Saturday, 25 August 2012

Letter to Monty Don 48

Dear Monty,

I know that despite these rambles being addressed to you, they never reach your eyes or heart, but this question is most certainly directed to you :

Can nature be ugly ?

I am pondering this question sitting in my cupboard of a 'studio' where I am putting the finishing touches to paintings of  British native orchids, pollinators and butterflies for an exhibition next weekend.

Now I believe that you understand perfectly well the response you may get when you make statements on GW - including the one about spent buddleja flowers being 'ugly'. I too have always deadheaded my buddleja for the same reason, and as you said to promote new flower spikes. But this ugliness is an intrinsic part of nature - it sets seed to create the next generation, the flowers last but for a few days.

Is this ugliness a kind of acknowledgement of the frailty of 'beauty' .... and the cutting off and tidying away a kind of denial ? ( Perhaps I think too much.)

I read this this week :

'The length of our days is seventy years - or eighty ; if we have the strength ; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom '

If we have the strength...that made me laugh, because it is so true. Wisdom is a beautiful thing, it acknowledges limitations.

I get caught up by the opinions of others about how gardens should be, but I know from listening to you talk about Longmeadow, that there is no real right or wrong way.

I live off a limited income (despite the NHS cutting nursing jobs to save money, we do not earn much )
and have to think very carefully before I invest in plants, which is why I am looking more and more at the wild flowers growing all around us at the abandoned coal tip. I wonder if my garden would remain a garden if I stopped spending money on it , and instead allowed it to mature as it is.

This is what it looked like this morning, but with the sound of sparrow song and the brook gushing torrents of overnight rain. Can I call it a garden?

                   Oh well back to thinking and pondering and painting, thank God for bank holidays.


( The exhibition is at the on the 1st - 2nd Sept as part of the Orchid Festival. Come and buy some paintings.)

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Letter to Monty 47

Dear Monty,

Sorry but I am back, not sure for how long but here goes .....

Integrity, beach boys and a spiritual song.

Not sure why, but getting through each day at the moment is a struggle a battle and a challenge. What causes the falling away from relationships, bonds and promises? I see my weaknesses as exposed in the light, I still try to hide them but it is futile, it is not about guilt, it is about acceptance. We can be so troubled by the fear of illness, death and even life itself, with all of its false demands.

I have just read the introduction to 'The Heartfelt Garden' by Sarah Wint, and this has encouraged me to continue to kick against the pricks. I love gardens, I love the therapeutic nature of nature, of connection, of soul.

Sue and me have recently spent some soulful time on a Devonian farm with 13th Century mud, horse flies, chickens, vegetable patch and friends.

Richard and Ruth have an old, rambling cottage with sparrows nesting under the thatch, beams made from ships timbers and wide oak floorboards. The garden is focused along the entrance path, a jungle jumble of phlox, erigeron, of berginia of lilies and roses, of crocosmia and many many more leading your eye up to the heavy powder blue oak front door.

There are mugs, bowls, vases on windowsill and mantle, and flowers in a blue jug on the table.
Stars, spirals, swirls and fossils - cows in the old pottery cum pantry, kiln and piano, bats bees wasps and flies.

The land around the farm rises and falls - the lawns banked up higher than the thatched roof - I can see gardens. Soul is difficult to define, it is just about integrity, about our tendency to imperfection, yes soul is about imperfection, accepted and rested in, but it holds its own- is strong despite perceived weakness.

We visited Rosemoor the RHS garden not far from where Richard and Ruth live, Rosemoor although beautiful in parts and well laid out - had no soul. I suppose it is meant to be a showcase, a display. It was too tidy, but would be accessible for someone in a wheelchair so it has a point.

We also visited Broomhill Art Hotel, which has a sculpture garden. The garden again on a slope terraces and winds its way down the hill to a river. Some sculptures sit well in the landscape, others dominate, but it felt relaxed and informal and had some soul. for beach boys and a spiritual song.

I had the privilege of walking some of the Gower coastal path from Pennard to Rhosilli with Neil Smurthwaite and Charles Hawes.

The sound of the sea and sea birds - gull, sandpiper, oyster catcher and even the odd raven all evoke melancholy - a sadness and a joy, just like listening to Cantus Arcticus by Rautavaara. The sight of cliffs, islands, pounding sea - the deep roar and crash - is like listening to a spiritual voice.

 The Old Testament Jews and even the New Testament Messianic Jews who were first called Christians or followers of Messiah - all attribute the earth and everything in it, the sea and everything in it to God. In other words it is His not just ours, and it belongs to all creatures and not just us. The sea reminds us of our limitations, our boundaries - but it also reminds us of hope beyond the edge.

We lifted a glass to the beauty of the day.

Cheers Monty.

Friday, 10 August 2012



You will be glad to know that I am taking a break from blogging.


Saturday, 4 August 2012

Letter to Monty 46

Dear Monty,

'Who is it that obscures my counsel without knowledge'

Interesting that in answer to Job's complaints - God points out the nature of creatures, they are what they are, and we cannot change them, just like dog or stars or wind or rain or even box blight. We live we die, we are all flawed judges of each other. God is not a man that he should lie.

Knowing God is God is knowledge, but we obscure his counsel by our own wisdom, programs, ideas and expertise.

Monty, you got a drubbing on Twitter for your suggestions on planting fragrant shrubs, and how to pot up herby cuttings. I think it is undeserved - there are many who do not know how to do such things, there will always be those who learn, and I understand the argument that if you are going to teach you need to have knowledge, but there are different kinds of knowledge. Perhaps you are better at creativity in gardening rather than horticulture in its 'purest' sense ?
I noted the shed behind you loosing its roofing felt - it had a kind of familiar scruffiness (familiar because my sheds are scruffy) I also like the way you do not let blight defeat you.

There is a debate going on in my head constantly, this debate is based on what was and what is - everyone now has access to knowledge - but sometimes our own knowledge, our own wisdom, our own counsel obscures a deeper wisdom that is rooted in a place which is almost intangible amongst our own noise.

Again it is the garden that speaks to me - prosperity/perfection to me is not what my head thinks it is (believe me my head still strives for prosperity) No it is what my heart responds to.

This morning sitting in a very ordinary concrete paved 'patio' (ugh, I prefer the word terrace - sounds grand and plays to my foolishness) - anyway - just looking at a chair, some foliage and flower and the geometry it creates lifts my heart out of gloom, and it cost nothing apart from patience, pruning and hacking (I have little knowledge of a horticulture) and nature - what plants just do - and I have my own little corner of Ninfa - wow!

Now, if you saw it - you would not see it - if you see what I mean.

Great is the mystery of godliness.