Making sense of stuff

Long-time readers know that I don’t subscribe to any religion; I’m agnostic, a sceptic. There are lots of religions, lots of different beliefs and I greatly respect anyone’s religion and beliefs. Do I believe that only one of them is right, and the rest wrong. Hell no! I think they’re just different ways of articulating the same thing “the meaning of life.” So you might find it kind of amusing that I fondly imagine my late parents have been reunited in some Elysian spot and are still watching over me. Do I really believe that? No, but I do derive comfort from it and, at the end of the day, that’s all that really matters.

This is a rather odd way of introducing the subject of gardening. I love a beautiful garden, doesn’t everyone? What I don’t like is the back breaking work (and cost) that goes into developing and maintaining said garden. I have on numerous occasions talked about my lack of “green fingers” calling them digits of doom. In that respect I don’t take after my late mother who lavished endless amounts of time (and money) on her beautiful garden. It was always a blaze of colour and a welcome habitat for wildlife.

I used to pay for her RHS subscription and tickets to the annual Chelsea Flower Show as a small token of my appreciation of everything she did for me. She was enormously knowledgeable about flora and fauna and there are times, when I see something I don’t know the name of, I wish she was still around to ask. Unfortunately, this happens all too frequently.

My father wasn’t as in to gardening as my mother but he did like a beautiful garden and was very particular about his velvety green, weed-free lawn. He had one of those mowers which leaves perpendicular stripes on the lawn and carefully used to trim the lawn’s borders. He would have no truck with a hover mower. Once he’d retired, he did take more of an interest in gardening and Mum gave him a small project, the creation of an alpine garden in one of the rockeries, which he enthusiastically embraced.

As my mother’s Alzheimers progressed, she stopped gardening even while she still claimed to b doing it. One of the first things my father did after her death was to restore her beloved garden to its former glory. He died not long after my mother and the house and garden were remodelled by my sister and brother-in-law. They’ve done their best but neither possess my mother’s passion for gardening. It looks nice but it wouldn’t win any prizes whereas my mother’s garden always elicited gasps of delight from everyone who saw it.

She would however be amazed to know that I’ve recently started watching documentaries about gardens and, in recent years, have much enjoyed visiting them. Our recent confinement has led me to taking more care of our much maligned terrace garden which only contains succulents. We’ve trialled lots of plants and bushes and even citrus fruits but none could withstand our indifference.

Our succulents come from the garden of a friend of my sister, who lives in nearby La Napoule. My younger sister, who bought our holiday home, discarded the fake topiary balls which I had put in the wide balcony trough, replacing them with cuttings of succulents from her friend’s French garden. Said cuttings have flourished as the trough is sheltered from the wind but benefits from both rain and sunshine. In fact they’ve flourished so much, she has to keep cutting them back. I get the cuttings. I just stuffed (literally) these into some pots on the terrace and did absolutely nothing to them.

Some of the more hardy species have taken root, others have withered and died. My weekend project during lockdown has been to nurse those on life support back to life and even add to my collection from plants I found on my daily rambles around the Domaine. This has been an unqualified success. Thanks to a spot of TLC, the garden is in bloom, literally.

My late parents, if they are indeed watching over me, would be much amused by my belated endeavours.

(Another) Postcard from Sydney: Part II

We spent that first Sunday in Sydney largely walking around its splendid (and free) Botanical Gardens which we accessed from the other side of the wharf. The weather was glorious for a winter’s day as you’ll see from the various photographs.

The map below shows the gardens occupy prime real estate: a heritage-listed, oasis of 30 hectacres in the heart of the city. The Gardens wrap around Farm Cove at the edge of Sydney Harbour, occupying one of the city’s most spectacular spots.

Established in 1816, it’s Australia’s oldest scientific institution, home to an outstanding collection of indigenous plants and those from around the globe. The Gardens overall structure and key elements were down to Charles Moore and Joseph Maiden and have been built upon by successive directors.

It’s a popular place with families who were out en masse enjoying the fine weather and like us looking at the various displays, including one which  honoured the Cadigal, the original inhabitants of Sydney’s city centre and their relationship with this land.

There are spectacular views across the water from the Gardens and it’s possible to walk round to the Sydney Opera House, a piece of architecture which has stood the test of time, and that iconic bridge. After we strolled around the centre of Sydney looking for interesting doors and admiring the mix of old and new buildings before heading back to base.


I have no idea how far we walked because my beloved  forgot to put on his Apple watch but I’d say it was approaching 15km, well over our 10,000 steps!



Musings on Mothering Sunday

It’s Mothering Sunday here in France and while I was out shopping yesterday I noted  the florists and chocolate shops were doing a roaring trade. I’ve been thinking about my late mother this week, not because of Mothering Sunday, but because the Chelsea Flower Show which she adored has just ended. She was a keen gardener and spent hours tending her garden ensuring that it was a delight to the senses all year long.

I can’t remember when I first bought her a subscription to The Royal Horticultural Society but it was so long ago that membership then entitled you to attend the Chelsea Flower Show free of charge. Ah, those were the days! My mother would come and stay with us in London for a few days with her best friend and the pair of them would lunch out at a couple of top restaurants, enjoy afternoon tea at one of the hotels, indulge in a spot of shopping and wear themselves ragged walking around the flower show. Once my father had retired, she dragged him around the show for a few years but, as my mother’s dementia took hold, she lost all interest in gardening and with a heavy heart I finally cancelled her subscription.

The QueenI visits the Royal Horticultural Society Garden at Wisley.

After a few years of grace, I had to pay for her flower show tickets but never begrudged the cost as the gift afforded her such pleasure. She used to read the RHS magazine from cover to cover and, whenever she could, also visited their gardens at Wisley (pictured above). My mother loved her garden but it wasn’t just about the flowers, she delighted in the wildlife that would venture into the garden from the golf course which it backs onto. All year round she’d leave treats for the birds, big and small, many of whom enjoyed a shower in the bird bath and fountain.

My father liked the garden to look good but had little free time to assist though he took charge of the lawn which he liked to be as green and smooth as a billiard table but the borders and soft planting were Mum’s territory. As they got older, Dad employed an odd job man to look after sweeping up the leaves, cleaning the paving, trimming the hedges and general weeding. He had a lawn expert who would tend to any mossy or bald patches, plus a gardener who would increasingly give Mum a helping hand. These gentlemen continued to keep the garden in good order when was Mum was no longer able to tend it.

One of the first things my father did after my mother’s death was to try to restore her garden to its former glory. In addition, he bought a stone statue in her honour. He placed it where he could see it every day and I assume provided him with some sort of comfort. My mother’s ashes and now his, sit in its base which is back in the garden though not yet in its rightful spot.

My sister and brother-in-law have remodelled the family house and are slowly turning their attention to the garden. I saw some pictures of it yesterday and couldn’t help but feel that my parents would be gazing down on it with exasperation, it’s a shadow of its former self. Though not from want of trying, my sister has been unable to find a landscaper who wants to revitalise it. She suspects that although it’s a major project, because the terraces are already set in stone and it’s just the planting which needs sorting out, it perhaps isn’t quite as remunerative for them as a total overhaul. However, I’m sure she’ll get there in the end and provide a fitting setting for my parents’ final resting place.