June is... gorging on the soft flesh of ripe strawberries, al-fresco cooking, the crackle of midsummer bonfires, thundery showers, and the humming of bees.
Did you know? At one time the days from the 23rd to the 29th of June were all considered as 'midsummer festival', whereas now we tend to see Midsummer's Day as the 24th of June. According to John Stow, in London in the 1590s, doors would have been festooned with greenery: from white lilies to long fennel and green birch. Bonfires were the traditional way to celebrate the season, intended to bring peace and encourage neighbours to converse, and also to purify the air. As June is often the month we migrate outside (in the UK at least), it seems fitting to make time to celebrate the height of summer and nature's bounteous offerings. This year I'm hoping to revive the custom of a week's worth of revelry, with a midsummer bonfire, and green door decorations: will you join me?
Dates for your diary: The summer solstice - or the longest day - marks the turn of the year once again, and falls on Sunday 21st June. A precursor to midsummer, this final week of June means the daylight remains until past 10pm, so make the most of the light before it begins to slip away again.
June in words:
The bonny month of June is crowned With the sweet scarlet rose; The groves and meadows all around With lovely pleasure flows.
(Cornish Midsummer Bonfire Song)
Things to do at home and in the garden:
- Leave part of your garden to grow wild. As a nation of lawn trimmers, we get used to neatly mown grass and not a lot else, but just leaving a small part, or the edges of your garden, to grow wild, will enable you to help a menagerie of tiny wildlife. Wild flowers are integral to our landscape (see here for more on this) and are an essential source of nectar for honey bees (something which we are passionate about with our newly acquired hive!), but so often we hack them down and only admire from afar. This year, make them a priority in your outdoor space.
- Take part in 30 Days Wild. A new scheme for 2015, the plan is for everyone to make room for nature this June - no matter where you are or how busy your life! With tons of ideas for Random Acts of Wildness - record the birds singing for your ringtone, make a hedgerow brew and wild exercise to name just three - it's a fantastic way to introduce nature into your everyday routine without it becoming too onerous. Click here to sign up and receive the free welcome pack.
- It's not too late to start growing some veg. For an easy salad, plant lettuce and radish seeds straight into the ground or in a pot. If you're looking for something more substantial, chard is easy to grow, looks wonderful on your plate (rainbow-coloured stalks!) and lasts right through the summer and well into autumn. Get planting.
Be creative: If you're thinking of celebrating midsummer, then you definitely need to try your hand at Midsummer Cushions - all explained in this month's letter for subscribers.