Friday 24 July 2009

Softly Awakes My Heart

House Martin Resting
Of all the months in the year, July, more than any other month, epitomises the poem I wrote about the garden.
Wind through the barley,
The song of the breeze,
Ephemeral poppies
The tracery of trees,
Barleycorn - Magic!
A feast for the eyes,
Our little corner of paradise

Young Greenfinch In flight

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.

Adult Swallow On The Barn Gutter
Blessed with two pairs of swallows' nests in the barn this year, their fledglings from the first broods are already sitting in lines along the rafters inside the barn waiting for their parents to deliver their never-ending supply of sustenance.

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.

Papaver Rhoeas, Annual Cornfield Poppies

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.

Papaver Somniferum, Danish Flag Poppy

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.

Papaver Somniferum Var. Paeoniiflorum, Red Flowered Peaony Poppy

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.

Salad Leaves

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.

Mixed Salad Leaves With Alpine Strawberries

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.

Papaver Somniferum, Orange Oriental Poppies

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.
Papaver Somniferum, Dusky Pink Oriental Poppy
It wouldn't do if we were all made the same way, for that would be boring. The essence is the difference. I feel our concern should be to look after others and help our friends, for when we are sick, they will matter most in life.
Papaver Somniferum, Fuchsia Pink Oriental Poppy
As for our families, we should keep in touch with them as often as possible, never taking for granted the love and joy which enriches our daily existence. My brother taught me that people matter most in life. If we begin each morning with a goal, we will be able to count our blessings in the evening.
Papaver Somniferum, Perry's White Oriental Poppy
White flowers seem to create a feeling of peace in the garden, an air of innocence, a time for reflection. Feelings of stress melt away and are replaced by a sense of tranquillity. With calm, comes the knowledge that life, in all its forms, is very beautiful. We have one chance only to make our mark, and we must grab it with both hands.

White Pond Lily
Arguments are, in the main, useless, and, therefore, a waste of time, and only bring out our horns and tails. We have no control about what others think and say about us, so why worry? Bearing that in mind, we should make peace with our past, for we are responsible for our own happiness.

Mixed Pond Lilies, Ranunculus and Flag Irises

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.
Changing Foliage Of The Lilypads

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.

Dragonfly Skin

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.
Across The Back Pond

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.
Blue Pond Irises
Other than that the ponds have mostly looked after themselves. On a sunny day I might skim a light rake across the surface of the water to collect any floating algae,
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.

Delphiniums, Arunus and Aconites

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.

Bumble Bee On Delphinium

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.
Blackbird Singing In The Rain
Each year the garden manages to support several blackbird nests. As a result we are serenaded morning, noon and night. If any of you have been wondering about the beautiful whistling in the background to the videos, nine times out of ten, it is most likely that of the blackbird's. I posted this photo to show that we have had some rain during this glorious Summer, and the darling bird in the photo has sung his way through the sunshine and the showers, filling my heart with gladness.

Rainbow Over Barleycorn
Although July is our monsoon month, after the rain comes the beautiful rainbow. The Greek legend tells us that Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, was sent to replenish the rainclouds, and how else would our crops grow without precious water? If that doesn't retore your soul and make you feel, 'God is in his heaven, All's right with the world', then nothing will.

Barleycorn In July

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 say, Welcome, Everyone!

Barleycorn Sunset

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.
Translation Of The Aria

My heart opens to your voice as the flowers open at dawn's kisses!
But, o my beloved, the better to dry my tears,
let your voice speak once more!
Tell me that you are coming back to Delilah for ever!
Reminding me once again
of the promises of bygone days, those promises I loved!
Ah! Answer my tenderness,
Fill me with ecstasy!
Answer my tenderness.
Some of you may prefer to turn up the volume as part of the footage was taken on windy days.