There are signs of significant change, as summer relaxes into autumn here in the UK.
The roses have amazed us with a second flush that is bolder than the first.
I’ll close with words from Rhys Lewis’ recent song, Seasons, which is a welcome reminder of impermanence in life – just as happiness is something we can cultivate and remain open to shifting in source, we must remember that difficulty and suffering are not permanent, and every moment is new.
We all go through seasons We’re changing all the time It can’t always be summer Even in July So however cold you’re feeling How ever grey your mind Spring will be here soon It’s okay to be blue We all go through seasons
You don’t judge a lake for freezing over You don’t curse the leaves for turning brown And you don’t blame the days for getting shorter So why’d you blame yourself for getting down?
Here’s what the garden looked like this time last year. We soon got some turf put down so we wouldn’t be living in a mud bath all winter, and carved out some beds.
I’m looking forward to another gardening year, and to learning much more about plants and how to care for them. Here’s hoping some birds visit this autumn/winter, too (so far the singular sighting I’ve made is of a partridge running along the grass!)
Which plants are you especially loving in your garden lately? I’d love to hear.
It’s my mum’s birthday today and, before she and my dad pop over to celebrate, I took a few minutes to capture what’s growing in our garden on this special day.
That I notice and appreciate flowers and plants so much certainly stems from my childhood: my mum would always be growing something pretty in the garden, which was ever-changing as we rented and moved quite a bit. Once I’d grown old enough not to be playing with worms and woodlice, she instilled in me a penchant for looking more closely at plants, and this is something I’m developing further today, within a mindfulness practice.
Something I tried recently (thanks to the RHS’ Gardening for Mindfulnessbook by Holly Farrell): select a flower or the leaf of a plant and spend five minutes looking very closely at it, taking in its details: colours, patterns, shapes, textures. Notice if it’s obvious whether it’s been pollinated; if it’s newly-bloomed or on its way out; how the light catches it and if there is iridescence to it; if it’s moving in the breeze or still; if any bees or other insects are near or on it…there are many observations you might make in this short time, and once you have taken a few moments to look carefully, you’ll know the flower or leaf pretty well.
Taking it slowly
My main tip with the above practice is to take your time, not striving to mentally list all you can see immediately, but rather beginning with the perspective that you’re watching the flower or leaf, seeing it with fresh eyes in each moment. You’ve probably never looked at this particular flower or leaf up-close before, or indeed with this much care; and if you were to look at it tomorrow, it’d be different. (Indeed, in each moment the flower or leaf and the conditions around it are changing). In that sense, each time we practice this it’s a brand new, one-off experience, reminding us that each moment of our lives is, too.
I’m only halfway through the book I mentioned above, and suspect there will be other ideas well worth sharing from it in the weeks ahead.
I hope someone reading this might try out the practice and let me know if it was interesting, helpful or fun! (Personally I found my first try moving and the second more challenging due to my state of mind, and I guess in that sense it’s a good gauge day-to-day).
Wishing everyone a restful weekend, once it arrives.
I visited Clover Cottage in West Wickham last weekend within the National Garden Scheme’s summer offering. Shirley Shadford has built the most gorgeous front and back gardens from scratch, having lived in the cottage with her husband for the best part of two decades.
Shirley kindly showed my mum and I around the gardens and we found her enthusiasm infectious as she talked through the clouds of geranium, thalictrum, astrantia and roses which line the billowing pathway and flowerbeds there.
Her careful and generous employment of plant supports to keep these fantastic plants looking their best made me realise I need to invest in some more, too!
Rather than narrate too much, I’m keen to simply share some of the photographs I took, which hopefully go some way in illustrating the beauty of the planting.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Clover Cottage, and highly recommend you visit for the real experience if you can. Photos simply don’t do it justice!
Thankfully you can experience this beautiful cottage garden yourself next year: it’s open 20, 27 February and 6 March for the Snowdrop Festival, and 12, 19 June in summertime.
Having bent towards the beating sun in recent weeks, I can almost hear the plants breathing a sigh of relief as they soak up significant rainfall today. Several of our roses have flopped to the ground, their petals scattered all over the surrounding earth, but it’s nothing a little sunlight or staking won’t remedy.
I’ve not been in the garden much this past couple of weeks due to a maintenance issue with a neighbouring property, but now that’s fixed I’m making up for it big time. The sheer number of weeds, including rapeseed from a field behind us, has made recovering the garden quite a challenge this week – but it’s one I’m so pleased to take on. (To give you a sense of just how willing I am: a couple of times I’ve almost fallen over in my enthusiasm to pull the weeds up).
Isn’t June a beautiful month? Everything is burgeoning, vibrant and soaking up the warmth of the sun. Our roses have made an appearance now, and the strong myrrh scent of one in particular – ‘Scepter’d Isle’ – is just gorgeous.
I hope your weekend is restful and that you’re enjoying June as much as I am.
Our first May with a garden is drawing to a close, so it’s a good time to reflect on what’s been blooming, and where. Noticing gaps in the flowerbeds and patterns of colour will be helpful for next springtime. For example, aside from wallflowers and bulbs, the garden has predominantly been dotted with pink, red and white flowers so far this year; and one bed has had practically no flowers at all, so I’ll know to put some geums and other smaller plants there for next year.
And that’s the round-up! I hope you’re enjoying this time of year, too.
I visited Great Thurlow Hall in Suffolk this weekend, and took a few quick phone snaps of things which stood out as especially beautiful and fascinating…
Beyond this, the abundance of cow parsley and established trees in the arboretum – which follows the line of the river – guarantee a peaceful and inspirational visit, no matter the weather.
I highly recommend exploring this wonderful garden when it is next open within the National Garden Scheme. I’d love to return in summertime when the peonies are blooming; and earlier in spring for the daffodils.
Meet Clare Halifax – a London-based botanical artist who recently exhibited with Cambridge Contemporary Art. I spotted Clare’s work and was instantly intrigued to learn about her influences and upcoming projects
Stylistically my work is considered illustrative, incorporating intense detail of drawing. Often the word ‘intricate’ is used to describe the end result of the subject depicted and the drawing process used. Over the years I have developed my work into more challenging, larger-scale architectural settings and dense botanical settings, while recently including more elements of colour as I became more confident as a printmaker.
I’ve always had a great love of nature, finding it has a relaxing property. My initial botanical pieces were created as a work reset after I completed a series of complicated architectural pieces; I wanted to do something lighter. I’d recently visited the Barbican Centre Conservatory in London – a beautiful tropical oasis in the middle of the city – and found it inspiring to see the elements of nature juxtaposed against the brutal architecture. This led to my first botanical series.
I have a fondness for the monstera deliciosa… it is very satisfying to draw and the leaf shapes are so unique and instantly identifiable. But nature comes in many forms and plants are all enjoyable to interpret, from the houseplant, to those in a garden bed or in a palm house.
A recent Cambridge exhibition focused on my botanical work. Nathalie Staples from Cambridge Contemporary Art curated a beautiful window display that celebrated nature through the use of my work, hanging amongst houseplants and ceramics. It was a wonderful antidote to all that has been happening.
I found alternative ways of working from home throughout the first lockdown. I was able to develop my drawings into an original series of studies of the houseplants in my home. In general, I gravitated towards drawing nature scenes as this felt more inspirational to me and, living in a flat in London with no outdoor space, I became focused on bringing the outside in through my work.
On the negative side of lockdown, my concentration levels came and went. As was likely the case for so many of us, I was not as productive as I initially set out to be with all the time we suddenly had on our hands.
I am participating in the Art Car Boot Fair this month, with Smithson Gallery. The theme is ‘Flora and Fauna’. I think many people have realised how restorative nature can be, and it definitely seems to be the mood of the moment.
One thing few people know about me…? I can sign the alphabet!