Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Thinking gardens - with apologies to Anne Wareham

Dear Monty,

You are a garden thinker if ever there was one, this is evident in your writing and in your talks about your writing and your garden.

I suppose all this blog writing I do is a kind of thinking out loud, and a way to say I exist outside of my career as a nurse and an attempt to find out if making art and a garden makes a difference for good in this sometimes tortured human world.

I love looking at other peoples gardens both in the vegetative flesh and in digital pictures on line.

I write specifically to you because much to the chagrin of others in the category of those who think about and meditate on the concept of gardens - you are the fist 'virtual' person who most inspired me to have a go before I met up with others who have made and are making insightful gardens. These people I can actually have conversations with face to face. There is ego involved - I seem to need approval and I know this is almost anti-creative in spirit. I often just wonder what others would make of this space - would they find in it what I find ?- Perhaps not.

The joy comes when all this ego stuff is left behind and the garden becomes its own place. I am noticing that nature does a lot of the gardening for me.

I have just spent an annual long weekend with my son who is 23 tomorrow. We take ourselves off to St David's in Pembrokeshire - where we camp, walk the coast and the hills around St David's Head and eat and drink ale in The Bishops www.thebish.co.uk. It's a precious time. This year I realised that nature has created amazing gardens on the thin strip of land that is the coastal path - with the soaring of buzzard, chough and fulmar and iridescent beetles and butterflies at every turn and dip of the coast.

That experience was restorative - its expression came to my deep inner spirit in the form of words written a very very long time ago -' He restores my soul'. How do I know that God is behind it ? - He restores us by connecting us with what we belong to which is not connected to ego or greed - it is simply life living out life - nature itself is a call to the restoration of humankind - and I suspect many of us hear it but may not understand what it is.

I have decided to make a series of 7 small frescoes based on St David's head - a collection of gardens and jewels and an expression of joy. (I HOPE!) They will be exhibited at the National Botanic Garden of Wales in the Orchid Festival tent at the end of summer.

Yours, still hoping you will come and have a cup of tea or coffee. By the way anyone is welcome to come and have a cuppa - as long as you let me know !


Saturday, 13 June 2015


Dear Monty,

Longmeadow looked colourful in GW last night.

Perhaps I dreamt it, but I thought you mentioned the June Gap. Should this make me rush out and buy colourful flowering plants to fill in this lull of colour in my garden (other than greens and plumbs, yellows and blues, purples, oranges and reds in foliage) or just celebrate the gap ?

This life is so full of noise - sometimes colour can be noisy. I found great refreshing in the concept of finding gardens everywhere, they can be found in nature as demonstrated by the garden in Windermere shown on GW recently, and found in the landscape of the Lake District itself.

I even found beauty this very morning in the damp Diamond Park, a restored former coal tip on the other side of this valley.
I believe we can over stuff our spaces, and then they begin to loose their sense of rest. Gaps in florifluousness occur naturally, there are subtle seasons and in the subtlety is beauty.

I do admit that I panicked a little when the aquilegia began to run to seed here in the coal-tip garden, as they were providing a sudden burst of contrast, but now the greens and buds of other plants due to flower soon provide promise of another flourish and I calm down. Does this mean that I should not enjoy the lull - that I should be ashamed of it in some way or provide excuses for not filling it up ?

No, I do not mind the gap.


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The dog's holiday part 3 (Dalemain and Holker Hall)

Dear Monty,

Here is the final instalment of this tour with dog.

If only we were all hardy perennials in a beautiful garden.

Day 10

We trundled up north over mountains and down to Ullswater and on to Dalemain.

Ullswater was wordless - Wordsworth had words I have none.

Dalemain www.dalemain.com

I thoroughly enjoyed Dalemain , It is of course set in its landscaped garden with view out toward the hills carefully choreographed. It respects its landscape and is structured but not overly styled or gardened to within an inch of its life like Levens. It has smaller gardens to its side which have been allowed to develop and there are beautifully managed 'wild' areas.

The stumpery and the wild garden next to the river - had a feeling of intimacy and individuality which was much stronger here. I gained encouragement as an amateur from seeing how plants were used, and I could see links with my own garden which was a joy because I intuitively feel my way along the gardening road. The terrace garden and the parterre did not flow together as it looked as though the parterre was once the walled vegetable garden ? But I loved it nonetheless.

A breath of fresh air.

Toff was not allowed in the gardens so we took him for a ramble back to Ullswater and Aira Force.
The waterfall thundered.

Day 11

Swallows and not quite amazons, mint cake and steamers.

Shore trail
Conniston Water
Diving ducks, distant steamers
Empty pontoons
Gentle lapping edge of quiet water
Interrupted by
Canoes pulled up
A gaggle of boys swallowing pizza and mint cake
And skimming stones.


Day 12

Holker Hall www.holker.co.uk

Holker is very much a tourist destination with lots of signage, well planned car parks and visitor movement through the system. It is a well oiled machine. BUT - though every bit as gardened as Levens - they have been open to change and have not clung rigidly to history so it has a vitality of its own.

An example of this change is the former tennis courts - they are simple, geometric and well clipped.
Planted at the time of my visit with an injection of blue forget-me-not interspersed with white tulips. There was symmetry with placed urns, and topiarised willow-leafed pears. Incredibly there were laurel arches/tunnels clipped tight. Laurel is a thug, it amazed me that this level of sharpness could be achieved !

The Italianate cascade and fountain makes me want to visit Italy even more. There was parkland with follies and a beautiful sundial. At the top of the cascade there stood a statue which while I contemplated it to make a photograph, suddenly became the 3 graces ?

Hugh Cavedish  the incumbent at Holker has a good philosophy - which made me warm to this place. On the subject of the gardens with their scents, statuary, light, shade and colours he states, "... all these things combine to make our souls gentler and more loving"