For the next spring.

The virtue of being an untidy gardener is that most of my flowers get to set seed. The down side is a shabby September garden!

So this year I decided to share seeds with friends at work. I filled seven bowls with seeds collected from the garden and the drive. All of them are seeds I know will germinate and make good plants and it was a great pleasure to feel their various textures between my fingers and have friends turn them over and ask questions about the colours and perfumes of the plants they will make.

 

Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936). Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 1912–22.

The Seed-shop
By Muriel Stuart

HERE in a quiet and dusty room they lie,
Faded as crumbled stone and shifting sand,
Forlorn as ashes, shrivelled, scentless, dry—
Meadows and gardens running through my hand.

Dead that shall quicken at the voice of spring,
Sleepers to wake beneath June’s tempest kiss;
Though birds pass over, unremembering,
And no bee find here roses that were his.

In this brown husk a dale of hawthorn dreams;
A cedar in this narrow cell is thrust
That shall drink deeply at a century’s streams;
These lilies shall make summer on my dust.

Here in their safe and simple house of death,
Sealed in their shells, a million roses leap;
Here I can stir a garden with my breath,
And in my hand a forest lies asleep.

 

I collected masses of wild marjoram, a heaped bowl of tiny yarrow, a pinch of pale wall flower seeds, a spiked ball of wild agrimony, a sliver of shining columbine seeds, a roll of tough everlasting pea seeds and a sliding flurry of flat honesty seeds.

I hope they have all gone to good homes and will flourish in new gardens.

 

 

 

 

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Keeping it real!

 

I am now firmly back in the toad land of work, the long  day stretches ahead and the sky can just be glimpsed through the bars of the firmly shut blinds.

My garden is another five days away and only a few pot plants on the desk remind me of the green I am missing.

A few unexpected specks of spherical black, dot my desk and I realize they are insect frass.  On close inspection of my rose scented geranium, I spot eaten leaves and more frass.  There can only be one explanation.  A caterpillar has hitched a ride from the garden and is slowly devouring my plant, utterly safe from all predators on my desk.

I think it is a garden tiger moth caterpillar and as I write, its hairy body is swelling as it ingests the perfumed leaves.  It doesn’t mind being here.  This is safe and profitable for a caterpillar.

Time to take another lesson from nature, I suppose: but when it turns into an extravagantly patterned moth, I will need to find a way to set it free!

Slip, slop.

IMG_1984Larkin’s “Work Toad” is slowly, slip slopping his way towards me. With webbing and slime he makes his heavy, warty and unwanted way towards me, slowly, inexorably muttering bills, and health insurance and pension and taxes. And then plop! He is in my lap, heavy and inevitable. I wriggle, but there is no escape and we must share each other’s cold burden for another long year together.

I am Irish!

To Grandmother Christine Fitzpatrick and Grandfather Joseph Manning and the lovely ladies of the Irish Embassy in Paris :  go raibh maith agat, my first words of Irish.

I just got my full Irish passport and I can now sleep easily in my French home knowing I am still a European citizen and all the nationalistic nonsense of Brexit can’t make me homeless!

Pixie and the Christmas Cactus

At this time of year, when the garden is asleep, I feed my need for green with indoor plants. This Christmas cactus is a great favourite and as it is now in full flower I have put it in pride of place in the kitchen, where Pixie does her best to rub the flower buds off by marking it with her furry face.

Christmas cactus gets it name from its flowering time, however my cactus thinks it is American as it is flowering on Thanksgiving thus demonstrating its alternative name – Thanksgiving cactus.

The cactus part of the name is a misnomer too. It isn’t a cactus from a dry place, but an epiphyte from the Brazilian costal highlands of S. E. Brazil ( Sao Paulo and Rio states) where it hangs from trees in cool, moist forests and is pollenated by brilliant, flashing humming birds. Brazilians call it the Flor de Mai, as in its natural habitat the perfect day and night time length stimulates it to flower in May.

In northern climes schlumbergera will only flower if it gets long dark nights. So in order to encourage it to flower it needs to be kept in a cool room which does not get any artifical light at night.  My mother in law had a wonderful plant in the downstairs loo.  The brief visits with the light switched on were fine; but as most of the time it was in darkness at night, the plant flowered prolifically.

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I keep mine in my office, where I am pleased to boast, I do no work at all in the evening and so the cacus buds can form and and start to flower in peace before I bring it downstairs to amuse the cat and to brighten up dull November with promises of once familiar faraway tropical forests and humming birds.

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On becoming Irish

My maternal grandparents were Irish. In Liverpool everybody seemed to have Irish grandparents and listening to my grandfather sing and play fiddle with his friends in the kitchen seemed what everybody did.

When my grandparents died and the family moved away, any links with Ireland seemed to losen and I eventually felt myself wholly English. However the idea that you can part of more than one country was there as bedrock and both my grandfathers travelled the world on the ocean going liners out of Liverpool and it seemed as natural as breathing to want to see the world.

I have lived now in nine different countries and on four different continents, having come to rest ( who knows for how long) in a beautiful corner of France on the edge of Switzerland and Germany . I like being foreign because I think anywhere can be my home and I can feel at home everywhere. My British nationality has been a great good fortune, giving me the language that has has made my living and a passport respecteacross the world. As a member of the EU my potential home and work place in any of the member countries offers me a huge range of climates, countries and cultures to choose from.

And then came Brexit.

I was prepared for the result. I had spent months researching my Irish roots and my eligibility for Irish citizenship as a foreign born national , but I hoped I would not have go through with it. This is not because I didn’t want to get dual Irish/British nationality, but because I hoped no one could be misguided enough to turn their backs on all the opportunities that Europe offers.

Unfortunately I was wrong, but unlike all the millions of my fellow Brits with no European ancestors,  my Irish parents have stretched out a hand across the years and allowed me to continue being European, to continue living in France and to have the possibility to work or retire wherever the fancy takes me in the community.

I am very grateful to the Irish embassay in Paris for sorting it all out so quickly and to my Granparents for giving me the freedom to keep my options and my heart open in this amazing, interconnected world!

 

Work Toad

Why should I let the toad work
Squat on my life?
Can’t I use my wit as a pitchfork
And drive the brute off?

Six days of the week it soils
With its sickening poison –
Just for paying a few bills!
That’s out of proportion.

Lots of folk live on their wits:
Lecturers, lispers,
Losels, loblolly-men, louts-
They don’t end as paupers;

Lots of folk live up lanes
With fires in a bucket,
Eat windfalls and tinned sardines-
they seem to like it.

Their nippers have got bare feet,
Their unspeakable wives
Are skinny as whippets – and yet
No one actually starves.

Ah, were I courageous enough
To shout Stuff your pension!
But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff
That dreams are made on:

For something sufficiently toad-like
Squats in me, too;
Its hunkers are heavy as hard luck,
And cold as snow,

And will never allow me to blarney
My way of getting
The fame and the girl and the money
All at one sitting.

I don’t say, one bodies the other
One’s spiritual truth;
But I do say it’s hard to lose either,
When you have both.

Phillip Larkin.

Nearly a whole week away from the garden, and such a week! Perfect crystal weather and every flower I have ever grown exploding into riotous technicolour glory, without me to admire them. I almost resent them their beauty and liberty, but just a snatched few minutes with them after work and my lungs expand, my body relaxes and an inane smile suffuses my face.
Just knowing they exist and my cats are hunting amongst them makes the awful corporate crap a little more bearable.
Winston presented me with a baby slow worm this morning, a single bead of bright blood on its smooth skin from his claw or fang. I slipped it back into the compost heap and chased Winston away . I think if he had caught the work toad and killed it, I would have been delighted.