Wakey wakey! Absolutely not “woke”

When you think about it isn’t it wonderful. The way you gradually come out from that longing for hot heavy food and drink and emerge like a newborn into a world of salad and fresh- picked fruit? Suddenly the snug scarf round your neck and up to your nose can be shed and you come out of your chrysalis and show the world some skin. Oh for heaven’s sake shut up about the rolls of fat round your waist and the idea that you’re less than beautiful! Personally I could weep when I see the faces, yes some old, not all beautiful without make- up, unshaven, yes I could weep at the beauty of you all! What’s that? Well for starters you’re still alive dammit! You’re making it past this sludge and hate and terror- time of the virus. And another thing: I don’t want a tropical island or a never-ending sun! What a bore! I want Autumn with those glorious colours, I want the sound of the leaves scraping across the shining wet asphalt, I want the sound of the rain and maybe some thunder.

Eternal summer I’m letting the stupid celebs keep it. We’re all born for change believe me. Look at your kids your grandkids; what could be more exciting than charting the course of these drooling shitting bundles of joy into toddlers and eventually creatures like you with opinions to fight over and love. No no I’ve gotta have bulbs to coddle and to watch over, buds to wait for with bated breath, change in all its forms. I’ve gotta see how my garden is maturing, how my family is growing up, how my students are improving and the little thought “that was me, just a little”.So, off to your paradise islands if you must but beware! Autumn will come (and go) Winter will arrive and I’ll be pulling up my cuddly fake fur collar and eating truffles in Alba. My goodness, how many Pina Coladas have you had to drink today to drown your homesickness? Poor you!

Gardening, Seasons

But I always thought we ENGLISH invented roses….

Yes, well along with everything else worthwhile: cricket, all dressed in white on the village green, bucolic!; afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches (no crusts) and scones with raspberry jam and whipped cream; a proper breakfast with cholesterol-busting bacon, eggs beans, hash browns, fried bread; the weather with information on the best places to experience it published in magazines; messin’about in boats; beer warm and flat, not this continental joke of lager; gin and tonic which kept Elizabeth the Queen Mum alive well into her 100’s; my goodness I could go on forever , the list is endless. But I’ve just had the most terrible shock! I wanted to write about my glorious golden yellow rose and I find that it was bred ….in Germany! So after this dramatic wakeup call I decided to research the origins of my other roses. You won’t believe this! I nearly didn’t ….and they’re mine, in my garden, loved under the illusion that they are all English roses! Loved and pampered under false pretences! One is German, two are French, one is Spanish and only two are English roses! We could’ve stayed in the European Union! And I am always so careful, trying to re-create my little bit of home in my backyard! I drive the poor bulb man from Rome crazy insisting on only English bluebells, I order Spring daffodils from England, and clematis England’s second favourite flower? That too.

You never,ever know enough do you? Because the information is all there at a tap on your phone. MAIGOLD (Kordes 1953) The Kordes family is based in Schleswig-Holstein (I thought that the Grimm brothers invented this name for a fairy tale!) and is an innovative breeder responsible for early flowering roses.

FELIPE KIFTSGATE (Murrel 1964) This one was developed by Hilda Murrel, a rose grower and campaigner against nuclear energy. Her rose was popularised by being grown in Vita Sackville-West’s famous Sissinghurst gardens.

SOMBREUIL (Robert 1850) but unfortunately I can find nothing about him though he sounds French.

GHISLAINE DE FELIGONDE ( Eugene Turbat 1916 )Another mysterious Frenchman, but Ghislaine was a nurse in the great war who married a wounded soldier the Count of Feligonde.

MME:GREGOIRE STAECHELIN (Dot 1927) a breeder who put Spanish rose growers on the map famous for his shrub variety.He has been likened to Gaudi as a kind of expressionist because he “consistently chose roses with a wilder and more extreme character than their parents.”

MALVERN HILLS (Austin 2000) breeder of English style roses and one of the fathers of the modern English rose.


Small and delicate or big and blowsy?

That’s a difficult choice for a gardener. Naturally you want your visitors to gasp with admiration but unfortunately they do that in front of the huge blooms of Hibiscus. I still can’t fathom why I bought it in the first place? A moment of madness I suppose. Every year I decide to get rid of it but I’m against destroying healthy plants, and it is , it is! I remember being so excited when the man in charge of my condo asked if he could come and take pictures of my garden and how bitterly disappointed I was when he went straight over to the oversized pink hibiscus. On the other hand I realise I can’t get everyone down on their knees crawling about under the 3 big Osmanthus trees searching for my epidemiums and once they’ve found them needing a magnifying glass to pick out the details of the tiny flowers! These are my latest love. I’m totally in love with these little plants whose flowers appear overnight and which are quite difficult to research. The only book I have found so far is in French as is my book on fougères (ferns). I have to give the French their due, they’re very refined plantsmen and women. And getting back to visitors people don’t always understand that my beloved hakonechloa don’t have flowers that you might notice. I was reading the other day that we gardeners don’t really enjoy garden visitors especially when they don’t appreciate our efforts, but what is even worse is when they try to give their piecemeal advice. I can never understand collaborative gardening, getting together in the potting shed to make decisions over a cuppa? Heaven forbid! So now you know, if you come to see my garden, you must first practise a range of “oooh”s and “aaah”s then I think I’ll let you in and tell you the boring story of this one, that one and the other one ,because as you know any self-respecting garden has plants grown from cuttings her mum gave her, bulbs her friend wanted to throw away, precious cargo brought home from the Chelsea Flower Show……forewarned is forearmed!…

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Gardening, My Diary

Come rain or shine

Let’s start with the rain. A really cold, heavy rain driven by a blustery wind, managed to invade the usually safe haven of my patio and wet all my precious seed packets! I’d got stuff in envelopes saved from my own garden, little brown paper packets from the RHS gardens (these contained the more unusual plants) as well as all the brightly coloured packets bought in England and endowed with great hope! Now what to do? I know, I just know they’ll germinate so it’s asbsolutely necessary to get them in the ground, sharp! But I’ll need so many pots, so much soil, so much space and lastly, so much patience…. Gardening has taught me patience, but it’s of the long-term ,waiting-for-bulbs type of patience, not the short-term quickie patience needed for seeds!

The next day it was warm. A wonderful sunny day. With a little help from my friends I eventually found out how to prune Lantana .Pretty easy actually, but maybe I ought to wait for results before saying that.It was also a suitable day to exploit my grandchildren! I love being Head Gardener! I even bought myself a mug once in a garden centre saying just that! You’ve got to make things clear to people right from the start! The job was to dig up the Iris foetida and transplant it outside the garden in the “orchard”. Done. We were then able to plant a Hydrangea “Hopcorn” in its place. I bought this at the Chelsea Flower Show 2/3 years ago and it has been lovingly cared for in a pot since then. An oleander plant which was given to me was transplanted easily because it is still small, next to the one already outside.

And when I’m not in the garden? Well I fill in my 5-year gardener’s record book, look up pruning in the RHS handbook, and NEVER lounge on the sofa in the patio. But at least I’m still relatively sane.There are gardeners who are so enthusiastic that they use miners’ headlights to garden at night. Did you know?

Gardening, My Diary, Seasons

An almost perfect day (or the art of making the most of what you’ve got)

wp-1578089233403.jpgI overslept, not you would think the best way to start a day but there it is. I decided to do something I’d been neglecting but which fills me with happiness, take a stroll around the garden and take photos. I started off in the far corner to admire my handiwork on the winter jasmin (J.nudiflorum) and as any gardener will know, plans don’t always come to fruition. But I wanted to pull all the straggly shoots up, wire them in then let them cascade down in an unruly golden waterfall. At the moment it’s more of an unruly stream, but I’m getting there!


Next the big surprise. I found a “vagabond” self -sown raspberry fruiting among my budding Edgeworthia (E.crysantha). That’s certainly worth a picture. And the shrub is going to be spectacular this year, it’s covered in buds. It’s one of the most failsafe plants in the garden.

Then there are the lovely winter clematis (probably C.napaulensis),which taught me a fundamental lesson. Patience. The sterling virtue of the good gardener. It took them 3/4 years fromwp-1578095471597.jpg planting to the first rare and timid flowers but it’s doing well now. I should have remembered patience because when I used to go home to see my mother she always had rows of pots on her sunny kitchen windowsill. Full of sticks and dead leaves. “Why don’t you simply throw them out?” ” Oh no, let’s give them a chance” and to my chagrin, the next time I went home they would be blossoming as if they’d just been bought! She was the best gardener ever. I swear she could raise plants from the dead!


Next stop the chimonanthus. (C.praecox) In my 5-year gardener’s diary I noted on 26th January” bought my dreamed-of chimonanthus at last”. About this time of the year you can smell them even if you can’t see them. They flood whole neighbourhoods with their tantalising perfume. It was and is a beautifully shaped treelet which is quite unusual for a wintersweet (lovely English name for the tree) as it is very often straggly and misshapen. Mine no. I remember trying to bring it home lying over the passemger seat of my Smart worrying about how many buds would get broken off.   Moved to the most important position just outside the patio so I can go and smell it to my heart’s content. One of the most wonderful perfumes in the garden! and in full winter!

When it got too cold to click, I came back inside to read “the Bronze Horseman” Pushkin. Oh how wonderful to have the time to really read and study this incredible poem. It is just so rich. I can’t even begin to imagine what its like in the original Russian.