Two Gardens and a Little Shopping

Today, in Creigiau, two gardens were open for the National Garden Scheme. It would have been rude not to take a look. Normally, so I am told, it would have been more that two, but we live in challenging times and we were quite happy with a brace of beauties. I’m sure there will be new opportunities in the future. It was a prime opportunity to meet some like minded people and nose about other peoples’ gardens, what could be better on a mizzly day in June? And we were not disappointed.

Both gardens were beautiful, in quite different ways, which is always the best way. It means that individual personalities are coming to the fore, people expressing themselves through their gardens and not toeing the horti-media line. There were of course similarities, astrantia and salvias were popular in both, and of course roses. There were some wonderful planting combinations, inspiration and templates to consider. And, perhaps most importantly, we were welcomed with warmth and wide smiles. Then we went to the pub for a pint and a bag of crisps. Does it get any better than that?

And yes, of course I did.

Six on Saturday – Greatest Hits

This week, in the pretence of treating you to some joy at this festive time but in reality is because it is tipping with rain and I am in a grump, I will be presenting to you lovely folk six happy recollections of the year past. Whether or not this is permitted, perhaps an addendum in the tome that is the Six on Saturday rule book, quite frankly my dear etc etc. Please feel free to pop over to see what the generally law abiding SoS elves have been up to and if our very own Santa Prop has got his gardening mojo back. Let’s get this party started.

In the eye of the storm I managed two visits to RHS Rosemoor in the space of week. They were both joyful events. This photo is not staged. At the time I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I am still undecided.

In February, when we were all still innocents, we had an amazing few days in London. Always on the lookout for the green, on the banks of the Thames I spied some valiant lichen and evidence of a passing angel.

This picture always makes me happy. It is the seedling of, what I believe is, a lesser spotted orchid which has made its home in the furry arms of a large fern at Westwell Hall. And why wouldn’t you?

Onto a green variegated zantedeschia, donated by Mrs Bun to Max. It is always good to share, especially a plant which sounds so unlikely to be beautiful, and never fails to prove you wrong.

My cosmos were rubbish this year. Nancy Nightingale’s were wonderful. More than wonderful.

In August, as a birthday treat, Hero whisked me off in her campervan. After visiting Atlantic Botanic and a delicious picnic, we went for a walk on Braunton Burrows. I spent much of the time with my head down, marvelling at the wildflowers, including this little echium, growing in almost pure sand. A memorable day.

And to finish (and yes, I can count but refuse to cull any of the above photos, so stuff that in your pipe and smoke it) three doves. They are the symbol of peace and hope and of course love. Which is exactly what I wish for you all.

Brighten

If the start of your day is anything like mine (wet, windy, miserable) then you will definitely be needing something to lift your spirt. Here are some autumn crocuses (or should that be croci?) to, hopefully, do just that.

All At Sea

I went for a walk on Hilsborough today; a hill that looms between ourselves and the sea. It is National Trust land and a nature reserve, and at the top is an ancient hill fort, although to the untrained eye or uninformed this is not obvious. I was on my own, OH was otherwise employed doing something mysterious in the garden. It is usually best if I vacate the house when he is doing something mysterious, especially if it is in the garden.

I have walked up this hill many times, although possibly not as many as I should. Today the grass that flanked the accent was meadow-like, dotted with umbellifers and buzzing with life. And there were foxgloves, hosts of foxgloves. As I was unhindered by a co-walker, I headed off my normal route, down an unmarked path and into the woods. I have always felt at ease amongst trees. But as the way began to drop steeply a voice in my head whispered “never give up the high ground”. Naturally I ignored this whining and ventured down, down around a silty series of hairpin bends. “This would be great on a mountain bike”, I thought, which is odd as I have never even owned a bike and am a commensurate coward. Just bravado. It is as well I didn’t say that out loud or I would have had to suffer sniggers.

I passed gnarled thorn trees and banks of ferns, hopped over exposed roots and bedrock erupting effortlessly from the ground and admired lichen and wildflowers. Every so often glimpses of headland and sea were spied through the sycamores. It was still unfamiliar territory, with signposts that told me little except I was on a road to somewhere. And the “going down” was still “going down”. Which of course means “going up” at some point. Life is unfortunately like that. Eventually things began to look familiar and I was striding my way home. I hadn’t doubted it for a moment.

Earlier, before I set off on my expedition into the unknown, I reached a viewing point and looked out to sea. When I was a child my Dad worked in Canada and the USA for several six month stints and we would all miss him terribly when he was away. At the beach I would look out to sea and wave in what I imagined to be the right direction, as a reminder that his family were at home thinking of him. I always think of this when I stand facing the mighty ocean. And I still miss him.

Although this time I could just about glimpse Wales in the distance, so I waved to my Mum and John instead. Not together of course. That would be very scary.

Sweetness

I had a nice walk to the petrol station today.  “Why?” I hear you ask “Have you succumbed to your pyromaniacal urges once more?”.  No, that is firmly in the past.  The answer is quite simple.  Waiting there just for me, with my name on the paper wrapping, was a bunch of sweet peas.

These peas, along with a welcome mauve nigella and deepest blue larkspur, were grown by my friend Pat the Field.  Times are tough for flower growers at the moment; weddings cancelled, farmers markets no-more, florists closed.  Being a fine ‘make do and mend’ woman, Pat is selling her wares at the local petrol station, where I doubt they will linger long.  Her flowers are grown a couple of miles up the road, organically and with love.  It makes all the difference.

After an interesting walk back up the hill, battling a roaring gale, I managed to get them home without one flower head loss.  Now they are in our front room, doing a fine job of decorating and scenting the room.  By the way, before any derogatory comments, flower arranging is not my forte.  I am a graduate of the Bung It In school of floristry.

If you see locally grown flowers, please buy them, support our growers.  And yes, that is an order!

Bliss

I eventually made it to Marwood Hill Gardens.  This was after a well-documented previous attempt, which ended in misery and heart-break.  For those of you who missed this sorry tale, or would like to practice their schadenfreude technique, here it is again – Moaning Minnie – Part Two.

It was worth the wait.  Oh, it was definitely worth it.  The gardens are of course closed at the moment.  Which of course doesn’t mean work has stopped.  Working at appropriate distances, the bog garden was being cleared of invasive watercress, led by the never-knowingly-resting Malcolm.  The remaining 20 acres was free from human intruder.  That is until, armed with notepad and camera, I strode off to disturb the peace.  Unaccompanied, I wandered at will.  I dawdled, I took paths at a whim, I scuttled off grid, I sat, I considered and I smiled a great deal.  It was sheer bliss.  As always it was a magical place, made all the more so as I was liberty to do as I pleased.  Within reason of course.  You never know, there might have been a few sneaky CCTV cameras hidden within the lofty boughs of those champion trees.  I enjoy walking around gardens with friends, chatting about what we come across and a whole lot more, in fact I love it.  But this was different.  It was a private experience, meditative almost.  And it was a massive treat, and one with a great big shiny red cherry on top.

Although for the moment you aren’t able to visit the gardens, there is a glimmer of silver in this coronavirus cloud.   The Walled Garden Nursery has begun an on-line serve.  For those in easy driving distance, there is a Click and Collect scheme.  Those of you further afield courier deliveries are available.  Sorry to burden you with this temptation, but really, there is no hard in taking a quick look …..

Moaning Minnie – Part Two

Today didn’t pan out quite how expected and I only have myself to blame.  Today I was due to travel to Marwood Hill Gardens to interview and photograph for an upcoming article in Devon Life magazine.  Today I was to have wandered the gardens, free from the detritus of the public, to savour the beauty of these wonderful gardens free and unfettered.   I told people where I was going; my neighbour, Hero, my mum, anyone who cared or dared to listen.  I may have been a little smug.  That was, I believe, my downfall.

As yet innocent of my impending doom, I got up early and combed my hair whilst looking in the mirror at the same time.  I wore clean clothes, including my lucky knickers, and put a watch on for the first time in many weeks.  Off I set on my big adventure.

Then my car broke.  It didn’t strictly break down, it just made an alarming “boing, boing, boing” noise as I drove the 1/4 mile necessary before the nice recovery men would agree to help me.   I don’t know an awful lot about cars but it sounded like trouble to me.  It was as if I had run over Zebedee and he was trapped beneath.  I did check, just in case.  Which is how I yet again came to be loitering in my rescue place of choice, Tesco’s car park, waiting for a recovery vehicle.   Instead of wandering, possibly skipping, around the majesty of Marwood, I was eating a sun-aged winter mixture and wishing I hadn’t had that last cup of coffee, waiting for a knight in shining boiler suit to tow my car away.  In between Rescue Me and Being Resuced I had time to cherish a different kind of planting.  Please see above.

After the prognosis I decided, rather than take my rescuer’s offer of a lift home, to do a bit of shopping, so it wasn’t a totally wasted trip.   Little did I know that my normal calm demeanour was to be tested to the limit by the woman in front of me at the till.  She packed her groceries with all the urgency of a sloth, and twice asked a staff member to get her something she had forgotten, once for “you know, those little things you sprinkle on top of cappuccinos”.  All the while she catapulted sickly smiles at me whilst mouthing “I’m sorry” with a little giggle.  She then had a spillage in one of her bags, unseen by me and quite possibly imaginary, which had to be wiped up with all the drama of a wannabe soap opera diva.  I stood quietly, some might say too quietly, and I watched as others sped through adjacent tills.  And I was close.  Very close.

Then home with a loaded rucksack and two full carrier bags, not a cappuccino sprinkle in sight, to tell OH the wonderful news and impending doom bill.

My lucky knickers have been sacked.

 

Stitchwort

Our designated daily exercise took us up the moorland hill that looms malignly in view of our house.  In truth we skirted rather than climbed.  It was quiet, except for the exuberant birdlife, and the fresh air was soothing and much appreciated.  The wildflowers are being to shine, it is their time.  The celandine, the violets, the thorn, all beautiful.  They will be there whether or not we are there to appreciate them.  I rather like that thought.  It is all going on even if we aren’t at the party.  Fair play, I say.  Get on with it, do your thing.

Stitchwort is one of my favourite spring flowers.  I love its name and its simplicity.  Although I cared to see it, it didn’t give a fig whether I was there or not.  That is how it should be.

Niche

Whilst rejecting me, someone described my work as “niche”.  I imagine it was not meant as a compliment.  I laughed, then did my puzzled face and felt a bit sad.  My writing is me, which surely means I must also be niche.  No one had mentioned it before.  But it explains a lot.

The photo is a detail from Antony Gormley’s The Planets which circle a seating area outside The British Library.  Which is full of niche stuff.