this season’s new shade being white with hints of mauve and purple. We also have various pinks, deep violet, burgundy and ivory and some of them have now moved into the front garden that sits beside the road so who knows where they will be off too next. A world invaded by columbines – well, why not?

So here are some garden views – inside back and outside back (guerrilla garden), and lastly our roadside bed which I feel could now serve as a reference plot for the Haphazard School of Cultivation. I’m not sure what the poppies are doing there – shades of Heinz tomato soup.  Ah well. They’re looking very jolly – a spot of light relief from Lockdown-itis.

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Magic Bean Flowers!

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Well they have to be don’t they – magic that is – sporting such snazzy attire. These are the flowers of Field Beans Vicia faba, the same species as Broad Beans. They are usually grown in the UK as animal fodder or a green manure – the latter being sown in autumn and then dug in prior to flowering in the spring. This seems a huge waste to me. The beans produced are less than half the size of their bigger culinary cousins, but the plants are prolific with bundles of pods per stem. In fact (as with Broad Beans) you can harvest the young pods and steam them whole. If you leave the pods on the stem too long the beans can become a bit floury, but then they are excellent for soup. The young beans (Field or Broad) also make their own tasty version of guacamole (I have tried it out on foodie chums who thought it delicious), though it’s a bit fiddly as you need to steam the beans and then remove their outer pale shell before blitzing the green innards with olive oil, garlic, lime and herbs. There’s a recipe HERE.

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Bees of course love bean flowers however they come. And of course for us humans they have the most alluring fragrance. When I was taking this photo I also noticed the flowers lower down the stem had already been pollinated and were forming tiny pods. So the bean feast will not be long in coming. In the meantime you can also lightly steam the plants’ growing tips as a green vegetable. It’s anyway advisable to pinch them off about now to discourage blackfly assaults, so they may as well be added to the supper menu. Magic all round then.

And here are some with purple striped petals:

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Of Sunset Quince Blossom And Haphazard Tree Creation

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I almost missed the quince blossom this year, and had to look hard for a few surviving flowers. These were caught two evenings ago in the allotment orchard. I have my own quince tree of course – though scarcely even a treelet as yet. It’s out in the guerrilla garden behind the old privy sheds. Two autumns ago fellow allotmenteer Siegfried gave me several large quinces from the allotment tree. I duly made quince jelly with them and must have saved some of the pips. These I apparently put in a pot of compost and then forgot about them. The pot was outside all winter, buried under another pot. Then last spring when I was tidying up I lifted the top pot and found five tiny plants underneath – ID then unknown. They looked interesting though – i.e. not like weeds, so I kept them. And then I remembered. Quince offspring!

Apart from the one I’ve planted out, I’ve found a good home for another with a chum who says it is thriving, but I still have three small trees in pots. If the mother tree is anything to go by (and it hasn’t been grafted onto dwarf rootstock), then the offspring should not grow too big. Maybe some more guerrilla planting is called for. My treelet is currently ringed by a crowd of columbine heavies, so it’s hard to spot. Anyway, here’s a photo:

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And here’s the mother tree:

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Randomized gardening can be so rewarding.

On The Line ~ The Shadow Garden

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Jude’s ongoing photo challenge at Travel Words is well worth your attention. Her aim over the coming months is to help us be more creative with our photography. May is dedicated to the use of light, with a different assignment each Sunday. Here is this week’s:

‘Look for shadows. Strong light, casting well-defined shadows, can create interesting abstract images. Layering light and shadows brings a sense of depth to an image and can convey mystery.’

My shadow composition came about as a result of some domestic DIY. It must have been late summer a couple of years ago. I don’t remember what the job was, but it involved washing this dust sheet afterwards. And as the late-day sun headed over Wenlock Edge so the shadow garden was made.

2020 Photo Challenge #18 Shadows

Hurrah For The Talyllyn Railway Men!

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A couple of summers ago we had a perfectly batty day out on the Talyllyn Railway, the world’s oldest preserved steam railway. The line runs from the mid-Wales seaside town of Tywyn up into the hills to the old Nant Gwernol slate quarry – the shifting of slate being the original reason for the line’s existence. You can see the full colour account of that trip at: Partners in steam on the Talyllyn Railway – Woo-Hooooo. But as Cee’s Black White Challenge this week in all about ‘heads’ and ‘features’, I thought I’d celebrate the Talyllyn’s enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers with a little photo gallery of those we met that day. A pleasure to travel with you, good sirs.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: heads or facial features

Damascus walks, April 26-28, Stores Re-Opened, Life in Streets

Normal life NOW in Syria’s Damascus as filmed by Eva Bartlett, one of the very few western journalists who has been regularly travelling to and around Syria for the past few years:

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During my hours-long daily walks all around Damascus, I’ve been delighted to note (as always) the calm and people interacting as normal on the streets, but also the re-opening of stores. That started over a week ago, with shops (non-essential) re-opening on alternate days. As of some days ago, they are allowed to open daily till 5 pm.

The government continues to find ways to both take precautions and help people survive economically.

For my thoughts on Syria’s dealing with C19, see this post

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The Changing Seasons ~ April Inside Looking Out

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This amazing amaryllis is one of this month’s several gifts: the result of a ‘doorstep swap’ with neighbour Sue. One of the consequences of being ‘confined to barracks’ has been the sudden sell-out of all garden seeds and sundries. If you didn’t do your orders back in January and February then getting hold of tomato seeds for instance can be proving a challenge. Sue hadn’t, but I had, so earlier this month I gave her some assorted seedlings, while she gave me the amaryllis (a plant I have never before possessed and at the point of exchange just a single fat bud) and then later she dropped off some mange tout and French bean seedlings. This week another chum Mary left two pots of young acanthus plants (bear’s breeches) in the porch, ideal candidates for the guerrilla garden where they are now happily settling in.

April’s other big gift was a good two weeks of sunshine, and although some days came with a cruel east wind, the sky has been blue, blue, blue and the apple blossom delicious. And though we are now back to chilly wintery weather at least we have had some rain which was also much needed. (I never thought I’d be saying this after the autumn-winter deluges). And cold or not, the garden is definitely saying ‘SPRING’.

One unintended consequence of seasonal upsurge has been the sprouting of my willow obelisk. Back in March I was given a big bundle of stems. After consulting The School of YouTube, I had a go at making a pot support for sweet peas. It worked out fairly well, but this month it has started growing – along with the sweet peas and some climbing French bean seedlings.  Ah well. I’m thinking the greenery will provide a good ‘backdrop’ for the sweet peas, though I may need to do some serious pruning. I made another smaller obelisk this week. In due course I could have a willow forest.

This month has also meant much labouring at the allotment – four rows and a raised bed of spuds put in, three different sorts of climbing peas and two short varieties planted out; beetroot seedlings in; parsnips sown; weeding, edging, path mowing, compost turning, digging all accomplished. Three cauliflowers have been devoured, while a fourth remains to be made into cauli and potato curry; lots of greens in the polytunnel which need to be eaten to make room for the peppers, tomatoes and aubergine plants. On the home front the conservatory is bursting with seedlings.

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And I also managed to finish re-working a short story – praise be to the deities of creative writing!

The last of my April gifts is the opportunity it has given us for reflection and observation. As I was coming home from the allotment the other evening I noticed how very lovely the hawthorn blossom is when caught at close quarters. I don’t remember every peering into the flowers before. They are quite exquisite. They have a faint dusky scent too. So I picked a sprig and then found some lilac in the hedge along the field path and when I got home popped them in a vase on the kitchen cupboard.

 

 

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The Changing Seasons: April 2020

Top Viewing ~ The Dyfi Ospreys Are Back

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This week I’ve rather fallen by the wayside with Becky’s Square Tops challenge, but I had to post this for the final day. And to say a big thank you to Becky for being such a top host and giving us all so much fun during these very strange times.

Some of you will remember the ospreys from a trip Graham and I made last year to the Dyfi Estuary in mid-Wales. The Dyfi Osprey Project has an observation centre with cameras trained on an osprey nest and you can observe happenings there throughout the breeding season. Live streaming is back (link below) and three eggs have been laid.  And now we’ve all got plenty of time to take a look. Hopefully, unlike the video in my previous post, it will not be subject to censorship!

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH7wpvs7OG4

 

Square Tops #30