Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An English Garden in all its glory

How glorious the English summer is when it is at its best.

When I awoke this morning, as usual the bedroom was flooded with light and the birdsong was magnificent. I lay in the cosy warmth of my bed, idly stroking both dogs behind their soft ears, deep in thought.

I did a virtual tour of my beloved garden, recalling the names of all the roses I had planted over the past 24 years, Tour de Malakoff, a deep purply red with an exquisite scent, Ghislaine de Feligonde, a huge affair, with small glossy pale green leaves, and multiple heads of the most beautiful sherbert orange flowers, Veilchenblau, opens a deep violet single flower with a yellow centre which fades almost to a soft grey, Alberic Barbier, creamy with dark green glossy leaves, the white ramblers, flopping and climbing everywhere Kiftsgate, Seagull, Sanders White, Wedding Day - Etoile de Hollande, a dark red heavily scented rather sparse floppy affair, Rosa Moyeissi Geranium, little leaves and great arching spires of geranium red single flowers, Madame Hardy white with a little green eye, Blanche de Belgique, soft pink little scented flowers and almost grey leaves, this one with a dark purple clematis, Warsaw Nike, rambling through it. So many old favourites, Buff Beauty, Souvenir de la Malmaison climbing through the white wisteria, partnered by Lady Hillingdon, egg yolk yellow, floppy, with almost red stems and green glossy leaves. And my favourite, Madame Alfred Carriere, soft pinky white, scented and climbing over the garage roof, the greenhouse and up through the damson tree, lax and floppy yet still vigorous and gloriously invasive.

How I have loved planting up this garden,and as I wrote several days ago, my garden is now saying goodbye to me, in all its blowsy fullsome glory, the best it has ever looked. Five years ago I planted peonies throughout the garden, and now they are speaking to me, blowsy, opulent, and bursting out of the framework of supports I placed around them earlier this year. White ones, deep pink single ones with a yellow centre, pale pink, how I love peonies, their delicate scent which wafts through the warm summer evening air. And earlier - my wonderful tree peonies, soft yellow streaked with orange, double, sweetly scented, Souvenir de la Madame Cornu, old and woody, yet still flowering profusely, and Davidii, vigorous, but little dark, dark red single flowers, almost hidden by the foliage.

Over the years I learnt hard lessons gardening here, we are in a frost pocket, and sometimes the garden gets extremely wet in winter, yet in summer, it can bake as the house is south facing and quite exposed. I have divided the garden up into little rooms, and this has worked well, whilst I have been mindful that I have to plant to suit the conditions.

Luckily, it appears that many of my favourites have flourished, great fluffy mounds of Alchemilla Mollis, almost a weed, which pushes up everywhere and which I welcome, Canterbury Bells, Peonies, Roses, Foxgloves, Hardy Geraniums, Astrantia (not called Marshwort for nothing!)Iris Sibirica, Aqueligia, Clematis, rambling over the trellises, through the roses, Grandiflora rambling through the apple tree when the blossom has finished.

How I have loved planning it all. It really is true that it takes many years to get a garden to maturity - I personally like my garden blowsy, cottagey, not manicured, I encourage many plants to seed themselves, so every year there are surprises throughout the garden.

I used to sow many annuals in my little greenhouse, lovely white Cosmos, lime green Love-lies-Bleeding with its grest lambs tail tassels, white and blue Love in the Mist, deep red Sunflowers, and many more, but for the past two years have not had the heart to continue.

I have had the space to be generous, and along the bank by the tennis court planted over a thousand Pheasant's Eye Narcissi in swathes - these remind my of my childhood garden, where I lived with my grandparents, and from whence I gained my love of flowers. These narcissi flower after all the other bulbs have finished, and look magnificent. The philanderer always hated bulbs, and every year, behind my back when I was out or away, would spitefully mow down the leaves when the flowers had just finished, instead of leaving the leaves to die down. My abiding memory of him was his spiteful behaviour in my garden. Ramming the lawnmower into the base of my clematis, cutting off the shoots at the bottom of my Kiftsgate rose, it used to break my heart. He truly was malevolent.

I made a little damp area, and this year the gunnera is huge, its great umbrella leaves casting giant shadows, the yellow flags are standing to attention by the Rhus Palmatum, the deep blue Iris Sibirica colonising themselves along the length of the stream.

I shall miss it all.

My redcurrant bushes, never pruned and growing magnificently, have burst out of the fruit cage, great fronds arching over the potager - the berries are just turning colour and I must watch them like a hawk or I will lose the fruit to the jackdaws who, as usual, have colonised the chimneys, sometimes appearing in the inglenook in the drawing room. Over the past few days, they have stripped my two cherry trees of the just ripening fruit. I am unable to pick the fruit as climbing a ladder is out of the question at the moment, so I have just had to look on helplessly as they squawked and cackled and plundered, the leaves shaking and bowing under the onslaught.

Today I am really tired, exhausted. Yesterday every time I sat down I fell asleep, always waking wondering where I was, with a dry mouth, and taking time to focus. I suppose I should listen to my body - I was told to do absolutely nothing for a month, so perhaps I should just settle down each afternoon, and watch Wimbledon - after all, how often does one have the opportunity to watch every second of the television coverage.

What I really need to do is sort out my Google Mail account. Somehow I hsve pressed something incorrect, and cannot access my e-mail - I can't answer any of the security questions, and go round in circles. It is a good thing I can access my blog. I am quite ashamed of myself - the term Luddite is so apposite to me.

I am just aware of something in the background - the Habanero from Carmen - how I love this - so forceful, so right on, so positive. I feel like stomping round my kitchen. Yes, my girl, get on with your life.


karen said...

You write beautifully. I love your descriptions of the garden and the summer evenings and mornings. Have you considered writing for yourself a memoir of this home you have loved, and the happy memories? Something for your family to cherish?

High Heeled Life said...

Oh my dear, your gardens sound so lovely!!! I would love to see pictures. Are you able to dig any up and take them with you?

I know how it is to not be able to move and the loss of a garden. With my accident we left the city and bought a country home with some acreage. Not ready to give up the city home we rented it out. When I couldn't get there last summer to care for the beautiful plants I had so lovingly and carefully planted over the 6 six years I lived there - one of the well meaning tenants - decided to be helpful and do some "weeding". Of course not aware that some of the green weeds - were plants that had lost their blooms for the season.

This spring when I went I discouvered that "ALL" my perinnauals - had been mistaken for weeds. 6 years of lovelies gone!!! HHL

Red Lipstick said...

What a lovely desciption of your garden! I feel as if I am there, beholding its blooming glory. I worte down some of your plant names (particularly the HARDY varity!) and plan to plant some of them in my very bad soil. My existing roses are doing quite well this year; my baby French Angora bunny loves to be given one as a snack, it is just the cutest thing ever to see her "enjoy" a rose after I've had the chance to. I'm going to try peonies this weekend and see how they thrive here. Thank you so much for sharing your garden!


I'm sooo with you on finding garden surprises ! They make up for the occassional disappointment when something doesn't do well or gets eaten ! I have some granny's bonnets which I love in the garden, but this year they have refused to flower. Most upset ! But everything else more than makes up for it. Love the way you write !

IsabelleAnne said...

So glad you are writing again. Hope you will seriously consider writing a novel. Your descriptions are so vivid and moving. I think there are many who would love to read about your unusual girlhood (life with grandparents on a large country estate, a glamorous mother, boarding school), coming of age in the 60's, married life with a thrill-seeking man, betrayal, etc. All set in England! (sigh...)Or perhaps a novel about your mother's life. When you are ready, of course. Forgive me if I'm over-stepping. I do not in any way intend to trivialize your experiences(!),it's just that you write so well & have what I think is a very interesting history.This might be a way to "Reclaim" your life and make lemonade from lemons.

Hope you have an uncomplicated recovery, and are able to enjoy each present moment in your dear old home and lovely gardens. All the best.xx