Here we are again, challenged by our beautiful hill side climate. The Beach House Garden is a wild place to be. We’re 400 metres up Tiger Hill, staring out towards Ireland and Angelsey and the weather so far in 2015 has been unrelenting and way too chilled. The veg patch is not very photogenic at the moment, the plants look a little timid, not sure whether they’ll bother this year. But, when the sun is out and you’re lying on the grass, watching the apple tree dance; the world seems bountiful and ever generous. Thank you nature, I’m not complaining.
Now Buster (our semi-feral part-time cat) seems to have found a better deal, small birds are flocking to our garden. Its wonderful. Goldfinches and all sorts of busy tits. We even have a robins nest directly opposite our kitchen window in the dry stone wall. We can see the little Mum robins head poking out of the nest when we’re washing up. I have to say, the Dad robin is working a hard shift getting the twigs sorted and gathering fat worms.
Jane bought me a very cool, Snowdonia Pear Tree for my birthday, so that will be going into the earth very soon. We have a lovely little sunny spot ear-marked for Percival (2.5/10 for originality there!) I’ve always thought an orchard would be beyond me, but it seems we’re getting a nice little gathering of fruit trees together. Even the cherry tree has decided to burst into life.
The herb garden is doing well, we have some funky varieties of mint growing, I’ve gamble on some tough ‘bush’ basil and of course, the rosemary, thyme and sage are doing well (they’re toughies). Mint is such a trooper, we now have ginger mint growing in our grass. A nice surprise! I’m in charge of edibles and Jane loves to work with the frillier plants. The colourful ones that look nice. Jane’s favourite plant is a ‘Lady Shallot’ Rose, beautifully peach. It gets favourable marks from me just for having an onion in its name. Our Acer tree is loving it this year and has doubled in size. Acers always remind me of Japan. I love the little red guy for that.
When the sun does get out and we are both at home, we chop wood. The chainsaw gets cranked up and we fill our garage full of scavenged trunks and branches. There is something very reassuring having a garage half filled with logs for the fire. Jane’s brother in law, Paul, will be coming up soon to help us get one of our years biggest projects finished. A new woodstore. Knowing Paul, it will be a work of art!
I think one of the highlights of our garden is the succulents. They are an interesting plant, like a cactus meets a rose, normally on a stony wall. I planted a little succulent and couple of years ago, wedged it between a few stones with some soil and it now looks like a perfect, crimson, lotus flower.
Our apple and plum trees went wild with blossom, which is now blown all over the garden. Hopefully the bees did there work and we’ll have some fruit again this autumn. This year is, so far, nothing like last, which was a bumper year for fruit and berries. Come on plums!
We are growing our own lettuce this year and have trays of seedlings all over the place, we’re also going for plenty of rocket. Our veg patch is sporting tiny shoots of cauliflower, cavolo nero, beetroot, fennel, potato, chard and savoy cabbage. We’re realising that the veggies we grow up here on Tiger Hill need to be the equivalent of a very enthusiastic SAS commando to even stand a chance. If Bear Grylls was a carrot, he wouldn’t last long in our veg patch! Anything like a creeping bean will soon be blown over to the curious sheep (or horses) next door and turned into a tasty bite.
One of the advantages of the plants being small, is that the slugs seem to have followed suit. They’re tiny little guys, still doing a slugs-worth of damage, but in smaller nibbles than usual. I have built up some of the edges of the veg patches, but have generally given up on slug traps/ assault courses. I think the best way is patience and surrendering a decent portion of each crop to the greedy little critters.
Eeking out a few veggies is more than a hobby though, it helps to keep me connected to the seasons and what’s going to be good on the BHK menu and the menu at Trigonos. When the weather is beautiful I feel great for the garden, when the storms set in, I just hope they survive another day!
The pond is doing brilliantly. We rarely touch it, which seems to do the trick. Everytime you walk past you can hear small amphibians throwing themselves into the safety of the overgrown water feature. We have many newts living there, and frogs. We have also noticed baby red dragonflies. I think this all points towards a nice clean pond. Again, since Buster left us (we miss you little man) the frogs especially are thriving.
At this time of year sorrel is really doing its thing. We’ve tried growing it in beds, but our sorrel prefers to grow through the slates in the front garden. It seems very happy there and is thriving. Its one of my favourite leaves, full of bitter apple twang, I’m happy to see its found a home.
It looks like the garden this year will be more play than productivity, I can see the fire pit being cranked up later in the summer. Apparently, September is going to be a stunner. Only another three months to wait then!
So after four years of Beach House gardening adventures, we’re still roughly a million miles away from our wonderful goal of partial self-sustainability. But I know we are on the right track! If all else fails, maybe we can dive into the world of poly-tunnels. We’ll keep experimenting until we figure something’s out, we learn a little more each year and for that alone, the Beach House garden is ever valuable and fertile.