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!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Soil is memory made flesh...

Soil is memory made flesh
is past and present combined:
nothing goes away
               Maggie O'Farrell


I was in despair at the end of last year.
The left hand side fence of Pablo's garden had to be replaced, accordingly everything at that side of the border had to be ruthlessly cut back.  This was what remained!

and after!

With the New Year came resolution - I would look on the blank canvas as an opportunity and replant as necessary.
The pre-existing clematis montana and climbing roses had become so overgrown that, try as I might, I couldn't control them as I wanted. Now I could begin anew.  I have repositioned many of the garden ornaments in the border and indulged in a number of different clematis. New climbing roses are next on my shopping list.

The brilliant Norman has been and wrestled with the rampant ivy on the garage and the two huge pear trees and succeeded with taming the trees on the right hand border  All that is needed now is another general tidying session if the weather holds.

And look what has appeared almost overnight 

Sign of hope in despair
'A gentle creature, with beauty all her own...'


I can't wait to see what appears next!