Author Archives: Susanne Raven

March 2024

The new year isn’t all that new any longer. Work started weeks ago. Trees have been planted, weeds have been wrestled, manure has been spread. Fruit tree pruning has started. We had a great Chat & Cut scythe event in Fota and are hoping to run a scythe course there in April.
As temperatures are slowly rising and daylight is increasing, buds are opening to an amazing display of early flowers. If you get a chance, spend some time admiring Cherry Blossom and Magnolias! And don’t miss the incredibly beautiful fresh green of newly opened leaves.

July 2022

The latest scything adventure, July 2022: Mowing a well-kept meadow for real haymaking for real animals. Many thanks to the filming crew who wish to remain anonymous.

I’m stunned by the difference between my perceived movements and my actual movements when mowing. In my perception, I twist more, have a straighter back, keep my left elbow close to my side. But in actual fact – all different! I now get what tutors at the Improvers’ Masterclass meant when giving feedback on my mowing.

It also reminds me of many things I’ve learned in the past 12 month. The blade now remains on the ground as it should, my feet aren’t rooted to the spot any more, I’ve a much better understanding of picking the right mowing direction and weather conditions, I can now actually see the edge of the blade changing as I sharpen it.

June 2022

Almost a year since the previous post here, in June 2022 I made my way over to the Green Scythe Fair in Somerset. I had the great pleasure of taking part in the Improvers’ Masterclass for budding scythe people. An amazing experience. Interesting people, friendly atmosphere, lots of skill and brilliant teaching.

I also had a chance to visit the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, both absolutely stunning gardens with extraordinary plants and designs.

An inspiring journey altogether.

Eden Project
Lost Gardens of Heligan

The Height of Summer

After a rainy, grey morning, the sun has come out, bringing heat and letting all the summer colours shine brightly. Right now, garden work is not as urgent as in spring or autumn. Ongoing weeding is always a winner, of course, and excess growth can be cut back. But it can also wait for a bit. I’ve done an early round of seed collecting. The kitchen table is covered in bowls in which seeds dry out entirely before getting stored away for autumn sowing or for next year.
This time of year often seems like a standstill to me. It is summer, days are still long, nature is abundant. Usually a time to go on holidays or, more likely this year, to stay home and rest for a while. I’m in quarantine after short essential travels. I would have liked to go abroad to learn and practice more scything, but that will have to wait till next year. Instead, I walk in the garden and admire. I enjoy the deep blue colour of Agapanthus flowers, the stunning magenta of Gladioli, the lighter red/pink of Hollyhock. The many shades of green never cease to amaze me. I visit the Ligustrum often to sniff its rich summer scent. I let the garden look after me.
In truth, the standstill isn’t a standstill, of course. Days are not quite as long as they were a month ago, and the difference is visible. The odd yellow leaf is showing up on trees and shrubs that are still covered in lush green leaves. The sky is changing somewhat. Things are moving forward.

Agapanthus africanus / African Lily
Gladiolus communis / Field Gladiolus
Alcea rosea / Hollyhock
Richly-scented Ligustrum vulgare / Common Privet
Braeburn apple tree with ripening apple

Solstice Time

The longest day of the year, also called the summer solstice, has passed. We’ll have early sunrises, long days and late sunsets for a while yet, but days have begun to shorten. Us humans don’t notice that unless we make a conscious effort. Plants, however, notice and are putting in an extra effort of growth while the going is good. Many trees and shrubs push out extra shoots and fresh leaves in order to replace anything that got damaged by late frosts, drought or strong winds. These new shoots will have time to mature before late autumn.
Fruit have set and are now ripening. Some of them, like strawberries and summer fruiting raspberries, are ready to eat now. Currants and gooseberries need a bit more time. Apples, pears, plums and peaches will take another good while to ripen.
The young Braeburn apple tree is hanging on to its one apple and has produced a very late bunch of flowers which are now turning into tiny fruit. The tree is also branching out nicely, and the shoots are gaining in length and strength.
Vegetable production is happening, and the exotic trees sown earlier in the year continue to grow slowly but surely. So far, they’re not too keen on Irish weather. While we’re enjoying a good summer, the tree seedlings would clearly prefer higher temperatures. At the same time, cuttings taken from shrubs like Lilac and Hebe are thriving on cooler conditions. There’s just no accounting for taste.
A wildflower meadow sown last autumn is doing very well, same as a new border created over the winter which we filled with saved seeds, divided perennials and home-grown cuttings. It’s a great pleasure to see the colours and hear the buzzing of bees, bumblebees and other insects.

Braeburn apple tree with apple and late flowers
Braeburn apple tree branching out
Vegetable bed: courgette, endive and borage
Exotic tree seedlings
Shrub cuttings

From 0 to 100 Over Night


While I hadn’t been doing nothing during lockdown, I had been doing things at my own pace, often interrupted by lockdown fatigue. Since May 18th I’m back at work, and the pace has speeded up dramatically. It’s May, so everything has to be done at the same time, and most clients’ gardens want my attention. There’s some catching up to do. Advertising and business skills want to be taken care of. On top of that, the annual voluntary strimming of local graveyards is taking up some evening hours.

Gardens have thrived in the long weeks of lockdown. Clients have upped their gardening skills and spent a lot of time looking after their gardens. It’s a pleasure to see the progress.

The Braeburn apple tree is growing steadily and has one small apple. Let’s hope it won’t fall off!

Strimming the tall grass in local graveyards
Painless removal of dead tree
Lush gardens

Letting it Happen

A month later, the country is still in lockdown and we’re awaiting the next government announcement regarding a lifting of restrictions.
I’m watching nature change on my daily 2km walks. Ornamental Cherry Trees have started opening and are now in full bloom. The pink ones are beginning to go over. The Horse Chestnuts further down the road are flowering beautifully.
On an rare trip to town I was amazed at the difference in nature’s progress there and here. Much more advanced in town (where it’s warmer), lagging behind here near the coast (where it’s cooler and the wind is stronger).
There’s progress in the ‘exotic trees’ experiment. The seeds floated in water have germinated very nicely. They are now getting adjusted to seed compost and are slowly starting to grow their second set of leaves. The seeds I stored in the fridge have now finished their period of cold stratification and have been sown into seed compost. Those seeds sown directly into a cold frame outdoors are slowly starting to germinate.
I’m also growing some vegetables this year. Usually, this is the busiest time of year, but during lockdown there’s time for veg growing at home. Endive, courgettes and radishes have come up in the course of 20 days. Tomato plants are sitting in a makeshift polytunnel, hoping for warmer temperatures.
And, good news: The young apple tree is flowering!

Ornamental Cherry Blossom
Flowering Horse Chestnut
Tiny seedlings of exotic trees
Vegetable production
Braeburn apple tree blossoming

Country in Lockdown

Ireland, like most countries, has to deal with a new situation as COVID-19 is forcing us into isolation. This doesn’t stop nature, however. The country is turning green as leaves and flowers are unfolding. The young Braeburn apple tree is keeping pace with its older siblings this year!
Aphrodite’s Gardens is closed in accordance with government instructions, but is, of course, keeping busy at home. Recent activities:
As the grass keeps growing, it will have to be cut at some stage. Peening the scythe blades is a good way to get ready. Using a peening jig and a hammer, the metal of the blade is thinned down to a very fine and sharp edge.
Growing exotic plants is always a challenge for the keen gardener. In an attempt to find out which method of seed treatment works best, I stored some seeds in the fridge for cold stratification, let some seeds float in water for early germination, and sowed some directly into seed compost in a DIY cold frame. I’m now waiting patiently for results.
A client came up with a great idea! He cut up last year’s Xmas tree and used the branches as mulch around his acid-loving Blueberry bushes. The needles of the old tree will add to the acidity of the soil and thereby feed the live bushes. At the same time, the dry branches will suppress weeds. And it looks very tidy, too.
All the best to everyone, stay safe!

Peening gear
Cold statification of seeds in fridge
Seeds floating in water
Seeds sown into seed compost in DIY cold frame
Blueberry bed mulched with last year’s Xmas tree