The Changing Seasons ~ August 2022

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Harvest time in Much Wenlock came early this year. With the brief heatwave that lasted less than a week, but the months of drought, some crops looked baked-in-the-ground. Without regular rainfall, our heavy Silurian soil very quickly turns to concrete and cracks open.

The field beans in Townsend Meadow behind the house that started off so well in spring, did not make good, fat pods before they started turning black and drying out. The plants themselves have been standing in the field, blackened and leafless for weeks. Until today that is (September 1st), when they were finally harvested amid a great dust storm. I dare say  the beans that have been harvested will be very well dried, but probably only suitable for animal feed.

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Thistles and the field bean crop just before harvest

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Now when it comes to apples, both wild and cultivated, it’s a whole new story. Here is the crab apple tree in our back garden. The fruit is tiny, but what a crop. I’ve never seen this little tree so laden: enough to make crab apple jelly and leave plenty for the over-wintering birds.

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Up at the allotment, the Discovery apple tree is also cropping earlier than usual, and again, weighed down with fruit. The skins are bit tough though; again likely due to lack of rainfall:

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Windfalls in August

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Since the three very hot days early in the month, we’ve had lots of cool and cloudy days, when we were sure it was going to rain. We’ve even had weather forecasts that threatened deluges. But no. They did not materialize. Only one passing shower that teased all the plants, and this gardener into thinking things were about to improve.

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Here’s the allotment bonfire in waiting. It looks very autumnal. The stalks of the artichoke plants on the pile, dried so hard they could not be chopped up for compost.

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Teasels already

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In the home garden, many plants have struggled without rain. The phlox that usually flowers all summer, bloomed and then was quickly desiccated. Hand watering simply did not cut it. Now though, some of the helianthus (perennial sunflowers) are trying for a bold recovery, and I spotted the first Michaelmas daisy yesterday. The geraniums, too, have soldiered on valiantly. Things in pots (cosmos and echinacea) are probably faring better because it’s easier to manage the watering. Which also means we have a jolly new sunflower just out by the greenhouse door. It’s sharing a tub with some tomatoes.

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And finally a view from Wenlock’s old railway line, taken yesterday:

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The Changing Seasons ~ August 2022:   Please visit hosts Brian at Bushboys World and Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard

Glory Be!

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Thank goodness. Our second day of COOL, with a good 10 degrees C completely vanished in thin air. It’s back to grey skies too. They often feature in British summers, and for once we’re thankful. The Morning Glories seem to feel the same way. There were eight blooms out this morning: four Flying Saucers with the sweet peas on the downstairs terrace, and some white ones with purple flashes among the Sun Gold tomatoes in the upstairs garden. They don’t last long though, even without the blazing sun curling their petals.

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We even had some gentle showers yesterday, this after weeks of drought. Hopefully there will be more purposeful rain tomorrow so I can sow spinach and carrot seeds, and plant out the lettuce that survived the baking.

I’m anyway feeling seasonally confused after the heat wave. Everywhere around the town, the trees and fields have a parched, end-of-season look that has me thinking already of autumn, and of the things I might sow in the polytunnel for winter salads. But I’m getting ahead of myself. We’re only just half way through August, and there’s still the tomato and cucumber crop to nurture. And in the home garden, even as today’s blooms fade and crumple,  there are plenty more glories to come.

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Earth Marvels

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If ever I were to begin to pin down my beliefs, then I might say they relate to earth, the planet, the universe, the creative forces that we humans scarcely understand, although that doesn’t stop us from telling ourselves plenty of stories about them. Indeed, throughout our short existence on the planet, it seems we have always told such tales, and it’s probably worth considering how many of them have proved false and fanciful.

And so when it comes to taking photographs, these are the kinds of thoughts that may be drifting through my mind. I mean, really – existentially – how do you explain this peacock butterfly – its form, colours and intricacies of behaviour? Of course for taxonomic purposes, entomologists may have a great deal to say on all these aspects, but in the natural scheme of things this organism simply IS, albeit occupying its own very particular evolutionary time and space.

Through my human eyes, then,  I see it as a marvel, because I also judge it to be beautiful and so worthy of my full attention. It is also very pleasing, exhilarating even, to see it, take its photo and then to share it. So in this sense it is also a celebration. At the same time I note that I am, as most people would be, uneager to similarly celebrate housefly larvae, dust mites, garden slugs or sooty mould; yet they all have their place in the biosphere. All of which is to say we humans are very selective when it comes to the things we ‘see’ and don’t ‘see’. I also think it’s worth thinking about this proclivity when it comes to our earth stories.

For now though, more celebratory earth snaps from today’s August garden. It’s bee and bug heaven out there…

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And yesterday I discovered a newcomer to the garden. This is one of a host of tiny bees presently foraging on the tansy flowers over the fence in the guerrilla garden. They are less than a half inch/centimetre long with banded abdomens of yellow or bluey-grey tones. I think they are a Colletes species/plasterer bees and therefore fairly recent arrivals in the UK.

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Lens-Artists: What’s your photographic groove?  Anne at Slow Shutter Speed  wants to know. Please pop over to her blog.

The Changing Seasons: May 2022

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Poppy time on  my allotment plot, the oriental perennials I grew from seed last year. I’d been hoping for a range of colours, but it looks as though they are all turning out to be tomato soup red. I should not complain. This bunch are brightening the spot in front of my shed.

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Otherwise at the allotment, the globe artichokes are going bonkers, arriving far earlier than expected. We’ve already polished off several. By contrast, the early potatoes are making a slow start, their green tops only beginning to sprout last week. Parsnips, on the other hand, have germinated well, this time sown in a large builders’ tub, and the onion sets are making their first green shoots. Beetroot, cauli and cabbage seedlings have been successfully planted out and the broad bean plants are flowering magnificently.

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In the home garden all is alliums and aquilegias, valerian and catmint. The apple blossom is long gone, quickly dispersed by May’s repeated rounds of wind and rain, but a few days ago I noticed there were lots of tiny apples forming – on the Coxes and the crab apple trees.

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Meanwhile around the town, all is lush in the fields beside the Cutlins path – shaggy sheep on one side, young MacMoos on the other, up to their knees and noses in buttercups. And oh yes, don’t forget to watch the sky. Looks like there’s another downpour coming:

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Nearby, on the Linden Field all is bursting green. The cricket season is upon us, the pitch well fettled, and lads in the nets  honing batting skills.  As ever, the Linden Walk is the favoured resort of walkers and runners and lately been proving a welcome resort out of the persistent chilling wind.

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But as you can see, the spring growth hasn’t in the least minded the ongoing coolness, and it’s certainly made the most of May’s sudden spate of unseasonal downpours. He who has given up binding books for the making of small and interesting occasional tables tells me it’s supposed to be getting warmer now June’s arrived. And yes, I think at last I can believe him. Today the sun is out, and best of all, the wind has dropped. In the greenhouse the French beans are surging out of their pots and the sweet corn seeds have germinated, and up in the upstairs garden, rose Teasing Georgia is strutting her stuff. Happy days.

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The Changing Seasons: May 2022  Brian at Bushboy  and Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard are the kind hosts of this monthly challenge. Please go and see what they have been doing during May.

Light And Shadow Over The Garden Fence

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Late summer and corn cockle seed heads against a Wenlock Edge sunset.

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Townsend Meadow behind the house; the fence surrounding the attenuation pond that protects the town from flash floods. And also our local carrion crow couple being nicely scenic.

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The upstairs garden seat in winter; the ash log sun dial, and the last of the crab apples.

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Autumn dawn, the guerrilla garden in shadow: Michaelmas daisies and helianthus. Townsend Meadow after the barley harvest, but still golden in the early morning sunshine.

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An early summer monochrome foxgloves and purple toadflax in the guerrilla garden.

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And an almost-monochrome. Shadow play on a dust sheet hug out to dry on the washing line.

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Lens-Artists: Light & Shadow  Patti has set the theme this week. Please pay her a visit. She has some stunning photos to show us.

Today Over The Garden Fence

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There may be a lingering chilliness on the wind, but in the upstairs garden crab apple tree Evereste  is in full floral finery. I don’t remember seeing her quite so blossom laden.  And she’s already attracting a few bees and sundry bugs, all calling in for their spring pollen fix. So if anyone is thinking of a crab apple tree for their garden, then Evereste  is a real treasure. She’s compact too, for despite the suggestion of gigantism in the name, she only grows about 10 feet (3 metres) tall.

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Bokeh For All Seasons ~ The Art of Blur

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Sofia at Lens-Artists suggests we think about bokeh – the judicious (or in my case mostly accidental) application  of blur to add depth and accent to our photo images.

Here are some garden bokeh, taken at different seasons and times of day. The header photo is a late autumn crab apple over the garden fence. And next up is a very wintery globe artichoke at the allotment. I like the russet tones, focused and unfocused, picked up by the afternoon sun:

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Summer and a self-invited opium poppy out in the guerrilla garden:

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And late summer teasels forming outside the garden gate:

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An October sun-downer sunflower in the ‘upstairs’ garden:

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Early morning dew on a heuchera flower in early summer:

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And a May-time bouquet in the kitchen: lilac and hawthorn blossom:

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Lens-Artists: Bokeh

Spring Curves

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Alder catkins catch the sun in the Linden Field

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Spring came to Wenlock this week, both time-wise and weather-wise. We’ve had lunch in the garden three days running. Astonishing for March! Full-on sun and a general bursting of buds and blooms in every quarter. Even the moss on the garden steps has switched to hyper-green mode.

Over the road in the Linden Field there are prairies of wild garlic leaves just begging to be plucked for sauces and soups. In fact such  is the vegetative imperative of this particular plant, it’s to be found sprouting from the lime tree hollows on the Linden Walk. At the top of the field, under the oaks, the daffodils are at peak perfection. Also growing there are wood anemones, dog’s mercury, violets and primroses. Then beside the Cutlins path the horse chestnut trees are now a mass of sticky buds. And at home in the garden the white japonica is looking its serene best.

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This week Ann-Christine at Lens-Artists asks us to show her curves.

Lens-Artists: Curves

The Wenlock Poppy Bomb

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One mid-summer evening when I was leaving the allotment by the gate rather than by my usual route through the field hedge, I glimpsed, on the far edge of town, over rooftops, and between trees, an astonishing scarlet blaze where I’d never seen one before. Home was forgotten, and off I went to investigate: over the main road out of Wenlock and down a lane beside the old railway bridge, into a field with an abandoned barn by the gate, and there it was: an entire field of poppies.

They looked to have exploded from an oil seed rape crop, but it was hard to tell. Had someone sabotaged the farm seed, or did the farmer do it on purpose? Whatever the cause, it’s not happened since. But it was one of those weirdly wonderful happenings wherein it was hard not to grow very over-excited and run amok. I took lots of happy snaps, then dashed home to spread the news to he had a much smarter camera. And then we went back and repeated the excitement, all fuses fired by poppy power.

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The Square Odds #14