The Missing Senses; Easter Hunts and Bleeding Hearts; and a (For Now) Shared Secret.

What a fabulous but exhausting fortnight we’ve enjoyed in the garden. Just compensation for the poor wet winter and disappointing freeze drying of last spring’s Easterlies.SDIM7053 (2)

But how to record this in a blog?

My brother Mark has told me that Ted Hughes urged his fishing friends not to photograph their catches, lest they hang onto just that image, and forget the complete atmosphere, environment and experience of the hunt, and eventual capture.SDIM7024 (2)

But it seems to me after just 3 years of producing this blog, that photographs provide a really good adjunct to words, in recording how much seasons vary from one year to the next, and also how the garden morphs and develops as a truly organic microcosm of Gaia, (albeit with a very concerned over fussy mentor and tender). There are regular events to look forward to, for sure, but no two years are ever remembered for the same things.

This fortnight I glimpsed, for only the second time, a raptor (probably a goshawk) flying fast and low as a swallow over the sward, close to the turkey run (indeed the “Look Out, Look Out” from the swallows alerted me to it), before pausing in an overlooking ash tree.S1000018 (2)How do goshawks hunt and capture their prey? With extraordinary speed and agility, even amongst woodland trees. So you’ll see why we’ve used high fencing, newly planted saplings, willow wands and panel baffles, to give our turkeys a fighting chance. A goshawk would, hopefully, be unable to negotiate such physical barriers, at least at speed. S1010043 (2)

But I’ve been struck by how inadequate still images, and my accompanying words, are to capture the real thrill of it all.SDIM7104 (2)No Orange-tip butterflies, Anthocharis cardamines, at all last year. Several already seen this April.

It’s often the missing senses which can’t be captured (yet?) on screen, and certainly not with rural broadband connectivity.

The movement of wind through emerging, or retained shrivelled leaves; the playing of light and shadow on mossy surfaces; or the sudden sensual hit from an unfamiliar scent. This fortnight I was moved by the unusual fragrance from a Corylopsis pauciflora bush. I’ve grown two from seed, and the one which usually flowers well had lost most of its flower buds after being hit by a late frost – we obviously should have planted it under more mature tree cover.S1000001 (2)

But the second shrub is further from a path, and so whilst the mass of pendant primrose flowers was obvious visually, I kept getting a localized hit from the indescribable, to me anyway, aromatic scent at a different point on the nearest path, depending on the wind direction. As I set up to photograph this, the first swallows which arrived on April 11th, paused for breath and their excited chatter on the dead upper twigs of a small hawthorn bush above the croquet lawn completed the sensory experience. Happy moments.S1000084 (2)

The last fortnight has also seen our outside Easter egg hunt, which we often manage when grandchildren visit, and the weather is benign. This year an extra child was hunting.SDIM7200 (2)SDIM7176 (2)SDIM7180 (2)SDIM7182 (2)SDIM7194 (2)

And the daffodils and tulips, which have also swelled in number from last year, have looked spectacular, as they always do given dry and sunny days.SDIM7172 (2)SDIM7219 (2)SDIM7087 (2)SDIM7221 (2)

More lambs have arrived, more names have been chosen with the annual letter prefix.S1000009 (2)SDIM7091 (2)S1000047 (2)And the turkey hens are all now sitting with determination, feathers ruffled for warmth.SDIM7088 (2)Whilst late last night, a single poult hatched from the eggs we’d placed in the incubator exactly 28 days earlier.

Not knowing what to expect we’d watched and waited.

Was that a faint cheep, audible above the constant low whine of the incubator’s computer fan?

Were those little cracks and shell fragments above the smooth contours of some of the eggs? It seems that this is known as chicks or poults ‘pipping’ (we’re focusing on the egg to the left of the red dot below).S1000098 (2)And then, most definitely, one, but only one of the eggs started to wobble. At first imperceptibly and intermittently. After an hour and a half Fiona had seen it.S1000100 (2)

We went to bed late and set up the camera on time lapse. A disturbed sleep had me creeping out of bed at 3.50 am. A single poult had made it into the world (about an hour earlier).S1000104 (2)S1000106 (2) Following the advice to leave the poult alone where it was for several hours (since opening the incubator would lose the humidity vital to keep the egg membranes soft and more penetrable), I returned to bed. Interestingly the camera records that the process started with a sudden burst of egg wobbling at about 2 am, then a double line of shell cutting, with emergence around 2.40 am. Not that different to the 45 minutes or so which the typical ewe takes to deliver a lamb once regular abdominal expulsive contractions begin.

The following morning there was considerable disappointment as this was still the only visible poult.

Then as the morning wore on, we spotted 3 more eggs wobbling. The whole process of artificial incubation seems very alien, and what must it sound like to the poults to hear the constant whir of a fan, and the smell of plastic rather than feathers? Can they smell, or experience any other senses whilst inside the egg?

We started making occasional encouraging cheeping sounds, and often this seemed to elicit a response in sound or movement from the remaining eggs. But it’s clear that Fiona has the edge here. She can reach a higher register and to my ear at least sounds entirely convincing. Which may of course mean that the poults bond with her, and not me.

But will this single emerged poult be the limit of our success from 15 eggs, and if not, how long will the hatching process continue for?

As the first rain of over 2 weeks arrived, I’d just managed to complete another topping of the rushes in our 2 lower fields, in a fraction of the time it took us last autumn. Already they are looking more like meadows than rush forests, but such continued effort behind the BCS power scythe has left the body pummelled and in need of some therapeutic keyboard recuperation.S1000113 (2) The cleared fields and a powerful LED torch meant that the other night I shone the beam from our magic terrace garden into the lower (then sheep-less) field to be met with two pairs of reflective eyes following my moves. Worried about lamb predation by foxes, I moved down into this field, and the ever watchful eyes backed off, before slinking out of the field to the South. Just as well, since our twin lambs had chosen this moment to escape the watchful protection of mum and get themselves stuck between the double fencing of the hedge boundary.

But how well will the goslings fare, when they hatch from the nest that a Canada goose has now created close to where I found the large submerged egg a few weeks back?S1000111 (2)An additional BIG issue of late has been continuing internet access issues. Using a satellite hook up is inevitably limiting in terms of speed, but for the last few months we’ve had major periods of access outage, or speeds so slow that it’s impossible to achieve even the simplest of tasks. Being a naturally impatient fellow, this has proved very frustrating, the more so since our service provider’s level of interest in resolving the issue seems pretty minimal. But then I guess they know that we don’t have many alternative options for now.

Then came the news of the Heartbleed security issue, and sure enough a few days later an email from WordPress that they used SSL open source software, and had experienced an issue which had been speedily resolved. Passwords were changed, and briefly things did improve, though not completely.

But this seemed an appropriate link to mention another favourite plant group for this spring season. The Dicentra spectabilis, (now Lamprocapnos spectabilis) or ‘Bleeding Hearts’, ‘Dutchman’s Breeches’ or even ‘Ladies In The Bath’. Though I see that this is yet another genus where scientific nomenclature changes have seen the genus renamed and adding to this ordinary gardener’s confusion. Most seem to be plants of moist shady environments, from Asia and North America and whilst some like ‘Bacchanal’ below will flower for quite a long period,SDIM7215 (2)our favourite Dicentra spectabilis alba is more ephemeral, flowering if it escapes frost damage for perhaps 6 to 8 weeks, before gracefully fading from the scene by mid summer.SDIM7223 (2)

I would grow many of them just for their often delicate ferny foliage, but the flowers, particularly with light shafting through stems from behind, are an additional lovely bonus.SDIM7196 (2)

Finally it was a great surprise and delight to recently be listed as one of 10 ‘Secret Gardens of Wales to visit in 2014′ by the Western Mail media group who also produce the widely read Wales Online internet pages. Click here for more.SDIM7116 (2)

As one of very few private gardens included, we feel surprised and honoured.SDIM7039 (2)

Blog readers can enjoy virtual visits to the garden anytime through these pages. I do hope that the aforementioned internet access issues don’t wear me down and drive this to become simply a private record of our experiences here.

For now, this remains a largely on-line visited, rather than actually experienced, secret garden.SDIM7015 (2)SDIM7109 (2)

SDIM7012 (2)SDIM6820 (2)SDIM7224 (2)SDIM7237 (2)SDIM7020 (2)SDIM7227 (2)SDIM7205 (2)

SDIM7118 (2)SDIM7168 (2)Perhaps that’s how it’s best to keep it?

15 thoughts on “The Missing Senses; Easter Hunts and Bleeding Hearts; and a (For Now) Shared Secret.

  1. Pleased you and family had a happy Easter. Your tulip and daffodil displays look magnificent- brilliant photos again. Thanks for sharing your Easter garden with us all.

  2. Thanks for sharing your beautiful tulips, orange-tips and hatching experiences once again. It quite inspires me to get out in the garden and re-arrange planting for an ever-changing summer display. You’re right, it’s never the same year on year, with the differing weather conditions changing flowering orders. Ever a joy and surprise:)

    • Hello Wendy,
      Thanks for the kind comment. I love Orange-tips, and did fear after their non appearance last year how long they would take to return, so it’s great to have them back in numbers this year. I may slot in another turkey hatching piece after we spent an hour or so extricating the remaining poults from their leathery membranes…. quite a learning curve, and a good job I’d kept some tissue forceps… but we feared that they weren’t going to emerge unless we intervened,
      Happy gardening,

  3. One of your Easter egg hunters has a set of horns. I did not get an email from WordPress. Should I be worried or change my password? That’s a lovely white camellia. I am very discouraged about camellias as many of mine died or were severely damaged. Have you tried the new old-fashioned bleeding-heart called Goldheart with gold leaves and pink flowers. I didn’t think I would like it, but I love it. The lambs are so cute.

    • Hello Carolyn,
      I’d never changed my password before on WP, but will have a policy of doing so now occasionally. A big pain, but I realise it’s probably prudent. The WP email didn’t say that you had to change it, but the internet does seem to work a bit better since we changed it. And we’d also had a spate of huge numbers of spam WP comments, which temporarily seems to have diminished. Unfortunately these internet issues mean that I’ve not been as keen to put all the info. in the posts, ( I just get fed up struggling and wasting time) so the white Camellia is one called Jury’s Yellow …it’s actually more of a pale cream/yellow in real life. This year the Camellias have been great. But we’ve been lucky with so few frosts. Otherwise these white ones get blasted brown in no time. We’ve pretty much given up on our C. sasanquas since they rarely seem to manage flowers. Sorry to hear about your Camellias, but maybe we all will have to reappraise what’s worth growing if the climate is so messed up. That’s partly why I’m moving towards more spring bulbs, which even if they get clobbered one year, will probably recover the next.
      I’ve seen Goldheart, and heard others rave about it, but I fear my colour obsessive nature would struggle placing the pink and gold…
      PS I’ll check back for the horns…..

  4. I enjoyed a wander round your garden with my post lunch cuppa. Jurys Yellow was a favourite in my last garden. I hated leaving my camellias and other woodland plants, but life and gardening moves on.
    Sympathies with your broadband issues, we have the same problem. I given uo shouting about it and try to adopt a Zen like attitude: it works when it works!

    • Hello C,
      We wondered what you might have left behind before the Croft challenge hove into view over the horizon…. and now hugely admire your efforts even more, if you foresake woodland plants for the lure of those fabulous views and sea air. Even if the broadband is dire.
      But I can’t see myself being passive…. letters to MPs and CEOs are probably a little way down the line, which I’m sure won’t help, but might make me feel a little better.
      But Jury’s Yellow has been lovely this year, and look out for a spectacular Rhodie soon which we’ve waited years to perform …,

      • Not too difficult really as after 25 years the garden was mature and short of a major, and unnecessary overhaul, there were limited challenges. Mind you I’d not bargained for a challenge of this size.

  5. I did so enjoy seeing the pictures of your garden bursting with flowers and animal life. I have felt rather over occupied with the garden recently and it humbles me to see how much you are looking after. It must be an amazing place for an Easter egg hunt, your grandchildren are very lucky. Amelia

    • Hello A,
      Thanks for that. It was nice to have weather to get the grandchildren outside, since they have a typical fairly urban existence normally. And for now an Easter egg hunt is a popular event. We plan Laser guns for a few years time, which will rather shatter the peace and quiet temporarily…
      Just how long we manage to keep all the balls in the air, though, remains to be seen, but rather like vetting, I seem to keep seeing new stuff which excites me, and makes the whole slog worthwhile,

  6. Hello A,
    Indeed it does, and I’m sure as you find, the blog is a stimulus for discovering much new knowledge, and information. Certainly the fact that other folk look at it is hugely supportive, particularly when one goes through a tough patch or feel too tired to bother!

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