At this time of year everything in the garden conspires to awaken my senses and make my spirits soar, whether it be a baby house martin on its first flight taking a rest by the pond or the balletic dance of a young greenfinch, wings outspread, aiming for the bird feeder.
Alstroemeria, Peruvian Lily
Whether I am listening to the cacophony of the feeding frenzy from my vantage point on one of the benches in the garden or trying to avoid being dive-bombed when my footsteps are too close to the barn, I cannot help but marvel at their determination to raise two broods successfully, all within one short Summer.
Whenever I wander in the garden I find the birdsong music for the soul. I could never sit listening to the radio, for it would stop me drinking in the sights and sounds around me. The beauty and intensity of the scarlet poppies gives me a feeling of renewed energy and the enthusiasm to promise myself to grow even more new varieties next year.
So-called because the white flag in the centre resembles the flag of Denmark, these poppies have always been one of my favourite annuals. I find their deeply serrated scalloped petal edges most attractive. I found myself having to grow them in pots this year, space being at a premium nowadays in our busy garden. They require light to germinate and develop, otherwise they would get lost in the thick undergrowth.
Eighteen Summers ago, during the first year of the garden, I sowed many packets of annual poppies amongst other meadow flowers such as corn marigolds, corncockles, cornflowers and ox-eye daisies. I had the romantic notion of wandering through the garden, paintbrush in hand, as if in one of the dreamy landscapes of my childhood, when these flowers were a common sight beautifying the cornfields.
Papaver Somniferum Var. Paeoniiflorum, Pink Peaony Flowered Poppies
It was very cost-effective, as well as a strikingly beautiful way to fill large tracts of our half-acre plot of ground quickly. This Summer I cleared away an area in our scree bed which contained woody, overgrown phlox, long since past its best, and, low and behold, the dormant seed from the paeony poppies appeared of its own accord, as if by magic. Nature often gives us surprises.
Annual Cornfield Poppies and Ox-Eye Daisies
I think its important to dream while awake, and where better than amongst the meadow flowers of one's own garden? Here I can sit and watch the majestic sky turning from leaden grey to azure blue, or watch a sunset, one minute a misty yellow, the next a melange of watery indigo-violet-pink.
Ripening Barley In The Adjacent Field
Living so close to nature as I do, it's impossible not to have feelings of positivity. To watch the farmer sow his seed in Spring, and observe the transformation of bare earth into a carpet of emerald-green shoots, is like saying farewell to dark Winter...and when, in July, the carpet turns a shade of gold, it feels nothing short of a miracle.
Cookie, The Barn Cat
Whenever I see Cookie outdoors I know it will be a beautiful warm day, for she is old now and only ventures out on the hottest of days, preferring to lie under the heat of the light bulb we have suspended above where she sleeps in the barn. She is a gentle soul, grateful for everything we do for her, and seems in a permanent state of bliss. She always reminds me to hug my friends for time passes for all of us.
Taz, Cookie's Friend
Being a much younger cat, Taz abounds with energy in his thick coat of fur. He has taken up Monstie's mantle of being my constant companion, following me around the garden, resting where I rest, often beside the poppies. Taz reminds me to have fun, and not to take myself too seriously, for no one else will.
Raindrops On Asiatic Lilies
For several years now we have grown large Oriental and the smaller Asiatic lilies in pots and troughs to provide us with a colourful display and a splash of the exotic in the garden. The flowers are long lasting with several blooms on each stem. Each Spring I renew the compost and offer any lily grubs I find to the robin.
Mixed Asiatic Lilies
This year I chose a delicate shade of pink to marry up with the russet-coloured bulbs my hubbie chose. When they came into bloom we noticed a rogue yellow one, which just goes to show we think we are in control of our lives, though, in fact, the opposite is often the case.
Calendula Officinalis, Scotch Marigold
The light in Scotland at this time of year is often quite spectacular, and a painter's paradise. Some evenings, just as the sun is setting, there is a glow coming up over the eastern horizon, making it almost continuous daylight, and the further north one travels, the more frequently this occurs.
July and August are the strawberry-picking months at Barleycorn and this year's harvest has been no exception. Whenever we have a bumper crop, my hubbie is often heard to say, if he eats many more strawberry tarts, cakes, pavlovas and jam, he might waken up one morning with a husk growing out of the top of his head.
My little pots of salad crops have yielded an ongoing treat of coriander, fennel, parsley, mustard, Lollo Rosso, purple basil and chives brightening up the salad days of Summer, and have encouraged us to eat more natural foods and less processed.
One of the wonderful things about growing Alpine strawberries is that the birds seem to leave them alone. In a salad their tartness goes well with the petals of Scotch marigolds, apple mint and borage flowers, which I also put into ice cubes to cool our elderflower wine.
As well as the very vibrant orange Oriental poppies, with heads the size of dinner plates, I also grow the more muted shades of white and delicate pink. The strong variation in colour reminds me not to compare myself to others. Rather, I feel we should appreciate our individuality and be mindful of the fact that each of us has our own charisma.
White Pond Lily
On hot July days when my hubbie and I sit by the ponds drinking refreshing green tea or a glass of wine, watching the damsels dart this way and that amongst the lilies, I reflect upon how thankful I am for the love and laughter we have shared in our lives together and for the beauty that surrounds us.
The ethereal quality of the light reflecting on the ponds creates an ever-changing tapestry of colour and texture throughout the seasons. No sooner are we revelling in the delights of Summer, when an orange leaf reminds us Autumn is just around the corner. It's that carpe diem thing of seizing the day and living in the moment.
We should never allow ourselves to lose that childlike excitement of savouring the new, even if we saw the phenomena last year. A dead skin is evidence of the dragonfly completing its life-cycle in our ponds and proves they are healthy habitats for the myriad of wildlife they support.
I am frequently asked how much work the ponds entail and the answer is quite straightforward. In the eighteen years since we first created them, we have only cut back rampant growth of the vigorous grasses once. Part of the problem was that the lilies took time to establish, whereas the grasses had to be hacked from their baskets. Covering as much of the pond's surface is the secret to preventing algal growth.
which I then leave along the edges of the pond to allow any creatures to make their way back to safety. After a week the algae goes on the compost heap.
Along the stone-dyke wall bordering the adjacent field, I grow delphiniums, aruncus, aconites and a yellow berberis for the visiting bees and bumblies. In June and July the whole length of the path seems to hum with the soothing drone of their music. It is one of my favourite sounds of Summer.
In the early years I used to grow delphinium and foxglove seeds in alternate years, as I love both of these flowers so much. It's all to do with their attractive tapering spires and the fact that the bees adore them. However, the slugs can be voracious gobblers over the Winter months when the frogs are hibernating at the bottom of the ponds and there is a scarcity of hedgehog activity. This white one is a favourite as it has managed to win the battle each year.
This is the sight which greets visitors to Barleycorn in the month of July, though the poppies will last till September. Poppies and violas between the paving stones, Oriental and Asiatic lilies in pots and troughs and the climbing New Dawn Rose over the door...to say, Welcome, Everyone!
Saint-Saens' music, 'Softly Awakes My Heart', sung by Olga Borodina, plays in the background of my little video. It helps to impart my feeling about the sensory experiences at Barleycorn in the month of July. Not for me the tedious queue at the airport on a hot, sticky day waiting to fly off to some exotic destination. Everything I need is right here in our little corner of paradise.
My heart opens to your voice as the flowers open at dawn's kisses!