Get going

Now this is really ridiculous. Promised myself that my very first day without any commitments (family, teaching or otherwise) would be spent in my new studio reading. Today is the day – but I can’t get started on it – keep doing things  like checking my mail and ordering and sorting stuff. Why?

[ had a coffee with R and T;  checked L’s new address and postal code and updated it in filing system; paid T her weekly wages; checked with R about his plans for the evening; called S about a training I’m giving next week; paid a bill for E who can’t do  his own electronic banking]

So to get going I am going to issue myself some  instructions:

1. choose book
2. read a chapter

[checked my diary to see if I can bring E to school tomorrow so R can go to work by train; paid another bill]

3. write about it.

I have a nice fat stack of books to choose from:

[used my phone to photograph the books; answered a question R has about a trailer; imported photo to this computer and resized it for blog use]

Do I select a book that I want to read or one that I need to read? Being realistic, want to read will be the better option for today. So let’s do A Sense of Humus, un-appealingly subtitled A Bedside Book of Garden Humour, by Diana Anthony. I love to read gardening books that are about the spirit of gardening, not its mechanics. So now stop gabbing and start reading!

[fetched a reading chair from the living room; checked on Karel Čapek who’s quoted in the Humus book; found a way to insert the Č character that makes his name sound like Chupek; ordered his book from Amazon UK]

So, this first chapter, The Gardener , it is all quotes from other garden writers. Like name dropping, really – but funny. Epitaphs by mrs Anthony:
– The arch-priestess of English Gardeners, Vita Sackville-West
– The well-known modern British gardening guru Christopher Lloyd
– Victorian writer and horticulturist Walter Savage Landor
– English gardener-writer Beverly Nichols
– Medieval gentleman John Evelyn
– British writer Margery Fish, well-known advocate of the English cottage garden
– Poet Laurie Lee
– Elizabeth von Arnhim, married to a German Count

[checked  Landor, Fish and Lee on the ‘net, for I have a garden trip to the UK planned and want to find some really interesting gardens to visit. No luck with Landor – he gardened in Florence – or Lee. But Margery Fish is a gem. She has – or rather had ‘cause she’s no longer with us – an exemplary cottage garden. It’s in Somerset, near Yeovil. Now I want to visit Beth Chatto’s garden near Colchester for sure. So this trip is going to take some planning.]

[All this gardening talk plus the sun coming out made me  walk through my own garden. Which is wintry and snowwy and has snowdrops, witch hazel, winter jasmine, hellebore, arrowwood, woodland crocus and winter violets. Which reminded me of a visit to  the Scilly Islands, to Tresco Abbey gardens. Who  have more than 200 species flowering on new year’s day. Incredible. Checked their site, they have a scholarship program, but no artist-in-residence. Could try to sell them on the idea …]

[set a timer for 12.00 for that’s when E comes home for lunch and I need to be in the house to open the door for her. Unset the timer for remembered she’s having lunch at T’s, won’t see her until 17.00]

So now for chapter 2: Tough cookies, you lady gardeners

[made a note in my diary to prune the apple trees as soon as the snow has vanished; apped R to check if I am to get the key for the car he has hired for tomorrow]

Name-dropping, again. Great woman gardeners past and present: Queen Hatshepsut (container garden), Josephine de Beauharnais (rose garden), Jekyll again (colour-coördinated garden), Sackville-West again (white garden). Revelation in the last paragraph: the author is a Kiwi! “Here in New Zealand we have  women such as Olive Dunn, … , Toni Sylvester, … , Bev McConnell, … , Nancy Steen.”  Now these ladies I’ve never heard of: go check!

[Olive Dunn – fragrant garden, Invercargill. Toni Sylvester, old roses,  Ivy Cottage, Greenhtithe. Bev McConnell, garden park, Whitford, Auckland. Nancy Steen, oldfashioned roses, Dove Myer Robinson Park, Parnell. Very english-style, all. Why? ]

[Said bye- bye to T she has a difficult day ahead tomorrow]

Choices are a. go read chapter 3 or b. go have lunch. Lunch wins.

[Back from lunch. Done a little ordering and sorting in my studio. Resisted the urge to go sew another couple of circles. Want to photograph them, too, for my ‘chasing the fifth’ series.]

Chapter 3: The Trouble with Gardening

In which we meet with New Zealand horticulturist Jonathan Cox and Australian writer Barbara Wenzel, both bemoaning the pitfalls that await amateur gardeners. Fortunately I made my mistakes in gardens past – a few in the garden present, but these have been dug over. My most important gardening rule is ‘met het geluk mee tuinieren‘ which roughly translates to ‘garden in the direction of happiness’. Meaning that I am a lazy gardener and much prefer plants that can look after themselves. So no plants that need support, that can’t stand chalky soil, that go on a rampage, that need pest control or that can’t handle low temperatures. No houseplants neither. My only extravagance is that I do potted plants – much to the amazement of my gardening friends. The thing I love about plants in pots is that I can re-arrange them during the season! Otherwise, gardening is an exercise in being patient – it allows for very few on-the-spot decisions. Then again I do waltz around with plants in high summer, a thing  that garden guru’s would frown upon.

[Went and scrubbed the floor of my little  orangery – yes, I do have one. It houses two orange trees, two oleanders, a number of african lilies, pelargoniums, fuchsia’s, begonia’s and bush lillies. It smells like spring in there.]

Chapter 4: Garden Attire

[OK – I give up. Must have the concentration span of a bedbug. Or maybe it’s all the arch writing style. New instruction: make a cuppa and do some sewing. Photographing, too. Wrestled with the WordPress plugin that does my galleries, I won. Wrote a small post about sewing circles]

Real gardeners having dirty hands and wear old clothes. So?

Chapter 5: The Answer Lies in the Toil

All about well rotted manure. Not of great interest to me. I don’t grow vegetables, and leave my soil alone. Our chickens provide fertilizer, also keep the slug population well in check. Chicks eat the odd flower, too. They are especially fond of lungwort, which is a pity, but I’ll live – the hen are usefull and their funny walk cheers me up.

Chapter 6: The Vast Eternal Labour

Weeds have funny names in English: ground ivvy (hondsdraf),  dandelion (paardenbloem), bindweed (winde), plantain (weegbree), creeping thistle (distel), charlock (herik), chickweed (vogelmuur), horse-tail (heermoes), coltsfoot (klein-hoefblad). Weeding on a sunny day – one of my favourite pastimes. I kill dandelion, bindweed, buttercup, cleavers and nettles with abandon. I’m lucky in that – apart from the bindweed – they none of them spread by underground stem.

[OK must admit that I’m getting better at this reading stuff. Two whole chapters with no interrupt! Must go cook the family meal now, also E will be home any minute now. To be continued.]

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