stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Expect nothing

No, this isn't a post about the the suffering caused by holding high expectations...

I will be away on the lovely island of Iona in the Inner Hebrides next week. As you probably realise, its one of my favourite places for quiet relaxation. Remote, and no public internet access, so no blogging.

Last one out, turn the light off please.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What happened to spring?

This photo was taken with my phone, looking up, as I waited to cross the road outside the library this morning. The recent trip to Wisley has made me very aware of leaf colour and contrast. The morning was glorious, but it was back to blustery rain by lunch time. Will it ever stop?

I just went to pull the curtains (dark is falling) and discovered a family of seven snails! They were on the outside of the window pane. And, largest leading the way, they were slowly heading downwards towards my plants for an evening meal in the rain. Its my suspicion that they had my pot of pristine hostas on their menu. I think they live(d) in the protection of the small overhang above the patio window. I had a pang of guilt for splitting asunder a happy group, but I am sure they will enjoy their new life a few yards away. Or will they be back by dawn, discussing their various aerial experiences?

I am reminded of a good friend who was trying to keep her garden snail free. At dusk, she went out and collected a very large handful, which she threw in a huge arc to the field next door - as far as she could throw. She wears chunky, colourful, bead bracelets and these left her wrist, and travelled some distance in a graceful arc with the snails. The next half hour was spent in the long wet grass in front of her, trying to retrieve the bracelets in the gathering gloom. Instant karma?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

A wet wander around Wisley

We've just got back from a day at RHS Wisley the best known of the Royal Horticultural Society's gardens. It was coach trip (two and a half hours each way) organised by someone in Dorchester - who does one every year. Last year they went to Kew in the rain, and this year it was Wisley.....also in the rain. And how it rained!

Just as well that I have good weatherproof gear (sorry the Other Val, no chance to show you a view over the boots, too wet!) It was a good chance to test out my new smallish rucksack before going off to Iona next week. Its not totally waterproof when the English heavens open, but never mind, its very comfortable and I shall put things in plastic bags to compensate.

The gardens were lovely, and the pinetum was divine (heheh I just had a typo and put "diving" very appropriate with so much water) There were many varieties of beautiful pines, and with quiet birdsong it was incredibly tranquil. We saw a jay too, which is only the second time I have seen one.

You can just see my husband on the right admiring the rhododendrons. Despite the weather, it was a pleasure to see so many incredible plants. I loved the bamboo grove, magical, though they were so much smaller than those I've seen in Japan, its just not warm enough here. And there was a delicate woodland area with small mysterious paths to explore - does anyone recognise this lovely shrub below? The pink blossom had a sweet fragrance, and it was the only plant we saw without a name tag, darn it!

There were glasshouses of orchids, and also alpines - which were the surprise of the day. I had always found them boring, those interminable rows of unidentifiable small green plants in gravel. But I suppose the RHS will have the best in peak display, and these tiny jewels of all sorts of flowers were a revelation. We wandered along the display benches oohing and aahing, and calling each other over to wonder at some exquisite bright flower. We could see how gardeners become a bit fanatical over them.

There were some small show gardens and I saw one with my new birthday present - clematis armandii - climbing over a fence. I found that garden very interesting, with its balance of purple and lime green, and like the slabs of glass with painting of the leaves next to them. Quite innovative I thought.

I found the Japanese themed garden disappointing. I should have known better. I knew it was only to display a collection of bonsai - which it did very well. No photo consequently, as I dont feel comfortable about bonsai somehow.

The herb garden was another delight. Quite simple and elegant with an interesting feature in the middle (that's me in purple, with the famous boots). The wording around the diameter reads "All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today and yesterday". Us girls discussed that philosophical point on the way home in the coach. This area also had a section behind a fence with all the toxic herbs and an interesting creation of gravel and two bubbling stones, based on the ying yang symbol.

It was raining so hard that we really couldn't enjoy the excellent selection of plants for sale, though I noted some for possible future purchase - a Judas tree (cercis canadensis, also known as redbud tree) for only £50 but amazing with its purple buds coming straight out of the stem, followed later by heart shaped leaves; an unusual iris with striped two tone leaves; and a broom plant to replace my old overgrown one which is currently leaning over to ground level with the weight of the recent rain!

Ive come away with some glimmering of ideas of where to put some of the plants and trees that are still in pots on my patio awaiting inspiration. Yes, I think that Wisley was inspiring in a way that Kew is not. Wet, but inspiring!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Just bluebells

A walk to the local bluebell wood was in order this weekend (as a well deserved break from gardening). Its on top of a hill, and on one of the rides my girls used to do on their horses. The fields to one side of it are full of boisterous young lambs, whose mothers seem to be constantly anxiously calling them back from riotous play. We walked slowly up the hill, pausing now and then to look back at the view and to surreptiously catch our breath. The trees are lovely right now.

I've got a bit nostalgic about bluebells in the last few years. Not for the bluebells of my youth, no, I grew up in London so only saw them on occasion in Kew Gardens. But they became a sort of symbol for the sweetness in life I thought I was lacking. In fact, I don't think I could see the flowers themselves at all. All I was seeing and feeling was the emotions brought up by them.

This spring, though, I could look at them and enjoy their beauty again. Being in the moment - a genuine smile for them. You can tell your head what to think, but you cant fool your heart. But the tugging at my heartstrings was gone. I think I've seen my old dreams for what they are too. And along with that has come a measure of acceptance - that life is what you make of it, and indeed ultimately, what you choose it to be. And it is a lovely world, if only we let it be - and let ourselves Be.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


A post from Kerri on Colors of the Garden about her tulips, reminded me to take some photos too. I find they dont come up so well the next year, as I grow them in pots. So treat them as annuals, and usually indulge myself in buying a new parrot variety each autumn. I find them so exciting, compared to the ordinary types.The one above is new to me this year, I love the green that appears in it.

I think I've already posted an image of that one, also new this year. The edge of the petals is very spiky - never come across it before. It reminds me of a Venus Flytrap!

This is more purple than the photo above suggests. I really must remember to take them out of their pots after flowering this year, and plant them all in a clump somewhere for a splash of colour next year. I always try to buy early varieties, I am such an impatient gardener really when it comes to bulbs and flowers.

I think another visit to the new garden centre is called for this weekend. I have an old friend from library school visiting who is garden-less right now. She bought her "long loppers" with her on the train. sticking out of her bag. That reminded me of a recent train journey to London, when a lad in day-glo working clothes got on board at a small station, wearing safety trousers and hard hat. He was carrying a huge (and I mean huge and mean) Stihl chain saw, with a swathe of black plastic around the middle of the blade cover - like a birthday present with a bow around it! He sat behind me, and immediately got talking to the people next to him. So I listened.

He was on a chainsaw course safety course, doing the practical bit in the middle of the Dorset countryside. While waiting for his train back home, the station master (yes they had one, I was suprised for two platforms in the middle of a forest!) said that he couldnt travel with it - unless it was wrapped up. The lad was resourceful and found a discarded black plastic dustbin liner. There are no shops or houses near the station you understand. I am not sure how this made things better - everyone on the train knew it was a chainsaw, and if he wanted to run amok he still would. Still, (Stihl????) rules are rules, and everyone was happy.

Friday, May 05, 2006

My own stepping stones

After a day in London, it is bliss to be back among the green hills of Dorset and open space, and my own stepping stones - aaaahhh *blissful sigh*

I was on a day course called "Applications to enhance information provision : web blogs and wikis" at CILIP which is my professional institution. It was a very interesting day, well run by Phil Bradley whose blog is an excellent place for keeping up with new search engines and internet happenings. And the hot lunch there is one of the best I have ever come across on any library workshop - this time it was salmon and spinach in puff pastry with wonderful salads, and loads of veggie options. It was so good that I forgave them their lack of dessert. I now need a week off to evaluate all the useful utilities that I discovered on the course!

So, much as I find the town of my birth and youth an exhilarating place to be, I breathe a happy sigh as I come back to the tranquillity and delights of a garden waking up to summer.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Alfresco bokken

Its the first day of a new term of t'ai chi lessons this evening, and we are back in our summer quarters. In the open air!

Last summer, as an experiment, we carried on meeting after the summer term indoors ended in June, on Monday evenings down by the lake at Kingston Maurward. We got permission to use the grounds after normal closing hours, as the mansion now houses a thriving college. The lovely grounds are open to the public during the day, but the only people we encountered were some local volunteer firemen roaring down the grassy slope to train, using the lake as a water supply! And several agricultural students taking a short cut.

The flat ground at the bottom of the slope makes a wonderful practise area. Its absolutely blissful doing t'ai chi in the open air, with a calm lake in front of you. So very tranquil. And do you know, last year right the way through July and August there was not one rainy Monday evening! Today's weather is looking good too, which is as well as we are starting at the beginning of May this year. Rather optimistic.

There is also the remnants of aVictorian attempt at a Japanese style garden next to it too, no English stately home was complete without one. Its just a small shrubbery with a stream going through it and several stone lanterns. Rather sadly, last year, one of the yukimi-gata (snow-viewing lanterns with a broad flat "roof") had been decapitated. I took photos of it, but its too sad to look at! Hopefully it will have been repaired now. But use of a few acers and bamboos gives a pleasant enough Japanese feel. Quite appropriate really, nothing like wielding your bokken in the calm of an English summer evening. I bet the designers never envisaged that!

10.29pm : It was a glorious evening! They HAD mended the lantern, so I took a photo with my phone. The fresh leaves on the acer looked dainty, and there was a huge magnolia tree which completely carpeted the grass with fallen white petals. Later we had a meditative stroll right around the lake as dusk fell.

A spring feeds the stream, which is just to the right of the clipped hedges. Nice to see the area is being cared for again.