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.

 

 

 

Seasonal absence

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!).

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Nope… even looking at it is making me feel queasy. I need a strong pot of coffee…

 

 

 

 

April 26th 2018 – Intrigue and Mystery

As I’ve been investigating plant properties of late, and as I am something of a bibliophile, I’ve been nosing about all sorts of source material in my research.

From botanical journals to old wives’ lore, and those periodicals of note in between where plant and myth meet – the carry-on between thinking and planting is complex, and hearty.

The gardener might naturally take particular interest in any writings on nature, plants and the garden itself, but there’s always a new context to consider and steal from. Have you heard of a shadow garden, for example? A midnight garden? A physic garden in the front, with a hawthorn portal into various alternative dimensions in the back..? I mean, the design potential is inexhaustible…

I came across a concept recently, which I’ve doubtless read a hundred times before, but for some reason (probably my parallel literary research) it’s got my creative juices flowing.

This was the idea of something called The Hallow.

‘The Hallow is an old concept that retains the idea of an ancient center of equilibrium. It is unchanged by anything that has ever had contact with it […] No theology, religion or spiritual system has ever influenced its existence.

‘The Hallow stands between the material reality and non-material reality. It is neither, and it makes it possible for both dimensions to interact without collapsing either one.’

Raven Grimassi

Well, colour me intrigued.

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Ideas and concepts about in-betweenness – the liminal, the uncanny, the unnamable, the abject and obscure – have always been a personal fascination of mine (my favourite art is that which either manages to, or at least tries to, express the inarticulate). But the idea of this as a place is just thrilling. Especially as a place you can access! Not so much go to, perhaps, but draw from. What a sensation!

And it makes perfect sense.

Have you ever found yourself lost in a wild place? That sensation of being very much somewhere – surrounded by the natural, the real, the solid, the temporal – yet the creeping fear comes from a sensation of exactly the opposite?

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Gorgeous stuff.

Never judge a book by its cover! If you’re into plants, you might as well go really into plants. Good luck with it!

(As an aside, if you’re interested in gardens you can truly get lost in, I’ll be posting something about a genuinely terrifying garden at the weekend if I get round to it!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

15th Feb 2018

made by nat

Updating your wish list on a cold and unforgiving afternoon.
The crows sit hawing in bare branches, the melancholy buzzards search for blue in the sky, the mice squeeze under the gap in the back door and are swiftly ushered out with brooms before they meet the cat.

It’s not that you want to wish away the chilly season by imagining yourself elsewhere, in another time and climate, but a nice hot drink and a seed catalogue can bring a little relief from the sheer hard work of mud.

Instead of footprints, we leave wells behind us, from which the geese drink happily in the evenings, their keels dropping lower and lower; their interest in long grasses getting keener than their interest in food. We’re all in preparation mode. Endless pots of tea leaves go out onto the roses – not that they seem to need it.

All the roses flowered rambunctiously the whole of last year, so much so that I had a thought when I sat down to contemplate what new things to grow – to see about making the most of what the garden was already happy to give me in absolute abundance.

A note of gratitude to my loyal garden friends before sharing my greedy little wishlist!

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Forget-Me-Not spreads like wild fire, every year a new patch, always popping up in inexplicable places. There’s nothing sweeter than that soft blue cloud, (that dear colour, that celestial center) and because I love them, their rampantness feels like an absolute blessing. I couldn’t be happier.

So I’m imagining entire beds of Forget-Me-Not from Spring right through Summer, too cool tired eyes with soothing pools… and it’s true they might threaten to strangle out the rest of the season’s plants (Forget-Me-Not’s leaves are more or less evergreen as far as I’ve experienced), but I do a bit of thinning, or I pot them up and keep them out of harm’s way, and when the season’s over for the rest of the plants, I pop them back in and let them multiply. Madness, I suspect, but I’ve no quarrel with them at all.

The roses too love our clay, and so I invested hard during the off-season sales (you can still get your hands on some wonderful off-season bargains now), and I am all-in with roses. Standards, climbers, floribundas, shrub, miniature…

Last year, our 3 yr old stock bloomed from the end of spring until the end of the year – without exaggeration, we had white roses and pink superfairies for the Christmas day table!

I’m going to make roses a part of this year’s design, because it would be very rude not to.

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Here’s the view I’m concentrating on first. The all-important view from the kitchen window. If the kitchen is the heart of the home, then the view out has got to inspire love – it’s got to keep you ticking. I don’t know exactly why this is so important to me, probably representational of some deeper meaning, but it’s become an obsession.
So here are some of the plants I’ve been investigating:

Carpets of Colour

The moss garden directly under the window (still a little on the bald side as yet) needs to segue naturally into the planting, and given its typically native feel (native holly, damson trees, Ivy, dafodils etc), I want this transition to be both colourful, but also gentle. But I also live with a couple of people who are NOT fans of the cottage garden look. Luckily one of them is obsessed with woodlands, so I have a direction I’m allowed to explore.

My wishlist consists of purpose-plants rather than ones I’ve fallen for in a personal, dreamy way.

Before I show you my current scrapbook, I am well aware these are ‘weedy’: liable to self-seed and (many of them) creep wildly. As I’ve mentioned before, things where we are don’t take much persuading to go feral, so I’m taking a risk introducing these plants. But I have a cunning plan…

For now, I’ll just indulge.

 

Michaelmas daisy, Erigeron Profusion, Centuarea Montana, Clematis Integrifolia, Malva Moschata ‘Snow White’, Cornflower ‘Trailing Blue Carpet’ and Dwarf Blue Midget, Dianthus Deltoides ‘Microchips’, Stachys Byzantina ‘Lamb’s Ears’

Here’s another kind of wish list to cheer a grisly afternoon:

BOOKS

I love it when other bloggers recommend books, my wallet not so much…

  • A Thoughtful Gardener, Jinny Blom
  • Landscape of Dreams: The gardens of Isobel and Julian Bannerman
  • Natural Selection: A Year in the Garden by Dan Pearson
  • The Japanese Garden by Sophie Walker
  • Head Gardeners – Ambra Edwards
  • A Wood of One’s Own by Ruth Pavey

 

For all the cold, it’s still an atmospheric time of year.

The flowers about to bud, green shoots rearing their brave heads above the parapet, a sense that no-one quite wants to be the first, but they just can’t contain themselves anymore.

Although I’ve learnt to go into making yearly seed and book purchases with a VERY strict shopping list, I know I’ll end up with a few adult plants as well. All the preparation in the world can’t help you when you fall head over heels for something.

Discipline, determination, a very strict shopping list… and some paving slabs made of good intentions should do the trick.

4th Feb 2018

Just Sunday browsing through gardening blogs, a post on irises reminded me of something.

I had a mystery plant pot left under a table at the end of last year that I couldn’t identify except that it was a bulb, and I thought about laying it to rest, but put it on the table instead. I forgot all about it, then about 2 weeks ago, this stunning, violently blue vision popped open – such a colour it looked superimposed! Stupidly, I didn’t think to take a photograph (sometimes you enjoy life too much to remember to document it!), and it’s changed colour now, though I won’t say it’s lost it’s POW.

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We’ve had tall iris in the garden for years because they do alright in our wet clay, but I’ve no idea where this little mystery came from!

Now it’s gone more purple, I think it’s a dwarf harmony, but it really was a shocker when it first opened.

Lesson learnt – even if you’re feeling a bit cluttered with sleeping pots, sometimes it’s best to just wait and see…

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I do love a surprise…