Tuesday, May 31, 2016


May has been a month chock-full of blossom. 
First blackthorn in the hedgerows, pure white, starry clusters. 
Then the orchard fruits. Unashamedly frilly cherry, plum, pink flushed apple and delicate pear. 

Candy stripe buds on the quince uncoil with poise while the deep crimson crab-apple buds rush onto the stage with pantomime exuberance.

Horse chestnuts burst into leaf at an alarming rate and then throw out a spectacular firework display, which for a few glorious days is suspended mid explosion. Meanwhile hawthorn and honeysuckle weave their way nonchalantly along the lanes.

I have loved May.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Country pursuits

The other week I stopped to admire the knapped flint tower of a local country church. 

From where I stood between a row of craggy tree trunks I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to hear the hollow drumbeat of a woodpecker echoing around the churchyard. 

In fact, as I circled the church I felt sure I could detect a rhythmic tap. But it had an unusual muffled quality, which ruled out the woodpecker, and anyway it appeared to be seeping out of an inauspicious village hall across the road.

Mystery solved as I pressed my nose to the window. I had stumbled across a weekly Wednesday morning orchestra rehearsal. The players were chomping their way through Beethoven’s ninth with palpable application, and due consideration for arthritic fingers. 

The tap I had heard earlier was from the resonating skins of a pair of shiny kettle drums.
The timpanist stored her spare drumsticks in a vast wicker basket…. now that’s very country!  

And I've a sneaking suspicion there was room in that basket for some foraged wild garlic on her way home too!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Early morning Yoga

Best hour of the day? 

Early morning, the sun just rising and I slip into the greenhouse to see how my seedlings are doing. 
Only today I mistimed it and caught them in the middle of a Yoga class!

Sun salutation

Bridge pose

Half moon pose

Forward fold

Tree pose

Hero pose

Scorpion pose

Riotous naked Yogis drawn by my daughter, Saskia Martindale…. 
art student at large, currently studying in Japan… always up for commissions! saskiamartindale.tumblr.com

I challenge you not to have a chuckle next time you water your own seedlings!

Friday, May 6, 2016


“A flower blossoms for its own joy” Oscar Wilde

May, prime time for fussing and fiddling in the greenhouse. 
Maize peeping through, too early to plant out the beans, tomato side shoots need pinching out. 
Not to mention a good deal of primping and propping in the garden, sweet peas need wigwams, peonies.. supports, dahlias.. stakes. 

Regardless of my efforts the wild flowers are just quietly getting on with it. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

'Travels With My Aunt'

"I have never planned anything illegal in my life," Aunt Augusta said.
Graham Greene 1904-1991

Neither of my parents had siblings so as a small child I sometimes used to wonder what it must be like to have ‘real’ aunts and uncles. Having said that, we did manage to accrue an engaging array of substitutes.

We visited ageless Jewish spinsters in lofty north London bedsits, that had the magical allure of squeaky polished floors, colourful cushions lined up on the divan, and carved wooden camels marching across the mantlepiece.

There were soft cheeked Aunties that moved gently in a haze of talcum powder, wore slippers and silky stockings, and gave us embroidered cotton handkerchiefs on our birthday. 

And then there was Aunty Ethel. 

She was a country-woman at heart but lived in the local town. When calling on her unannounced, we knew to circumnavigate the house, wander straight into the back garden and listen for her melodic voice rising from the bushes. Spotting us she would straighten up from her reverie and smile. I remember a spider gently letting itself down from the rim of her straw hat as she excused herself for soliloquising in the rose-bed.

I mention Ethel because whenever we took her out on garden visits she came with a commodious handbag, complete with secateurs. We would invariably lose her as she strayed from the path to scrutinise an unusual plant. With her back covering her actions she would be busy taking cuttings and stuffing them into her handbag. 
If she were ever apprehended we had prepared our retort... she was not related to us!

It was with her in mind, that on a trip to the magnificent Cambridge Botanic Garden last autumn, shhhhh, I snapped off a seed head from a Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ and popped it into my pocket.
So immaculately tended were the beds, I felt sure that if the gardener had got there before me he would have simply tossed the unsightly straggling stem straight into his wheelbarrow; I was simply doing him a favour. 

Back home I sowed my booty straight away, a couple of weeks later tiny green leaves appeared and now I have nice sturdy little plants ready for the white garden. 

Just think, if I’d slung my jeans in the washing machine without checking the pockets first it could all have been in vain!

P.S. I’ve taken to writing on my pots rather than using labels... too oft’ did one get separated from t’other.