Year of Grace, Day 206. Possessions

Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are, the noted gastronome Brillat-Savarin once said. Well, after having packed our stuff, I can now revise this to say, tell me what you have, and I’ll tell you what you are. In our case, with over 60% of our belongings being books, then can we be other than bookworms? Most certainly not fashionistas, to judge from the amount of clothing we’ve got left after sorting. After three huge packing boxes of clothes destined for charity, we are now left with 1 suitcase, medium size <20 kilos, each. How’s that for downsizing?

I’ve been going around photographing what’s still blooming and looking good this closing week of September. Surprisingly quite a lot.

First to leaf out in spring and first to don autumn garb — Amelanchier, also known as Saskatoonberry in Canada or Juneberry. Its small blue fruits taste like blueberries.  But since the tree branches are so high up, we’ve decided that the birds can have all of them.

Here’s a closer look.

Amelanchier autumn lvs vvg_1467

The delicately scented floribunda roses below have lovely apricot buds that open to white petals with a yellow-suffused centre. They sulk during the hot summer, but are now back to blooming with the autumn rains.

The pink floribunda roses are also providing a repeat performance. Neither these nor the white ones above — modern hybrid roses — are a match for the old-fashioned rose with its heavenly scent that I featured back in midsummer. But whereas the old-fashioned one blooms only once, these modern ones get a second wind after summer and go on until winter. Even on Christmas, there have been a couple of trusses on the pink floribundas.

Another plant providing a second round of bloom is the creeping campanula.

Another blue-flowered plant, blooming rather late this year, is the borage, self-sown from plants sown in our first spring here. The lack of vigour on these seems to warrant sowing anew again after two years.

Borage is one of my favourite herbs, and I love using its flowers to decorate salads and to eat too — they have a mild cucumber-like taste, in other words, taste rather watery. But nice — I love being able to eat blue flowers!!! The black centres have to be taken out before eating though.

Just a few days away from leaving my three-year-old garden, my heart is heavy. Nevertheless I am thankful that I had these wonderful three years developing this cottage garden from its weed- and bramble-covered, unpromising beginning. It has been a time of learning, not least how to deal with moles and voles: plant valuable plants only in large tubs; humane vole traps don’t work — the voles just eat the cucumber or apple bait and then roll the trap over and escape (we hoped they would stay in the traps to be released at least a km away); and alliums do not drive moles and voles away. Alliums, especially spring onions, do wonders, however, planted around roses. The roses were spectacular and free of mildew this year. They have never looked so good.

More on the last week of the garden in my next post.

Year of Grace, Day 179. The garden at dusk

The white hydrangeas are just coming into bloom. Yesterday at dusk this is what entranced me.

The white hydrangea is Hydrangea paniculata grandiflora, otherwise known as “peegee” (p.g., get it?); the variety is Limelight, and in the run up to blooming, the panicles are lime-coloured, until the sepals open to white. In the autumn, the sepals turn to pink.

I had envisioned this part of the garden to be blue and white. Evidently the blue hydrangeas had other ideas, as you can see in the background, so after trying to get them revert to being completely blue by watering them biweekly with a blueing liquid, I’ve decided to let them be for now. They are so gorgeous the way they are – mauve, purple, blue, and pink, and all shades in between — that I’ve come to prefer them this way.

And this agapanthus nearby, its roots well protected in a clay pot from the resident voles and moles who dig up everything in the ground, is coming into bloom as well. This is a cold-hardy variety though it did suffer a bit from this winter’s frosts and snow, and I am glad that it has recovered.  I love that its buds are a very dark blue, and then when the petals open, they are pale blue with a dark streak through the centre.

The borages are in bloom too – self-sown from plants of previous years. I shall be sprinkling these sky-blue flowers that taste of cucumber onto salads.

I might add some peppery nasturtiums as well.

This South African allium, whose name I can never remember and so I call it garlic allium, has two flowering stalks this year, its second year of blooming. Last year it had only one. And the curious thing is that within seconds the name Tulbaghia popped into my head. My erratic memory certainly works in mysterious ways! But just to make sure I had it right, I googled it. It is indeed Tulbaghia violacea, and its mauve colour justifies its specific name. It is also known as pink Agapanthus, though it is more violet than a distinct pink. It has also been discovered to have anti-cancer and other medicinal properties. Oh, and like most other alliums like garlic and onion, the leaves and flowers are also edible raw, and thus the alternative name “Society Garlic” (milder than true garlic, and thus fit for society). I shall be using them as edible decor.

Those were the stars that lit up my garden at dusk yesterday. It was so lovely just sitting there as night fell and I was reluctant to get back indoors. But the grass mites, despite the garden being thoroughly sprayed with neem just days ago, found me within seconds, attested by itchy patches that made themselves felt at once all over my legs and arms. I was forced to retreat and immediately shower, and from the unbitten, un-itchy safety of the upstairs window, I was able to continue admiring the soothing view.