31 October 2017

Autumn Visit to Lulworth Cove in Dorset

As the autumn is in full swing, my mammalian brain tells me that I need to slow down, wrap up and just be still and restful for a moment. Unfortunately, my job description tells me otherwise and so as the autumn progressed and the days started getting shorter, colder and darker I became more sad, uninspired and exhausted. Riding this wave of seasonal affective disorder or whatever it is wasn't taking me anywhere nice. 

So it was a great relief when half term holiday came and we could finally get away for a few days on our long planned minibreak in Lulworth Cove, Dorset. We stayed in a nautically decorated room in a small local inn, with the view of the sea, even though lingering leftovers of storm Brian might have spoiled it a bit with a cover of thick dark clouds and persistent wind.

Lulworth Cove 

We walked on the beach and the hills in the wind and the cold, looked for fossils in the cliffs and beach combed. We picked up many cuttlefish bones, mermaids' purses and strange flotsam and jetsam and saw Protuguese man o' war jellyfish for the first time. We ate fried English breakfasts and snacked on cream teas and spent many hours in our toasty little room reading books with cups of tea at hand whilst it rained outside. I started knitting a new blanket (more about it later in a separate post), breathed the salty air that smelled of seaweed and felt very relaxed and happy and most of all thankful that we finally had some special time together after all the long hours of work we have both been putting in in the last few months.

Durdle Door limestone arch 

Cuttlefish bones of all sizes were everywhere.

A notice warning visitors about the jellyfish.
Soon enough we found one on the beach.
The colours were striking.
Man O' War Beach

11 October 2017

Collecting Seeds of Pot Marigold (Calendula officinalis)

Pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis) were my favourite flowers this year. I do not remember where the seeds came from but I picked them myself and had them stored for a few years, yet they germinated perfectly. I primarily grew them for their leaves as food for Rocket (yes, tortoises can eat pot marigold, but not other marigolds, which might have the same English name but actually are not related to each other - English can be very confusing. It is always better to go by the scientific Latin name). They did not do very well until I moved them into direct sunlight. It is almost middle of October and they are still flowering.

When I was little and wasn't such a huge fan of creepy crawlies as I am now, the marigold seeds terrified me because they looked like a cluster of caterpillars. I'm sure you'll see what I mean when you look at the picture below.

I let the seeds dry on the plant and then cut the whole head off and let them dry thoroughly on a tray at home. Then I store them in a labelled paper envelope where they will rest until spring. With so many seeds already dried and many more forming, I will probably have more than enough for a nice flower border and more than enough tortoise food.

07 October 2017

Sempervivums in October

It is a bit hard to believe that October is already here. I guess I shouldn't really be surprised. Autumn is really letting us know that it's here, whether it is in the leaves changing colour, morning chill that makes me feel like I need to wear more layers or acorns that bombard me every single day as I wait for the bus home. Grey overcast days take priority over the warm and sunny ones and if the latter happen occasionally, they definitely get many mentions in the casual short over-the-cup-of-tea conversations in the staffroom.

The garden is becoming less busy. By now most of my plants have died down or been harvested. The only vegetables still going are runner beans and sweet potatoes. From ornamental plants nothing much survived apart from a few pansies which I grow as tortoise food and those will go as soon as the weather turns properly cold. However, one plant that I can always rely on is Sempervivum

I am not sure which variety I have, there are many, but these are offsets of the plants that my mother grows at our cottage. I brought five of them over last spring. Somehow that makes them have a sentimental value to me as well as aesthetic. They are hardy perennials with succulent leaves able to withstand direct sunlight and drought, but do not mind the abundant rainfall that we get either.They coped well throughout the last English winter and now they are even producing offsets themselves! One day I might separate them from the mother plant, but at the moment I m enjoying the slightly crowded look. And once I started taking pictures of them, I could not get enough.

Sempervivum offsets grow from the base of the original plant. When they touch the soil, they start developing
roots of their own.

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