A cool respite from the Summer sun, amongst nature’s weird shapes and wonderful textures.
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.
(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.
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…
Someone took a comedy bite out of my courgette.
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…
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…
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…
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’ .
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.
The butterfly bush is flowering better than ever – softening the rather spare looking plot while it’s in the awkward phase.
After missing 2 months, it’s all systems go again.
Old mint and lavender plants, rescued from other spots will make a fragrant boundary line.
There are courgettes in pots, awaiting the spire growing experiment, and 2 raspberries and a blackcurrant are already bedded in the purpose-built raised box.
(next time, pics of plants in the main bed – red cabbage, beans, pepper; and the new gate arch, made from wisteria tree cut-offs, and a very convenient wild dogwood rose)
A few notes for zero-budget gardening:
Photos of the actual planting by next week!!
(And some silly beautifying courtesy of a box of old jam jars!)
A few outtakes…
(sadly I don’t have any of me stuck in the mud when it flooded – those root balls make some very deep holes…)
I’ve missed two whole seasons from my notes here.
I spent winter pulling old roots out of stubborn clay (that’s so much quicker to write that it was to do) and managed to clear a pretty large area- which is being transformed into the new vegetable and herb garden.
I was going to write a flippant post about a fall I had in Spring (April Fool!), but actually I’ve realised I probably should have learnt a bit of a lesson from that.
Compulsive gardening may be relatable to most plant people – getting obsessive about things is par for the course. But I feel a huge responsibility for this garden – for reclaiming it, for correcting the balance between the wildlife and the people who live and share it. Sometimes I think the compulsive aspect of the work isn’t as wholesome as it seems.
I think… as vicious cycles go, taking it for granted that it’s just how you are isn’t necessarily that great. I fell over in April because I went out into the garden too soon after a bout of flu, I fell awkwardly and couldn’t really move my shoulder properly for 8 weeks. So then, obviously, the first day it didn’t hurt like @~*#! I was out there again, trying to make up for lost time.
I started to realise just how many injuries I’m actually carrying. Somehow, I don’t think it’s normal to have this much trouble getting up off the floor…
Funnily enough, I was probably saved by The Moss Garden.
I started this little project a while ago, and apart from weeding I don’t put much into it because it’s a slow burner. But before I was fully back from injury, I could go down there and just fiddle about.
You can’t muscle-through moss work. It’s about watching where you step and micro-weeding. It’s also about being very close down to the earth, and moving as lightly as you can.
Working in this shaded, damp, hidden little spot, with its totally different micro-climate and its fuzzy velvet floor (balding, but beautiful), I noticed one day that I was not in terrific pain – my back, my joints, my chest – when I was working softly in the moss garden, I felt rather nice.
Maybe it’s not a coincidence that this also happens to be an area where my expectations are nil. I know the moss will take years to establish. I know nothing here can be rushed along – I can’t really influence it, whether I work hard or not, it just is. And I think there’s a correlation between how my body feels, how I work, and the expectations I have going into the job… (I also suspect this is all rather basic information to other people – those strange people who can do things in moderation, who know how to relax and enjoy things – who are doubtless in reasonably good nick, both above and below the neck).
So. There we go. I have missed two seasons of notes, but I’m deliberately not going to worry about it. This compulsive gardener is trying to learn how to, like, not compulse?
But I will be back to posting, and I am really looking forward to catching up with all your news I’ve missed (so apologies if you get some new comments on some very old posts of yours!)
I will be posting before-and-progress shots of the new area. I was waiting to come back online until it was finished, but that’s silly. This is a long project, and I might get some invaluable advice as it goes along.
Sneak preview of before shots
The twisting Snowberry and the voracious, 6-foot Buddleia
(Which, incidentally, already had a chop before these photos were taken – it’s really not a job you can do among ‘other things’ – you have to just go at it, every day, until it’s over, otherwise you just thicken the bushes and make the job even worse!).
Nope… even looking at it is making me feel queasy. I need a strong pot of coffee…