I have to say that on the presentation front the cloud gods have truly upped their game this year. Even in the stormy wet and frigid months that were supposed to be spring, but weren’t, we were treated to some magnificent cloudscapes. And lately too, during our present hot spell, we’ve had some stunningly captivating creations. There’s much to be said for cloud watching. In fact I think this huge job spotted over the barley field the other afternoon could well be the Starship Enterprise in disguise.
Here on Wenlock Edge it seems as if we’ve gone from winter to summer with not much spring in between. These last ten days have been warm and sun-filled, a great a time for encouraging squash and French bean seeds to sprout and planting out sweet corn. Of course along with heat and sun come worries about watering newly planted crops: the water butts were growing perilously low, and then quite unexpectedly (because it wasn’t intelligibly forecast except by the Norwegian weather site YR Weather) came a couple of nights of gently soaking summer rain. The barley in the field over the fence shot up another six inches and the home borders turned into jungles. Out in the guerrilla garden the invading Queen Anne’s Lace was bowed down with raindrops. I can’t think when I have seen anything quite so pretty. Who needs diamonds.
Life in Colour: white/silver This month at Travel Words Jude asks for white and silver sightings.
For this final week of ‘purple posts’ Jude at Travel Words asks for edible subjects. She didn’t specify whose food though, or at what stage they might be edible. A broad interpretation to follow then, including shots from the allotment yesterday: polytunnel chives, comfrey and field bean flowers.
And from last year on the plot: inside a globe artichoke, potato flowers and a sweet pea, none of which are edible, but sound as if they might be.
Aren’t they amazing! I was astonished this week when I saw the colour of this year’s field bean blossom. They’ve never turned out like this before.
The beans were sown back in October and the plants were around six inches (15cm) tall when winter struck. I was surprised how well they survived the recurring frosts.
Once they start flowering, they often put on a growth spur which means staking may soon be required. One year they grew nearly as tall as me. But in any event, by early summer each plant will produce a mass of small pods with miniature broad (fava) beans inside.
They are usually grown by farmers for animal feed. They also make good winter cover to protect the soil, dug in the following season as green manure. This is done before flowering. Which means NO BEANS. Which would be a shame. They are delicious (if you like broad beans) and make a very tasty version of humus. Also good for the Tex-Mex refried beans approach. But for now we can just admire the extraordinary flowers. I’m only sorry I can’t pass on their wonderful scent.
No alliums out in our part of Shropshire yet, though there are frosted leaf tips and a few tightly closed buds just showing. Still, when they do come, they really can’t be beaten for early season purple, and purple is this month’s Life in Colour choice at Jude’s Travel Words blog (link below).
Jude and I have also been muttering about the weather in April. At one point we both wondered whether it was growing older than made us think it was colder. But no! Now we have the evidence. The UK Met Office report:
April 2021 had the lowest average minimum temperatures for April in the UK since 1922, as air frost and clear conditions combined for a frost-laden, chilly month, despite long hours of sunshine.
Early provisional figures from the Met Office’s National Climate Information Centre indicate that April had the third lowest average UK minimum temperature for the month since records began in 1884, while Wales, Scotland and England all reported their figures in their top five lowest ever recorded. Average daily maximum temperatures were also below normal, but not by as much as the minimum temperatures.
It had already been reported that April had seen its highest level of air frost in 60 years, with an average of 13 days of air frost topping the previous record figure of 11 days in 1970 (records for air frost go back to 1960). This number of air frosts is more typical for December, January or February, whereas the average number of air frosts in April is five days. For gardeners and growers there were also a record high number of ground frosts with 22 days this month compared to an average of 12 days.
And so while we’re waiting for warmer days and nights and for the alliums to happen, here are some archive allium shots to be going on with:
A ‘life in pink’ round up. Don’t forget to visit Jude on Sunday for May’s colour scheme.
I thought my photo of an Elephant hawk-moth, Deilephila elpenor, deserved another viewing, being both unusually pink (as for Jude’s Life in Colour this week) and bright lipstick pink and so good for a Becky-bright-square. The moth itself was a surprise arrival on the garden wall a couple of summers ago. In fact I think it was asleep when I found it. In real life it was about 6 centimetres across (2 and a half inches); a big moth, in other words. And in its caterpillar form it is even bigger, though at that stage it is mostly a dull sludgy colour with pink eye spots and a strange little horn on its tail end.
Hawk moths are nectar feeders and come equipped with especially long tongues to probe their favourite flowers. They are also speedy, precision fliers, so the colour scheme, gaudy when stationary, blends well among drifts of rose-pink rosebay willow herb where, in high summer, they best like to feed. The caterpillar, on the other hand, has very different eating habits. If they find themselves in a domestic garden they will eat fuchsias. The best response is to pop them in a container and find them a wild patch of rosebay willow herb, Himalayan balsam or bedstraw.
It has an extra-terrestrial look, doesn’t it – this exploding pussy willow catkin. In fact ‘catkin’ sounds too confining a word for such exuberant expression.
Elsewhere around the town signs of coming spring are more reserved: delicate cherry and blackthorn blossom on otherwise bare branches, and earlier this week only a slightly seen green haze about the church yard weeping willow; while everything is otherwise accompanied by a bone-biting wind that has the daffodils and me bracing ourselves.
The Linden Walk still looks wintery, although there are carpets of wild garlic everywhere – the leaves good in soups and stews and salads and for making pesto sauce. I’ve also noticed interesting colonies of lower plant life on the lime tree trunks, lichens and mosses and the like. And squirrels…
And on the home front the daffodils are lighting up the garden by the road.
And stepping out of the back garden gate I came upon a cat with green eyes…
Summer left on our first day in Greece. We might have woken to hot and dazzling sunshine, but by lunchtime the storm clouds were building over the strait. And then came the deluge, torrenting off the pantiles on our cottage roof. Maria, the cottage owner, said it was the first rain in months and after the broiling summer (that we’d only just missed) the olive groves and vineyards were desperate for a good watering. So it was hard to feel too hard-done-by as, before our eyes, the parched Kalamata land sucked up the downpour.
The thunder racketed around for a couple of hours, and finally rumbled off in late afternoon, leaving us with still threatening clouds but, by then, a pressing need to stock up on provisions. We had been told that the nearest supermarket in Harakopio village was an easy two-mile walk. And so it was: a tranquil path between small farms and ancient olive groves; no traffic; only the scent of damp leaf litter and sometimes the delicate fragrance of tiny cyclamen along the verges. There was farm clutter of course along the way, but that goes with the territory. Hens scrattled about under the trees and handsome dogs kept watch over their people’s domains. There was a rather nice horse. Now and then the sun almost shone and I fell in love with gnarly olive trees that looked at least as old as Odysseus.