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.

 

 

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…

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’ .

 

Ao Matsuda

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.