The phone rings it about one thirty in the morning. I do not open my eyes; there is no need. The conversation is fairly short, Liz begins to cry. There is nothing I can do to help; this is the moment of ultimate truth; nothing is more certain. For a minute, we embrace, Liz gets […]
How does your garden grow?
What do you picture in your mind when you think of the word ‘garden’ ?
The typical suburban cultivated plot with a lawn in the centre of flower borders, shrubs and trees, perhaps surrounded by a neatly shaped hedge?
Large expanses of green such as one finds in our National Trust owned Stately homes of England – sweeping drives, tree lined avenues, the majesty of established mature oaks, sycamore, rowen, beech trees, manicured lawns, landscaped acres designed perhaps by Capability Brown with rose arbours, herb gardens, orangery?
Perhaps a cottage garden, roses around the door and flower beds full of colour from hollyhocks, delphiniums, cornflowers, snapdragons, red hot pokers, honeysuckle climbing up trelliswork, a brick path leading you from the gate through this sea of colour to the neat front door?
We all have different ideas of gardens, often shaped by memories of childhood. Our gardens take on different characters throughout the changing seasons. In the UK we see distinct seasonal changes – in the winter many plants lie dormant, no growth, as they reserve their energy, rest and await the warmth of the sun once more. Dark days, many trees and shrubs mere skeletons having shed their leaves, the earth hard and cold from frost and often snow. Springtime and the sun rises higher in the sky and stays for longer each day, warming the earth and triggering growth, we see young green leaves, blossoms on trees, hedges fill out, new shoots push through to soil to reach the light. Summertime and many gardens are alive with colour, long days, plenty of sunshine and a few showers produce the best blooms, bees are frequent visitors as are the butterflies and many other species of insects – the garden is literally bursting with life. And the days become shorter, the temperatures drop, as do leaves, growth slows down as autumn leads us once again into winter.
So how does your garden grow? do you feed your garden with fertiliser and nutrients? Tend it well, nurture shoots and young plants, provide support in the form of canes and trellis, water and feed regularly? If you do all of this you will have a garden to enjoy, flowers will attract bees, vegetables and fruits can be harvested for your nourishment, you will have created a pleasant environment enjoy, play and relax.
Neglect your garden and the rampant weeds spread and choke the plants, taking over and turning your garden into an unruly wilderness. But what is a weed? Simply a non native species – usually introduced by man. Take for example the Rhododendron – introduced into this country as its flowers and blooms were admired and it was thought to be ideal for large estates – it is however considered a weed, a pest, its rampant growth chokes trees and prevents the growth of native plants in the same environment.
What of the common Dandelion? how many kill these and remove from their gardens? Yet the dandelion roots make an efficacious tea which can be used as a diuretic, the young leaves are edible and tasty as a salad leaf providing valuable iron, and the yellow blooms are a source of nectar for bees, of vital importance as they are one of the early flowering plants. So is the Dandelion truly a weed?
I invite you to think about your life as a garden. Do you have some in your life who are like weeds – enter your life uninvited and outstay their welcome, imposing their way and stifling you, restricting your growth? Have you thought to cultivate your life garden to grow the right crop, keeping those within your garden that are beneficial, enjoyable, bear fruit and weeding out those that are no longer needed?
Something to think about while you’re mowing your lawn, watering the flowers, picking fruit, weeding under hedges, enjoy the result of your labours
and perhaps contemplate what work, if any, is needed for the cultivation of your life garden…
Paid a visit to Stawberry Hill recently. Horace Walpole, son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, created Strawberry Hill in the 18th Century, between 1748 and 1790. He built and extended what was known as the ‘old small house’ to create the masterpiece of Gothic splendour that opens its doors to visitors today. The originally ‘old small house’ was known as ‘Chopp’d Straw Hall and was owned by a Mrs Elizabeth Chevenix, a well-known ‘toy woman’ or seller of trinkets.
Its a remarkable building and well worth a visit. Timed slots are booked in advance, in order to keep numbers to a manageable level within the rooms. Almost all the rooms have guides within who are well informed and tell the history of each room. Each visitor is also presented with a booklet, based upon Walpole’s original publication ‘Description of Strawberry Hill’ which guides the visitor through the house, room by room. I won’t go into detail here about each room, better to pay a visit to Strawberry Hill yourself – however something in one room caught my interest which I will share with you now.
Horace Walpole was very particular with the decor and furnishing of his grand summer villa. Indeed it was originally designed to hold his vast collections amassed when he was on his Grand Tour. Mr Walpole’s bedchamber was chosen by him due to the view it afforded over the acres of parkland in which the house was then situated. After Walpole’s death, the house passed through the family via tenuous links until it became under the possession of a Frances Lady Waldegrave in the mid 19th Century. She redecorated Walpole’s bedroom in 1856 with a rose patterned paper as was popular at the time – she also had built a closet. During the restoration some of the rose patterned paper was torn and beneath it was clearly visible a blue and bronze coloured flock wallpaper. The Lady’s rose bedroom had been achieved by papering over Walpole’s original paper. Sufficient pattern was visible for the restoration team to have reproduced in order to restore Horace Walpole’s Bed Chamber to its original decor. Flock wallpaper was a hand-made luxury product. It was made by applying adhesive to a roll of paper formed of joined sheets, using a carved wooden pattern block and shaking over it finely chopped wool fibres. The printed rolls were then pressed to imbed the fibres to create a velvet-like pattern. The flock wallpaper was originally hung in Walpole’s room in 1755-56, just over a hundred years later Frances Lady Waldegrave covered it with rose pattern machine print paper, made in France, and a hundred and fifty years or so after the lady had redecorated, the room was restored to its original pattern and colour.
Patterns and Layers form the natural world – look at plants, flowers – the symmetry and patterns are truly a wonder to behold. Crystals too have their patterns. One particular stone I’ve been looking at recently, Obsidian, displays some fascinating patterns.
Obsidian itself is a volcanic glass (SiO2 plus MgO, Fe3O4) – naturally occurring and produced when ‘felsic’ lava extruded from a volcano cools rapidly with minimum crystal growth. Felsic refers to igneous rocks relatively rich in elements that form feldspar and quartz. Obsidian, although mineral-like, is not a true mineral because as a glass it is not crystalline. Obsidian is hard and brittle and fractures with very sharp edges, in the past it was used for cutting and piercing tools and has even been used experimentally as surgical scalpel blades.
Pure obsidian is usually dark (black) in appearance, colouring varies depending on the presence of impurities. Sheen obsidian contains patterns of gas bubbles remaining from the lava flow – whereas Rainbow Obsidian is so called due to an iridescent, rainbow-like sheen considered to be caused by inclusions of magnetite nano particles.
The pattern of Sheen Obsidian is fascinating to see and enhanced by polishing and shaping the obsidian pieces.
Take a look around, can you see the patterns in your environment, surroundings, look beneath the layers… What’s hidden beneath?