There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Sunday, 21 June 2015

A Tour of Our Garden

"A garden is a grand teacher.  It teaches
patience and careful watchfulness; 
it teaches industry and thrift; 
above all it teaches entire trust."
~Gertrude Jekyll

A David Austin 'Brother Cadfael' rose with fresh, June blooms.

One of my five Lavateras,
with the Harris Manchester
clock tower as a backdrop.
Before we begin the tour of our garden, let me preface by saying that I have no formal training as a gardener, other than the school of trial and error.  I am no master gardener; I rarely can remember the latin name for a plant, other than maybe Lavatera, and I've never once tested the pH of our garden soil. I just love to garden--pure and simple.  In The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame wrote, "there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."  I understand that sentiment completely, except I would replace the word boat with dirt, because for me there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in the dirt.

"I say, if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, 
you ought to seriously re-examine your life."
~ Bill Watterson,
Calvin and Hobbs

Master digger, Jack.
I've read that there are microbes in the soil that somehow act on the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is a compound in our bodies that among other things regulates our moods; in other words these microbes that are in the dirt that's stuck underneath my fingernails at the end of the day are a natural Zoloft or Prozac. It's a positive feedback loop of the best kind--the more I dig and plant, the happier I feel, and the more I want to dig and plant.

"Gardening is cheaper than therapy,
and you get tomatoes."
~Unknown (but a very wise person).

So that's one reason why I garden--it just makes me happy.  Another reason is the urge to create--I can't not do it.  It has never mattered where I live--a farmhouse, a two bedroom apartment, or a cottage--I've nurtured flower pots, planted lavender, created an herb garden, or added a window box.  It doesn't matter where you are, you can propagate beauty in some small way. There isn't anything that feels quite like creating something out of nothing and for me, there's nothing better than creating beauty.

"I'm going to make everything
around me more beautiful. 
That will be my life."
~ Elsie deWolfe

So welcome to our garden.  It's a little bit wild, it's unmanicured and natural, and it's a sanctuary for people, puppies, birds, bees, and hedgehogs in the middle of a bustling city.  You enter through a little garden gate, that opens onto small stone steps, taking care to duck underneath the archway in the 10 foot tall hedge.

Jack is at the top of the steps, waiting to show 
you around what he now believes to be his garden.

There's a Cotswold stone bird bath in the 
middle, surrounded by Hidcote Lavender.

The 'Brother Cadfael' rose is named after Ellis Peters'
sleuthing Shropshire monk.  It's a medium pink, with
a rich myrrh fragrance and a prolific bloomer.

Because I don't have hours a day to spend in our garden,
I grow things that are easy and don't need a lot of special
 care--hardy roses, lots of lavender, forget-me-nots, 
geraniums, hollyhocks, sage, and Lavatera, to name a few.  
St. Francis, who came along with Max and I from the U.S.,
watches over it all throughout every season, in sunshine or in rain.

I prefer to grow Hidcote Lavender because of it's deep
purple colour that holds it's rich tone even after it's dried.
An apricot climbing rose grows alongside the summerhouse.
An old garden spade serves as a rustic trellis.
This is our summerhouse and my inner sanctuary. 
A place to sit and read, a place to dream and breathe,
or sometimes just a place to get out of the rain.

This is our wild corner, reserved for hedgehogs, and there are three
hedgehog houses buried under fresh cedar and ivy clippings.  We 
have plenty of gaps in the hedges too for hedgehogs to slip under, 
since they're known to travel up to 2 or 3 km a night.  A large 
butterfly bush and a quince protect it all from wind and rain.

A teacup bird feeder hangs from the quince bush.

Peek over the brick wall that's the backdrop for my roses, and you 
can see our neighbour's lovely garden, her white roses blooming against
 a canvas of green.  The black and white house in the background 
to the right is No. 1 Mansfield Rd. where C.S. Lewis lived when 
he first came to Oxford.  He must have looked out of that little window 
and saw the same black walnut tree that I look out onto from my 
kitchen window. The Harris Manchester clock tower is to the left of it, 
and tolls the time for Jack and I as we work and play in the garden.

There are benches to sit and drink Pimm's and watch Jack play.

Who turned out the lights?!
The chicken coop in the background is fortified and ready 
for the two Burford Brown hens we've ordered, 
Mrs. Catherine de Bourgh and Mrs. Havisham, to move into in July.

We even have apples, quince, blackcurrents, and gooseberries.

A quince blossom.

We have a bumper crop of apples this year.

Tangy gooseberries.

And that's about all there is to show.  Our garden will never be
 on a garden tour or win any awards; it's the place we 
find sanctuary, a place I can get my hands dirty 
and create beauty.  It's where our dogs can play, 
hedgehogs can find shelter, bees can feed off lavender, 
and birds have food year round--and those are things 
that can be created anywhere, no matter where you live.

"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of 
things growing in the soil, getting dirty 
without feeling guilty, and generally taking 
the time to soak up a little peace and serenity."
~Lindley Karstens

Jack will show you the way out because he likes to show off how he can 
bound and leap down the steps now. Thanks for visiting and 
don't be afraid to get a little dirt under your fingernails--
just grow what you love and the rest will follow.

"The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth."
~Dorothy Frances Gurney,
Garden Thoughts

I'd love to hear from you in the comments below--what do you love to grow, where do you garden?


  1. Wonderful and inspirational post!! I love to garden, too, so this was a delight! I love the Brother Cadfael rose! I love that series of DVD's. We've watched them all. Derek Jacobi does such an outstanding job! How exciting that you have the same "window on the world" as C. S.Lewis did! And your hens' names!! Perfect!! Love both those books! It will be fun to see them settling into their new home in future posts! And such fun to see Jack romping and so much at home in "his" garden! He no doubt will provide entertainment, or consternation for your hens!! Something else to look forward to! Thanks again for a refreshing visit to Oxford!! Jane xo

    1. I loved Brother Cadfael too--hence the rose in his honour. They used to have a wonderful "World of Brother Cadfael" museum/attraction up in Shrewsbury, that my sister and I toured--with his herb garden, the scriptorium etc, which was fun to experience. And yes, puppies and hens should be very interesting, although I'm prepared with movable fencing until we can all come to a détente and have a peaceable kingdom. ;-)

  2. My husband just stopped by and wanted you to know that he spent 3 years in Lakenheath in the U.S. Air Force in 1950's! . . . and he loves Jack!! :-)

    1. Thanks for stopping by--and Britain in the 50's--you must have experienced the low point of British cuisine, but Suffolk is a beautiful part of the country. You'll have to stop in often and watch young Jack's progress

  3. The cuisine may not have been much, but he though England sublimely beautiful, and I'll bet it was suburb! That must have been when C. S. Lewis was walking the paths from village to village!