Stone circle revisited.

 

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Last year we made some improvements to our main garden circle. Around the edge we have many half-moon shaped borders and the lawn bit in the middle kept spreading into them and made it very tedious to weed. So we decided to make a stone border all around the circle to combat that problem and get an edge that is easy to mow at the same time. You can read all about it here. It has worked very well apart from one small problem. After we set the stones in cement we used hypertufa as an infill between them. Sadly the mixture was not strong enough and over the year most of it has crumbled away.  Grass and weeds have taken hold between the stones. We needed to do something about this before the new growing season as the problem would have gotten completely out of hand.

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Looking forward and back.

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We have reached a new year full of possibilities and projects. Yesterday we were delighted to harvest a large crop of Oca, Oxalis Tuberosa, also called New Zeeland yams, a tuber we tried growing for the first time. It was planted in our garden last spring after being pre sprouted in pots in late March. We tried red, yellow and orange tubers but the yellow ones rotted in their pots early on so only the others got planted out. In the summer the plants produced lots of green leaves with a lemony taste. We are very happy with our trial and will save a few, to plant again this spring. In their native South America they are second only to potatoes in popularity.

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Planting in March.

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Growing in August.

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Harvest in January.

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On these short wintery days the sun is always welcome and we try to spend some time in the garden every day, clearing out old foliage and weeds from the beds. We are planning to cover the whole vegetable garden in cardboard boxes and barley straw to stop weeds taking hold in the spring. Hopefully this will rot down just enough in time for planting vegetables later in the year.  Our witch hazel tree is looking beautiful at the moment, with spidery fragrant flowers on bare branches. It is always a welcome sight along with the hellebore, Christmas rose.

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Still braving the elements.

It is time to sum up last month in the garden, the words very wet comes to mind.  It was difficult to find the motivation to get out there and work when the ground was soggy and the sky was grey. We kept busy inside and also took some time for rest and reflection. Sometime that is what is needed in order to gather strength and renewed motivation. We are feeling very optimistic now about the garden in the coming year. Some plants will be moved about or planted for the first time and there is much work to be done on clearing weeds like creeping buttercup. We actually like many plants normally considered weeds, like nettles for their phenomenal nutritional and wildlife value. But some have to be controlled in order not to take over ground from weaker plants.

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These are pictures of our circle at the end of December in the four directions of the compass. It is very green for this time of year, with the grass still growing. We are full of anticipation to see what the circle will look like later in the spring and summer as all our trees, shrubs and perennials will have another years worth of growth in them. If you wish to see how the circle develops over time you can take a look at the Elemental circle category on the blog, where all the monthly garden entries are collected.

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East

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South

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West

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North

We wish all our readers a happy and healthy new year, full of pleasant surprises and time to be spent outside in our beautiful nature. There is always so much to look at and to be delighted by. We are going to roast some newly harvested Oca tubers with fresh garlic and olive oil now, to celebrate the beauty of January and give thanks to our garden where beautiful things happen all throughout the year.

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The beauty of November passing.

 

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People often think of November as a dull, grey, wet and cold month. That November is something that has to be endured rather than enjoyed. We beg to differ. As the garden and nature in general slows down and moves towards a more restful time there is beauty everywhere. From the fireworks display of leaves and flowers to the stark forms of the remaining artichokes, if you look you will find it.

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Spring is often seen as a joyful, bright and uplifting time but is it really so different from autumn? We believe all parts of the wheel of time should be celebrated, enjoyed and looked upon in awe. Without the plants dying back, withering and resting there would be no spring spectacle to behold.  No new leaves unfurling or apple blossom to marvel at.When the sun comes out and shines its low rays across all the colours in our garden in November, it feels like a miracle not very different from looking at the first butterfly or bumblebee of spring.

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It has been very wet and windy over the last month in the West of Ireland and we have been busy indoors, finishing work on our extension, so the garden is in a state of some neglect. There is much planting, weeding and some moving of plants to be done. We always plant things as soon as we can and if something turns out not to thrive in its allocated position we move it later. A year of growth in the ground is almost always better than a year waiting around in a pot to be planted out. Our planting of ornamental grasses that we created in the spring is coming on nicely and is starting to fill the space.

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Spring

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Autumn

Our paths are in need of attention. We put down a lot of mulched Leylandii and thatch from an old cottage when we established the garden but after two and a half years the paths are getting worn down, starting to break up and have some weeds creeping in. It is now time to move all this old, rotted down material and use it as mulch around plants all around the garden. We will dig out the main paths quite deep, put in some drainage pipes and replace the path with maintenance (quarry dust). This should last a lot longer than the thatch and mulch. On higher ground, where water logging is not a problem,  we are planning to just have cut grass.

The rain over the last month has led to our stream being very full of water.

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Every month we show pictures of the garden taken from our main circle in the four cardinal directions. You can see how the garden changes and evolves over the year in the category elemental circle. The artichokes have mostly died back now and will be cut down shortly, shredded and used at mulch back on the bed again. We are looking forward to what next month brings.

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East

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South

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West

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North

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Roses in December?

When all the pieces come together – Mosaic.

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We are very happy and proud to announce that our big mosaic floor in the extension now is finished. The actual tiling part of the job was completed a couple of months ago but we only put down a first layer of grout to bind it all together at that stage. We have been busy building, insulating and painting the different wall sections since then but this week all of that work was finished and we could move onto the final stage of the floor.

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Looking back at October.

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If you are a regular reader of our blog you have probably noticed that it has been a while since we posted anything. Half of the family has Swedish roots and has spent some time visiting the old country recently. It was fun to visit family and friends and go for walks in the beautiful Swedish forests. On the way back we spent some time in the airport departure lounge and found it quite creepy. The three of us were reading books and talking to each other but all around us there was an eerie silence. As we looked around every single person we could see was staring at a screen of some sort in complete silence. Not a single person smiled. No one seemed excited to be visiting another country. No couples were holding hands or even looking at each other. No parents were talking to their children. How did it get to this?  After that experience it felt great to get back home and throw ourselves into the work of finishing the last bits on the extension so we can move in. It will only be a couple of weeks now.

We always write a bit each month about what has been going on in the garden and October proved to be quite pleasant. We had some warm sunny days and were able to harvest peas, kale, potatoes and herbs. Our Swiss spearmint has grown as high as a person this year.

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Many of the perennials and shrubs were confused by the unusually warm weather and put on new growth and flowers. We actually hope it will get colder soon so the plants can rest and get the cold spell that they need. Apples for instance cannot give a good crop next year if they have not been subject to this.

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The autumn colours have not been as pronounced as other years in the garden but a few of our plants have put on a decent show. We particularly enjoyed the blueberry, aronia and the liquid amber.

blueberry bridge

oct aronia

oct liquid amber

In our circle plants are starting to slow down and wither. We will leave a lot of the seed heads there and clean the beds up in the spring, to benefit wildlife. The teasels are full of seeds and we are hoping the bull finches from down the road will come into our garden to feast on them. We have gold finches every year and they love teasels as well.   Every month we take pictures of the circle in the four cardinal directions. All of these posts can be found in the category; Elemental circle.

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oct east

East

oct south

South

oct west

West

oct north

North

Two years ago we planted cyclamen and they have established themselves now and looked lovely in October around our yard tree. They look very delicate but can withstand both cold and rain. We are looking forward to the darker and colder season now as there is a lot of clearing, weeding and planting to do after the busy year we have had building our extension. As the growth rate slows down we should be able to get stuck into it all. Welcome November!

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oct cyclamen

Once in a blue moon.

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We have reached the end of July and it is time to sum up a beautiful but rainy month in our garden.

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We have put in shrubs, trees and perennials since we started the garden in February 2013, at the time we moved in. We made the decision early on to start with the planting of the garden first and do only necessary renovations to the cottage in these first couple of years. Once you plant something it has a chance to grow and every year the garden changes and evolves. We are amazed at the rate with which our plants have grown and the garden looks very pretty and is already a beautiful and productive space, less than three years in. When we started out it was a field overrun with creeping buttercups and surrounded by a huge leylandii  hedge.

garden july gazebo

This month has been great for the garden as it has rained almost every day and our newly planted roses and climbers have really taken off. All the other plants have benefited as well but a little more sun would have more things in flower by now. We have spent our coffee and tea breaks in the gazebo…

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garden july bridge

In the kitchen garden harvesting is in full swing with berries, onions, courgettes and peas for picking every day and our potato tower stacks growing very high. We were surprised when we first saw the beautiful potato blossoms, very different in the two varieties we are growing. We enjoyed a very tasty addition to our dinner yesterday when the Artichokes were ready for eating.

artichoke

potato

purple potato

berries

Our circle looks lovely even though we have been busy the whole month with our renovations and extension. It has a lot of weeds growing amongst the flowers but we just pull them out as we pass by. Apart from that all we have managed to do is cut the grass a couple of times but as long as the structure is there in a garden a few weeds do not matter too much and they can be removed as and when the opportunity arrives. We are planning to tidy the whole garden up in autumn, when the grass and weeds slow down. You can see what happens to the circle throughout the months in the category ‘Elemental circle’. For now we are anticipating the fireworks soon to take place when the crocosmia, Lucifer open its buds. It is a red explosion, not easily forgotten.

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East

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South

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West

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North

By the little wildlife pond the Angels fishing rods are just starting to open along with the single hollyhock called halo. Pure magic. All over the garden our mallows are now flowering. This evening we had a late walk around the garden, feeling thankful to be in this beautiful part of the world and looked at the full moon rising over the tree tops. A perfectly beautiful evening, once in a blue moon.

garden july angel

garden july mallow

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A pattern emerges.

mosaic star floor

We are very excited to finally start our big floor mosaic. As you can see we are staying quite close to our original plan but as always when you work on a project like this, ideas for changes come as you are working. We decided to give the points of the second star different colours to strengthen the connection with the elements, yellow for east and air, red for south and fire, blue for west and water and green for north and earth. We added all our tree roots and made the tiles go slightly onto the trunk in layers to really incorporate the tree into the floor. No one will walk right next to the tree so it is alright to have the floor slightly uneven and built up for a few centimetres around the trunk. This is the most exciting mosaic project we have done so far and now, three days in, we just want to go on working to see how it will all turn out.

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May in the garden.

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What can we say about May? It has been very cold here; a lot of rain and wind and  plants are not as far along as this time last year. Our alliums are just starting their beautiful display at the moment.

Allium

chives

allium

 In the kitchen garden our potatoes are doing mighty, and we have now added three tires to each stack and earthed them up several times. We have not grown potatoes here before, so it is nice to see them doing so well. We have also planted some Oca tubers and can’t wait to see how they do. Once a highly praised food by the Incas, we are hoping they will do well in our rainy climate. The slugs are abundant so unfortunately a lot of our salad and brassicas have been devoured, and not by us. At least they have had the decency to leave our onions and artichokes alone.

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We planted a tree peony last year in one of the beds around our circle and it had a very beautiful flower earlier in the month.

 tree peony

peony detail

 We always write a bit about what is going on around the circle and garden once a month and all of these posts can be found in the category, Elemental circle. As you can see on the following photos our circle has a lot of lush green growth, but not that many flowers yet. We are happy to look at the Aquilegias though, that we grew from seeds two years ago. The dark one is called William Guinness and the green and pink one is the lovely Nora Barlow.

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nora barlow

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East

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South

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West

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North

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 We will leave you now, with a picture of one of our favourite heuchera, Marmalade. It looks best in full sun, so we can admire it occasionally, between the showers. We are hoping the weather will warm up a bit in June so all our flowers and vegetables will come out to play.

marmalade

Going around in circles

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The last month has seen some changes to our main garden circle. We have finished the work on the stone mowing strip all around the edge. Last year the grass grew into the stone wall at the front of the raised beds and it is very nice to have gotten rid of that problem. We are now also able to go around the circle with our push mower and cut the grass all the way to the edge without a problem. After the cement under the stones had set we added hypertufa to the cracks and brushed it in to set and kept watering it for four days, three times a day. This prevents the hypertufa from drying out too quickly. Hypertufa is a very versatile material to use in the garden. We make ours out of one part sand, one part cement and one part compost and a generous helping of PVA. The compost makes the dried mixture slightly porous and provides a few nutrients for mosses to grow. It can be used to create sculptures and planting troughs that look very natural after a while due to the moss.

 hypertufa

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 North stone

We have also finished the second low fence to support the artichokes and cardoons. We made it out of willow and dogwood for all the woven pieces with Bamboo canes for the uprights. Hopefully it will be high enough to prevent the huge plants from blowing over. They grew to almost three meters last year.

 artichokes

All our plants have grown a lot this month but there is still mostly greenery to be seen and not that many flowers. April has brought a lot of sunny warm days but also some frost and even hailstones.Our weeping birch has beautiful small leaves and the onion sets we planted in March are all growing nicely.The tree peony is about to flower and a lot of annual poppies have germinated from self sown seed last year. It is great to have some self seeding plants such as poppies, forget me not and aquilegias in the flower borders as you are always in for a surprise. We are keeping our dandelions all around the garden and do not try to eradicate them from the lawn as they are very important to the bee population and also nice to eat in salads.

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 Here you can see pictures of the circle towards the four points of the compass.

 east

East

south

South

west

West

North

North

We are taking the same pictures once a month to keep a record of the changes throughout the seasons and the years. All the posts containing these photos are collected in the category Elemental circle. As we are nearing the end of the month we are looking forward to the colorful floral explosion that is bound to happen in May. All over the garden there are thousands of buds, just about ready to burst open. We can’t wait to share next months pictures of our circle with you.

Set in stone.

North stone

Most of our garden is planted with edible plants. But when we planned it out on paper we also wanted to include a lot of flowers. Some of them are herbs with culinary and medicinal purposes and some are magnets for bees and butterflies. We wanted to arrange our flowering plants in a pretty way and also wanted a flat area for friends, kids and relatives to pitch a tent when visiting. We do not like square shapes, straight paths and formal gardens very much. Because of this we choose a design based on circles. Circles have been used for thousands of years in cultures all over the world. We like ancient stone circles very much and decided early on to have a large circle in the centre of our garden and add four standing stones, one for each point of the compass. The first job was to get rid of the stones in the ground in order to have a smooth area for pitching tents and have a bit of a lawn as the rest of the garden is more on the wild side.  We did not know just how many stones there were in our 9 meters across circle. We built crescent moon shaped raised beds all around the circle and still ended up with huge piles of stones for other projects. We then had to hire a rotivator to get the area somewhat flat and ready for seeding. All those preparations were done last year. This past weekend we had beautiful weather and decided it was time to put our standing stones in place and start making an edge in natural stone to make the circle easier to mow with our push mower and have less weeds growing into the raised beds. The stones needed to be moved from another part of the garden and we made a sledge for this purpose. We then used the ancient method of rollers to move the standing stones across the garden. It was fun and quite easy.

 Stone sleigh

We dug holes and planted the stones firmly in place at the cardinal points. We dug out a shallow ditch all around the circle and filled it with gravel. Then it was time to mix up some cement and put down the small flagstones for the mowing strip. At each standing stone we added a few more stones.

Gravel ditch

Crazy paving

East is connected to the element of air and the colour yellow so in this section we planted a Japanese maple with yellow leaves and a lot of grasses that can move in the wind. South is connected to the element of Fire and the colour red so we have a lot of red flowers here and a lovely Japanese maple with bright red leaves. In the West we added a lot of seashells for the element water and a blue flowering Ceanothus.  We still have to do the North stone decorations which will consist of a lot of crystals for the element of Earth and bright green plants.

Elemental plants

East set in stone

East

South set in stone

South

West set in stone

West

Here you can see the view across the circle to the East, South, West and North. We are planning to take the same pictures once a month so you can see how the garden changes in the course of the months and years ahead. All of these posts will be in the category called Elemental circle.

East

South

West

North

stonecircle from roof