Prayer Flag Pots

 

 

prayer flags

Inspired by the pretty posies the women of the village used to decorate the tea tables in the old Royal British Legion hall {see The Wisdom of Flowers} I have been giving some consideration to colour. Apart from the fountain of fuschia there is very little colour in the Secret Garden giving it the appearance of 50 shades of green {which isn’t as exciting as it may sound}.

Close to the cottage is a small public garden set on a steep slope, I’ve no idea if it has an official name but I think of it as the White Garden. It is rosebordered on two sides by an old stone wall that has been painted white, on the other two it is edged with a staggered double row of silver birch.

White stones and gravel have been used to create the steps and paths and all the plants are white. The roses wouldn’t look out-of-place with a couple of playing cards painting them red but the pale planting and panoramic views make it appear more spacious than it is. However such a limited palette wouldn’t suit the Secret Garden.

A friend’s father planted his garden red, white and blue, colours associated with his favourite football team which was rather a fun idea. Of course a garden can be many things to many people, it can be a place to grow food, to eat and entertain, or it can be a retreat, a place to read and relax. To me the Secret Garden is all that and more but above all it is a place of meditation.

With meditation in mind I began to look around for inspiration for the future planting plan and my first thought was to base it on prayer flags. I bought my first prayer flag many, many years ago on a visit to Samye Ling nestled deep in the Scottish Borders. Samye Ling is the oldest Tibetan Buddhist Temple in the Western world and if you ever get a chance to visit please do, it is a most remarkable place. Over time the prayer flags faded before finally disintegrating so my first thought was to plant floral flags.

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Prayer Flag Pots

But prayer flags would limit me to only five colours {blue, white, red, green, yellow} which I felt was rather restrictive. Following further contemplation I then thought to base my planting plan on the colours of the seven main chakra…

Muladhara ~ Root Chakra {red}

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Swadhisthana ~ Sacral Chakra {orange}

nasturtium

Manipura ~ Solar Plexus Chakra {yellow}

close up

Anahata ~ Heart Chakra {some say green, some pink but it’s the same chakra}

first plums plums

 

Vishuddhi ~ Throat Chakra {pale blue}

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Ajna ~ Third Eye Chakra {violet}

foxglove

Sahasrara ~ Crown Chakra {white}

**dandelion clock

 The biggest challenge will be to incorporate these colours throughout the cycle of the seasons although there’s always the blue of the sky, the evergreen of the bay tree and the golden-yellow trim on the holly, Ilex aquifolium Aurea Marginata {sadly it’s a male tree or there would’ve been red berries too add to the chakra colours} which is a good start.

But if all else fails there’s always bunting!

bunting

**Yes that’s a dandelion but no it’s not a weed unless you long for a luscious lawn. Dandelion  {taraxacum officinale} is a flowering herbaceous perennial used in kitchens and apothecaries and it produces the most beautiful seed head.

 

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The Importance of Being Idle

“Sitting quietly,

doing nothing,

spring comes,

and the grass grows by itself”

fuschia stairs

Way back in February when the garden was sleeping I blogged about the Secret Stairway I had discovered hidden under layers of garden detritus.

Inspired by a photograph I had found on Pinterest of blue hydrangea I had such plans for that part of the garden.

But before my fall all I had done with the stairs was to clear them and now I’m not at all sorry.

Unable to easily access that part of the garden and in no fit condition to dig and sow spring came to Secret Stairway and it bloomed all by itself.

And oh my doesn’t it look lovely.

Attack of the Triffid

courtyard garden

‘I shall host a garden party!’ I declared excitedly when one of my closest friends mentioned that she would be in town for a family wedding in the summer.

That was back in the autumn.

Time stretched away into the distance.

Looking at the calendar on Thursday morning time seemed to have taken a bit of a jump forward. Looking at the garden there was still so much to be done. Looking at the clock I realised that I could do an hour or so of weeding before work.

I had already cleared most of the ground cover weeds and was concentrating on taking out the triffids, large spiky things with thick woody stems and deep root systems. Each took several days to remove having to be pulled, twisted and tugged repeatedly to be persuaded to part gradually from the ground. My arms were so badly scratched by the thorns I looked like I had been self harming. One triffid was stuck so fast that I finally gave up trying to uproot it and used my spade to chop through the root, though even that took considerable time and effort.

On Thursday morning with only an hour or so to spare I knew I wouldn’t have time to tackle another triffid so I by-passed the large triffid half way up the courtyard stairs and hacked and pulled at some briars and nettles. As I passed the triffid at the top of the stairs I gave it a test tug. It was stuck fast. I gave it another couple of tugs just to start the process of loosening it in the hope of making my planned weekend gardening session a little easier.

But this time was different. With the second tug it remained stuck fast. With the third tug it suddenly and astonishingly flew out the ground. Where was the warning I wondered, the gradually easing of the large root? Falling backwards through time and space I stumbled on the uneven steps. Doing my utmost to impersonate my cat I attempted to twist in mid fall in the hope of landing on my feet but as I did so I stumbled on the other side of the uneven step and toppled over the wall at a jaunty angle falling head first towards a pile of rocks and rubble.

My brain registered a freeze-frame image of my wrist as it crumpled and all I could think was ‘oh this is not good, I start work in a couple of hours’.

Looking at time tick by in A&E I knew that it wasn’t going to be sorted in time for starting work. I knew that it would be several weeks at the earliest before I would work again. I have only recently started a new job and live alone and the implication of my predicament didn’t escape me but there’s nothing like acute pain to focus the mind in the present moment. This breath, the next breath and the one after that was as far into the future as I could contemplate.

The lights in the x-ray department are those eco-friendly movement activated lights which kept going out as I sat silently hunched over my wrist focusing on this breath, the next breath and the one after that. Waiting quietly for the radiographer to call me.

This breath, the next breath and the one after that.

It’s still early days and I remain optimistic that full feeling will return to my fingers any day now but I won’t know until the cast comes off whether there is any permanent damage. The possible implications are so far-reaching that they have the potential to forever change the course of my life. But battered and bruised all I can focus on is this breath, the next breath and the one after that.

And that’s not a bad thing.

 

fracture

Ode to a Blackbird

 “Most musical, most melancholy” bird!
A melancholy bird! Oh! idle thought!
  In nature there is nothing melancholy.
       

 Coleridge

blackbird1

Picture pinched from Pinterest

Coleridge wrote the poem ‘The Nightingale‘ in 1798, around the time the cottage was built and the Secret Garden first created. ‘The nightingale sounds rather like a blackbird singing at dusk’ my high school English teacher said in an effort to bring the poem to life for the class. I often thought of her whenever I heard a blackbird sing but now when I hear it’s song I am reminded of a friend.

Apart from gardens some of my favourite places to visit are museums, art galleries and coffee shops. And one of my favourite, favourite places is a coffee shop inside an art gallery…

Glaring at my friend in exasperation I exclaimed ‘there’s just no point taking you anywhere nice or doing anything interesting coffeewith you because you never appreciate it. You’re either ranting about something that happened years ago or fretting about something that hasn’t happened yet, something that may never happen. You are in a beautiful wood-panelled coffee shop surrounded by priceless artwork but you could be anywhere. This coffee is divine but I doubt you’ve even tasted it. Now shut up and don’t say another word. I am trying to enjoy my coffee.’

There was a stunned look at my outburst then a quiet smile as he allowed me to savour my coffee in silence. During the car journey home I lectured him at length about the importance of contentment. A few days later in the garden {my last garden} I grumbled about the traffic noise ‘not entirely content then’ he muttered as he adjusted the parasol.

Traffic noise is a dim and distant memory now and every evening a blackbird sweetly sings in the Secret Garden. As for my friend they say people teach that which they most need to learn and he now teaches meditation. Perhaps I ought to teaching gardening! I have been trying for months to get a photograph of him {the blackbird not my friend} without success so here instead is another picture of a blackbird {in a garden} pinched from Pinterest.

blackbird2

Courtyard Chaos

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

Wayne Dyer

With selected plants in carefully placed pots, an arrangement of garden furniture not to mention a small chimnea and a string of bunting the courtyard was beginning to look rather nice. In the actual garden part of the courtyard a few plants were starting to come to life and all appeared to be under control. But you know how deceptive appearances can be!

 

chimnea

After the wonderful weather over the Easter weekend we had a week of April showers and suddenly the Secret Garden exploded into life. With weeds choking the few plants in the courtyard I began to feel slightly overwhelmed by the sheer size of the task and momentarily slipped out of the moment allowing my imagination to conjure up all manner of worst case scenarios. As {in my fevered imagination} the trees turned into triffids I decided it was time for an emergency cuppa. Time to sit down at the garden table and do nothing more than drink tea and just be. With my attention back in the present I felt much less daunted as I realised {to paraphrase Eric Morcombe} that I have all the right plants but not necessarily in the right order.

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The plants that adorn the courtyard garden ought to be further up, under the trees. They are woodland plants and look out of place in the courtyard but transplanted have the potential to enhance the garden. With that in mind I decided to start at the very beginning {a very good place to start}  clearing the courtyard garden completely, removing or replanting everything in it, replacing them with my own planting design.

seed catalogue

 

Finishing my tea I tackled the task with renewed enthusiasm {and a little ‘help’ from Hort Hound} not because the garden had changed but because I had changed the way I looked at it and it was once more filled with possibilities not problems.

hort hound

 

 

The Perspective of Plants

I believe everyone should have a broad picture of how the universe operates and our place in it. It is a basic human desire. And it also puts our worries in perspective.

Stephen Hawking

 

The cottage is in the oldest part of the town on a long and crooked street close to the harbour. Known the world over as the birthplace of Adam Smith the town has had a varied history. It is recorded that it began to thrive in 1763 shortly before the cottage was built and my family first arrived in Scotland. However it was to be another two hundred years before the fates brought the family to the Lang Toon. Reflecting on this as I gazed out the garden door one rainy Sunday I idly wondered what the garden looked like 200 years ago?

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Growing close to the kitchen window with yellow matter custard flowers one plant was identified in my plant encyclopaedia as a Kerria Japonica Pleniflora named after William Kerr, the young Kew gardener who discovered it after being seconded to the East India Company in China in 1804.

Commonly known poetically as Japanese Rose it grows beside and through a Russian Vine that tumbles over the old stone wall enclosing the Secret Garden. An article in the Telegraph reports that by 1838 Japanese Rose ‘was so common as to be found in the gardens of even labourers’ cottages’. Perhaps it is too fanciful to imagine that this is descended from an original cottage garden plant but it is so delightfully romantic that I choose to believe it could well be.

And it also puts my worries in perspective.