The Letter W

I don’t want to sound like I’m auditioning for a part on Sesame Street but this week really does feel like it’s been brought to us by the letter W. For starters, the weather has been warm and very wet and consequently, everything has grown like crazy which is good news because pretty much everything in the patch is still way behind where it was this time last year – a good two or three weeks, I should say.

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The downside of course is that it is perfect romping weather for slugs and snails and they are having a field day . . . field night, too, as the temperature drops so little. We are having to be very vigilant, especially round the newly transplanted young brassica plants, mostly calabrese and kohl rabi. Thankfully, plants like this ‘Greyhound’ cabbage are big enough and robust enough to cope with the occasional shredding . . .

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. . . and despite a bit of nibbling around the edges, the climbing French beans are spiralling skywards up their poles at last. This is a new variety for us – ‘Goldena’ –  but it already looks like it’s going to be as good as the other yellow podded types we’ve grown in the past.

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It strikes me as slightly weird that the lettuces are being given a wide berth, I’d have thought they would be close to the top of the beasties’ chomping priority list but we have several patches scattered around, all of which are looking just fine.

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Weeding has definitely been my work of the week. Why don’t the slimy ones tuck into that wretched oxalis, I’d like to know? Still, there’s an upside here, too, because where weeds grow like stink then so do the self-set brigade and I’ve been finding all sorts of new little treasures popping up around the garden, especially where we have mulched with homemade compost. Take this little spot (barely a square metre) at the end of the sweetcorn terrace: here there are borage, nasturtiums, calendula, verbena bonariensis, Californian poppies, comfrey, chervil, dill, coriander and a couple of very healthy looking squash all growing merrily without any intervention on our part at all. Talk about lazy gardening!

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The squash have almost certainly grown from composted seeds of the ‘Guatemalan Blue’ we grew last year; it’s an open-pollinated variety and as we also grew ‘Crown Prince’ and yellow and green butternut varieties, I’m interested to see what they produce once the bees have done their business. Speaking of which, it’s good to see the garden teeming with pollinators as the courgettes have opened their first starry yellow flowers and the second crops of broad beans and peas are looking gorgeous decked out in white.

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I’m also encouraging some pollinator activity in the polytunnel as there are other flowers in need of special attention. I’ve been too idle to train the melons up anything; the last time we grew them with any great success was in our French polytunnel where I let them trail with abandon and simply sat the fruits on wooden blocks as they ripened. It beats all that faffing about with supporting nets in my book, but the rate at which the free-for-all trailabout has started could well have me seriously regretting that decision in a week or two as I try to battle my way in through the door.

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The tomatoes are also doing what tomatoes do well in warmth and have started to look a bit jungly (note incoming melon activity on the left).

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We’re hoping that under cover in the tunnel, safe from the classic Asturian mist that spreads blight about in these parts, we will have a decent crop this year. Only time will tell . . . for now, where are those bees?

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No surprise that Thug of the Week award once again goes to the kiwi; it’s already had it’s first major lopping of the year, not that you’d notice. There is a barn under there somewhere, honest. It is so plastered in flower buds that I’m almost tempted to pay the bees to keep out of them; I shouldn’t moan, the fruit is a wonderful food, but how many thousands (and I am not exaggerating) do we need?

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Roger has been busy making a good start on our revamp of Rubble Corner. The wonky wall of snail-infested bricks has gone and he is rebuilding it to a lower level with stone. Needless to say, it hasn’t all been plain sailing and the usual messes he has had to deal with along the way (old wall filled with household rubbish, bricks nailed to timber posts, wire wrapped around everything – you know, the sort of thing that was done so well here) has resulted in a few bursts of intense muttering, probably best not repeated. Still, it really will be worth it because even though there remains plenty to be done,  it’s already looking so much better.

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I love a bit of sunshine and I’ll be happy to see the blue skies back whenever they’re ready but I have to admit there is something about the shifting light on these damp days that changes and intensifies colours in the landscape. There is so much beauty in the garden and bathed in the freshness of raindrops, the flowers are exquisite.

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The abundance of roses has taken my wedding confetti corner to new and beautiful heights this week.

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It’s always green  here – a fact I love –   but I can’t begin to convey the sheer intensity of the greenness at present and there just aren’t enough words in the English language to describe all those shades and nuances of colour (I’ve tried but it doesn’t work). Frustrated by language, I feel an urge to spin, dye and knit in every one of them, to try and capture the essence of the freshness and growth, the sheer green of it all. Instead, I’ve been pulling on my waterproofs, grabbing brolly and camera and wandering about the woodlands, letting it all wash over me. Pure pleasure.

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The wildflowers are certainly enjoying the weather and are putting on a stunning show. There have always been a few foxgloves in our meadows and down the track to the river, but never in such profusion as this year. The sound of the bumble bees is almost as astounding as the banks of dusky pink, here and there punctuated with a white rebel. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. How could I grumble about the rain in the face of such floral grace and elegance?

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Having revelled in a few days of fantastic walking when Roger’s mum was here, we really didn’t want to let the habit slide so we decided a day in the Picos de Europa mountains was called for. The Picos, it must be said, are a bit special and I have a real soft spot for them because it was there we enjoyed several happy holidays before deciding to move to Asturias. Home to iconic walks such as the Cares Gorge trail, they are unsurprisingly a honeypot for walkers but with a little bit of effort it is simple enough to find quiet routes away from the hiking hoards. With this in mind, we headed to the Covadonga lakes; the stunning and slightly hair-raising 11 kilometre road up is accessible in the busiest summer months only by shuttle bus (unless like us you’re prepared to be early birds and go up before the barriers are pulled across the road) but at this time of year it is open. Instead of driving all the way to the main car park at Lago de la Ercina, we veered off down a long and winding gravel track above Lago de Enol and set out to climb the Mirador de Ordiales path. The first part of our walk took us through lush greenery, the beech trees in their glossy prime underpinned by foaming hawthorn and a harmony of blackbirds.

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As we climbed, the landscape opened out and changed character. The broad alpine meadows swept ever upwards, littered with limestone boulders; the rubbery caw of choughs bounced off the cliff faces and vultures wheeled silently overhead on their enormous wings. We passed troupe after troupe of cattle, totally unfazed by our presence, their bells resounding in the mountain air in a cathedral of sound.

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Further on and the going got a little more difficult; it was time to watch where I was putting my feet instead of gawping at the beautiful wilderness. I love walks like this, the way they prod me out of my comfort zone and challenge me both physically and mentally. I never care whether I make it to the top or not, because for me that’s not what is important (and we knew the summit would be unreachable on this occasion anyway, due to snow). Discussing it with my brother this week, I agreed totally with the way he described the excitement of challenge and the sheer exhilaration of ‘going for it’: it’s not about reaching the top, but the trying to get there. It’s about feeling alive.

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In all honesty, I would never have reached the summit anyway as I was too busy dawdling along and poking my nose into the alpine flowers. This is a harsh and unforgiving landscape and yet like on our other recent walks, nature had planted a stunning garden of little beauties that are surely tougher than they look. I’ve never been a fan of rock gardens but these were simply perfect.

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Onwards and upwards, ever higher until our heads were literally in the clouds. Walking in the Picos when the soaring snow-capped mountains are printed against a blue sky and the stunning vistas are sun-drenched and far-reaching is an awe-inspiring experience but this damp and misty weather brought a whole new atmosphere to the landscape. Here there was emptiness, stillness, silence. This place is utterly incredible.

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At roughly 1500 metres it was obviously time to stop; not only was the cloud coming down rapidly but snow was becoming a bit of an issue. Time to turn round and head back down.

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What a wonderful walk; 8k doesn’t sound like much but the steep climb seemed to make up for any lack of distance and in the whole time we only saw three other people, all of them farmers. We’ll go back in better weather, maybe next month, and challenge ourselves to go further and higher but in the meantime as far as I’m concerned our walk in the wet wilds rounded off the Week of W perfectly! 🙂

 

 

 

 

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9 thoughts on “The Letter W

  1. That is a wonderful selection of self-down plants in your garden! You have taken another lot of beautiful photos -I drank them in! And all that green! I love your walking pictures too. I have read about the Picos in Jenny Blom’s book ‘The Thoughtful Gardener’ and isn’t there an Eryngium ‘Picos Blue’? I should put hiking in the Picos on my bucket list.

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    • Yes, the eryngium was very much just tiny rosettes of leaves this week but later in the summer it’s absolutely gorgeous, as are the clouds of blue butterflies. I find myself far too distracted, it’s a wonder I manage to walk any distance at all. Definitely one for the bucket list, it’s a stunning area! 🙂

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  2. I do envy you the summer-flowering wild gentians – such an almost beyond-blue colour! We have two gentian species in the garden but they both are autumn-flowering.

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    • Aren’t they totally gorgeous? We usually struggle to capture the true colour of flowers that blue with our camera so I was thrilled that it worked with them, they were scattered about in brilliant carpets. Lots of green hellebore, too, you’ll be pleased to hear! Later in the summer it is the eryngium that is so beautiful . . . might have to go back and check them out.

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  3. Oh well, I just have to wait till August to see the first gentians flower (the last ones will be in September-October).
    “My” Eryngium is simply Eryngium planum – it grew in the Ukrainian cornfields together with wild poppies – maybe not a very welcome sight to the farmers but alluringly beautiful in my eyes.

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    • Don’t you think ‘weeds’ are often the most beautiful and loved of flowers, though? Try as I might, I’ve never really been able to rival nature’s skill as a gardener! Please be sure to post photos of your gentians later in the year, I’d love to see them.

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