Tuesday, 31 May 2016


Sometimes you have to search for the right capture sometimes it finds you. I had many ideas in my head when I first set the word "stillness" especially as I knew I had a day working the woods. Images of serene dappled woodland glades came to mind, perhaps a young leaf perfectly lit up by a ray of sunlight breaking through the canopy overhead. Sadly this was not to be. 

Walking down to the woods I came upon this poor bird and surely nothing captures stillness like the presence death brings with it. Working on the country and so arm in arm with nature you can't help but come across such moments but it's always a prompt for reflection. It's all to easy to become hardened to such occasions and in doing so forgetting the simple miracle that life is. Though this bird will never taste the air it will give life back to the garden as it slowly returns to the earth. Life to death to life, a moment of stillness caught in a fragile corpse and the gardener caught in a moment of stillnerss. 

Monday, 30 May 2016


The connection that exists between the garden and the surrounding landscape is a unique one. For many a city space this plays out as an opposing relationship where the garden is created as a way of shutting out the concrete world it is situated in but here in the countryside it is quite the opposite. When hills and trees loom ever present and in many places the only boundary is an old wire fence it's essential that the garden and landscape work together. My job as a gardener is not just to ensure the garden looks good but that it also sits right with the views outside of the cultivated borders and planted beds. Creating a balance between the tree life in a garden and the often much older and grander trees of the surrounding country so that the eye is carried seemingly seamlessly out to the horizon often far in the distance. To build a garden that not only fits in with the world around it but also exists in union with it.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Regal poultry

The photo challenge today was set to the word “regal”. It's always a pleasure to be forced to look at your own garden more closely especially when you also spend so much time in other people's, doing a photo challenge on a weekend is generally cause to look closer at home and today was no different. I considered a few possibilities for completing this, crowns of flowers or stately trees but in the end or chickens caught my eye.

This is one of our rescue chickens that lives in the corner of our garden, a flock of four in a run we can see from the house, pecking their way round and occasionally get let into the garden for an roam. They grub up pests and give my the most incredible soil for the garden, by constantly adding fresh soil from the garden to their run and taking out old I get this fantastic, dark, rich, crumbly earth by the barrow load to add to the beds.
They have to be watched of course or else seedlings are munched, compost bays kicked over the garden, crap left in the most inconvenient places and prize plants pecked apart but isn't that the way with all things? Gardening is about balance, there's goodness in bad times and crap to pick up after the perks.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Humble worm

I'm very much a solitary gardener, I never have music or radio whilst I work, on the odd occasions there's also someone else in the garden I tend to be tucked away in my own area quietly lost in thought and the moment. However thanks to modern technology I'm rarely alone whether that's the odd call from home or a random text conversation with a friend in still very much in touch with the outside world. One contact I am most thankful for is that of my brother, we have grown up always very close and though we now garden at opposite sides of the country we are still able to be in touch and compare our working days.
The smart phone has been a revelation to us with its capacity for camera work and internet access add this to the joint discovery of photography app Instagram and it's as though a while new work has been opened up. One side of this is a new set of photo challenges we have begun between us talking it in turns to choose a word we must then attempt to capture during our daily garden. My plan is to attempt to in some way document my discoveries through this blog and give an insight into nature through my personal perspective.

Today's word was chosen by me as “Humble “ and they don't come much humbler than the simple earthworm, a miracle of nature that tirelessly works the soil beneath our feet creating the very medium the garden grows from. Rarely thanked or even given more than a passing thought they are the reason our plants grow, the soil has structure and the detritus on the surface is dragged down and out of sight. Hats off to one of natures major powerhouses and next time you find one in the garden get down to its level watch how incredibly it works and whisper it a big thank you from us all.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Catching up with nature.

Stepping out into the garden each day the first job is always the surveying, the moment where you get your mind into the gear needed for the day's work ahead whether that's light weeding or heavy digging. Often it’s also the moment you have to set your mental blinkers so as to not lose your sight into distractions of landscape and job lists, it's all too easy to set out to do one job only to find yourself knee deep in a different border with a handful of weeds and no where to put them. So often we can get so caught up in creating the perfect garden that we can lose sight of simply enjoying the garden for what it is. Sometimes it can happen the other way round and the garden gets away from us. Nature waits for no person and after the mild winter this is especially so now, so many plants got an early start on growth and many never truly stopped from last year, roses still carried buds from the last season and the less said about the weeds the better.

There is a garden I work, spread over many acres that is not only getting ahead of me but in some areas starting to lap me, parts haven't been touched in years and the wilds of the surrounding countryside are reasserting their dominance. Where once there were beds with weeds there are now simply weeds with the occasional ornamental clinging on, weeds that climb, smother and suffocate out competing the carefully nurtured plants of past years. In a garden of this size I often find myself alongside these plants, feeling as though I too am being dragged back by the sheer scale of it all. Back in the day when it was first created there would have been a small army of full time gardeners, there's now just two of us there part time and I have to admit it's hard not to feel disheartened at times, not to look up and be completely overwhelmed by the task ahead.
The hardest part is knowing that this is just a blip and that though some borders may run away that doesn't mean they can't be caught up again at a later date, what's important is to focus and do the best you can, to bury your hands deep into the soil and garden. After all, that's why we do it.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Finding the earth within.

Since I was eighteen I've gardener professionally, since as early as I can remember I've had a connection with growing plants of my own, a life of greenery I feel I can cultivate and connect with. From my first collection of cacti as a boy to the old rockery in my parents garden, the adoption of forgotten house plants and during my apprenticeship regularly arriving home with a rucksack full of discard tired display plants. For near thirty years I've grown and tended plants trying to capture that state of nature I find so beautiful. I've built landscapes in back gardens,  turning the urban soil to produce something close to an oasis. My spare time would be spent tramping forest and hillside, mountain and country lanes before returning to the city and attempting to in some small way recreate the verdant creations in my head.

I love gardening. On a summer’s day there’s nothing like it. Or there hadn’t been until I moved to the outskirts of the Forest of Dean. Now I work in gardens measured in acres and set to a backdrop of the very state I've sought so long to emulate. It's not just gardens I get to work in, there’s woodland, a woodland, a small poorly managed plantation that needs drawing into a healthy balance and I realise now that gardening will never quite be the same again.

When I'm in the woods there's nothing else, everything is woodland and I realise what I was missing in the garden. When you work a wood you quickly come to realise it's all one thing, the soil is as part of the woodland as the trees, the fallen leaf playing as much a part as those still on the tree, one side the same as the other as though a coin. When you garden you garden plant by plant, border by border but there is none of that in the wood, when you work the soil in one part you effect the health of a tree in another. Most importantly and humbling when i work the woods i become part of it in a way I never can in a garden, the soil ingrained in my hand a sign of the exchange that's taken place. My blood and sweat now mingled with the woodlands living earth, my breath absorbed by the trees, head down my senses fill with the words of the wood, the talk of the rustling leaves, the smell of moist air, the taste of damp earth caught in the wind. I forget where I end feeling myself absorbed by the nature of nature, the air rising through the atmosphere the soil sinking ever down, myself as much a peg as the trees around me. All those years of garden cultivation a mere amateurish fumbling of nature, a yearning to recapture the connection I’d lost with the land, to feel a season because one’s truly in it, to know the soil as intimately as a close friend, to grasp how beautifully perfect nature is.

I am humbled.