curiosity about the ways of the world

Category: Environment (Page 2 of 7)

our built and natural world

No garden retreat at Little Sparta

“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.

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Why are we waiting?

Is the NHS equipped to deal with floods, gales and heatwaves of extreme weather?  

Can democracy Deliver in Time?

We knew it was coming.

This week’s IPCC special report on Climate Change (‘code red for humanity’) should leave no-one in any doubt that we cannot afford to waste more time on promises yet to be delivered.

We’ve been good at promises in Scotland as well as the rest of the United Kingdom. Bold declarations of climate emergency and world beating targets came before the pandemic showed just how quickly human behaviour can change. We can do it when we have to. Yet last year’s euphoric thoughts of ‘building back better’ seem to have got lost.

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Winter into Spring

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.

Video by Tommy Perman, music Paddy’s Burn by Tommy, Morgan Szymanski
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For love of life

I thought back to another year I knew

Autumn, lifting potatoes and stacking peats

On Mull… Ruthven Todd

There it is. Reading aloud from his latest book, Alexander McCall Smith nabs a furtive shadow from another time with a few lines from Ruthven Todd’s poem written in 1938. Continue reading

The revolutionary power of simple pleasures

What kind of times are they, when

A talk about trees is almost a crime

Because it implies silence about so many horrors

Bertolt Brecht

A catalogue in the post. Not so very long ago that would have brought a promise of armchair gardening. Happy hours leafing through pages of plants I was unlikely to grow, winter evenings plotting summer crops; neat rows of common garden stuff in exotic colours: purple beans, black carrots, blue potatoes. I’d mark the pages diligently and forget to send my order until it was almost too late to sow the seeds. Continue reading

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