Garden Notes May 2003
Hello again. I did not get to write up my notes for April, so here’s two months worth combined. It has been a busy time, in and out of the garden. I like this time of year for sharing plants, giving and accepting new ones. A new plant from a friend is worth a basket full from the garden centre.
To many the very idea of having little garden spaces devoted to the essence of fairy and fey folk are just not good taste. Then there are folk (like myself) who thrive on the light and humour a garden offers. When I think of fairies in the garden I remember my great-grandfather Percy, his lawned garden with haunted, gnarled old apple trees. I think also of woodlands and the small enclosure of true wild growth with just a thin stitch of sunlight moving through the vegetation.
To (re)create a fairy garden you need: good humour, belief, and a liking for research. I have created several fairy spaces in my own garden, though none, I hope, are twee or seriously pink and fluffy. One little garden patch is a scree-type garden with many saxifrage and sempervivum, and other diminutive species, some with names such as elf. There is a half-buried rim of a broken pot with seashells appearing to be spilling out. This is our space for seaside fairies and enchantment. It also reminds me of the nursery rhyme, ‘Mary, Mary….how does your garden grow?’
My little sanctuary garden, full of woodland plants and knitted together green vegetation is a tiny place with atmosphere. No-one entering can possibly not believe a few fairies visit and guard this space.
What I would suggest if you are thinking of creating a fairy garden is to remember the plants they love: thyme, mugwort, daisies, foxgloves and pinks to name a few. Fairies love children and playfulness, quiet corners and leafy shade. No gnomes please, unless you really want trouble.
To discover herbal secrets for you is a matter of selective and careful study. One approach is to choose an herb plant, a favourite or one that really appeals for some reason, and live with it closely. By live with it I mean observe, grow, pick, eat (if not poisonous). Do book and other research but find out what is true for you. You might like to keep a small journal or notebook dedicated to this one plant and write in this your thoughts and ideas. So, for example, you may select lavender and grow, harvest, propagate, taste, use in multiple ways (don’t forget to also invest in organically produced essential oil of your plant, if possible, and try this.) Books may tell of lavender’s calming effect but if it gives you a headache then it is not the remedy for your individual stresses (as I have discovered!)
A way into herbal secrets: be selective, study gently and over time discover. There still is much to learn.
A flower that will always remind me of ‘old England’ is this perennial: Aquilegia or Granny’s bonnets. A detailed frilled cup, some quite spiked, the flower comes in shades of blue, red, pink and yellow. My favourite however is black and white: a variety named Magpie. Another favourite is Ruby Port, and this has happily seeded about my garden. These plants were depicted in medieval tapestries, as Aquilegia was a flower of the castle courtyard lawn. In these early days of garden design (no makeover shows to be seen), plants were grown as separate, spaced specimens like art objects in geometric beds. Since those times gardeners and collectors have discovered, bred and treasured so that there is a huge choice and just about any gardener, anywhere, can find an aquilegia that will enjoy their garden.
For a long time I
have wanted to try natural dyes, especially using plants from my own
garden. Finally, I have got together the equipment
needed: separate pan, thermometer, mordants. A clump of cow parsley appeared
in our wild patch and so, after referring to books, I decided this one
would be for the dye pot. The cow parsley yielded a bright pale greenish-yellow
(not as disgusting as it sounds!) on cotton fabric. I’ll next try
it on wool. And then to decide what plant to use next.
Best wishes for your gardening
all copyright Cathy Cullis 2003
Garden Notes March 2003
Hello, and welcome to another growing year in my garden….
It is that time of year again, the slip of time between winter and spring when things and thinking turn upbeat. I am talking about a matter of days before spring’s arrival; stay inside and you might miss the tips of daffodils as they push through turf layers. We are headed for the days of collecting fresh cuttings, filling vases with new flowers. Time to be sowing and making plans reality.
When I look out of the window and see a neglected patch (which is how it seems now), I know I have to spend some time quietly working and tending. Finding that time can be tricky. But somehow it gets done, and by the end of summer I know I have achieved quite a bit.
As I write my husband is working in the garden; it is raining and cold but the job has to be done. Close by our robin sits watching. He flits about, nervous, interested.
Next month I’ll share some more ideas and journal notes, and a few herbal secrets. Feedback is always welcome, and I try to reply to all (non-spam) emails.
the winter months I shall not be writing a regular newsletter.
I'll be adding pictures and features as I teach myself the html!
Please bookmark and visit when you can. I shall send a few reminders during the next months. Hope to remain in touch. My newsletter website with archive is still on this website.
Wishing you a very happy Christmas and New Year
NOTES OCTOBER 2002
CYCLES, SPIDERS AND CROWS
It is the time of colours and harvests, but also there is a movement of death. Gardeners learn that death is part of the cycle of the garden, and that it brings rewards. Leaves become leaf mould to feed the earth, old flowers give us seed, seeds wait and germinate. Tasks and rituals of the garden seem so very poignant, now you know there are only so many daylight hours. A few weeks and the clocks will be turned back an hour, the mornings will be dark, the evenings will be dark. The wind rushes the clouds, going nowhere fast.
I’m noting more birds visiting the garden and spiders. With spiders there can only be hate or indifference: surely no one loves them? There is a United Earth Summit of spiders in the garden right now, except the hairy jungle types have boycotted the event, thank goodness. Small and large speckled harvest spiders, daddy long legs, big old black spiders are spinning and web casting. I love spider webs that stretch right across the garden like crazy dew-embroidered hammocks. However, there is nothing alluring about getting web in your hair, unless it’s part of your trick-or-treat look.
This is my favourite time of year for Nature’s instant accessory: spider webs, colourful leaves, dew, apples, pumpkins, seedpods, and crows. Just recently whilst pegging out laundry, I found myself in a crazy little mood (as you do) and made up a song about the crows circling around. I was thinking about Jack O Lanterns and funky pumpkin men.
Only the crows know
when the pumpkin is ripe
When I sang this song to my daughter, she looked at me as if, yes, finally, Mother has really lost herself in caw-caw land. Ah well….
The crows here circle
about in elaborate sequences. They never visit my garden. There’s
just not enough to it, no plunder or secrets? Some times they remind me
of science fiction battleships or pterodactyls. Some times the crows I
see look so human in their walk, stance and chatter. Maybe this is why
some very small children are enchanted to chase them across fields. The
other day, up on the local playing fields, I watched a little girl aged
less than two chase a crow that had to be the same size as her. This bird
was a true mischief maker because he knew she was after him, so he would
plop himself down for a moment, woodpecker about on the grass, then as
soon as she neared lift off. The girl got ever excited and determined,
called out to him and ran with open arms. One day I shall have to write
a children’s story about a little girl who does indeed snare a crow.
There, I’ve got the idea, now to get it to work…
Here we have had warm, dry weather, but there are signs everywhere that we are in the midst of Autumn. Look at the changing colours of leaves but also their bearers; many trees are getting withered tops and are losing branches. After gales, bring inside a few chosen branches (you know the size that’s right) and decorate these with nuts, or fairy lights, or tiny pumpkins, or little paper ghosts. Or plant the branch outside in a sturdy pot and decorate with strings of popcorn to feed the birds. You may want to fill the pot with rocks and sand to prevent it from being knocked over.
I’ve got a deep cupboard full of drying herbs. Sprigs of this and that. Wish I had more, to be greedy. But also I like to display drying bunches, so I have a little peg rail in the kitchen. Having bunches of herbs here I can see each stage of the drying process: from sweet and green, to weird in their witheredness. Lemon Verbena goes curly and brittle. The oregano somehow blackened and I chucked this out. Camomile actually looks good, delicate with flowers retaining their white and yellow colour. I think I’ll get some florist wire and make tiny wreaths using this.
LANGUAGE OF WREATHS
During Medieval times, a marrying couple may often be witnessed kissing each other through a wreath or hoop of flowers. This was quite probably a country custom known and understood by themselves and previous generations.
A circle of flowers may represent fertility, abundance and everlasting happiness. Often associated with Christmas, the wreath is a kind of decoration that can be adapted for any time of year. For Autumn, you could put together a circle of apples, or pomegranates, a hoop of nuts, a circle of dried sunflowers, or a mix of bright seedpods and leaves.
LISTS AND PARTICULARS
Here’s a list
from a friend and notes reader. Thanks Sharon
about the area to which I live
I’ll share more lists each issue. Please send them in! Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading
GARDEN NOTES SEPTEMBER 2002
Hello and thanks for all your feedback during the last few weeks.
Autumn never suddenly arrives, she just whispers in your ear, breezes in so slowly and turns the sun the colour of apple juice, the cloudy kind. Then the leaves turn and fall and you just know winter is coming next.
But how can I think of winter today. It’s such a bright and still morning. It’s not summer and it’s not autumn, it’s that moment of something else to walk within, never forgetting what is good with the world.
If you have any advice on growing more pumpkins and fewer vines then please send it to me and I will share in the next newsletter. Thanks.
WHO"S THE QUEEN OF LISTS?
In a world of brief messages, left notes and abbreviations everywhere, a list can hold the same power as poetry. There are people who thrive on making lists and I am one of them. We list makers are dreamers who think writing lists might one day help us make sense of something we will possibly never understand. Wish lists, to buy lists, don’t lists and pure whimsy. Here are some lists:
About Where I Live
FOR YOUR JOURNAL
You know what I am going to suggest: write some lists. Have a go at ones similar to the above. If you come up with anything wildly similar or different please share. If you don’t mind me including in a future newsletter please let me know. Maybe I can include a few anonymous lists for other readers to guess the location (particular things about where I live).
IN THE COMING MONTHS
Autumn is a time of distinct change. I feel I have never moved away from thinking of the year as starting now. And having a child at school reinforces this. I’ve decided to start studying a creative textiles course. This will keep me busy through the winter (a time I need to stay busy to keep bright) and beyond. I’m hoping the garden and my new creative work will positively feed into each other.
Thank you for visiting my Under The Ivy web site. In the near future I hope to include art journal pages with newsletter issues. This I think would be a good way of showing how my ideas for the newsletter come about.
all copyright Cathy Cullis 2002
GARDEN NOTES AUGUST 2002
Thank you for your friendly and encouraging emails. Here we are, late but not forgotten. Truth is most times I go into the garden I think about what I want to tell you.
FROM MY JOURNAL
(Beginning of August)
It has rained. And it hasn’t stopped. Weather is so damp I had to remove toadstools from around lettuce and oregano growing in a raised bed. We have also had foggy starts, something you might expect in October here. My Grandmother assured me on the telephone the other day that we did, years ago, experience four seasons in the right order, during the months they are supposed to happen.
A gardener discovers things for herself leaf by leaf, may choose to leave a few stones unturned. She listens to the rain and feels it on her hands and face, it is not just something mentioned in a weather report. It really does alter the colour of things. Rain can cast shadows on the garden and bring it back to life.
(And later in the month)
The kitchen smells of roses and onions. I pick a new rose each morning, to dry in my herb cupboard upstairs. The dried rose buds will be mixed with lavender and used to fill pillows and bags. The onions are smaller than I thought they were going to be but just the right size for us.
The flower border
is a crazy patchwork of deep, bright colours. I love it and the fact that
there are just a few gaps so that this autumn I can squeeze in a few new
plants. If a garden offers no opportunity to add or alter then it’s
a dull situation. The coneflowers are lovely; I pick one at a time and
they last in a vase for over a week. There are two perennial flowers that
are called coneflower: Echinacea and rudbeckia. It all depends on where
you are, I guess. I grow Echinacea though I’d love to have rudbeckia.
I have a few American prairie flowers in my garden. This isn’t planned,
I just like them.
More next month. Thanks for reading.
All copyright Cathy Cullis 2002
GARDEN NOTES JULY 2002
Hello, and thanks for the many emails I have received over the last month. It is lovely to hear from you, and I am glad to be in touch. The weather here is barely mild, wet and dismal. But what else should I expect from an English summer? We always live in hope of brighter spells. I hear the news each day of heat waves in the US and wonder when they might come across.
In our main garden (still tiny) I have a flower border and here is where I play with colour, rich and vibrant. Out there the other day, admiring a dark purple dahlia, I realised how I like flowers that represent jewels: deep amethyst, garnets, copper topaz, fire opals. My first job after leaving school was working in a jeweller’s and being with exquisite hand made items; totally taking for granted what an easy time of it I had landed myself! This was at the end of the Eighties boom time, when men and women came into the store with envelopes stuffed with cash. How times may have changed. How the jewels in my life are more precious now.
YOUR JOURNAL AND GARDEN
Sunflowers are native American plants and were introduced to Europe during the sixteenth century. Shaker settlers planted sunflowers around their homes to soak up the swamp waters and keep mosquitoes at bay. The whole plant can be used for something or other! I personally like to dry the flower heads. But you might like to pick the flowers before they open and eat in salads or steam and serve as an alternate globe artichoke. Hmm, I may sacrifice a few buds and try. The seeds are very useful for feeding birds and people, of course. To grow sunflowers successfully and not have young plants bitten off by slugs, I start mine in large pots and only plant out when they have become large, sturdy specimens. I really should have staked my sunflowers with stronger canes, as they are floriferous and getting top heavy!
A HERB HARVEST
Thanks for reading
and I look forward to hearing from you some time.
GARDEN NOTES JUNE 2002
It is a damp, cool start to June here. Just about anything that is going to flower this summer has buds poised, waiting for the sun’s intensity. I love the look of yarrow now it had grown tall and has soft grey clusters of waiting flower heads. When I step outside my back door the first thing I smell is rose. This is an old-fashioned rose and deep cerise in colour. I have forgotten the name, though I am sure it is written down somewhere (you know how it is to keep too many notebooks?) I haven’t been doing as much in the garden as I might or could, but it seems to be taking care of its own growth. We did so much work during the spring months that it is good to have watching time.
Before I had a garden of my own, we lived for a time in a tiny flat close to the sea. I used to walk down to the beach, which was about a mile or so away. Then I would walk several miles along the coast and get the bus home. I’ve been thinking recently how good this was and how I might just miss being close to the sea. When I sit in silence here I get to hear the rush of a motorway in the distance. It is interesting how your own personal journey takes you to different climates and situations. Another time we had no garden, T and I were living in the dry heat of Arizona, USA. We would go for walks in the botanical gardens to gaze up at the tall cacti; this was especially magical at dusk. By the sea or in the desert, I found an alternate way to connect with the earth. These places are their own gardens that we can adopt and feel a part of, by visiting and appreciating. I think I am reminding myself here that Nature goes beyond the safe, almost-controllable boundaries of the garden. Oh and a holiday could be good!
The camomile circle I am sure you want to know more about this? I had decided the gravel area in my tiny sanctuary garden was functional but not interesting. Camomile, the non-flowering type, can be planted during the growing season and plants will soon knit together to create a perfumed, soft carpet. You can plant lawns and another nice idea is to make a raised box seat and plant the top with camomile. I have planted (she looks out of window to count) nine plants with pebbles surrounding to give them a little more effect. I will wait a while before sitting on it to let the plants establish. My daughter walks around and around on the pebbles, on tippy toes.
As soon as I had planted and completed I got anxious because I had done this work during a waning moon, and really any significant planting is best done whilst the moon is waxing. I do try to garden by the moon as far as possible and if this seems a little too esoteric then I have to say gardening by moon cycles is a very old and established country approach. I remember a few years back watching a television programme and on it a very elderly head gardener of a large country estate was showing examples of how cabbages sown and planted at the correct time had outdone the same variety of cabbage grown differently.
Back around to the camomile: so, I planted it during a waning moon and I am not about to dig it all up! Camomile is a healing herb and a great one for ridding of negativity. So I will just give my tiny lawn a little extra attention. The flowering type of camomile provides the gardener with lovely, fluffy daisy flowers and these can be dried to make tea. A friend of mine gags at the very idea of drinking camomile and I have to say that it is not my favourite cuppa either. I much prefer to blend camomile with other herbal teas such as rose hip and something lemony such as lemon verbena. Another good use of camomile, as a growing specimen in the garden, is to plant it next to any plant that is ailing. Rather like a kindly sister, camomile will soothe the distressed and hopefully perk it up a bit.
FOR YOUR JOURNAL:
If you visit my garden, purple is obviously a favourite. (And I wear quite a bit, when I can find just the right garment.) I love tiny purple violas and lavender, and I only wish there were true purple roses. True purple has midnight blue as a close associate. Purple is a colour of night, magic, dreams and mysticism Purple is the colour of the senses alive and careful surprise. Not hot, nor cool. It is a colour strongly associated with healing. Think of purple sage, the best of the sages for medicine, some consider. Purple in the garden shows her drama when planted with pale yellows, whites and greens. Pink softens and sweetens purple. Too much pink and purple makes me feel giddy and reminds me of pot pourri mixes. I love purple pansies and purple hyacinths for Spring. Purple million bells, lavender, salvias and passion flowers for Summer. Autumn is the time purple gets a rest for me; this is the time I love oranges and earth tones. In Winter I love purple wrapping paper on gifts, purple cushions, purple paint, and purple notebooks filled with purple prose!
Thursday 6th June
Two crows talk with
Tuesday 28th May
The arum lily
The rose is gentle
Enjoy your midsummer and sweet dreams!
GARDEN NOTES APRIL 2002
Walking along a country lane this morning I saw the wild alexanders flowering, wallflowers and dandelions, and the fat heads of tulips about to happen. I was late getting somewhere, trying to get a pushchair up a hill and directing a small child to not step into a ditch - but at least for a moment I caught a glimpse of spring's arrival. Busy days mean moments of pleasure, and that is enough to get me through.
We have had clear sunshine for over a week. No April showers, yet. I have been busy creating a new area of raised beds with a rose arch. This part of the garden will be for flowers, herbs and vegetables. Already I've planted an old fashioned rose, honeysuckle, sweet peas, snap dragons, sunflowers, cabbages, lavender, rosemary and my favourite violas. Many of these flowers will want to be picked and picked, so that they develop bushy growth - and more flowers. I'm anxiously inspecting each small plant for pest damage but so far so good. The raised beds and gravel path make a smart design but kneeling on the gravel gets my knees dusty which isn't so good when you garden in your pj's!
IS FOR ANGELICA
Angelica archangelica is a native (to Britain) herbal plant, and unlike dry-and-sun lovers prefers a rich, shady place (the American near-equivalent is A. atropurpurea). It is a tall, fleshy creature with arching branches and attractive serrated leaves. The flowers come in spherical sprays of green-white and the whole plant is very fragrant. A biennial, it can be grown from seed but can be a bit tricky - make sure the seed is fresh. It is said that during the years of the Plague, an angel, who told of the cure-all qualities the herb has to offer, visited a priest. Every part of this plant can be used for medicine and/or cooking. The stems can be cooked and served with, for example, fish or pork and taste like celery (not to my taste). They can also be candied, by cooking and storing in sugar. The leaves can be used to make a tea to cure poor circulation, fever, nervous headaches, and to regulate periods. The roots can be used for something I forget what right now having never tried (!) and the seeds are used for flavouring drinks and work as a fixative in pot pourri. Whenever I've grown this plant it has always done well for me, even on poor light soil, and is a good choice for filling a darker corner of the garden. The flower heads are wonderful and I've only dreamt about somehow capturing them in a sheet of handmade paper, (but haven't).
Forget brash colour (for a moment) and go for the majestic, almost jungly angelica.
(from Journal notes)
GARDEN NOTES MARCH 2002
Hello, it felt like spring today in the garden. I was out digging, moving plants (my number one obsession). We're making big changes now as I've given in and decided I can give up half the garden for a summerhouse (!). Well, I get new raised beds in exchange, so I can stop moaning about the gore (soil).
Thanks for your emails over the last month. It was good to know some of you liked my references to fairy folk.
NOTES FROM MY JOURNAL
2am I wake to hear the wind thrashing about the house. I'm awake imagining the stacks of plastic pots I should have put away somewhere are now scattered through the neighbourhood; a few are being worn by crows as some strange new fashion of their choosing. Later on I see the real mess of debris and tools strewn about (I never put anything away). The bird feeder that should be suctioned to the French window has fallen and cracked, so I go outside into my tiny courtyard and sprinkle seed upon the 'floating' Zen stone. Soon my tiny sanctuary is filled with birds, mostly small but a few long-legged thrushes come for a look around ..Now each day I see tens of birds and get through a lot of birdseed.
There were two squirrels in the garden, one grey, one black (strange local breeding!). The black one makes his manic darting moves across the garden. My attention is diverted for a moment and then dd shrieks: "The squirrel has a little man's head!" What I see is the black squirrel holding a sprouting tulip bulb. The little bugger. "Don't worry, we've got more," I say, making a mental note to go outside later and check the situation just in case this isn't the first to go.
SEEDS - ah yes, I love collecting little packets of hope. Now I will have my raised beds I can think about growing all kinds of things. I'm fascinated by how people relate to colour and how colours may affect mood, heart rate, and creativity . Will I discover that growing red flowers really does make me eat more chocolate? About a year ago I borrowed Sarah Raven's book 'The Bold and Beautiful Garden' from the library. At the time I was going through one of my strange pastel phases (!) and the idea of growing orange and scarlet blazing borders didn't appeal. But now I'm really geared up to start experimenting with colour and growing trying combinations of annual flowers could be the best way. Pot marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, poppies, pansies, sunflowers, scabious, rudbeckia, are some of the flowers I will attempt to grow from seed. That's a lot of germinating.
SERIES - ORANGE
Orange is the colour of optimism. It is a colour that radiates a smile of sunshine, yet has sacred qualities. The Pot Marigold is a simple annual flower with orange petals that may be used as a substitute for saffron, and the plant has healing qualities. Orange is associated with spice, India, flames, the flame of summer, the torch of hope. Orange is not a colour easily associated with spring. It is a colour that does its performance art in the summer garden with lilies, roses, and sunflowers, nasturtiums, pumpkins, and otherworldly gourds. Singed by the sun, orange becomes rust, coppery bronze, terracotta, burnt toffee. Faded by the sun, orange softens to apricot, peach, flesh, a delicious iced dessert. Orange says: get ready here we go. It says: use the wisdom you have today and feel good about tomorrow.
I used to be wary of orange. But then I remember now I had an orange T-shirt that somehow looked good on me and I wore it summer after summer. People seemed shocked when I wore it, because it was a bold colour for me. Maybe I liked that. I remember seeing my favourite garden designer at a specialist nursery. He was sat at a patio table drinking coffee, and was wearing an orange denim jacket. Ah, I thought, you don't mind getting seen here.
For Spring Equinox, and spring to come, a poem by one of my favourite artists:
Thanks for reading. Copyright Cathy Cullis 2002.
GARDEN NOTES FEBRUARY 2002
SSSSH .IS IT SPRING YET?
What I would like to say is "Hey it's Spring, let's all go and see the bluebells" but I know some of you are still up to your knees in snow. Here we have the first signs of daffodils and there are snowdrops. I love those almost solemn flowers like tasteful dangling earrings. Walking along today and seeing snowdrops in other people's gardens I thought: if there were such a thing as snowdrop ice cream what would it taste like? Maybe vodka with a hint of bitterest lemon. (I get ice-cream fantasies especially and bizarrely during cold weather).
Last autumn I planted a handful of snowdrop bulbs but all I can see are thin wisps of leaves coming through the sticky mud. Snowdrops can take a few years to grow well, establish themselves. The best way to get snowdrops into your garden is to buy them 'in the green', with the bulbs already mature and making leaves. Make sure the snowdrops are from nursery stock and not dug up from the wild. Do you grow snowdrops in your part of the world? If not, what is the first flower of your gardening year?
Also in my garden is an early flowering honeysuckle shrub. A few weeks ago I wrote:
We are on the warm edge of icy. Half a degree less and there will be frost. On my table is a blue vase containing two woody stems of winter-flowering honeysuckle. These sticks have only a few mottled leaves but also tiny green claws of flower buds. One bud has opened. No, two together have opened, their yellow stamens touching. The scent is neither lemon or lime, but something finer. Ice lemon with mountain snow. And then the scent warms, like a delicate lemon sponge cake just out of the oven. The chance to sit in my warm room, to look out on the cold garden but to feel the essence of life outside of myself: that is what I am thankful for today.
FOR YOUR JOURNAL
Think of beauty and detail. Describe a single flower from memory.
Dog's Mercury, Agrimony, Devil's Bit, Scabious .What does Dog's Mercury look like exactly? Well right now I have no idea but I still want to grow it and find out! I think I got intrigued by wildflowers when I was much younger and I collected Cicely M. Barker's Flower Fairy books. I wanted to be Belladonna! The darker fairies were my favourites. I like plants with gothic-type names, spiky suggestive tags. And so this year I'm planning a wildflower border. It will be a garden of wild herbal plants, and quite different from anything I've done before. You see, I'm still learning to let go and abandon the script and let the plants do their thing. So going with wildness is the ultimate challenge. To create a wildflower border you plan and plant the area as you might a regular, traditional herbaceous border. Or you can simply scatter seed about. But don't weed unless something takes over and threatens to kill off everything else. Stand back and let the plants do their thing and create their own colony. There will be a chance here to offer nectar food plants for butterflies. And I'll possibly include a bird table, feeders and houses.
This is just a small patch of land but it feels a good thing to try. My home and garden is built on land that was for centuries open field. Whatever I do, grass tries to get into the borders and take back the ground. It is good having a new garden but I have to remind myself: you are the first to ever cultivate this land. Coming from the suburbs of London, I am used to being in gardens that have been gardens for decades that have been dug and fed by generations.
The soil in my garden is heavy clay with stones and grit. I call it gore. The area here used to be one ancient riverbed. When things grow, anything except grass grows, I am amazed. If you read gardening books you will know that just about everything likes to grow in free-draining soil. But don't accept this means a plant won't adapt and cope with some other situation. I tell myself now: just be realistic and take a few risks - risks taken with a little knowledge and forethought cannot do harm.
TANSY (by Cicely M. Barker)
busy kitchens, in olden days,
I've just gone into my daughter's room to borrow one of my old Fairy Flower books from her shelves. With the poem for Tansy is a delightful illustration of a yellow-clad fairy sowing tansy buttons to a green elfin's coat. I have forgotten how I used to read and read these books, and how much I loved the escapism. I don't think I knew that physic meant medicinal, but that does not matter. In the very front of the book I have written my name and a library number, as I was very particular about caring for my books and made play-library cards (this was when I was eight or so, not fifteen, but it may have been). This is one of those moments when I'm realising why I like gardens and the daintiest of flowers (my all-time favourite being heartsease viola tricolor).
When I wrote my herb garden newsletter I put together ideas for attracting fairies to your garden. (Has anyone still got this?!) If anyone has a resident fairy, elf or other little person please let me know and send photographic evidence as well if possible!
with you again soon
Copyright Cathy Cullis February 2002
GARDEN NOTES JANUARY 2002
ICE, ICE BABY
(I wrote this last week, before our current mild spell)
We have been experiencing truly red-nose chilly weather. It has been white outside for several weeks. It snowed a few days before Christmas and my little son was totally excited, bashing at the window with glee.
During this freeze I am glad for at least three things: a good view of the garden from french windows, central heating, and online grocery shopping with home delivery. The first of these three is especially important to me, of course. I get to see my tiny courtyard sanctuary with white frosting, and frozen spiderwebs .
I do not believe you can make a garden into a Zen space, it becomes this in time, perhaps. Take inspiration from the Zen philosophy and make a garden - that is a possibility. I am tempted to say no gardener can do a Zen make-over on their garden only on themselves. Trying to explain Zen is very un-Zen. I am working on an article for my zine and hope to share more with you there.
I started writing a daily poem, inspired by my garden and/or the nature I see whilst out walking. These are like journal entries and can encapsulate a day of memories. Here are a few:
cold for summer leaves
(I wrote beneath this one: Tim is building a new dining table. He finished it for Christmas and unlike the previous table our plates do not slide about.)
There is a large, quietly run-down house on a main road local to me. I walk past this house most days and I like to see the woman owner in her long front garden. She must be over 85 but keeps an immaculate lawn. She wears a faded powder blue raincoat and has a bent posture, and holds her head like a little bird. She always has a glimmer of a smile.
When I was a little kid people noticing my bushy meet-in-the-middle eyebrows would say: "Ah but look at those beautiful high cheekbones!" I felt ugly and at the same time as beautiful as Elizabeth Taylor, whoever she was.
matter how ugly you think your garden might be there are some redeeming
features. That old gnarled apple tree that has such a mass of blossom
in spring-time. Or the bright mosiac patio you made with your
Cathy Cullis copyright 2002