June: Poppies and rain

It all kicked off at the beginning of June. Of course, I should have realised. I’d mentioned in May that the sheep hadn’t yet begun their Houdini acts, but I also mentioned how dry the ground was. And sillily didn’t put two and two together.

Geums flowering their socks off by the front door

What happens when the land is dry? Well, a couple of things. Firstly, the grass doesn’t grow. Secondly, somewhat unfortunately coinciding with this, the lack of water in the soil means the electric fence doesn’t earth properly. Put together, you have hungry sheepies without containment. Hmmm.

View across the corner of the top lawn to the wildflower meadow and fields beyond

It was the very first day of June. I’d had a busy day working in the garden and was enjoying a long, hot soak in the bath. Closing my eyes, thinking I really should get out, but maybe just a few more minutes, I was brought to by my husband, saying, “Janna”. 

I think this is the definition of ‘apple green’

Now that might not sound that strange to you, but Paul never calls me ‘Janna’. Something serious was up. He dragged me out of the bath, curiously much less worried about the water dripping everywhere than I was, and over to the window. “Have a look at that.”

Oh, how I wish we had sheepies on the lawn EVERY day

I have to say, even considering baby hares, new ponds and broad-bodied chaser dragonflies, I think this has to be the highlight of the garden year so far. We’ve spoken about plants that look so right in their natural environment but could there possibly be a more ‘right’ picture than a few ewes and their lambs casually grazing the lawn. Watching them enjoying our little space was pure heaven. (Admittedly aided by the fact they were nibbling Paul’s lawn and not my flower beds.) We really do need to work on a more permanent sheep arrangement just those few metres closer to home.

In new fields the following day

The following morning they were back in the fields and, feeling somewhat melancholy for the loss of sheepies, Paul – without any criticism or menace – looked out of the bathroom window and said, “what we’ve really got, is a hay meadow”. Earlier in the year we had quite a lot of low growing flowers in the new ‘wildflower meadow’: cowslips, pink Lamium, daisies, dandelion and speedwell. But now the grass has grown longer, it’s very much a green affair. 

The wildflower strip along the estate fencing has really taken off in year 2, reminding us it does take time

I didn’t, at least knowingly, take offense, but clearly something fired me up inside. Because the first job I went out to do that morning, was to sit on the edge of the haha and clear the brome grass from the ‘hay meadow’: I didn’t want it to set seed in quite such vast quantities next year. It was a warm but cloudy day and sadly the garden never feels quite as beautiful without the soft English light bouncing around.

A hoverfly heading for a solitary corncockle flower in the ‘hay meadow’

But as I pulled the brome out, I suddenly opened my eyes and looked. Properly looked. And realised it wasn’t just a field of grass. It was an enormously complex and biodiverse patch of meadow, if only you just stopped for a minute.

Even common, old plantain flowers are exquisite when you really look
And the green isn’t all green, but actually all sorts of shades of pink, purple, yellow…

I admit this may not pass as garden proper, but I defy anyone to tell me these little verdant pockets are not beautiful in their own sweet way. My long-suffering friend tells me she doesn’t think of this as a garden anymore. She said, in her typically beautiful language, “I can’t help feeling it’s now no longer a garden but a whole little world full of flora and fauna, of which you are guardian angel and which you gently nurture”. I almost feel I don’t need a garden (or even non-garden garden), when I have a friend who makes me feel this warm and fuzzy. 

A few poppies have also popped up in our first year ‘hay meadow’

And I’d still like you to keep your fingers crossed for flowers in the meadow, but really, it’s not such a big deal. Enjoying the wonder of all these complex beings jostling for space but living, seemingly, quite harmoniously together is quite something in itself. Who’d have thought leaving a lawn to grow for a couple of months would throw up quite such a diverse range of life? And it’s just going to get better each year.

Harry the 737

Later that same day, Harry the hare also popped by. He clearly knew we were off to Crete that day as he strutted a particularly unusual – yet fetching – Boeing 737 pose with his ears.

Paul walking with my uncle through oleander-lined tracks
Sage growing along the mountainside
Goat-pruned topiary
And oh so much, when you look here, too

We were off, with Mum and Dad, to see my aunty and uncle who live there, to celebrate a big birthday for Mum. It was hard to pull myself away from the garden, but we had such a wonderful time walking the Cretian hills and generally doing lots of eating, drinking and laughing.

Harrietta is growing fast

Meanwhile, back at home, baby Harrietta (you’ll remember her from April) isn’t such a baby anymore. And she’s been a bit of a drowned rat this month.

Pretty rain drops in the pond (and the very first water lily flower!)

June has rained, rained and rained again. Of course, us gardeners are never happy. We want good weather so we can get on and work outside, but we also crave rain for the plants. And we really did need it. 

Alchemilla, always the best plant in the rain!
A glisteningly wet Asplenium fern growing out of the dry stone wall
And rain drops on roses…

As well as restoring good health to the plants, the rain also filled the depleting pond and put the stream back into full force again. I don’t think I’ll ever really hate rain again, having lived in Australia. 

These little potato plants have since rocketed with all the rain
And we always seem to have new areas of lawn on the go, but they don’t normally fill out as quickly as they have this month – almost growing in front of your eyes!

Looking back through my photos this month, it’s hard to believe the difference in the garden in four short weeks. Our tiny potato plants have grown into towering, flowering monsters, the grass seed we sowed is now a thick, lush lawn and everything has bulked out to fill every available square inch. 

Wonderful poppies line the driveway down to the house

But the one thing that has been consistent from start to finish, is the sea of red bordering all the fields around us. I always love driving between the fields along the driveway each day, but I’ve never quite looked forward to it as much as I have these last weeks. 

Synchronised poppy swaying is one of my new favourite things

As the breeze picks up, the poppies dance around the ears of spring barley, this way and that way, synchronised, yet carefree. Variations in light bring out differing shades, but despite such delicate paper petals, the poppies have soldiered on through rain, rain, rain or shine. 

BEFORE: June 2017
NOW: Almost the same view, with the evergreen honeysuckle bottom right and the two trees at the end (there used to be an enormous Choisya in front of the pillar blocking the view from the house, hence the 2017 photo was taken just beyond the pillar)

This month marks two years since we moved into the property and we’ve had fun looking back at a few photos of the garden as was. Though we’ve put so many hours into its restoration, not one of them has felt like work. And after all that ‘play’, it’s simply an added bonus that we have a visual reward unveiling in front of us.

These roses are the ones you can see on the right hand side of the 2017 photo…just somewhat more pruned, fed and denettled!
One of our two magnificent tulip trees – they are absolutely smothered in flowers
Self-seeded Aquilegia jostle with Salvia ‘Caradonna’
This Buddleja has the strongest honey scent imaginable
A very happy Philadelphus
Alliums at their peak
Another happily pruned and fed rose (I’d be interested to know if anyone recognises the cultivar)
And our own self-seeded poppy in the walled garden

There’s still so much to do and so many dreams to realise, but slowly, slowly, the garden is being liberated and its glory days are within sight once again.

Hallelujah for foxgloves and tansy, holding the fort at the back door to ensure the ground elder monoculture is held at bay

10 thoughts on “June: Poppies and rain

  1. Nicola says:

    Oh my gosh Janna, I feel a palpable sweetness and restfulness reading this month’s lovely missive. I can almost hear the teacup settle in the saucer as I walk around with you. Thank you for inviting us in. I’ve been following Mary Reynolds in Ireland and am intrigued by her campaign for us to consider our gardens as arks or oases of wilderness and habitat that can link up around the world in these difficult times. Surely that’s what’s happening with your beautiful place. We make the haven and the animals and insects come.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I’d not come across Mary Reynolds before, Nicola, but thank you for ‘introducing’ her to me. Have you read her book? I think I might need to investigate further. It’s lovely to hear more about working with, rather than against, nature. I’m just finding my way here, doing what feels right as I go along, but always great to get the perspectives of others. I’m certainly finding that the animals and insects do come long; just incredible to me how much life there is here and seemingly increasing significantly each and every month.

  2. Adriana Fraser says:

    There is something so restful about grazing animals – Ian and I both loved looking out on our animals when we had a larger property. Maybe you could ‘board’ a few of the farmers sheep on a regular basis – all the fun and none of the responsibilit! So good you got those early summer rains Janna for your wild flower meadow – I love the poppies swaying in the breeze. Your pond looks so well settled into the landscape too – who would guess it was so recently just a rubbish dump! The garden is such a joy for you. Fingers crossed you have a mild and wet summer!

    • jannaschreier says:

      I hadn’t thought about setting up a bed and breakfast here, but I think a sheepie B&B sounds just perfect!! I could watch them for hours, very happily. The pond is coming along…I spoke to Pete the Pond on Friday and he tells me July will be its great crescendo (albeit next years great crescendo will be more crescendo-y then this year’s!), so I’m excited to see all the plants bulk up and start to flower. Again, I can sit for ages by the pond, just watching all the life. So lucky to have it.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you Alison, really lovely to hear from you. I appreciate your encouraging words that two years isn’t very long (ie it’s OK that I haven’t finished it yet!); so much more to discover and evolve. I’m sure we all have very similar battles and realisations; I just love the learning that comes with gardening and – like you – am fascinated by the ideas of the likes of Thomas Rainer. Do hope your arm is better now so you can get out there and put it all into practice in a more two-armed manner!!

  3. Louise says:

    What another lovely blog to read. Nature is oh so beautiful. Gardens can bring such joy. Your parcel of nature seems so endearing with all the wildlife and natural surprises. So pleased to read how it inspires and brings joy! Look forward to hearing more news about what comes up in the years ahead. Always love to read from afar, thank you.

    • jannaschreier says:

      I always think about your orange Calendula popping up across your front garden when I think of garden surprises! Do you still get the odd one? It’s such fun to see new things appear and there are so many here this year. I’m permanently googling to try and work out the more unusual ones!

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