Treats And Truths Of Country Living

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Our peaches are ripening! The bumblebees, and a little hand pollinating by feather, have done the trick. An exciting time in the rickety greenhouse on our organic acre in Berwickshire, UK.

These are the treats of country living that are hard to beat, a blessing so much appreciated, especially when one pays such a high price for living in the British countryside, surrounded by vast acres on which synthetic fertilisers, highly toxic sprays and huge machinery are employed to perform every task. It’s the little blessing that gives strength to the next hour.

It has been a journey learning to live in this cold and temperamental climate, living very isolated in a range of ways, learning to understand the lie of the land, to work with the seasons, to make sense out of some vicious hands that have been dealt. The eight years have been incredible in many ways, but they have also been eight of the hardest years of my life, pressed and crushed and shocked by all sorts.

With every squeeze, in every rocking challenge, I always take my focus back to the blessings, back to what is solid, back to what is beautiful, back to what is miraculous, back to what is even fleetingly lovely, back to what is simple and straightforward, back to what is truth, back to what is sustainable, back to what is real and utterly good … Always refocusing, always learning, always getting back up, always moving forward inch by tiny inch …

These peaches are quite symbolic, representing what is still reliable, what is honest, what is wonderful, what tastes and is pure and purely good. Nourishment for the body, nourishment for the soul. The taste of Summer, the taste of health, the taste of joy and delight. The taste of innocence, the taste of simplicity, the taste of hope.

I started this blog / website a few years ago, to record some of my experiences, poetry, recipes and thoughts, now and over the fifty plus years of my interesting life. The blog grows in hiccupy stops and starts, but there is a fair body of collected writing here now.

These peaches form part of the story of the last eight years, and so much more.

 

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Yours mindfully,

Holly x

[This post has been adapted from the original, which appeared on Instagram on 13 July 2017  Link: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWeocXsgLZQ/?taken-by=hollymaxwellboydell ]

Snowdrops on International Women’s Day

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On this International Women’s Day, I thought I would post a few photographs of the delicate white blooms carpeting areas of our garden at the moment, a little visual gift to those who love snowdrops, and with thoughts of all the women around the world who are making a difference on our beautiful planet right now.

I read a quote today by Magnify Magazine, which said: “Behind every successful woman, is a tribe of other successful women, who have her back.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, although so often women can be one another’s worst challenges and bitter rivals instead! Successful women, however, in whichever areas they work or perform their vital roles, know that it is in the lifting of others that we rise to greatness or prove to be of value ourselves.

It is so important to remember how much women do in our society generally, and how far they are prepared to extend themselves, in order to maintain peace and dignity on our planet. There is a long way to go towards making women feel more appreciated for all the roles that they perform, so many unrewarded, undervalued or ignored. There is also a distance to reach yet towards recognition of the fact that women are the ones who instil so many of life’s worthwhile values into the children of our world. To those among us who are making a difference, even in the smallest of ways, I salute you.

Enjoy this snapshot of the last moments of the snowdrops shining in my garden this week, soon to be retreating into the background, where they will regain their strength to bloom with vigour next Spring, and give way to the crocuses and narcissi who will take centre stage.

 

Holly x

 

 

PS. I think the white streak down the photograph below, might have been an early bug in flight … (or perhaps even a fairy?).  There are sure to be fairies in this garden of biodiversity somewhere!

 

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Copyright ©  The Holly Tree Tales

Collecting Leaves ~ A Poem With Little Punctuation

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Gifting myself an hour outdoors in the weak Autumnal sunshine this morning, the intention being to collect what I could, in that time, of the bounty of leaves lying piled up and scattered all around the house and under nearby trees, I savoured every minute of the precious outdoor time. Every bagful would, in only one year, become freely acquired luscious soil, a friable bounty known as “leafmould”.

As I walked back inside afterwards, my fingers frozen to the bone, peeled off my cosy outdoor boots and set my sights back onto working at the computer, I heard a beautiful tune playing on the radio: “Anno Epilogue” by Oliver Davis.  The haunting melody seemed to contain a mirror of the mood I was wafting through. I sat down, with intentions of attending other projects, but instead I wrote this poem.

I hope it will make sense  … there was little punctuation added whilst writing, not wishing to interrupt the flow of the poem writing itself!

~ : ~

[Please continue reading until the Post Script, dated 21 November 2015, at the end of this post. Thank you.]

 

~ : ~

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Collecting Leaves

Golden sunshine captures me as I look into the leaves …
Smells and sights and sounds I feel
As into the depths of golden hues
I allow my spirit to sink and swim and swallow wholeness
From without into within and all around and all beyond me
When all of a sudden the wind whips up and darkness descends into the daylight
Clouds overhead look to me like mighty thunderous promise
While hard drops of icy water hit the surface of the layers on the ground
Sleety icy cold and glorious, windy wet and perfectly sound
I feel the ice begin to enter through my too thin and puny rubber gloves
Knowing soon I shall have to head back inside
But I wish to remain outdoors where I can smell the Autumn and play in her gifts to all mankind
It might be Friday the thirteenth, but superstition is not a worry to me
I am free and I am unencumbered by the fears that grip so many on this day
All I want to do is stay outdoors and be warm enough to play
I look up and see the holly berries ripening on a holly tree
And quickly realise that there lies more promise, more gifts from Nature on this day
Soon I shall gather boughs of berried holly, before the little birds take them all away
And that way we shall have some festive season redness of natural beauty in our home
As we sit in front of log fires, catching up with loved ones who so often are very far away
Playing games and sharing stories, looking at photographs and reminiscing on times we’ve loved
Knowing that every moment is a precious gem, one not to be squandered
But that day soon comes, when we know not when.
And so for now I gather in my harvest of leafy gold dust,
Which when it turns to dust will become my gold
As leaves of many colours and types and sizes become transformed
From rich, papery, vibrant shades of Autumnal tones in every golden hue
Into the rich brown, sweet smelling earth from which they once came …
Once more they are and will become … leafmould.
As we go from dust to dust, so leaves too return to the Earth
From whence we died, we each become new birth.

*

by  Holly Maxwell Boydell

*

[all rights reserved]

~ : ~

 

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Note: If Readers too would like to hear the beautiful tune I heard before penning this poem, and replayed while I collected its stream of words, here is a link that I found to “Anno Epilogue” by Oliver Davis, via YouTube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-71KIvYOKLk

 

~ : ~

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Blessings,

Holly x

 


POST SCRIPT

Saturday 21 November 2015

I wrote the poem “Collecting Leaves” at lunchtime last Friday, 13 November 2015, and posted it onto The Holly Tree Tales that afternoon.  Little did any of us know that, later that day, the most atrocious tragedy would hit Europe, matched only by some of the atrocities being carried out in other parts of the world too.  Two lines in the poem have been haunting me all this week:

“It might be Friday the thirteenth, but superstition is not a worry to me
I am free and I am unencumbered by the fears that grip so many on this day”

At the time of writing, those words seemed relevant to the ambience and experience on the day, but in hindsight they appear truly crass – which is not and was not, by any means, intended. Out of respect to all those who were hurt on that day, in untold and known ways in Europe and around the world, and to all those who are still hurting in the aftermath of the atrocities,  I have since removed those two troubling lines.  There is now a revised version of this poem, which appears later in the blog, republished and with more punctuation inserted.

In mindful consideration, I continue to hope for peace to come into all of our lives.

~ Holly Maxwell Boydell

Autumn’s Artichoke

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There is something very satisfying, even decadent, about being able to settle down to a solo lunch of home grown artichoke. What a luxury!

Somehow, with this being the last artichoke of the season in our garden, there was a special tang of just (yet mingled with guilt for not sharing) reward about the perfect plate of goodness before me …

Nothing nicer than a freshly picked, steamed organic artichoke, with freshly melted, organic lemon butter and lashings of pepper  …

Ah. Some days one really feels like a “King”!

 

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How slowly I savoured every last morsel, feeling utter gratitude that I had managed this year, at long last, to produce our own artichokes from the little plants that had held onto dear life in the greenhouse, year upon year, as I tried to figure out whether we had the right garden (climate) conditions for them, and how on earth to go about it.

And what did I do with the precious green liquor remaining in the saucepan that had steamed the delicious artichoke?

 

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Well, it looked far too healthy and full of goodness itself so, instead of tipping the vegetable water down the sink, as so many do, I collected it, diluted it with cold water, and fed it to some thirsty pot plants.

Oh, and the remains of the artichoke?

Well, they went into the composting system, of course!  Winners all round.

In Autumn health and wholeness,

Holly x

Blackberry Herbal Tea

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The blackberries are just beginning to ripen in our organic garden and, plucked off the ‘vine’ to snack on, make truly delicious little powerhouses of goodness, superfoods par excellence.  As today is the first day of the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, it seemed like a fitting time to post something about blackberries, so here is my little recipe for (an Autumnal) homemade herbal tea, to lift anyone’s spirits.

 ~ : ~

BLACKBERRY HERBAL TEA

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Ingredients:

1 TBS Blackberries

1 Dsp Rose Petals (eg rosa rugosa ‘Roseraie De l’Hay)

1 Dsp Lemon Balm leaves (a good sprig or two, and can include flowers)

1 tsp Rosemary leaves (small sprig, and can include flowers)

 

Method:

Wash ingredients.

Pop all into a clean, warm teapot.

Pour boiled (not scalding) water over the herbs and flowers.

Cover and set aside to infuse for a couple of minutes.

Pour into your choice of a beautiful cup.

Inhale the delightful fragrance, while you sip and enjoy the benefits.

*Sweeten with a little honey, if required.

NB.
If foraging for blackberries, or other edible plants, please be sure never to collect them from beside the road or anywhere near agricultural cropping fields.
Only ever use organic / chemical free herbs and other edible plants to make your herbal teas, and be sure to identify the plants correctly before using.

~ : ~

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To your good health!

Holly x

[Note this recipe has also been posted onto the Towards Greener Borders Facebook page today at http://www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders.%5D

Harvesting Blackcurrants

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At our current home we have a little courtyard area, where I have collected a number of plants in pots, in order to experiment and easily study them, while I learn about plant habits in the British climate. Gardening here and learning to live here is a challenge unlike any I have known, and having my most special plants in a protected environment around me helps to ease the transition at times. It would have been easier learning to garden productively in the northern hemisphere first, and then going to live and garden in the southern hemisphere, but my life has worked the other way around. So, for now I am learning the harder way, but the lessons are, at last, reaping bountiful rewards.

Besides being a study zone and handy to the house, there is another reason why the little courtyard, which still houses the original cobbled floor stables, is used as a sanctuary for my pot plants, one that is a deeper, more personal reason … perhaps I shall write that story another day. The photograph above hints at the part-wilderness, which I have allowed freedom in the enclosed courtyard space. Whilst not entirely private, it has become a space that, for me at least, offers solace to the soul. The growing numbers of wild creatures that join me there seem to think so too.

About a year ago, I bought two fairly large pots of blackcurrants, from a small local nursery who pride themselves on growing their own. They are not an organic nursery, which I would naturally prefer, but a small concern who deserve local support and whose heart is definitely in the right place. Much of what the nursery sells is for the benefit of bees, butterflies and ladybirds, which is what appealed to me when I first saw their sign, and curiously followed a road I had never been on, in order to discover who and what they were. Having semi-nursed my original two small pots of blackcurrants through a few ferocious Winters here, I know that without some proper care or replanting their fruiting days are numbered, so I was delighted to discover, at very little cost, the big black pots of prolifically fruiting blackcurrants. Can you imagine the impossibility of resisting such delights?

Over the past nine years, since setting off from Australia (where I’d lived in a fairly un-rooted way for fourteen years), leaving behind (more like “being dragged away from”) a rather substantial, elegant and valuable plant collection, I have almost sub-consciously amassed an impressive (or obsessive) number of new botanical treasures. Plants are my one true and enduring ‘weakness’, that is clear. Other than providing bird seed and fresh water, I have learnt to leave wildlife to take care of itself, and to let others adopt needy stray creatures, but I still find it impossible to walk blindly past a beautiful plant. Thus, despite my meagre spare means and full intentions not to collect any more botanical treasures on that day, a plant that was not only beautiful, but also fruiting prolifically in a pot, providing food at a cheaper rate than a bought beef burger, meant that it was coming home with me – and that was that.

If truth be told, I hardly expected the two tempting blackcurrant bushes (yes, two, not one) to make it through the Winter – they looked too lush to be hardy – but could only hope and see. I told myself that, if they did not survive, I could reuse their large pots – perhaps even for the blackcurrants I already had, which remain pot bound and awaiting roots-into-soil release. Well, my hope was not in vain: this year the lush new blackcurrants’ bounty has been tremendous, and so I set myself up to harvest each pot’s offering in style … as you can see!

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I realise that, without proper care, there is little chance that any of my potted blackcurrants will continue to prolifically produce and that, if they are going to live in pots ad infinitum, I shall have to manage their living conditions appropriately, of course. I have also learnt that one has to make the most of what Nature offers when it offers it, a lesson not always fully appreciated in the southern hemisphere, where so much grows all year round. I have learnt too that, when the sun shines, one must go outside and make the most of it … it so rarely shines in the part of Britain where we live … and being outdoors, gardening or harvesting in the very long colder months, for a warm-blooded creature like me, is nigh on impossible.

Thus, despite eating almost the same amount as that which I harvested, while comfortably seated and soaking up the sun’s gorgeously balmy rays, I have squirrelled away into our little deep freezer about four punnets full of delicious, juicy, fruity, vitamin-packed organic blackcurrants, and am incredibly proud of myself!

Holly x

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The Truth Is Not Always Beautiful

A Red Admiral butterfly sitting on asters in Autumn, which started its life earlier in the year, as a tiny caterpillar.

A Red Admiral butterfly, which started its life earlier in the year as a tiny caterpillar, sitting on our organic asters during Autumn.

 

 

Living in the British countryside, this is the time of year (Spring in the northern hemisphere) when I find myself becoming increasingly agitated, on alert, frustrated and not a little fearful. I am twitchy at the thought of what is about to happen with a vengeance, and what has already begun in some fields this year … agricultural chemical spraying taking place beside or near our home and organic garden, and around the living and working environments of many others in or near the countryside too.

In our garden, one of the few creating a tiny island of some biodiversity, in the midst of miles of chemically managed agriculture, the birds are welcoming in the Springtime with their presence and their song. Flowers are beginning to open, adding more life and loveliness to the stunning displays of our many snowdrops (galanthus), which have been lighting up the Winter dark for weeks, and fresh leaves are showing on any number of different plants … signs of hope.

Yet with the charm and relief of the arrival of Spring, I know that soon Man’s dominance will roar into action all around us and the toxic agricultural spraying will recommence, where it has not indeed done so already, to shatter the beauty and peace.  With so much resting on humans being able to transform the damage that has been escalating  on our planet, I find it completely irrational that modern, toxic agriculture be allowed to continue at the pace and severity that it currently is.

Chemical Agriculture businesses all around us, our organic garden amongst the few areas of refuge for wildlife, and one of the few gardens for miles offering biodiversity without the use of chemicals within them.

Chemical Agriculture businesses all around us, our organic garden amongst the few areas of refuge for wildlife, and one of the few gardens for miles offering biodiversity without the use of chemicals within them.

Not long ago, it was hard to find many who would agree that farming can be done sustainably, with financial viability and sensitivity, and be done well, without increasing the demands that we are placing on our landscape, our soil, our natural food and drinking supply, and our life-giving air. However, that has all changed now and many are up in arms at what is happening to our life sources on this planet, agreeing wholeheartedly that there is a better way, with statistics, examples and heavy paperwork to prove it.

I am aghast at the monstrous reality that farmers continue to use toxic pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and synthetic fertilisers, when they are the ones to whom stewardship of the land and our food supply has been entrusted. Nowadays, there is a murmur so often heard that the only reason this toxic farming continues is “for money” or “out of greed”. I know it is not that simple. As to the companies who drive this … well, that is another story.

How can this all be acceptable?
How can these people live with themselves?
And what of the many farmers committing suicide?

What value is there to farmer or society, when we plunder the earth and transform the natural health and viability of our soil?  What intrinsic value is there in devastating the land, dominating all species bar a few allowed to remain, and seeking to control the earth wherever we can?  How can our eco-system survive this madness?  How can our food supply be healthy, whole and ensured?  How can we continue as a species ourselves, when we are wiping out those very species who offer us their unconditional support, and without whom we could not long continue to exist? We have all now heard, I assume, the quote by Einstein that, without the bee, Man would have a mere four years left.

We cannot expect to go on, if we wipe out our natural cycles and try to perform every task in Nature ourselves.  No number of men and their machines can ever replace the work done for us by our vital insect pollinators, birds, soil micro-organisms and varied underground species, and of course the many different types of bee – all of whom are being either harmed, mortally wounded or wiped out by chemicals to a lesser or greater degree. Our established trees we are losing at a frightening rate, and with them so much life and vitality, not least providing us with the vital clean air we all need. Whatever we do on the land, we are causing to run off and harm the many, precious life systems in the sea … the cycle of harm is alarming.

Monoculture, reliant on manmade chemicals to produce viable crops, the farmland in this photograph owned by three separate farming businesses, all operating their machines and cropping activity at the same time.

Monoculture. Reliant on manmade chemicals to produce viable crops, the farmland in this photograph is owned by three separate farming businesses, situated within and around our hamlet. All operate their machines and conduct their independent cropping activities at the same time. Chemicals know no boundaries.

How can we be so arrogant as to think that we have a right to strip our children’s planet and their right to an inheritance of a future filled with hope, healing and diversity?  How can we be such murderers, stripping the tapestry of our green and wooded environments, raping the Earth with our monstrous, egotistical and idiotic, swiping and sweeping destruction of all that was here before us?  How can we possibly hope to go on this way?  How can we look our children in the eyes with love, when we are meting out to them such poison?

Have those who climb into the cabs of their killing machines ever looked into the face of a child holding a butterfly?  Have those very souls and others like them, not heard that a butterfly must start its life as a little grub … a caterpillar?  Do these adults not know that a whole and functioning, diverse eco-system is vital, in order to sustain our lives, our health, our right to good food to live?  Can those who seek to dominate the economic markets with their greed not see the damage that their choices and their actions are doing to each and every little child? Do they not care? Do they not live on the Earth too?

Soon I shall hear the rumbling of a farmer neighbour’s smart new piece of machinery, pulling behind it a vast tank filled with a product made by Man … glyphosate … whose detrimental, cancerous and deleterious effects are being made known around the world, yet people continue to spray and dab it on.  I cannot hold back the ire that rises up inside me when I hear about and see the use of “RoundUp” (or glyphosate by any other name) and I believe that every person who dares to use this poison ought to be held accountable if they indeed know how evil it is.

September 2014, Autumn - RoundUp (glyphosate) being sprayed on the field beside our house - we had not yet closed our kitchen windows, nor are we protected from this toxic spraying in any event anyway.

September 2014, Autumn – RoundUp (glyphosate) being sprayed on the field beside our house – we had not yet closed our kitchen windows, nor are we protected from this toxic spraying in any event anyway.

There is a vast body of evidence already available to everyone who cares to seek it, which fully and substantially shows how dangerous this way of treating Nature is, and what a devastating effect it is having on so many people’s lives, through sickness, failed wellbeing (psychological and otherwise) and cruelly shortened life.  How can we call this way of producing our food “farming”? How can we call this of way doing things “growing food”?

As the anticipation of Spring brings with it so much joy and promise, there is a tug of war going on inside, as for me there lurks a deep undercurrent of frustration and fear at what is coming and what could be.  I know that we are not safe, and nor are the farmers who work with toxic products rather than listening to Nature and working with her instead.

It has been proven that organic agriculture is viable and can feed the world.  Why then, does an intelligent, wealthy and forward thinking country like Britain continue to fund and allow its farmers to harm us, as they are subsidised to unwittingly rape the land?

This picture taken one recent April (Spring) on a verdant ORGANIC farm in the region. Here the land is managed without any chemicals whatsoever and, whilst a monoculture system too, the farmer’s response to me, when asked how he dealt with pests, was “Pests? What do you mean?”.  And weeds? He uses a mechanical hoe. No chemicals necessary.

My deepest hope and greatest dream, as a mother, a thinker and a human being, is that our harmful reliance on chemical farming will cease with urgent effect, and the countryside become once more the healing, safe for foraging, bountiful and biodiverse place it used to be. If only that dream could sprout, take root and blossom to grow abundantly this Spring!

In hope,
Holly x

Did you know that Towards Greener Borders HQ is a ‘real’ place?

The following is a new post that has been published on Towards Greener Borders’ page today at http://www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders. It gives a little background about my philosophy when dealing with our health, environments and wellbeing, and shows what we are doing on our tiny property in the Berwickshire hills and how tenderly it is being managed, while we are the custodians  …

 

Did you know that Towards Greener Borders HQ is a ‘real’ place?
It is ‘An Organic Property’, a place where no chemicals are used, where the grounds are managed as sympathetically and mindfully as we know how, where Nature is observed before decisions are made about what to work on and how, where soil is kept covered and digging is rare, where wildlife is welcomed and nothing growing is considered ‘bad’, where mosses and lichens are allowed to flourish, and self-sown trees such as holly, yew, ash, sycamore, willow and elderflower are being encouraged, in order to save them for use elsewhere. It is a place where the forget-me-not is remembering to seed again, chickweed discovery excites and where dandelions are called friends, where the foxglove is admired and its floral beauty feasted on, where wild daisies are cause for rejoicing and hawthorn allowed to bloom …

At the moment, the snowdrops are shining and soon the purple crocuses will be shining fully too.

“Towards Greener Borders HQ” is where Towards Greener Borders first grew, and from whence it is currently managed. Not open to the public, we are sorry to say, as there are just too many tasks to attend and currently too few to do them, but we’re delighted to share our pictures with all of you.

Thanks for joining us on the journey and helping to spread the word. Just as every plant and every creature is valued at “Towards Greener Borders HQ”, so is each and every one of you. Let’s keep the mission spreading … and for all the help and all the support, we thank you.

The TOWARDS GREENER BORDERS Team
www.facebook.com/towardsgreenerborders

Taken on the first day of March 2015, a glimpse of the lovely snowdrops beneath and surrounding our holly, sycamore and cherry trees at “Towards Greener Borders HQ”.

Taken on the first day of March 2015, a glimpse of the lovely snowdrops beneath and surrounding our holly, sycamore and cherry trees at “Towards Greener Borders HQ”.

A Rose without a Name

As I sorted through some photographs of my organic country garden today, I was spellbound by the pictures of flowers and greenery, looking forward to the Summer time, when all will be in bloom once more.

Amongst my photographs of a July past, I came across this picture of a beautiful rose, which was growing amongst a tangle of overgrown shrubbery and white rambling roses, in our present garden when we arrived here. It is a really lovely rose, with arching stems and fresh green foliage, the most gorgeous double flowers and an enchanting fragrance. I have no idea what this rose is called, but hope to discover its name one day.

While I watch and wait for the warmer months, it is wonderful to be able to look at such images … and know that soon the roses will be in bloom once more. For those of us in the northern hemisphere, who are just coming out of the long, cold, dark months of Winter dreariness, Summer cannot come too soon.

Much loveliness awaits!

Holly x

A beautiful rose without a name.

A beautiful rose without a name.