Last week felt depressing, everything dry and dusty and dead-looking. I got into one of those moods where I couldn’t see any sign of things changing; somehow I settled into the feeling that the witch had taken over Narnia and we’d be left in an eternal winter. Of course it’s never true and in the last few days I’ve started noticing the signs of spring coming.
Flowers opening on the jasmine. Oh the scent!
Strawberry blossom, just when I was thinking that they ought to be getting a move on.
This lovely Spanish lavender I honestly thought I’d killed.
I think we spend a lot of time not seeing the world around us yet being unhappy with it. We get so wrapped up in our lives that we stop noticing how marvelous the world is, what a completely fascinating, improbably thing life is. One of the great things about a garden is that it brings us back to the essence of life. Every shrub, flower, tree that grows from a tiny seed is a miracle. It is all insanely fantastical and yet it happens, again and again, and we should honour that by taking notice.
Mindfulness is a practice rooted in Buddhist philosophy. There is research ongoing into the positive effects of mindfulness on health and well being and it is defined by the Mindfulness Institute of South Africa as
“[referring] to awareness of present experience with acceptance, which arises when we pay attention, on purpose, without judgment, to what is occurring in the present moment.”
When visiting a garden you wander through in this state of mindfulness, perhaps this is why gardens are being used more and more widely for recuperation and rehabilitation programmes, but often in our own gardens we are so focused on the jobs to be done we forget to visit it. How crazy to put so much effort into our gardens and not enjoy them, like baking a cake and letting it sit there uneaten. Is this just me?
I used to start my mornings with a walk around the garden, a habit I am determined to get back into. When my kittens were little they would follow me; added to my own daily discoveries were their discoveries of the world around them. I remember the first time they stepped on wet grass and saw a dry leaf scuttling past.
Can there be an easier or more pleasant way to improve your health than with a daily walk around your garden, not for the purpose of getting anywhere or doing anything but just to be in it at that moment? Even better, it’s free (or at least you’ve already paid for it).
This week LIFE outside my walls led me astray and ruined my rhythm. As for work in the garden, that has luckily continued even if I showed no signs of it on the blog.
I’ve stopped taking the seedlings in at night, I forgot one evening and they seemed entirely unchanged in the morning so I gave it up. In fact they seem to not have changed for the whole of this past month, except for one pansy seedling which has put out a third leaf. Since only 20 of the pansies germinated this seems like a meagre victory. It is NOT worth planting seeds out of season. I am quite sure I will feel differently when they finally start growing and bloom.
As for the compost heaps, they are going well. The first I’ve stopped turning. I’ll probably turn it
again in a few days and then leave it for the next month. The second is still being turned every second day. They are both quite dry, like everything else, so I’m adding water. Turning, I’m happy to say, get’s easier.
I’ve pruned all of the hybrid teas and taken cuttings. I’ve put them into pots filled with a mix of coir, grit and germinating mix and covered them with coke bottle cloches. Some of the ones I took a few weeks ago are definitely showing signs of growth.
I’ve dug up some of my shrubs that have been almost completely destroyed by frost, put them in pots and are keeping them under frost blanket. I should have done it earlier, honestly didn’t realise how frost tender they’d be. I would probably have left them alone to see if they’d survive the winter if I wasn’t planning to redo the whole bed.
My rose geraniums and lavender ‘Margaret Roberts’ (my absolute favourite lavender) cuttings have rooted. I transplanted them into pots this morning. These are the first (non succulent) cuttings I’ve successfully rooted other than a rosemary I did once pretty much by accident so that doesn’t count and a lavender that died just after It started putting on new growth. It was a particularly nice grey leafed one and I’m still a little miffed about it.
On another happy note, I don’t thing I’ve ever seen my lavender such a vibrant deep purple. And this lavender arrangement I did three weeks ago still looks fantastic.
A few weeks ago I turned a little older and quite fantastically I got book vouchers. For some reason I usually only get them at Christmas. For those of us who love wandering through shelves of books, running our fingers along spines and opening up books to smell that new book smell (different but just as nice as old book smell), book vouchers are even better than books because a trip to the bookshop is included in the present. Book vouchers are also a liberation because you can’t spend them on other things. So even if you have a towering pile next to your bed you have to buy more books.
There are many ways to buy books, you can set out to buy a particular book, go into a bookshop with a set of criteria and find one that fits it, or just pop into a shop and see if something buys you. Sometimes the latter happens even if you have intentions of the first. Today I had all three. Will Grayson, Will Grayson, was planned, I’ve been waiting for a moment to buy it, then I wanted a book on orchids, so I don’t kill my fantastic unplanned plant buy, finally, browsing through the gardening section, I came across this. Completely serendipitous, Making the most of Indigenous Trees is unsurprisingly all about indigenous trees (of Southern Africa). It’s packed full of information about habitats, uses, especially with regards to wildlife, and cultivation. It has multiple photographs of each plant, it’s bark, flowers and seeds. It’s one of the best plant books I’ve ever come across and the fact that it’s on a subject not easily available elsewhere is a bonus.
The only way it might be improved is by adding a section at the back suggesting trees for specific garden uses for those too lazy to read every single entry. That’s not me though as I’ve already started book marking trees for use in the Bird Garden.
Yesterday Davis and I moved the eight surviving roses from the rose garden to the bed we dug out in the cutting garden. It turned out to be filled with rubble so that was a bigger job than expected. We back filled the beds with the sand, sieving it through braai grill to avoid the smaller pieces of rubble and added loads of compost. I delayed the transplanting for a week because I was waiting for my mychorrizial fungi to arrive. I felt we were very prepared for the job.
Lots of minor stresses in the process but by mid day I was basking in the satisfaction of a job well done. Until this morning when I went out to turn the compost and it struck me that the bed doesn’t get much sun. With a sinking heart I realised that in winter the sun never quite reaches the bottom.
Even worse, my favourite (it’s okay to have favourite plants) was right at that end. I let it all percolate as turned the compost heaps and decided quick action was better than no actions and quickly moved the two roses at the bottom to a higher position. They still only get about an hour of sun in winter but by summer they should get their full six hours. To be honest I don’t know if they’ll survive all this excitement. (On the plus side I didn’t plant them in the bed next door which gets no sun at all in winter.)
I should have planned better of course but I’m learning to live with my mistakes. After all it’s just a garden. I’m also learning to be ruthless in fixing things that niggle at me, even if it’s my fault they’re wrong. A garden is not a place to pay penance daily for your sins. Only time will tell if these roses will live and bloom and if they don’t time will take care of that too. As e. e. cummings wrote, ‘in time’s a noble mercy of proportion/ with generosities beyond believing’. So has the garden mercy and generosity and puts into perspective our petty grudges. A garden adapts, forgives and moves on; a lesson we do well to learn.
N.B. Although the garden as a whole is forgiving, individual plants are not necessarily so.
About four years ago, after an overly inspiring Rose Tour which they sadly (maybe fortunately) don’t run any more, I ripped up a part of my driveway and put in the rose garden. Roses are expensive though so although I did VERY detailed plans I never managed to finish it. The soil is dreadful, despite a huge amount of compost going, and, though some of the roses struggled valiantly, some of them have died. I haven’t given up on my rose garden, I’m just making it a long term plan. For now I intend to transplant all the roses that were in there into the cutting garden. Madness I know, the soil there is not much better but we have dug a massive trench and will fill it almost entirely with compost. Then I’m going to add more compost to the rose garden and plant it with annuals for the next few years.
The Design PlanI’m using heritage ‘Old Spice’ mixed sweet peas on teepees in the centre and surrounding them with clarkia. At the back are the existing ‘Great North’, a stunning white spire rose with a lovely scent. I want to put in a storage tank to collect the water that comes from the neighbour’s down pipe and through that wall but I have to make it into an attractive feature. Behind that is a viburnum hedge on top of the retaining wall. All the beds are edged in low hedges of a plant whose name I know well but currently escapes me.
The Plan of Action
It’s a bit unfair as this is mid demolition but this is what the rose garden currently looks like. I had a bit of a pond in the middle surrounded by bricks which I’ve dismantled. The Hybrid Teas which are to be moved have been pruned back hard in anticipation.
Jobs to be done
- remove roses
- add compost
- prune spire roses
- clip existing hedge
- plant rest of hedge
- plant annual seeds
- remove ivy from back wall
- plant viburnum hedge
- build water tank
This week has been freezing!!! It’s hard to think positively about the garden when it’s so cold, so mostly I’ve been stuffing myself full of gardening videos on youtube which is fantastic, but also a little nerdy, so double fantastic!!!
This series is GREAT!!
As is this one
And there are millions more. Being an anglophile I only watched the British ones which just makes me REALLY want to be planting an English wildflower meadow in summer RIGHT NOW.
It’s not all bad though. The compost is going great! I’ve turned it twice, on the 5th day and then the 3rd day after, because I didn’t get around to it on the days I was supposed to. It was very hot, I don’t have a thermometre but I think it was too hot because there were signs of fire blight; probably because I didn’t turn it on time. Now that it’s better mixed hopefully that won’t happen again. The turning is hard work, just as I thought it would be, but it probably only takes me half an hour and it’s a good job for a cold morning. Have to remember to wear gloves though, the first time I did it I got blisters. 😦
I’ve started a second one, just a pile in the veg garden. I think it will be easier to turn because I’ll just knock it down and pile it up again. As we’ve got plenty of space at the moment this seems like a good idea.
We’ve enlarged the beds in the top garden ready to put in the fruit trees, I’m just waiting for my mycorrhizial fungi to arrive in the post, I thought it had arrived on Friday because I saw a parcel note sticking out the post box. I got so excited that I reversed into the bins. It was pretty awkward as someone was driving past and saw me and it turned out to be a parcel for my sister.
This morning I pricked out my cauliflower and broccoli seedlings. I sowed them into a six plug tray but there were quite a few in each so I transplanted some into more trays. That is more than I need so hopefully I can give some away for Mandela Day. The theme for Mandela Day this year is food security and literacy. Two of the things I’m most passionate about.
I also spent the afternoon planning my Rose Garden, (spoiler – not really a rose garden) so tomorrow I’ll be putting up the first of my garden plans. 🙂
I absolutely love hellebores, I don’t know why. They’re not a plant I grew up with. The first time I met one was in my aunt’s garden, a rather uninspiring sickly flop of leaves with a green flower, which died not long afterwards. But I do remember an air of rarity in the way she talked about it. And they are quite rare here. In the sense that they appear in nurseries and garden shops but they are just hellebores, unnamed, and the colours seem mostly potluck so you have to buy them flowering. I have two surprise hellebores I bought a few months ago, which holds it’s own excitement, but when I look at the varieties available in the UK, with their range of colours, I am, quite frankly, incredibly jealous.
I love their name, Lenten Rose, and they are frost resistant and drought tolerant. Beth Chatto talks about them in her book, The Dry Garden, and they are generously unfurling now, while everything else is waiting for more civilised temperatures
These are the first hellies I planted in my garden, just under a year ago. I bought them in flower so this is the first time I get to watch them unfurl. Aren’t they beautiful. They are both doubles, a double white and a double pink. I lost the labels so I’m not sure which is which. They’re planted in the shade garden which I’ve decided, rather pretentiously, to call the woodland walk; even if it is, at the moment, just a squeeze between a couple of shrubs and a tree. I have three more to plant out and then it will start looking a bit more like a woodland floor.