On wintery days when the garden looks deeply dreary, it’s good to reflect on past summer brilliance and on summers to come.
In fact they are supposed to fare better disease-wise if planted towards the end of the year, rather than in autumn with the other spring-flowering bulbs. I came across this particular bouquet in Aardvark Books (Hereford’s wonderful second-hand book emporium and book lovers’ heaven). Stunning, isn’t it? You can well see why tulip mania broke out in 17th century Holland. (Perhaps one of history’s more benign expressions of humans losing all sense of proportion).
Tulips of course are not native to Europe (hence the excitement when they first arrived there). Their homeland is Turkey where they grow wild, and it was the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire who bred and filled their gardens with ever new varieties. Trade in the bulbs was forbidden and each new variety carefully recorded. But as might have been predicted with such highly desirable items, they escaped at last. And ever since we’ve had more and more new versions, each one designed to incite tulip lust. So much so, I find it impossible to choose whenever I look at a bulb catalogue. On the other hand, as I said, there’s still time to plant some…
Life in Colour: Kaleidoscope Jude wants plenty of colour from us this month.
Wales on cloudy winter’s days can yield some broodingly dramatic expanses of blacks and greys. There is certainly a lack of light as we drive through Snowdonia’s national park one Christmas Eve. (These photos were taken from a moving car). Even so, there is no lack of colour. If anything the rugged moorland russets of bracken, turf and heather are heightened by the grey-black backdrops.
Here, then, are landscapes of the mind, settings for the doings of ancient Celtic heroes, wizards and shape shifters, whose remnant tales still survive today, albeit in transcribed and edited forms in the Mabinogion.
In the previous post Chasing the light over Townsend Meadow my header photo featured my ‘stand-on-bed-while-using-open-rooflight-as-tripod’ school of photography. I now confess to using the same method to spy on my local corvids. I think the pair flitting above the field fence may be carrion crows. It’s hard to tell at this distance, but we do have a couple who come daily to forage in Townsend Meadow. It is part of their territory that includes the Linden Field across the road. Also each year they come with an offspring. They call to each other across the field. I note a strain of lament in it.
But back to spying. If, with my stand-camera-on-open-window method, I then turn the lens 45 degrees to the right I can then cover activities in the rookery in the wood beside Sytche Lane. The lane borders the field boundary, and the wood borders the lane and is an unkempt sort of place inaccessible to us ordinary Wenlock folk. Both rooks and jackdaws congregate here, and in large numbers. At dusk, and particularly in autumn, they put on breath-taking balletic performances, swooping and swirling for many minutes over the meadow. If you happen to be out there when they start (sometimes my return from the allotment coincides with the opening passes of the corvid air show) it can be exhilaratingly eerie, and especially when a cohort, several dozen strong, whisks by my shoulder. There’s a rush of air. Wheeeeesh. Then gone before you register quite what happened.
You can get a gist of this phenomenon from my short video at the end of the post.
Related: Rooks Dancing in the New Moon
That this first photo worked at all is something of a mystery. There was hardly any light (as you can see) and I was using my very basic Kodak EasyShare digital camera. But then it was Christmas Day and we were staying on the Welsh island of Anglesey (Ynys Mon) with its millennia of mystical associations – druids, saints and seers. When I took the shot I was standing above the little town of Beaumaris looking towards the Welsh mainland and the foothills of Snowdonia. The Menai Strait lies between, obscured by trees. It is a zone of extraordinary light-through-cloud displays.
Here are some early morning shots taken further along the Strait, rooftops of Beaumaris in the bottom edge foreground:
Life in Colour: Black or grey Jude at Travel Words has given us a new shade to think about for this month’s pix.
I thought this marigold square deserved another outing – essence of orange as visual infusion. And yes, I know. I keep writing about this particular cottage garden pharmacopoeia, so just to prove I’m not some old wife telling ill founded tales, here’s a scientific paper that highlights calendula’s potential for all manner of human ills, and calls for a thorough investigation of likely benefits. The list of this plant’s phytoconstituents is breath-taking:
The paper also points out that pot marigold, Calendula officinalis, is used clinically around the globe, especially for skin complaints. This has been so for hundreds of years. It would certainly have been found in the monastic physic garden, and the medieval wife would also have grown it in her kitchen garden, since she was the one responsible for dealing with family ills in an era when ordinary folk had to shift for themselves when it came to illness.
Anyway, just looking at my current marigold horde at the allotment cheers me up. So here’s a further dose:
Today, Jude at Travel Words wants to see examples of edible orange. And just in case you think that only the bumble bees are enjoying my allotment nasturtiums, I have to confess I’ve lately been chomping the flowers whenever I go gardening. At the moment there’s a huge flock of them on the bed where I had broad beans earlier this summer. I’ve no idea how they got there (interspersed with pot marigolds) but they are making a colourful show, and their late arrival (seasonally speaking) means they have escaped depredations from cabbage white caterpillars and aphids.
The flowers are crisp, cool and peppery, and excellent added to salads along with their leaves. The seed heads are also edible, but due to their stronger flavour are perhaps better pickled than eaten ‘neat’.
The garden nasturtium has been much studied for medicinal benefits, and you can see some of the findings in the research paper HERE. This is a quote from the abstract:
The flowers and other parts of the garden nasturtium are a good source of micro elements such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium, and macro elements, especially of zinc, copper and iron. The essential oil, the extract from the flowers and leaves, and the compounds isolated from these elements have antimicrobial, antifungal, hypotensive, expectorant and anticancer effects. Antioxidant activity of extracts from garden nasturtium is an effect of its high content of compounds such as anthocyanins, polyphenols and vitamin C.
I shall thus keep chomping until the frost finishes the present crop. Meanwhile, too, the flowers are still available for any late-hibernating bee in need of a pollen fix.