Monday, 12 June 2017

'Things are made to fade and fall away' ( Eliza Carthy)

Dear Monty,

We had very mixed weekend weather during the NGS opening of the Coal Tip Garden. Thank you for all those who visited and supported Rhos y Bedw too, the support and encouragement was amazing. You missed out Monty !

As much as we would like to think that gardens, our bodies and our buildings remain for ever - we all know about the fading and falling away ! I had to post a 'CAUTION' sign on the old pergola near the shed which has been falling down for a number of years. The shed houses some gardening tools - and my mower but has always been in my fantastic mind - a summer studio. The potential is there but the flesh is weak. I did once make a large fresco panel in that shed which has been sitting on a beautiful conservatory wall of a friend for some years, but that was about it. Since then the roof has begun to sag and the rain now gets in - in short it is a ruin.

During the open garden weekend I had some really interesting chats with fellow struggling garden makers; there is a kind of bond between us - they could see that there was no perfection here - and this seems to be an encouragement - perhaps more encouraging to others than 'perfection'? It was while talking about my falling and fading away shed that a neighbour and his keen garden maker partner said that they were throwing out a quantity of wrinkly tin roofing - alleluia ! So now I have the means to rebuild the roof, and hopefully it will not fall for some years to come - and I may also get a feature at the end of the garden that is sorely needed.

All of our gardens try to get away from us, and that was why it was so good to chat about it and be honest about our struggles. I enjoyed telling people that it is OK to have 'weeds' and the lawn doesn't have to be perfect. People seemed to think my garden was a lot of work - it really isn't .

I was also heartened that another 3 gardens are going to potentially join the scheme in the village - this is great because this ex-mining community needs a boost. We managed to raise over £200 even though the weather was dreadful on Saturday.



Monday, 29 May 2017

Three gardens

Dear Monty,

This time of year the owners of garden businesses and the media are attacking our senses with shows and merchandise, and I end up suffering from overload and stress that I need more to my garden to justify even calling it a garden.

I can't help thinking that I have made a mistake by opening my garden - because it is just really a weedy green clearing a controlled wilderness with one or two flowery things, a dog, a couple of chickens and the occasional grandchild or two. Oh yes and lots of washing on the line.

I visited two 'proper' gardens last weekend, Dyffryn House Gardens near Cardiff, and an NGS opening of the Glanusk Estate Gardens near Crickhowell. They are both large gardens - landscapes really. Dyffryn in particular is made to be seen from the long vista in front of the house, and the grand scale gives a sense of awe, but seeing these places close up I realise that weeds and diseases are ubiquitous and not only that, they are present even in the grandest of gardens. So all in all I feel reassured even with my dead and frosted hydrangeas.

Dyffryn House

Dyffryn House


Who said gardening is relaxing and good for mental health ?

Coal Tip Cloister Garden


Tuesday, 23 May 2017


Todays news brings a mixture of sadness, deep sorrow and tiredness. How can such acts of violence ever bring peace or order ? I cannot understand it.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Conversation, punctuation, strata.


The sculpted figures by have a conversation on this May morning. This moment in the Coal Tip Cloister Garden with iridescent beetle, blackbirds and a pointy dog is close to perfection to me.
Fresh green in the morning light - it is best seen from the kitchen terrace - and from the pergola in evening light.

So we learnt on GW last night that you have been influenced by Penelope Hobhouse and by Italian gardens. I in turn have been influenced by Italian gardens and the great romantic garden of The Veddw in Monmouthshire. As I have discussed in one of my early letters to you I was also influenced by the long vistas of Versailles which seemed to stick in my formative brain - I had never seen such a garden before, my experience of gardens had been small back gardens, rockeries and municipal parks.

I suppose that is why I feel so privileged to have even this modest space - space enough to create an illusion of an Italianate cloister. This garden is not about individual plants - but about placement and punctuation. A narrative, a conversation.

We are open over the weekend of June 10th-11th with the NGS. Teas and a few cakey things will be available along with the opportunity to purchase some original artwork.

Come on Monty - have a cup of tea.


Monday, 1 May 2017


 Dear Monty,

Tracery in the early morning light

A network of breaking buds
Nature's reward.
A song thrush pierces the air
Soft green leaves cascade from the beech buds.

The blackbird sits motionless in its nest
Beak skywards

Humanity wakes and thunders in the distance.

These hills could be Judean hills
This garden the garden tomb
The light around the sculpted woman
An angel appearing to Mary.

But this is Ystalyfera
The voices of a garden speak louder than words.


Sunday, 23 April 2017

Fame - er no not really !

Dear Monty,

It seems I am almost as well known as you - well perhaps not.
As you know Monty I have been writing to you for some years now and it seems that a few other people are reading my correspondence.

I will be opening the garden under the and the editor of our local paper picked up that fact from the 'Yellow Book' and also read the blog. So the long and short  (mainly short) of it is that a telephone interview took place and a photographer was dispatched.

The most painful part of the process was the photographer - he posed me with shears and secateurs in the most unnatural poses, and trying to smile for such a grumpy person as myself was a challenge - so I ended up looking like an elderly demented rabbit.

I'm not sure if during your filmed and photographed life you have ever been asked to hold your stomach in - but there I was trying to smile whilst straining the few abdominal muscles I have hidden under the rolls.

The garden is not looking glorious and neither am I so I do not recommend anyone does this.
Hopefully by June the garden will look better and I am contemplating a corset and 'Just for Men'.


Monday, 10 April 2017


Dear Monty,

I have begun to clear the debris of Winter and the new borders have been planted.
Spring is like a lit fuse, everything is building up to an explosion.

Isn't it strange that we forget what the garden looks like when in its fullness ?
Every year though there are changes, plants have moved about - found their own preferred place - and then there are the plants that have matured and formed larger clumps.

I have been resisting the temptation to be too tidy, because this would preclude the plants wishes to grow where they prefer. It is a struggle though to get the balance right.

I am trying to make a garden that has its own sense of place - and have been reading visiting and learning about what makes such a garden. Sometimes I think I am being pretentious - but then I think of such places as Derek Jarman's garden and am suddenly reinvigorated to keep trying.

I'm looking forward to May and the explosion.


Saturday, 11 March 2017

Oh right we are in THE BOOK !

Dear Monty,

I have had a delivery this week - the 'Yellow Book'. We are in the book. What is worse is the picture they have published makes the garden look fairly decent when in reality it is a bit dismal at the moment. In short I have a LOT of work to do.

But I'm not panicking ... No I'm really not .....Well perhaps a bit.

The main thing is making it worth the £3.50 entry - but Rhos y Bedw who we are partnering with is worth that alone. I know that there has been a debate about the standards of the gardens included but having met some of the gardeners/makers, they all get great pleasure from their gardens, and to be fair its main aim is to raise money for Nursing Charities. As a nurse myself I have seen Macmillan and Marie Curie in action and know the huge impact they have with individuals and families going through the trauma of cancer.

Gardens lift the spirits - even on dull days - but even more so on bright ones. I may not be writing many letters to you in the coming months Monty, yes I know you will be disappointed but I will be in the garden - you are welcome to pop over and give me a hand.


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Panic, panic, don't panic

Dear Monty,

Sara Venn recently blogged about her own neglected garden - but she spends so much time helping others I don't think she needs to feel bad about it - but of course we all do.

I admire her honesty - it's like we should all have pristine plots at all times - tidied at the right times etc etc.

I admit to feeling slightly panicky myself as I watch Spring moving on apace and Dan Pearson is digging and delving and you Monty are gearing up to tell us what we should be doing right now.

I'm glad therefore for Anne Wareham who has just published her new book Deckchair Gardener - I have only read the introduction but already I feel better.

Here is my garden - with rot and overgrown grass and shrubs not pruned on time and a border not yet dug and plants not moved and paint peeling off walls. Pergola needs demolishing, shed needs new roof and window and door ! And supposed to be opening again in June with NGS.

'Pergola' needs taking down

Dogwoods need pruning back

Grass needs cutting

All needs a tidy

New border is meant to come out towards path edge

This patch is to be extended to where the sculpture sits and plants moved !