Tag Archives: gardening

The Eye-Catcher

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I heartily recommend this fantastic one man show about Capability Brown at the Moot Hall in Hexham on 12th October.  See details below.

I saw it at Kirkharle, Brown’s birthplace – in a marquee within a barn – and we were all entranced by John Cobb’s evocation of this literally ground-breaking landscape gardener.  Not much is known about the man himself, allowing plenty of room for poetic license, some beautifully inventive physical theatre and a rollicking text to remind you of the great number of commissions Brown undertook during his lifetime and his skilfully-cultivated connections with influential clients – all against the dramatic backdrop of eighteenth century history.

Catch it while you can  – a marvellous way to celebrate Capability Brown’s tercentenary.

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Roundabout Garden

Sofia Botanical Garden is the only one I’ve visited (so far) that is practically located on a roundabout.  It’s hard to imagine – even when you’re actually there.  But of course the result is it’s very far from being an oasis, the constant heckle of traffic impossible to ignore.

However despite the whirlwind happening all around it, there is much to enjoy in this small but densely planted rectangle.  I’m slowly getting to know its quirks and shady corners. 

Slow is the word…even the gardeners go very slowly to be able to work in the burning heat.  Sometimes it’s cooler inside the glasshouses.  My poetry brain feels a bit like a battered coffee percolator on an old iron stove.

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The Scale of Change

On Saturday I visited Transition Tynedale’s Community Garden (in the grounds of Hexham Middle School) for the first time.  Despite the freezing temperatures and snow on the hills, a few sturdy souls had turned out for their regular twice-monthly garden session.

Garlic and onions were planted, fruit bushes pruned and leaves cleared.  Matty was even able to take her supper home with her.

My contribution was mostly admiration.  I particularly appreciated the ancient cherry tree and the grass sofas and willow den.  And the super-organised shed…

Really it’s the ‘wrong’ time of year to be immersed in a poetry project all about growing food.  In our workshop sessions in the Library on Monday tea-times we’ve tended to concentrate on the eating side of things.  which, along with reading gardening books, is what’s meant to happen in winter surely?

But, fair weather gardener that I am, after Saturday, I was shamed into doing a bit of tidying of my own patch – currently an uneasy limbo of snow and geraniums.  In the Community Garden too there were a few spots of colour and I found myself drawn to them like a starving bee.

Professor Stephen Blackmore (the Queen’s Botanist in Scotland) says that gardening can save the planet.  If everyone looks after their own bit of green, be it a garden or a hanging basket, the cumulative effect will make a difference.

‘…so much of the state of our planet hinges on the state of our plants and vegetation.  Often we are overwhelmed by the scale of change to the planet, and we think ‘What can we do to change anything?’, but your little patch of garden is part of the processes of nature, supporting wildlife and replenishing the atmosphere.’

 

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The S Word

photo 3Our mild early Spring has tempted me into the garden – sadly neglected after my year of travelling.  I’m looking forward to giving it more attention this growing season.  What I got up to today was less gardening than restoring/tidying.  This past fortnight has seen regular incursions by the neighbouring sheep population.  Clumsy-hooved and fat-fleeced, they’ve trampled the already thin grass and snapped off lots of low branches.  One of the few shrubs that thrives up here, a climbing hydrangea has suffered the loss of many buds.  The garden’s been littered with broken stems and twigs, strands of wool trailing everywhere.

photo 2The two brightest sights are: the ivy, glossy and constellated with its strange sputnik flowers, and the small tête-à-tête daffodils, cheerful and resilient.  Both these seem to have escaped the depredations of the sheep and the ferocious breeding and tunnelling of the rabbits.

photo 4What I want to know is where does all the soil go when the rabbits dig their holes?  I spent half my time outside today ferrying soil from molehills in the field to the gaping chasms in what are laughingly called my ‘flower beds’.  Last year on our visit to the Bowes Museum, during our tour of the Library, next to a 1920 book called Margarine, I spotted another with the title The Archeology of Rabbit Warrens.  Maybe that’s what I need now to understand the earth-moving strategies of these creatures that, after twenty years, I’ve become resigned to sharing this patch of land with.

photoThis will be my first year without a conservatory – another rather grand name for what it actually was – rotten and perilous: finally it had to come down.  Andy, the estate handyman, left the stone walls standing and built me a little wooden gate so that I’d have a rabbit-proof space to grow plants in pots and maybe sit and write when the weather warms up.  The sort of gardening I like involves a lot of sitting down between tasks!

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