Katharine’s Garden (and more)

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The first time I visited Katharine’s place, it was pitch black (a winter’s evening gathering of our book group) and I couldn’t see the outside of her house or her garden. I knew she was a keen and knowledgable gardener; we had chats about it and she kindly helped me to clear a patch of our overgrown back garden not long after we’d moved in. Like every gardener I’ve ever met, she is enthusiastic and generous with her knowledge and time. When I did get to visit her home in the daylight and walk around the garden I was blown away and a few weeks ago I popped round in the late afternoon to take some photographs to show you.

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When Katharine and her family moved here 15 years ago, the house had been empty since the early 1950s. It was very ramshackle and surrounded by an overgrown jungle of brambles, sycamores and elder. Crucially, there was No Garden. The house took 8 years to renovate to a point where they could live in it but with great foresight they decided to start making a garden straight away, planting hedges, fruit and other trees. Being so close to the coast it’s often extremely windy, so this was a good move; the plants established quickly creating much-needed shelter belts.

She describes her approach to gardening as ‘a little haphazard’. “My mother is a huge influence and keeps me amply supplied with cuttings and plants. I love things when they blend into nature – seeing a rose rambling up a crab apple tree and also allowing an area to run a little wild, like long grass and bluebells. On the other hand, I also love defined areas – neatly trimmed edges happen every now and again and they really help to offset what is growing in the flower beds.”

“My favourite plants are often those given to me by other people, as I think of them when I see the plant.” She also loves plants that have taken a battering but pull through against the odds, such as her patch of monk’s hood (Aconitum). Every year since she planted it, when it was full of promise and about to flower, it would be cut down by footballs landing on it or flying through it (she has four sons…). Over the last couple of years it has increased to such an extent the it manages to flower prolifically and withstand the footballs.

As well as this hardy monk’s hood, she also loves her irises and Alchemilla mollis (lady’s mantle) and grows some beautiful, classic old roses – ‘William Lobb’, Rosa rugosa ‘Rubra’, Rosa rugosa ‘Magnifica’ and Rosa mundi – and climbing roses ‘Alberic Barbier’ and ‘Paul’s Scarlet’. The unpredictability of the garden is one of the things she loves most about it – each year different plants seem to do well – and her favourite spots change throughout the seasons depending on what is out: banks of snowdrops in late winter, the bluebells patch in spring, in and amongst the apple trees when in blossom, and later in the year, when the sun is low, she loves to sit in the gazebo. And it’s not just the plants and favourite spots, her chickens are also important: “I would never not have chickens now. They bring a sense of life to the place and having something to look after every day gives you a good anchor to notice how things are changing around you.”

I asked Katharine whether there are any specific gardening challenges she faces: “This year the rabbits have discovered the vegetable patch and we will have to look at rabbit-proofing it for next year. Slugs, too, have been a real problem, but it has also been an odd year in general for growing things. Plants have taken a long time to get going and planting things straight into the soil has not yielded good results. Wind is an on-going battle and we need to make sure the chickens do not escape for the sake of delicate seedlings. Bindweed (say no more) and footballs.”

And plans for the future? “I feel we have only just begun! I would like to divide the garden into different, defined areas, so each area has more of an identity of its own. We are creating a pond at the moment and I am excited by the possibilities that will bring – different wildlife and learning about bog and water-loving plants.”

I’m looking forward to seeing how it all develops. A big thank you to Katharine for letting me wander around snapping away, for answering my questions and for and sharing her lovely garden.

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In other news… I can hardly bear to turn on the tv or radio at the moment with the shocking news from Nice and now Turkey. My desire to be well-informed is being overtaken by my desire to keep sane. Almost every day there is an atrocity somewhere and it is heartbreaking. It might seem flippant to be posting about gardens and flowers and our everyday lives, but I think it’s especially important at times like this. Good moments, nature, beauty, kindness, love, compassion, dignity – these are the things to cling on to. Sorry if that sounds trite; it’s hard to find the right words. My family will be travelling soon and I am taking deep breaths and giving my irrational, what-if-everything-goes-wrong side a good talking to. Give in to fear and you’re giving in to the haters, and I’m determined not to do that.

All will be mostly quiet chez acoastalplot now until late August. In the meantime, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I wish you peace, love and contentment.
Sam x

 

 

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24 thoughts on “Katharine’s Garden (and more)

  1. i loved reading this piece and looking through the photos. I’m not sure if I can put this into words but the photos you chose have captured the spirit of how your friend’s garden. Its a lovely glimpse into a garden and a life. I was very moved by it. It must be comforting to step out the door of her house and work on the garden, I think gardening gives a timeless feeling of connecting to the past and the future. It brought back a lot of good memories of my mother’s garden and of gardening in England. (I’m in Canada but grew up in Hertfordshire and Kent).

    Re the world – yes, it is just too much sometimes. It makes your heart ache. Here in Canada we have had last weekend a senseless murder of a young mum, and the subsequent search for her young daughter. I think we all hoped and held our breaths and then the heartbreaking news that the little girl had also been found dead in a wooded area outside the city. A walk, gardening, reading to my grandchildren are the only things that keep me grounded in all this.

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  2. I share your feeling of being torn between needing to know and to understand, and wanting not to know. Knowing wins, but the garden is as you say an ever-more important reminder that we and life go on, and hope and beauty must prevail.
    I hope you have a lovely summer break, and one that refreshes you for whatever the world throws at us next.

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  3. It’s a beautiful garden. And house!
    Have a great time in the States. You’ve worked hard and waited long enough for it. It is very difficult watching the news at the moment but you’re right, we must not give in.

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  4. I think there’s surely some power in sharing beauty in the midst of so many horrific events. I know your photos in this post made my heart ache with longing to be in such a setting. I’m certain I was born and have lived my life on the wrong side of the pond. May your vacation be peaceful and restorative.

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    1. I agree with all of your thoughts. My three years in Cornwall were some of the best of my life. I miss England so much especially during this hot summer in Florida. I am moved by the photographs shared here and all of the positive, nurturing words. As I sit in my office, I am very down about the evil in this world and the future of the US. I hope that there are still more good people than bad but I’m so heartbroken by the horrific acts I keep hearing about. I’m so glad I found this lovely blog. Thank you. Marcia

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  5. Oh your friend Katharine has a rather delectable garden Sam. Rabbits have discovered my allotment plot this year too so I sympathise. I imagine that you came home with the odd plant and perhaps some eggs too 🙂 There are a lot of incomprehensible acts of evil taking place at the moment and it’s sometimes most hard to watch or listen to the news. I went to bed last night fearing for a friend and former colleague who now lives in Turkey. Fortunately she has been in touch today to say that she is fine. Sharing the simple pleasures of life is a source of much comfort and it’s important for everyone’s sanity that we continue to do this and do not feel any guilt for doing so. Enjoy your summer travels wherever you venture.

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  6. That garden is a dream. Every inch. I love the comfortable atmosphere your friend had created.
    The scenes from Nice and Turkey are depressing, sickening and terrifying. I’m sick of it.

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  7. What a wonderful garden. I particularly like the chickens, something I’d love to have one day. She clearly works very hard out there, she’s made a beautiful job of it. A pond will be a great addition. I have a tiny one and it’s such a magnet for wildlife. CJ xx

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  8. It is a beautiful place, how wonderful to know Katharine and her garden. I was especially struck by the bundles of willow waiting to be soaked and woven and also the glimpses of the landscape beyond. Have a great break Sam and a lovely holiday. See you in September!

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  9. Ooh I do love a good nosey into other people’s gardens! The house looks beautiful too. I have also been avoiding the news for the same reasons and agree completely about enjoying the simple beauty of natural things at such a time. It’s reassuring. I also completely understand the nerves around travelling. We had a day in London this week and the same concerns crossed my mind, along with the same determination not to allow fear to control us. Enjoy your break my dear xx

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  10. Katharine’s garden is incredible. She has put so much work into it. I am sure she’ll enjoy it for many years to come. I wish you safe travels. Take care and have a wonderful trip.

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  11. I always love looking at other peoples gardens. Katherine’s is wonderful. I would love to keep chickens but I think my two furry friends would like them too much as well! Hope you have a lovely relaxing holiday. I look forward to hearing about it. B x

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  12. I loved this visit to Katherine’s garden, thanks for sharing. You are right to post about gardens and other delightful things, it keeps us sane, visiting these oases (oasises?) of tranquility and happiness. I try to stay informed but at the same time I don’t want to dwell, I tend to overthink and sometimes it is easier to avoid it altogether. Wishing you a safe and happy holiday with lots of exiting adventures. Mine is over, back at work next week 😦 but the kids are off for another three weeks or so. xx

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  13. What an exceptional garden, it looks so lush, extensive, calm and natural. It is the garden of a far sighted person. The house looks pretty amazing too. I totally relate to your misgivings about travelling, sadly this effect is exactly what the terrorists want; to disrupt normal life, inhibit travel, close the world down. Like you I am tempted to duck out of the news altogether, yet feel it is my duty to listen, even though I can do nothing. My mantra is ‘spread the love’, and in my tiny world that is what I try to do, as best I can. Wishing you safe travels and a wonderful time. X

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  14. I like Katharine’s style and attitude. She’s created a beautiful space and I’m inspired by the willow tepees. Much nicer than my beanpoles. As far as all the world’s craziness these days, we have to focus on the little things in our lives or risk going stark mad. Enjoy your travels.

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  15. We can’t let the ugliness force us to give up our gardens and other beautiful things. Your friend’s garden reminds me that more than any particular style, I love gardens made by gardeners who themselves love gardens.

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  16. What a really beautiful garden!! Beautifully photographed too. I am sure it will only get better. Re the “stuff” going on in the world I hate to say, but I am firmly head in sand…. Enjoy whatever you are up to until you return! xx

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  17. It’s just lovely. Thank you for sharing the garden, and Katharine’s thoughts, with us. The mixture of formal and informal planting is charming, and all the old brick just adds to the feel.

    I’ve enjoyed following your holidays on Instagram and I hope you’re having the most wonderful time. xx

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  18. Beautiful! Was that a fig tree in one of the pictures? Love them – my father tried growing one but with no success….a friend of mine had one that grew all over the place and the figs were unbelievable.

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