Tuesday 15 December 2009

Barleycorn Panorama

Feeding Station

Each month during the year, I have been taking photos of the changing skies above Barleycorn. I thought it would be interesting to combine these photos with some of the pictures I took of the wildlife which visited the garden. You can see the result in the photo-slide below.

Christmas Blessing

May the Spirit of Christmas, which is Peace,
The Gladness of Christmas, which is Hope,
The Adoration of Christmas, which is Joy,
And the Heart of Christmas, which is Love
Be with Everyone, now and forever. Amen

Turn up the volume to enjoy the accompaniment of Mascagni's Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana.

Friday 27 November 2009

Surrounded By Beauty

Glorious Sunset

At this time of year, when the plants in the garden are dying back and the weather is getting colder, we gardeners have to look elsewhere for beauty and sustenance to keep our spirits up. With me, pleasure is often to be found in skywatching. At the beginning of November, just after we had changed the clocks, we had a succession of stunning sunsets which lasted over a few nights.

Fiery Sunset

The intense beauty never fails to takes my breath away, for beauty is all about things which touch our heartstrings. I love how the pale pink rays merge with the deep blues of the evening sky, and change dramatically into deep, burnishing gold. They remind me of Turneresque skies reflected in his beautiful sea paintings.

Beautiful Sunset

One evening I took a little video, panning across the horizon, when, all of a sudden, the sound of bleating lambs broke the silence, as if they were crying out at the wonder of it all. Y-e-e-e-s-s, y-e-e-e-s-s! If you listen carefully, you will hear them at the end of the music which I chose to accompany the footage...and it had to be Agnus Dei, of course.

Whooper Swans and Bewick Swans

Two fields away from Barleycorn, with all the weeks of incessant rain we have been experiencing, the local river has flooded its plains. This is a boon to the thousands of greylag geese and the hundreds of swans which migrate from Iceland and Siberia every year to overwinter here.

Whooper Swans, Bewick Swans and Lapwings

Whooper swans have longer necks than our resident Mute swans, and have yellow and black beaks as opposed to the mute's reddish-orange beak. Bewick swans are also smaller than Whooper swans and have more yellow on their beaks. Whoopers bugle with a whooping sound which gives them their name.

Greylag Geese

Greylag geese have pink or orange bills and pink feet, which distinguishes them from other geese. They can also be recognised by their sheer bulk, being bigger and paler than other grey geese, and, in flight, they look completely grey. In our area, they arrive in their thousands each morning, flying overhead and feeding in the river estuaries, flooded grassland and arable fields, often to the farmers' annoyance. I, however, welcome them, and take every opportunity to observe them.

Frost On Honeysuckle Berries

Apart from the rain we have also had some of our first frosts of Winter. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than wrapping up warmly and going for a wander around the magical garden. Overnight, Jack Frost had waved his magic wand and transformed the dying-back of the year into a Winter wonderland.

Frost On Pond Grasses

Isn't it wonderful that Mankind has no control over the weather? Imagine the wars that would create...deciding who would have sun and who rain, or wind or snow! A frosty walk in Winter brings so much pleasure. At the very least, it makes us thankful to warm ourselves indoors afterwards. At best, it is an opportunity to observe detail in the garden more closely while everything in it, from the tiny lichens to the tallest tree, is outlined in fairy frosting.

Frost On Alchemilla Mollis

Why does frost seem to heighten the magic of the garden? The exquisite hairs on a leaf outlined in frost, the frozen pond with life still swimming underneath the ice, the veins of grasses decorated in frosting, the stiff needles glistening on the cedar, one's nostrils like a dragon breathing smoke...all to be savoured...a red-letter day, which seemed more precious than the day before because of the magic in the night. Yes, we have the science to explain it all, but, our hearts tell us a different story, for gardening, and beauty, are all about feelings.

Taz, The Barn Cat

Taz, the barn cat, ever faithful, ever by my side on my walks around the garden. If you listen carefully, you will hear him speaking to me too. Y-e-s, y-e-s, very beautiful, I'm sure. Don't forget to turn up the volume to hear the wonderful Agnus Dei, a fitting tribute to all the beauty surrounding me.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Bountiful Barleycorn In October

Large White And Red Admiral Butterflies On Michaelmas Daisies

At the beginning of October the sun shone brightly and our visiting butterflies had their last sustenance from our Michaelmas daisies. After such a poor Summer, weather-wise, with a period of almost ten weeks of rain, we are having a glorious Autumn.

Red Admiral and Hoverfly On Michaelmas Daisies

It was a joy to observe the flurry of frenzied activity on the various posies of Michaelmas Daisies around our ponds. I, too, enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my back while taking my little video of the butterflies and hoverflies. It makes my heart sing to see the fruition of all the hard work in creating our garden, when intensive farming methods deprive little creatures of their habitats.

Red Cotoneaster Berries

The birds and insects, too, have had a wonderful time gorging themselves on the Autumnal fruits and berries we provide for them. They had a choice of cotoneaster berries, rowan berries, crab apples, Japanese quince apples, the tomato-like hips on the Rosa Rugosa hedge, hips on our climbing roses and a cornucopia of seedheads from all the herbaceous borders.

White Bark Of The Jacquemontii Silver Birch Tree

Autumn is a wonderful sensory experience in the garden, with a rainbow of colour which paints a smile on the dullest of days. In this photograph, we can see the green leaves of the Cornus Alba, the White Dogwood behind the silver birch, turning to gold. But, now that we are at the end of October, they are all but spent.

View Across Part Of The Back Garden At Barleycorn

Our garden is too large to leave all the cutting-back to the Spring, when we would be in danger of trampling our bulbs. It means, therefore, that, in Autumn, my hubbie and I spend a fair amount of time cutting back spent stems which no longer bear seeds. It helps to encourage a new crown around the centre of the plants, which, in turn, protects them over the Winter. As you can see from this photograph, we have left the foliage on the pond plants at this late date in the calendar, as they give shelter to a host of insects.

Red Autumn Foliage On Joseph's Rock Rowan

When you come to view the little video (at the end of this post, made up of snippets taken during this month at Barleycorn) the Joseph's Rock Rowan has green foliage with yellow/orange berries. This photograph, however, shows the amazing transformation from green to yellow to its glorious red Autumnal coat...but, even as I type, the tree is almost in silhouette...

Lily Leaves In The Pond

I have said, many times, the ponds are a constant source of delight to us, and never more so than when they are wearing their Autumnal hues. As an amateur watercolourist, I delight in the photographs which show the play of light on the ponds. The reflections never cease to amaze me.

The Potentilla Hedge Up The Drive

Our Potentilla hedge, planted by my hubbie, flowers for six months of the year and feeds insects and birds to their heart's content. Whenever we walk its length, sparrows are chattering amongst its thick-set foliage, safe in the knowledge we can scarcely spy them. On frosty days, it is often draped in dew-filled spiders' webs, which, like so many fairy necklaces, exude an air of magic.

Hosta Foliage In Autumn

Even though many gardeners are keen to tidy up, I prefer to leave the hosta leaves until they disappear by themselves into the ground. On dry days, I like nothing better than coming across a filigree-patterned leaf, with only the skeleton of the veins showing.

Crocosmia Leaves And Spent Grasses

Once or twice, we have come across a hedgehog's nest in the garden. They are shaped like a rugby ball with the lower half underground in a hollow in the earth and the top half made from the long foliage of grasses and crocosmia, all woven together with hedgehog spittle. Once, to our delight, we found three babies inside. However, on closer inspection, we found they were dead, and we wondered if their mother had been killed on the road, as is, sadly, often the case.

Lichens On Logs

Here and there, around the garden, we have logs for insects to hide in and to chew. Over the years we have had to replace many of them as the insects, and the weather, have reduced them to smithereens. The glaucous blue lichens growing on these logs are worth a closer inspection. Just click on the photograph.

Taz, The Barn Cat, Under A Weeping Birch Tree

Those of you, who follow the blog, will know that Taz had a friend called Cookie who shared the barn with him for the past four years. Her original owners have now decided to take her back to live with them and their seven new cats. No sooner has that happened than a new cat, jet black with green eyes, has made himself at home in the barn. Since the barn is 70 foot long, they will be able to give each other a wide berth if they fail to bond.

White Iceberg Climbing Rose

This climbing rose stays with us till January. I am so glad it is so hardy, and is covered in heads at the moment. Hoverflies, flies, spiders, and a myriad of other insects feed on it, and, in turn, they feed the birds. Although its foliage sometimes suffers from a spot of mildew, the blooms don't seem to be affected.

Crimson Glory Climbing Rose

This rose has been growing up the wall next to our back door for eighteen years now. It has a profusion of blooms throughout the Summer and has a pleasing fragrance. I miss its cheery colour when it goes to sleep next month.

Ox-Eye Daisies

These daisies spread themselves freely around the garden and I love them for it. They brighten dark areas of the garden, such as next to this pile of twigs and logs. Each head always seems cheerful to me with the golden cups of sunshine in their centres. They open with the dawn and close at dusk, which is why they are called the day's eye...

Who Goes There?

I am a light sleeper and often hear our local Barn Owl screeching as it catches its prey during the night. Often there is a large pile of feathers lying along one of our paths. This pile looks to have been left by a sparrowhawk though, as I often see one de-feathering a smaller bird in the same spot... near the stane-dyke wall adjacent to the field behind our garden, so that he has access to a quick getaway.

Balloon Over Barleycorn

Our October weather has been perfect for ballooning and the prevailing winds often carry the balloon over our house. I always greet the travellers with a friendly wave and they often call down to me. Three years ago, our elder son and his new bride treated us to a flight and it was a wonderful experience flying over our village, cameras at the ready, taking aerial views of our garden.

Sunset Behind Barleycorn

We do not always have beautiful Autumn sunsets, so I made the best of an opportunity to take several photographs of the ones we have enjoyed this month. In this photograph, as the sun neared the horizon it became a fiery red.

Sunset Behind Barleycorn 2

It's always exciting to have the silhouettes of trees in the foreground. The tree in the middle is a Holly so it will stay in that form. But, the two either side of it are Silver Birches, and, gradually, they will become more streamlined.

Sunset Behind Barleycorn 3

As if it wasn't enough of a pleasure to be writing this post, a surprise came to me the other day from one of my blogging pals, Linda May, who writes at


She very kindly gave me the One Lovely Blog Award. I feel very humbled and honoured to receive this award. Linda writes from Canberra about her garden and her family and, in her own words, would "like my writing to be thought of as 'painting pictures with words' ".

In turn, I have to nominate blogs which I feel worthy of recommendation.







My video consists of many snippets taken during the month of October in our garden as well as footage of Greylag Geese flying over our garden and in a field along the road from us. Turn up the volume to hear my CD of Josh Groban singing, 'You Raise Me Up'.

Tuesday 29 September 2009

Autumn Blessings At Barleycorn

Betula Youngii, Silver Birch Tree

I can hardly contain the deep-seated joy I feel, for we are now into early Autumn, with all the blessings this contrasting season brings. Even on a dull day, with a grey sky and no sunshine, this silver birch tree appears to be on fire with its brilliant, orange foliage.
Hosta Sieboldiana

Let's see how many tones we can find in the foliage of the hosta...pale, mid and dark green; greenish-yellow, pale yellow and yellow tinged with brown. What's not to marvel at, considering the hosta is a shade of glaucus blue when it is 'in season'?

Cupid's Dart, Catananche Caerulea

Late flowering plants, such as Cupid's Dart, are such a boon in the garden, for they continue to feed the insects, which, in turn, feed the birds. And how boring our gardens would be without the presence of wildlife, which gives purpose and meaning to the plants, and daily interest to the wildlife gardener.

Hydrangea Petiolaris

The front of our house has some yellow brick, called rustic straw-thatch. In Summer the climbing hydrangea is in contrast to it with its green foliage and clusters of pretty cream-coloured blossoms. In Autumn, however, the golden colours of the leaves merge with the brick to give it the appearance of a living wall.

Japanese Anemone Anthers

When I planted our Japanese anemones, I never imagined how well they would establish themselves and multiply over the years. Although I have pleasure admiring their beauty, their main purpose is their anthers which act as a magnet to a multitude of insects at a time when a lot of plants in our nectar borders are spent.

We have a potentilla hedge bordering the front garden, and several individual specimens within our island beds. They are in bloom from June till October, producing a surfeit of flowers and providing shelter to our garden in our windswept landscape. But, in Autumn, the tiny green leaves turn to shades of gold, red, russet, orange and brown as they don their amazing Autumnal techni-coloured coat.
Japanese Anemones

In Spring, after months of the dark days of Winter, we gardeners rejoice at the first sightings of snowdrops. So, too, in Autumn, when the frenzy of the flowering plants has all but disappeared, we rejoice in the flowers which are hardy enough to cope with the early Autumn chills.

Sorbus Cashmiriana, white Rowan Berries

Rowan trees grow particularly well in remote parts of Scotland. In Autumn flocks of fieldfares, as well as garden birds in general, feast on their orange and red berries. In contrast, the Cashmiriana Rowan has white berries while those on the Joseph Rock Rowan are yellow. I love all my rowan trees, but appreciate their beauty most when they are wearing their Autumnal coats.

Hoverfly On White Japanese Anemone

Since we are still in early Autumn here, we have yet to look forward to those 'seasons of mist' days Keats wrote about. That said, we certainly have ample evidence of the 'mellow fruitfulness' in the garden.

Hips On The Rosa Moyesii Geranium Rose

Unlike the plump tomato-like hips on our Rosa Rugosa rose hedge, the blood-red hips on the Rosa Moyseii Geranium rose are elongated and flagon-shaped and give a spectacular display for weeks on end.

Deep Pink Japanese Anemones

Autumn sunlight can produce wonderful surprises, showing off the underside of this Japanese Anemone to perfection. I enjoy observing how the blooms follow the sun 's journey each day, as if trying to thrive for as long as possible.

Autumn foliage On Geranium Macrorrhizum

Family and friends, who visit our garden regularly, are aware of how many species of geranium I grow, for I have yet to find a duff geranium. They more than pay their way, being disease resistant, requiring little maintenance and producing months of repeat-flowering in different hues. Apart from being good ground-cover plants, the Macrorrhizum Geranium's leaves, when crushed, have a distinct aroma similar to blackcurrants, and change into shades of scarlet, bright yellow and russet-brown at this time of year.

Annual Sweet Peas

Over a pyramidal trellis I grow an everlasting sweet pea, which is pretty to look at but which has little, if any, scent. To counteract this, I grow highly-scented annual sweet peas on the other side of the main stem so that the bees, insects, moths and butterflies can feast on their rich source of nectar.

Annual Ladybird Poppy

Contrasting with the lacy, dark green leaves of a rockery geranium, the longevity of the Ladybird Poppies is a particular joy as they help to prolong the season of flowering plants. If I am further blessed, and the frosts stay away, it will continue to bloom in late October. Poppies, to me, are sights for sore eyes. I have already gathered some seed to share with friends who appreciate their beauty as much as I do.

Raspberry Foliage

When I was younger I grew row upon row of raspberry canes. Nowadays I confine myself to a few pots as they are easier to control and create less work. Even on their leaves, I marvel at the many differing hues...from emerald green, through shades of orange and red, to russet.

Willow Warbler On Teasel
One Autumn visitor - a bringer of pleasure - is the Willow Warbler. As well as enjoying hearing the songs of Robin and Wren's churring back in the garden, the Willow Warbler has a magical tune of his own. He is the Tit Willow in the Mikado. I love the yellow stripe above his eye, his yellow-tinged breast and his grey-green back. He flies in to eat spiders, insects, fruit and berries. I caught this little one drinking from the water cupped between the teasel leaves.

Roly Poly Bales

This year I managed to observe, and video, the farmer, who owns the field adjacent to Barleycorn, garnering his barley harvest. After ten weeks of wall-to-wall rain, we had two weeks of drying sunny weather during which all the local farmers gathered their harvests. Whereas I cultivate the garden for pleasure, the cultivation of the farmers' is their livelihood. There were almost audible sighs of relief all round when the weather changed in time for the harvests.

Barleycorn Pond

As ever, the two ponds continue to offer entertainment. Nearly the end of September and we still have many lilies with beautiful leaves in their Autumn colours. On sunny days the frogs give a chorus or two; there is still the red-lettered day when we spy a dragon-fly and the birds still come to bathe and drink and gorge themselves on the insects flitting around the stems of the marginal plants.

Michaelmas Daisies

Apart from the cheerful, pastel shade of mauve, these asters are well worth growing as they are another rich source of nectar at the 'end' of the season. I find bees, hoverflies, insects and the last of the butterflies almost 'glued' to their centres, so desperate are they to survive another day.

Annual Cornfield Poppies

The seering vermillion of these little darlings keep my spirits up as I look forward to Autumn coming into full swing. How can I not feel blessed to be surrounded by such beauty which lifts my spirits and feeds my soul?
Click to enlarge any of the photographs you particularly like and see the most amazing detail.
If the videos 'stick' move the cursor along the red line, and they will flow. If you prefer, you can watch them on YouTube.
All good things around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord,
Oh, thank the Lord,
For all His love.