Sunday, 4 March 2018

A view from the kitchen window

Despite the weather, spring is definitely on the way!

It must have been late September 2017, after watching an episode of Gardener's World in which Monty Don planted up a small window box, that I decided to do my own, using his planting as inspiration. I planted trailing variegated ivy and two deep pink cyclamen which have flowered continuously. It has been a delight to open the kitchen blinds each morning.

A view from the kitchen window

The cyclamen have just about gone over now but imagine my delight when I opened the blinds last week to find that the tiny iris reticulata Katherine Hodgson that I'd popped into  the bottom of the window box had decided to pay me a visit.

Katherine Hodgson

I planted up a second window box for my friend Vivian's special birthday and, when I called last week, glorious tiny, yellow iris reticuta were about to poke through. Neither of these window boxes cost very much in monetary terms, but the pleasure they have given and continue to give is priceless.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Life in the garden

The two central activities in my life -
alongside writing -
have been reading and gardening.                 
                                       Penelope Lively         

Life in the Garden is the title of the book by Booker prize-winning author, Penelope Lively.
She has long been a hero of mine (or 'shero' as the late lamented Julia Darling would have said) and,
as I am reading this memoir of her own life in gardens, I am  reminded of the many and glorious gardens that I have visited over the last 40 years or so.

Penelope's book covers not only her own personal gardens but it is an exploration of gardens in literature which is also a hobby of mine. I love reading novels in which gardens and plants play a major role.

As well as children's  books - Tom's Midnight Garden, The Secret Garden, Alice in Wonderland etc  - there are many enjoyable and  inspirational novels in which the sense of place is most skilfully evoked by reference to gardens - too many indeed to list here - but I must highlight books by two  novelist friends of mine, Honesty's Daughter by Wendy Robertson and The Orchid House by Avril Joy. If you enjoy gardens in literature why not give them a try, especially as the weather dictates that armchair gardening is the preferred exercise this February?

Happy Reading!

Monday, 15 January 2018


The past only comes back when the present runs so smoothly
that it is like the sliding surface of a deep river.
Then one sees through the surface to the depths.
In those moments I find one of my greatest satisfactions,
not that I am thinking of the past;
but that it is then that I am living most in fully in the present.
                                                             Virginia Woolf

Frost on the winter garden

Christmas at Kew Gardens

I knew virtually nothing about gardening when we moved here from our nearby town house simply because we had no garden to speak of there. It was interesting, therefore, to open the notebook and read what was written - in the beginning it was mostly lists of plants that I'd identified as already growing in the garden.

(I remember really enjoying this detective-like adventure, spending hours searching through masses of garden books borrowed, of course, from Durham County's libraries, and began to empathise with how the early plant hunters must have felt).

Fatsia Japonica in flower

As I became more confident, the notebook  began to list plants I wanted to grow and seeds I planned to sow (many of which subsequently failed or died). It also included basic diagrams showing where perennials  were to be planted and it has been interesting recalling some of the planting of the initial layouts, making me realise just how much the garden planting has changed over the years.

What has been most interesting, however, has been recalling the many people, most of them no longer with us, who gave me many of the plants which are still thriving in this garden as I write and whose generosity ensures that their presence will live on as long as I continue to garden here in Pablo's garden - testimony also to the generosity of the true gardener who is always ready to share both plants and knowledge with others, a generosity for which I will also be grateful.

Some tinge of melancholy

Lovely as these autumn days on the heath;
the gorse is still as smooth as silk,
and the air fragrant. though there were some tinge of melancholy
in its sweetness.
                                             Virginia Woolf

September border

There are always flowers

There are always flowers
for those that wish to see them
       Henri Matisse

Mock Orange - flowering in November!

Monday, 25 September 2017

the perfect September

All the months are crude experiments out of which
the perfect September is made.
   Virginia Woolf A Passionate Apprentice

September border

                      If August is 'a wicked month' (Edna O'Brien) then September is the 'morning after the night before month'. Borders are flushed with the tell-tale signs of over indulgence, leading inevitably to feeling a bit seedy!

Rudbeckias and Japanese anemones

The glorious perennials are, like many of us, past their best but determined to have a final flowery fling before accepting that the autumn of their days will unrelentingly make way for a steady decline into the somnambulism of winter.

cosmos purissima

Monday, 1 May 2017

Glory in the springs that are yours

For every person who has ever lived 
there has come, at last, a spring he will never see.
Glory then in the springs that are yours
                                               Pam Brown

Somewhat belated but Spring has Sprung!