19 August 2012

Goddess and Hoar

A tree used as a place for meditation, a tree that's a symbol of the goddess Maej Bhawani. I didn't think I'd be starting the blog with that sort of a sentence this week, but it's Heritage Week here and on Sunday we visited an old house in the Dublin mountains--built in the 18th Century, home to political discussions with The Liberator and others in early 19th Century and now a retreat centre. How appropriate for its current incarnation that it should have a beautiful Oriental Plane tree on its front 'lawns', Platanus orientalis, called the Chinar Tree in India, where it was planted in places of worship in Kashmir: the hollow trunks of mighty old trees were used by meditators. The one we saw is a lovely thing, spreading its limbs wide and providing a fitting filter through which to view a bucolic scene, complete with pasture and cattle, before noticing the wide spread of Dublin city beyond. And all of this only a few kilometres from where we live in the suburbs. Sadly the gardens of the house are not maintained as gardens but more as 'grounds' and although they have some lovely places to sit and be still and perhaps pray, if that's your wont, they're not gardens as such. Since gardening on that scale is a very expensive business, this is no surprise and well done to all there for keeping the grounds as well as they do. Many thanks to the volunteers there who provided a warm welcome to all comers.

To bring some of those thoughts home for a moment and so of course to scale them down, I wanted to come back to the contemplative thing... I've mentioned before that for me gardens work well when they serve as havens. Even the smallest garden can provide a place to be 'away' for a while: as long as there's some sort of beauty there; and a place to sit and take time out; and--for those winter days (or wet summer ones)--a view from the windows of the house that is as pleasing as possible. The great thing is, this doesn't have to be expensive. I have three areas to sit in the garden (four if you count the glasshouse, and we do, in the Spring and Autumn) and none of them was expensive to make: the bench was made for me by my brother-in-law many years ago and the chairs by the pool come from a DIY chain. The chairs and table where we eat whenever we can were a bit more expensive, but only came into the garden last year, and that was after years of hand-me-down or cheap tables that did the job just fine.

Each of the sitting areas works well at different times of the day or season. The bench is great in the morning, and has the bonus of being washed in the moonlight of a winter night; the table and chairs catch the evening sunshine throughout the summer (which is when we eat there), and the chairs by the pool we use at any time, as they're just outside the back door. Making it easy to be out there in the garden is the key: when the furniture is there all the time, there's no faffing about finding it, unfolding it, dusting it down or whatever else. When you add something to make the seating areas places to linger, well all the better! I added honeysuckle over the bench and some Irish moss (Sagina subulata) to rest bare feet on in front of it; and we added a pool outside the back door because there's nothing better than a body of water, no matter how small, to encourage quietness and a dose of daydreaming. Since I moved the bamboos down to the far end of the pool last week, I've been enjoying their reflections as well as how they glow in the morning and evening light.

A word about the Irish moss - it's gorgeous, soft underfoot, a glowing green and it is starred with tiny white flowers throughout the summer (which means it's not a moss at all of course), but I've discovered it doesn't go too well with a small dog who not only loves to lie on it--which is fine and who could blame her--but who also, ermmm, leaves her mark. Perhaps I should have read this article by Helen Dillon...

Anyway, I'll finish this week with some flowers and fruits: most pics from my garden, one from an old orchard up the mountains.  Have a good week all.

Platanus orientalis, and cows, Orlagh Retreat Centre, Dublin hills
Morning/Moonlight bench

Honeysuckle: scent and structure: the small buds look like satellites around the blossom
A place in the sun
Out the back door
Iz enjoying the Irish Moss, Sagina subulata
Stepping stones and, sigh, burnt patches in the Irish Moss

Anemone Honorine Jobert; glows in shady spaces

Agapanthus again, who could resist?

Making a virtue of necessity, cutting back unruly plants brings the garden inside

And sometimes I cut them just because I like the combination

Apple on my tiny Coronet apple tree

Same tree, different apple; great for small gardens

Hoary old apple tree in the orchard at Orlagh


  1. Well, isnt all this a wonderful break from 'you know what'. Graineweile

  2. A *very* welcome break :-). A better one might be a trip to the Arctic ...

  3. Deborah Montgomerie19 March, 2013

    Thanks for this :-) I love that hoary old apple tree, it looks like the ones we pruned last Sunday. I'll try to take some pics of our common ground during the seasons. Yours are so lovely. I laughed so hard at Helen Dillons article. We always have had dogs so I could relate totally. And as for yuor garden, how lovely, you have inspired me with areas in mine.