Slow painting

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Benign neglect

Benign neglect, of this blog and the allotment, sums up my approach at the moment.  It's been a busy family time, including university student son leaving today to spend the summer volunteering in Nepal.  The weather hasn't helped either.  The cold and rain of May have continued into June.  Temperatures are grim - a maximum of 13 degrees C (55 F) tomorrow, before falling to 9 degrees (50 F) for the rest of the week.  The shots above and below were taken on a rare sunny afternoon a couple of weeks ago.  The onions and shallots are continuing to do well, if a bit weedier between the rows when we had a quick foray to the plot recently.  The potatoes are coming along strongly, and we've now earthed them up.

Below, my first attempt at transplanted lettuce rather than sowing direct into the soil.  Last year my direct sowings failed completely, but these cos are coming along nicely.

I caught Gardeners' World on Friday for the first time in ages.  At the end of the programme Monty Don spoke about his shooting onions, caused by the weather veering from hot and dry in May to cold and wet in June.  The thought did pass through my mind, 'at least we won't have that problem, since we've only had the cold and wet sort'.  But no - my garlic is starting to shoot.  Perhaps it's been a case of the weather veering from very cold and wet to cold and wet.  Anyway, I followed Monty's advice and lopped off the flower bud, so we'll see what it ends up like.

The first time too for broad beans.  I have a particular fondness for broad beans - not so much for the beans themselves, which are not top of my list, but for their flowers.  They have such a beautiful perfume - if it was bottled I would buy it in preference to any major perfume brand.

I realise now that my affinity for broad beans came from of all things a description in a book by Rosemary Sutcliff, 'The Lantern Bearers', which was a great childhood favourite of mine and which I continue to reread.  Set in the time when the Roman legions abandoned Britain, there's a passage where the Roman hero has escaped from thralldom in a Saxon camp and is fleeing from the part of England occupied by the Saxon invaders.  He finds sanctuary with a monk who has also fled the Saxons.

"Yesterday's rain was gone, and the still-wet forest was full of a crystal green light.  In the cleared plot before the huts, the man in the brown tunic was peacefully hoeing between his bean-rows...the beans were just coming into flower, black and white among the grey-green leaves, and the scent of them was like honey and almonds, strong and sweet after the rain."

I had always thought that bees pushed their way inside the flower trumpets, and in fact this is what Rosemary Sutcliff described: " The little amber bees were droning among the bean-blossom, and at that moment one fell out of a flower, the pollen baskets on her legs full and yellow.  She landed sizzling on her back on a flat leaf, righted herself, and made for another flower."

But down among the beans while weeding between the rows I noticed the the bees making for a tiny hole on the top of the flower, near where it joins the stalk.  A momentary lapse in Rosemary Sutcliff's usual attention to detail!

Below, evidence of some dasterdly deed among the beans.  My heart sank when I saw the feathers inside the cage - my fear is that a bird will find its way inside and be unable to get out again.  But in this case there was no corpse, so I assume there had been an arial fight of some sort above the cage.


Sue@G.L. Allotments said...

I love broad bean scent too. I think that different types of bees access the pollen in different ways. Long tongued bees do go inside the flower but short tongued ones seemed to have learned the trick of making a hole. They do this with runner beans too.

Teri said...

I discovered yesterday that one of my cabbage is about to flower! No lovely heart from that one!
Those beans look like the caterpillars have been at them, and as for the feathers... anybody's guess! Hope the weather improves soon, flaming June my butt!!!

This is Belgium said...

you should come and see my yard, would make you feel like a million dollars
hope your son has a fantastic Nepal experience

Ian said...

It may be slow growing, but it's way ahead of us. The peas just poked out and no sign of the potatoes yet. :-{

Mark Willis said...

I see that the weevils have had a pretty good nibble at the leaves of your beans... Fortunately they don't seem to attack the flowers at all.

Why I garden... said...

I don't think I've ever smelled broad bean flowers. Will have to try to find some. Maybe next year I'll try to grow. Your plants look healthy and strong. We're getting gales and rain in NI, not great weather!

L. D. Burgus said...

It looks like your garden is doing very well. I have never grown broad beans but see them used in recipes all the time.

Jason said...

Fantastic poppies. Instead of soggy, things here are bone dry unless you water. Maybe we could exchange weather for a while.