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.