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A Different View

I woke up this morning convinced that it was late. The light was grey behind the curtains and the room was silent. Reluctantly, I looked at my phone and discovered that it was in fact early.

It has been a busy few weeks, but walking up the road, the magnolia buds are suddenly swelling in furry promise, and lilacs pertly tipped with green; Crocus tommasinianus have appeared where there were none. Acer griseum and white-barked birches stand bold, in full knowledge that their spare charms will soon be overwhelmed with spring. Time has passed while I was not looking.

So as the season creeps forward - and faster it does, when ignored - I am looking back, with a kind of regret. The thing is, that although gardens are considered 'off peak' in winter, there is often no better time to see them. This is the point where they show their true colours and strengths.

As a visitor, you can read their geometry and detail without interruption. Enjoyably crisp angles. Reflections in shape or in…
Recent posts

Metamorphosis

Writing a book is often likened to having a baby. And with some justification. There is the giddy conception and whirlwind of excitement, then the warm glow of a contract signed. It then the process starts to lag and become heavier; sweetmeats are deployed to maintain performance – pregnancy, like literature, is an endurance sport.
Finally, fat and fecund with promise the manuscript is delivered to the publisher, for supervision and medical intervention if necessary. And, finally, the screaming and anguish suddenly stops.

And here is where the process differs. After months of to-ing and fro-ing, deliberations about nuanced argument and tone of voice, followed by concerns about stacking words in a column and balanced captions, it is confiscated. They just take it away.
To put it another way, it is like watching caterpillars. They eat and eat and eat and get bigger and bigger – then change. Stop. Hang upside down doing nothing. And there is nothing to do but wait.

The process of metam…

A Problem of Packaging

What I have learned today is that budget archive boxes are a false economy. Any saving is squandered on parcel tape to wrap the miserable container to the point where it resembles the misshapen prey of a filing-obsessed spider.

The full box bulged and warped as I wrestled. It repeatedly burst open at the top and disgorged slithering contents. It mocked me with torn handles and strained joints (those of the box rather than my own). I fought back, suppressing an uprising of RHS Chelsea catalogues, a stampede of assorted articles and the subtle exit of  book reviews, all destined to be consigned to the cupboard.

And it dawned on me that this is not a problem I have had before. Filing is not exactly second nature, but I have never before had to quell an actual mutiny of both packaging and subject matter.

But then, as the back catalogue becomes more extensive, more bulky and weighty then surely it must become more potent too. Libraries are powerful places. History, knowledge, the fact and fo…

On The Road

Back in the dim and distant mists of time, when dinosaurs roamed the land and pterodactyls were frequent bird table visitors, I spent an enjoyable few years managing rock bands.
There were headline gigs, support gigs. Mainstream venues and pubs. In some places the PA was state of the art, in others you thanked your stars for the decent size amp in the back of the van. Some nights the crowd was ecstatic. Others, the bar man, his dog and a couple of regulars would sit there, nodding and comparing the band to musicians that had died before the lead singer was born. Occasionally people listened to the first thirty seconds, got bored and went off to get drunk and find someone to sleep with. So it goes.
I have just finished a modestly epic tour of the land, promoting The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops. And, as I pull myself vertical, brush off the debris and straighten out again, there are some clear parallels.
The ambition of course is always to dive onto the stage to screaming applause…

Dear Galanthophil....

A letter to my snowdrop-loving friends, after E. A. Bowles;
My Dear Galanthophil*,
I am writing to you in some excitement: my book, The Plant Lover’s Guide to Snowdrops is finally released in the UK.
By now you may even have a copy, in which case I hope you are enjoying it. There are, as you know, different sorts of books on Galanthus: The terribly serious academic ones, the terribly gorgeous arty ones, and mine. So what’s it all about? Well may you ask.
As a lover of snowdrops since childhood, I was thrilled to be approached by Timber Press to contribute to their new Plant Lover’s Guides series. But this is a plant we all know so well; what could be new and different, what could I do that was reasonably comprehensive but also engaging and fun? My first point of reference was the idea of ‘love’.
People love for many reasons. The object may be beautiful or it may bestow hope and strength. There may be happy associations with times past or times present. There may be the lust of ownership a…

Scissors Paper Stone

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about municipal planting and garden design in public spaces. It is an opportunity to bring style, excitement or just a bit of beauty to the masses; and one that is usually left to languish in unkempt evergreen scrub.
This is somewhere that a little planning and creativity could reap dividends, but the norm is either uninspired, high maintenance and wasteful, or both.
Just up the road from me is a long curved flowerbed in a small public garden adjacent to a roundabout. It used to be fun, it really did. When I first met it, someone had put in some thought and the late summer display looked so good in a soft morning mist that I went home and came back with a camera.
It wasn’t a challenging or intellectual display, the plants are all quite ordinary but it had a cheerful flair and pizzazz. And then they dug the whole lot up a fortnight later to put in spring bulbs.*
Since then I have observed that that an astonishing amount of money seems to be spent on …

The Great Snowdrop Experiment*

It may or may not be common knowledge that I have a book out this year. It is on snowdrops**, for which I have a lifelong love and appreciation. This is clearly not the same thing as having a humungeous collection of rarities. If you want such a thing, go and talk to my friend Joe Sharman. Where that is concerned, he's the boy.   
As it happens, I have, numerically, lots of snowdrops - they are parked in a corner and there are more each year. They are mostly variations of common nivalis, including a few that I have selected ‘to watch’ but they are not what you would call posh. The fancy snowdrop collection is increasing cheerfully and enthusiastically but, until recently, has been kept intentionally fairly modest and realistically more hardy than fancy, depending on how high your standards are ***.
Anyway, while writing, two things came up time and again – firstly that one should always buy snowdrops from a reputable source so you know what they are and that they are healthy, an…