Friday, 29 June 2007

From My Garden Of Memories.

The month of June at Barleycorn brings out the rich colours of the oriental and annual poppies, bursting forth with more than a dash of brilliance amid the muted tones in the garden. They seem to create a kind of midsummer madness with their intoxicating vibrant colours, as well as exuding an air of exuberant joy, which makes me think of them as the hallelujah chorus of the garden.
As I stroll around, camera in hand, trying to capture the unparalleled beauty of the different varieties of poppy - some with sunlight streaming through their petals, others after a shower of rain - I am aware that poppies, in particular, have an immediate impact on my sense of wellbeing, as they trigger so many heightened memories.
Each of us, I would suggest, has a ‘heart’ book, where we write the names of those who have influenced us to a greater or lesser degree. I regard those who have had the greatest influence in my life as heroes. In my immediate family, one such person, who always had my best interests at heart throughout his life, was my beloved brother.
Born with the gift of a sunny disposition, he had charm and charisma, both of which enabled him to get on famously with everyone with whom he came into contact during his life. Each day he greeted the world with a smile and a wave.

Although he had a strong artistic ability, not only evident in his drawing skills but also in his beautiful garden, he was also well-known for his skills on the dance floor, making him popular at family gatherings, weddings, and, in his younger days, the local Palais de Dance.

Though my dad, and my grandfather before him, had encouraged my interest in gardening, it was my brother who became my greatest inspiration, because he demonstrated first-hand all the practical steps, when, as a young woman, I took ownership of my first garden.
Whether he was showing me how to take heel cuttings and when to use rooting powder, or demonstrating the art of pruning roses correctly, or dividing plants with two forks back to back, or advising on the correct depth at which to plant bulbs, or encouraging me to think of foliage as well as flowers when choosing plants, nothing was too much effort for him.
Not solely a loving brother to me, he and my husband developed a great rapport, teasing each other with brotherly banter, and, later he became a much-loved uncle to our two young sons, who would run to show him their latest book or toy, and climb up, one on either knee, each vying for his attention.
During the weekends when he came to dinner, we often spent happy times walking round the garden enjoying each other’s company while discussing the merits of favourite plants and flowers. Occasionally, amidst whoops of laughter from my husband and our boys, he would suddenly sweep me off my feet, waltzing me round and round the garden, while I’d add to the fun by singing the lyrics of ‘Stardust’ to accompany our dancing.

I value those precious times spent with my brother, wandering arm-in-arm along the poppy walk, stopping to comment on how the double-petalled oriental poppies resembled the skirts of Spanish dancers, or marvelling at the contrast in colour between the pink, red, white and inky black of the double-headed peony poppies. Memories of those halcyon days are indelibly imprinted in my mind.
Some people seem to generate love and kindness to those whom they meet along life’s highways and byways, as in the story of the Good Samaritan, and that seemed to be the raison d’etre for my brother’s life.
Several years ago, on his way homewards, tragedy struck when he lost his life at the hands of unscrupulous men, and died in mysterious circumstances. At the time I thought I’d never smile again, as my world had diminished greatly, having lost my only loving brother, precious, not only to me, but also, to everyone in our family and to his many friends.
The greatest thing I learned from his loving example was, that, no matter how important we think our hobbies and interests are, people must always come first, for they matter most in life.
The love we experience from those who are most precious in our lives, is worth the pain of losing them; for those we love, and lose in this life, in a sense, never really leave us, for their memory lives in our hearts forever.

And now the purple dust of twilight time, Steals across the meadows of my heart
Now the little stars, the little stars pine, Always reminding me that we're apart
You wander down the lane and far away, Leaving me a love that cannot die
Love is now the stardust of yesterday, The music of the years gone by.

Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely nights
Dreaming of a song, That melody haunts my reverie
And I am once again with you
When our love was new, And each kiss an inspiration
Ah, but that was long ago, Now my consolation

Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall, Where stars are bright
You are in my arms, That nightingale tells its fairy tale
of paradise where roses grew
Though I dream in vain, In my heart it will remain

my stardust melody, The memory of love's refrain.
Ah, but that was long ago, Now my consolation
Is in the stardust of a song
Beside a garden wall, Where stars are bright
You are in my arms, That nightingale tells its fairy tale

of paradise where roses grew
Though I dream in vain, In my heart it will remain

my stardust melody, The memory of love's refrain.
Lyrics by Hoagy Carmichael.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Midsummer's Day At Barleycorn

Midsummer's Day (yesterday) at Barleycorn brought a spectacular thunderstorm. You can look at a little video of it (below) on this post. For the best sound effects of the thunderstorm, please turn up the volume.

Today, however, is warm and sunny, so my camera and I went out for a little walk. What did I spy? Click the link below.

On A Year In Pictures At Barleycorn you can look at 'Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens' and be introduced to our latest pussycat, called Chelsea!

On Wildlife Gardener Visits you can see some of the spectacular bearded irises at this year's Chelsea Flower Show.

Thunderstorm At Barleycorn

Thursday, 14 June 2007


For the latest photographs of the garden at Barleycorn, click A Year In Pictures At Barleycorn...and for Chelsea Flower Show photographs click My Point Of View.

Our Little Corner Of Paradise In Mid-June

Monday, 4 June 2007

A Work Of Art

If you could wave a magic wand to create your idea of a perfect garden, how would it look? What would you have growing within it? What special alchemy would you require to design your little corner of paradise?
Mine would have a quiet corner where I would sit in dappled shade surrounded by cool planting - euphorbias, hostas, myosotis and geraniums - and watch the wildlife bringing the garden to life, while listening to the gentlest trickling of water.

Whenever I felt inspired to create watercolour paintings of the flowers growing in my garden, or I wanted to sit down with a cup of tea and write about the powerful experience of being in such a garden, I would walk down the path, through the gap in the hornbeam hedge, to a pretty pavilion with terracotta flowerpots bordering the steps.
In bold contrast, there would be a sunny area to dazzle the eyes. There, I would sit and contemplate the beauty of the garden, in the way I might gaze at a masterpiece, where the passionate artist has put his heart and soul to work using a riot of colourful flowers to paint his canvas.
It would evoke in me the feeling of being somewhere special, where the designer has breathed life and meaning into it, and I would be touched by his inspiration. Such a garden would make my heart sing, because it would exude a touch of soul and romance.

The heady mix of colour and perfume from the flowers – roses, peonies, poppies, lupins, alliums, verbascums, delphiniums, lilies, digitalis, lupins and irises - would be intoxicating enough to have my imagination soaring upwards like a high-flying kite, and I would go home feeling transformed, because his creation would have worked its magic spell on me.

I experienced such a garden - a work of art - at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, created by someone whose philosophy is, ‘A great garden should provide limitless rewards no matter what the time or season – it is a coherent collection or reminder of all that we find most precious in life’.
The inspirational garden, designed by Chris Beardshaw, won the coveted People’s Choice Award for Best Show Garden, because his masterpiece touched the hearts of tens of thousands of keen amateur gardeners who voted for him.
His creation certainly stole my heart, for, surely the proof of any lasting impact is that I should be writing about the strong feelings of inspiration it created in me long after leaving the garden.