I love silence and empty space. (I think this may be unusual!)
I have just acquired two new books: The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin, and The Spirit of Silence by John Lane. One is about sound and one is about the absence of sound. The cello is my favourite instrument.
This morning, most unusually for me I woke at 5.30. Even more unusually for me, I got up. The sun was shining and I made a cuppa and took it down to the shore and found, in the perfect silence, this beautiful scene - the thrift in flower, apparently growing out of the rocks.
I came home and put on Paul Tortelier playing the Bach Suites for Unaccompanied Cello - what a start to the day.
We were all new to opening our gardens to the public! (See post 12 May). Many wonderful and grand gardens open under the Scotland's Gardens Scheme, and while we think our gardens are full of interest, we make no claims to being grand. So, 'the people's gardens' are modest in size and, like their owners, very varied in character.
The gardens had to be vetted of course by the area organiser. Frantic tidying up - this was a great incentive to get on with all the half finished projects we all had. Great relief when they all passed muster. Plants were exchanged, meetings organised, friendships forged - lots of mutual encouragement.
After the event in 2009 Mary Thomson, area organiser said:
'...the gardens were enchanting, the visitors delighted, the teas delicious and the weather benign....and the charities handsomely rewarded'
We were so pleased we agreed to do it all again! Don't miss it! June 26 and 27 2010 - watch this space....
This is for my lovely book group - sorry not to be with you all.
One of my favourite garden writers is Helen Dillon. In On Gardening she follows in the tradition of Vita Sackville West's famous weekly Observer articles, though in Dillon's case they appeared in the Sunday Tribune in Ireland.
I like her irreverent sense of humour in articles such as Sowing a Few Seeds of Doubt, Stressed Out among the Greenfly, and Glorious Vulgarities in a Tub!
The following is from A Gardener's Refuge:
'The garden shed, the one you see pictures of in gardening books, is equipped with clean tools, gleaming tidily from their hooks, stacks of flowerpots, graded according to size, and an immaculate potting bench. The reality is somewhat different. The most versatile structure you can buy, the garden shed can be adapted to any use. Apart from being the last refuge for smokers these days, an extra bedroom in an emergency, a dump for anything and everything that seems too good to throw away, for me its most brilliant attribute is as a private place in which to escape from the world.
For a start nobody knows exactly what you are doing in the shed, but obviously you're very busy, and shouldn't be disturbed. It should be sited out of hearing distance of the telephone or doorbell. At the sound of approaching footsteps, rattle the flowerpots, so as to give the impression of work in progress....'
An exquisite flower in a wonderful shade of blue. Grassy upright foliage which makes a nice contrast with the rounded mounds in the garden. It flowers for only a week or two - but what flowers - you just have to stop and admire. A silver star for elegance and simple maintenance - cut back dead foliage in autumn or spring - that's it!
You've got to laugh at the advertising people. I got two new books from Amazon (The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin and The Spirit of Silence by John Lane). Inside the wrapping were two leaflets - one headed 'Secret Sales' and one called 'Naked Wines'. Neither of which turned out to be either secret or naked!
Secret Sales is 'exclusive' to anyone who cares to register, and in the small print on Naked Wines it says 'PS We don't expect you to drink your wines naked. We do think it's wise to always drink responsibly' !! Who thinks them up? Simply laugh and bin it....
Did I say I wanted minimum work? Must have been an off day when I said that, or yesterday's hot sun went to my head!
I'm now going to think about star plants of the second magnitude. Silver stars instead of gold. Gorgeous plants, but perhaps they have a short flowering season, or they only last a few years before fading away for ever, or they need dividing every two years to perform well - that kind of thing - more work in fact. So the decisions are 'Are they worth it?' and 'Have I the time to do any work they require?' Decisions for later, after I've reviewed them here.
Oriental poppies require no extra work. They flower at a time when the top ten are still waiting in the wings. Stunning colours - this one is my favourite from a mixture called 'Pizzicato' which I grew from seed. I collected seed from this one and wait to see if the resulting plants are the same colour - it takes patience, but isn't difficult.
Other favourites are Coral Reef and Karine - gentle peachy colours, Brooklyn, a luscious raspberry shade and the delectable Patty's Plum, which I have not got (yet).
The silver star is for their sumptuous beauty is spite of their short season and the big gap they leave when they finish flowering.
No 9 is anemone japonica. Takes time to establish, and can then be a bit thuggish, but utterly reliable, utterly beautiful and maintenance free (until they take over - but it takes a while, then you have to be prepared for some hauling out). 'Honorine Jobert' is white, 'September Charm' and tomentosa pink. The flowers are from midsummer onwards and float in the air above attractive foliage well into autumn.
Hosta is my no 10. Restful on the eyes among the froth of summer, big, bold and simple, and apart from slug protection - I just have to remember to start early, no attention is required, and clumps get steadily bigger and rarely need dividing.
No photos of the above yet - I'll take some this summer - but of course if you 'google' the name you'll get lots of images. I'm enjoying using only my own photographs in this blog - it's part of the fun.
With my ten star plants I think I can create a gorgeous garden with the minimum work: alchemilla mollis, hardy geraniums, foxgloves or delphiniums, nectaroscordum siculum, rosa glauca, hakonechloa albo-aurea, viola cornuta, knautia macedonica, japanese anemones and hostas. Underplant with lots of daffodils. Simple! Done!
the minimum work garden
'Any fool can make things complicated. It requires a genius to make things simple'
E F Schumacher (or Woody Guthrie, depending on your source!)
Ten minutes drive from the house, and a couple of hours of just relaxing and I feel like I've had a holiday! The primrose picnic was so refreshing. It is almost totally silent up there - one bird singing across the other side of the glen - echoing in the dark forest. Primroses, violets, some interestingly marked bird feathers, rough bark and lush mosses.
It is so nice to look at things that are not your responsibility. Much as I adore my house and my garden, it's hard not to think 'I must do this, and I must remember that' as I look around them. We often take a stroll round the garden first thing and I have to concentrate on not making it into a to-do list, but just observe what is new and beautiful - (the to-do list comes later - I'm a great list maker).
I'm still 'throwing ten things' (see 11May). Always having been a go at it full blast type, I am trying the incremental approach and finding it strangely satisfying. I don't feel so overwhelmed by a big task (and our shed is a BIG task) when I tackle it in 'throwing ten things' steps, and I've made spectacular progress by doing this every day for just 6 days!
I must obviously add 'chill out' to my to-do list every day too....
The primrose picnic was freezing but there were lots of violets too this year - exquisite!
Another star plant, or rather a galaxy of tiny stars, is the hardy perennial knautia macedonica from the scabious family. Flowers like small pincushions wave around on the tops of wiry stems over a very long season. They come in shades of lilac, violet, ruby red and crimson and I have been selecting from the deepest vivid claret coloured ones and now have many flowers of this colour weaving in and out of other things, looking like dots in an impressionist painting. My friend Claire, walking around the garden said 'The more you look, the more you see'.
I recently read of composer Alison Burns' music that it 'shivers and crackles with delicious harmonies'. Knautia shivers and crackles in the garden with harmony when it is among magenta hardy geraniums, and with contrast when threading through the lime green flowers of alchemilla mollis, or intermingled with the brilliant orange of alstroemeria. It also looks stunning in posies with blue cornflowers. Love it!