Oh Dear…

Deer silhouettes

Dear Eric,

   Hello my friend, how are you these days? Very well I hope.  It seems we have some catching up to do and I have wanted to write to you for some time to share with you what has been happening over here in England.  It has been a little over half a year now that I have moved from London to the countryside and I really enjoy how  time just seems to move a  bit slower  down here. Each day I smile to myself when I look around at my surroundings and see where I live, realizing the beauty that is existing in each moment.

Oaks on DriveIt was cold here early spring & never did I think the warmer weather would come soon enough.  It seemed that it took ages for signs of life to appear but each day on my walk to work there would be new changes to see and soon the trees were bursting their buds and shaking out their new foliage,  still creased & wrinkled from being tucked away for winter so long.

Foggy Manor

The days at Gravetye became more exciting and like a child on Christmas morning,  I waited each day to see what presents the garden would give us. I watched,  and waited, hoping that our Magnolia campbellii, with its swollen buds, would bloom, but it did not due to cold temperatures and frosts, making it now three years since it has put on a desirable show.

Flower Garden FogBut fear not,  the rest of the symphony soon woke, giving us flora,

Pheasantand fauna, and color rich meadows of Narcissus pseudonarcissus.

Gravetye Manor

Then the tulips finally emerged after a late start in the Flower Garden,

but the color was welcomed in a great way, and with the cool spring continuing the tulips lasted for a very long time.

Flower Garden Tulip DisplayTulip ‘Red Shine’ holds court and stands out in the garden.
Tulip DisplayThe blooms of Tulip ‘Arabian Mystery’ hovered and swayed above seas of Myosotis sylvatica and were anchored by the gray foliage of the large Cardoons.

They marched on,  and on, as more green foliage emerged,

Color Explosioncreating an explosion of colors with the Azaleas in the Spring Garden that seemed to wash over everything.

Soon enough spring had us in its grips, with us clambering to get the best views, and absorb as much as we could and

Color Storygetting intoxicated by  sophisticated color stories, with Camassias, Azaleas, and emerging Allium blooms making up the cast that weaved rich tapestries before our eyes.

Goodbye Tulips

And we try to be greedy, to prolong the riot of color by securing blooms for our own private show, but this obsession does not last as long as we like.  The end is imminent in our passionate affair with early spring and we take a step back to catch our breathe and reassess. Sigh….

View from HillThe rolling landscape surrounding the estate is the perfect foil for me to get out and clear my head sometimes, encapsulated  just by birdsong and incredible views. It is a great vantage point with the manor house looming over this peaceful valley.

Bluebell WoodThen the English woodland started giving its own show, with Bluebells creating the sense that I was being enveloped by a dense blue beautiful fog, and serenaded with a soft sweet scent from these pendulous blooms. There is a place in the woods near my cottage that I enjoyed visiting each evening as the sun was setting, which is  the best time to really appreciate this haze of color.

IMG_0883Back in the gardens, the next phase had started , obvious in the Orchard meadows with the grasses now taking off and reaching knee height.  There is a special beauty in areas of meadow where you become a voyeur and watch the magic that nature provides.

IMG_2462The orchard is  full of Malus planted for heavy cropping in the autumn,  but I can’t even think about autumn when this act has yet to climax.

IMG_1869The Malus blooms soon come into their own, clinging to the craggy branches of these trees with there twisted trunks that always have so much character.

IMG_2053One evening after work, I set off to spend more time in the gardens, and sit in the setting sun in the meadow, when I watched for a short time the Barn Owl circle and swoop for food and landing in the high grass. I love owls, and though I hear Tawny owls outside my bedroom window every night, I never saw a barn owl until now in our meadow.

IMG_2700 As a gardener spending time working in gardens where so much thought, consideration, and effort is put into the plantings it is such a pleasure to see the changing phases that occur during the seasons.  With open eyes I watch the phases change from early spring greeted by Narcissus, Tulips and Myosotis, to the baton being passed to the next cast of characters that arrive under the names Allium, Aguilegia, and Iris.  There is great pleasure in seeing these shifts, and welcoming a whole new palette of plants and their colors.

IMG_2682The light has now changed too, and there is a time in the late afternoon/early evening, that I refer to as the magic hour, when the plants seem to glow and show their transparency. This is when the shadows start to get a bit longer but there is the warmth of the sun is still felt on your face, and there is a feeling of  calm that washes over the garden, you feel like you would freeze that moment for longer if you could.

IMG_2686And how can I forgot the arrival of one of my favorite plants, Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ who never fails to put a smile on anyone passing by. Each crease and crinkle in its red petal is  punctuated by that beautiful black splotch, held high on thin but strong, wiry green stems. They seem to dance in the breeze, looking similar to a butterfly gracefully and sporadically flying off to its next destination.

IMG_2727

And  the magic hour is when I start to head home at the end of each long day and I walk, taking my time to get home, walking through woods and with its dappled light I am reminded of the beautiful landscapes painted by Cezanne.

IMG_2598 and I see scenes like this fox, just relaxing and enjoying the pleasures of life, and I smile because I understand.

I hope this finds you well and smiling my friend….      Jimmy

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