Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Have You Hugged a Tree Today?

What do you mean "no"? What's not to like? Well, except for this one.

They enhance our lives with their beauty, they frame a view so perfectly, they give us oxygen and clean the air, they offer shelter from rain, sun and wind. If that is not reason enough for hugging them, I don't know what is.

So, what's stopping you? Go on, give them a hug, a well deserved pat on the back and, when no one is looking, maybe even a little kiss? You know you want to!

I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
Joyce Kilmer

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

An Organised Chaos

I'm not the most organised of persons. My idea of clearing my desk is cramming as much as possible into a drawer, bung the rest in a cupboard, close the door and that's that.

I used the same method with my packets of seeds. I just stored them everywhere I could and soon forgot all about them. When it was time for sowing, I had a hard time trying to locate the seed packets. And of course, not all could be found, which was very annoying, to put it mildly.

But one day I had a cunning plan: to buy a container for storing seed packets only.

Not all that long after the brain wave, I went to a flea market and found this wooden box. The lady who sold it to me had one herself that she used for storing her herbs in. That's what it says on the box: kruiden = herbs. I don't use it for herbs of course but for storing my seeds.

It has 9 compartments, one for each month starting with February and ending with October. In each compartment I store the seeds that have to be sown during that month.

And it's working well, this cunning plan of mine. As soon as I bring home the loot (the seed packets I just bought) I put them in my seed box and that's it. No more running around trying to find the seed packets because they are all there in my nifty box.

I took a picture of this years loot and of course, while I was photographing the packets of seed and my seed box, Merlijntje my youngest Russian Blue, decided to help me.

By the way Merlijn is Dutch for Merlin and "tje" at the end of a word stands for little, so his name would be little Merlin, even though he's the biggest of all the cats that live with me.

In seed time learn,
in harvest teach,
in winter enjoy.
William Blake

Monday, February 26, 2007

The White Garden

Long before I had ever heard of Vita Sackville-West and her white garden at Sissinghurst, I had discovered how wonderful white flowers can be in the garden.

One day, purely by accident I stumbled across the magic they bring at dusk.

I was in my garden on a balmy summer's evening when it started to get dark. I didn't feel like going in at all, so I stayed outside. It got darker and darker and I noticed that the white flowers looked as if they were glowing. Soon, the only thing you could see in the garden were the white flowers, all the other colours had simply disappeared. It was a revelation. From that evening on, I've dreamt about a white garden.

About 5 years ago, we moved to a new house with a rather big garden and this was my chance of making my white garden dream come true. It's the front garden that we've changed from a very boring garden with grass, a narrow row of terminally ill roses and a few humongous shrubs so close to the house that they were obscuring the light, into the garden we have today. We got rid of the grass, the shrubs and the roses and slowly turned it into this garden you see now. It took us about 2 1/2 years to get this result and we are hoping that the garden will slowly get better and better year after year.

I've used lots of white roses, with good effect and even though they are only 1 1/2 years old they are already performing wonderfully don't you think? They are flowering their little hearts out with gay abandon and fill the garden with their lovely scent.

I've chosen only scented roses as I feel that a rose without a scent is not half as good as one with scent. All the roses in my front garden are white (or whitish) and I bought them all at the De Wilde rose nursery near Zutphen where they sell good quality roses and clematis. They also have a lovely big rose garden where you can spent hours and hours gazing at all those lovely roses and drinking in their scent. Bliss!

The scented white roses that I have chosen are either climbers or semi-climbers: Guirlande d'Amour and Madame Alfred Carriere are smothering the pergola. And on the 6 rose obelisks 2 Blanc Double de Coubert, 1 Sombreuil, 2 Guirlandes d'Amour and 1 Moonlight are slowly trying to cover the obelisks with their blossom.

The rose Guirlande d'Amour is a rose that I can fully recommend to anyone who's looking for a long flowering white rose, with a lovely scent and that's healthy too and doesn't need too much pampering. Madame Alfred Carriere is also a firm favorite of mine. Vita Sackville-West grew it too against the front wall of the south cottage and it's still here today, looking as spectacular as ever.

And I wove the thing to a random rhyme,
For the Rose is Beauty, the Gardener, Time.
Austin Dobson

Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Basket Case

I love baskets and use them often in my garden for collecting veggies, cut flowers, nuts and fruit. I also use them for plant displays. Many plants look wonderful in a basket. Of course they are also fine for storing things in. And I'm not the only one who loves baskets as you can see.

Baskets, who could do without them?

Earth is here so kind,
that just tickle her with a hoe
and she laughs with a harvest.
Douglas Jerrold

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Gardens of Huis Voorstonden

The photos of the gardens of Huis Voorstonden in the Netherlands were taken in October 2005. I visit there regularly as the owners are friends of mine. The little cat on the last photo is Puma, a stray that was found injured from a car accident and then nurtured back to health. Puma lives at Voorstonden now and is a happy and pampered little kittie.

I think the litmus test for any garden is, whether it still looks good towards the end of autumn. Many a garden offers very little of interest then, but Voorstonden has passed that test with flying colours in my opinion.

Everything is grown organically and people are working with nature instead of against it. It's a very tranquil garden and you can walk there for hours as it has lots of woodland as well. In the garden itself, there are several beautiful very old (200+) trees.

Voorstonden opens its garden to the public several times per year. Please contact them via their website for more information.

Beautiful gardens are to be found all over the world, not just in Britain alone. So far I've visited gardens in my own country, the Netherlands, and in Belgium, France, Denmark, Britain and Tuscany, Italy. This year I'm going to Normandy, France and Denmark again (if all goes well) and if at all possible, I would like to visit some gardens in Germany this year too. Any suggestions which gardens to see in Germany?


Yesterday I was tagged by Ladyluz so now it's my turn to tell 5 things about myself not previously revealed in other posts. Right, here goes:
1) when I was a baby I spend most of my time in the garden, playing in my cot.
2) when I was about 1 year old, Poesja came. She was the very first cat to enter my life.
3) when I was 5 years old I taught myself to read and haven't stopped since
4) shortly before I got married the first pedigree cat Chuck (Blue Persian/Longhair) came into my life
5) and a few years later, I took up gardening under the strict supervision of my cats Chuck, Wendy, Babooshka and Emma.

So, for me gardens, cats and books are an important part of my life. Can't imagine life without any of them.

O for a book and a shady nook,
Either in door or out;
With the green leaves whispering overhead,
Or the street cries all about,
Where I may read all at my ease,
Both of the new and the old;
For a jolly good book whereon to look,
Is better to me than gold.
John Wilson

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Piet Oudolf's Nursery

In October 2005 I visited Piet and Anja Oudolf's nursery to buy some plants. On their internet site there's an overview of the nursery and gardens. Information is also available in English and there are lots of pictures of some of the lovely gardens that Piet Oudolf has designed in the U.K., Sweden, the USA etc.

For me this nursery was a revelation: this is how all nurseries should look! All the plants that are sold there, are also on display throughout the nursery in borders and beds so that you can see how and where to use them. And of course, how much space they take up once they're mature, how high they get, whether they need some support etc. In short everything you would want to know about a plant before you buy it.

The nursery is a very inspiring place to be and needless to say I spent many hours there. Piet and Anja Oudolf were there to answer any question on plants you might have and every plant is sold with a label containing all the relevant information that you need. More detailed information on the plants can be looked up in maps that can be found in a sort of market stall that they have there.

There were many keen gardeners from Britain, Germany, Belgium visiting the nursery that day and of course the Dutch were there in their droves as well. I bought many lovely plants and plan to go back again this year.

In 2005 I didn't have the time to see Piet's private garden as I was too busy admiring his nursery and buying plants left, right and centre. So Piet's own garden is something to look forward to this year. That and buying some more plants.

I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.
Walt Whitman

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Gardens, Flowers and Cats

I didn't know you were there.
I have just come from a secret place
Where I had a secret thought.
The secret thought
Was beautiful.
The secret place somewhere
You will never find it.
Sometimes I can't even find it
I wish I could tell you
My secret thought
It was so beautiful
Or where I thought of it
But then it wouldn't be a secret anymore
For you'd know.
Paul Gallico, Honourable Cat