ways to bee nice and messy

Don’t fret if you don’t see honey bees in your yard.
According to this piece by Eric Atkins, there are dozens of other kinds.

All are important. All are pollinators.
And they want to live in the messy bits of your garden.
So make sure you have a few messy bits.

DSC05913Piles of rocks and sticks.

Also a fairie beach does not go amiss…

General rule of thumb appears to be this:  don’t over-rake, over-prune or anally tidy every last bit of the outdoors.

If you must be anal, you can always go inside and clean your house.
As for those honeybees…seems we ought not to become amateur bee keepers as we risk doing more harm than good in spreading disease and parasites.
In other words: leave beekeeping to the pros.
And create friendly environments instead  for all those OTHER bees, i.e. leafcutters, bumblebees, sweaters and miners.

Bonus:  because the natural world is naturally diverse, to allow a bit of the ‘natural’ will result in fewer bad bug infestations.


—when buying plants and seeds, check with the grower  or nursery about use of neonicotinoids. More and more growers are choosing not to use them, but only because more and more people are asking questions and raising a fuss.
Ask questions.

Raise a fuss.
The bees will thank you.
And we’ll continue thanking the bees.
As we should.

Without them we’re pretty much landscaped toast.


i’m nobody’s gardener

I don’t garden.DSC02839I plant things and do what I can to keep the weeds at bay. DSC02844But the weeds usually win.
DSC02848I used to care. Used to fret about weeds winning. It used to be that I couldn’t sit on the patio after working for hours in the garden, fretting and fussing and weeding, couldn’t sit down at last and just say, “Well, that looks good.”
DSC02849Because I’d notice something askew. Or how the tall blue things were in front of the short yellow things.DSC02850I used to care that delphiniums fell over in the rain.DSC02851Then one day I got rid of the delphiniums.DSC02853And anything else that was a bit precious. Or incapable of weathering the weather.DSC02854The yard became less garden and more Place Where Things Grow or Don’t Grow; It’s Up To Them.DSC02857Oh, what a happy day when I stopped being a gardener and started being someone who could sit on the patio at the end of the day and say, well isn’t that a lovely sight.
DSC02858Without fretting about colour combinations and bloom time and height and things keeling over untidily.DSC02861Untidy is hardly noticeable in my ungardenly garden. DSC02862So if things are lovely, it has nothing to do with me.
DSC02845After I stopped being a gardener, I sat on the patio one night and said out loud, “Well, doesn’t everything look wonderful”, and a young girl who was on the patio with me said what a funny thing for an adult to say. “Usually adults complain about things,” she said.DSC02846So true.

Because we think we’re in charge.

memory scents


Only takes a wee whiff.



A farm with a huge lavender garden. Me cycling over to pinch a few sprigs and tuck them into books and things all over my room. The farm was down the road from a shop, down a hill that was foggy most mornings. The streets were cobbled and there was a field across which I cycled to town, one time passing an elderly man who I’d heard had recently lost his mum. I stopped and said how sorry I was and he said, hardly missing a beat, “Well, it comes to us all.” I’ve thought of him often over the decades, never more so than when my own mum died.

I remember brambles and roundabouts and orange Squash at room temperature, the cream at the top of those bottles of milk on the doorstep and how fresh garlic was impossible to find (you’d be lucky to even score a jar of the ‘prepared’ stuff in the tiny ‘foreign’ section of Waitrose where the pasta was also hidden).

I remember women on the High Street with their carrier bags and baskets and everyone—really everyone—saying hello to one another. All ages too, if only by virtue of the slightest nod of acknowledgement. One time, getting back on my bike outside the Waitrose, two young boys — teeny boppers — smiled and held out a couple of weedy flowers they’d picked from between cracks in the pavement. There was an ad on TV around that time where the guy does exactly that and hands them to a girl on the street and says Impulse? which was the name of the product being advertised, a body mist. Well, the lads played this scene out with such style and giant grins, that I happily took the flowers and pedaled away, smiling too. I was in my mid-twenties then, a veritable matron, so it was in no way a come on, more like a kind of appreciation from a respectful distance, with elements of a sweet lark that I’m not sure exists anymore among young’uns… though I hope it does. Too wonderful a thing to lose.

when a tree falls…


There are no pictures.

Well, yes, there are, actually, pictures. The morning before we cut down the ancient juniper, I took a few. They’re not great—not meant to be great—and say far less than the expected thousand words. They certainly don’t say that the tree and I spent the better part of twenty years together.

It was already here when we moved in. Already quite mature with a slight tilt, which, a few years later, turned into a near fatal lean that required the installation of a serious rope and pulley system to keep it from keeling right over. The system worked well, but as the tree grew it continued to totter ever more precariously. Eventually branches began to sag and turn brown and the whole thing just seemed to be struggling.

It might even have been considered an eyesore.

Though not by us.

Its only real flaw in our view was the increasing potential for a squashed Mr. Reilly, the neighbour’s furry new addition, who likes to play with his chew toys on the lawn in almost the exact spot the behemoth juniper would land if the rope ever gave way.

The truth is it should have come down years ago.

But what year?

Not the one the cardinals had a nest there. And not the one when the blue jays did. And not in winter when robins [who for some reason no longer fly south] swarm the tree for its berries, which is interesting because there’s no other time I can recall seeing robins do anything en masse. The serviceberries are devoured by one bird at a time. Worms too… one, maybe two robins at the most, wait while I dig over the vegetable bed. No swarms.

But in winter, maybe because there’s less food to choose from and they don’t trust each other to share, or maybe because the berries, when fermented in their bellies make a fine schnapps… they arrive at the juniper tree by the dozens. Thirty, forty birds, easily, at times.

I’ve never captured it on film. You’ll have to trust me.

So now it’s gone. I didn’t watch the sawing. I took pictures and said goodbye and thank you and hey, remember all those crazy robins… good times, eh?  And then I went inside and pickled some peppers and made zucchini soup.

I’m glad they left the stump. There was some talk of renting a stump grinder. I counted the rings. Thirty five. Google tells me this is admirable for a tree of its kind.

In a different world, a wilder one, for instance, in a house surrounded by woods or fields, not neighbours, I would have left this tree to die a natural death, to continue keeping the robins drunk and happy all winter, to be the ancestral home to many more feathery generations, to keel over whenever it bloody well pleased, knowing that wildlife is clever enough to get out of the way.

As it is, I miss the view of its gnarly branches from my window. We’ve planted new junipers in its place, smaller ones, young and cute and strong and straight, but as yet, without character. The birds fly right past. I wouldn’t blame them if they stopped and lodged a complaint… but they’re already adapting to the new landscape. And so, I guess, will I.

bucket list

Creeping Charlie
Garlic Mustard
Over-exuberant vines
Dead-headed daisies
Various other clippings
And one especially nasty ground cover that’s trying to take over the world
—and thinks it’s fooling everybody with its lovely purple blooms

So… what’s in your bucket?

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