With nasty germs being top news at the moment, I thought I would share this lovely poem that my Mum received from fellow gardeners last year. (For serious gardeners only! LOL!)
I have just finished reading this great book, recommended to me by Sheryl at Flowery Prose last November and immediately put on my Christmas wish list. You can read her review here, but I will add a few words too.
Hope Jahren is a scientist with a gift for writing, and the book flows right from the start. She recounts her life in an enchanting and extremely readable way, mixing in fascinating information and descriptions of trees, plants and her work. The story is full of ups and downs, telling candidly, passionately, and often hilariously of her (sometimes unconventional) struggles to set up labs, her discoveries, her dedication to her research, and the dear friend Bill who accompanied her through it all. Her style of writing is fluid and amusing, but also incredibly poignant when we note the hidden comparisons between the lives of trees and those of humans.
I really loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a vague interest in trees, botany or science in general who wants a good weekend read.
Take a look at Sheryl’s review – she can say it so much better than I can!
Every morning I take my old doggie out into the garden first thing, still in my dressing gown, sometimes stopping to admire a rose or a geum, checking my herbs or opening the cold frame.
When I saw the title of this collection of humorous poems I had to take a closer look. And when I took a closer look I had to buy the book!
“Outside in My Dressing Gown”
by Liz Cowley
Liz Cowley has succeeded in touching on so many funny sides of gardening life – what the neighbours think, the frustration of the crowds at the Chelsea Flower Show, snails and slugs, the weather, being tempted at the garden centre, weeds…. There is at least one poem in here for everyone to associate a personal experience with. One that stands out for me is her poem “Ground elder”, a weed I posted about recently. Here’s an excerpt:
Spaghetti roots are everywhere.
You dig them up and bitterly.
You know you’ve got enough out there
to cover half of Italy.
Spaghetti roots – impossible –
and most of them you can’t remove.
So if ground elder’s in your place,
There’s only one solution. Move!
This collection is such fun! With simple verse the writer can sum up precisely how a gardener thinks. I open a few pages every day and find myself smiling and nodding. She understands gardeners so well! In “Here at last” she expresses how the buds of spring can suddenly uplift your spirits. In “Are you named after a flower?” she lists some beautiful names/plants but suggests vegetable names should also be used… fancy being called Maris Piper?! In “Antirrhinums” she has a conversation with a flower. And in “I know I’m not a rarity” she writes:
I know that there are many thousands
of dressing gowners just like me,
outside, and dibbing, snipping, brushing –
I know I’m not a rarity.
The poems are divided into seasons, which is a nice touch. There are a few poignant lines in some of her poems too. This one caught my eye:
Plants can plant a love within you
that sometimes lasts you all life long….
Very true, don’t you think.
To sum up: ideal for gardeners who want a little giggle, some thoughtful moments and a few smiles.
Let me explain!
This is my Binocular Man!
He was built by my Dad and my Man of Many Talents at my request, almost 6 years ago, inspired by the binocular men I saw at the Country Park near my parents’ home. (Take a look here)
And I love him.
I love the way he spends all his time gazing across my garden towards the hills in the distance. I often do the same when the buzzards circle overhead, or the woodpeckers settle on the lawn to dig for ants…
I’m glad I cleared up this matter, in case anyone else out there was wondering…. 😉
Weeds: The Story of Outlaw Plants: A Cultural History
I should love to go on a walk in the countryside, or indeed anywhere with a hint of greenery, with the author of this book, Richard Mabey. He explains so well – and with such knowledge, humour and charm – where each weed we may come across has originated and how weeds have been the bane of humanity for hundreds of years. Our comprehension of their uses, purpose, growth habits and so on is so limited, yet Mr Mabey seems to know it all! This book is so fascinating I found myself taking notes!
First of all, he looks at how to define weeds, which only exist where humans are. Ploughing, for example, provides the optimal conditions for plants which sow themselves out regularly and grow rapidly.
He also examines the history of weeds; as medicine or food, in literature and common folklore, in superstition and religion. The allocation of characters and meanings to certain plants are discussed, as well as the weeding process in past ages. Poets and writers have referred to weeds and wild flowers since time began with nostalgia and familiarity, and Mabey frequently quotes one of my favourite poets – John Clare – whose pet subject was country life; our alienation from nature’s ways, and the changes in agriculture and horticulture are very clear when looking at old poetry. Mabey quotes from Clare’s The Shepherd’s Calendar:
“… Each morning, now, the weeders meet
To cut the thistle from the wheat,
And ruin, in the sunny hours,
Full many a wild weed with its flowers;—
Corn-poppies, that in crimson dwell,
Call’d “Head-achs,” from their sickly smell;
And charlocks, yellow as the sun,
That o’er the May-fields quickly run…”
The origins of many weeds found in the UK – some of which are extremely invasive – are explained too; how they were transported on ship hulls, in bales of cloth, in wood exported as building material, and nowadays in pot plants and birdseed, and even in coffins!
But my favourite part of the book was Mr Mabey’s reference to my most hated weed – Ground-elder. He says “ there is one weed species that is beyond the pale even under our laissez-faire regime … in the herbaceous borders it permeates every inch of soil….. insinuating their white subterranean tendrils, as supple as earthworms, around and through any root system in their way.” His wife has contracted the name into Grelda, describing its witch-like qualities at the same time!
“Weeds” is very readable and entertaining, and yet at the same time extremely informative.
I highly recommend it!