The light fantastic

Summer has most definitely arrived here. The children have broken up for their lusciously long school holiday and the San Juan fiesta rockets have been crumping and thumping in the distance all over the weekend. We have put up the sunbrella, stacked the fridge with sparkling water and cooked our dinners outside on a wood fire every evening.

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Morning is now the time to get jobs done in the garden before the searing heat of the afternoon leaves everything  bleached of colour and soporific in the shimmering, silvered sunlight. There is no rush, though; I love nothing better than wandering out, still pyjama-clad, with my first tea mug of the day to breathe in the freshness and beauty of the moment and welcome the gift of a new day. The air is spiced with the scents of eucalyptus and lavender, sugared with roses, honeysuckles and sweet peas.

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Swallows skim the vegetable patch just above ground level, swooping and twisting like arrowheads through the plants with split-second precision (I wish I could capture them with the camera!). Even this early, the flowers are teeming with myriad insects. Lacy coriander blooms sparkle with dainty hover flies, lavender bristles with businesslike bees and everywhere – everywhere – there are butterflies, so many different varieties floating dreamily on painted wings.

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This is the time of day to truly appreciate the garden beauties; illuminated by a soft, dappled light they take on a whole new allure, a delicate elegance that is washed out by full sunlight. Here I can see every shadowed pleat and fold, every nuance of shade and texture, every mesmerising mystery of petal and sepal, stigma and style, frond and tendril, pattern and form.

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The wild ones, too, take on a fresh flush of beauty, clothing the garden’s margins in their soft hues and rowdy brights.

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There are the cheeky chancers, popping up uninvited in unexpected places: a nasturtium trailing cheerfully amongst the beetroot plants, satin Welsh poppies fluttering in the asparagus bed, a  self-set young walnut tree (they are weeds here, no question) on the edge of the patch. How can I be anything other than enchanted by their optimistic charm?

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So, to work and the main task of the week is weeding. Hoes are handy tools but I enjoy a bit of hand weeding, even more so now that I can take my time and do it with focus and attention rather than cramming it in around a hectic working week. I love the simple physical act of getting down amongst the plants and looking at them from new angles and through fresh eyes. I relish the smell of the earth, delight in the characters of the plants and cherish the work of tidying things up a bit. There is something so fundamentally satisfying about feeling the essence of all those scientific processes – germination, transpiration, pollination, photosynthesis and the like – going on all around me, not textbook descriptions but fizzing and buzzing with real in-the-flesh life. What a wondrous, miraculous thing it is! How captivating, too, are those vegetable plants caught in the teasing play of light and shadow; here even the mundane is taken to new heights.

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Working in the garden? No, we’re unashamedly tripping the light fantastic, don’t you think? 🙂

 

Six on Saturday

This is my very first foray into the world of ‘Six on Saturday’ hosted by The Propagator and I’m so thrilled to be taking part. It’s such a lovely idea, gardeners from all walks of life and corners of the world coming together to share what is good (or not!) in their gardens each weekend. In fact, it’s how I started to blog  on the now defunct ‘Vegblogs’ site and five years on I am still in touch with great gardening friends I made there. I am passionate about our garden but equally I love to see what others are up to, there are so many new things to learn, ideas to share and much to celebrate together. So, if you are visiting my blog for the first time through ‘Six on Saturday’ then a very warm welcome and thank you for taking the time to be interested in my little patch of earth in ‘green’ Spain! 🙂

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This week it has been warm and wet, perfect growing and greening weather. The slugs, snails and weeds have been having a field day so there has been much to do in the patch between the downpours and plenty of things to see. It’s so hard to choose (this is a great discipline!), but here are my six for today:

With the autumn planting of ‘Douce Provence’ peas almost eaten, it’s good to see the next crop steaming along behind. These are a mix of ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ and ‘Early Onward’; we have had such a nightmare with los ratones helping themselves to newly-planted peas and beans this spring that there has been much emergency gap-filling and all the rows are now eclectic mixes. No problem, these little beauties are sweet and delicious, especially mixed with a plentiful supply of baby broad beans.

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Those pesky mice were also responsible last spring for munching the roots of three out of four young  ‘Green Globe’ artichoke plants raised from seed, but the one surviving plant has grown to such a monstrous size and is so prolific I’m beginning to feel it’s enough. We’ve already had several meals’ worth of artichokes and there are another ten in need of eating. We’re planning an Italian-style tapas dish for tonight, if such a thing is possible?  Just call it (con)fusion cooking.

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By some complete miracle, the slimy ones seem to be giving the lettuce a wide berth and we have several little patches at different stages all doing well. The contrasts of shape and colour in this group really caught my eye (as you can see, eclectic is a bit of a theme in our garden – purists might want to go and lie down in a darkened room). So pretty. Who needs flowers?

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Well actually, I do because I love flowers, especially when they are mixed through the vegetables. A new star to open this week is verbena bonariensis, one of my all-time favourites and so good in a wildlife-friendly garden. The plants grown from seed last year are now all as tall as me and waving around prettily on their slender stems above swathes of ‘Munstead’ lavender; I’ve found several self-set seedlings whilst weeding the veg this week. Happy days!

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We’ve never grown a grapevine before but somehow a Spanish garden and the beautiful foil of a honey-coloured stone horreo wall just cried out for one. This is a white muscat variety bought from a local nursery and planted several weeks ago: looks like it’s settled in just fine if the tiny flowers and fruits are anything to go by.

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Finally, the garden margins have erupted this week with an explosion of brilliant red poppies, self-set from a cheap packet of ‘bee and butterfly’ seeds I sprinkled last year. They are so rich and opulent with petals like crushed silk and the bees are going mad for them. In fact, there is so much circling and stacking it feels like a little air traffic control wouldn’t go amiss. The bumbles think they have it all taped up but . . .

. . . incoming from the right . . .

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. . . and landed. There’s room for a honey bee, too.

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I am constantly astounded at how such delicate flowers, so fragile and fleeting, can cope with this sort of bombardment! Must be tougher than they look.

 

 

 

 

Nature’s garden: Part 3

Yesterday as we rambled and scrambled up the dramatic and somewhat vertiginous gorge of the río Esva,  I promised myself that I would not obsess about the wild flowers and trees and I would definitely not feel the urge to write a blog post about them. Um, right. As you can see, my resolve didn’t last more than a few moments. Honestly, it’s like dangling an exquisite yarn in front of me: in the presence of so much colour and texture and downright gorgeousness, my willpower fades away like morning mist.

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So, as in the very best fairy tales and oration good things always come in threes, here is the final part of my ‘wild flowers and walking’ trilogy set in yet another contrasting landscape. This is a world of river and rockface, of high and dry light-flooded spaces and deep, damp, mossy places. Here the woodland scrambles to dizzy heights, clinging to the ragged rock strata in an astonishing festival of verdant celebration. Here the river, wide and clear, tumbles and rumbles over boulders, gouging its sinuous path out of the jagged landscape. Here sleek otters play, bibbed dippers bob, carefree sand martins wheel and spin in an exhibition of masterful aerobatics. Here, once again, nature has demonstrated its artistic prowess in sweeps of breath-taking floral artistry.

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Truly magical! 🙂