Friday, 31 August 2012

Sing a song of seasons!

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the Summer
Fires in the fall.
                      R.L. Stevenson

The wettest summer since 1912 and as I write, the coldest August night on record. I went to open the greenhouse first thing and the lawn was sparkling in the early morning sun. It appeared almost as if there had been a frost overnight – perhaps there had. Anything seems to be possible in this quirky summer.

Some plants are thriving – see the gunnera in Durham’s Botanic Gardens for example. Originally from Brazil, it thrives in damp conditions and the huge, umbrella-like leaves, followed by large flower spikes, are a potential wonder to behold, whereas, sadly, the leaves on some of the trees there are already beginning to turn a lighter green - signalling an early autumn. 

Passion flower

But, amazingly, the passion flower in Pablo’s garden is still in flower, despite being of a delicate disposition. Curiously also hailing from Brazil, it is so named because discoverers of this exotic plant likened its parts to representations of the crucifixion, particularly the central column resembling the pillar of the cross. The flower was said to remain in bloom for three days to symbolise the three years of Christ’s ministry, but in reality each flower only lasts for one day.

Shade under the old apple tree
The left hand side of the garden still has gaps for yet more and different plants but is showing pleasing colour. Even my despised geraniums are welcomed now for they add pleasing daubs to the back of the shady border. 

Pablo disgruntled at waiting forever for the sun to shine

A massive autumn garden tidy is called for but as the weather people are predicting an Indian summer, prior to the worst winter since the Thames froze over in the 1600s, I plan to decamp to the summer house and enjoy the autumn sunshine - glass of wine in hand and Pablo on knee of course.


Thursday, 16 August 2012

Painting with flowers

Playing with colour and form in the garden is the nearest that most of us will get to painting.
                                                                     Mary Keen 1991

Prairie planting at the Floriade

Hanging basket with gloriously harmonious colours

Garden designer, writer and painter, Gertrude Jekyll was a phenomenon. A dumpy little woman, she towered over other garden writers of the twentieth century. Though her eyesight was poor, she was able to distinguish between different shades of colour in borders and knew exactly which plants would give the exact result she wanted in the 150 or so gardens she designed during her lifetime.

Using specialist garden books – especially those of the Royal Horticultural Society – it is relatively easy today to find a plant of the exact shade and habit that would suit the prevailing conditions, but inspirational gardeners, like true artists,  understand the conventions yet instinctively break the rules to achieve a particular effect. 

Grasses in Pablo's garden appear almost ghostly in the evening light

Christopher Lloyd of Great Dixter fame was such an artist/gardener. His planting schemes, with their outrageous use of controversial colours, revolutionised planting schemes in the 80s and 90s and his ideas continue to influence many of today’s garden designers and plantsmen and women. 

Do visit Great Dixter if you get the opportunity.
I guarantee you will be both delighted and inspired. 

Friday, 10 August 2012


Today is Pablo’s ‘coming of age’ – his 18th birthday!
Glynn and Pablo

He arrived here in a cardboard box, having been abandoned near my husband’s school at Ferryhill. The schoolchildren who discovered the black and white kitten promised to return to collect him at the end of the school day but failed to do so.

Throughout the day I’d had regular bulletins as to his misdemeanours which included disgracing himself on a then very expensive Adidas sweatshirt. Said shirt had been confiscated as being ‘non-uniform’ and left in a heap on the floor of my headmaster husband’s office.

The domestic science staff helpfully laundered the offending sweatshirt but failed to return it to its pristine state, so much so that the next day an irate parent demanded full reimbursement. The school had to make a claim via Durham County Council’s insurance and, for the first time ever, a cat was named as the perpetrator of an ‘offence against property'.

Pablo has informed me that he is sure his many fans will be interested to hear more of his adventures and he promises further tails to follow…

Happy Birthday Pablo Cat.

Friday, 3 August 2012

August is a wicked month

Vase of July flowers

 So wrote Edna O’Brien many years ago but July wasn’t especially good either, weather-wise at least. Many of the garden plants had been so battered by wind and rain that their full potential wasn’t appreciated as it should have been.


It was warmer, however, and July in Pablo’s garden was most notable for the gorgeous scents that pervaded the air; in particular the philadelphus or mock orange whose heady perfume was better than anything Jo Malone has produced so far.

A shady spot for reflection

Similarly the honeysuckle, or woodbine, which is best enjoyed at night when it is at its most intoxicating, deliberately so to attract moths which pollinate the flowers. 

It was wonderful to be able to sit in the garden and reflect on the delights yet to enjoy in August and to look forward to adding autumn colour with a visit to my favourite nursery at Egglestone Hall. En route I had an interesting visit to Blue Gentian Crafts to select a new bench for Pablo’s garden, of which more later.

Yellow loosestrife