Wednesday, 29 September 2010

It's been a while.

So first blog post for a while and boy what a while. Two weeks ago today we had our baby girl arrive at 2.48 in the morning and she's now sleepily gurgling and grumbling away next to me (which is must nicer than the loud grumbling she does when awake sometimes).
As all new parents know there's a certain element of restlessness for a while after the birth especially at night and mainly with the adults. Up every three hours for a feed, getting baby to sleep then trying to get asleep oneself before they awaken once more. Sadly this week has also seen my wife get a cold so Orla and I have taken to sleeping downstairs which has actually worked really well, we all get a decent sleep and the feeds are maintained fine with expressed milk.
You may be wondering why I'm telling you this? After all this is meant to be a gardening blog and no matter how joyful a new baby is it doesn't do to ramble on about them for ever and miss the plant bit. Well, as with any change in the way you view life it can lead to how you start looking at everything, including gardening.

For the first seven days after birth I took a much enjoyed and needed break from work and with no gardens to visit and only the occasional jaunt out into our own it meant I was on a little bit of a garden fast, or so I thought. As it is gardens pop up everywhere and with a little work you'll find you can still garden even if you never get as far as entering one.
My note book of sketches and ideas has blossomed, it's always on me with a pen to hand so any thoughts or designs I've had I've been able to jot down and then elaborate on. Normally I just mull them over for a while whilst working then the vast majority I let go, but sitting with a sleeping baby in the crook of one arm limits ones maneuverability down to the other arm.
The house plants have had a revisit and at over fifty that's been quite a job, plenty of watering and dusting of leaves, starting to repot those that need doing. (Including an emergency repot when the cat knocked a couple over last night, just before bed!) It was embarrassing the state of some, lost into corners, just part of the background, dusty and on a couple of occasions in much need of new compost and love.
The few times I've been out in the garden with Orla, though I haven't been able to do much manual work there's still the chance to view the garden from a distance and as objectively as possible review it. We did get chance to bury her placenta though, (slightly hurriedly sadly but nothing quite attracts the cat as freshly dug earth especially when it's near something bloody) and planted a selection of Allium moly and Allium Purple Sensation above. They'll be a nice reminder next year when they appear and of course the joy of bulbs is years from now when we come to move house we can no doubt lift and take some of them with us.
However one of the biggest garden jobs I've got done since Orla arrived is working my way through the mountain of garden magazines I've never quite got round to reading. The beauty of them over a book is not only do they give you a quick fix rather than you trying to follow a storyline but they also lie flat on the page you're reading, making them a god send at three in the morning when you're rocking a baby with one hand and supporting your head with the other. I've since discovered so many new names, plants and ideas, it's almost like being back at college (in a good way).

Well as I said it's two weeks now since her birthday and I'm back at work, giving lawns their final few cuts, starting the leaf clearing and piling for the year and generally catching up with the season. I do so love Autumn, it's like Spring just in reverse and there really is a heap of jobs to get done which act as a wonderful therapy to the mind.

Between the garden and the rediscovery of coffee I'm staying reasonably sane, as sane as a new parent ever can be of course!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Such weather!

After a promising start to the the day yesterday I ended up in a garden sandwiched between the backs of buildings in a rather effective wind tunnel, it's a real lesson in patience trying to garden in heavy wind. Luckily it wasn't a big garden but it took no time at all for my piles of weeds, pruning and general garden detritus to be send dancing around the yard and swirling happily about my feet.
Having in the past seen people trying to sweep up leaves in the wind (a futile task but fun to watch) I knew better than trying to maintain too much organisation to my work but it didn't half make the task of clearing up a hectic one.

After a night listening to the blind crash back and forth as the wind picks up and howls its way through every open window I'm aware of a blustery day ahead and my thoughts wonder to what sights will greet me when I get to work.
Rain has also been introduced into the days rota now, so the lawns are out and with the Liquidamber and Birch already starting to show its Autumnal colours I'm sure the garden will be full of leaves and more than the occasional discarded branch. So with the wind at crazy madness level and the rain setting into it's horizontal driving habit I'm expecting a windswept sodden squelchy day ahead.

All this you might think will make for a miserable day outside but in fact I rather enjoy it. You see over the years I've discovered a little secret to working out in all weathers; it really is very simple though at the same time rather hard to actually do. The trick is to enjoy all the different aspects of the weather regardless of what it is doing, we really are lucky to have such a varied climate though we may not always realise it, I for one still come home grumbling about it some days.
Now for most people an ideal gardening day would be lit by calm blue skies and plenty of sun, however having spent three weeks in Malaysia where that's about all they have I can tell you that that quite quickly becomes dull and tiresome. Too much of a good thing soon makes one realise it's not that good a thing and you start to long for a bit of grey sky or rain to moisten the air.

I know I'll most likely get home after work, soaked and wind blown but at the same time feeling better for it. There's nothing quite like strong wind and rain to make one feel alive and the same works for the garden, without the heavy driving rain the moisture doesn't penetrate deeply enough into the ground, the wind helps clear rotten wood from the trees and stir up bugs from the leaf litter.
The garden feels energised after such weathered days as do I, you're aware that the body has had to work harder than usual to keep warm, the skin is flushed with blood brought to the surface and you feel like you've had the cobwebs well and truly blown away.
This is where the secret comes into it's own, all weather is ultimately enjoyable and is what makes us, us and our gardens grow the way they do, after a while you come to realise that the only bad weather is repetitive weather, the same thing day after day after day.

So go on, get outside in all climes and experience the beauty and fun of the Great British weather...

...oh and the other part to the secret is to have a hot shower and cuppa waiting for you back home.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Gardening inactively.

I've a habit. A little behavioural tick. I take forever to get ready in the mornings, needing at least an hour to simply potter before actually starting to prepare for the day. The main reason for this is I simply love standing in the garden early in the morning with a cup of tea in hand, not doing anything other than listening, watching and maybe a little pootling about. I generally don't even have breakfast till just before I leave and I love my food, it's just I'm drawn to being out there with tea and a fresh mind.
Now I could say it's because I have my best inspiration in the morning or that it helps to plan what needs doing in the garden at that time but the truth is it's just nice to be able to do nothing.
Being a self employed gardener means I get to see many different places and experience working in the variety of styles they include, whether they're rambling old cottage like or showy pristine designer gardens. However I rarely just get chance to relax in a garden without the need to feel like I'm actively doing something. Now I know that one can weed and prune while still finding it a relaxing time and many people use gardening as a means to switch off from daily stresses, but I was reminded that it's also about simply being in the garden and appreciating it's atmosphere.

At this time of year as the Summer gently folds into Autumn there's a whole list of jobs that appear, from getting your bulbs in for Spring to clearing leaves, however I'd like to add inactivity to that list. You see gardening is as much about the present state of the garden as it is about how you want it to look in the future, we garden not to get it to a finished state but because we enjoy the process. If we see it as a dance, the reason we dance is to dance not to get to the final step, in rushing about preparing for the next season or even the next week we can miss the enjoyment of the moment.
This morning when I went out it was cold and fresh, I could see my own breath for the first time this side of the year and the lawn sparkled with dew. It felt as though you were watching a moment in time as only an hour later the sun has got into it's stride again, the sky becomes a rich blue and you can feel the day busying up around you. I'm sure if I'd gone out with the thought of doing some work I'd have missed many elements of the moment and it's those elements that for me make the garden such a special place.

Autumn is a season of preparation for the coming winter, after the joys and energy of Summer it's the chance to unwind in the garden before it gets too cold for all but the hardiest garden potters. Yes there's a myriad of jobs to be done as always and the days are indeed getting shorter but a cuppa and a quiet dwell doesn't take too long and nothing quite sets you up for the day ahead as a little time out in the morning.

Just you, the garden and blissful inactivity.