The risk of blossoming, and a little nyctinasty

I’ve been obsessed with plants that open and close recently (or more properly, nyctinasty).  My new baby passion flower for example seems shy about its own beauty.

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Until ta-da, when I’m not looking…

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Ridiculously splendid! And on a writing residency in Suffolk, I even began saying good night and good morning to the plants in my little cowslip filled garden…

It reminds me of a lovely family holiday in Carcassonne two years ago for my niece’s wedding, and watching the sunflowers turn their heads towards the sun. How hard it is not to give them all personalities.

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And also also not to see some significance to the current joyful spread of the little purple plant, self-heal. With its blue and purple colour and connection to the throat chakra (helping us to all to speak up)  surely  it’s what we all need more than ever at the moment. Here’s my friend, Marian, a true friend to the earth, picking some in her garden. She’s the one who told me to look out for it, and now I see it everywhere:

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There’s no poem about this today. I am actually working on it but after flowing for a couple of lines, it’s ended up being more of a battle than usual. I’ve shut myself up! Perhaps I need more self-heal to strengthen my throat, but in the meantime here are the names (from the RHS website) for this little powerful ‘weed’, surely a poem in themselves:

heal-all  all-heal  blue curls  blue Lucy  brownwort  brunel  caravaun bog  carpenter grass  carpenter’s herb  carpenter’s square  heart of the earth  herb carpenter  Hercules’ all-heal  hook-heal  hookweed  panay  proud carpenter  sickle-heal  sicklewort  slough-heal  square stem  thimble flower

Heart of the earth – how beautiful is that?

It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes, from the writer, Anais Nin:

      “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

 

Lastly, a reminder, if you are interested in writing in the garden, that I put up my first creative writing prompt on Wednesday. Hopefully it’ll become a regular thing. Do make yourself a tea, get a snack, find a bit of space and join in over the weekend!

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A Trip to Tropical Tresco

See whatttttt I did there?

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We’ve just come back from the Isles of Scilly, it was the perfect holiday but interesting how loads of people have heard of them but aren’t quite sure what – and where – they are. And those who have, say ‘ah Tresco,’ as if that’s the key one. Although yes, let’s be honest, there is a particularly splendid garden there.

We stayed on two islands, Bryher, and St Mary’s. To get between all the islands you have to – obviously – rely on boats. We soon found out that the boat to Tresco got very crowded, very early. Competitive island hopping? Luckily we had an excellent captain.

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Also, let’s be honest, we legged it inelegantly from the harbour up to the garden so we could be there before the crowds. Absolutely worth it. As well as the amazing diversity of plants from all over the world, this seems to be a garden about views, and catching surprising glimpses. Perhaps appropriate given I read this in Augustus Smith’s wikipedia entry:

In 1866 Lord Brownlow tried to enclose Berkhamsted Common with 5′ steel fences built by Woods of Berkhamsted and therefore, claim it as part of his estate. Augustus Smith MP brought out a gang of navvies on a specially chartered train to roll up the fence and leave it within sight of Brownlow’s house, demonstrating his will to protect Berkhamsted Common for the people of Berkhamsted. 

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You can find out about the history of the garden on the website here, but there’s something about certain gardens staying in one family, having that one thread running through them that gives a certain quality to the place. There were spots were you certainly could feel the spirit of Augustus Smith. And not just in his collection of figureheads, many from local shipwrecks.

 

And talking of glimpses, we JUST caught a red squirrel… look again, look a bit harder…

 

But luckily the benches were sleepier. I’ve being doing a #365haikuchallenge over on Instagram – here’s my one of the day from Tresco…

lie down for a while
my cobwebs on your eyes, 
what will you dream about? 

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Ready for your close up?

God but flowers are amazing. How are we not worshipping them daily? All these were taken today at Great Dixter Gardens – and I would have walked past them all without really noticing if I hadn’t stopped at the first one and then started looking properly. And for more awe and a writing exercise, see here...

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The News From the Garden

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is earthshattering,
a blackbird’s made its nest
in the hawthorn tree,

and breaking as I write,
seedlings planted a month ago
are bursting forth, teasing

us with their rainbow hints,
but if you rub 
a leaf
between finger and thumb

you can smell summer
already; a baby is kicking 
its legs
in response at the clouds

rolling over her like a news tape
filled with sun-bites,
while over by the swings,

a camellia 
leads an uprising
of blood red against the privet,
tulips and bluebells form a late coalition,

and even the grass strengthens its position
near where this morning, at five past eleven
dizzy with dandelion flowers

the cat let a pigeon fly free.
Only the plane tree, obedient
to the season follows the prompts

while propped up against the wall
already warming itself for glory,
the first rosebud waits for her cue.

A garden poem for meditation – walking in Stand Wood above Chatsworth House


We were too early to get into Chatsworth House so walked up to the Hunting Tower in Stand Wood while we waited. It was as if we’d wandered into a magic kingdom, and I suddenly realised how many times I’d walked here before in my imagination during meditation visualisations. Here’s the poem that came from it – and a video to enjoy at the end…

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And then Imagine a safe space

Even when they say beach, I’m here:
a messy set of steps, rocks,
the sound of water, and always trees,
their roots clambering
to hug the landscape, the touch
of moss on bark, branches entwining
and above, light filtering through leaves.

I’ve been here when I can barely listen
for crying, when I want to punch
that calm voice telling me to breathe,
and even those times feeling so helpless
that pressing play has been impossible
but still within minutes, I’m there,
this place I dreamt up in my imagination

and yet today, I walked inside it,
you’re here, you’re safe, and best of all
I could walk out of it knowing next time
I shut my eyes, it’ll be waiting,
this grove deep inside me, my body shifting
to make room for it, heart growing.

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And now I’m interested – where do YOU go when you meditate?

What do you do with all your garden guides?

We went on a ‘grand tour’ of the Peak District and Yorkshire last week – only one garden a day but even so I’ve ended up with an armful of guides.

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But what to do with them now I’m back? Write a poem about them of course…

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You need to have a plan

They sit on the bottom shelf
entwined with travel books
as if Chatsworth may take up wild swimming,
Castle Howard plan a weekend break
to Finland, and just maybe Hardwick Hall
could manage the night train to Russia,

and in the same way, on winter afternoons,
I’ll pick one out to remember
the cascades, curse how I didn’t find
that fountain, reassuring myself
with how next I’ll be armed with knowledge
of every Duke in England’s family tree.

It seems the lighter the garden’s spirit
the heavier must be the plan,
but at least now I can always trace
that moment we paused,
hit by the smell of rose petals
and how the rainbow entered the lake.

 

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Snowdrops rising like lanterns

 

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Winter Garden
by Sarah Salway

Like the pilgrim divests himself of worldly goods,
the garden’s stripped back to a skeleton,

only the vertebrae of paths holds its truest form
and even as trees hold blossom close, buds aching,

it’s still the cutting back that matters most,
while through it all the river’s artery rolls,

a trust in what lies beneath, snowdrops
rising like lanterns to show the way.

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