Posted by Tania Kindersley.
There have been far too many words lately. It is not that I do not love words. I believe in their enduring power. They are my love, and my living. But one cannot expect busy readers to read and read as I go on and on.
So today, at last, there shall be pith. And, mostly, pictures.
I went out into the July gloom and gazed, lovingly, at my garden. It is bashing gamely on, despite a shocking lack of sun. The lavender is looking a little sad, dreaming no doubt of the Mediterranean, which is really where it should be living. And something alarming has happened to one clump of delphiniums. (I suspect sabotage.)
But the astrantias and the hydrangeas and the salvias and the salix and the cotinus are going like gangbusters, defying the dank weather. I do not know very much about plants, but I suspect that, like racehorses, they do crave the sun on their backs from time to time. I find it oddly touching that they keep flowering under our dark Scottish skies.
The Pigeon rootles about, searching for rogue rabbits. There is a wonderful moment when she disappears under a Japanese quince, and all I can see is the shivering of green leaves, where she is foraging, and the tip of a wagging tail. She emerges, suddenly, with a dramatic flourish, nose up, sniffing the air, ears alert, body taut with purpose. She is thirteen years old, but she is not going to let those damn bunnies get away with it.
I laugh at her, call her over, fondle her velvet ears. I think: you are the sweetest, finest, funniest, bravest, loveliest creature I ever saw in my life. I wish, as I often do, that she spoke English, so I could tell her some of this.
Here is what we saw:
The exuberant philadelphus, with cotinus in the background, providing a wonderful dark contrast:
The newest cotinus tree in all her glory:
Delicate salvia tips:
The new hydrangea, with which I am quite in love:
Philadelphus in close-up:
The thyme is suddenly flowering, almost overnight, it seems:
And the marjoram is putting out its first flowers of the season:
This is not Chelsea, but I am rather proud of this little corner of my border:
And talking of flowering, and pride, and sheer, unadulterated loveliness, here is Herself:
How I love that serious face. And the delicately placed paws almost kill me.
And finally, today’s hill, under the drear Scottish skies:
But rather majestic and impervious, all the same.
As I was writing this, I thought: I’d better look up the Japanese quince. I always call it Japanese, but my horticultural knowledge is sketchy, and it’s the kind of thing I get wrong.
It is indeed called Japanese, but it is also sometimes known as Japonica. Japonica, I thought, that takes me back. That is The Naming of Parts. I learnt that poem when I was ten years old, and I can still recall, with a strong sense memory, how much it entranced me. I wonder what it was in that poem that so captured my childish mind. Perhaps it was the sense of the exotic. I had travelled then no further than France. I remember too being struck by the contrast of the gun with the bees and the coral.
I have not put up a poem for ages, so here it is. It is by Henry Reed, and I have not read it for ages, but it turns out I love it still, 34 years after I found it first:
Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all of the neighbouring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.
This is the lower sling swivel. And this
Is the upper sling swivel, whose use you will see
When you are given your slings. And this is the piling swivel,
Which in your case you have not got. The branches
Hold in the gardens their silent, eloquent gestures,
Which in our case we have not got.
This is the safety-catch, which is always released
With an easy flick of the thumb. And please do not let me
See anyone using his finger. You can do it quite easily
If you have any strength in your thumb. The blossoms
Are fragile and motionless, never letting anyone see
Any of them using their finger.
And this you can see is the bolt. The purpose of this
Is to open the breech, as you see. We can slide it
Rapidly backwards and forwards: we call this
Easing the spring. And rapidly backwards and forwards
The early bees are assaulting and fumbling the flowers:
They call it easing the Spring.
They call it easing the Spring: it is perfectly easy
If you have any strength in your thumb: like the bolt,
And the breech, and the cocking-piece, and the point of balance,
Which in our case we have not got; and the almond-blossom
Silent in all of the gardens and the bees going backwards and forwards,
For today we have naming of parts.
(Sorry formatting is a bit dodgy, but you get the gist.)
PS. Most excellent co-writer was on Woman’s Hour today. They love her on Woman’s Hour, and so they should. She has a very lovely radio voice. If you are interested, and can get the iPlayer, you can find it here, about ten minutes in:
Well, not quite so pithy, after all. One day, I really shall give you a HAIKU.