The Changing Seasons ~ May

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The April showers we did not have in April arrived as torrents through much of May – along with hail, sleet, thunderstorms and deep-frozen gusts. And then a few days ago winter stopped and spring happened: wall to wall sunshine and a green explosion. Seedling plants that had been languishing chillily doubled in leaf size overnight. The crop in Townsend Meadow behind the house that I’d thought was wheat quickly grew three feet and turned into barley. The lime tree canopies on the nearby Linden Walk went from pinched and niggardly to ebullient and blousy.

Suddenly all seems right with world, although this only works if you avoid all forms of mainstream media. And to that end, I have been spending a lot of time deciphering the last of wishes of long-ago ancestors, words I find I can believe. It’s also been a time, between storms, to prepare the ground at the allotment, plant out peas and erect runner bean canes, and finally make up my mind as to where all the tomato plants are going. In fact last night I thought it was at last safe to plant the outdoor ones along the south facing wall of the old privies, though I did hang a bit of fleece over the canes in  case the plants felt too shocked. The only problem with that was during the night the rat that lives under the shed tried to hijack the fleece for its nest. Drat and double drat. I was hoping it had gone away. It looks like some tomato shielding will be required later on.

So: onwards and upwards. June tomorrow. In the meantime, here was May:

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The Changing Seasons: May 2021

The Changing Seasons: April In Wenlock

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Spring comes slowly to the Linden Walk. The epicormic stems at the base of the lime trees may have had their buds unfurling, but the canopy is only now showing a hint-haze of green. All in all, it has been a very strange month. My favourite on-line gardener, Charles Dowding, who gardens commercially down in Devon, says April has been colder than March, and the nights colder than January. I can believe it. Even on bright sunshine days the air has teeth, as if blowing off Arctic glaciers.

Surprisingly, the icy blasts do not seem to have deterred the fruit trees: cherry, damson, greengage have all been flowering magnificently, and now the apple trees are bursting with blossom. In the woods the primroses, celandines and violets have been flowering since February and now the bluebells are joining them. The wild garlic, too, is running amok in the shady parts of the Linden Field. Meanwhile out on the farms, the fields are already brassy gold with oil seed rape flowers, and the wheat behind the house is growing tall and lush, which is also surprising given many weeks without a drop of rain.

All the seasonal confusion is causing this gardener to dither more than usual: shall I shan’t I sow, pot on, harden off, plant out? One can only adopt the trial and error position and be ready with the horticultural fleece to protect the vulnerable. I have at least managed to get the potatoes and onion sets in the ground and planted out, with protection, some climbing pea seedlings and broad beans. And I have also ventured to plant out some tomato plants and one aubergine inside my polytunnel where the most successful production otherwise is a bed of overwintered coriander which has recently made its own small forest. (Never managed that before).

Of course when I go gardening, I’m still wrapped up in my winter gear – sweaters, scarf, hat, padded parka. The allotment is on an exposed slope above the town, and when the sun goes in, it’s been pretty bleak up there. But then all that clobber gets in the way of many spring season tasks. So please, please, May, could you just turn down the icicle winds. And perhaps bring us a bit of warmth. Oh yes and some gentle rain at regular intervals.

On and around the Linden Walk:

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Over the garden fence:

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Potatoes planted at the allotment; overwintered field beans behind:

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Come evening, still need to spark up the log burner:

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The Changing Seasons: April 2021

The Changing Seasons: March

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This sundowner view from the allotment tells me something has definitely changed. It was taken from my polytunnel doorway at 6.17 p.m. three days ago. Goodness. Still light after six o’clock! Spring must have sprung.

And yesterday, the last day of the month, it was suddenly tee-shirt-warm, blue skies above and wood pigeons cooing. A shock-reverse after days of chilling winds and passing hail. I watched the buzzards wheeling in wide arcs over Townsend Meadow behind the house, their haunting calls one to one.  Around the place tree buds were swelling, daffodils doing their full-on gold, while over in the Linden Field the school kids were playing football, and the pre-school kids were swinging on the playground swings while their mums nattered together. For all the world it looked like Planet Normal. Who’d’ve thought it.

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But then we should not have been fooled into thinking it is actually spring yet. The weather people did warn us there would be more cool days and frosty nights to come. And true to the prognostications, April has arrived cool and dull. It’s now a case of  cherishing the blossoms however we can: blackthorn, cherry, japonica and pussy willow, celandines, primroses, wild violets and windflower wood anemones, and in Shadwell woods, the just emerging buds of Spanish bluebells. There will be warmer days to come. There will!

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The Changing Seasons: March 2021

The Changing Seasons: This Was February

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Winter – spring – winter: we have been sorely teased over the past weeks, though it’s true that February may often prove contrary, breaking out in fleeting intervals of unexpected warmth. This year, after hard-frost beginnings, we had several days of sudden spring, and he who is old enough to be more weather-wise started casting clouts and layers with abandon. Too soon, I told him. Winter’s not done. And besides, March can be cruel. Hang on, good sir, to fleecy vests and quilted combinations.

And so here we are, the first days of the new month with much sky-gloom and creeping dankness, again the pressing need for woolly gloves and hats, and that’s just indoors. I joke. Well almost. But in spite of the cold, there are signs of spring: the blackbird singing its heart out just now in the Station Road holly tree, doves on the church tower in close-canoodling-cooing huddles, daffodils fast opening. Reasons to be cheerful. Absolutely!

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The Changing Seasons: February 2021

Changing Seasons: This Was January 2021

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Apologies for the swift change in temperatures after yesterday’s balmy temperatures on the Zambezi. Here in Wenlock we have been suffering frigid twirls and swirls of Polar Vortex: snow, sleet, wind, frost and in between, torrential rain. But we’ve had some sun too with china blue skies. Here’s the month’s round-up:

Snowy landscapes:  Windmill Hill (including the above with this mysterious snow tree), Linden Walk and Linden Field, over the garden fence…

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Birds and beasties…

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Frost art including some very fancy ice works created by my allotment water butt…

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And the first signs of spring…

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The Changing Seasons: January 2021

The Changing Seasons: December 2020

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Here are some of the many photos taken in the last few days in my various spheres of activity. First: snow scenes in the Linden Field.

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And in and out the garden, over the garden fence:

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And up at the allotment and surrounding vistas:

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And finally my Happy New Year photo: all the very best to everyone in 2021.

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The Changing Seasons: December 2020

 

The Changing Seasons: This Was October

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Until today’s storm and bluster ‘the garden over the fence’, aka the guerrilla garden was still doing its stuff on the floral front. The rosy crab apples have of course been stealing the show, followed by the Michaelmas daisies (white, mauve and purple), Anne Thomson geranium (heliotrope) and a scatter of late lemony Silver Queen helianthus. Now all looks blown away, though a few pink cosmos behind the old privies are hanging on.

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Beyond the garden, out in the field, all has been ploughed, and already the new crop, winter wheat again by the look of it, has started to sprout. In fact all around the town the hillside fields are a haze of new growth while the hedgerow trees and woody margins turn to old gold. But then much like last autumn we have had far too much rain, which in turn means us Wenlockians take to country paths at our peril – slithering in Silurian clag that threatens a serious upending at every step. The following photos, then, reflect only the surprise sunny intervals.

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Up at the allotment it’s now the season of gathering in and tidying, mulching and compost turning. This year many garden crops did not thrive as expected. I have no explanation for this, except we did have several weeks without rain in the spring and hand watering never quite makes up for it. But then this has been the pattern for several years now, and I had taken precautions with plenty of mulching.  After the brief hot spell in May the summer was generally lacklustre, often cool and windy, and light levels low.

And this in turn has me wondering that there is more to weather than CO2, on which of course all our plant life, and therefore us, wholly depend for existence. Something’s up with the sun. It seems to be having a quiet phase. We’ve also apparently had an El Nino event out in the Pacific, which usually makes for cold-wet La Nina after-effects. And then the earth’s magnetic field is having a wander across the hemispheres; the jet stream has been meandering all over the place, and lots of geothermal goings on have been happening under the ocean beds at the poles.

All of which is to say the time is clearly out of joint (all ends up), and this an over elaborate excuse for failed sweet corn, rubbish broad beans and a disappointing runner bean crop.

Anyway, failures apart, there is still much to pick – leeks, greens, carrots, beetroot, parsnips outside; salad stuff and a few tomatoes in the polytunnel; lots of apples on communal trees. On my cleared beds the green manure crops are growing well and there are still bumble bees in the flowering phacelia. I’ve broken into last autumn’s stash of fallen leaves and found some brilliant well-rotted leaf mould for mulching the raspberries. And I’ve sown over-wintering field (fava) beans for next year’s early summer picking, and they’re already sprouting. And that’s the great thing about gardening – the onward cycle of growing and nurturing, the continuous big ‘do-over’.

 

The Changing Seasons: October 2020

The Changing Seasons: September’s Reasons To Be Cheerful

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Words have been eluding me this month – words that are publishable that is.

Here in the totalitarian state of blighty our lives continue quietly, if bizarrely. Tomatoes have been featuring heavily in our lives, which just goes to show what happens when panic causes the human mind to overreact and envisage a global shortage of some deemed precious item.

The good side: I’ve given loads away. Even so, the last few weeks have involved repeat bouts of soup and sauce making, most of the crop now rendered into frozen bricks stacked up in the freezer. In fact there has been much vegetable processing all round, the kitchen looking like an exploded harvest festival; not necessarily in a good way.

But out in the autumn garden, there is much still to please, the helianthus yellow retreating before the Michaelmas daisy purples and mauves, the deepening russet reds of the crab apples and Coxes pippins. Last week we even had several days of sunshine weather just when we thought summer was done.

So, this month’s  thought for sanity survival: striving to be thankful for life’s small but blessedly lovely things is the only way to go.

From the September garden:

And from the other end of the spectrum:

 

The Changing Seasons: September 2020

A big thanks to Su for continuing to host this monthly photo posting.

The Changing Seasons: May 2020

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I took this photo last night as I left the allotment: the cow parsley in the descendant, the wheat thrusting up and beginning to form ears. It rather reflects my mood, for much as we have been enjoying the sudden outburst of ‘high summer’ days, albeit in May, I’m also feeling very cross. And since my views veer towards the contrarian, I don’t intend to air them here beyond saying there is too much officialdom fudging/ineptitude/cross-purposes/vested interest/contradictory information/rubbish media reporting and all round manipulation.

So that was May in the outside world. Meanwhile in my little Wenlock  sphere of influence all is burgeoning, and the garden is lovely. I’m not sure how we ended up with Mediterranean weather over the last few days and for the week ahead. It was preceded here by two days of tempest and a high chill factor that the weather people described as a gusty breeze. So gusty was it, that plants I’d put outside to harden off, had to return indoors and the process started over once the wind dropped.

Here is the gusty breeze in action. This is not a ‘fake’ photo:

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I haven’t recorded this month’s allotment activities – although much has been done: earthing up of potatoes, planting out beans – runners, butter, borlotti, Jacob’s cattle gold, Cherokee, climbing French; courgettes and squashes; red cabbages, Tuscan kale; and in the polytunnel: tomatoes, aubergines and peppers. The reason I’ve not taken photos is because most things are shrouded in thin horticultural fleece or mesh to defend them from excess heat, drying out, and pigeons. For now the plots look like some kind of crazy campsite.

On the home front the garden is moving into summer mode with foxgloves, roses, sweet peas and geraniums. The columbine grannies (aquilegias) have mostly lost their bonnets, the poppies their frocks, and the alliums are transforming into seedy constellations. But the red valerian (Centranthus) – also known as kiss-me-quick and devil’s beard is busy attracting the bees, and the whole garden is filled with bee-hum which can only be a good thing. I’ve also had the chance to notice how very furry some bumble bees’ bottoms are, so I thought I’d share an example of that particular observation in the upcoming gallery.

 

And here’s some news from the Dyfi ospreys: chicks hatched in new High Definition:

 

 

The Changing Seasons: May 2020

November On And Over The Edge: The Changing Seasons

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For  most of November it’s been rain and gloom on the weather front, and hate and smear in the mass media. When it comes to the upcoming general election it feels like a no-win situation. We’re dying for it to be done with, but horrified by the possible result. I further give my position away when I say the only bright spot this last week was when Channel 4 ‘emptied chaired’ Boris Johnson who refused to take part in the leaders’ climate crisis debate and replaced him, as they said they would do, with an ice sculpture. This served to generate the Twitter hashtag #BorisIsAMelt which in turn made me laugh out loud, and briefly lifted the spirits.

And then on Friday the sun came out so we popped over to nearby Ironbridge and turned it into a proper outing, mooching and lunching. And then yesterday, though Wenlock was again lost in murk, when we drove out of town into Corvedale there was the sun floodlighting the valley through a thin gauze of mist. Goodness! Sun – two days running. So we went to the off-season opening at Wildegoose Nursery where we had last been in August when the walled garden was alive with butterflies and all round floral brilliance. Yesterday it was transformed to muted tones, here and there lit up by plumes of ornamental grasses as they caught the sun. The place is pure magic however it comes, and especially its magnificent glasshouse. Yesterday it was hosting a special course of Christmas wreath making plus some arty works from our much loved 2020 Gallery (even though it’s moved from Wenlock to Ludlow).

And so making the most of November’s sunny intervals, the following photos are mostly from the last couple of days: first off, yesterday at Wildegoose Nursery:

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Ironbridge 29th November:

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And on home territory earlier in the month: fog over the garden fence and brighter vistas in and around the Linden Walk and Wenlock Priory parkland…

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Changing Seasons: November 2019

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