Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Sunshine, soil and fate

Sunshine and warmth – there really is no better tonic. Two weeks of antibiotics have finally shifted my pleurosy but I am still coughing like I smoke forty a day (which I don’t!) and feel like I am hauling a ball and chain around with me, no matter what I am doing. But then the sun shines down and makes the top of my head hot, and the warmth spreads down my back and I feel the energy start to thread through my veins.

My garden is calling me – it always does on days like these. There is so much to do and I feel frustrated that my energy levels are so low. Strategically placed benches beckon as I pause for breath and it is a good excuse to sit back, gaze around and plan.

There are two beds that need to be completely stripped and started again from scratch. The previous owner of our cottage was a keen gardener but his choice of plants was too formal for a country cottage. I have made many changes but this garden needs time to become my “dream” and patience isn’t one of my finer qualities, I’m afraid to admit.

At the weekend, we hired a turf cutter for the front garden and have stripped out the lawn (clover bed really!) and I am going around the edges with a spade to clear the awkward bits before I rake it over, put a membrane down and cover with gravel. The recent rain made this an easy task for J – we thought we’d have to leave it until later in the year again as the ground had got so hard, and I did much foot stamping in frustration that another spring had gone by without this job being done. So, sorry folks, the recent rain was probably my fault but I REALLY needed to get this job done this year. I have been nurturing my box hedging plants for ten months now and they will go in a rectangular shape, with gaps along the long edges, and then a diamond shape filled with lavender in the middle. I’m not going for fancy shapes, like a Tudor knot garden, but using the box plants as structure and contrast against the gravel and hold the shape for the lavender. I’ve got a picture in my mind’s eye of the look I want to achieve, but it won’t be fully complete until the extension is done, as my porch is still on the “to do” list and there is only a sad bit of trellis, at the moment, for my beautiful rose to ramble on.

Back in the rear garden, I have been edging the lawn around the flower beds and that has given an instant face lift. Two of my Camelot foxgloves have failed this year and so it’s a trip back to the garden centre for replacements, and my white delphiniums have disappeared too. The stronger blue ones are standing proud, though, but I confess to liking softer, paler colours – so much more gentle on the eye in this garden.

I didn’t hear the cuckoo this morning – the first time in weeks. Each morning since the beginning of May, it has been the first bird to start the dawn chorus, and as I have been tending my garden, or sitting and drinking tea at the table, I have heard it moving slowly around between the wood and across the lane to the farms. But today, the thrush is serenading me and the blackbirds are trying to compete, and almost succeeding.

The aquilegia have been glorious this year and the penstemons are about to burst forth. And the roses! They all had a hard prune back at the end of last year and are rewarding me with blooms of frothy colour. I thought I’d lost one of my weigelas but it is in flower – just! Even writing the names of these plants is making me want to turn the laptop off and go outside to stand and look and dip my trowel into the earth. Red Herefordshire earth, not dark brown crumbly soil from other areas. But this earth is coloured the colour of blood and I know it flows in my veins now – wherever we have been and we come back home and see the ploughed fields of red earth, it makes my heart lift. And when it has rained, the colour deepens and I love to watch as it dries out and gets lighter and lighter.

We connect with the land if we let ourselves. Our fore-fathers knew so many things that modern man has forgotten as we have become disconnected through technology, urban living and pace of life. But when you take the time to feel the soil as it runs through your fingers, sit back on your heels and listen to the birdsong as the breeze tickles the hair at the base of your neck and along your forearms, close your eyes and breath deeply, the connection is soon repaired and the phrase “life blood” takes on a new meaning.

I have said before that we have put down roots here and this red earth has taken a hold of me and drawn me in tight. This isn’t where I wanted to be originally. No, we were going to move to Ludlow, had found the house around 3 miles outside of town and were set to move. But it wasn’t meant to be – we lost the house and then couldn’t find another one we liked as much in the area. We broadened our search area and ended up on the south Herefordshire/Gloucestershire border – 45 minutes in real time further south. A perfect location for us as we have to get around the country regularly as J is self employed, and we can be on the M5 in twenty minutes.

We go back to Ludlow regularly to visit Dickinson’s Period House Shop and other favourite haunts, to wander around the market and browse the antique shops. It still holds a special place in my heart but I don’t think I could live there now. It’s just that bit too far away from family and friends, that bit too far away for J to commute easily, that bit too hilly, and in the winter that wind blows that bit more coldly. At the time we were hoping to move there, we didn’t yet know these things. Funny how life turns out, isn’t it? For the best, in our case, but at the time we didn’t realize it: we moaned and wailed in frustration. It’s that connection thing again. The earth, the elements, mankind and a melting pot of circumstances - fate, if you like.


@themill said...

That was lovely Woozle and hope you're continuing ot improve. Take care and take it slowly.
thanks for your comments on todays blog, but I won the battle for Gloucestershire and she is now coming to the end of her three year course there. My current battle is for the next stage. We have to know that if anything happens to us she is safe and secure without the boys having to put their lives on hold.
I'll be driving down the M5 on Monday. I wonder where you are?

Pipany said...

Blimey Woozle, I go offline for a bit and find you've had pleurosy! Hope you'rs gradually improving and the energy levels get back tonormal. So frustrating when the heart is willing and the body judt isn't. Your garden sounds so beautiful. Shame you're not near enough for a cuppa and a guided tour. As for Cornwall - well, the gorgeous weather has returned so hopefully you will be luckier than poor Kitty. My list would include: St Michael's Mount, Trerice, Trengwainton (beautiful little walled gardens). Beaches would be difficult to narrow down but you'll be near Bude where I grew up - pretty North coast town with stunning beaches and cliff walks. See the pepper pot and stare in awe at the drama below! Let me know if you want more as I could go on forever! xx

Cait O'Connor said...

What a lovely blog.
Pleurisy is ghastly isn't it? I am glad you are on the mend now.
Your idea of a turf cutter is brilliant, I did not know such things existed and I have a wee patch still to put to gravel. What gems we glean from this site!
As for delphiniums mine always used to disappear, I gave up in the end. (It was slugs, they love them and they would appear when no-one was around!)
Your garden sounds lovely, hope the sun shines for you some more. Are you near Symonds Yat at all, I have a best friend living there.
Thanks for your comments this morning.

countrymousie said...

So glad you are on the mend - your photo's are wonderful and your garden looks super.
My delphiniums have been nibbled by the deers now!
The sun is now coming out so I might gow out on the mower - it talks of heavy rain here tomorrow.
Keep well - love mousie

ChrisH said...

I commented and it went off into cyberspace! So... once again but probably more briefly.. thank you, that was really kind of you. So glad to hear you are recovering, hope the cough you're left with isn't too painful and goes soon. Your love for your garden really shows in your blogs and in those gorgeous gardens. everthing tall gets blown away here but one of my semperviviums tucked in a pot has had a 'baby' and I'm having a Kew gardens moment!

PreseliMags said...

I loved reading about your garden and your plans for it. Lovely pictures too. I well remember the red soil (I was born near the Herefordshire/Worcestershire border).

Pipany said...

Hello again Woozle. I wanted to thank you for your lovely comments left on my Wed blog - I'm no feminist either and that's despite studying gender issues for my Degree! I think its surely common sense that we should all be treated as equals as that's what we are! I am feeling much more positive thanks to all the support and advice from Purpleland xxx

Posie Rosie said...

Lovely to catch up with you Woozle, what a garden you have. Beautiful photos, I love flowers and am always trying to establish flower beds here. I bought some delphiniums the other day, caught the slugs trying to devour the leaves.
Cuckoo was still here on Wednesday.
So glad you are feeling better,

Inthemud said...

What beautiful flower photos, lovely blog. Hope you're doing OK.

Thanks for your comment s re job, I think I've sorted out pros and cons and come to conclusion I don't think ther time is right to accept the offer. Honour to be asked though !

CAMILLA said...

So glad you are on the mend, pleurosy is awful I was admitted to hospital with it two years ago.
Your pictures are lovely, I adore flowers. We had beautiful weather here last weekend, but for the last few days it has been damp, misty, and quite cold for this time of the year, definately not flaming June, hoping it gets warmer for the Tennis that starts soon. Glad to see you back with us dear Woozle, and hoping health continues to improve.

Pondside said...

Hi Woozle - thanks so much for the comments on my blog.
Sorry to hear that you had pleurisy - been there, so I am truly sympathetic. I hope that there will be time for you to just sit in your garden and let the sun shine on your face. When you know you've found your place - where you want to be rooted - I think it's possible to stop the work for a while and just enjoy the moment. The work will be there tomorrow and in two years from now because you're not going anywhere - at least that is the gift that settling down has given me.

Suffolkmum said...

Gosh Woozle, I managed to miss this last week, I don't know how 'cos I alwys look for yours, but I was just doing a trawl through the whole list as I do on Mondays (as I don't come online over the weekends) and here you were! Lovely blog, your garden looks fantastic. I nurtured my delhiniums last year but they've been eaten now. Love the sound of what you're planning, and hope you're totally recovered now. I love your writing about the red earth.

annakarenin said...

I love seeing and hearing about peoples gardens yours sounds wonderful. We were meant to be in this house. We had our previous house on the market for a year intending to move locally and sold it a couple of weeks after Mike got his new job. Although I still miss the beach I do love the house and the area we are now living in (Forest of Dean) and the people are really friendly.

elizabethm said...

what absolutely fabulous photos. your garden looks wonderful. isn't it amazing how much energy and passion can go into a garden? hope you are feeling great now.

Anonymous said...

oh woozle hope you feel better soon lovley pitcures im catching up with the blogs now take care and plenty of rest xx jep

Posie Rosie said...

Woozle, you've been tagged, means you have to write a list of 8 facts about you, @themill started it. Posiex