Thursday 10 June 2010

Welcome to my Garden


Two visits to the city of Bristol in early May made me want to start this blog. On the first occasion I went to a private view in the upper part of town. Although it was a Sunday afternoon it was, as usual, difficult to park the car. I walked through several streets to reach the gallery. The paintings on show were by three local artists on the theme of nature. I went back to the car through a small square where pink cherry blossom was blowing from the trees, the petals collecting in drifts in the gutter. The ground looked like the aftermath of an Indian wedding and I walked my way along the ribbon of bright colour as happily as when I kick my way through fallen leaves in autumn in the woods near my home.

My second visit was for a mid-week appointment in the centre of town and this time I took the sensible option and went on the park and ride. Here was no sign of spring; there were bikinis and sarongs in the shops but no heart lifting, flowering evidence of nature anywhere on the streets. It was cold and could have been any time of year. I thought of my garden, bursting with growth and promise, how much pleasure it gives me and how miserable I would be without it. So, if you long for a garden, come and share mine.

Here’s the gate. Come in! Welcome!

Now you are in an unruly but much loved garden in the South West of England. I’m Rosemary, the gardener, but don’t look for expert information, I’m an enthusiastic amateur. My garden contains past, present and future. There is always a lot of hope in the future that the plants will thrive, the slugs diminish and the crops in the vegetable plot be plentiful.

But first take a look at my past. I can’t tell you the name of this tree peony that’s flowering its socks off by the gate, because the label has been lost. I bought it as a birthday present for my father, one of many garden gifts that we exchanged. When he died, ten years ago, I spoke to it nicely and transplanted it from his home in North Yorkshire. This is its best year. It only ever gave my dad the benefit of one bloom each spring. He would phone up and tell me when the peony was flowering and say how beautiful it looked.

Quite a number of plants in the garden are from family and friends. Because of this they are especially precious. My Aunt Elsie died last month, the last family member of my parents’ generation, but the clump of white drumstick primulas that came from her garden in Kilcreggan flourish, and will do so, I hope, for many years to come. Their flowering acts as a seasonal jog to my memory of holidays by the Clyde and they bring the absurd remembered image of my rotund uncle only just afloat in his small, overburdened rowing boat.

I did not start this garden from scratch; it has a past of it’s own. The previous owners planted with care, but with many shrubs and plants that I would not have chosen because they flower in my least favourite colours of orange and yellow. But, although I dislike orange intensely, I have come to appreciate the colour yellow because it enhances the blues and whites of flowers that I love.

There are people who positively hate the strident fields of rape, but I think that these brilliant blocks of yellow excite the eye and display the structure of the trees and hedgerows. The colour fades soon enough to leave us with the usual soft palette of greens.


A brilliant yellow on the land.

Some hate it; others think it grand.

Rape in the fields that shocks the eye,

makes noses run and people cry,

awakes my senses, makes me stare,

observe the subtle with the glare,

soft English green and grey and blue

enlivened by this startling hue.


After a spring of drought a skylark sings

high in the moist, grey sky.

The brilliant chrome of rape

displays the geometry of fields,

makes eye alert

The landscape freshly seen

and distance fades to purple hue.

Deep carpeted in blue the woodland walk

where bluebells now have drunk their fill

and cherry blossom drifts on violets.

How joyful, after winter’s gloom,

this colour,

this delight.


It is the yellow month.

Flags bloom around the lake.

One thousand lily pads send up their periscopes

and watch

as ducklings in neat crocodiles

traverse their space,

It is the growing month.

Sunshine and rain.

The earth sprouts enamel-petaled buttercups.

in the tilled earth neat rows of green

growing, almost as you watch.

The lanes are filled with lace

and everything promises.

It’s almost June.

The irises are giving a wonderful display. They are mostly un-named and came as gifts from other people’s gardens. The delicate dark blue came from my father’s friend, so I call it, ‘Mr. Pick’. The prolific mid-blue bearded iris came from Constable Burton Hall in Yorkshire when Bruce, the butler, was getting to grips with the large, overgrown iris bed. It is a really, ‘good do-er’, and many of my friends now have a sturdy, showy clump of their own.

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