10 February 2013

Dreeping hedges

Unrelenting rain all day today, the roads lined with dreeping hedges, raindrops beating a gentle tattoo on my hood as we walked in the hills, taking a route through woods to get at least a little shelter. I thought of Ciaran Carson:
 "After a downpour, the scarps and inclines of the Silent Valley scintillate with water. Waterfalling veins pulse down the mountainsides, with cloudy wisps blown off them"
(from Fishing for Amber). 
That's the sort of day we had today.

one wet schnauzer
In spite of Carson's lovely words in my head I was feeling less than poetic about the dreary day and so this week, rather than reflect on what's happening now, I'm reflecting on what I want my garden to be, and really using that as an excuse to include some pics from the garden at other seasons, because it is looking anything but scintillating today...

So-o-o, what should a garden be?

For some gardeners, it's ALL about the plants: they want the best collection, the rarest plant ('my snowdrop is rarer than yours...'), the newest cultivar. For others, it's all about the design - every plant, every hard structure must have its place and all are informed by the grand vision for the space, with little tolerance for serendipity. There's the 'outside room' idea, but really why have a garden if you're going to think of it as a room? And of course some people don't give their gardens much thought at all, they're somewhere to park the car or the bicycles, hang out the laundry, store the bins, put the dog kennel. That last wouldn't be me,although my garden has to also cater for all of those things.  Also, I don't have the time (or the inclination, to be honest) to have a 'perfect' design; and while I love so many plants, I'm not a collector and I'm careless about remembering which varieties I have, even when they're gorgeous things I've found in Mount Venus or the Camolin Potting Shed.

So I've been trying to figure out of late what sort of gardener I am. And the nearest I can come to it is this: for me it's about the whole, it's about the sense of place. I want the garden to be pleasing to the eye, yes, but not necessarily filled with flowers; I want it to have a sense of design, yes, but I don't want that to be the end in itself. I want the garden to be somewhere I want to be. I want it to have a sense of place most of all. I want my family and my friends to enjoy being in it, and to have a picture of it, a sense of it, when they're not in it... Oh and with all of that, I'd like it to be somewhere that other beasties enjoy being too. Do I succeed with all of this with my tiny north-facing patch? I doubt it, but it's a nice goal to work towards. Here are some of the current attempts to create that sense of place in a small space.

I'll start with water since it has been such a wet day. Might as well!

The pool has made a big difference to the sense of place in the garden. Whether it's a still, meditative slice of reflected sky in April, part of the lush growth of a wet summer, or looking slightly mysterious at night, it provides all sorts of pleasure to all of us who spend time in the garden (or just looking out at it from inside). The tiny pond farther up the garden provides home for other residents, all of whom are very welcome and some of whom have already laid the first of this year's frog spawn (I spotted the first clumps this week).

Reflective in April

Part of the bigger picture in August
The pure white of water lily is welcome any time
The pool at night
One of the many other residents in the garden
You can't get a proper sense of place if you can't comfortably spend time somewhere, and so the garden has different spaces to just be, to sit and enjoy the honeysuckle or the evening sun, or maybe the sound of rain on the greenhouse roof.

The morning bench
For evenings...
For the weary gardener, or to shelter from the rain,
or just to sit in the lovely growey smell in the greenhouse
And I'd be lying if I said that the plants didn't play a role, errr, it *is* a garden after all. So, the starry flowers of the Irish Moss light up the ground in front of the morning bench. Ripening fruit brings all sorts of delight, some immediate, some deferred when the fruit gets turned to jam and reminds us in winter what summer tastes like. Pots of lilies blow their own trumpets by the pool in mid-summer. The hart's tongue ferns delight with their changes of texture, covered with fine silvery hairs as they unfurl but hard and satiny later in the year, before becoming ridged with sporangia in the last summer and finally curling down only to re-emerge the following spring. And the Miscanthus is a subtle treasure for much of the year, in the photo below gathering dew jewels on an early April morning.

Starry-eyed: Irish Moss

Loganberries, no comment needed!

Lilies blow summer's trumpet

Phyllitis, Hart's Tongue, unfurls raspily in the Spring

Miscanthus and jewels of dew in April
Finally, for this week, since my garden is such a small space, it's somewhere I can take time to enjoy the small details: red siltstone, sandstone and jasper pebbles complementing Erigeron (or is it the other way 'round?); a well-rounded cobble echoing the shape of a nearby pot.
Erigeron, cobbles and Valentia pebbles

More on this anon, but meanwhile have a good week all.


  1. You know I realise I have never SEEN your garden in the light! I will invite myeslf over mid summer - you CANNOT tempt us with all these displays and then invite us over the darkest day of the year! On yer BIKE!! Graineweile!

  2. Hey GrĂ¡, yes, we'll have to make sure you visit in summer too. Let's hope this summer won't be quite as wet as last year's.