Thursday, 27 March 2008

Barleycorn Froggie Hoedown

"All together now right hand star,
Back by the left hand not too far,
Face your partner do-si-do,
Face your corner do-si-do.
Swing your partner round and round
Now find another couple and circle up
Go find another couple and circle up four,
Brand new couple and a brand new four

Circle-to-the-left, around-you-do
All-the-way go two-by-two

Prom-en-ade-her, round-you-go
All-the-way and-don't-be-slow

Circle to the left, go round you do
All the way go two by two
Circle to the left, go round the ring

All the way and hear me sing
Promenade, back home you do
All the way go two by two
Promenade around you know
Take the lady back, home you go”

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The Glory Of The Spring

The glory of the Spring how sweet!
The new-born life how glad!
What joy the happy earth to greet,
In dew, bright raiment clad!

Divine Redeemer, Thee I bless;
I greet Thy going forth; I love Thee in the loveliness
Of Thy renewed earth.

But o these wonders of Thy grace,
These nobler works of Thine,

These marvels sweeter far to trace,
These new births more divine.

This new-born glow of faith so strong,
This bloom of love so fair,

This new-born ecstasy of song,
And fragrancy of prayer!

Creator Spirit, work in me
These wonders sweet of Thine;

Divine Redeemer, graciously
Renew this heart of mine.

Thomas Hornblower Gill


Monday, 3 March 2008

My Inner Sanctum

Maturity and the onset of the years has never managed to dampen the excitement I feel on waking to the magical silence that comes after a fall of snow in the night. This morning was no exception. Jumping into warm clothes and sensible shoes, I rose early and ran off, like an excited child, to fetch my camera. Standing at the front door, the first view I took is to the left hand side of the garden where we planted a border of deciduous trees and shrubs, which allows plenty of light during the dark days of Winter. In Summer, of course, the same view shows the opposite effect, when the trees and shrubs come into leaf and offer privacy and an air of seclusion. Though mine is a close-knit family, and I have a few good friends and more than several acquaintances, I am essentially a very private person. My main aim, therefore, when creating the garden was to find ways of maintaining our privacy.

I also wanted the garden to exude an air of soul and romance, with quiet corners, where we could entertain our family and friends, as well as creating a sanctuary for our pets and the visiting wildlife. Titch, one of our three stray moggies, came to drink some 'pond soup' while I was taking the second picture. Behind him is a raised bed of mainly conifers and evergreen trees and shrubs. Hidden behind that bed is the top area of the garden which borders the busy B road running past our house.
The raised bed has a twofold purpose, in that it helps to deaden the sound of the passing traffic as well as affording us a view of the pond and the garden in front of the house. In Summer we sit on the little bench under the arch which is covered in fragrant honeysuckle and clematis. More often than not, one of the cats will join us for a snooze, or serenade us with their purrbox songs while time slips magically by as we read our favourite novels.

To the right of the pond is a potentilla hedge which encloses the front garden, giving much needed shelter as we live in an open and windswept landscape. It has white flowers which bloom from June to September and attracts bees and insects.Once it is established, one particular beauty of the hedge is that it, generally speaking, never requires pruning which is a plus in my book. I did prune it in the early years, however, to keep it thick-set as our strong winds can play havoc with any spaces found in a hedge.
Behind the hedge is the drive which leads to the top of the road. To the right of it we have planted large deciduous trees and a rosa rugosa hedge, as this border has to withstand the strong prevailing winds.
In front of the trees and the rugosa hedge there are mature deciduous shrubs, a succession of Spring bulbs and a long nectar border of traditional cottage garden favourites, such as lupins, delphiniums, poppies, aquilegia, rununculas, foxgloves and feverfew. During the first year of the garden we planted a pyracantha hedge which I thought would be hardy and grow into a sturdy specimen, but its foliage was burned black by the severe winds and gales. We are 225 metres above sea level so this may also have been a factor in its short life.
As a gardener, I am like Nature, which abhors a vacuum, and, therefore, am guilty of filling every available space with plants. As a result we now have a border of daisies, feverfew, thyme, sedum and geraniums in front of the potentilla hedge. My husband has a habit of making a guess as to how long it will be before we have no drive to allow the car access to come and go.
Further down the drive is our barn, known locally as Little Dublin, because of the hundreds of Irishmen who used it as sleeping quarters when they came each year to help with the potato harvests. It is seventy feet in length, and home to the three stray cats who choose to stay with us, at least two pairs of swallows who raise their broods in Summer and provides year-round shelter to hundreds of sparrows.
Three pairs of jackdaws come back each year to nest in its chimneys, as well as wrens, thrushes and blackbirds which build nests in the ivies. It also provides excellent shelter to the garden from the gale force winds. It was in a derelict state when we first came here, with gaps in the walls and a leaky roof. Once my husband had made it wind and watertight, I began growing ivies up both its eaves and flower beds and shrubs in front of it.
I like the old low door at the farthest end. I have fond memories, from the early years of the garden, of sheltering just inside the door on wet days and looking out at the huge expanse of work to be done in landscaping this derelict plot of ground.
In front of this door I created a bed of conifers and evergreen shrubs, underplanted with heathers and Spring bulbs for my husband who has a particular fondness for this kind of planting.
We keep our car in the nearest section of the barn as it has the requisite double doors. The top part I use as my potting shed. It has a lovely smell of leaf-mould as it is where I rot down all the garden leaves until they are ready to be spread under the shrubs.
Over the years I have made a border running the length of the barn. It is mainly of shrubs which carry Autumn berries for the birds. In front of the border there are now two little beds which contain hundreds of daffodils, some tulips, oriental lilies, peonies and herbs for cooking.
Monster decided to join me on my walk this morning. All the cats are fascinated by the snow and love to pounce on leaves or twigs which blow about. Our five friendly blackbirds pipe loudly as a warning to the other birds whenever any of the cats come into view. As soon as the cats disappear indoors, however, they hop over to steal the catfood from the trays on the doorsteps. After I had taken this photo the blackbird at the top of the tree waited his chance and did exactly that.
From the barn to the house, there are island beds of nectar borders and shrubs and mainly specimen deciduous trees, which create a magical architectural quality of their own. We also have little arches to wander through which add height and dimension to the garden
The arch in this picture used to stand alone. But the Winter gales tore it apart. Last Summer we decided to place another arch beside it for strength. So far, the plan has been successful.
This photo shows the path leading up to the top border adjacent to the barn. In Summer this is the part of the garden which offers most shade. Over the years I have been shaping an ivy to make a little seat. Under an arch of honeysuckle and roses, we sit on sticky, hot days, blissfully listening to the wondrous songs of skylarks singing high above the adjacent fields.
There is a stone dyke wall which acts as a border between our garden and the adjacent field. Some years we have the pleasure of watching baby lambs gambolling across the field from their birth till they grow to maturity. Other years we watch the whole process of the field being ploughed, seeded with barley, grown to its fruition and cropped at harvest time.
For me, there is nothing quite like the song of the wind through the barley. It reminds me of happy Summer holidays I spent as a child on the islands where my parents grew up, though, in those days, the farmers allowed wild poppies, corncockles, cornflowers and corn marigolds to clothe the edges of their fields, which, sadly, only the organic farmers do now.
As we have no road bordering the back garden, we have mainly planted silver birches as a border, as the tracery of their foliage allows us to see through them into the fields beyond. We require no privacy here and rarely have any need to close the curtains on the windows at the back of the house. From our vantage point, over the years we have spied foxes, weasels, buzzards, sparrowhawks, hares, rabbits, grey squirrels, pheasants and partridges.
The flower borders around the ponds offer sustenance to bees, insects, birds, and damsel and dragonflies. The ponds themselves are hosts to a myriad of pondlife as well as offering water for drinking and bathing.
I thought when I took these photos this morning that it might be of interest to see how much the garden changes between Summer and Winter, so I looked out these contrasting pictures of the same views. Each season has its own merits. But, for me, one of the most important things of our garden is the privacy that it offers.
Hidden amongst the garden is our house, which I have tried to camouflage in order to make it blend into the surrounding landscape. However, in high Summer, when the garden has been known to resemble a jungle, my husband is often prone to commenting that if I do not get out my pruning sheers and begin to attack the rampaging growth, I will end up like Sleeping Beauty, hidden away in her secret castle, overgrown with hollyhocks, roses, jasmine, honeysuckle and clematis.
What a lovely surprise!
Two weeks ago I was both surprised and delighted to receive an award from Shirl who very kindly nominated me for an Excellent Blogging Award. Shirls Gardenwatch is already famous for her collection of charming bird videos which you can view at the click of a button; her excellent photography, particularly of birds, and her love of plants.
You can see the logo for the award at the top right hand corner of this page. In turn, I would like to nominate a new blogger to receive this award. Her name is Cheryl. Although she is fairly new to blogging , her posts are full of charm. In fact everything in her wildlife sanctuary is so natural. Yesterday she was helping a honey bee to survive in the cold temperatures. That's only one example of what she is doing to encourage wildlife and one reason why I heartily recommend her blog to you all.