Seeing Green: The Emerald Islecomments (1) October 3rd, 2009
No wonder Ireland is called the Emerald Isle: it is unbelievably verdant green. One cannot begin to imagine the many shades of green that there are until they go to Ireland and actually see them—endless rolling hills of green—lush fertile countryside appearing as continuous patchwork quilts of textured greenery. It is truly like an unfolding storybook for a gardener or nature lover. When taking photos of this land, I found that one could not capture the true beauty and essence on film. Every turn in the road, elicited yet another ooh or aah or a similar exclamation. (My driving on the left side of very narrow roads with hedgerows, rock walls, and oncoming traffic of large vehicles such as tour buses and farm machinery also educed numerous exclamations, however they were often louder and not of an admiring nature!) My sister Donny, who was the chief “nagivator” riding shotgun, claimed daily that she was eating shrubbery or picking it from her teeth and loudly told me to “Mind the shrubbery; mind the wall; mind the pedestrian; mind the curb; mind the car; mind the cliff ”, etc. whenever she felt it necessary to do so.
|Much of the Irish landscape is a patchwork of green fields.|
|Fuchsia is a common roadside plant.|
Keeping in mind, that Ireland is an island surrounded by water; ocean, bay, and sound views were often in the distance of the green pastoral scenes, only making them more breathtaking. Since the country receives an enormous amount of rainfall per anuum, we were fortunate to experience this type of wet weather only once or twice. This precipitation is what makes the peat bogs wet and the hedgerows so huge. The latter sometimes grow to 12 feet or so in height and line the roads, sometimes there are stone walls behind them, sometimes not; it is hard to tell since they are so thick. They might have some ivy in them, there are vast numbers of blackberries and raspberries, some brambles, honeysuckle, viburnum, morning glories and unbelievably huge fuschias everywhere. I was a bit surprised to find so many of the same or similar plants that we have on our east coast in the USA.
Fields were full of grasses for grazing cattle, horses, donkeys and sheep. The native weeds were plantain, yarrow, self heal (Prunella), sheep’s sorrel, clover, dandelion—just like in my backyard in Maryland. There was some corn growing (for livestock, not human consumption), lots of hay, and grains like wheat and oats, most especially barley.
Peat is cut from the bogs, then stacked and left to dry. then loaded into wagons.
|Laundry dries over a peat fire.|
What isn't green is very rocky
As green and luxuriant as this country is, its opposite component is rock, mostly limestone. Unbelievable rock. Rock like I have never seen anywhere—in many places there was rock for as far as the eye can see. In order to grow crops, the Irish people have cleared the land for thousands of years. There is so much rock, that it has been piled into walls that sometimes mark land boundaries, however mostly it has been placed haphazardly as it was lifted and stacked, so there are stone walls after stone walls, running parallel, diagonally, and perpendicular across the landscape.