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These are some sort of tomato relative, according to my husband, Joe, who bought them earlier in the year. Joe loves to grow things in pots – he is not particularly enthusiastic about the rest of the garden – but every year he celebrates summer with a collection of more or less exotic vegetables bought as small plants and grown on in pots. This has been a great year for chillis (most of our meals have been pretty hot and spicy as a result, to the dismay of the children). But it is always touch and go whether the other vegetables are going to ripen up in time before the sun gets too low in the sky to flood the patio with heat. I don’t think these tomato relatives are going to make it – there are lots of flowers but not many of these beautiful green paper lanterns in which, apparently, the fruit will grow. I move the pots around the patio during the day, trying to keep them in pools of sunlight, but the heat has already gone out of the sun.

It has been a successful year in the garden. There have been several frustrating years when there was no time to garden, and hard winters killed off half the plants, leaving some real thugs and a few local weeds to dominate. This year I’ve managed to teach some of the thugs some manners, have restocked some of the more delicate perennials, and seen off some of the more difficult weeds. I am drawing up plans to bring the rest of the thugs to heel over the winter, and I have a lovely stock of echinacea raised from seed to move into the gaps left in their ranks. For the next year or two it seems my gardening will have to be military in flavour, described by words like “decimation” and “campaign”, but I hope it will become more gentle and administrative eventually.

I am reading “The Morville Hours” by Kathryn Swift and am feeling very inspired, even if my garden is very small and not at all remarkable.

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I confess I woke up at 5 o’clock this morning worrying about bindweed. It was an awful moment last night when I saw it. All spring and early summer I have waged a quiet war against my bindweed foe, and was confident of winning. But then last night I looked out from an upstairs window and realised for the first time the full horror. The shoots and roots I had been patiently defeating were only the small advance guard; over the fence, high above in the hedgerows, it was amassing armies, leaves spreading to the horizon, their first grappling hooks beginning to descend. I swear someone was playing the soundtrack to the shower scene in The Shining as I looked and took it slowly in. I was outnumbered, outflanked, and doomed.

It had even come up in my mindfulness classes: someone had used gardening, and the gardener worrying about weeds but not enjoying the flowers, as a metaphor for living life in a particular way. I nodded sagely: I will enjoy my garden more, I said to myself, taking it rather literally, I will not worry so much about the weeds. But the practical problem is that a small garden in a rural village, with fertile soil and high rainfall, is under permanent assault: if you pay no attention to weeds, you will soon only have weeds to enjoy. After a few years of necessary neglect for other things, my poor garden is run amuck with weeds, and needs some stern attention.

But even I can see that waking at 5 o’clock in the morning is taking it far too far.

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These pansies have already been burning brightly for several weeks, but at last they have been joined by a cacophony of daffodils, violets, cowslips and anemones.

Suddenly, my garden has awoken from sleep, and my beds are a mass of chick weeds and goose grass. After such a long winter it is almost a relief to see them! But though they are so easy to pull out, that very ease of managing these early weeds often lulls me into a false sense of security: and a mat of goose grass and chick weed later on in the year is much harder to deal with. I have lost whole plants smothered by a sticky bright green web.

I am still shuttling between my “real” office and my home office, depending on who needs me at home. And with exams looming up in a month’s time, both my darling but hopelessly fragile children need a great deal of me.

Today, however, I had a little moment of rebellion. I came home from work after lunch, ready to finish off a couple of pieces of work at home, and be on hand for whoever made it home from school in one piece. I drove up to my door, the sun was shining brightly, the chick weed was waving at me cheerfully by the front door, a friendly mass of tiny yellow and blue flowers, each one ready to seed baby chick weed all over the garden.

Sod it, I said. I stowed my laptop upstairs, pulled on my wellies, picked up my hoe and dug that chick weed right out. Just in time too: along with the chick weed and goose grass, I had missed a whole twist of nettle root at the back of the bed which had sprung back to life, Rasputin-like.

What was more important in that precious hour before my children came home from school? Filing that monthly report? Or hoeing out the chick weed and goose grass?

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I took my daughter to London to see the Pompeii exhibition at the British Museum yesterday. Fantastic exhibition! There is something about the Roman world that feels achingly familiar despite the 2000 years. From the table in the hall with the “posh” silver on display, to the remains of cosmetics on a woman’s dressing table, or the election slogans painted on the town walls, there is something vibrant, noisy and aspiring about these people. Yes, they had slaves, yes, they found brutal combat entertaining, yes, they had an odd taste in phallic ornaments, but we can still see ourselves in them, staring out of their portraits, reading their business contracts, sitting in their gardens.

And my favourite part of the exhibition was the Roman garden – I loved the idea of courtyard gardens, bringing light, water and the living world right into the centre of the house. The picture above is just part of wonderful light and airy garden murals painted all around one room that overlooked a courtyard, so that it must have seemed like an extension of the garden. It is like stepping into a birdspotter’s manual, with dozens of species of birds (and plants) painted with great skill and accuracy.

I may not be able to remodel my house around a courtyard, but I shall have to make sure my garden gives me as much pleasure. If you learn nothing else from Pompeii, you certainly learn that life is short and to be seized!

DSCF1806 One of these beauties in the left hand tray is going to become a nice big sage bush in my back garden one day. I wonder which one. We had a snowfall yesterday so I hope they are not dismayed at what they can see of their future life outside the window.

Everyone in the house now has a cold – aching limbs, sore throats, streaming noses. It’s much easier to look after people with colds than with depression, even when you have the cold yourself. If I had a choice I would pick the cold every time.

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It only takes a step outside the door, to find something amazing. I planted these crocuses and anenomes years ago, and they have never come to very much – until this year for some reason. So spring seems to have arrived, quietly, during the week.

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It’s that time of year again – in fact, I’m late this year. The urge to fill up every available windowsill in the house with trays of potting compost didn’t strike me until this weekend. By this time in previous years, we have been up to our ears in nasturtiums and tomato plants, all waiting for the weather to improve before they can be put out.

This year I need to restock my borders, so most of the trays are perennials – echinacea, foxglove and verbena. And this year’s special project is sage, the herb I most often miss when cooking. I have fond memories of the scent of a big sage bush in the garden when I was a child, so I am keeping a nice big sunny spot in my garden. But so far, all I have is some sage seeds lying in a damp tray of compost!

The tray in the picture is a little different – a handful of bell peppers started too late last season and then orphaned over the winter. To my amazement, they solemnly produced tiny fruit on my windowsill this week, despite snow on the ground outside.

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