Posts Tagged ‘daffodils’

7 March 2023

[I was thinking how much I would have liked to talk with Derek and Jeannie, whose many visitors are quoted in biographical information as saying how kind and welcoming they were to visitors. I just realized as I proofread this post on March 23rd that these posts are my way of having that back and forth conversation that I missed out on in real life.]

At last, my next Minack book arrived. But who would place a sticker over a cat’s face? At least I managed to reveal Ambrose’s eyes.

What it should should look like…

The book is dedicated to Beverley Nichols (cat loving garden writer; I have all his books).

The value of keeping a diary…


That value was clear to me when I read my diaries of 1976-1978, and found out there were things I had completely forgotten, and now, I can hardly remember anything but a few highlights of years 1981-1984, when I kept no written record at all.

As you must know by now, if you have been following my obsession, Derek and Jeannie operated a daffodil farm on Cornish cliffs, and the books have a wealth of information about my favourite flower.

There had been more plant thievery from the daffodil fields, reminding me of when I had 100 plus daffodils in bud at our boatyard garden, only to show up to weed the next day and find every single one had been picked overnight.

Jeannie and Derek still persisted in not having a telephone.

I am soothed by the nature writing and love of cats, donkeys, birds, foxes and badgers in the chronicles, yet I think what sparks my obsession is also the flaws I share with Derek.

In The Ambrose Rock, the peace of Minack Cottage is threatened by an ugly development right next door (I can relate to that!).

Never before had my worries been so precisely echoed by the Tangye’s current crisis:

Although I will say that if housing for the homeless were to be put next door to us, I would not object, because it is just about the most important need in the town where I live. However, it would have to be an environmentally aware and non-destructive build to keep me on its side.

Now this could be a scene from my own household:

(Jeannie speaks, and…)

Right after that, Derek fully reveals what has been hinted at, that he and Jeannie each have their own separate cabin for writing (Derek) and for writing and painting (Jeannie). And again, they know how lucky they are.

While it would be hard to choose a favourite of the chronicles, The Ambrose Rock with the tale of the possible development next door would be at the top if I could only read, say, three of the books.

I immediately opened the next book. (They are less than 200 pages each.) How I would love a truly quiet year…not likely to happen here.

This is one of the three I had brought back from a visit to the UK but had never read, because at the time I couldn’t get hold of the rest of the series.

Again, Derek tells the story of how they came to Minack. (The books were meant to be read two years apart, as published, not two a day.)

Here on the SW Coast of Washington state, we almost old-timers see new people move here and then express dismay and astonishment about the rain and the winter storms. Some of them do last only a year.

Derek and Jeannie “sometimes hadn’t the money to buy a gallon of petrol”, and for the first eight years, they had no intention of writing about their life in Cornwall, so their only income came from their market farm. [Later, I learned that Jeannie’s memoir, Meet Me at the Savoy, written during those years, financed the digging of their well.]

I love that Jane, who used to work for them (see A Drake at the Door) was a self taught gardener who ended up with an excellent horticultural career.

I have read online that Jane, who must be older at least fourteen years older than me, is the person who lives at Minack Cottage now.

I love when Derek waxes on about the daffodils.

More of Derek’s flaws, with which I identify, and would love to have had a long talk with him about it. (I also wish I knew another Minack reader and that we could have long discussions about the books.)

Because our next door frog bog is under threat (the latest thing we’ve heard is it will be “put in a culvert”), I appreciate when Derek tells a good frog story.

Derek speaks of weeds:

I would like a garden bed with all the same plants Jeannie and Derek grew. I sometime grow arctosis (African daisy), especially the ones with spoon petals. I can’t find anything online about Ascania violets, which he often mentions; I do grow alyssum and tobacco plants and daffodils, of course. I finally figured out, from a biography that I read later, that their “verbena bush” was a lemon verbena; he used to give fragrant leaves of it to visitors. One of his dislikes, which I share, is the pushiness of orange montbretia.

I now had five more books, only one left before Jeannie died (at just two years younger than my age now, intolerable!). This was causing me emotional distress, like physical pain, to think of her fate, and of Derek without her, and also to think of being done with the series. By tomorrow evening, I expected to come to the end of Jeannie’s life….but dry and sunny weather intervened. This may be a relief to anyone who is tiring of my one track mind about Minack.

Read Full Post »

late February, 2023

I continued with the next of the Minack Chronicles, reentering the Cornish cliffside world of Minack Cottage, with its flower farm, cats, donkeys, and wildlife. If you would like to see an old television show that was made about Derek and Jeannie’s world, broadcast in 1971 around the time when these books took place, here is a video that I was thrilled to find.

I own all of Beveley Nichols’ books and must reread them to see if he ever mentions his visits to Derek and Jeannie Tangye. (Note the praise under the title, above.)

Meanwhile, I was googling and google-earthing place names and found out about the Friends of Minack and that they were having their final annual get together on the very weekend when I was reading about Minack, the end of February, in Penzance. If I had discovered the books last autumn, I truly might have finally gotten my passport renewed and Allan and I just might have taken the risk and gone. I like to think so anyway. [Later, I think I might have read this last gathering would be at the end of March. But I still do not have a current passport.)

I wonder if some of the early daffodils would have been out on the cliffs. In A Cornish Summer, written in 1968-9, Derek wrote of the ones they were harvesting, starting with ‘Magnificence’.

As I read through the series, I noted down the daffodils which they grew. I put a star next to the ones that I have in my gardens.

California aka Pentewan

Obvallaris *

Joseph McLeod (their favorite)

Magnificence first to bloom 

King Alfred *





Carbineer (It may be that Jane grew these in her own garden; she won a flower show prize with them, one of Derek’s favourite and oft repeated stories)

Golden Harvest

Whites :

Early Bride


Barrett Browning *

White Lion*


Ones that didn’t sell, now in hedgerows, joining ones that were thrown into hedgerows in WWII when the cliff meadow gardens were turned to vegetables: 







Coverack Glory 

Scilly Whites


Soleil d’Or (this one perhaps only grown on the Isles of Scilly; here, we grow them on a windowsill as they are tender)

Another called Sunrise grew byDerek’s writing hut.

Of course, I want to have all of them and will be on a quest.

Derek’s problems with worrying are ones I strongly share.

These philosophizings are a recurrent theme throughout the more than thirty years of the chronicles. I have to say (a phrase which pops up in a lot of the British gardening shows I watch…Do I “have to say”? Maybe not but I will) that I share a lot of his feelings even though I am not sure they are correct; many people thrive in social groups. We will get to more of Derek’s thoughts on this topic in later books, including the feeling that I share about thinking later that one has talked in a group too much, too loudly, too downright ridiculously. At this point, he seemed to be writing from the point of view of feeling that loners were better than more social people.

I am a terrible failure at group dynamics, whether it be a coffee klatsch or work group. I’ve given up trying but I do not feel superior about being a loner.

Here is when I first got a strong glimpse that Derek and I would have had political disagreements.

Oh, dear. I was surprised, because many of his friends from the city were Labour politicians. When I was in feminist political groups in the mid 70s, there was much discussion about whether those who moved to the country were escaping their political responsibilities. (I didn’t think so, even though at the time I liked city life just fine.). Before long, as talk of feminism entered the media, Derek’s writings in future books revealed he didn’t like feminists, either. Oh dear, oh dear. I think Jeannie would have liked me, but I am not sure he would have.

I was further surprised when I read in the next book about his admiration for his grandfather’s labor relations with his employees. Below: From Cottage On a Cliff, and Derek often repeats this story in later books. Yet he also repeats his disapproval of strikers who were surely striking to have working conditions of the kind his grandfather provided. I could not understand but figured out some of why later on, when he wrote about how there would often be a train strike at the time when he delivered their precious daffodils to the “flower train” and the daffodils, undelivered, could mean a season of no income.

Did Derek’s possible conservative streak, if that’s what it was, stop my Minack obsession in its tracks? Most decidedly not. The cliffs, the flower farm, the reading, the thinking, the walks with the donkeys and the cats, the love of nature and books, and the passion for the preservation of nature, still held me there in my heart. As did the delightful relationship between Derek and Jeannie. (She was also a writer, of Meet Me at the Savoy, a memoir of her employment at the Savoy Hotel, followed by a trilogy of novels about a hotel, all of which I have not yet tracked down to buy. But I will. When she worked at the Savoy, guests were smitten, including Danny Kaye.)

Both Derek and Jeannie were staunch environmentalists.

By now, they had electricity and running water and a chicken coop turned guest room, but Derek did not have a telephone till the very last years of his life.

I identify with their work struggles, similar to what I went through as a gardener. We would just get ahead when another crisis would take us back to poverty (a vehicle breakdown, a broken sewer line, and worst of all, Robert’s heart attack in 2002).

Some who have commented on the books have said that Derek and Jeannie were privileged to have moved to the coast. They were well aware that they were lucky to have moved at a time when it was affordable to get a longterm lease (they never actually owned the Minack Cottage property!).

I found a photo of them in their small cottage, about the same size as the fishing shack that I lived in from 1994-2010.

I am sure that their books, before they were gifted a room dehydrator, had the same slightly damp smell that mine collected during my tiny house years.

Meanwhile, in Penzance, on the very weekend I was reading this book, the annual meeting of the Friends of Minack was in session. The group was ending its annual convention because most of the members had gotten quite old and they couldn’t find younger folks to run the group. I found some photos of a previous convention. I would have loved to be there.

Ohhh…,they were looking through the Minack archives. How I yearned to join them. Now, surely there is a group I could have fitted in with…I like to think so.

When one reads quite old books, it can be hard to even find someone to talk with about them.

The flowers on Shelagh’s grave (she died of a heart attack at age 20) brought tears. (Photos from the Friends of Minack Society Facebook page)

And I must share the photo of this cake (I hope the friends wouldn’t mind; they do ask that readers share their love of the books so that the series might be revived and reissued, as most of it has been out of print for years).

Jeannie died at my age, 67 (maybe 68), a tragic event which I am already dreading in the memoir series. She loved her life so much.

After my envious perusing of past Minack gatherings, I returned to the book, where I found this passage rings true of the coastal tourist area where I and many retirees live.

By this time, Jane had moved away and they had a new helper, Geoffrey. Six books had been published over the course of 12 years and folks were showing up at the door to meet Derek and Jeannie and the cats and donkeys. This was years before Google Earth, and these fans had found their way through the countryside and down an unmarked lane, or along the cliffs before the Coast Path was opened.

I love Derek and Jeannie for being kind and welcoming and deeply interested in their guests even when they were busy.

Later, Derek wrote several times about how when he needed help, the kindness would be reciprocated when a plumber, a carpenter, or a lawyer who loved the books showed up and offered help at the perfect moment.

I immediately turned to the next book.

More about living in a tourism economy…so familiar to me.

I spent more time with Google Earth looking up various landmarks mentioned in the book and trying to figure out just where Jane’s cottage had been.

A much later book revealed that Derek’s friend John Le Carrè had purchased those three cottages and made them into one. As “The John le Carré house”, it shows up very readily on Google Earth.

As for the Merry Maidens, I had been there in 1975, not knowing about the chronicles, and I figured out I had been only a little over a mile walk down “the winding lane” to Minack Cottage, where I could have joined other pilgrims who visited there. My heart yearns… Perhaps it’s time to say that for some reason, I spent a lot of time weeping sentimentally while reading this series.

The circle at upper left is the Merry Maidens, where I stood in 1975, the blue line follows the winding lane to Minack Cottage, and the arrow points to its view of the Carn Barges rocks, and Janie’s cottage, later the John le Carré house, is to the lower left.

Friends and relations visiting were a different story from the comparatively quick visits of polite pilgrims.

Let me just say, houseguests of a working gardener in summer (not a problem for us because we no longer have to work as hard as we used to….and we don’t have a guest room!), must let their hosts get on with their work.

This amused me about taking walks…

I have quite a few elderberries of varying sorts in the back garden. Now I think I will put one in the front of the house.

Now I had finished Cottage on a Cliff and was in a terrible state because the next book in the series had not arrived, and was not due to arrive for several days. I was loathe to break the spell but would have to read something else, as reading weather continued.

Read Full Post »

Thursday, 21 March 2019

Today, all of the photos but a few close ups of narcissi and of nursery plants are Allan’s.

At home, fortifications keep Skooter away from a birdhouse.


It has passed inspection and they’re remodeling inside. 

Diane’s garden

I planted sweet peas along the picket fence, and we mulched with Harvest Supreme.

Last fall I cut back some annual sweet peas to the ground rather than pulling them. They’ve come back; I’m not sure what to make of this.

I hope the new sweet peas do as well as last year’s.

The raised bed in the back yard got some sparaxis, tigridia, and seeds of night scented stock.

The violas have reseeded into the gravel in front of the raised bed.

Allan saw my good friend Misty while I was still in the front garden.

That was our only job today. We had an appointment with our accountant way up in Surfside and so we made two nursery visits on the way.

The Basket Case Greenhouse

Roxanne has a broken ankle at a most unfortunate time of year, every gardener’s nightmare.

We discussed seeds and I bought some granular Mycorrhizae fungi for planting in my own garden. Just spelling that correctly made me realize I have been pronouncing it with an extra R. (It’s not micro.) The trick (per Gardeners’ World) is to rub it on the roots when planting, which is why I have been seeking the granular or powdered form.

I tend to have poor success with seeds. Roxanne will try to grow a few for me that I long for, among them Nicotiana sylvestris, Nicotiana ‘Only the Lonely’, and Eryngium giganteum.

Penny said hello with doggish vocalizations.

The Planter Box

I got some barley straw to fight off pond algae, and a proper leaf scooping net.

Lots of gorgeous spring bloomers are available right now.

Ocean Park

After our accounting session, we took a slight detour to admire the massive planting of daffodils along Bay Avenue, which runs west to east from the ocean to the bay. The planting runs almost a third of its length and was accomplished by the newly formed (last year) Ocean Park Village Club.

It is breathtaking.

Salt Hotel and Pub

In the evening, Allan attended a Salty Talk with dinner and a view of the Port of Ilwaco marina.

Smoked tuna melt


I stayed home because I had an overwhelming desire to watch more of Gardeners’ World 2013 on Inside Outside TV.

With rain due tomorrow, we intend to take a couple of days off and get back to sweet peas after the weekend.

Read Full Post »