Posts Tagged ‘books’

Monday, 22 April 2019

We were out the door to go to work, not relishing the cold air, when the rain began.  I happily retreated to my comfy chair and a book that Allan had checked out for me from the library.  It had been recommended to him by a book site while he ordered other British books. “If you like that, you’ll also like this.”

watching the weather

 A paragraph in the introduction, by Nigel Slater, had me thinking about how timid I am about what I choose to share in this blog.  I write an awful lot that I then delete, although WordPress preserves it all in the various drafts of each post (along with all the typos and mistakes that get corrected):

I am aware my writing has taken on a melancholic turn,” the author writes much later into the book, “so perhaps it is time to share a sunnier story.”  So even he pulled back from revelation for a moment.

And even later:

This was the perfect time to read a book by someone brave enough to dig deep, even though he is a well known writer in the UK and now people will know his secrets and pain.  How does he feel about that, and how can he stand the exposure? I ask that of almost every memoir I read, while at the same time being grateful for the writer’s transparency. (It is ironic that I just deleted two lines from this very paragraph.)

It had taken me a long time today to settle down and actually set all other materials aside and apply myself to reading.  Then the first page mentioned snails eating baby beans.

I had to get up again, go outside, and apply Sluggo to my baby sweet peas.

The table I painted yesterday looked wonderful in the rain.

Allan’s photos

Plot 29 goes back and forth between the present day and the author’s childhood and his search for answers about his parentage.

Well, now, this is just how I felt about several gardens I have gone in to rescue over the past 25 years…

I was excited to see a mention, all in one paragraph, of Monty Don AND one of my favourite gardening books, the book that inspired me most about seaside gardening, Derek Jarman’s Garden.

On the appearance of a gardener:

Jenkens and his allotment companions use the principles of “Biodynamic gardening” and stir up various potions.

At bedtime, I am reading chapters of Linda Chalker-Scott’s The Informed Gardener books, one chapter thoroughly debunking Biodynamics.  Oh dear.  Sometimes I am not sure what to think of all the debunking, since further scientific studies often contradict the first studies, etc.

I can tell biodynamics is just not something I would have the energy or belief to try.

Oh!  The author writes about driving: “I have only once been behind the wheel.” I am thrilled.

On his three gardens, one at a small summer cabin in Denmark, one a rooftop garden outside his London flat, and the allotment patch:

As regular readers know, once I began to read Plot 29 I could not stop to do anything until I had finished.  I so appreciate Allan finding it for me.  Locals can order it from the Timberland Regional Library.

Mr Tootlepedal had asked if I had seen any of a gardening show called The Beechgrove Garden.  I had not.  It is a Scottish gardening show, rather like Gardeners’ World, and I I was delighted to find some episodes online.  I watched one episode and will watch as many as I can find.  Down the rabbit hole!  It has been on telly since the 1970s.  Fortunately for my getting things done, all the shows are not online.

I also found in the past few days a Gardeners. World Road Show from 2005 in which the hosts go on tour to a city, visit many gardens, and have a plant swap.

They may be too big of celebrities now to do that anymore.  Perhaps a viewer over there can tell me if they still have a roadshow special each year.





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A year ago, I read two books by which have been sitting by my desk with markers in the pages.  I ran out of time then to recommend them here…and now have miraculously found the time,

I discovered these books when Mirabel Osler, in her memoirs, mentioned Katharine Swift as a good friend.

Some takeways from both books:

Morville is the name of Swift’s home and garden.  Based on the structure of a Medieval Book of Hours, The Morville Hours goes deep into the history of the place, making for a slow and thoughtful read. I don’t have many saved takeaways from The Morville Hours because the whole books is complete perfection, making it difficult to separate out any parts to inspire you to read it.

My cats and I liked this poem by an Irish monk:

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

On tramps and homelessness:

On my favourite flower:


I agree with her that mole soil is “the best potting compost in the world.” It is a gift from the world below.

Next, The Morville Year, which is more of a straightforward memoir.

I have, since reading this, made the start of a willow cave or gazebo or some such thing:

My other inspiration was Ann Amato’s willow arbor.

It is time to find the time to be in my own garden:

On sweet peas:


On memories:

One of my favourite passages brought back memories of my two trips to the UK and looking into back gardens from trains and buses:

…and seguing into allotments, another favourite topic of mine…

In The Morville Year, I found the most moving poem I have ever read, Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas, “a vision of lost England recalled from the trenches” of World War I, where he was killed in 1917..

Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
I learned from The Morville Year about how “the humble petunia” might hold a cure for cancer.  You can read about it here, from 2002—I hope something came of it.
On the power of a public garden:
On bulb planting:
So, gardening friends who are readers, you see why I think you must read these books.  A third, A Rose for Morville, is due to be released in December 2020, and it is promised that it will go deeper into the story of her beloved husband who left her—a man who surely made the wrong choice, in my opinion.  The release of the third memoir is something to live for.  I hope I make it that far because I long to read it.

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from the weekend (I think I forgot to post these)

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

I was ever so pleased to see rain so that I could finish the book I had started at bedtime the night before,

The Deckchair Gardener by Anne Wareham.

I recommend it.  I had enjoyed her book The Bad Tempered Gardener so much that I decided, correctly, that it would be worth ordering this newer book from England.

Here are some of my favourite bits, and sometimes what they made me think about….which is appropriate, because the author’s website is thinkinGardens.

Her book will try to help you take it easy in the garden.


I laughed out loud about Monty and his two dogs.  Geoff Hamilton was one of the earlier hosts of Gardeners’ World, another affable and soothing fellow. (I have found some old videos of his shows online.)

In two different chapters, she advises …”give up all magazines, newspaper columns, and television programmes on gardening.”


But I cannot give up my British gardening shows! However, last year, once the days were longer, I slowly eased out of watching and did not start again until January 2019 (and now have ever so much catching up to do, which reminds me, the new show of Gardeners’ World has appeared on BritBox TV this afternoon and I have not yet watched it).

Anne lays out advice for each season of the year about what you can get away with NOT doing in the garden.

Among many suggestions for making gardening life easier is not growing seeds for the veg garden (which I am terrible at, anyway) and instead supporting “the kind people who make a living growing seeds for you, so you can assist them making their living, while they assist you in not becoming exhausted making your living.”   Thanks to this revelation, I might even have more of a veg garden by purchasing plants from The Basket Case and Planter Box nurseries….except that I already bought seeds this year, unfortunately.

Now, true this may be about compost…

…but I have no desire to give up my bins.  I love them so!  In fact, I had begun to realize that I do very much enjoy all the busy work of gardening from which Anne is offering to rescue me.  Nevertheless, her book continued to amuse and educate me.  I am glad that I own it, because as I get older I might have no choice but to refresh my memory about her labour saving methods.

One of the most interesting aspects of her garden called Veddw, as I learned in The Bad Tempered Gardener, is the extent to which she leaves debris on the soil, an elaboration on the chop and drop method that I learned from Ann Lovejoy.

I tried the Ann Wareham version of chop and drop a couple of years ago, and by spring I could not stand it….I just had to haul the debris to the compost pile and then, after much turning and sifting, bring it back from whence it came.

I wish I could visit Veddw at different stages during the year and see her method in action.

That doesn’t mean I don’t chop and drop debris; I often do, in very small pieces…and I also (so much work!) chop it up smaller when I put it into my precious compost bins.

There were two things I fervently disagreed with in both The Bad Tempered and Deckchair Gardener.

One is her praise for …”ground…

I find it such a dreadful plant.  The variegated form runs like crazy through the Shelburne Hotel garden, popping up in completely different garden sections from the original patch.  I do think maybe one of the past gardeners (someone who worked there after me, and before I took the garden back on) deliberately spread it around.  The dreadful PLAIN form, which has nothing to offer, is into every shrub and perennials in the north end of the Shelburne garden.  I could weep over it sometimes (and not with joy at its pretty white flowers).  In fact, I recently stood over a patch of the green stuff with despair in my heart.

the Shelburne Horror

My other disagreement is about Anne’s dislike of lawn edges.

I LOVE my nice crisp lawn edges, cut with my half moon edger (I have three of them, so I can easily lay my hands on one). And I have banned Alchemilla mollis from my own garden for years (although now that I have The Toy and can give it a quick trim, I am thinking of relenting because it is awfully nice when in chartreusy, greenery-yallery bloom).

The advice to put the garden aside in winter is good advice that I sort of take…in that it has been several years since I have managed to mulch the garden with yards and yards of purchased mulch during staycation.

(Note: I should try again to read The Wind in the Willows.)

But look what happened this past winter….I spent hours preparing plants for a late spring sale AND we made a pond.  This is mainly because we don’t have time for big projects during work season.

Even though I have a fairly large collection of specifically winter-flowering shrubs, mostly because I used to have so little time to enjoy my own garden in summer, I still feel this…”Winter-flowering shrubs will irrititate you by making you think you should go out to admire and smell them...”…..which I do, even when I would much rather keep my nose in a book.

Here’s something about which I completely agree with Anne:

Everyone in the acknowledgments gets to share a little piece about their own gardens.  This was my favourite:

I love The Jabberwocky poem and often recite parts of it to myself.  It was Allan’s vorpal blade that recently went snicker-snack on a rather rare plant.

If you are local and a friend, I would lend you The Deckchair Gardener for three weeks (same as a library loan).

Speaking of loans, I rarely borrow books because I always have such a big stack to read, often from the library with due date pressure.  As the rain continued all day, I finally read two of the three books that Judy S. lent us (I am embarrassed to say) last summer.  There is a third one that I cannot find at the moment (it is small), another reason I get anxious about borrowing books.  I must find it, and have spent at least an hour looking in my stacks of unread books.

Two books about Japanese gardens

Judy thought Allan might like these because his garden does have a Japanese touch, due to some lanterns inherited from his mother.  His family lived in Japan for a couple of years when he was quite small.

This gorgeous photo, below, shows why, when Bill of the Boreas Inn recently asked me what he could do about his mossy lawn, I replied “Revel in it!”


The Boreas Inn “garden suite” garden could be enclosed a little more, inspired by this:

The second book:

Here, in Reflections of the Spirit, Maggie Oster puts her finger on why I like all my home gardening chores:

I appreciate the author’s frequent reminder to be respectful of Japanese culture and traditions…

Even unto…

…and I thought, Uh oh, I have seen such gates in gardens, always with the best of and surely respectful and admiring intentions.


Do you think this could apply to my new water-filled garden boat?


Finally, I must remember that when (if?) the wisteria blooms at the Shelburne, it would like to be toasted with sake.

Both books are rich in large and beautifully inspiring photos (especially inspiring for my mossy Bogsy Wood) and made for a lovely afternoon. (Thank you, Judy, and I will find the third book; I know it is here somewhere!)

I was inspired to go out and have look at my pieris…

….and one of my Japanese maples.

It is definitely bringing down the tone to have a plastic bag-mended water barrel in the picture.  Must get a new one and relegate that one to holding potting soil or some such.

In the rainy front garden, cardoon and tulips…

While I read and read, Allan did a fence repair of a stretch with two rotten posts.  It was not easy because they were set in concrete. He had knocked into one backing out of the driveway not long ago…  His photos:

This would have been a great time to weed.  There was a moment when I emerged from the garage with garden tools, and went right back indoors because of the cold.

Before this procedure, I got all excited with the idea we should have a white picket fence instead.  Three other gardens on the block have picket fences.  I could grow sweet peas on it.  And then….after reading the books about Japanese gardens…I realized that the plain wood probably looks much better with the somewhat exotic plants I try to grow in the front garden (Melianthus major, Tetrapanax, Callistemon, etc).

Allan also captured this ironic sight on an old sign that used to belong to my mother:

Tomorrow is likely to be another rainy and windy day.  I wish it could be a reading day but we must interrupt it with a visit to our accountant.


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Friday, 22 March 2019

I resisted the lure of watching Gardeners’ World on Inside Outside TV in order to have the joy of reading Christine Walkden’s memoir in one sitting.

I had become smitten with her when I saw her on The Great British Garden Revival and then watched as many episodes as I could find (less than half, I am sorry to say) of Christine’s Garden.

I loved her memoir even more than I thought I would.

“I eat, dream, and breathe gardening.  I would not want to do anything else.  I am incredibly lucky.”

I appreciated her honesty and emotion about the making of her garden programme:

Later….she writes of “losing interest and getting irritated…”

When asked to stay in her pyjamas and dressing gown for her first look around the garden she “…was not at all happy with the thought that viewers were going to see me.”

When the crew filmed the rooms inside her house and photographs on her wall, it upset her terribly.  She wanted to do a proper gardening show, and they wanted insight into her feeling and emotions, her “very soul!”

She told them, in tears, that she was a private person.  I cannot even imagine being in such a pickle!  Finally, the camera crew won her trust and she writes that she knows she is “not the easiest person.”  How I loved her for all of this!

After the show broadcast, a friend said, “I thought you were going to talk about potatoes and you talked about the soul.”

This is what makes the tracking down of the episodes of the show or ordering this book from the UK well worth while.

I had wondered if she had gotten picked on for her looks, looks which I adore, of course.

Later, she was asked to wear make up and have a hair stylist for a cover of the book.  She did not.

Christine is also a teacher with a solid education behind her and years of experience.  I wish I could have learned from her; I wouldn’t be an amateur with imposter syndrome.

The memoir is sprinkled with gardening advice.  I was especially inspired by the parts about compost (of course).  She has four assorted bins…

I concluded that I am still not mixing my compost together well enough.

I worry about how I will find enough compost material after we partially retire.  I will be scavenger like Christine (as I used to be for my small Seattle garden):

It was a treat to read about her various gardening jobs.

In the course of work and garden visits to friends, she mentions some shrubs that I often do not see mentioned in print (Stachyurus praecox and Escallonia iveyi!).

A running theme is her gardening neighbours (an enviable situation), especially Reg.

Another theme that deeply affected me was her thoughts about her 14 year old dog.

I know that Tara is gone by now.  I do hope Christine found another dog as fine.

Another of Christine’s traits with which I strongly identify:

And she loves books and has hundreds (or was it thousands?) in her house.

This is so very British:

She lecture-tours all over the country.  Her discourse on hotels is the way I feel and is one of the reasons I am not going to Hardy Plant study weekend this year.

(One of the other two main reasons is the expense.)

I wish to make an alpine trough that uses exactly the same plants as Christine’s.  Then I would feel a connection to her every time I admired it.

Christine’s appreciation of other gardeners:

Sometimes, rarely, I find a book that I want to carry around in a hug after I have read it.  Christine’s memoir made me feel that way.  I want to be her friend.  If I could afford to buy a house on her block, I would be wistfully lurking around her vicinity hoping that she would take me in to her circle of gardening neighbours.

Christine Walkden is, I think, obscure on this side of the pond.  Her shows and her books will repay your for the effort of finding them.  Even though I cannot find an official source for videos of her show, you can find some of Christine’s Garden on YouTube and a complete set of her Glorious Gardens from Above garden tour show can also be found on Tubi.

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Friday, 22 March 2019

Over time, I had heard the name of the book Cider with Rosie. I think I got it mixed up in my mind with another book by an author I do not enjoy. Recently, maybe in Uncommon Ground, I found out that it is a memoir about English village life in the 1920s. And what a wonderful book it is. I spent the first hour of a rainy reading day finishing it.

To entice you to do the same, here are some of the passages about the cottage and its garden.

The day of arrival:

The descriptions of cottages made me long to live in one (a fantasy that would include modern day heat and plumbing conveniences).

The mother’s gardening skill:

As the author’s mother grew old, he described her thus:

That sounds like an idyllic old age to me, one that might not be possible in the here and now.

Lee poignantly described the change from village life as it had been “for a thousand years”, all swept by the motor car into the modern world. I love much about the modern world, and would never want to go back, and yet nature was closer then, along with other rather spooky things.

Cider with Rosie is the first of a memoir trilogy. I will continue with the others when I have whittled down my pile of books to read.

I had two lap cats during this reading day.

Even though I longed for a Gardeners’ World binge on Inside Outside Tv, I turned to one of my birthday present books for the rest of the day, a book that made me deeply happy. More on this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, over on Allan’s blog, he has written up his latest sail. You can read it here in the March 19th segment of his Black Lake series.

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Monday, 11 March 2019

At last, after being on the waiting list since November, we were able to get part one of our two part Shingrix vaccinations. We had intended to languish about at home after the anti-shingles jabs, until the pharmacist said that we would have less pain if we kept our arms moving. So we went to work trimming santolinas at the port. Using The Toy made the job so fast that we got from the east end to Time Enough Books in just two hours. Amazing. Rain and wind arrived on schedule and drove us home with the west port gardens and the boatyard garden still to do.

Allan’s photos:

Some of the santolinas in this end have gotten too woody to cut back hard.

We transplanted some uppy red grasses to the fire station garden.

At home, I added santolina clippings to the compost and potted some chives for my plant sale. Allan shredded some of the debris from yesterday in The Pencil Sharpener.

The pampas grass did not shred well and will get hand chopped later.

Earlier today, before the jabs, I had taken some photos of our floriferous garden. I managed to accidentally get this post in reverse chronological order, too hard to fix on my iPad, so here are the morning photos. I really must stop blogging from my lazy chair and must start using my new camera instead of my phone. Soon, as I keep promising.

The front garden:

Poor Melianthus major got cold.

Iris unguicularis aka stylosa.

Ribes speciosum about to flower. It is summer deciduous so looks at its best now.

East side garden:

I keep forgetting to trim this epimedium so that the flowers will show.

Back garden:

The rain gauge had ice on it the first time I went outdoors today.

Sweet pea did not make it through this last set of freezing nights.

Corylopsis pauciflora

I must come up with a feature for the very back corner of the Bogsy Wood. I have some ideas.

Tomorrow should be a good day to languish because of wind and rain.

I am almost sorry to say that I found a source for Monty and Sarah Don’s old gardening show, Fork to Fork, AND a new to me show called The A to Z of TV Gardening…pronounced Zed, because it is British tv with excerpts from all sorts of shows featuring many of my favourites British telly gardeners.

My stack of books to read is dwindling terribly slowly, although I just finished a great one that I must recommend.

Her thoughts about medical testing were of great interest to me. I share her feelings about going to the doctor…even though I know of people who have been saved by medical tests.

I could personally relate to the problems of reduced attention span brought on by social media.

……and so on.

My favourite chapter was about the pressure to exercise and diet in order to grow very old (even though many successful exercisers have died far too young).

I was especially amused when I later read a yoga instructor’s self-described “rant” on social media about how his clients must find “satisfaction in the sacrifice” even though it’s “no fun”. I thought yoga was supposed to be soothing and perhaps prevent the urge to rant?

I appreciate that, as always, this author of Nickel and Dimed addresses the classism of health advice.

Finally, the author ponders death itself and shared a poem that speaks exactly to some thoughts I have been having about appreciating that life will eventually go on without me, with frogs in the pond and flowers blooming just as pleasantly without me around to enjoy them. Here it is:

 When in my white room at the Charité

I woke towards morning

And heard the blackbird, I understood

Better. Already for some time

I had lost all fear of death. For nothing

Can be wrong with me if I myself

Am nothing. Now

I managed to enjoy

The song of every blackbird after me too.

**Bertolt Brecht

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Thursday, 14 February 2019

When I looked out of my window this morning, I had the sudden urge to expand the east side of the small pond into a narrow garden bed. Only cold weather and all day rain stopped me. I managed only to get out for long enough to transplant a few small grasses to soften one corner.


Then my hands were too cold and I retreated. Allan went hunting and gathering for groceries over the river while I watched many the episode of Love Your Garden.

I had to tear myself away from gardening shows to finish an excellent book by Dominick Tyler that is almost overdue.

I recommend it to any Britophile or lover of the natural landscape.

I know at least one reader might be interested in this passage about hair ice.

Each short essay is based on a word or phrase describing anything from ice to mud to the habits of birds and fish and is faced with a full page photograph.

Some more of my favourites:

I had no idea that the bumblebee was originally a humblebee.


Below are all sorts of wonderful names for what I have heard called sun showers.

Saltings is the perfect name for the mudflats around our Willapa Bay.

Clart is exactly the quality of mud in our old garden and our former gardening job at Discovery Heights.

I now have added several books to my list of must reads, all of which are likely to increase my feeling that I was born in the wrong country. Here is the entire bibliography.

Locals can check the book out of the Timberland Library system.

The problem is, as another friend commented, I might as well make end tables out of my piles of books to read because I cannot stop watching British gardening shows.

Even though we don’t celebrate Valentines Day, Allan brought a pleasing treat home from his excursion. I told him that I must get a pug dog to go with it.

He described the huddle of anxious looking men huddled over the card section in Fred Meyer, a phenomenon that he used to witness annually when he worked at assorted such stores as a bicycle and exercise equipment and furniture assembler.

Tomorrow, brief sun, perhaps the monkey’s wedding variety, may return and allow some more ponding.

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