This strange looking object is an uprooted olive tree whose roots have been exposed and cleaned of soil. The tree expired, along with nearly every other olive tree in the country, in the hard winter of 2010-2011. It had only been in my garden for three years and had seemed to be in decent health until it died. Olive trees can be subject to quite severe cold in the mountainous regions of their native countries, so they should have been able to survive here.
After two sharp frosts most of my dahlias are done for. But these tree dahlias, pictured this morning, are looking as fresh as a daisy. The one with the pale green leaves in the foreground is the Dahlia Imperialis. This is the tallest of the dahlias and will continue growing, frost or no frost, until Christmas. It has only once produced flowers outdoors in my garden, which was on December 16th in 2006, after the longest, hottest, summer we’ve had this century.
I planted this Crimson Glory Vine (Vitis Cognetiae in Latin, and the glorious sounding Yama-budo in Japanese) about five years ago with the intention of covering the wall of the manure heap, pictured here below the Prospect Tower. But the wretched thing hasn’t done as it was told and has instead spread backwards covering the bluebell bed. Vitis Cognetiae is supposed to be a climber and can sometimes get out of hand, smothering large trees. Why it’s decided to grow downwards instead of upwards, as it’s supposed to, I’ve no idea, but actually, at this time of year the effect is rather beautiful and it will have died back completely by the time the bluebells are ready to appear next spring.
When I bought the Damson Dene Hotel, one of my first jobs was to get rid of the conifers which were blocking the view. A “concerned neighbour” (as interfering old bats like to be known) got it into her head that we were planning to cut down an old oak tree in the car park and within ten minutes someone from the Lake District National Park Authority had slapped a Tree Preservation Order on the oak. I didn’t mind, as the oak was (and still is) one of the nicest things about the Damson Dene and I wouldn’t dream of cutting it down.
“In any scene where harmony prevails the least discordance of colour disturbs the eye. But if we suppose a single object of glaring white to be introduced, the whole attention, in spite of all our efforts to the contrary will be drawn to that one point; a whitened object is already lighted up; it remains so when everything else has retired into obscurity; it still forces itself into notice, still impudently stares you in the face”. - Uvedale Price
Beachcomber’s ‘Advice to Foreigners on First Visiting London’ included “It is customary when entering a carriage on an underground train to shake hands with all the passengers”. Advice of a similarly mischievous nature has been given recently to German sex tourists who have been told that if they see pampas grass growing in the middle of the lawn in a suburban garden the people who live there will be “swingers”. When did pampas grass start to become such an object of ridicule?
One sure way to obtain street cred nowadays, it seems, is to appear on Russell Howard’s Good News show, a comedy programme which is shown on BBC 3, (which is not to be confused with Radio 3 – BBC 3 is a TV channel aimed mainly at kids). This morning, my middle daughter was buzzing with excitement after receiving umpteen texts from her friends saying that they’d seen her Dad on the show.
At the Adam Smith Institute they are celebrating Milton Friedman’s centenary with a series of talks about his achievements and surprisingly much of the discussion has nothing to do with economics. Eamonn Butler told us about Friedman’s early success, long before he won the Nobel Prize, in persuading the Nixon presidency to do away with conscription. In a famous television debate Friedman was asked if he wanted an army of mercenaries, to which he replied: “Do you want an army of slaves?”
“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put into tune once more” John Burroughs – American Naturalist (1837-1921)
I came across the John Burroughs quotation on the SOW website (http://saveourwoods.co.uk/) after receiving a phonecall from one of their people in France, who had rung to ask if I would give my permission for them to use the photo I had taken of the Brockhole Monkey Puzzle tree, as they wished to support our campaign to save the tree.
A friend called round this afternoon and noticing that we had masses of nasturtiums growing as ground cover in our dahlia trial beds asked if she could collect some of the seeds. I assumed she intended to plant the nasturtium seeds but it turned out that she wanted to eat it. I tried one and was amazed by the hot peppery taste. I think I knew, vaguely, that the leaves and flowers were edible, but I had no idea that you could eat the seeds as well.
Devotees of landscape gardens drool over Rousham in Oxfordshire which has retained the atmosphere created by Bridgeman and Kent nearly three centuries ago. This is the case even though several of the vistas which they created are being lost through the encroachment of trees. But the biggest loss, which isn’t apparent to the casual visitor, has been the colour and the scent – in other words the flowers.
Beckley Park, an unmodernised Elizabethan hunting lodge, deep in the Oxfordshire countryside, is tall, thin and elegant with the finest pedigree. It’s thin because it pre-dates the corridor – one room leads onto another. It’s pedigree is impeccable because it has never once in its 400 year life been sold – it has passed from family to family by gift. And each of those families has felt it important to retain the character of the building, so that when you walk into the hallway, with its massive inglenook fireplace, it looks, feels and smells of history. The smell especially, a combination of smoke and damp which is impossible to replicate.
Mies van der Rohe: “Less is more.” Edith Farnsworth: “We know that less is not more. It is simply less!” When Dr Edith Farnsworth moved into the house which she had commissioned Mies van der Rohe to build, she found it was impossible to live in. Farnsworth House was too cold, liable to flooding and continuously infested by insects.
In 1929 J C Loudon said that the dahlia was “the most fashionable flower in England”. It’s had its ups and downs since then, and when I first became an enthusiastic gardener 15 years ago, I was lucky not to know that they were, literally, beyond the pale. Gardening snobs wouldn’t have anything to do with the dahlia’s bright primary colours. As with everything else, the snobs were wrong. The first clink in their armour came when the dark leafed Bishop of Llandaff became fashionable.
It’s almost impossible to find a decent tomato in the shops. This is because they are always picked too soon, to allow time for packing, transportation, storage and distribution. A pale tomato is useless, whatever the variety. If it’s pale, it’s unripe and a tomato only develops flavour when it’s fully ripe. A tomato needs to be a deep red colour before it’s plucked from the vine.
The idea of Slow Life is to take the principles of Slow Food, which are “good, clean and fair”, and extend them to life in general.
Here in the Lake District, the air is clean, the pace is slow and the atmosphere is calm. If we don’t grow food ourselves, we can buy it in friendly small shops, where you know the quality is going to be the best.
This blog is a celebration of the Slow Life, with forays into the world of design, music, the arts, gardens, and my particular weakness, Japan.