Sunday, October 23, 2016

100 Words Challenge #1

Could I impart even a very small amount of my enthusiasm for gardening in 100 words? (20 used thus far).

World Mental Health day was on October 10th. Can gardening help with mental health? I say a resounding YES. Here's my top 3 thoughts:
  • A good garden MAY have some weeds. Akin to ill-health, weeds remind me of life's struggles. The trick is to ensure that the flowers dominate.
  • I frequently see one small job that needs doing, but after an hour of pottering about I have lost myself in harmony with the earth
  • Gardening is my therapy of choice

End of 100-word challenge #1.

Happy gardening, wherever you are, no matter how large or small your plot.

“I am intrigued by writers who garden and gardeners who write. The pen and the trowel are not interchangeable, but seem often linked.” ― Marta McDowell (and adopted by Petals by Paraig).

Monday, October 17, 2016

My Spanish Garden

I was away last week in Mallorca, and for that time the hotel grounds became my garden. There was no work involved, no weeding, planting, pruning or propagating. I simply spent a little while noticing little things.
Here are some of the beautiful plants at Hotel Playa Mar in Formentor near the north westerly tip of the island.

Lady in white

I nearly got myself into a spot of bother with this lovely shot, because just as I was taking it, I noticed a lady in the background staring at the camera! I'm sure she thought I was a bit dodgy.

I'll be looking forward to getting back to my garden patch for some serious autumn tidying. update coming soon.

Finally, i'm thinking it might be nice to include a quote about gardens & gardening.

“Sometimes since I've been in the garden I've looked up through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest and making me breathe fast. Magic is always pushing and drawing and making things out of nothing. Everything is made out of magic, leaves and trees, flowers and birds, badgers and foxes and squirrels and people. So it must be all around us. In this garden - in all the places.” ― Frances Hodgson BurnettThe Secret Garden

And finally, I've selected the following as my "tagline". It will appear at the end of each post, until such time as I want to change it:

“I am intrigued by writers who garden and gardeners who write. The pen and the trowel are not interchangeable, but seem often linked.” ― Marta McDowell


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Could You Pull A Few Weeds While You're Here?

A recent conversation with my mam seemed to pose a dilemma. We were looking through the vegetable beds, eyeing the leeks and broccoli.
"Is that a weed?", she asked, pointing to what very definitely was a weed.
"I'm not sure", I replied, knowing full well that it very definitely was a weed.
"I think it is", said mam, as she plucked it out and dumped it into a bucket.

My view is if you like it, then it's not a weed. There are some that I definitely do not like. Some have a very long taproot and are difficult to remove. Some are very invasive, and can root themselves as they spread along the soil. But many "weeds" are not really all that harmful. Yes, they deprive other plants of some nutrients, but in the larger scheme of things they are not bad. If I notice them growing very close to my vegetable rows, I put them in the bucket, and anything clearly between rows can be managed with a small hand hoe. Simply by keeping the soil loose means that the weeds do not thrive.

If growing between annual flowers, the flowers usually win. Anything foreign in there is generally an annual weed, and some occasional weeding is sufficient.

My Goodreads website provides a wealth of quotes on the subject, and I include some of my favourites here.
  • When life is not coming up roses, look to the weeds and find the beauty hidden within them.”  ― L.F.Young
  • I have come to believe that there is more grace in becoming wheat than there is in pulling weeds.”  ― Michael FlynnEifelheim
  • “I've never written a quote I feel would be suitable for my gravestone. Wouldn't it be ironic if it were this one? Oh, and could you pull a few weeds while you're here?” ― Ryan LillyWrite like no one is reading
  • “When weeds go to heaven, I suppose they will be flowers.”  ― L.M. MontgomeryThe Story Girl

Many plants that would not be tolerated in respectable gardens are used for medicinal purposes. In older times and up to very recently, people who lived on the land had a very balanced view of things. Yes, certain plants reduced crop yields, but many unfavoured plants were known to be beneficial to humans and animals in certain circumstances. Here are some examples:

  • Dandelion: leaves can be eaten in salads, and root is used for liver detox medicines
  • Chickweed: great for skin irritation probems
  • Nettles: literally dozens of medicinal uses.
  • There are many many more. Wikipedia article about beneficial weeds (Note, that they are still called weeds, though!)

When the topic of weeds is discussed, there is a very strong analogy between good / bad, and even in human terms there is evidence that any person with undesirable characteristics is to be avoided, shunned, marginalised or even eliminated like a weed. In contrast, the wisdom of the ancient Indian tribes brings to mind that "mother earth" is all-embracing. I am happy to appreciate all that mother earth has provided in my garden. All plants and insects interact to make nature's magic. I do, however, reserve the right to tip some into the bucket when it serves the greater good.

In many respects, gardeners want to create an ideal replica of their view of the world. Generally speaking, cultivated plants are preferred to plants that thrive "in the wild". Hence, they try to eliminate anything they feel does not fit in. We are merely keepers of this earth, however, just passing through for a short while. Any garden that is left uncultivated for a number of years will revert to a natural state. Dominant plants (weeds?) will smother and kill cultivated weaker ones.

Successful gardeners are seen as those who have been able to change the natural state to an entirely artificial cultivated one, yet the gardener who can work with nature and bend it to his ways will appreciate both better.
What is the natural reaction of most people to the picture below?

Wicklow, Ireland
Likely, one of appreciation of natural beauty.

If it happened to be your garden, would you appreciate it for what it is, or would you carefully attempt to "weed out" the unwanted bits in favour of your version of an ideal world?

Happy gardening,


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Plants Are Parents Too

Last week I cut back the Alyssum and saved enough seed to grow an army of them for next year. Today, as I wandered about, I was stunned to see the plant flowering again! The plant does not seem to understand that it's the first day of October.

Alyssum Golden Ball

Here’s how it works. When seed begins to ripen on a plant (any plant) the energy is channelled to ensuring that the seed ripens in the best possible way. Thee plant refuses to grow more flowers, as that would divert valuable energy away from “the next generation”. Bit like humans, really. Parents do as much for their children as they possibly can, often sacrificing things they would like for themselves.

The opposite happens as soon as the seed is shed. The plant returns to flowering, in order to produce even more seeds, and the cycle continues until such time as the weather changes alarmingly. When  nature cannot provide enough energy (sunlight & warmth) to ensure viable reproduction, the plant produces neither flower or seed. Bit like menopause, perhaps.

Here's a reminder of what it looked like only last week:

Therefore, anything that we can do to help the process on the way will result in more flowers for longer. Some gardeners will go to extreme lengths to provide ideal conditions for growth. Some delicate plants will be taken to the glasshouse. Other plants, just like humans, are hardy and can withstand cold and even frost.

Here's what happened only very recently: Easy Seed Saving