What do you Love?

 

It’s Valentines day tomorrow.

Tell me what you love

I’ll start by giving love to the 2 stalwarts of my garden, who thrive and shine no matter what.

Both of these beauties have been known to throw seasons out the window, and stick with us long after they’re supposed to.

Primroses in their giant glorious crowns – always the first to arrive, (never be surprised when they pop a dosey head or two for Christmas, or one memorable year – for Halloween!)

And heather, who constantly show their colours. They say heather is for luck, protection and passion, and maybe it’s the Scottish side in me, but the garden never looks barren with a swathe of these delicate, tiny bells. I’d love to try growing it into a tree one of these days! Imagine that…

‘Words are easy, like the wind; faithful friends are hard to find’

                                                                 – William Shakespeare

 

Heather and Primroses

In the Belly – Feb Thoughts

 

There’s something very kind and gentle about the light in February.

 

Chrysanth in Glow

 

I’m inspired to avoid my beastly lists of jobs TO DO, in favour of a loving list of habits to form. Like wandering around in the lengthening evenings, plucking hapless green shoots from the spots where they shouldn’t be…

(Gardening can be terribly violent at times, can’t it?)

This month of course is the month of love, and mysterious ancient rites of deep-cleaning the homes, hearth and heart. It is the month when the lambs arrive, bleating and gambling and tripping over themselves with new-born joy. It is the month when we might see the sun again, if only to kiss our noses and briskly hurry back into its winter bed.

 

 

It is a gentle, beautiful month. Joyful birthdays, (is anything sweeter than the gift of sisters?), and Nirvana Day, and Pancake Day, and the beginning of Lent.

We have moons with names like Ice Moon, Snow Moon, Storm Moon, but the frozen nights still offer up a cool-silk cushion of constellations on display, so we can look up and wonder. Venus has already caught me by surprise several afternoons this week – look out for her dancing round the moon before 9pm most nights this month. She’s got her eye on you…

Things happen slowly in these parts. Our snowdrops haven’t burst, our Daffodils barely lifting their necks. But there’s still signs of life.

February’s beauty lies in its discrete and subtle art. I’m a big fan.

 

All photos by Notes from a Compulsive Gardener

Winter Nights

There is a very big place in my heart reserved by the winter sun. I may complain about it sometimes, but never in the winter, when its gentle glow is deeply felt, and greatly appreciated.

But so too are the nights. Black as tar, every minute detail is amplified by the lens of the cold.

And if you experiment, you can capture that spooky essence which I think our ancestors knew a lot about.

Winter nights are for ghost stories and dark secrets.

They are also full of magic.

 

 

Art-Think Outdoors: David Nash

I’m always interested in artwork that fills the space between what we experience and what we can adequately express with language.

David Nash is one of those artists for me that communicates with work what I don’t have a grasp on intellectually. I used to find that very challenging – not being able to think my way to an adequate conclusion – now I enjoy it more than anything else.

David Nash, studio, Wales, 2007

Photograph by Anne-Katrin Purkiss

I remember reading an article with Nash a few years ago about his living sculpture The Ash Dome’s unexpected short life: the monument which was designed to outlive him by many years was suddenly going to die before him because of the ash dieback fungal disease that is decimating the UK’s Ash tree population. It struck me then as a personal tragedy. It strikes me now that this has given the work a global significance that it might not otherwise have had.

But we won’t dwell on tragedy for long. Nature never does. Let’s always look for the light between the trees, and chase inspiration.

What I’m interested in is the human compulsion to monument nature, one way or another.

What is it about? How do we tend to prefer to do it? Why do some materials sing out loud, and others stay uninhabited by the spirit that moves us?

Why do we make ‘stuff’ to access and engage with other ‘stuff’? And I suppose the ultimate question is: are humans capable of feeling like they’re communing with something if they’re not in some way disturbing it?

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David Nash: 200 Seasons. Installation view, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne, 2019. Photo: Rob Harris.

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I keep being reminded of Anselm Kiefer’s work as well, which has always been about living and dying in my mind, explored though the trickiest of materials: the soft metal lead in Kiefer’s hands is so fluid and malleable and natural as a wave, yet so poisonous and dark and deeply occult. David Nash’s sculptures are riddled with inherent deception because they speak so much of life and living things – they still glow with the woody vitality of their origins – yet wood as a sculptural material is dead. Otherwise it would still be a tree…

Ash Dome, Image from Artnet.jpg

Ash Dome. Image from Artnet

I wonder if that’s why his living sculpture has met such an end..? If it is only becoming what it was used for: stuff, to make stuff, about nature – no longer nature itself. The fungus is rather like an aggressive critic – this is nature, actually: Me, what I’m doing. Sorry. I can’t help looking at those original sketches and seeing them as rather clairvoyant.

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If Nash had set out to make monuments to nature, it was in the ways in which those monuments fell that he inadvertently managed to capture its true character. The Ash Dome falls sick, and his Wooden Boulder rolled into a river and is lost to the tide…

Nothing is forever. Beauty, calm, tranquility – these are things that we value, but they were never the whole story. There is decay, renewal, destruction and chaos. Those things are as much as part of nature as the bark of the trees and the blue of the sky, and how we respond to it? How we edit it when we think we are immersing ourselves in it? – well, that will ultimately determine our spiritual resilience.

Because if you can love a thing when it is at its most dangerous, and you can find joy and inspiration when confronted with chaos and difficulty, then you’ve probably discovered the very secret of life on earth: it thrives wherever, however, whatever. If it’s still comfort we seek, even after all this, then we can comfort ourselves with the details: there are creatures thriving in poisonous sulphur lakes, and in caves that haven’t seen sunlight for a thousand years; there are multitudes swarming around the boiling undersea chimneys of doom, and there are plants colonising the abandoned contaminated places in the world where radioactive wolves run free and trees are king once more.

We humans are part of something so much bigger, and our will to survive is a family trait.

I don’t think monuments are really about nature at all. I think they have always made us feel better by providing us with something permanent in disguise. Our monuments at least don’t change so swiftly as the landscapes around them. While we are busy writing Nature’s epitaph – as though it is on its last legs –  are we guilty of projecting our own mortality onto something that never dies, it just never stays the same for very long?

When I think about the Ash Dome in this context, I don’t feel bad for Nature: we’ll have resistant trees making a comeback in 50 yrs or so. If not them, it might be the great age of some other tree for a while. When trees fall, it will be the age of the ferns, or moss, or succulents. Or swathes of terra firma will give way to underwater forests of wavering fronds…

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Or, if my garden’s anything to go by, the weeds will have their day – those survival-of-the-fittest champions in their many endless forms, being exceptional at what they do, and burdened by nothing, contained by nothing, put-off by nothing.  And why not? They’ve got the qualifications – they pass muster. They’re adaptable, that’s all that counts in the end. The rest is archeology.

No, it’s not nature I think that will collapse and disappear.

…I look at Nash in his studio and feel a little bit sad.

9th Jan 2020: Not dead, just dormant…

When I titled my last post Preparing to Move Indoors, I didn’t think I was being literal… but I guess the old adage is true, you become the things you spend the most time with, so I went dormant. From the outside at least, on the inside… wowsers.

Most winter rituals involve a great deal of plotting and planning – fantasising over seed catalogues and drawing out new areas to be renovated and transformed. I haven’t done that yet this year, and last night I dreamt that hundreds of bulbs suddenly appeared in the garden overnight, and there were purple tulips and bright gold something-or-others trying to push their heads out through carpets of thick frilly weeds, and I woke up thinking, ‘okay garden, I got the message, thanks. I’ll think about you more in the front part of the brain.’

It sends missives and emissaries like this: a cackling magpie to make me glance outside; a particularly loud dawn bird tapping its stubby little beak on my old crumbling window frame; leopard-printed slugs coming up through the kitchen sink. Little passive-aggressive callers from the wild.

You might say I should change my name – that no compulsive gardening has been in evidence over these past months – but that would suggest a rather narrow view of exactly what gardening means… 😉

 

All Photos by Yamtan for Notes from a Compulsive Gardener

18th Sept – Preparing to move indoors

Before the first frost, some folks will be getting plants ready to go indoors. I’ll probably only take the basil in, I don’t tend to plant anything that isn’t hardy enough to stand a winter outside. But I do have houseplants, and if they need re-housing before the cold snap, I’ll probably do it now. The worst thing is those long months of central heating when your roots are cramped and tangled (I’m just imagining there are people who have really dry hot houses in the winter, rather than draughty damp abodes that stand impervious to radiators..?).

To avoid rot, mildew, and dehydration, I like a good clean out in Autumn, so everyone has time to settle in before the lock-down, and everyone has fresh soil full of goodies to see them through!

Desert planter

This pot was a birthday gift in July and I put in some nursery desert plants that all needed similar care. They’ve turned into a little family now, I hate to break them up, so I’ll probably just get some cactus food and leave them in there.

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I don’t actually even now what this funny little guy is, but he started life looking like a minuscule bunch of bananas, then sent out these wavering tentacles, which seemed to have pollen, so I did a bit of pollinating with a paintbrush, just in case, and it got all dry and sad, but he’s come back very happy. No clue what to do with it, but he seems alright in here?

Spider Plant

This spider plant is part of a larger one that has been in our family for years. YEARS. I keep splitting it into these large plants, and have pots and pots of its babies all over the place, and it was the first spider we ever owned that actually flowered after we left her outside for a full season. Beautiful.

Kalanchoes

These kalanchoes both need re-potting, and the red is in need of a it more pinching out because she’s getting a bit leggy. I think the red one has been flowering since February, non-stop! What I love about these plants is that they will last about as long as you want to take care of them. Potentially a friend for life.

 

I’m not good with plants, pets or people who make a lot of demands. I like to get to know a thing and take care of it well, rather than experiment and let anybody down.
These guys are my gang for the winter. We’ll all make it out alive, I’m sure…