The bliss of a sunny day is even greater when the weather forecast is not good, but the day turns out to be beautiful!
I hope if you've had some sunshine you have been able to be out enjoying it.
Enchanting aquilegias. They do their thing then disappear They never get out of hand or in the way of anything else.. . No work involved at all, ever.
I have a number of easy things which do that, and I'll be collecting seed and sprinnkling it with abandon all around. Welsh poppies both orange and yellow, geranium robertianum Celtic White, erigeron karvinskianus, forget-me-nots and foxgloves.
Any other contenders for the no-work category anyone?
Home as sanctuary, or a prison depending on yur circumstances.
I am so fortunate to have space to call my own, filled with things I love and cherish which in turn nourish me. Although confined to it at present (though thankfully I have a garden too) I am liking thinking of it as a cocoon, protecting me, helping me gtow, and making me stronger (my word for the year) for when I can emerge, blinking, into the 'new normality'.
My grandaughter visited a few months ago and sat herself down on the floor with a smile on her face. What are you thinking? I asked her. Happy memories she replied.
I want to have happy memories associated with home in this period too, so I have given it some extra care and loving attention. Outer order, inner calm. Flowers, music, books, candles, a little extra cleaning here and there, a few minor repairs....it's a bit shabby and perhaps a bit spartan, but I do love it.
Have you been sheltering in place? Has it changed the way you feel about your home?
The architecture of my front garden has very permeable walls.
I've considered the floors here and the roof here. Walls in a house serve the purpose of protection and privacy (as well as holding up the roof!), and in the garden they could be said to servie a similar purpose. They protect from the wind to a degree, create some privacy, and have openings for access and for views.
We renewed the original picket fence around the perimeter. It is now held up mainly by the honeysuckle which growns on it! In a way the fence is a declaration of ownership. It keeps strangers out and pets and children in. See here. Over time and by growing plants on it it has become merged with the surrounding landscape - the 'borrowed landscape in designer-speak - making it feel much bigger than it is.
Clearly defined entrance from the drive and the fence between gardens is covered in plants. Trees in every direction.
Privacy too from the neighbours on the other side and a magnificent forest backfrop.
The yellow gate (purely decorative) faces the yellow fron door and the view of the bluebels in the forest is lovely at this time of year. There is a road between the fence and the forest but you are not aware of it until the occasional car passes by.
Openings give views to the forest and to the field (far left) which seem to extend the garden into the countryside around. The borrowed landscape.
Prospect and refuge are both provided for. A view to se who is approaching and enough sense of enclosure to make you feel safe. Ancient traditions which still apply.
The house meanwhile does not have permeable walls and has thankfully kept out the wind and the rain these last few days and feels rather like a cocoon...
Yes, same title as yesterday, but yesterday I meant it literally.
Today with an announcement that easing of the lockdown may be imminent here in Scotland, I mean it in the sense that things may be getting better! It can't come soon enough. The strain is beginning to tell.
Normally pretty disciplined about what I eat, I binged yesterday on treats and fell into a 'sugar -sleep' on the sofa in the afternoon. It's all too easy to start thinking What does it matter?
What does it matter if I write a blog post tonight or leave it till tomorrow? What does it matter if I wash my hair today, if I put off changing the bed for one more day, if I don't bother cooking tonight....If I skip the death tally today.
Perhaps what matters for me right now is to find sweet things to do for myself that don't involve sugar!
Pick little posies of lily of the valley to put beside the bed
and in the bathroom. Check.
Light a candle. Check.
Have a daytime bath. Check.
Send a loving message to someone else who is alone. Check.
Wear something different. Check.
Trivial perhaps, but also quite important. As so often it's the little things that make a difference and help us maintain our equilibrium.
What matters to you right now?
A change in the weather has brought me in from the garden - the good weather and the garden have kept me going for weeks - so although I'll continue my survey of the garden design I'll also take a fresh look at my sheltering space... home.
Blackbird and heron
..from the haammock
into the birch trees planted almost 20 years ago. A tree canopy gives a sense of enclosure, dappled shade and a perch for flocks of chaffinches and goldfinches. In the absence of trees a pergola can be useful to give height and structure and provide screening and/or privacy.
Other roofs in my garden are on the open porch and in the greenhouse which I am developing as a place to sit when it 's raining. I've just ordered a collection of scented geraniums for it.
I like that one of the cornus is now just tall enough for me to walk under.
And I pruned the lower branches from the trunks of the betula Jacquemontii so that I can walk under the canopy and to show off the white trunks to better effect.
The ground plan of the garden here, has like most of the gardens I've designed, straight lines - squares and rectangles - close to the house, and big generous curves further from the house.
The outlines close to the building are lined up with features of it - doors, window openings, edges. These lines extended out into the garden link the proportions of the garden with those of the architecture of the house in a very satisfying way, felt rather than seen I would suggest by those who use the garden or visit it. The more organic shapes created by the curved lines soften the boundaries and, especially if the garden borders open counvtryside, makes a visual and seamless link with that, merging with the 'borrowed landscape'. Good garden design is a subtle art.
I love the way this integrates the garden with the house aand I love drawing out the plans on the ground. I rarely get to draw on such a big scale!
John Brookes' Garden Design Book chapter 2 Choosing and Using a Grid explains this concept particularly well
Next, the roof..
The floor of my garden consisits of four materials - grass, gravel, paving and plants.
I think it best not to have too many different materials - three to four is ideal.
The grass needs mowing - as you know I favour differential mowing - having dfferent areas at different hieghts with paths mown through. I have written about it often (will try to link to those posts).
Gravel needs weeding, but is very forgiving and really useful for awkward shapes.
The paving here consists of a very straight path to the door of boring concrete slabs which ideally are power hosed once a year and need edging about once a year too. Functional. I don't try to make a 'feature' out of everything.
Plants are the most interesting of the 'floors'. Ideally shrubs, bulbs and perennials which only require cutting back in autumn. Several areas are both low maintenance and beautiful to look at. The bed under the cornus which I mentioned here is quite stunning when the geraniumss are in flower. Low Maintenance doesn't need to be boring!
I have fewer different plants than I used to have, but have increased the numbers of those which do best with least work. Here are some combinations that work here..
Geranium Roxanne and agapanthus give a long season of blue flowers. There is also a blue campanula lactiflora in this bed.
Centaura montana cover the dying foliage of the daffodils, the hosta will expand quite a bit, and the rubus aureus needs watching but is easily pulled out after rain.
Again foliage almost covers dying daffodil leaves. This geranium does not flower for long but I like the contrasts with the acer and the clipped box foliage and with the large shiny leaves of the bergenia yet to come. LIttle needs doing here.
Pulmonarias have made a lovely carpet under the cornus. They are prone to mildew but I find if I cut back the flower stems after flowering (I leave it as long as possible as they are much visited by bees) I get fresh spotted foliage for the rest of the summer.
You can make a garden with hostas, alchemilla and hardy geraniums! Some of the clumps of alchemilla are too big for me to divide and will have to wait till someone stronger comes along! Best to pull out seedlings when they are small (again easier after rain). I wouldn't be without it's billowing lime green flowers.
This bed had white lupins grown from seed but they only last about three years or so. I have just planted it up with ox eye daisies which were the only things I had enough of. I think they will soon cover the bare ground and look well beside the white stems of the birch trees. As I am leaving more grass to grow long this year I think they will also tie in well with the wilder look.
I like this green phase in the garden but soon all the bare earth will be covered and all the colours will start to come. Magenta, blue, purple and lime green mainly.
What I am after is low maintenance with the wow factor! Getting there.
Watch this space..
..is not locked down (in fact it might even be on the increase).
A local man agreed to cut Barry's path for me. It's the path from the red gate to the shore and I was worried about it becomeing completely overgrown. Barry made it as an anniversary gift for me one year and it's very special to me.
I discovered that he had done some hedgecutting me some years ago, and it seems he had liked my mini-meadow (I just let the grass grow) and we had discussed differential mowing and various ways of reducing maintenance costs and increasing diversity. He has since been creating meadows in some of the gardens he looks after, telling his clients they don't need to have all the grass cut all the time. In one large garden he has watched wild flowers appear and even ground nesting birds come in.
He made a great job of the path, charged me only £20 and offered to cut it throughout the summer, free of charge.
How kind is that?
It made my day.
Simply Grow has perhaps more posts than any other category in this blog (next to Simply Live which is my kind of default category) and I think I will be adding to their mumber as I am not doing much other than gardening for the foreseeable future!
As I mentioned yesterday I am looking at how the garden has matured and has it's own personality and relationship to the wider landscape. I do tend to see it in architectural terms as well as from a botanist or horticulturalist view point.
It is like a three dimensional composition of shapes and forms. There are circles and ovals, rectangles and squares, horizontal and vertical elements, straight lines and curves - all playing off one another. They could be likened to floors and ceilings, walls and openings, exits and entrances enclosures and open spaces, light and shadow and even furniture, and it might be fun to lake a look at the front garden in those terms.
I especially like horizontal forms - I think they create a tranquil atmosphere - and here is the second of the cornus controversa, smaller than the central one
The third one is slightly smaller still and set in grass. I spent a long time positioning them - think in plan of a triangle with three sides of different lengths - and I like the dynamic between them.
They were all the same size when planted and I love that they now vary in size - pure chance of course! The fact that they will grow makes placing long term things even trickier.
We also planted the lovely Viburnum plicatum Maresii with its tiered layers and it did wonderfully then, inexplicably most of it died. It went from about 6 feet wide to about 18 inches. It may recover, but slowly.
If I call these shrubs furniture they are the long elegant sofas or coffee tables, but as they mature into trees they will play a different role. The challenge of designing with living things is that they wil change.
I have mentioned before the garden I designed around an existing broom which promptly died! I didn't know at the time that brooms are short lived shrubs.
I hope you are able to enjoy a garden, park or open space during lockdown.
One of my favourite books on landscape architecture is The Landscape of Man by Geoffrey and Susan Jellicoe.
both the garden and me!
See this post from ten years ago for an explanation of how the garden has been developing over the 20 years since we began it.
That underlying plan is becoming the dominant one and has a quite different character from the flower garden I began with. There are still flowers - I couldn't be without them - but form has become more important I would say and I am thrilled with the composition of horizontals and verticals and the contrast of wild and clipped.
The three cornus controversa variegata, also known as the wedding cake tree have done well. They grow very slowly, and the tallest of them (I can now wallk under it!) loses a lower branch every now and then, so I have bought another to plant at its base in the hope that they will eventually combine their horizontal tiers to make a beautiful centrepice.
It is underplanted with daffodil Thalia and geraniums psilostemnon and Patricia and alchemilla mollis, providing vibrant colours in summer. Very low maintenance, but I have to limit the spread of the alchemilla.
What made you smile today?
While weeding in the garden I found my favourite pair of sunglasses which I lost two summers ago! And lthey are perfectly ok!
The second batch of sweet peas are germinating. (The first one produced two seedlings out of about 18 seeds.) The first thing I do in the morning is look in the propagator and this brought a big smile to my face.
Yesterday's pickings from the garden produced all these little posies and instead of scattering them around the house I put them all in a row down the middle of the table, which meant I had to deal with all the clutter that had accumulated there. It made me smile once it was done!
The wonderful weather continues. Sunshine always makes me smile.
Loving What Is by Byron Katie has been a really influential book for me. Her Four Questions and Turaround apply to almost any situation, including the current one, and I find they clarify my thinking.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here. It's comforting when other people echo your own thoughts and illuminating and inspiring to find new ways of looking at things. It becomes an interesting conversation which I think is this blog at it's best!
Strategy as well as meaning goal setting and long term planning can also mean adapting to new circumstances, which is what we are all having to do. A dear friend going through difficult times said she felt all at sea and to simply heave to until the tide changes, the wind picks up or the fog lifts and the way ahead can be seen more clearly could be a very wise strategy. We're all in uncharted waters, to extend the metaphor!
My strategy is to give my undivided attention to the garden.
(I have stopped moving furniture and playing Mozart very loud, which I have come to realise is what I tend to do in a crisis.)
The garden is maturing and changing and is in need of proper tlc. It is one of the few things I do where I am not thinking of other things at the same time which will be a very good thing, and since Barry died it has been a bit neglected, though superficially pretty and colourful and has given me huge pleasure.
They say be careful what you wish for. I wanted to live simply...
Well I get up, eat, garden, sleep.
In many ways my life is more simple than it's ever been!
Cauliflower, asparagus, carrot, ginger, pear, apple and banana. Delicious.
The clematis from inside looking out.
Starting mowing paths in the grass.
The complexities of the wider world are beyond me at the moment, so I will stick to the simpler things, the things I have some control over, and be grateful for them, as a way of coping.
What's your strategy?
..with plenty of time to contemplate nature.
It has gone very quiet here on the blog too!
I hope you are all well and copiing.
Thanks Mary for this link about Venice.
That's how I feel after a six day virtual retreat with The Body Toolkit.
What a week it has been. We have just had a check in session with Katrina and the wonderful stories of the other participants have been so inspiring. Many people did the retreat while working, while in lockdown, while looking after children and --this is a hard one - while others in the household were eating ordinary meals in front of them. With support from Katrina and other members of the group we all did it!
It's quite a commitment making your own juices and soups (much nicer to go to the Highlands and have them brought to you !) but its very do-able and I can't recommend it highly enough.
I feel full of energy - a nice steady natural kind. I feel calm and positive (and I am not rushing back to news/tv/social media/hype of any kind). I've lost a few pounds and -hurrah - that 'muffin top'. So I am trying on the cothes I didn't want to wear and thinking 'Yes I can wear that again and feel nice in it'. You know I like clothes :-)
I slept a lot the first few days - naps in the hammock - the weather was lovely and I had headaches for two days and I listened to what Katrina calls Body Messages and paid attention.
The body's default setting is to heal. I have come away with new knowledge, and confidence that I can help this happen, suggested transition routines and meals, lots of references to follow up, and a recovered optimism which I was afraid I was losing. The retreat was as much a mental reset as a physical one for me, and for many of the participants. I'm happy.
I'm having a Yay moment!
I would actually like the garden to stop growing for, say, two weeks.
It is at a lovely stage just now with fresh foliage, colour in the clematis, the tulips, the camassias and pulmonarias, the scented azalia lutea. The grass is growing but not too fast but I know that everything will speed up including the weeds and it will all get away from me any time now! But it is such a gift. I have little posies all around the house, on window ledges, under lamps, by the bedside, on the edge of the bath and always on the dining table, delighting both eye and nose.
Day two of the juice detox and I am a bit tired and headachey, but not hungry at all...and I had half an hour in the hammock this afternoon.
I am so busy chopping vegetables (butternut squash? I need a chain saw!) that I can't quite keep up with the blog, so forgive me if posts are a bit erratic.....
Does anyone have any thoughts about Super Juice Me? (see yesterday's post).
Clematis 'Freda' needs her fringe cut..
Talking of which have you been cutting your own hair? I've always had a bit of a go at my fringe between haircuts, but I have just given myself a full cut! My hairdresser, who is very meticulous, will have her work cut out when she eventually gives me another cut - one of my first wishes after lockdown.
My first day of juicing was great and I am not the least bit humgry.
If you are interested in the topic you might like this documentary..
An artist seeking a simpler life - (but not too simple!)