Monday, April 30, 2012


Although beautiful photographs of beautiful gardens are clearly worth seeing - simple garden snaps can sometimes say a lot about us and be treasured because of it.

Here's one in point. I took it of my garden this afternoon.

At first glance, you will see a not very well composed picture with cowslips in the foreground and some pots and things further back. Yet this is a picture which has gone straight to my heart because it is throbbing, absolutely throbbing with our family - our likes, dislikes and history.

For instance - top left, there is a blue blob on the ground. This is a soggy towel. My husband has a bad back. (The main reason we gave up our allotment.) When it gets particularly uncomfortable, he goes swimming and swims in a special way that alleviates the pain and strengthens the muscles. When he comes home, he ties his trunks to the line by the strings that hold them up and he flings the towel over the line without using any pegs. This, he says, distinguishes it from the washing that's been washed - as opposed to unwashed washing - like his trunks. So . . . come the wind and the rain, what does his towel do? It flies off, of course, and swishes around the garden knocking pots over and splatting seedlings. Then I go out and disentangle the towel from whatever plant has been strong enough to detain it and I dump it somewhere prominent. Then I pick up the pots and re-pot the plants. Then I go and complain about people who leave un-pegged trunks out in storms. Then we both leave the towel on the ground for a week. Eventually, I'll get round to picking it up, I suppose. Meanwhile, it sits there as a visible protest.

You can see, too, that I'm going through a burst of efficiency. See all the little plant labels? Very unusual. They all say 'Oxeye Daisy'. It's pretty obvious that's what they are because they don't look in the least like lupins or black basil or any of the other seedlings. But I'm proud I got as far as labelling them. Reformation has to begin somewhere.

Then there are the stones which divide the path from the border. They are Purbeck Marble. Purbeck Marble isn't marble and we got it from a quarry on Portland where they quarry Portland Stone, not Purbeck Marble. They had a little stack of Purbeck Marble they didn't want so they gave it to us. I never knew why they had it. Sampling the opposition, perhaps. They also gave us a big lump of Portland Stone so we could have our house name carved on it. It has stayed (in the way) in the back garden ever since. We can't lift it and it has nothing carved on it. I don't suppose it ever will. It would be a bit pretentious, we think, having lived with a number for twelve years, suddenly to pop up with a name instead. If I had raised the camera a little higher, you would have seen it poking unbecomingly above the box bushes - but then you wouldn't have seen the Purbeck Marble. Can't have everything.

Maybe you've noticed the froth of little white flowers to the left of the cowslips? They are what many would call weeds. I call them free plants and leave them because they are pretty. If they become too profuse, I pull them up. They are shallow rooted so it's not a problem.

This picture tells a lot too.

I've been doing my own research about what happens if you don't water plants. The answer, on the whole - is that they die. I knew that before I started but I hadn't expected there to be as little rain as there has been which means I hadn't expected as many to die as have done. These wallflowers have made it all worth while. I confess (I'm sorry) I did water them when they were seedlings and I did succumb to watering them very occasionally through the winter - say, about three times. But they have flowered non-stop like this all the way through. From autumn to spring they have been at it. (I took this picture this afternoon.) There are two plants here. Each one is growing in a hole in a brick. (You know those bricks with lots of holes, each about half an inch in diameter? Them.) I filled each hole with earth. Put a seed in - and . . . voila!

The big orange pot on the stand behind is part of my leave-a-pot-somewhere-and-see-what-comes-to-live-in-it experiment. In this case, a dandelion. On the extreme left of the picture (so extreme you can't really tell it's there) is a trough where nettles have moved in. A couple of other pots around the garden have become hosts to more conventional plants, self seeded from ones I am consciously growing elsewhere - red veined sorrel, foxgloves, aquilegia. They are in various states of disrepair. I haven't watered the nettles even once. The others, I didn't water for ages and ages then, all of a sudden, I got a tight grip of my brain and said 'If you want to water the plants you can. They are in your garden. You choose. Don't be a slave to science.' That kind of thing. So, I watered them twice. What happens? Major parts of southern England are now under flood. It's the same with the washing. How to make it rain? Hang washing on the line!

And last - Honesty. This is a plant I loved as a child. I didn't know about the flowers. It was the seeds (old-style penny sized white coins) that I liked. I suspect you may have already guessed that I come from a family with rigorous opinions. When I was a child, the next generation up had rigorous opinions about honesty. I don't know why. But requests for honesty in the garden were met with disdain. It was as if they weren't quite the done thing. But now . . . freedom! I have three honesty plants; presents from my husband and children. They had been on an expedition. Looking for the North Pole somewhere to the South of Dorchester, something like that . . . and they came across a little stall outside someone's house . . . and bought me three honesty plants. (Three honesty plants, one primrose and a delphinium.)

I do like life!


Bernard said...

"A little plant stall south of Dorchester". Ah, I must have stopped there too. It seems a common thing to do in Dorset. I was always stopping the car alongside a wee table outside a farmhouse or Rectory. It was at a Rectory that I got loads of little plants a couple of years ago, all in old plastic cups, with a hole in the bottom. (where the toe peeped through.) No, sorry, I'm getting mixed up with Mother Kelly, this was in Abbotsbury, by the Church. These little places are a real source of nostalgia, old tales and of course, wee plants for a mere 25p. I was staying on Portland that year, in a small quarryman's cot alongside the Museum at Ope Cove. (Rufus Castle). I had to 'pinch' a few rocks and stones, as I never saw any for sale. My rockery here is mainly Dorset/Purbeck rocks that have 'fallen' into my car boot by accident.
Take care....B

Pearl said...

Still waiting for the splash of color here, but I know I can always get it at your blog. :-)


Looking for Blue Sky said...

I love the experiementation :) My plants have learned to survive without water because I'm often too tired to get around to them, but I might try sticking seeds in holes in bricks. I like that idea x

Ginny said...

What an enjoyable post! I prefer the garden snap myself, especially when we learn so much about the gardener from them.

joey said...

Love life ... indeed you should! A lovely post.

squirrelbasket said...

Love it! And I love those honesty "coins", too. They always look so subtle and Japanese - I think I saw them once as part of a stained glass design with a peacock.
You wouldn't suspect they belonged to the same plant as those pink flowers.
Keep up the good work :)

Mark and Gaz said...

What a lovely and enjoyable post Esther! Thanks for sharing an insight about you and the stories behind the photos. It's true that simple snaps often can tell a lot about the owner if further introspection is done.

Creative use of bricks btw! :)

elizabethm said...

Everybody else has already said they like this post so I am not adding anything new, just saying so do I, very much. You have made me smile!

Donna said...

Esther I love your life snaps...such "honesty" for sure which is so refreshing...enjoying life yes that is the ticket! said...

I really enjoyed your post Esther. Very heartfelt, honest and descriptive. I always love your style of writing and you have some nice images here as well. Your garden looks pretty tidy even with that blue towel laying on the ground.

Kate said...

I love learning things about plants by accident like you did with your wallflower this winter.

Esther Montgomery said...

Hello Everyone!

Bernard - some of these way-side stalls are very tempting. It's good people can be trusted not only to leave money but to leave the money that's already there, there. Only a short while ago masses of people left boxes of apples out to be taken for free in the autumn. Where I live, this practice seems to be fading. Maybe because children on their way home from school were using them as missiles?

Pearl - colour and creatures . . . but sometimes not much more than a seedling in an expanse of dark earth.

Nothing but Blue Sky - it was because I've seen wallflowers growing from the tops of stone walls and out of their sides too. I decided to take the wall element seriously and, lacking a suitable wall, wondered if bricks would do. They did! It's now May 8th and, despite being battered by rain, these plants are still flowering. That's months and months and months of flowers!

Hello Ginny. I wish I 'snapped' more. When I am old, it is our family history, what we've done, where we've lived, that will truly interest me. I can always buy books of flowers for the the sake of flower pictures.

Hi Joey - we are agreed!

Mark and Gaz. These bricks came out of the ground when I was digging, soon after I moved in here but, when a house a few streets away was having building work done and they had a pile of bricks with holes in in the front garden, I loitered each time I went by, wanting to ask if they were going to be thrown away and whether I might take some so I could try more plants like this - but neither builders nor home-owners were there when I was.

Elizabeth - so glad to make you smile!

Hello Donna - it would be good to find out why 'Honesty' (the plant) has that name.

Gardenwalk, Gardentalk - It's a bit hit and miss, my garden. Sometimes it's pleasant to be in. Sometimes I like at it and think 'Oh bother!'

Hi Kate. Fortunately, my family leaves me to it. I don't think anyone has ever complained about the failed experiments lying around the place!


Esther Montgomery said...

Everyone - you might like to know there's a new post on Esther's Garden Notes. It's about bees. said...

Very interesting blog.

I like to read about plants.

Trees, nature. Was browsing and kept going. Hit several before you.

We have had our Thanksgiving us Canadians.So today I am roaming on my computer. Oh I added you.

I am a city girl now converted to a country gal.
I am retired and loving the country.

Wish after 8 years the black flies would love me do.

Not hate me do.

I do have this year the bug belt I call it.
Push the button and away I go.Bugs go the other direction.

Not toxin. Thanks to my daughter in-law's find.Bought it for me.

Now I can enjoy the Country Spring.

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