Back to my roots

Today’s predicted “fair” weather transpired to be “a fair amount of mizzle” or even “a substantial amount of gloom”. Still there was light to be found in this dreary day.

A couple of months ago, myself and Mrs Bun took some rose cuttings. As we couldn’t find a pot of quite the right dimensions, we pushing the prickle stripped stems into a gritty soil, cossetted in a customised litre milk bottle. Mrs Bun can be very creative, and not just in the cake department.

Five new rose plants is more than enough for most mortals, so I shall be helping out by taking one or two off her hands. And who wouldn’t want a little piece of this action …..?


I am hopeless at defending myself. I am the submissive, roll over on my back with my legs in the air, type. However, when it comes to my own, it is a quite different matter. Yesterday, I found out that some (I am struggling to find an adjective adequate enough to describe them, so please feel free to fill in your own special word at this point) ……… person had attempted to defraud my Mum. I was very angry. I am still very angry. It is now sorted, thanks to my brother and the bank. There is no excuse for this vile practice and I want revenge. Quite stupidly of course, as it would do no good. But still I am very angry.

My Mum is quite alright, because she is a strong woman. Although a little daft on ocassion. I like to think I take after her.

The Moment

A lot of people enjoy the autumn; look forward to it even. Not me. I don’t like it at all. Unfairly, of course. I struggle to appreciate this season for itself, in its own right. Instead I consider autumn merely a herald of the coming gloom and doom of winter. Blighted by the company it keeps, I suppose.

Today I studied a golden bee, feasting on a seed-swelling sunflower, taking advantage of the few unpollinated flowers left at its disposal. It was a moment of peace and reflection. Which was a mistake. The morning, up to that point, had been spent defending plants from the over-exuberance of the Nancy Nightingale autumn clear-out. This consisted of my shouting “NO!” as the secateurs/fork approached the innocent party, executing a right shoulder judo roll and throwing myself between NN and the victim. All done in slow-mo. I really should demand danger money. I may have scuffed my new boots. Several “still life in the old dog” cosmos and a “merely resting” pot marigold undoubtedly hit the compost heap during in my bee distraction. No matter, they are after all hers to do with what she wills. And at this time of year it is tempting to throw in the towel, get rid of the ragged and half-spent, look forward to spring perfection. But in doing so we miss out on the moment. I must try harder, after all the moment is all we can be sure of.

Am I warming to the autumn? Perhaps. But on a glorious day like today, who wouldn’t? Ask me again at the end of the week. I will keep practicing.

Six on Saturday – Slack

I haven’t been here for a few weeks, but possibly you were. What did I miss? Anything much? Any scandal or intrigue to report? Of course, I’m talking about Six on Saturday. For the few sorry folk that haven’t come across this mega-meme, there is no need to feel embarrassed. If you pop over to The Prop’s site, you can study all the intricacies and many codicils attached to this world famous weekly event. For the more impatient here is a précis: Six. On Saturday. I have been a little slack for a while on the blogging front, but rest assured I have been very taut elsewhere. Let us see if I can remember how it is done.

First, we have Helichrysum bracteatum, the strawflower. It is one of my feeble attempts at front of house bedding this year. Too tall, not floriferous enough; but on its own, in its own right, it is rather lovely.

Now onto Dahlia ‘Verone’s Obsidian’ which I believe is one of the honkas. I’m a little confused as to its real identity. This its first flower to bloom successfully and even that is a bit wonky. A little more honking and a little less getting scoffed by snails would be nice.

Next Hedychium ‘Pradhanii’, the only flower worth a public showing. Pots have been shuffled recently and this stunning ginger has unfortunately found itself in direct rotary washing line range. Each time our matching “his and hers” lederhosen whizz around in the breeze they whack this poor beauty in the mooch. I should move it really. It makes sense.

Onto someone looking very guilty “It wasn’t me guv, I just sat down for a rest and the big hole was here already”. I believe you.

Now Heliotropium arborescens ‘Chatsworth’ purchased a few weeks ago on a birthday visit to Atlantic Botanic nursery with my old mucker Hero. I have grown this Cherry Pie fragrant lovely before, but it didn’t make it through the winter. Fingers crossed for this one.

And finally, Salvia involucrata ‘Hadspen’; pure dazzling pink furry joy.

All done. I might try this SoSing again, it wasn’t too bad after all. Take care, my friends, I’ll see you in the gloaming.


Yesterday the Red Admirals were feasting on the windfall apples, a late summer tradition in Max’s garden. I enjoy this annual event as much as the tipsy butterflies, watching them flit from fruit to rotting fruit, with the odd frisky interval. I’d best make it quite clear that it was the butterflies that were frisky, not me. Neither was I tipsy. Far from the flocking bank holiday hoards, I was content working in the warm sunshine and welcome calm, all was serene.

There was a slight blip in my tranquil day, which involved a close encounter of the slow worm kind. The accident was quickly resolved and his home reinstated. I left two juicy slugs near his disturbed front door as recompense. Hopefully I am forgiven and he has recovered from the invasion of the giant gardener.

Six on Saturday – Sighing

I have been a little slack on the blogging front recently. There are reasons of course, none of which I will bore you with at the moment. Rest assured, nothing bad. Hopefully anyway. I felt I should make a special effort this week. In missing a couple of Six on Saturdays, I’ve discovered that there is only so far you can push the patience of Akela. I had a note from my Mum (and it wasn’t even forged) and even Mr K said it would be OK ( on reflection it was a mistake to give him that money in recompense) but still there were repercussions. Believe me, a Propagator tantrum is something to behold. I would suggest that no one attempts to have even one week off, let alone two, it just isn’t worth it. There are sighs, there are mega-sighs and there are Propo-sighs. Less of the excuses, let us get on with it, Sunday is chomping at the bit.

First, we have Ageratum corymbosum, looking a little like a soggy muppet after our storms. Still I love it; the colour, the form, the everything.

Next is Tomato ‘Harzfeuer’; my first but hopefully not my last. I haven’t done well with my toms this year; I was late to the party. There is time enough to regain a little ground. A miracle however would be handy.

Now a potted cutting of Fuchsia procumbens ‘Variegata’, the mother plant is playing hard to get on the flowering front. I cannot get over the other-worldliness of these little psychedelic blooms.

Like many, I thought I would try my hand at a few more vegetables this year. My report card would say “easily distracted”. Here are some mixed oriental salad leaves that I sowed and forgot.

Now another fuchsia, I didn’t realise I was such a fuchsia fan. Perhaps it is time to stand up and be counted. This is F. ‘Thalia’. Lovely.

A self-inflicted rule is “you must always save the bee shot for the finale”. Here is our star, supping on a weather-ravaged Salvia involucrata ‘Hadspen’, a bit worn around the edges but still full of the good stuff. A lesson for us all perhaps.

That is your lot my friends. I hope all is well on your planets. Keep safe, happy and full of fun.

Guest Photographer – A Chance

I have recently written about a wonderful project in North Devon called The Wholelife Project. Shortly after my pitch was thumbs-upped by Devon Life, I had a visit from an old friend. She answers to many names; Inner Dialogue, Imaginary Friend, Subconscious Suggestion, call her what you will. And this gal is persistent, popping an idea into my head with superglue. No shifting.

I first heard about the above project from Nancy Nightingale’s nephew, Marley. As part of his home-schooling curriculum, he helps out with both the maintenance and crowd control. One day, whilst he was helping out in Nancy’s garden, he mentioned how much he enjoyed his time at Wholelife. The cogs don’t always whirr, sometimes they dawdle. Several weeks later it dawned on me that this small-holding, which specialises in helping those with behavioural problems and learning difficulties, would make a great article. Their work was something that deserved to be shared.

Please bear with me, I will get to the Guest Photographer bit eventually.

Later Nancy mentioned that Marley was very keen on wildlife photography and his work was pretty good. I checked out his Instagram account and it was obvious that this was not just familial bias. Then my head-popping friend crashed the party. Why not? I thought. You should always give people a chance. I did some maths, approached DL, contacted Matt and Emma from Wholelife and when everyone was in agreement asked if Marley would like to take the photographs for my article. Marley is fifteen. A teenage boy, brimming with hormones, in charge of the pictures for my piece, was that a wise decision? After all it is not just about snapping away; the right shots had to be selected, they had to be reflective of my writing, they must mine into the essence of the subject and they had to be submitted on time. Deadlines: love them and hate them! What could possibly go wrong? I did begin to worry that I had been a little rash.

My worry was wasted energy. Marley produced (a catalogue) of wonderful photographs, far better than anything I could have produced myself. They were well lit and crisp, but more importantly they were sensitive, affectionate and intuitive. There are a lot of good photographers out there, but you have to have something a little bit special to succeed. And I have every faith that Marley will do just that.

And when he makes his first million, I think he should buy me a Harley Davidson.

Six on Saturday – The Exceptions

There is a vague theme for my Six on Saturday this week. My contribution consists of mainly fuchsias with a couple of interlopers thrown in for a little spice. I find it difficult to focus on one subject for too long. Fuchsias were never my favourite, especially the frouncy, doily ones. As the years have passed and I have matured into a sophisticated citizen of the world (quiet in the cheap seats!), they have wheedled their way into my heart. Not so much Mrs Frillypants, but there is still time. Hop on over to our Leader, The Mighty Prop, to find out what the rest of the gang have been up to. Let us begin.

First, we have an unnamed fuchsia, which was in residence when we bought the house. It never disappoints. We give it a big chop back at the beginning of the year and if it oversteps the marks. It lives in the teeth of the north wind, which seems all too frequent even in summer, and never complains. I should take some cuttings.

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Another inherited plant is Buddleja ‘Black Knight’, lording over the aforementioned fuchsia in the front garden. Much loved by sparrows and flutterbys.

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Onto the diddy Fuchsia microphylla, or similar, there are many varieties in this category. Like many in our garden, it lives in a pot where it gets sporadic attention. It might be small in flower and leaf, but the shrub, if allowed to thrive, can reach 2m in height.

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Now Fuchsia ‘Thalia’, just coming into bloom. I am fond of the slender flowered specimens, members of the Triphylla Group, with their clusters of elegant drop ear-rings. They are somewhat tender, but this one has over wintered without protection for a couple of years. But if The Beast came a-calling, I would worry for its safety.

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Next Fuchsia hatschbachii. I rage against the inclusion of this, admittedly beautiful, fuchsia. Fabulous flowers, dainty pink boots, but a spelling nightmare.

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Lastly, the golden Crocosmia ‘Colleton Fishacre’. Dark foliage, shining flowers, the early morning sun. Win, win, win. Always end with a bang.

Adios my friends, stay well and safe.

GMBG July – A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush and The Teign Gardener

Technically I missed it. My GMBG for July has drifted into August, I hold my hand up. However, as I am in charge of all things “rules”, and books were shared and thoughts where thunk before the official cut off day, I say that all is fair and above board. This decision is final. Any letters of complaint should be addressed to my agent.

This month’s pairing is A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby and The Teign Gardener.

Shall we consider the book first, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush. I read this book several years ago and to be honest the contents are a little sketchy. What I do remember is that it is funny, beautifully written and engaging. This might sound like faint praise, but for some reason it lodged in my mind. There are many that haven’t.

When a friend was ill, I thought this book would entertain him in his incapacity. Of course I never saw it again. Recently, still missing the potential to revisit what lies within its vanilla pages, I bought myself another copy. The ghost of memory can be very persuasive.

The book tells of the author’s 1956 road trip from London to Afghanistan, along with his friend Hugh Carless. Newby was no stranger to adventure; when he was eighteen he crewed one of the last square riggers to sail to Australia, as documented in his book The Last Grain Race. During the Second World War he dodged Germans and found love in the Italian mountains, you can read all about it in Love and War in the Apennines. But let us not get diverted from the book in question. Unfortunately, his previous exciting travails did not equip him well for his journey into Asia. With the confidence/arrogance of the fearless he muddled through. Do not worry, this is not a pompous book, EN is free with laughter at his own expense, unashamed to highlight their glaring shortcomings and bumblings. And there are photos, I do love a photo.

The Teign Gardener, which is not his given name but one that will suffice, is a stranger to me. Not quite a stranger, but almost. I have gleaned hints and shadows along the way but never quite understood. Of course if I’d asked he might have told me, but I have never felt it necessary. He has a past and a present. I will tell you what I know about his present, or perhaps more accurately what I surmise. He is a gardener. And he is a photographer. He studied a lone sycamore for a year, surveying and recording. We watched along. He is unrelenting and fine-focused. He lives on the edge of Dartmoor and is immersed in its soul, in a way that no one else needs to understand. Along with other fabulous artists, he is a member of group of photographers The Dartmoor Collective. They possibly have long beards and berets, but personally I think this is a good thing.

I chose this book for TTG because of a glimpse I have had of his past, one perhaps fixed in the often-troubled region of Mr Newby’s destination. He might find this book trite or colonial, but I hope he can see past this. I hope he enjoys a tale of adventure, in a time when travel of this kind was extraordinary.

Today TTG celebrates the wilderness. Seventy years ago, I think Mr Newby did that too.