Mid May and Karel Čapek’s Gardener’s Prayer

We had the hottest and driest April on record this spring, and the first half of May was just as warm, producing only a few passing showers. This sort of weather is absolutely wonderful… unless you are a gardener! Still, the garden has soldiered on and produced glorious flowers once again. Here are the Moon Daisies in our meadow…

And a view from the top of the rockery shows how my Man of Many Talents has mowed even fewer of them away this spring 🙂

From the bottom of the rockery I can still look across the top of the giant Miscanthus and see the early deep reddish pink peony. Today the first white ones opened too. And the ferns in the foreground have taken off since we got more rain.

Recently my thoughts have often returned to this ‘prayer’ I found some years ago in ‘The Gardener’s Year’ by Karel Čapek. His wit is sometimes charming, but occasionally beyond me! However this prayer says it all perfectly, so I shall share!

“If it were of any use, every day the gardener would fall on his knees and pray somehow like this:

‘O Lord, grant that in some way it may rain every day, say from about midnight until three o’clock in the morning, but, you see, it must be gentle and warm so that it can soak in; grant that at the same time it would not rain on campion, alyssum, helianthemum, lavender, and others which you in your infinite wisdom know are drought-loving plants – I will write their names on a bit of paper if you like – and grant that the sun may shine the whole day long, but not everywhere (not, for instance, on spiraea, or on gentian, plaintain lily, and rhododendron), and not too much; that there may be plenty of dew and little wind, enough worms, no plant-lice and snails, no mildew, and that once a week thin liquid manure and guano may fall from heaven. Amen.’ ”

😀

In a Vase on Monday: Refreshed

We finally had a short rain shower on Thursday night, and when I got back on Sunday night from a weekend away the garden had changed noticeably. And my surprise Iris had flowered!

As you can guess, it had to go in today’s vase, to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her lovely meme. 🙂

The contents of the vase on the left were actually in the taller carafe to begin with, but I started fiddling and fussing and eventually the stems were all too short and I started again! It consists of Irises and Moon Daisies, with the addition of Aquilegias and an early deep red peony.

I had no qualms about cutting another iris, as the hot weather is ensuring short lives for everything this spring. So, on the right is another of the lovely surprise irises which rarely flower. It must have been planted in the former water feature before we came here and for some reason only flowers every few years. I was extremely surprised this year as the ground is so dry. And I was also surprised at its scent. Mmmm! It is accompanied by some Siberian Irises, Moon Daisies, Vinca foliage, white Geranium phaeum, some white Dicentra, a few wild grasses, Hosta leaves (still intact before the slugs and snails discover them!) and a couple of sprigs of Aruncus dioicus flower buds – I love them best at this stage!

The bright sunlight and strong wind outside made photography difficult today, so I resorted to indoors in front of our fireplace…

It has just started to pour with rain as I write, with rumbles of thunder all around us, making my chosen title even more suitable! Rain! At last!

Mast Year 2018

I mentioned in a post recently that we have a lot of pollen this spring. (Understatement of the year!) Well, I have since learned that not only has everything flowered at once due to our warm April – the warmest on record since 1881 in Germany – but it is also a so-called mast year for birches, spruce and firs in our region.

A mast year is basically a year when certain types of tree in a whole region produce much more pollen and thus far more seeds than in a normal year. Birches do this regularly – every second year – while other trees such as oak or spruce only do this every 4-8 years.

Our silver birches, swaying in the wind

Trees generally use their energy for putting on growth in non-mast years. But in a mast year something triggers them to put all their strength into preserving themselves and to produce as much seed (and hence pollen in spring) as possible. This can apparently be seen in the rings when a tree is cut, with intermittent rings of very little growth. The trigger may be a warm spring, drought or other factors such as the North Atlantic oscillation. In other words, climate change affects tree ‘behaviour’. But what fascinates me is that, for example, practically every Spruce tree in the whole of Germany has started pumping out the pollen, whether in the far north, the Alps, the Black Forest or the Bavarian Forest. Clever. 😉

Spruce, only just showing signs of fresh green

Just looking across our valley at the hillsides around us recently it suddenly became clear to me that the Spruce, Firs, and probably many other conifers have joined the birch this year – the trees are gold and brown instead of green, with little fresh growth and millions of flowers and cones forming on their branches. Perhaps you can see what I mean from this photo taken yesterday where the conifers are all much darker than the fresh deciduous trees in full leaf…

In fact, when I walked around the garden and took a closer look I could see our Norway Spruce, Douglas Fir, Silver Fir, Austrian Pine and other conifers I cannot identify are all going mad this spring!

Douglas Fir, with fresh shoots just beginning to show

One article I read quoted a botanist suggesting the conifers are suffering from several dry years in a row, and this is a self-preservation measure should they die. A grim thought. While looking for more information on this phenomena I found myself engulfed in the technical jargon of meteorologists and botanists. But it was interesting to find out just why we are experiencing so much pollen this spring!

Have you ever heard of mast years or experienced the same where you live?

A Late Early Spring

Look!

My first tulip ‘Early Harvest’ is out! These, unlike most other tulips, flower extremely early, long before the rest of the garden has had a chance to wake up. They are, however, 10-14 days later than usual this year. The contrast of the bright orange against the brown soil is uplifting to say the least!

I have also got another early tulip already showing… can’t remember what it is, but perhaps it will come to me when it opens fully.

As usual, things are moving along rapidly now that the hard frosts have given way to some mild damp weather, and early spring means the bees are HUNGRY… this little fella couldn’t wait for the bud of the Chionodoxa (‘Glory of the Snow’) to open, and just scrabbled around until he managed to open it himself!

The crocuses have also been attracting the bees…

These splashes of colour are so welcome, and I hope they brighten your day too!

Enjoy the Easter weekend, and hope you get SUNSHINE! 😀

Book Review: ‘Lab Girl’ by Hope Jahren

I have just finished reading this great book, recommended to me by Sheryl at Flowery Prose last November and immediately put on my Christmas wish list. You can read her review here, but I will add a few words too.

Hope Jahren is a scientist with a gift for writing, and the book flows right from the start. She recounts her life in an enchanting and extremely readable way, mixing in fascinating information and descriptions of trees, plants and her work. The story is full of ups and downs, telling candidly, passionately, and often hilariously of her (sometimes unconventional) struggles to set up labs, her discoveries, her dedication to her research, and the dear friend Bill who accompanied her through it all. Her style of writing is fluid and amusing, but also incredibly poignant when we note the hidden comparisons between the lives of trees and those of humans.

I really loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a vague interest in trees, botany or science in general who wants a good weekend read.

Take a look at Sheryl’s review – she can say it so much better than I can!

😀

 

In a Vase on Monday: Yippee for Hippee…astrums!

No vase today I’m afraid. I think this picture may explain why…

But not to fear, I have a card up my sleeve and some Hippeastrums (Amaryllis) on my windowsills!

This is Jewel…

Jewel has produced one very tall stem and one very short, both flowering at the same time. I like its simplicity. Just white, no frills.

And this is Lady Jane…

I really like this one, not least because it has flowered at the perfect height of about 20cm, requiring no support whatsoever. And it is a lovely peachy orange colour with pretty markings.

Now go and visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this weekly meme which encourages us to find things from our gardens to plonk in a vase. (And forgive me for cheating a little this week! 😉 )

The Tuesday View: 21st November 2017 – Looking Back

Since little has changed recently in my early winter garden, and since it is pouring with rain right now, kthis week my Tuesday View is a review of the year to remind myself of how this part of the rockery develops. In fact, this was the whole point of posting photos each week; to follow progress and spot gaps or particularly successful or not so successful planting combinations. I have also been able to see how various plants cope with the conditions they face throughout the seasons in this stony bed.

I started posting photos of this view in April… doesn’t that seem like a long time ago now!

And isn’t that spring sunshine lovely? (Sigh… we are stuck in the damp fog of November right now!)

Within just two weeks the view had been transformed, with the Acer and other trees in the background leafing out and the Viburnum ‘Aurora’ in full flower… it smelt gorgeous!

From then on progress was rapid: here is a gallery of May, and you can click on any picture to see a slideshow…

June brought the Lysimachia into flower, which eventually meant changing the angle I took my photos. It was a very dry month too, but fortunately ended with several days of showers.

In early July the garden managed to recover from the long drought and was surprisingly lush for the time of year! I was very impressed with the Teucrium and Hypericum standing up to the heat, and glad to see my pink Potentilla finally flower well.

The following month was hot and very humid, and it was hard to believe it was August considering how green everything was; usually the grass is brown, and the rockery is looking frazzled. But the moisture kept everything looking fresh and healthy.

September is a beautiful time of year. It is when I breathe out and enjoy the garden most of all… the heat is over and I no longer need worry that things may burn or dry out. The rockery was still very green and I think the Teucrium – which spread throughout the bed – contributed to retaining moisture. The grasses also started looking good. My favourite season…

The Acer never fails to put on a good show in October, and the asters flowered intensely too, some right through into November. By the end of the month I could finally return to my original spot to take the photos, as a lot of plants were cut down or died back.

To sum up my thoughts: it is pleasing to see that for seven or eight months of the year the rockery has been attractive from various angles and hardly any plants suffered seriously from the heat. A couple of spots need attention, and fighting the ground elder in spring is always a problem, but overall I am a satisfied gardener!

I wonder how you feel about your gardening year. Were there any particular highlights – good or bad? Have you been able to pinpoint problem areas or gain inspiration from successful planting?

The Tuesday View posts have, for me, served their purpose. So I will not continue with them over winter. But I do hope all those who have joined me over the past months will continue sharing their views as long as they can.

Thanks to you all!