We drive slowly up the lane to Pond Cottage and we welcome visitors with signs asking them to do the same. Politely, of course. Slow down please for red squirrels, roe deer and sleepy toads (no kidding). Now I think we need to add a new one. Watch out for red admirals feasting drunkenly on fallen fruit.Continue reading
Blue skies again. Sunshine sparkling on the pond. A friendly breeze ruffles new leaves and turns the wind turbine merrily. What kind of killjoy would complain about the promise of yet another glorious summer day?
It does seem perverse. How often have I moaned about waking to endless cold, wet midsummer days? Now, we open the door to Mediterranean mornings – it feels heavenly but strangely disturbing. Heavenly if only it wasn’t for daily visions of hellishly soaring temperatures elsewhere. And is there another heatwave on our own horizon?Continue reading
“What,” I asked, “are we doing here with a lifetime’s work ahead as we rebuild a derelict cottage and learn how to restore 10 acres of silted up pond and rundown woodland?”
Looking back, at forty-something we were mere babes in the wood. But I had an answer: “To understand why, you need to see the pond on a frosty winter afternoon, or catch sight of the heron fishing in the sluice stream, to find a bank of primroses above a pile of rusting corrugated iron, or sit on a starry summer night with family and friends round a bonfire in the new clearing while bats flicker above the ghosts of the old neighbourhood dump.”
I wrote that nearly thirty years ago. As journalists often do, I dug the words from both heart and head.Continue reading
“I plant what grows,” the words of Ian Hamilton Finlay echo in my mind when I walk round our rain-spattered midsummer jungle. At this time of year the most sumptuous growth is in stuff we didn’t plant. I think of him again as the grass path cuts through a particularly belligerent looking bunch of nettles, docks and thistles. “Certain gardens are described as retreats,” said Finlay, “when they are really attacks.”
I was very lucky to get the chance to interview the poet-artist-revolutionary-gardener in real life almost twenty years ago. I approached him in his windy hillside garden a little warily, on guard in case of attack, and found instead a gentle man coming to terms with his recent stroke. It was one of the unforgettable privileges that sometimes come the way of a journalist. I have been to Little Sparta several times since and, though Ian Hamilton Finlay died in 2006, it is good to see the garden still grows true to the creator’s spirit.
Little Sparta is next open under Scotland’s Gardens Scheme on Tuesday 5 July. Meanwhile, I’m reprinting the article which first appeared in the (sadly) short-lived Scottish Garden magazine in 2003.Continue reading
It’s a turning point. For so long it seems a teasing fantasy, a few brave buds on some hopeful trees and shrubs, a cheery blackbird outside the bedroom window greeting an earlier sunrise. Then suddenly there’s no doubt. Whatever the weather, Spring is here and this year it brings an unexpected new season to Pond Cottage.Continue reading
Girls will be boys? The terms of employment were simple, if a little strange. The first two women admitted to the staff at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 1897 were to be known as ‘boys’ and had to dress like boys too. Continue reading