Monday, May 15, 2017

Fragments

"Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole."  Ralph Waldo Emerson


This weekend I barged my way into a lot of borders. I wriggled under prickly raspberry stems to tug out buttercups and squeezed between the black elderflower and a red brick wall, to prise out nettles. I felt cumbersome and clumsy, my giant clodhopping feet pushing plants aside every step. 
But as I became absorbed in my task, and began to piece together the subtle comings and goings of the intricate world I had imposed myself on, I began to feel very humbled and very small.  

Just above my head, the remnants of an old blackbird’s nest were slipping through the vines of the clematis. I remembered last year’s fledglings, beaks relentlessly open. 
Tucked behind the base of the clematis were a heap of empty snail shells, hollow fragments of a passerine feast.

My trowel uncovered a couple of split walnut shells, so that’s where the squirrels hid them.

A broken eggshell, large, pale brown with speckles. A gull's egg?



As if to confirm my suspicions that nature doesn’t depend on a gardener's meddling, even my favourite tulip this year was one that I didn’t plan. A cross-pollination resulted in an exquisite cream and red striped bloom. And in decline, it is still beautiful. 


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April

No matter how long the winter, Spring is sure to follow. 
Proverb


The lanes speak for themselves, 

The tenebrous shroud of winter is pierced by blackthorn blossom. 
Green seeps quietly into the thicket while yellow screeches from the horizon. 

I simply watch and wait, 
in wonder.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Welcome to the wild flowers

"Nothing is a better lesson in the knowledge of plants than to sit down in front of them, handle them and look them over just as carefully as possible; and in no way can each study be more pleasantly or conveniently carried on than by taking a light seat to the rock-wall and giving plenty of time to each kind of little plant, examining it closely and asking oneself, and it, why this and why that." Gertrude Jekyll

In my previous post on weeds, I was perhaps a bit harsh in my condemnation, coloured by a long day of filling my barrow with unwanted vegetation. A weed is, after all, merely a wild flower in the wrong place. 

There are plenty of wild flowers that unbidden weave their seductive charm through my garden and I cherish them for that. 
I promise they won't end up in my barrow... unless they get too unruly!


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Wonderful weeds


"Weeding is a delightful occupation, especially after summer rain, when the roots come up clear and clean. One gets to know how many and various are the ways of weeds - as many almost as the moods of human creatures. How easy and pleasant to pull up are the soft annuals like Chickweed and Groundsel, and how one looks with respect at deep-rooted things like Docks, that make one go and fetch a spade." 
Gertrude Jekyll


Sadly, I barely had to venture further than a few yards from my back door to gather this assortment of weeds. I would have preferred to boast that I had to search high and low and long and hard to find them. 
Jekyll is right, they are many and various.... and fascinating to observe closely. So many different leaf shapes and growth habits. 
How wonderful is our native British flora... just not in my flower border please! 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The vagaries of March

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: 
when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade." 

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations


....summmery enough for me to skip round the garden to see what's in bloom!


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Country currency

On an ‘out and about’ day recently, I found myself in the pretty centre of Wickham Market. I was mesmerised by the 700-year-old octagonal flint church tower with its soaring lead spire.

More urgently, I was in need of a cash machine. I asked a gentleman who looked as though he had lived in Wickham for a hundred years if there was a Bank nearby. He straightened his stoop, adjusted his cap and looked misty-eyed into the distance. After a long pause, he explained that he had just been trying to calculate whether it was thirty, or forty years ago that the last bank in the village had closed its doors for good.
I thanked him for his time.

Wickham Market, I then discovered, has a distinguished connection with currency. In 2008 one of the largest iron age coin hoards was found in a field near the village totalling 840 pieces of gold. 
So, my elderly friend, there must have been a thriving bank 2000 years ago!

Wrapped up in thoughts of yesteryear, I then called in at nearby Deben Mills. Founded by Mr. Rackham in 1885 as a water-powered mill, his descendants continued to produce stone ground flour until 1970. Still a family run business the mill now trades in coal and animal feeds. Even better, a handwritten sign stuck to the till advertises free bagged horse manure. So I came away with a steaming car boot full, despite still not having any coins in my purse.

That got me thinking, on my way home, about the joys of bartering. The horse manure was destined for my rose bed. The roses I had gained in exchange for a painting. I have been known to provide hot dinners in appreciation for gutter repairs.

Only last week I met an old friend for lunch. She greeted me with an offshoot of a plant I had once admired in her garden and a book that was the casualty of a de-clutter. For her, I had brought homemade chutney and freshly laid eggs. 

For a fleeting moment, I had a vision of myself as an old lady in a market square, wistfully reasoning that I haven’t needed a bank in years!


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January blues.. greys.. whites

Another grey day. 
It’s not raining but it’s so foggy that the air is dripping with moisture and beyond a few metres the world is a blank canvas.

It feels consoling to hunch indoors and distract myself with seed ordering but there are rewards to be reaped beyond the back door. 

Amid the quiet stillness, seasonal treasures are heightened. A woodpecker’s drumming is reverberating through the poplars and I spot a few gleaming aconite buds as I plod up to the veg patch to find parsnips for soup. 


Hundreds of fieldfares scatter noisily in acknowledgement of my rude interruption, white bellies melting quickly into the mist above my head.

At my feet are dozens of molehills, soil fresh, dark and crumbly. Maestro of labyrinthine activity, his stealth has not been dampened by the weather. 

All I need now is for the cats to prise themselves away from the radiator and earn their keep with some mole trapping!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Happy New Year

I’ve just walked round the garden in the dwindling daylight.
The last fruits of winter have released their grip, making way for the buds of spring.
Bowed heads, sapped of energy, snared by the frost and gloom.
Yet in each shriveled pod and faded petal a shred of beauty lingers.

 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Squirreling away nuts

Walnuts and squirrels are hotly debated topics of conversation in the country. Any advice on how to keep the two apart is gratefully received.

A few years ago we planted two walnut trees but still barely get to enjoy a single nut.



The trees flower and fruit abundantly but I have yet to outwit the squirrels. I could snatch the nuts early on, while they are still green, and pickle them. But what I really want, is the satisfaction of cracking fully fledged, deliciously milky nuts out of their lumpy shells.

This year I tied little net bags around as many nuts as I could reach. But the fluffy tailed thieves merely used the twine as dental floss in preparation for some serious gnawing.

Last year we had one nut, this year I was chuffed to salvage twenty.
By constructing an impassable metal platform under the lower branches of his tree my neighbour, with a competitive glint in his eye, tells me he harvested four hundred and thirty. (Gardeners love to count, I know a man who keeps a tally when deadheading his dahlias!)

Fortunately I can buy as many walnuts as I want for Christmas from Geoffrey who sells his produce at the local farmer’s market. His three trees are forty years old and crop handsomely.

When I ask him about squirrels he simply smiles and says “shoot 'em”.

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's a good day...

...when the autumn sun is bright, 
you take the veg peelings out 
and bump into a little hedgehog who is snuffling through the compost heap. 


"The fox has many tricks.
The hedgehog has but one.
But that is the best of all."

Ralph Waldo Emerson