A Visit to RHS Harlow Carr in Spring

IMG_7130 - THTT signed

This is more than just about a garden visit.

I am writing this blogpost retrospectively, having visited RHS Harlow Carr in early Spring this year.  Our visit this time, occurred just as the buds were opening on the blossom trees (prunus of several types), the fresh leaves were unfurling in many shades of green on chilly trees, the bulbs’ leaves were emerging from their cosy soil beds, many flowers bravely blooming in the still and freezing-cold Yorkshire air, and various heathers and ericas were in abundant show-off pink colour blaze.

Harlow Carr has become a special place to me, a place where I have enjoyed a few visits since my children attended boarding school in that British county, which is several hours’ drive south of our current home. Visiting gardens is a way for me to connect with the pure life force that I sense is so lacking in society today, a vital way for me to unwind and to find inspiration for all the tasks I’m still learning to understand and to manage, and for strength in the journey of life itself, as well as simply to be in the presence of beauty and grace, for wonder and for fun.

On this day back in April 2017, my husband and I had driven down from the area where we live south of Edinburgh, met our daughter at a train station nearby, and we’d all set off for an afternoon of grounding, family time and chatting about life plans, on a very rainy afternoon. We were lucky to find a table fairly quickly in the very busy cafe on site, and happily enjoyed a simple lunch in an attractively glassed area, which afforded us the privilege of seeing the beautiful grounds around us, while keeping warm and snug inside.  Magically, the heavy dark clouds had moved on just as we were sated from a few hours of chat, so we gathered our coats and cameras and stepped outside into the crisp, damp, fresh air for a quick and intentional walk around the tidy paths.

 

 

As we live further north than this garden, it was interesting to note what was happening there, and to know that our turn would come next. The further south one travels in Britain, the earlier the seasons begin and the warmer the climate is.  Our growing season is brief, when it finally starts, and I always sense a wave of panic when everything suddenly begins to grow like mad up here, all maintenance and other jobs becoming necessary at once.  Thus, it helps to see gardens further south, for the warning signs before they take place where we are.

As we wandered about, strategically and fast (by then near to closing time), I was surprised to see so many heathers in bloom at Harlow Carr. Most surprising, I thought, was that the hungry bees were already out and feasting on their tiny little blooms … a sign that this (the various types of heather or erica) is a good plant, one type of species to encourage others to include in their plantings everywhere – at least in every area of Britain where it does not already naturally grow in the wild (where still allowed).  The British landscape does not currently afford much scope for wildlife to find either food or haven, there being little naturalness or biodiversity left on the main island of the United Kingdom; in most areas a begging starvation of diversity exists wherever one looks.

Gardeners can address this suicidal environmental travesty, but alone we cannot – the large landowners and land managers must take the situation into their hands too. We urgently have to address the plight of our wild pollinators  and other creatures that exist to form a healthy eco system, which we each will benefit from. I digress.  Lungwort (pulmonaria) in its many forms, is another plant that bees love in the early months of the year, flowering profusely before much else is in bloom.

IMG_7084 - THTT signed

Lungwort (pulmonaria)

It was lovely to see everything looking ready to receive the new season’s growth, beds tidied and mulched … no doubt left a little wild during the winter, to afford habitat for wildlife and to allow some seeds to feed birds, as well as to drop into the ready soil.  I especially loved the little area near the potting shed, which boasts elegant garden architecture, as well as tastefully careful landscape design.

 

 

 

The potting shed itself was delightful to visit – attractive and of great interest; it was useful to find a description there of how pest control was managed in the past. Nowadays so little thought is given to the damage that we are doing to ourselves, to wildlife, to ecology, and to the future of our children’s experiences of the natural world by the use of so many toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, all manner of cleaning materials, genetically engineered plants, etc. Indeed, we are “shooting ourselves in the foot”, instead of learning from and following in the footsteps of our clever ancestors, who knew how to work with Nature, to create something out of little, to harm few or none in the process of fending for themselves. I think about these things, when I wander about!

 

 

 

The notice on the potting shed wall reads:

“The Potting Shed

The potting shed is the gardener’s laboratory! Before commercial pesticides became available, gardeners mix their concoctions of chemicals on a stove in the potting shed, using recipes that have been handed down over generations.

Most ingredients can be found easily and cheaply such as soot, elder leaves, dung, urine and ashes.  Other materials that are used can be bought locally such as soap, lime, sulphur and tobacco.

It is a real factory … in order to realise why gardens have so many flowerpots, it is important to remember that every plant in the garden will  have been grown from seed, carefully nurtured and then planted out (there are no garden centres for instant effect at this time).

Potting sheds are the domain of the workforce and the gentry never visit them, just as there is a definite line between ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ in the house.

Use of Poisons

Dangerous ingredients, such as arsenic and strychnine, are used regularly in the garden as they can be bought very easily – however the Arsenic Act (passed in 1851) allows only people over 21 to buy it, and the sale has to be recorded in a Poisons Book.

The most dangerous ingredients are generally kept in a poisons cupboard in the potting shed. In true Agatha Christie style, if there is a murder on the Estate, the first place the police tend to look is in the potting shed!

In order to keep flies out of the potting shed and prevent them from laying eggs in the compost mix, the walls of potting sheds are painted with Reckitt’s Blue.  This is a blue powder added when washing clothes in order to produce a clean blue-white appearance.”

I find all of this fascinating, don’t you?

IMG_7051 - THTT signed

A thirsty honey bee, sipping raindrops from the petals of a white daffodil flower.

IMG_7048 - THTT signed

Lovely white narcissus (daffodils) at RHS Harlow Carr ~ and the little honey bee I spied, which features in another photo here, captured close up.

As we ambled quickly along the paths, we encountered a few surprises, such as the very tall willow statue of a Roald Dahl story character, The BFG, which would surely delight every child who visits there and also provides inspiration, perhaps, for what one might do with natural materials found outdoors.  He, the BFG, was a ‘friendly chap’ ~ I took a quick photo to remember the artwork by …

IMG_7142 - THTT signedIMG_7143 - THTT signed

Heading uphill, onto the side of the garden opposite the entrance, we wandered through tall trees and shrubs, admiring the majestic trunks of rhododendrons, many of which were in beautiful (and some fragrant) bloom.  The honey of rhodendron is toxic, apparently, but the bees need these blooms too and the flowers are always a wonderfully welcome sight, after a long, dark period of Wintry gloom.  I have learnt, at cost to one or two of the mature garden shrubs at our home, that only some rhododendrons (of which azaleas form the same general family) are fit to be pruned!  Would that ours could look as tall and elegant as those at Harlow Carr, which have been cared for by clever people in the know about these things.

IMG_7144 - THTT signed

I think this must have been about my fourth or fifth visit to RHS Harlow Carr, since our first visit there in September 2011.  On that day, we had been travelling back up north, having taken our youngest child to boarding school for the first time, and my emotions were in torment.  I remember wandering around Harlow Carr on that day, with my heart in my throat, tears brimming, feeling as though I were a tree whose limb had been ripped off in a whirlwind.  It was an ache I shall never forget … and I thank the universe for making sure that everything turned out well, despite the pain and the challenges and the things that were to come, after that agonising time.  My soul was soothed by Harlow Carr, stopping there as if to apply a plaster to a gaping wound, and it helped me to keep breathing as we left the county, where both of our children were now boarding … it is a relief to have all of that behind me now.

If you have the chance to visit any of the Royal Horticultural Society gardens in Britain, do consider doing so; I am sure you will not be disappointed.  So much care goes into preserving precious plant species, designing landscapes that stand out, inspire and motivate and heal the soul … and now the RHS are also behind a great push to make the public, citizens of all ages and all walks of life, aware that we must take care of our natural environment, our pollinators, our precious and vital earth.  I am so grateful for the chance to see such places, to absorb the positive energy there, to benefit from the calm and order and consciousness … very grateful indeed.

In mindfulness,

Holly x


IMG_7064 - THTT signed

Treats And Truths Of Country Living

20031830_1440254776063914_6770098460197945556_n - onto Instagram 13.7.2017 - THTT signed

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.

 

- onto Instagram 13.7.2017 - THTT signed

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 ]

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot – A Motherhood Memory

IMG_5949 - cropped - THTT signed

Cooks Hill, NSW, Australia ~ 1993/94

 

“Swing low, sweet chariot …”

This picture … me ‘n my girl … in the garden of the first home that we owned, where we spent many glorious hours in Nature together, had lots and lots of parties and get-togethers, with friends and family frequently coming to stay.

The garden was a ”postage stamp”, whose every inch I knew, into which I poured my love and learnt all sorts about Australia. Gardening became the therapy for a very homesick heart, a heart that missed people in two countries, two continents called “home”, but with that came a grateful connection to the earth and so much that reminded me of my beloved Africa.

In order to be a parent, I had to learn to listen deeply to the rhythms of real soul, such as I had seen in the ways that African people cared for their young … My journey was an otherwise blind one, based only on what I felt to be right, and most of the time I could not see further than my nose in the process. I read LOTS of books.

I called that home “Tintinnare” … which is Latin; it means the ringing of bells. It was and still is, I’m sure, a very special place. We lived there five years, sold it to move to “Rosewood”, when my son, four years younger than his sister, was a year old.

Holly x


[This post was written for another platform originally, hence the brevity of script.]

Quiet Time In Winchester Cathedral

DSC07058 - THTT signed


A few months ago, I was down in Winchester to attend a couple of events at Winchester College and found a little time for myself on the Saturday morning, anonymous and alone amongst the many inhabitants and visitors to the town. Feeling tired and fairly tender on the day, I decided to take myself on foot to the Cathedral, in the hope of finding a quiet corner where I might not intrude, and where I might be allowed to simply be.

DSC07016 - cropped - THTT signed


Whilst there, I penned the following into my notebook …

~ : ~

In Winchester Cathedral
Epiphany Chapel

As I walked into the Cathedral, on a video screen I saw the words very clearly “Be Still And Know That I Am God” … before they disappeared, replaced on the screen with something else.  I had walked in alone, in that moment, and felt as though the stillness and trusting message was especially for me.

I asked the lady greeting visitors at the door if I might be allowed to just come in and sit down.  I barely had the emotional strength to explain that I was not a tourist nor a history scholar, merely someone needing solace. I did not wish to join the milieu, nor have to walk across to the ticket kiosk and deal with the business of being there.  Thankfully, mercifully, I did  not have to explain to her. The lady looked directly into my eyes, and asked if I wanted to pray. I said “Yes, just to sit and pray, and to write”.  She looked as though she clearly understood my need and, without hesitation, showed me the way – “towards the wrought iron gates on the left hand side, and then left into the little chapel” – which has been set aside for this purpose.  I was so grateful to be able to come here and be peaceful, alone.

DSC07054 - THTT signed

As I walked into the chapel and sat down, the tears that had been gathering on the long walk down the side of the Cathedral were beginning to really flow free, and I was pleased to be able to let them out, completely alone and privately.  Then I looked up at the beautiful flowers, in an arrangement near where I was sitting, and noticed snapdragon heads amongst them, and realised that they are similar to the few apricot-coloured snapdragon plants that I had inherited at [the home where we currently live], before I moved them out of the area near the house, into the Stables Courtyard.  Not my favourite colour in plants by any means, but I felt as if they were a link to here, a message of some sort.

DSC07056 - THTT signed

I opened the Bible sitting on the pew rail in front of me; it fell open at Proverbs 19.

DSC07049 - THTT signed

DSC07051 - THTT signed

DSC07052 - THTT signed

Then I opened another page, after reading what had been shown, and saw Psalm 126.

DSC07059 - THTT signed

I photographed the pages, to have a record of what I had seen and read.  Some meaning was already and immediately there, but I felt that more meaning might come later, and wanted a record of what I had felt to be special and relevant messages.

Before entering the Cathedral, I had walked around the area in and near the shop and refectory beyond it, photographing the beautiful and meaningful bits to me, nurturing myself by being peaceful, enjoying the unrushed time to absorb what I felt led to and what I wanted to see.

Drinking in the peace at the Cathedral, even with the many other visitors and voices bouncing around the huge stone walls, I feel grateful for being understood, being allowed to stop, sit alone quietly, and simply be.

“Be Still, And Know
That I Am God”

Psalm 46: 10

~ : ~

DSC07058 - THTT signed



As I was leaving the Cathedral, I slipped gold coins into the donation box, in thanks for the peace and understanding shown to me, by the kind lady at the entrance door. That time in the Epiphany Chapel had been a gentle, much-needed balm to my soul.  I had felt momentarily as though, perhaps, someone truly is looking after me.

Holly x

DSC07064 - THTT signed

Ek Wil Huis Toe Gaan – An Ode to South Africa – With Translation

A Power of Prosperity moment.

A Kwa-Zulu Natal house martin, resting on a telephone wire at the Author’s home in Berwickshire, UK.

In my previous blogpost, I explained the writing of this poem, which seemed to write itself one chilly evening in Britain, during October 2013. I have now cobbled together a translation, which appears below the original, for those who do not speak Afrikaans nor know the South African lingo …

Ek Wil Huis Toe Gaan

Ek wil huis toe gaan …
Weg van hierdie koue plek;
Weg van hier, waar die mense kan nie lag nie;
Weg van die grys en die vreeslike ys,
Daar waar die hemel dikwels blou is;
Waar die mense lag en speel,
Waar die vriende warm is,
En die blommetjies baie is;
Waar die dikdikke dik,
En die blomme lekker ruik;
Waar die koppies loer my in,
En die pad lekker warm onder die fiets is;
Waar die biltong smaak,
En die boerewors kraak;
Waar die sonskyn soos parfum op my vel voel,
En die wind so lieflik oor die veldt grassies ‘skyn’ …
Ja, ek wil huis toe gaan.
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Ek kan nie langer wag nie,
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Die pyn is soms vreeslik koud.
Ek moet huis toe gaan,
Voor alles is vergeet en ek is baie oud.
Draai my huis toe nou,
Op die wind en die voel se rug,
Nou, asseblief, gee my ‘n bietjie verlig,
Ek wil huis toe gaan.

Asseblief. Net huis toe. Nou.

~ : ~

 

And in English, a rough translation …


I Want To Go
Home

I want to go home …
Away from this cold place;
Away from here, where the people cannot laugh;
Away from the grey and the terrible ice,
There where the sky is often blue;
Where the people laugh and play,
Where the friends are warm,
And the flowers are many;
Where the dik-dik call,
And the flowers smell divine;
Where the little hills entice me,
And the road is hot under the bicycle;
Where the “biltong” tastes delicious,
And the “boerewors” crackles;
Where the sunshine feels like perfume on my skin,
And the wind shines so beautifully over the “veld” grasses …
Yes, I want to go home.
I cannot wait any longer,
I must go home.
The pain is sometimes freezing cold.
I must go home,
Before everything is forgotten and I am very old.
Draw me homewards now,
On the wind and the back of the bird,
Now, please, give me a little relief,
I want to go home.

Please. Just home. Now.

~ : ~


Explanation of Words used

Boerewors :  a spicy South African sausage.
Biltong : a dried meat, often spiced with coriander seed.
Dik-dik : a very small type of antelope, named for the sound  that they make.
Veld or Veldt : the wide open spaces of natural African grasslands / meadows.
Verlig : literally translates as someone who holds progressive or enlightened views, in this poem used with liberty to describe a sense of relief, lightheartedness, or respite from continual care or burden.

Holly x

The original poem, written in Afrikaans on 26 October 2013.
Translation on12 August 2015.
~ by Holly Maxwell Boydell

An Ode to South Africa

Holly amongst plants enroute Cape Town perhaps - around 1973 - THTT signed

The Author amongst plants on a family journey between Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Cape, stopping somewhere en route, possibly Namaqualand … A child adoring the exquisite floral beauty, simply growing wild and free all around her. Circa 1973.


Written in moments, straight onto my Facebook page one homesick evening …
The ‘poem’ below wrote itself, it took no time at all to release … I walked up to my computer, sat down at the keyboard, and just let the words flow, as tears streamed from my eyes. I did not edit it, simply hit return and ‘published’, once the flow of words had ceased.

Strangely, there had been many years in between my leaving South Africa in December 1985 and sitting down to let this poem ‘escape’ on the evening of Saturday 26 October 2013. The strangest thing of all was that, for many years, I had completely forgotten every word of the second language of my country of birth, a language that was never ever used in my ‘very British’ home. Somewhere deep in my subconscious, however, the longing thrashed about and translated itself into the language of the land that I longed for.

At the time of writing, as now, I did not know whether the words made any grammatical sense whatsoever … yet somehow my teenage son, who speaks not a word of Afrikaans, picked up the emotion and the significance of this poem. I think the trauma of leaving, readjusting, and the difficulties encountered in a new country, not once but thrice since 1985, caused my subconscious to block much that I had taken for granted before. 

Is it a poem, I wonder? It certainly is a work that came from (or beyond) my deepest self, all of its own accord. Mine were merely the hands that typed it …

~ : ~


Ek Wil Huis Toe Gaan

Ek wil huis toe gaan …
Weg van hierdie koue plek;
Weg van hier, waar die mense kan nie lag nie;
Weg van die grys en die vreeslike ys,
Daar waar die hemel dikwels blou is;
Waar die mense lag en speel,
Waar die vriende warm is,
En die blommetjies baie is;
Waar die dikdikke dik,
En die blomme lekker ruik;
Waar die koppies loer my in,
En die pad lekker warm onder die fiets is;
Waar die biltong smaak,
En die boerewors kraak;
Waar die sonskyn soos parfum op my vel voel,
En die wind so lieflik oor die veldt grassies ‘skyn’ …
Ja, ek wil huis toe gaan.
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Ek kan nie langer wag nie,
Ek moet huis toe gaan.
Die pyn is soms vreeslik koud.
Ek moet huis toe gaan,
Voor alles is vergeet en ek is baie oud.
Draai my huis toe nou,
Op die wind en die voel se rug,
Nou, asseblief, gee my ‘n bietjie verlig,
Ek wil huis toe gaan.

Asseblief. Net huis toe. Nou.

~ : ~


End note: Two years hence, I think I have remembered sufficient Afrikaans and South African ‘lingo’ in order to be able to vaguely translate this piece.

I have not travelled home to South Africa since 2007, and only twice briefly before that. This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of my leaving South Africa, very reluctantly, during incredibly unsettled times in that beautiful country, still struggling to find its peace.

Holly x

Ifafa Beach - rescanned - 1960s - THTT signed

Ifafa Beach, on the South coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal, during the 1960s. A place very dear to my heart, much-visited and very much loved as a young child. A place I long to visit, often.