Category Archives: Gardens

Spring, Weddings, Blessings and Blossom

Cherry Tree in Brentford and isleworth's Quaker Meeting House Garden.
Cherry Tree in Brentford and Isleworth’s Quaker Meeting House Garden.

Have been away from blogging and spending time getting married! Quite time consuming too! I would  like to share some of my experiences, not least the cherry blossom tree being in full bloom on our wedding day. Very apt for us and for this blog. A week later and there was no more blossom. I can only take from this that marriage has to be like a tree, with many phases and blossom like a honeymoon, short lived!

I also  heard the Apache Indian Marriage Blessing for the first time at our own marriage where  we both felt very blessed and supported by friends when back in the UK for our wedding at Brentford and Isleworth Friends Meeting House. There was some deep silence before our declarations and some spoken words later on. I am putting more about this on a page on my blog about light and love . I also  hope to make  some reflections on how we often seem spiritually and emotionally challenged by relationships and support from others can be so helpful.

The blessing read out by Madeleine seems very appropriate to the nature focus of my blog and the inclusive nature of Quaker values. Although the blessing may not originate with American Indian  culture it may be popular in the States because it resonates with our need to reconnect with nature and acknowledge many  indigenous people who did live closely with nature and with a deep connection and respect for how to live sustainably in the natural world and with each other.

The joy of having a Quaker wedding was to be able to embrace diversity within a Christian tradition, to be silent and reflective and to make declarations not vows.  All present at our declarations were all also able and invited to sign the Quaker marriage certificate.

Apache Indian  Marriage Blessing

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.  Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives- remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

On  researching some of the background to this blessing which apparently is popular in the USA I also found one that is attributed to the Cherokee. Again the forces of the natural world are linked into a respect for all that is sacred. Am also hoping we may grow forever young.

Cherokee Blessing.

“God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship — that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony as we grow forever young together. Amen.”

Back to Botany And Back to Basics. Seeds and Weeds.

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A self seeded common weed patch in my real rock garden.

At the beginning of 2014 I set myself a target to learn more about botany and identification. In order to do this in a more creative way I signed up to a botanical illustration course at Kew Gardens in London but have not completed as many drawings as I would have liked. However, I have managed to identify some key wild flowers and shrubs at Navasola  but decided to try and see what seeded itself most easily when I prepared a patch of soil on my real rock garden. It has come up with a vivid green and grassy presence and below are some of the cheeky  common garden wild flowers or weeds that have self seeded there this Spring. I now know more about my friends and foes in the garden areas of our really wild finca and will keep watching this spot.

One lone Spring candytuft.
One lone Spring candytuft.

These have  also tested my botanical skills as some are so common and not in our Mediterranean Book of Wild Flowers. Thanks to other blogs such as Tramp in the Woods I have been able to identify the Common Fumitory and our dead nettle which is slightly different with leaves clasping close to the stem; a Hen Bit dead nettle. I have also sent everyone crazy on two different small white flowers. Our friend and ecologist  has helped but we are still struggling on the exact species. But although both small and white there is a big difference between the two; one in the Campion family and the other in Cress was our latest judgement! Small things to make me wonder and wander around looking for and looking at!

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Common Fumitory Fumitory common – fumaria officinalis  11 more in med book p.306
Hen bit dead nettle Lamium amplexicaule clasping close to stem leaves - 4 more varieties in Med book p. 1478
Hen bit dead nettle Lamium amplexicaule clasping close to stem leaves – 4 more varieties in Med book p. 1478
A self seeding weed pot. Bill and Ben , flowerpot men and weeeeed!
A self seeding weed pot. Bill and Ben , flowerpot men and weeeeed! A small  white cress and some euphorbia.
Common chickweed?
Small and white. Common chickweed? In the real rock garden!

Feed the World with small scale farming: Cultivando Biodiversidad: Red Andaluza de Semillas: Seed biodiversity .

We spent some interesting hours at this Seed Network Fair in one of the nearby towns in the Sierra Aracena. There was an exchange of seeds by various people or collectives that are trying to cultivate organically or here in Spain ‘ ecologica’ or ‘ bio’. We were able to visit  a plot of land that had been an abandoned ‘huerta’ outside the smaller village of Las Chinas. The aim of this collective was to cultivate organically and to be able to use abandoned land. The collective was called ‘sin tierra’ without land. It was great to see the young people involved in horticulture and we saw the most amazing sized tomato too! We have now bought some very tasty veg from them. Am not sure how my own attempt at self sufficiency will go and maybe it is better to support other projects and help people make a living out of growing on a small scale.

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The seed exchange stall at the Andalucia seed network Fair
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The stall of the collective Sin Tierra

There was also a stall about permaculture in the Sierra Aracena and some very tasty apple juice was being shared from a wooden press.  image I struggled with my Spanish but attended some talks on how to conserve seeds and preservation of fruit and vegetable. Speaking to Trini who was giving some of these talks and who runs a very successful Eco Finca it was clear she also meant the biodiversity of flowers and all kinds of cultivating. She felt that monoculture can damage the environment. Is there hope for more small scale farming and the ability to support the natural world along with feeding the billions of human mouths. One of the food myths on the BBC web site from the UN was that large agribusiness was the way forward for the future. The suggestion was that small scale farmers are major producers of food to feed the world already and that biodiversity of the natural world can be supported by this type of farming.

More seedy thoughts and photographic art

Some follow up photos and thoughts on  waking up the seeds at Wakehurst Place, the  Royal Botanical Millenium Seed Bank. Many of the seeds conserved so far have been UK indigenous and endangered. Some of these seeds collected are being used to restore wild flower meadows in UK.  I am pondering how to maybe use some of the wild flower seeds on the Finca. Should I offer a helping hand?  Or interfere with natures’ ways? Is too much endangered and we need carefully planned conservation of  habitats that support biodiversity. IMG_2509 The view walking down to the Millenium seed bank looks as if you are walking towards greenhouses! However the Southern roofs all have solar panels to give the power needed to conserve the seeds that are in deep freeze way down below in the vaults of the building.

Phaenocoma prolifera Cape Strawflower Banked 2006
Phaenocoma prolifera
Cape Strawflower
Banked 2006

IMG_2498 This seems all very high tech as you can watch the botanical scientists at work in the airy and light atrium.   There are also some photos and beds of seeds from the seed bank. Some of the endangered seeds from hot dry habitats are shown. These have been grown from seeds once frozen.BUT not all seeds can be preserved by deep freezing. This seems to support the case for trying to conserve habitats but in some areas this is difficult due to many human factors and I will include drought in that as it is likely that is due to man made climate change. IMG_2500 IMG_2507 Another thought that occurred to me having read a fascinating blog on orchids and their seductive nature for key pollinators is the need to conserve the pollinators too! Thanks to Pipmarks for that and the comment on previous post should link anyone interested in orchids. I will end with one of the photos that had won the photography competition on display at Wakehurst. Such detail and so complex a beastie!

Paul Harcourt Davies 1st place Wildlife in the Garden
Paul Harcourt Davies
1st place Wildlife in the Garden

Wake Up call at Wakehurst Place. Home of the Kew Gardens Millennium seed bank.

IMG_2536.JPGWakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of  the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed  deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and  involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties.  The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.

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Stinking Gladwyn Iris foetidissma, S>W> Europe, N Africa

Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed

The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.

IMG_2556.JPGWakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves  that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.

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Firsts………..Pop goes the weasel, half a pound of strawberry jam for half a pound of plum and who murdered the tomato.

The past week has been a week of firsts. It was the first time I saw a weasel in the wild. He or she  was very close to my feet and I must have startled the poor creature into stopping still as it was madly chasing a lizard for lunch. Lucky for the lizard, my feet helped it get away, that time. For a few seconds the weasel was absolutely still and I could see its face and most of body clearly. Full identification is unclear as I did not see its tail, which I am told if it had been a stoat would have had a black tip to it. It was very small and about a year ago Josie, Theo and I had visited the British Wildlife Centre and been intrigued by the weasels running fast around wire tunnels. It seemed very similar to those.

The next first was ….. Sorry, I have never made jam  before. It is plum time in the Sierra Aracena. We have found some plums on the Finca and picked some but a few days later ……..all gone.We think some badgers or the wild boar as the birds only peck at them. Perhaps they have learnt to bash against the tree. Friends also have many plums and I was given a large box of juicy yellow plums so I have experimented with pickling some, drying some in the sun, and jam. The plum jam recipe that worked was easy and just seemed to be throwing the same amounts of plum and sugar into a pan and stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting… However the taste of this jam has met with approval and we have done an exchange for a jar of strawberry! My next batch will not be so easy to exchange as I went a bit mad on the ginger.

The final first was to eat my first ripe homegrown tomato. With all the building work and the need to prepare an allotment patch in this wild and overgrown place I feel pleased that my friend’s tomato plants are now beginning to show fruit. I am also hopeful about the seeds from Lidl supermarket’s butternut squash. After a lot of earth clearing and moving. I also moved some of the wild bugloss which did try to hurt me with its stinging hairs in exchange for being given another place. There is at the moment a lot of it on the Finca. Is this part of the wild bison work that might be needed in the wild?  Pictures of the small garden by house and the Huerta, vegetable garden I am preparing in one of the chestnut fields. And of course the tomato.

Growing, going gone! 20140728-130419.jpg 20140728-130442.jpg  20140728-130749.jpg 20140728-130822.jpg