Better late than never

Back in 1995 I had my first garden. It was the unloved space of a rented cottage in a Suffolk village. It felt like I had won the lottery after a decade plus of flats with and without balconies in London, Frankfurt and Zandvoort.

I have always been a flower person, have found gardening over the past 27 years both rewarding and restorative and have hoped to pass on my passion for gardening to my daughter.

Well, if nothing, it looks like my daughter got the gene for smelling flowers! (Left, me with my maternal grandfather looking on, and right, my daughter in my mother’s garden.)

In my first garden there were the usual cottage garden favourites roses, lupins and sweet peas. However, I also had containers full of pelargoniums which I had learnt to grow and appreciate when I was living in Germany. Every balcony in our block of flats in Frankfurt put together a summer display and we couldn’t be the only flat with empty troughs.

First garden with pelargoniums and marguerite daisies in pots and lupins in the border.

I also grew pots of pelargoniums on the balcony in Zandvoort, Holland, but being on the North Sea coast once the weather turned they really didn’t appreciate the salt-laden wind. However, since I’ve been back in England it has been a case of white or pink or dark red pelargoniums in pots every year. Also from that first garden I have endeavoured to get my daughter interested in gardening.

Now, of course, plants in pots need regular watering and if you have the appropriately sized watering can what’s not to like about sloshing water everywhere. In her early years my daughter did enjoy watering, but was less keen on planting and even less keen on sweeping up and eventually wasn’t keen on anything to do with gardening at all.

Watering . . okay, . . . . . sweeping . . not so much . . . . . . . . . . and. . . . NO just NO!

That was until the local television grew came to film my very tall sunflowers and she took all the credit! She was filmed showing the TV man her sunflowers and was delighted at being interviewed. To be fair in the May of that year she had gone round the garden chucking seeds about.

My daughter interviewed (very patiently by Mike Liggins) on BBC Look East. (Apologies for poor quality as photos taken from the telly.)

My daughter has now left home and as a young adult has, surprise, surprise decided to grow a few houseplants.

Over the years I have carried on growing sunflowers with some years being better than others. About a decade ago I switched to peat free compost for growing plants from seed including sunflowers and I didn’t notice any particular change in successful germination or seedling development. However, this year only three sunflower seedlings out of 30 grew big enough to be planted out in the yard and that was only after pricking out the strongest and transferring them into an alternative brand of peat free compost.

Sunflowers in the backyard, October 2022.

It has been a longer wait and more effort than usual, but eventually the sunflowers have bloomed. Late, yes, which means the autumnal winds have arrived and cutting them down has been necessary, but all is not lost as I do now have a very cheerful display on the kitchen table.

A moment for a little reflection

The UK is now in lockdown, more or less. Everybody who can works from home and all non essential trips out of your house are prohibited, although, as yet, we don’t have the military on the streets enforcing these restrictions. With the ensuing quiet I have found myself more reflective than usual.

Now here’s a flitting stream of consciousness: . . . how did we get here . . . who is marshalling the NHS response . . . oh yes, that bloke who looks like a rabbit in the headlights, what’s his name . . . Hancock, yes, Matt Hancock . . . isn’t he the MP for West Suffolk, yes he is . . . other side of Bury St Edmunds . . . mmm, Bury . . . I wonder whether Blackthorpe Barn will run its Christmas Craft Fair later this year . . . that part of Suffolk is beautiful in winter . . . melancholy Suffolk . . . melancholy pines . . . ah the lonely Lady Drury and the Hawstead Panels.

Part of Lady Drury’s painted closet originally at Hawstead Place, near Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

Now there was a woman who knew about reflection and meditation and solitude. Her solo endeavours, her painted closet, installed in the now temporarily closed Christchurch Mansion, is a visual expression of living a contemplative life.

The first scarf I sold from my online boutique back in 2013.

I have not been spending this disconcerting time on too much introspection, although I have been slowly working my way through my thousands of photographs, a process which turns out is intermittently thought-provoking. During this task I have come across pictures of earlier work I had completely forgotten as well as old rather poor quality photographs that I took when I first launched my online shop back in July 2013.

Another early piece I had forgotten about from 2013 inspired by a Wedgwood Fairyland lustreware candlestick.

One or two of the old photos had captured a look, an expression that was worth saving. Six or seven years ago, and particularly before my week’s photography course, I hadn’t realised how much tidying up, enhancing and, well to put it bluntly, cheating could be achieved with Photoshop.

Some light touching-up and colour adjustment using Photoshop.
Two old photographs merged with the help of Photoshop – obvious cheating!

Nowadays, with a solid five years’ plus of amateur experience under my belt, I am so much better at getting the photograph I want (eventually), but sometimes the circumstances defeat my grand intentions. This was the case on a visit last month to the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ Museum. Not quite the tightly focussed, intriguing image I was hoping for, but I can always blame the delicate distortions of the fine, antique eighteenth-century mirror.

Last month, February 2020, distorted reflections. An 18th-century mirror hanging in the ‘Handel & Hendrix in London’ museum, Brook Street, London, W1K 4HB.