July2017 – a mixed month

The July weather was changeable. On Islay a few hot, sunny days were interspersed with showers and occasional heavy downpours. In Shropshire it was noticeably warmer. The wonderful Oak trees were showing Lammas shoots – so called because they appear around the time of Lammas, the Celtic Harvest Festival on the 1st of August. Possibly an evolutionary strategy to compensate for insect damage, they were early this year, appearing fully-grown in the middle of July.

Ten days in our new home allowed us to make progress on both house and garden. Further bookshelves were fitted and filled and, more importantly, the central heating boiler was replaced. But on each visit we find something else that needs attention. The huge Bay Willow in the river garden had split and its branches are now covering a quarter of the garden.

Its base is on the boundary of a narrow strip of land that leads to the river and we are trying to find out if we are responsible for felling it and making it safe.

Banded Agrion damselflies settled on the Iris leaves in even greater numbers but larger dragonflies moved too quickly for us to identify. Many Small White butterflies flitted about the garden along with Meadow Browns, Ringlets, an occasional Comma and one Skipper. Bees were still busy on the Lavender and the Yucca continued to look spectacular. Two wildlife sightings were added to our growing total – hedgehog and frog. Both of which were welcome.

Back on Islay for the last half of the month meant more grass cutting and an attempt to keep house and gardens tidy between packing boxes which seem to multiply every day. Viewings of the house started and we have set 17th August as the closing date for offers. We have several expressions of interest but it’s now a waiting game. Our fingers are well and truly crossed as we hope for a satisfactory and speedy outcome.

The garden is at its bonnie best. Heather and Bell Heather in bloom contrast with Honeysuckle and the white of Moon Daisies and Wild Carrot.


The orchids are over but the Elecampane, Inula helenium is in bloom. We rescued several plants from an area of Kilnaughton Bay when building work threatened to decimate them. We transplanted some to an adjacent area on the bay and after about 6 years of growing vegetatively they are thriving too.

Also known as Horse-heal and Elfdock or Elfwort the plant was sacred to the ancient Celts. It has numerous medicinal uses and can also be used as a condiment. Our biggest specimen is nearly 2 metres tall and I am planning to take one or two of the smaller ones to Shropshire.

The last few days of the month were taken up with sorting paperwork and loading the car so that we can head to Shropshire on August 7th. It will be a quick trip this time as we have to be back on Islay for The Botanist Academy sessions – and for the closing date for offers on the house.