Sunday, 31 May 2015

This Green and Pleasant Land ...

 Returning home from a shopping trip in the next village I stopped the car.

I stood on the roadside verge and looked at my surroundings, breathed it all in; and saw the splendour of it all.

This land, ancient and unchanging, worked by generations of farmers, grazed by untold numbers of sheep and cattle.

Boundary hedgerows providing food for birds and shelter for wild animals; home for fox, badger and rabbit who dig beneath its roots.

Hawks and buzzards cruising the skies, rising and circling high in the thermals, with one eye looking for their next meal.

Centuries old trees, oak and ash, in full leaf, where birds nest and home to a myriad of insects who tunnel and bore.

The patchwork of fields providing hay for winter feed; wild flowers and seeding grasses, food for  bee and butterfly.

Each element  an essential part of this green and pleasant land -  part of the whole picture.  Each one needs the other to thrive and complete the circle of life. I feel privileged to be surrounded by such beauty.

This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~ Wm. Shakespeare.


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Where the Wild Things Grow … The World Beyond the Garden Gate …

I have a passion for wild flora.  Since moving to the country over thirty years ago my passion has swelled and grown. 
My love for my garden is well documented but my heart lies in the wild where Mother Nature scatters seed where she will and puts on spectacular shows for us to gaze upon with open-mouthed wonder.
cow parsley
The last few weeks have been spent working tirelessly at home doing all the things that a dedicated gardener has to do at this time of year – but sometimes a break is needed  to appreciate the other things in life, the world beyond the garden gate.
And so we went in search of where the wild things grow – secret places of tangled tunnels and verdant growth.  We were not disappointed.  For May is the time of abundance in the plant world.  Hawthorn blossom and Cow Parsley, Campion and Buttercup and where newly budded pine cones light up the trees like a thousand Christmas candles.
red campion
On our walk we were accompanied by the song of the Skylark rising high in the overcast sky becoming faint and distant as it soared higher and higher.  Birdsong surrounded us as we stood in the thickets breathing in the scent of may blossom and pine – the earthy smell of the undergrowth after morning rain.
may blossom
Sometimes we forget to notice the ordinary – the plants that have been provided for free – the frothing filigree of Queen Anne’s Lace that grace the roadside verges is surely a sight for sore eyes but is taken for granted; plants that we call weeds in the garden suddenly take on more significance when out in the wild.  The untamed jungle that is Nature at its best.  We found that today, and came home to the ordered planting of the garden, with a renewed sense of belonging to these wild places that give us such pleasure.
Home Sweet Home.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Columbine … The Star of the Season

What a week it has been – rain, rain and more rain – thunder and lightning and moments of glorious sunshine – great for the garden – not so good for gardening.  It is still too cold to put out the summer containers which are ready and waiting in the greenhouse but they are filling out nicely and hopefully will put on a good show – given the chance.  I have been working in there this afternoon; transplanting, potting on and doing some of the 1,001 jobs that need to be done at this time of year if you want your garden to look good during the rest of the year. 

But I haven’t come to tell you how busy I’ve been – I’ve come to show you pictures of the lovely Columbine.

garden posy - columbine, sweet rocket and chive flowers

Each plant has its time in the garden and now it is the turn of the Columbine (Aquilegia, Granny’s Bonnet).  Surely this must be the quintessential cottage garden plant.


Columbines will self-seed, often putting themselves in places that you would never have thought of yourself.  You can learn from that.  Sometimes, you may even find a new colour strain arising in a seedling, which is a great thrill.  And by nurturing the novelty, you will be carrying on in the best traditions of the cottage garden.” ~ Anna Pavord.

flower posy - june

Columbines occur in open woodland or meadowland on wood fringes.  Their range of colour is not as extensive as the long-spurred relatives (which would be quite at home in a cottage garden), but they cover some pretty shades of blue, mauve, old rose, purple and white.  Beware of them – they are inveterate self-seeders.  They may be very pretty in flower but they will leave you with a scene of dereliction later.” ~ Christopher Lloyd. 


“It doesn’t matter what you call them they are the stars of the season.  Even if you start off with the sophisticated modern hybrids, with elegant long spurs and vivid colours, their self-sown seedlings will gradually revert to the old-fashioned sorts.  Columbines are one of the mainstays of early summer.” ~ Helen Dillon.

aquilegia / columbine / granny's bonnet

These are just a few of the Columbine in my garden at the moment – the colours range from almost black to the palest of blues – their reign is very short, all too soon they run to seed – but, while they are flowering, I love their old-fashioned style, so delicate and almost exotic looking – orchid-like.  

Aquilegia - mixed colours

Each year I collect the seeds of a favourite colour once the seeds pods have dried out and sow them onto fresh compost straight away – they take a couple of years to form plants – that way I know I will always have a succession – they do self-seed quite freely and can be a nuisance but if  I remember I go round and snip the seed heads off so that the garden won’t be over-run with them.

aquilegia seed

Columbine is a symbol of foolishness based on the flowers’ resemblance to a jester’s cap and bells.  It was considered bad luck to give this flower to a woman.  It has many religious connotations too to do with Mary’s footsteps.  Shakespeare  mentions Columbine in Hamlet in which the tragically mad Ophelia collects it, although in this case it is taken as a symbol of ingratitude and infidelity.

Who would have thought that this beautiful little flower had so much meaning behind it – all I know is – I look forward to it appearing in the garden every year.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

An Evening Air … Wallflowers in The Fragrant Garden


Sometimes the best part of the day is early morning before the weather has decided what it is going to do.  Other times the evening has a special quality all of its own.  The sun still shines till 8 or 9 o’clock but there isn’t the glare that you get during the day – the light is softer somehow; birds are still singing and taking dust baths in the chippings at the side of the road; bees are still buzzing round making their last pollen collection and butterflies stop and look around wondering where they are going to make their bed for the night. 

A perfect time for  a stroll or to wander round the garden picking flowers for a posy for the house or taking photographs when the shadows are shorter.


“The pale stars were sliding into their places.  The whispering of the leaves was almost hushed.  All about them it was still and shadowy and sweet.  It was that wonderful moment when, for lack of a visible horizon, the not yet darkened world seems infinitely greater – a moment when anything can happen, anything be believed in.” ~ Olivia Howard Dunbar”


The garden is dappled with sunlight and shadow shining through leaf and petal. One particular plant catches my eye, and as I breathe in I smell its perfume, and smile. The ubiquitous wallflower – a flower that seems to have gone out of fashion, but one that I couldn’t do without in my cottage garden.  They are in their full glory right now, in so many different colours, with their fragrance floating gently on the evening air.  They outlast the tulips that they were planted with and keep the borders bright and cheery.




I love to watch the fine mist of the night come on, The windows and the stars illumined, one by one, The rivers of dark smoke pour upward lazily, And the moon rise and turn them silver.  I shall see The springs, the summers, and the autumns slowly pass; And when old Winter puts his blank face to the glass, I shall close all my shutters, pull the curtains tight, And build me stately palaces by candlelight.” ~ Charles Baudelaire”

So maybe I am just an old-fashioned kind of woman who clings on to the flowers that have been used in gardens for generations – shunning new-fangled hybrids, sticking to what I know is right for my garden and me – simple country garden plants that I love.

Caution:  My email has been hacked – so if you receive a request for money and an email saying that I am stuck in France do not respond.  As a consequence of this  all my emails and contacts have been stolen – but, for now, the hacker has been stopped and am am hopeful of retreiving everything that has been lost.

And to finish this is a collage of some of things in flower in the garden at the moment.



Wednesday, 6 May 2015

We’ll gather lilacs …


Lilacs smell like they look.  They could have no other scent or colour, the flower simply smells mauve, that haunting naive purple, mysterious and sweet, just this side of decay.  When you think about it, the combination of hue and scent is first correct, then perfect. ~ J. Carroll


Purple lilacs symbolize the first emotions of love; while white lilacs represent youthful innocence.

According to Greek mythology a beautiful nymph Syringa (Lilac’s botanical name) was chased by Pan, the god of the forests and fields.  Frightened by Pan’s affections, she escaped him by turning herself into an aromatic bush – the flower we know as Lilac.


For me, the Lilac heralds the next phase of flowering in the garden.  The daffodils and tulips are almost at the end of their time.  We have been graced by their presence over the last few weeks; when they brought an end to the winter drabness and bare borders; now we welcome the newest arrivals, and Lilac is one of the first. 

On a calm day, with the sun shining, their perfume can be almost overwhelming and intoxicating; but a day like today with a strong wind blowing and no heat in the sun the fragrance dissipates as the blooms are tossed like a ship in a storm.

The bushes in my garden are full of blossom but the buds are still mainly tight-closed, like a fist, with just one or two opening as the weak sun catches them.  I snip off a sprig and place it in a tiny vase on my desk so that I may delight in the perfume as I work.



“The lilac branches are bowed under the weight of the flowers: blooming is hard, and the most important thing is – to bloom.” ~ Yevgeny Zamyatin

To end with I thought I would share some photos husband took over the weekend.






p.s. Guess what – I have my first ripe strawberry in the greenhouse!  The first of many more to come I hope.