Friday, August 6, 2010


This is the second half of a post which is too long.

I have't finished the first half yet so I'll post that another day . . .

. . . For a lot of the time, my garden has to look after itself. Plants die, fruit doesn't form properly, and lots of places for not very desirable wild-life develop naturally amongst the debris and disasters. It doesn't support many butterflies. Some flutter in - then go. This year, nice little blue ones have been dropping by. Bumble bees buzz arrive with megaphones but, as far as I know, don't stay either. There are fewer ladybirds than I'd expect or would hope for - but lots of hoverflies in season. I've more or less eradicated Daddy Long Legs (go away leatherjackets, you may be wild-life but I don't want you) and . . . slugs, snails, and spiders live all over the place. My garden is, to the gardening world, what Miss Haversham's room is to the world of literature; jam packed with interest.

Lia Leendertz recently wrote a post about being turned down for the National Gardens Yellow Book scheme. My garden isn't the kind to be put in this Book or any other. I'd be able to welcome only one visitor at a time and, even then, we'd have to be swapping places whenever we wanted to look at the next plant. I also think the selectors might question how long such visitors would want to visit my garden for. Gardens in the Yellow Book are supposed to provide at least forty-five minutes worth of interest and a visiting expert might think mine is too small to contain much to look at. But I'm certain that any sensible person (who isn't a selector) will easily be able to examine and discuss my garden for at least three-quarters of an hour. It depends on how carefully they look.

Here's a mini-tour of a mini-part of my mini-garden. Yesterday (August 3rd) I went into it to take seasonal photographs.

Here's the general view.

The trouble with this picture is that the new Lily of the Valley is hidden in darkness so I went closer.

The cramming method of gardening means you can also see a Busy Lizzie, Blackcurrant Leaves, Box (hard to take a picture in my garden without including Box) and a tiny Sedum cutting. This is recent too but I expect it'll 'take' - nearly all the bits broken off by cats walking over the original purchase and which I've collected and stuck between stones are thriving. By next year I expect I'll be thinking sedums are weeds! There's an orange blodge from a marigold and some more orange crocosmia dots, a bit of the strange 'roundabout' plant Ming brought and, right at the back, the Black Brandenburg vine. Below the vine there's a Honeysuckle but you can't see that.

And Gladioli. Hmm. Gladioli leaves with lines up them where snails have scraped the surface.

Enter bio-diversity.

My bio-diversity isn't just creatures and flowering plants. I've decided it includes things which go wrong and are, therefore, to be treasured. They are interesting in their own right but also because other people's gardens don't have them.

Here's an apple which has split in the drought. (There's convolvulus tangled there too.)

And here's an apple which looks like this. Wonderful texture. Admire it. You are free to do so because it is in my garden, not yours. You can delight in it; examine it with interest. There's no need for you to be disappointed that it isn't turning out 'right'.

And an apple leaf that's being turned into a tunnel. You might like to click on it better to see the silhouette of the spider that's building a home there - and wonder at the structural expertise it's using to pull the leaf tight with its threads.

And here's another curled leaf. I suspect it's part of an abandoned building project. I don't usually ask visitors to click on pictures but clicking on this post is definitely recommended! See the threads? Once I start looking, I realise my whole garden is linked and bound by gossamer.

There are other surprises. This was supposed to be a picture of an apple with a hole in it next to a scrunched-up leaf. Only after I'd pressed the button did I notice what is really the central character in the scene. It's on the brown leaf. Click to see . . . I think it's a Harvester (I call them 'Harvesters' though the proper name seems to be 'Harvestmen', never mind) rather than a Spider. Notice the length of its legs!

And here's a block of flats.

I thought, perhaps, I'd take a picture to show that some of the apples will be good and strong and edible. But . . . one's attention is immediately drawn by a lumpy blackcurrant leaf. (Over at ten o'clock if you use the group of apples as a pivot). What's going on there? 


And upside down . . . what I take to be the carcases of white-fly.

Snails . . . can't help it . . . sometimes they are simply beautiful. This one is welcome to the blackcurrant leaves. We have eaten all the blackcurrants. If only we could come to an arrangement with this very little one that it sticks to leaves we are not needing.

Blackcurrant leaves seem to be popular in the snail world. (They eat apple leaves too but not so often.) Doesn't this 'next size up' one look characterful?

This spider is strung between apple and blackcurrant twigs.

Another spider - but on a vine.

Below the vine, on a honeysuckle. To see the charm of the one on the left - click.  (The one on the right is pretty standard boring and brown.)

These four apples seem to be ok. (Though they aren't as big as they appear to be in the picture.) It's an odd sighting because I usually pick off adjacent ones when they are small so no one fruit touches another. There are creatures in my garden who like to live at the joins and I prefer not to be too welcoming.

Here's what I mean. Single apples spread like shiny balls on a Christmas Tree.

Very edible. The creatures have some. We have some.

We have grapes too and in this garden, humans seem to be the only ones who want to eat them . . .

. . . so . . . as long as the flowers are pollinated (which many on the Black Hamburg are this year, though the Madeline d'Angevine is fruitless despite having had lots of flowers) . . .

. . . and as long as the sun and rain organise themselves into the right sequence (which is not what's happening so we might land up with only  small grapes in tough skins)

. . . we will have lovely bunches of unshared-grapes in the autumn.

(At the moment, the largest grapes are about a centimetre long.)

Thus, we bumble along, we humans and pests and things that go wrong. My garden, is often (not always - but often) a lovely place to sit, to think and to watch what's happening. If you look at it in detail, you can spend ages examining it.

Not that it's safe for everyone. Beware! Some who wander in turn out to be food themselves . . .


What do you reckon? I hardly moved while taking photos for this post. The challenge is never to find forty-five minutes-worth of interest but to discover any place outdoors which doesn't warrant at least forty-five minutes attention.  

It all depends on how you look.


Helen said...

So very true, Esther. That was a lovely visit in my yellow book. And coming to your garden, I also come away with this sentence, which I will carry around gladly for the rest of the day: "Once I start looking, I realise my whole garden is linked and bound by gossamer."

Karen - An Artist's Garden said...

Looking is the key - and I have enjoyed looking through your eyes at your garden, very much.

Monica the Garden Faerie said...

I do love spiders and admit I think snails are cute. It's funny because I'm finding my garden too BIG! No one has ever asked my garden to be on tour, either. Let's console ourselves with a nice cup of tea and a biccie.

Liz said...

Hi Esther,

Very wise words... I think any garden can manage a 45 minute tour no matter how large or small. It's all about looking, I know I rarely ever manage just to 'pop out for 5 minutes' it always takes much longer purely because I'm enjoying watching, and staring. It's only then you notice the little things, such as the insects!

elizabethm said...

That was wonderful. I will have to go straight back and read it all over again as soon as I have finished commenting. Love the pictures, love the things co-habiting, things going wrong and right. I've been thinking quite a bit about the NGS gardens since reading Lia's post. I have lots of space (a couple of acres) but it isn't really gardnened. Too much long grass and nettles and alkanet and bindweed muscling in on all the beds. I don't think I would ever be NGS material but, I think, it is a fascinating place and could easily keep you going, if you come without too many preconceptions, for an afternoon. If you like chickens, and snails, and self seeders.

Mo said...

Lovely pictures of your lovely garden! I have often wondered what it is like, and now I know........lovely! :)

Tatyana@MySecretGarden said...

Esther, you at least ate your blackcurrants! My plants looked great, but berries were so miserable that even I, the blackcurrant lover, didn't try them.

VP said...

Much food for thought here Esther, especially your last paragraph - it's so true.

2 weeks ago I visited a garden open for the NGS with a party of 20 people most of whom were there for the social side of things rather than visiting a garden per se - that was more about having a conversation in a nice place with a cream tea to boot. Sadly it meant it was difficult to have the stillness to be able to take my time and really look at the garden properly.

WV says econest - most fitting for your garden and this post!

Gary said...

Hi Esther, long time no chat. I think your Spider is a female St Andrews Cross spider. They normally appear into the autumn. Not seen many up hear in East Anglia either because your seasons are a few weeks ahead of ours or the have all got drowned in this weeks rain!

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Everyone.

I'm not forgetting.

Will be replying to comments tomorrow.

For those of us enjoying rain - isn't it lovely!

Not so keen on the wind. It keeps knocking over the tomato plants.

Best wishes


garden girl said...

Have to say it again - I love that you're posting photos of your garden, Esther.

You demonstrate so well how much there is to see, enjoy, wonder, and marvel at in our gardens small and large.

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks Linda.

I still feel uncomfortable about this blog. There are so many garden blogs with photos, I'm not sure I can add much whereas having an un-seen garden which everyone can imagine in their own terms - is fun! None the less, I'm enjoying it and am glad you like it too.

From my point of view, one of the best things is that it will help me remember what does what and when. I often think something is opening early or ripening late but am sometimes not absolutely certain whether the season is really doing something different or it's just me getting in a muddle. These photos will sort of 'fix' time.


Elephant's Eye said...

Esther - bio-diverIsty tag? Do you know how hard that is to write?? For your eyes only ;>)

Esther Montgomery said...

Thanks, Diana. Mistake corrected.


ofer said...

can not ignore it,

I love your vine. we used to have lots at my parents old house- where i brought up. ( israel) It is a wonderful plant full of character.
Old look of bark with most refreshing young leaves that turn brown at the end of the season.

What is strange is many people in the uk would think that a bay plant is hardier than vine. ( of course not)

In israel you can see hundreds of years old vines that survived wars.

Great images thank you

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Ofer.

I'd like to think this vine too would last a hundred years but . . . !


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