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…

14th August – capturing Summer

Trying to find more interesting ways of recording the plants around the place at certain times of year, I pressed some of the plants back in June.

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(Honestly, learning proper photography is genuinely high on my priority list – you will see an improvement at some point!!)

I think the delicate grasses and smallest, most fragile leaves came out the nicest.

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It’s not even a fraction of what’s out there.

It’s an absolute privilege to be able to stand out here, listening to the breeze in the grasses and the ticking of insects, and the high, mournful cry of a buzzard being chased around by skraking crows.

Butterflies, slow-worms, grass-hoppers, bees, frogs, toads, spiders, fleas, flies, dragon flies and birds… by the time the deer flatten the grasses with their evening gatherings, we’ve seen more business than Piccadilly Circus, and yet, tranquility reigns.

Only nature can be its most busy, its most industrious and still soothe the nerves and nourish the spirit.

Wildlife is great…

 

7th August – herbal mash-up

 

Someone took a comedy bite out of my courgette.

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I’ll be honest, we haven’t been overrun with produce from our new veg patch, but it was late going in, and the micro-climate here makes everything late on top of that, so I’m not worried. I’ve still got things coming along in the growing tent, and didn’t have unrealistic expectations for the first year.

The herbs are more than enjoying the new sunny spot, and I’ve been extremely grateful for them!

 

 

It’s gardeners instinct to grab hold of your own personal rescue remedy when you’re in a stressful situation. My go-to recently has been mashing fresh mint leaves and lavender flowers and taking a great big sniff when I need a bit of a brain bath after getting stuck in a funk, going over the same stale thinking that inevitably grinds everything to a total halt.

 

 

Nice when what you need is a reboot, a rinse out, a sharp smack to blast out the cobwebs. The menthol hits first, like an ocean wind clearing through a strip of thick fog, then the mellower tones follow through.

I find that the fresh plants are miles more effective than any essential oils – I wonder if it’s the inclusion of that Green that comes with a fresh plant that you just can’t bottle? That sense-connection between the ancient animal in you, and the foundational properties of a living plant?

It’s rescued me a few times of late. A little balm for the frayed nerves, or at least the introductory level to regaining my perspective.

I guess even brains need a spring clean. Especially if, like mine, they’re prone to ker-lunking along rather than easy riding…

 

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2nd August 2019

 

Roses are great. We have such luck with roses (none of my own doing I can assure you), that I’m guilty of taking them a bit for granted.

I’m always looking at the gaps and problems in the garden and thinking up ways to solve them; sometimes you literally do have to wake up and smell the… well, you know.

 

 
Also my pet project: a rescued Venus Fly Trap.

I love that the flowers have to be on such a long stem so that the plant doesn’t accidentally eat its own pollinators…

So charming.

 

 

 

Garden thoughts…

Sometimes I think I ought to stop referring to myself as a gardener. So much of the work I’ve occupied myself with has made planting a mere afterthought recently – a luxury to be indulged in when the real work’s done, and I find myself sitting with seed packets in hand, not quite remembering what to do.

But here I have the little greenhouse shelves, all ready and waiting for a much more orderly way of going about things. There’s no more heavy lifting to do. No more vast complexes of roots to get stuck into. I feel strangely light and a little disoriented – where are my tools? my weights and measures, by which I’ve eeked out the days? This is all so light and frivolous…

 

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Purple Foxglove Digitalis, Corn Snapdragon from Botanical prints by H. Isabel Adams 1907

 

I wanted to write about my favourite plants. Those childhood playmates; the foxgloves wavering in the afternoon sun, the roses that tore open my thigh when I was just young enough for it to mean something ritual, magical, sacred. I wanted to write about the herbs glimpsed in a grubby book, nicotine-stained by my grandfather’s armchair, and his beautiful metered handwriting on blue paper, spelling out words that meant nothing more to me at the time than any foreign language, except they were big, meaty words – the opposite of the familiar (primrose, petunia, allyssum – those feminine words with all that bite behind them). Slipped between the pages of his Egyptology books, I thought they must have been related. Chrysanthemums – Asteraceae – white pom-poms stuffed into the mouths of mummified God-corpses. Jars of amber, floating flower-heads, twisting roots, Darwinian specimens of something other than ordinary life.

From mysterious words, to drawn blood on the pathway – to a book chanced upon in a teacher’s office (who had an old wash-pot planted with woodland flowers and a Culpepper’s Herbal set out for reference or atmosphere) – an old lady teaching us our native tongue, catching a bee in her soft, padded palm to let it out of the window without the least concern… ‘he knows exactly what I’m doing’ .

 

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Ao Matsuda, tattoo artist

 

Now I keep planting purple things – as if the bees aren’t so much reading my mind as forcefully putting things into it. Verbena, scabeous, foxgloves and dianthus – open-hearted flowers that waft perfume and line up landing strips of leopard print salutations and welcomes. The bees who follow me around, sometimes resting on my bare brown shoulders with their little trousers laden with yellow swag.

A wild swarm descended one afternoon, and I’m ashamed of myself for running, but the noise was alarming, and I’ve never met one before, and I have a guilty conscience – the bees know everything, after all.

I wanted to write about particular plants – but there’s no such thing – no such thing as isolation in nature. Everything tumbles in, everything hangs on to the thing before and the thing coming after. We’re all so interwoven, if you pull one thread we all unravel.

They are all my favourite things in the garden.

Sometimes you just have to remember what a gardener really is.

Autumn: A Retrospective

 

Time scampers by us light-footed, while we are busy doing work. It was only this morning as I opened my curtains to an inexplicable dusting of white snow that I realised: Autumn has come headlong through its part, and I’ve not made comment on it here.

I haven’t missed a minute of it in the real world – I watch the leaves fastidiously, I rummage about for fungi, I even swift-finger my way through the seasonal crafts and chores, watching the skies for our departing friends, but it all swoops so quickly towards the Mid-Winter chaos, and I forget, sometimes, to take a moment.

So, here is one bright quilt of Autumn: a retrospective of the season in which I’m always happily too busy to whistle! I’ve planted trees, I’ve hand-dug landscaping mistakes of the past, I’ve repaired windows and painted walls – and I’m still pulling up that infernal bush thicket, which I thought would be a nice job to get my teeth into two years ago…

I’ve sown seeds and planted bulbs, but for now, colour.

 

All photos by The Compulsive Gardener

Fall Song by Mary Oliver

Another year gone, leaving everywhere
its rich spiced residues: vines, leaves,

the uneaten fruits crumbling damply
in the shadows, unmattering back

from the particular island
of this summer, this NOW, that now is nowhere

except underfoot, mouldering
in that black subterranean castle

of unobservable mysteries – roots and sealed seeds
and the wanderings of water. This

I try to remember when time’s measure
painfully chafes, for instance when autumn

flares out at the last, boisterous and like us longing
to stay – how everything lives, shifting

from one bright vision to another, forever
in these momentary pastures.