Truth universally acknowledged


It is a truth universally acknowledged that a married lady in possession of a garden must be in love with a plant. If only Jane Austen had  been a gardener … very little garden lore in her books, apart from the ubiquitous shrubbery, where some of her best scenes have been set. Remember Elizabeth Bennet and lady De Burgh? No, I looked it up, that was a ‘very pretty little wilderness’, alternatively named a ‘copse’.

Wiki: A shrubbery was a feature of 19th-century gardens in the English manner, with its origins in the gardenesque style of the early part of the century. A shrubbery was a collection of hardy shrubs, quite distinct from a flower garden, which was a cutting garden to supply flowers in the house. The shrubbery was arranged as a walk, ideally a winding one, that made a circuit that brought the walker back to the terrace of the house. Its paths were gravel, so that they dried quickly after a rain. A walk in the shrubbery offered a chance for a private conversation, and a winding walk among shrubs surrounding even quite a small lawn was a feature of the garden behind a well-furnished Regency suburban villa.

“Mr Rushworth,” said Lady Bertram, “if I were you, I would have a very pretty shrubbery. One likes to get out into a shrubbery in fine weather.” —Jane Austen, Mansfield Park (1814).

Ask: A copse is a very small broad-leaved woodland originally derived from coppicing. Nowadays the term is used more widely as a group of trees or bushes growing close together.

Monty Don keeps talking about copses in My Roots, which I read recently.  Am now working my way through the diaries of Derek Jarman – Modern Nature and Smiling in Slow Motion. Jarman more interesting but much more sad than Don. Also a little more explicit. Then again, they say that good cooking, good gardening and good sex have a lot in common.

Anyway, I fell in love with Borago officinalis (Borage, Starflower, Komkommerplant). Planted two seedlings last year, they gave me very pretty blue flowers all summer and fall, edible ones but I neglected to eat them. Plants have beautiful mint-green leaves that sparkle when dewy. So important to have flowers that look their best in the rain! The borage kept its leaves right through the winter  – what winter? – and is on the verge of flowering again. What more can a woman ask? Will taste them for sure this time around. Also discovered lots of borage seedlings today – they announce themselves with big fat leaves, thick on the ground. I  re-planted them in more strategic spots: borage is officially a herb, but I’ll not confine it to the herb garden . It is way too pretty for that.

Also true:
– white roses (unknown species) have been in flower all through the winter months;
Calendula Officinalis or Marigold also in flower again – this is very very early. I grow a particularly nice one that is more yellow than orange, raised from seed picked a few years ago along the road. Have sown some in little pots today. Will plant them out later, but keep one in a pot as I want to see what it would do as a conservatory plant;
– grew the tiny Tulipa Tarda from seed also; it’s just started flowering
– found a number of self-seeded hellebores that I transferred to a pot to better keep an eye on them. Garden is very very dry. Hoping for rain on a sunny day is such a counter-intuitive thing to do.



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