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Monday, August 22, 2011

Garden Proverbs

 The courtyard in the shrubbery.
Plant a Garden

There I was, peeping around the Charity Shop - not looking for budget garden furniture, of course, because I have quite enough seats and benches, thank you very much. But there's always something for the shopping gardener to grab - like a little book of Garden Proverbs.

Ha! A tiny book with a collection of pithy sayings, proving that all things in gardening parallel all things in life. Let's start with the most obvious.
  • 'If you would be happy all your life - plant a garden.'
Oh yes - absolutely, definitely... But do more than just plant it. Tend it, feed and water it, change it from time to time, and watch for the changes. Oh - there's more - weed it, mulch it, rake the paths, pick things, prune things, possibly spray the roses...

And taking time out to smell those roses (or daisies) is obvious, too. It's really important to spend quality personal time in the garden relaxing and enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells.

 The garden bench in the Pond Paddock.
Sitting in the Shade
Summer requires an awareness of the harmful effects of the sun - covering up, wearing a hat and sun-block, drinking lots of water, and so on. There's nothing better than finding a shady garden bench to read and enjoy a cup of refreshing tea.

So I'm understandably a little cross with Rudyard Kipling, who rather puts a dampener on all of that - and I don't mean summer rain!
  • 'Gardens are not made
    By sitting in the shade.'
Dog-owners are said to look like their dogs (and vice versa). It's also true of gardeners. So if you're a neat and tidy person, then your garden will be well-groomed. And it's the same if you're random and messy. Oops. Weedy? Now I'm not so sure about that one...
  • 'As is the gardener
    Such is the garden.'
Everyone knows about reaping what they sow - adding horse manure which is known to be full of weed seeds, planting anything with the words 'excellent ground cover' on the label... But how's this for scary, serious advice?

 Ha! Every rose has its thorns....
Pluck Not...
  • 'Pluck not where you never planted.'
Aargh! Something to definitely remember next time you're wandering around an over-priced garden nursery with plastic bags in your coat pockets. Or you spy some beautiful roses over someone's fence and - well, really, no-one won't notice if you snap one or two off to take home...
Finally here's a saying which will appeal. However, it does not imply you should rush out and employ a garden designer, or find a book on the principles of Feng Shui. Spur-of-the-moment gardeners shouldn't feel guilty and immediately start thinking deep and meaningful thoughts about box hedges or potagers.
  • 'The garden must be prepared in the soul first or else it will not flourish.'
Right. I'm off to write a spiritual list...

Thanks To...

"Garden Proverbs', selected and edited by Terry Berger, published by Running Press. This is a cute little book, full of wise words and fun phrases, with some delightful puzzles thrown in. For example, how would you take the following piece of advice?

White Delights

 It's covered in flowers.
White Lilac Flowering

 With lots of green box hedges.
Sissinghurst White Garden

 A wonderful white spring shrub.
The Bride - Exochorda

 A beautiful assortment.
White Flowers

Hmm - a white-themed garden would require good planning and a sharp sense of timing, right? For now I have to settle for the scattering of delightful white flowering plants that pop up here, there, and everywhere in all the borders.

But what delights these whites are! In spring the big blossom trees and the flowering Choisya shrubs are hard to miss, but underneath there are clumps of Iberis, and beautifully subtle white daffodils. White rhododendrons look wonderful when their surrounding garden is full of fresh new green growth.

And the white flowering honesty plants, especially those with beautiful variegated leaves, are simply wonderful. The more the merrier - and please feel free to pop up in any border, front or back...

White Roses

My white roses arrive later, when the New Zealand sun is summer-strong, so obviously they look their best when there's cloud cover. I grow Icebergs (of course) but I prefer Prosperity (hee hee - don't we all!) This year, 2010, I have six new white Glamis Castles to look forward to. Also a wonderfully large almost single white dahlia pops up in a number or borders and flowers madly until the first autumn frosts.

Big white is better? Maybe not. At times the little whites can make the biggest impression - small Nicotianas, Sweet Alice, and charming white daisies. But then I wouldn't be without my towering Nicotiana Sylvestris plants, and those super stylish white foxgloves. If only their seedlings would stay white...

Sissinghurst's White Garden

It would be easy to just scoop all these plants up, plonk them into a rectangle, and box-edge them into little triangles - or would it? I'm thinking of the famous Sissinghurst White Garden in England, which I have recently visited in person. And very nice it was too - but the daylight was dull, and the English sun didn't really sparkle.

One minute I love the idea, the next I decide it's been done so well by great gardeners, big and small, who have the correct attitude. Knowing my style I'd lose patience with the whites wilting in the mid-day sun and pop some garish garden gnomes into the gaps instead...

But I'm overflowing with admiration for any gardener who gets their 'white delight' absolutely right. Maybe, one day...

Seasons in Pond Cottage

Pond Cottage, the cosy little 'cottage in the woods' of my childhood dreams, is three-seasons old, and is now enjoying its first autumn. Hugged all year round by evergreens, it now looks out over a dazzling autumn display of golds and reds.

 The view across the pond Paddock.
Pond Cottage's First Autumn
Last winter I planned where the cottage was to be built, and dug the foundations in a freezing, southerly storm, fresh from the Antarctic. Then spring saw much of the interior finished. The freshly painted cottage featured in some delightful spring photographs with foreground blossom trees.

 By the verandah chairs.
Minimus the Cottage Cat

Summer and Autumn

Over summer I collected and installed Pond Cottage's furniture. I visited Charity shops picking up pictures of needlepoint flowers and embroidered cats, and chose second hand books for its rustic cane bookcase. I planted pretty summer flowers by the pond's edge, which contrasted with the huge leaves of the pond's Gunnera and Phormiums. Nearby roses completed the cottage's splendid summery look.
In late summer we had an excess of house visitors, and I spent a couple of nights sleeping in the cottage. It was my childhood dream come true, and I've been there ever since. I have young Minimus (my grey cat) as the resident Pond Cottage Cat. I have power, tea-making facilities, an electric blanket for the now chilly autumn nights, and an old porcelain chamber pot - purely decorative, you understand.

Early Birds and Stormy Nights

In the mornings I enjoy watching the early birds scuttling around the pond paths. Stormy nights are magical, lying in bed warm and cosy, listening to the splattering rain rhythms on the roof. Autumn wake-ups are wonderful - both windows frame a deciduous tree whose leaf colours seem deeper and brighter each morning.

 Oak, Maple, and Silver Birch.
Autumn Views from the Cottage Windows
I love autumn colours, and I love Pond Cottage's autumn 'look'. Do I hear a little voice saying 'Roll on winter?' with perhaps a picturesque dusting of snow? Hmm...

Mad May Rose

My Mad May roses have been just brilliant. At the end of every gardening day, provided there's enough light, I've done a grateful sweep with camera in hand. So many beautiful roses are flowering!

Don't be fooled. For me, May is just a few weeks short of the winter solstice, the shortest day if not the coldest. Brr...

I'm used to John Clare (a translucent pink David Austin rose) being a brave late bloomer. And all the small Flower Carpet roses put on a late great show in autumn. But the tenacity of others, particularly my recycled nameless roses, really makes me smile.

 The white is a hybrid tea.
Two Recycled Unknown Roses
The shy, sensible ones present themselves as honestly being in transition - a bush full of rose hips will have maybe one or two late flowers. Others (the really mad ones) are straining to recover themselves properly with blooms. Oh dear.

Silly Shrubs

The term 'mad rose' is a term of endearment. These silly shrubs just don't seem to know (or care) that winter's around the corner. Even the morning frost doesn't see them taking the hint.

 Silly things!
Apricot Scentasia and Friesia
Is there something a bit seasonally mad about the French? La Marseillaise, off the blooming boil for most of the summer, is now desperately starting another set of blooms. Striped Guy Savoy (he is also a famous French chef) is being totally daft. He's created one rose cane (just one) reaching nearly eight feet into the sky, on the top of which a cluster of his cherry and white striped flowers are happily showing off. Do they think they won't get frosted, all the way up there?

 A very pushy chap!
Guy Savoy Striped Rose
It really is quite wintry. All deciduous trees are now bare of leaves, and the perennials are trimmed back. The garden is going into sleep mode. But seeing these beautiful, brave roses stops me shivering and starts me dreaming of early summer. Ah...


Anyway, I've always admired the rebellious attitude - funny, that. They say I'm supposed to slow down, take it easy, and not flower in winter? Ha! I'll show them...