30 April 2015

Down the garden path...to a plant lover's paradise

Rex Whistler illustration
via

What type of gardener are you? 
Are you a dirt gardener, one who loves 
the earthy scent of freshly tilled soil,
one who can't wait to dig in?
Do you don the gardening gloves or
do you like to go "au naturel"?

When fresh compost is laid on your garden
beds are you quite happy to pull up a chair
and chant "grow, baby, grow?"

or

Are you happy to direct and admire
and then chant "grow, baby, grow?"

Do you have a few gardening books
or could you fill an adjunct to your local library
with your collection?

Me? I love the soil, prefer to work with my hands, DO NOT love the scent of compost, and my chant is more in line with "where did I put those clippers?" I have thirty years worth of gardening books...now spread between two countries and if you asked me to name an ordinary house plant I would look at you in dismay and whip out my IPhone to consult Google. 

In Vietnam I direct and admire. I tried to dig in the garden long ago but language and looks of exasperation from our gardener quickly put an end to my attempts. I also preferred not to touch and feel the local snakes weaving their way around our garden. In Vietnam, I definitely prefer to direct and admire.

Andre Jordan illustration via


In New Hampshire, at Tahilla Farm, I relish the thought of getting back into the garden (54 days and counting). Sure I make mistakes, plenty of them, but who cares? We live in the woods. Who is going to see?  I know that one day...I will get there. 

Am I a keen gardener? 
Yes
Do I know what I am doing? 
No
Do I wish I knew what I was doing? 
If only...



Under their Kousa dogwood and 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple in the front garden, Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter planted nepeta 'Walker's Low', ferns, hosts, coneflowers, boxwood and miscanthus 'Morning Light'.
Photo by Joe Valentine


Last summer, I offered to help friends, Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter of Juniper Hill Farm, with their beautiful garden in preparation of the Garden Conservancy Open Day program. I was delighted when they said yes.  Over the few days that I clipped, weeded, raked and hauled..I realised there is A LOT of work to maintaining a garden. Gardening is a true calling, it is a passion, it is a labour of love...or it can be the biggest pain in the back and neck you ever had. Sweat, dirt, flies, worms, thorns and more flies..you have to ask yourself (and I did, frequently) if this is the stuff that life is made of.  Did I really want to live in a farmhouse, in the country with all these flies and chant "grow, baby, grow" to the whiff of compost in my own garden?  


Andre Jordan illustration via


Why would I ask myself such a silly question, of course I do! I have two extremely talented gardening friends in Joe and Paula.  Joe advised me to have patience and Paula suggested that if it does not work, I can always start again. I like the way they think....I  am all for learning by example. ;)


A Garden is a grand teacher. 
It teaches patience and careful watchfuless:
 it teaches industry and thrift; 
above all it teaches entire trust.  
Gertrude Jekyll

Clipped boxwood balls on the right and dwarf Thuja occidentallis 'Hetz Midget' on the left in front of 'the great wall' line with the peastone path that leads to the terrace at teh rear of the house.
Photo by Joe Valentine

I am also thrilled for Joe and Paula and the wonderful feature of their gardens in this months issue of New Hampshire Home magazine. The article,  CREATING A PLANT-LOVER'S PARADISE is a must read for gardening enthusiasts! I can tell you from experience as both a happy wanderer and willing weed puller that this is a garden to love. I love the notion of garden rooms and there are plenty to enjoy in their two acres of gardens... a lilac garden, shade garden, zen garden, faun garden, Japanese garden, hedged garden, sitting garden, wildflower garden, a stumpery garden and even a garden for the garden shed. Oh...and a beautiful frog pond and more and more. It is a marvel, truly.  The article will fill you in on the details, it is a delight to read. Be sure to have a pen and notebook handy. 


This swath of blue flag iris came with the farm. Growing naturally in a low spot,
they marked the perfect location for the new frog pond.
Photo by Joe Valentine


Everything that slows us down and forces patience, 
everything that sets us back 
into the slow circles of nature is a help. 
Gardening is an instrument of grace. 
May Sarton


A few of Joe and Paula's
recommended garden links 
more links 

Collage of Life 
gardening posts

One for the gardening book shelf...

by Beverley Nichols 


For more on Beverley Nichols, read here

How about you?
Are you a gardener?
A dirt gardener or do you prefer to direct and admire?
Do you have any gardening links you would like to share?
Favouite gardening books?
Would love to know!

Andre Jordan illustration via 


Jeanne xx

;)



30 comments:

  1. Thanks for the kind words Jeanne! And, I am happy to share that we are lucky to have Ideal Compost in Peterborough who delivers the finest organic compost you can find in the region. You will love it, and it smells wonderful. Looking forward to seeing you in your garden soon, fortunately after the black flies have departed for the season!

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    1. You are very welcome Paula, it was my pleasure. Speaking of compost, I am going to hold you to that one! Sniff test here I come. Meet you in the garden Paula....in 52 days. :)

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  2. An exquisite posting the kiss of the sun for pardon, the songs of the birds for mirth, there is no place closer to Heaven than a garden here on Earth. Love all you share. I used to love to garden now we are in a small apt and I put plants on the balcony. Love and hugs Jeanne X0X0

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    1. Thank you Jeanne...I am all for balcony plants. Deciding which ones is the tricky part. I am sure yours look beautiful. xx

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  3. Yes. And yes and yes and yes. And, also don't really know what I'm doing. I was lucky to have a talented landscape architect design my little garden decades ago. When I've had big work to do, i.e. replacing shrubs at end-of-life, tree pruning, large scale cleanup in the spring, I direct and admire:). The guys come once every 2 weeks to do some routine maintenance - but I have ceased to water my small lawns, so I usually ask them to weed a bed, or prune a hedge.

    While I like planting, I actually prefer pruning and weeding. The shift from tangle to a wild serenity, and from weedy mess to a space with structure, please me enormously.

    I can't wait to see Tahilla gardens as they grow. Mistakes are always allowed, there's so much room to learn and experiment. I have no doubt that your efforts will be glorious.

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    1. I am with you Lisa, we have a treasure in our landscape architect. He is the one who set the ball rolling with the 'vision' for our property and we have been moving at a steady pace ever since. Our plantings in the gardens will be low maintenance..I hope. It is the garden beds where I forever lose the garden clippers. Who knew six beds could be so much work! Love the way you expressed your garden as shifting from tangle to wild serenity. I think you have a blog post in that one! WILD SERENITY...PERFECT! ;)

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  4. Love you beautiful post. Spent 15 minutes in my garden toady, watering, weeding and deadheading - it was the happiest part of my day.

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    1. Gardening for the soul...the best kind of day. Thank you Sarah!! :)

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  5. Great post! I pretend to garden...and to know what I am doing...that should be PRETEND! I have a yard...corner lot...so my back yard needs to look as good as my front yard! Didn't realize this til after we bought our house....32 years ago! But, I prefer bare hands in the soil...hate weeding...and am always redesigning beds. I've gone mostly to evergreens, small bushes, hostas in beds...most flowers are delegated to containers for variety when and where I need it. I'm definitely a hands on type of gal...unless I'm physically unable to do something...then I'm really good at barking orders...just ask my family! ;)

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    1. Ha! Another one who barks orders to her family...glad to hear it! I am with you on the containers Donna...the more the merrier. I like that they can be moved around, especially when you are having a fickle moment. Inside, outside, backyard, frontyard...even better when you think you just need a few more plants, run off to the nursery, return home and realise you do not have enough containers. Hooray! Another excuse to go back to the nursery. Love when that happens...except when you wait until the last minute before a party. Major headache! ;)

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  6. One of these days, when you are back in the UK, I will take you on a tour of Highgrove - amazing design in a very natural setting. I loved your quotes - patience and wonder sum up gardening for me. C x

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    1. You are on Christy! I was reading the latest issue of Garden Illustrated this week and noticed a Highgrove tour coming up. Sigh.....but I will get there, and I will be sure to let you know. I miss going along to the Chelsea Flower Show too...even with the crowds, it was so much fun. Loving the memories on this steamy day in Saigon...thank you C.! xx

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  7. "Gardening is a true calling, it is a passion, it is a labour of love..." The rewards are immeasurable which you have experienced many times over.My mother loved to work in her garden when I was growing up.
    The beautiful purple house and the last photo of a stone rimmed Japanese garden, are they your Tahilla Farm?

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    1. Could not agree more Edgar..the rewards are immeasurable. The garden photos above are of Juniper Hill Farm, taken by Joe Valentine. It's a beauty!

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  8. Wondeful post and beautiful gardens! I love the New Hampshire magazine!

    I grew up with garden dirt at the family Field. I need to get outdoors to water, sort, prune, and dig. That connection is part of my health plan.
    Alas, new management only allow plants on our deck, and no more tending our little gardens or hanging plants from children on the front porches. I hope to persuade them to change the rule.

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    1. I hope you are able to persuade them Maywyn. I have a friend who lives in a similar situation. She decided the only way to get the ball rolling was to get a seat on the Board of her Condo Association...things starting happening after that. ;)

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  9. Jeanne, I love this post! Beverley Nichols is my very favorite garden writer and the book you featured is my favorite. And I love the illustrations by Rex Whistler. Two of my favorite garden books are the recent ones on Virginia Woolf's Garden and Vita Sackville-West (by Sarah Raven). Both so inspiring. I still have so much to learn about gardening and thank goodness have a helper in the garden. But I love getting out there and deadheading! And Garden Conservancy is a wonderful organization. Coincidentally I am going on their garden tour of west Los Angeles gardens this weekend. You are so lucky to have friends with such a beautiful garden! A great place to learn!
    xx Sunday

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    1. Thank you Sunday...I spotted the book on your website, I knew you would have it. ;).... hope you had a wonderful visit to the LA gardens, will be looking forward to photos. xx

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  10. Jeanne this couldn't be a more timely post! We just filled in our pool and finally have a tiny (compared to yours haha) plot of dirt to begin landscaping. Oh I am just so excited and thanks for these gardening links. I don't use gloves--can never find them--and usually enjoy the research and art of finding pretty pictures before I go to the nursery and buy. It's all so wonderful. Dirty clothes and all. I wish we were closer I'd love to join you in your garden. And a glass of wine afterwards would be so nice :)

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    1. That would be wonderful Leslie...you never know, one day we just might have that glass of wine by the garden. xx

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  11. There is absolutely nothing better than a day spent in the garden - hand deep in dirt and nose filled with the smells of compost and early blooms! Rained too much today, but just wait until tomorrow!

    Hope you will love your new gardens in New Hampshire!

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    1. Thank you Webb, I am sure I will! :)

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  12. Jeanne,

    First let me say that Joe and Paula's garden is spectacular! I love the photos they post on Facebook and the blog. I am sure it was quite a lot of work helping to get it ready for the garden show.

    I love container gardening, it is where I experiment with plants and color. The rest of your landscape it bushes, scrubs and trees, the only upkeep is trimming and I am not the one who clips them as according to my husband I am sometimes overzealous with the clippers.

    I am looking forward to seeing your beautiful space, I am fascinated by the different gardens and plants that you will be working with to tie in all of the places that you have lived. I love that idea.

    Have a fabulous weekend Jeanne.

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    1. Thank you Elizabeth...I hold my hand up too on the overzealous gardener with the clippers. Been there, done that, many times...unfortunately. ;)

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  13. You could barely call our little patch of earth a garden but we do have a yard and I do fill it up with containers and pots of herbs and flowers. Right now it is looking a total disaster as we re-plant and move things around. Strangely enough, I enjoy it and enjoy keeping plants alive - which can be a challenge when we will get no rain from now till September-October.

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    1. I hear you Loree! I watched our veggie and herb patch wither away under the strength of the sun and humidity this weekend. I waited patiently all day for the sun to set and the earth to cool before I went out with the garden hose. I think they would have fried on the spot if I watered them in the heat of the day. Our rainy season will start soon...and then we have the oppositie problem...too much water. Jeez! It never ends! #lifeinvietnam

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  14. Wow Joe and Paula's garden is a dreamland! Beautiful, Jeanne.
    I like to work gloveless and I love the smell of good compost. My dear husband has been doing most of the gardening this year while I focus on painting for a few exhibitions I'm organizing.
    I'd love to experience gardening in Vietnam.... with a tall glass of mango juice in one hand. xo
    Oh yes, the gardener's list is very similar to an artist's list.

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    1. Mango juice on the rocks...perfect way to round up a day of gardening. I agree Carole, Joe and Paula's garden is pretty special and yes...the gardener's list is very similar to the artist's list. ;)

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  15. Gardening is not my greatest skill, but here in Maine I have to give it a try because so many beautiful things grow and bloom. Right now I'm planning a new little garden in front of the house that, hopefully, will provide blooms thru September.

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  16. I love to garden - what can I say! I usually start off with gloves on but before long they are discarded and I get down and dirty. I have grey grimy nails and stained hands for most of the summer - they won't be asking be to do nail commercials any time soon that's for sure. Love the last photo - I like my garden to be 'au naturel' - still trying to achieve a cross between wild and romantic and well cared for - not an easy task.

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Can I just say....that I so enjoy what YOU have to say. If you would like to write to me directly, I would love to hear from you... jeannecollageoflife@gmail.com

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