There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Saturday, 6 February 2016

"Our England is A Garden......."

'The Gardener', 1885--Camille Pissarro

As author and master gardener Vita Sackville West wrote, "flowers intoxicate me"; flowers really do, like Vita, intoxicate me. I fell in love with flowers, and thereby gardening, at a very young age and all because of my Grandpa. He was an intrepid gardener in northern Michigan, in the upper peninsula where the joke is they have nine months of winter and three months of bad sledding. But that never interfered with Grandpa's flowers. While the sun shone and the grass grew, he gardened.

Grandpa's house on Arch St, Marquette, Michigan.

Grandpa lived in a sweet, little house built during the American Civil War. It was always painted with bright white paint and deep green trim, and was surrounded by a white picket fence--the stuff of story books. There was a screen door that had the perfect 'slam' as we ran outside, a front porch with a swing, and window boxes in all the windows filled with red geraniums. This is how it looks today, but in the 1960's the lawn was perfect with a little rock path that led to the back, there weren't any trees overshadowing it, and the house shone like a little beacon on Arch Street in Marquette, Michigan.

My little green and white healing cottage
all dressed up for Christmas, 1997.
Years later, after Grandpa had passed away and his charming house sold, I found my own version. After my divorce, I bought this little cottage--the first house I had ever bought all on my own. It was a place for me to heal and restore our family. I didn't even think about it at the time, but later I realized how much like Grandpa's house it was--painted bright white with deep green trim, window boxes in the windows, a slamming screen door, and a front porch with a swing. Like Grandpa's house, I grew geraniums, had a rock path that led to the back of the house, and gardened like mad when the grass was green and the sun shone. Then I fell in love again, sold my little cottage, and moved to England.

When love is lost, do not bow your
head in sadness; instead keep your
head up high and gaze into
heaven for that is where your
broken heart has been sent to heal. 
 ~Author Unknown

I moved to England and discovered that even though the sun doesn't always shine, the grass is always green year-round--which means England was made for growing things. In fact you could say England was made for growing flowers. There isn't a time of year that I can't grow them. This was my last rose of the year, which bloomed last Halloween.

Our England is a garden.....
~Rudyard Kipling

Even in winter, when the wind blows cold by the end of November and it's dark by 4pm, bright red cyclamin fill the bicycle basket and the window boxes in the front of our house. They're joined by winter pansies, ivy, and pretty little red-berried plants. A bright spot on winter-darkened Holywell Street.

By February though, I give winter the old 
one-two punch and bright yellow
narcissus greet our guests at the front door.

Our butcher's bike at the front of the
house is filled with early blooming
narcissus, so small and seemingly delicate,
yet able to defy the cold winter wind.

In the spring, at the end of the
day, you should smell like dirt.
~Margaret Atwood

Window boxes just planted
and ready to go up.

By March, many happy hours are
spent at local garden centres.

The Burford Garden Company, Burford, Oxfordshire

March gives way to April and
tulips in the window boxes......

......and my secret garden is coming back to life.

Every April, God rewrites
the book of Genesis. 
~Author Unknown

Forget me nots bloom in my very
favourite colour and gather around
St. Francis from April until July.

A posie of Forget me nots and
primroses picked from the garden.

In May the garden lawn is covered in daisies.

I am not a lover of lawns. Rather would
see daisies in their thousands, ground
ivy, hawkweed, and even the hated
plantain with tall stems, and dandelions
with splendid flowers and fairy down,
than the too-well-tended lawn.
~W.H. Hudson,
The Book of a Naturalist, 1919

Wee puppy Jack experiencing his first spring.
And then comes June, and
with that roses and lavender.

My favourite rose, a David Austin 'Brother Cadfael' English rose.

I fill our garden with Hidcote Lavender
found right at the source, Hidcote Gardens
near Chipping Campden. It's a prolific 
bloomer and when it's dried, it keeps it's
deep purple colour and rich lavender scent.

The lavender and the birdbath are a haven for bees.

Hearty rugosa roses bloom
in the garden hedge.

In the summer there's no place I'd
rather be than here in our garden--
same goes for Max and Jack.

In September the Holywell
petunias are still going strong.

The Lavatera gives bright colour in
the garden right into early autumn.

The 'Lewis Tree' stands watch over
all of us in every season, both
creature and flower. In September
the leaves start to lighten and turn
from bright green to yellow.

By October the leaves are
golden and starting to fall......

........but the roses just keep blooming.

The magical ingredient for
perfect roses in October?
Chickens--and their by-product!

Miss Havisham and Lady Catherine de Bourgh

Autumnal flowers and plants replace
the summer petunias, geraniums,
lobelia and bacopa in the window boxes.

In November my Pineapple sage
blooms with bright red spikes.

And the garden, just as beautiful in
it's autumnal colours, 
is put to bed for the winter.

Which brings us back to now and the late
winter, as the earth starts to wake up--
daffodils show their faces again,
and there are many trips to garden centres.

Garden centre essentials--flowers,
antiques, and a bale of straw for
the chickens--all any girl needs really.

All the uglinesses of the world can best
be forgotten in the beauty of nature! 
~Mehmet Murat ildan

I'm not a master gardener and I've memorized very few Latin names for plants--I simply love flowers. I love growing them, smelling them, picking them, revelling in them and being intoxicated by them. I love the beauty flowers add to the world and what sweet simplicity there is in them.

And I love my Grandpa for teaching me all these things, for letting me follow him around as he pottered in his own Michigan 'yard'. Grandpa taught me to appreciate a geranium as much as a rose and England has taught me how to revel in and see the beauty in every season--a spring daffodil, summer hollyhocks, an autumn leaf, and a winter pansy. The gift of being able to create beauty wherever I go--just with a little dirt, a few seeds or a tiny seedling, and some sunlight--there's no better gift in life to be given than that.

I am going to make everything around
 me beautiful - that will be my life.
~Elsie De Wolfe


  1. Just wonderful, Carrie! I didn't realize that things would grow nearly year round in England! We have much the same here in Arkansas. My beautiful pink & burgundy petunias have been blooming all winter. Grape hyacinth is beginning to push it's leaves up. I love the seasons of flowers, too. Wonderful blog, as always! xoxo Jane

    1. Coming from a place in Eastern Washington with a growing season from mid-May to late September, it was a revelation to grow things and garden here. I just now said goodbye to last year's geraniums--which had wintered over from 2014, but didn't make a week of deep-freeze we had. I think it's also the perfect humidity for flowers--but whatever it is, it makes me happy and I think my Grandpa would be proud of my dirty hands. :-) Hope all is well with you........xxCarrieoo

    2. I do think you are right about the perfect humidity factor. Living in New England near enough to sometimes smell the sea (15 miles!); gardening was easier and things lasted longer and looked good. We try our best and can make things work, but it takes effort and the midsummer desiccating heat just can't be combated. You do learn what will work and must stick with those. Thankfully, and surprisingly, pansies do extremely well, until it gets too hot. So we enjoy them while we can!

  2. Thank you for sharing! I loved reading about your grandpa's influence on your love of flowers and gardening. Lovely post-it brightened my day.

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it Maricruz and especially if it brightened your day! Thanks so much for stopping by. Carrie

  3. Your flower arrangements are inspiring and breathtaking! If I'm ever in Oxford I must stay at your B&B just for the flowers.