Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Lake Isle of Innisfree Garden

Bloom


The Yeats garden I designed for Bloom was based on his poem 'The Lake Isle of Innifree'.
It had to be. It is, possibly, WB's best known poem, but more importantly, it's the only one about a garden.

To be brutally honest, I don't think Yeats was much of a gardener.
Maybe I'm wrong, but he strikes me as being someone who thought great thoughts and spent a good bit of time shaping them into miraculous poetry, yet somehow I don't see him doing all of that with a hoe in one hand. I reckon that the pen was mightier than the trowel in his case.I see him as being a bit like Wordsworth, in love with the concept of nature, but not getting so close up and personal that he got stung by the nettles too often.

A hive for the honey bee. An original 1890s CDB's hive, lent for the garden



If I'm totally honest, The Lake Isle was never one of my favourite poems, (especially, at the risk of being sacrilegious, when read by the poet himself), but I have to say, that all changed. Working so intensively on the garden for months on end, I found the lines going through my head endlessly, the words repeating and repeating as I planned and dug and planted.
It drew me in, and as I slowly brought it to life, I found myself loving the poem more and more.


I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.


I loved too that this had never been a real garden, so I was free to peek inside the poet's head and create what I saw there - his imagined, secret hideaway on an island in Lough Gill. It made the whole process even more vital that Yeats had written the poem when he was 25 and neither rich nor famous, just a young man living in smoggy London, dreaming of Sligo, the place he called 'the land of heart's desire'. He wrote it the same year that he met and fell in love with Maud Gonne, a love that remained unrequited his whole life.

Nik's mural of Maud Gonne in Sligo. Pic: Internet (Maeve O'Beirne)


I suppose at some level I knew how Yeats felt, because I also lived in London when I was 25, and often dreamed of Ireland's wonderful west coast, the In-Charge's second home. In those days, we spent many holidays here with his parents, and even the dogs sulked when we got back to London, after days on endless beaches, or running free in wild, unspoilt countryside.

Back then, we used to pootle out to Innisfree in my father-in-law's little boat. We'd pack a picnic, the fishing rods and numerous dogs into the boat and head off for the day, stopping on the tiny island to stretch our legs and boil up the 'volcano' to make tea. It was - is - just a small hump in the lake, covered in stunted trees and undergrowth, with a tiny beach on one side, but with all the appeal that miniature things have. 

Pic: Internet  Kelly's Kettles


I designed the garden with the lake in the background, not the foreground. I wanted viewers to feel that they were there, in the garden on Innisfree with Yeats, so I commissioned Nik Purdy, that incredibly talented man, to paint a mural that would curve around the back corner of the garden, to create a view across the lake to Sligo's iconic Benbulben. To create a feeling of distance, remoteness, even a touch of infinity, I suppose.

I'd put a small stretch of water in front of the mural, and the two elements worked together really well, largely because Nik did such a great job, and partly because Famous Seamus's two lads also did a great job - they spent an endless afternoon sticking reeds into pots of cement to put into the lake. You can't have a lake in Sligo without reeds...


Nik with Sligo's iconic Benbulben




It was 60 feet long, the mural and was painted by hand on 15 8'x4' (2.44 x 1.22m) aluminium coated panels. He had, remarkably, painted it off-site - an unexpected complication that caused me (and possibly Nik) sleepless nights, wondering if the painting and 'the lake' itself would work together. But for various reasons (weather, paint toxicity and more), there was no choice.
 In fact he did such a great job that, just after it had been erected in the garden, two women walked by, and one said to the other: 'Goodness, did you see that painting?'
The other one replied: 'Don't be ridiculous, no one could have painted that!'
I suppose she thought it was a nattily reproduced photograph!


60 feet is a lot of mural



The day after we put the lake in, a duck came to visit, which was wonderful.
Seamus, aka The Bear, sent me a photo that he'd taken on his phone.
Even more, I loved the wren, the robin, the great tit and the blackbird who all moved into the garden as we were building. The wren would sit in the beech tree and sing very loudly every day, while the robin followed me round, waiting for the grubs and beetles that were turned over as I dug.




But best of all was the great tit.
My favourite place in the garden was the tiny path that wound down to the lake shore. There were willows planted on either side, that formed a kind of archway over the path, and the birds would sit in the willows close to the water.
One day, when I was standing in the garden with Gary, one of Bloom's official photographers, the tit appeared on his usual branch. A moment later, he ducked down into the shallow water at the edge of the path and had a thorough bath. It was wonderful to watch.
A sort of seal of approval I suppose.

Gary O'Neill's photograph
 Gary O'Neill, photographer



My favourite part of the garden. Photo: Doris Rabe










Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Pudding Row Posies




It's Wednesday today. My elder brother's birthday, as it happens, but closer to home, it is Flower Day.
A lovely girl - a contemporary of my two sons - has returned to the area and opened a café in the village. It is delightfully called Pudding Row and, although I have not yet sampled any puddings, her bread and jam - both homemade - are dangerously good. We dropped in late one afternoon and she had sold out of cake (and pudding), but offered us some toast instead.

She contacted me several months ago, to ask if I would supply her with little table posies from the garden.
She got, poor girl, short shrift at the time.
'Yes,' I said vaguely. 'No problem', and promptly forgot about it. I was in Dublin, building the show garden for Bloom.

However, when I finally got back home, I did get my act together, and on Wednesday mornings I take little jugs of flowers to adorn her tables.



Because they need to last until Sunday evening, when she closes for two (much needed) days off, I don't pick them them night before.
But most Wednesdays this summer, I have been out picking in the rain, so this morning's sunshine made a welcome change, although I still needed wellies as everything is permanently soaked.

The rain has played wily beguiled with my garden this year. And in my absence, my garden has played puck with me. It is a sorry mess. The weeds are running riot, none of the early perennials have been cut back, and all the worst imaginable seed heads are wafting where they will.
The endless rain means I can rarely get out to call it to order.
The only - small - consolation is that, because it's such a cold, wet summer, lots of plants are still blooming that would generally be over and done with by now, so I haven't missed out as I might have done.





This Year's Weed is the minor rose bay willow herb. Minor is probably not its official title, but I've had enough official titles to last me a good while this year. You have to submit a complete plant list to the judges at Bloom, and, not having given the judging end of Bloom a thought, I planted quite wantonly, so mine ran to six pages. In Latin.
And inevitably, the final list was compiled at midnight the night before submission.
So I'm quite happy to go with any old handle at the moment, and 'minor' will do just fine.

Whatever it calls itself, it is everywhere.

When I was a child, I thought to myself: 'One day I shall have four children, and I will call them Rose, Bay, Willow and Herb.'
Yes, well...
It looks like that has come back to bite me on the bum.
Still, it could be worse. At least they pull out easily. If the sun only shone a bit more often, I might have a chance to get out there to pull them! 





The bees are not happy. Our bee man told me they are starving to death in all this rain, and has had to feed them emergency supplies to keep them going. But happily, my soaking garden is full of birds and frogs. Wherever you move, something leaps.
They are totally invisible in the dense jungle that has taken over, but I hope they are eating morning, noon and night. A rainy summer is a slug's idea of paradise, but a surfeit of slugs is probably an endless cream tea for a frog or a bird.
Yum yum. Pudding Row all round!

Bine's wonderful photo of a frog wallowing in our pond



Saturday, 15 August 2015

Swanning Off to Meet Princes

It's August. It's pouring with rain and I'm not doing the things I should be doing.
Instead I've logged onto my blog, although I almost can't remember how...
I haven't been here since May. Time closed in on me back then, and swallowed me up.
I'm still trying to burrow out.

But it's been an exciting few months, and I'd like to try and catch up, if I can.
Never go back, they say.
There may be something in that.


When I last posted - on 14 May - I was working long, long days with Seamus (aka The Bear) and his team on the garden at Bloom, and living in a manky B&B in Dublin. Days and dates had ceased to have any meaning, as we were simply on a countdown and worked 24/7, on-site in a hole, off-site on a computer/phone.
Except on 19th.
On 19th May I climbed into my dinky little red Micra and tootled off to Galway to present a rose to Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.


The WB Yeats rose. Alas, it's not photogenic. It's not bright scarlet - it's a darker, velvety red.



Somehow, I haven't mentioned the rose, but it's been the other Major Event in my life this year.
It's a brand new, very gorgeous, rich red, velvety rose that is being named WB Yeats as part of Yeats2015.
A very exciting project, but for my sins, I am the person responsible for trying to make it happen.
That would be fine if it was just a straightforward launch,but this rose is being funded by donation, so that means you, me, the guy who fixes the roof and the woman who hands over your latte every morning.
Or at least, that's the idea, but it seems to be down to me to ask them all to contribute.
To be honest, either Bloom or the Rose would have been enough for one year!

Still not being photogenic. Still not revealing its true colours. The deep red and the gold stamens are actually stunning.


Senator Susan O'Keeffe (the genius behind Yeats2015 and all that goes with it, including the WB Yeats rose) was waiting for me at Galway University, the starting point for HRH's Irish visit.
I drove up to the main gate, to the horror of the phalanx of Gardai whose job it was to keep people out, but they were very helpful once they realised that no one - not even they - could have carried two large rose shrubs from the appointed cathedral car park.

Susan and I then had to convince the woman in charge of the event that the roses were expected, had been cleared - indeed, had been facilitated at the highest level by the British Ambassador; that they had passed through her own security system and that despite her personal reservations, we did intend to present them to the Prince.
She wasn't happy.
But you can't please everyone.

The royal couple arrived in a heavy shower of hail - not the warmest of Irish welcomes, but what can you do? The people were thrilled to see them.
They made their way slowly through the quad, meeting and greeting.
When it was my turn, Prince Charles shook my hand and enquired politely if I was also with the college, but, not being much good at formal handshakes, I grabbed him by both elbows, beamed and replied, 'No! I'm here to give you a rose!'
He gave a great laugh. 'Things are looking up!' he said.



I met him again when we'd all moved inside. He was very interested to hear about the new WB Yeats rose.
He also commented on the jacket I was wearing - a most unexpected compliment from someone whose sartorial elegance is renowned, especially as I have no pretensions in that direction whatsoever.
When we finally went up to make our presentations (Susan gave them a beautiful, hand-printed book of Yeats poems), they were both warm, chatty and quite delightful. The rose was a gift for their brand new grandchild, Princess Charlotte, but I told the Duchess that I'd given their security team a second rose to take home to Highgrove, and she seemed genuinely touched. We talked about Prince Charles' love of plants, and she said she was sorry they wouldn't be in Ireland for Bloom, as she would have liked to see my Yeats show garden.

When I got back to Dublin, Seamus roundly told me off for being away - the build-schedule didn't allow for swanning off to meet Princes was, as I recall, the burden of his reproof.
I grinned. 'Yes, Bear,' I replied in suitably chastened tones. 'No Bear. Three bags full, Bear.'
His lips twitched. 'But a day and a half!' he said.
'Well, I had to go to the hairdresser - if you'd seen the bathroom at my B&B you'd understand, and it was 10 hours driving, what with the Micra, and having to go via Sligo to collect the roses, and there was a lot of hanging around...And anyway, it was the very first WB Yeats rose ever - being presented to the Prince of Wales!'
'You and your bloody rose,' he said. He pulled €50 out of his pocket. 'Here, that's from me and the lads.'
Bless him, what a lamb. I mean, a bear. A lamb-bear. A bear-lamb.
Well, bless him anyway.
'Now, get on with your garden, woman!' he said.
Yes, Bear. (But I wouldn't have missed meeting them for anything.)


Thursday, 14 May 2015

The Park is Blooming

Bloom 9

I know it seems ridiculous, but I haven't had time to think since I last wrote anything here.
The days have telescoped into one long Bloom-bound roller coaster.
It's exhausting - but fun.

I'm actually living up in Dublin now, in a B&B just outside the gates of Phoenix Park.
I may never go home again. I have fallen totally in love with the park
It is a pleasure, going to work - driving past the great green spaces, the deer, the dog walkers, the runners and cyclists, past the huge chestnut trees all laden with candles,
The chestnut trees at home are miniature by comparison, and rarely have the luxury of so many flowers. One side of the tree might have a sprinkling, but even then the wind will find a way to snake around and bludgeon them to death.

Wonderful Phoenix Park






It's hard to believe that we've already had well over a week of building time.
Where did it go?
Yet already it seems aeons ago that I sat and looked at a bare, waterlogged mess thinking: 'This is it. Oh ye gods and little fishes - what have I done?'


This is how it all begins. One site. Water free. Grass temporary. Mud permanent






9 days later, the whole place is transformed. It's still heaving with heavy machinery, more people come on site every day, deliveries arrive constantly, everyone is borrowing this digger, that tape, a bit of space for trees that have just arrived, a barrow-load of sand, a dozen blocks...
It is all chaotic, yet out of the mess and mud and mêlée, gardens are emerging. And despite the din of cement mixers and heavy engines, you can always hear laughter and birds singing.

If you've read any of my other posts about Bloom, you may remember that I was upside down trying to decide which contractor I should appoint. I went for Seamus in the end. Not an easy decision, but it felt right.
Well, it's good to trust your instincts. Seamus is fantastic.
He has that ability - rare enough, I find - to make you sigh with relief  and know that the grown-ups have arrived whenever he turns up. I say 'turns up', but in fact he's generally the first person on the site in the morning and quite often the last to leave. 
And he knows exactly what he's doing, although at one point, I did wonder. 
He levelled out the site, gave me a spray can and told me to mark out the garden. With Glenn's help, I laboriously measured out a grid, counted this way and that, consulted my plan, um-ed and ah-ed and finally committed my design to the ground. Seamus turned up, glanced around, climbed onto a digger and immediately ploughed it all up. 
'That was a useful hour we spent,' I said to Glenn. He laughed.
But, what-da-ya-know! When he'd finished digging, shaping and levelling, Seamus was only a few inches out in one place.
I don't know why I'm saying nice things about him - he laughs at me, teases me mercilessly and is still promising that we'll have a row before opening day.
But he's a gas and the first person I'd go if I wanted advice.



Seamus glanced at the site plan and immediately trashed it


All my plants are landing in from distant Sligo.
Friends have brought up van-loads, and Sligo Haulage kindly came to the rescue and brought all the trees for me. What stars people are! 
We wrapped the trees in cling film (well, pallet wrap) and packed them lying down into a 30 foot rigid. I didn't look too closely - I didn't dare. My heart might have fallen out of my mouth.
But they are all fine. Seamus tells me it's how they come in from Italy. (Of course, what he carefully didn't mention is that the ones coming in from Italy are in opulent, sun-nourished leaf, whereas my Sligo-raised trees are brow-beaten and redolent of a cold spring!)



Sligo Haulage brought the trees - wrapped in cling film


Sligo, as well as being distinctly un-sun-kissed, isn't as far as Italy, but it seems a long way off at the moment.
I went back at the weekend, after a hectic day of planting said trees.
'We'll get them in and send you home to your husband and your dogs,' Seamus said. He also said: 'We'll move them around until you're happy with how they look.'
Liar. 
We moved one awkward willow from location A to location B, after which he said, 'That's it! You've used your 'move a tree' card! Get on with it, woman!'
It was accompanied, as most things are, with an infectious laugh. 
I like people who laugh.

It seemed a long way home at the end of the day. 
Lucy's friend, Vincent has sweetly lent me a little runaround as no one was able to loan me a van for Bloom. He was very hesitant, and seemed to think I might not want it, but I'm thrilled to bits. Lucy has dubbed it my  'little sporty number'. It's surprisingly roomy, drives itself and knows the way back to Sligo.
It doesn't know it's way round Dublin though. We got lost, and neither of us knew which way to go. But we're safe in the Park. There are walls at the edges that hold us in. 
But finding the way home was easy. I fell into bed and slept like the proverbial baby, but there was plenty to fill my 36 hours there too - catching up with the artists whose pieces are part of the garden, with the never-ending barrage of emails, with the lists of lists of things I still haven't done, with transport to be sorted, plants to be cossetted, blankets to be sourced for packing a mural...
I ended up singing aloud in the car on the way back to Dublin to stop myself falling asleep. (It works!)


The sporty little number that Vincent has lent me. I love her.


So here we are at Day 9. Nearly Day 10.
Yeats' cabin has been built by the wonderful Niall Millar, his wife Brenda and their friend Joe McGowan. It looks just dinky and I'd really like to keep it as it is - simply 'wattled', but daubed it will be - lightly, in a home-made, inexpert, rough and ready sort of way. The way a young guy would do it if he'd never done it before and (let's be honest) if he'd got a bit fed up with daubing when he'd really rather be sitting by the lake writing poetry and enjoying the view.


Niall, Brenda and Joe building Yeats' cabin



Still lots to do.
Lots to plant. Stuff to somehow be got from Sligo. Stuff to somehow be got...
The Somme-like mud has dried up. Let's hope it doesn't return.
Thank goodness Saffy and Sarah are coming up on Friday to help me plant.
Otherwise I'd probably slip behind with the schedule. 
Heaven forbid. 
Seamus and I might fall out and have a row.




Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Problems and Wheelie Big Problems

BLOOM 8




It is wonderful in the woods these mornings.
We go early, so the sun is still slanting sideways through the fresh new leaves.
The first bluebells are just starting to open. They are late this year, but magically beautiful, as always.




They aren't the only new things appearing in the woods. There are birds everywhere.
All the way up the road seagulls were mewling above us, high in the pale sky, and a pair of herons were lazily circling over the river when we arrived. They nest in the trees just by the water's edge so perhaps they were looking for an adequate breakfast for a growing family.
Further up the path SuperModel disturbed a pair of pheasant who flew out of the undergrowth, croaking in alarm. The male flew off (no comment), but the female stood her ground on the path, hesitant but defensive. I called SuperModel away - I expect the hen was worrying about chicks somewhere nearby.

I found myself worrying too as we stepped smartly along the well-worn track.
I still haven't got any wheels for Dublin. I've asked several motor companies, so I hope the latest one will come up trumps. At home, we only have the Silver Beast - that treacherous jade - and while she and I could happily set off for Dublin together (with who knows what little breakdowns tucked up her sleeve!), I can't leave the In-Charge stranded for a month with just a dodgy bicycle to get to Sligo on - it's 30 miles, and he has finals looming! I have the promise of a vehicle for a week, which is wonderful and generous, but I really need the whole month sorted before I set out at the start of May.

However, the best antidote for worry is a bigger worry. My personal wheels pale to insignificance compared with the problem of transporting the contents of the garden from Sligo to Dublin.
In one piece, so to speak.
The trees get bigger and bigger in my mind's eye.
The soft planting gets softer and more fragile.
It all gets heavier and heavier.
I don't think the bicycle is going to cut the mustard.

Well, I've been putting it out there - some serious haulage sponsorship is what's needed. Fingers, toes and eyes crossed something will come back to me soon!

On the way home, I took the dogs down to the little beach in the woods to have a splash and a drink, but as I approached the river I saw a mother duck lazily paddling through a pool of sunlight, a tight cluster of ducklings nestled around her.
I wanted to stop and look - enjoy the lovely morning of their lives, but I didn't dare.
SuperModel probably likes ducklings, and she doesn't have any at home. My hard-won victory over the hens ('Family, NOT food! Family NOT food!') would probably have disappeared like mist in the sun. Family is, after all, only found on one's own property!
I ran in the opposite direction, yelling 'Sweeties!' and waving dog treats in the air.
It never fails.

Some problems are easier to solve than others.
The ducklings are, I daresay, still sunbathing on the water.
Whereas my wheels - large and small - are sunbathing in some location as yet unknown to me.

The Kansan near my back door cheered me up a good bit, though.
It's also a bit late - but everything comes at the right time.
Hopefully even wheels.






Saturday, 11 April 2015

The Week

BLOOM 7

Where do the weeks go?

The hours have been turned into minutes, the days into blips.
My life has been hijacked by a ravenous time-eating Bloom-machine.
Somehow, it's almost Sunday again.
But, before I go into another tail-spin, I need to remind myself that I have achieved a good bit in this whirlwind week.

Last Sunday was Easter Day. I worked all day, paperwork - planting - paperwork - planting. At least the sun shone and it was balmy and spring-like, and we did stop in the evening. My friend DodoWoman had invited us for supper. It was delicious - and wonderful to switch off for a few hours.

Monday was,  of course, a bank holiday. Officially that is - there are no bank holidays in this house at the moment, nor will there be for the foreseeable future!
The sun shone as we piled the dogs into the car, hitched on the little trailer and headed out.
Not on a glorious picnic, but plant-hunting.


Eddie Walsh, the owner of Lissadell House, had kindly invited me to go and dig up some of the candelabra primulas that were bred there over a hundred years ago. I'd asked him if I could - they will be a perfect addition to my Yeats garden.
It couldn't have been a nicer day and the Model Dogs were thrilled to be going on an adventure.
(Rather meanly, we hadn't shown them the leads, forks or gardening gloves.) 


The sea at Lissadell


King's Mountain behind the beach at Lissadell. SuperModel chasing the seagulls

The ModelDogs practising good behaviour





Happy Days!
It was heaven at Lissadell. The sun shone and the sea sparkled like molten silver through the bare trees.
The Models gambolled on the beach (you have to gambol in Spring) and lay in the sea, and grinned inanely, but all too soon they were on their leads being told to behave themselves as Eddie and Constance welcomed us, and took us to the primula-dotted woods. Thank heavens - moments later, a couple of deer went running through the trees and Model Dog nearly took my hand off at the wrist as she leapt to the chase - she is a deer-hound cross, after all. I just managed to hang on to her and (to their chagrin) they both stayed on leads while I dug.

We took lots of photos while we were at it. The In-Charge is going to draw the house, with iconic Benbulben to one side, to make a print for my Yeats garden. Yeats and Lissadell are a bit like strawberries and cream, they kind of go together.

Lissadell and Benbulben (and SuperModel, of course)



But we didn't linger very long - we had more calls to make, so we bundled the Models and my two buckets of primulas back into the car, and headed off to Brendan's garden.
What was left of Brendan's garden that is.
The dear man has dug most of it up for me, and plants in every container known to man (and several heretofore unknown) confronted me inside his gates. I knew at first glance that our small trailer wasn't going to cut the mustard with that lot, and in any case, Brendan wasn't there.

After watering a few things that weren't sure if they were enjoying the heatwave or not, we headed off to Nazareth House to fill the trailer with dead leaves.
They must have thought I was balmy when I asked if it was OK. I mean, who waltzes in and offers to sweep up your dead leaves and take them away?
We used our tarpaulin like a giant bag, filled the trailer and headed home.
By then, the Models had forgotten the beach at Lissadell and were less than impressed with their day out.


The silent road to Dublin







On Wednesday, we rose in the dark and headed out into a world devoid of sound and people.
It was cold in the blue of the morning. Fog drifted like milky smoke in the fields, turning dawn into a mystical sacrament, the sun a distant red god veiled in the sky, the bare trees spreading their arms in hushed worship.
We passed unseen through their morning ritual.






Three hours later, when we got to Dublin, it was just another busy day, our dawn flight faded with the mist.
I spent the day at Bord Bia, meeting other garden designers; the People who Make Bloom Happen; the Health and Safety officers; the PR team; the tea ladies...
It was a good day - tiring but very informative. They were all human, and nice, enthusiastic and helpful. It made my project seem - paradoxically - more manageable but also more terrifying. It was good to meet people for whom this is challenging but routine, but it also reinforced the ticking clock deadlines, the reality of having to translate my vision into a spectacle for many, many eyes.
We drove home watching the sun - back to a deep, fiery red ball - falling through a milky, misting sky. In the real, real world, nothing had changed. The day had just been handful of insubstantial hours.

Friday was the launch of the Yeats Day celebrations.
I was invited to go and mix with the great and the good, and afterwards I had lunch with Lucy.

Later we inspected my beech tree which had been delivered to her yard in our absence. We stood and looked at it in dismay. It was not what either of us was expecting, and it certainly was not going to fit the bill.
One of her chaps joined us, on his way home for the weekend. The two of them stood looking at it, comparing it with several beeches they had planted in the last while.
Minutes later I found myself being taken to look at some of those vastly superior specimens.
'Shall we?' said Lucy.
'We could,' he replied.
The two other lads, who'd just gone home were called back. The digger was dug out of the shed, the truck was brought to the site. Within what seemed like minutes a tree had been lifted from the ground, my poor, unsuitable and unloved specimen had been put into the hole (where it can quietly grow into itself) and the new tree was being loaded onto the truck.


Lucy and her team


And, bless them all, instead of going home, they then drove it, and the other few trees that had arrived that morning, out to Jack's and spent I don't know how long potting them up.
Some people are just totally wonderful.

Whiskey time again.
Wholly inadequate.
Again.

And today is Saturday. The week has turned full circle faster than light.
On Saturdays, lots of people chill out, watch sport, put their feet up.
That would be nice. Not the sport, but the feet up bit.
But Brendan's garden was calling and - yet again - Jack came up trumps.
With his trailer and Dutch trolleys, he drove me out to Calry where Brendan was waiting, bless him.
Sunshine, hail and a chilly breeze notwithstanding, we loaded - and loaded - and loaded.
Now Brendan's garden is in my yard, all six trolleys-full, not to mention bags, trays, tubs, fridge doors (he's an inventive chap, Brendan), buckets and basins.


Jack, the ModelDogs and Brendan's garden 




I call it 'my garden at Bloom'.
It isn't my garden at all.
It is a garden being created by a tireless, amazing, generous team of fabulous people.
(And two dogs.)



.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Morning After

BLOOM 6


 



It's amazing what a good night's sleep can do for you.
Sleep has been a bit here-and-there-ian, a fickle bedfellow recently.
While tiredness, inevitably, has been a Siamese twin.
Is it not ever thus?
However, this morning I feel as fresh as a daisy, as my mother used to say.

I suppose there is truth in the old adage. Not about daisies - but about the enemy you know being less fearful than the one you don't.
The trees for my Yeats garden at Bloom have certainly been a foe beyond the gates - but, in tree terms, this was the week that was. Bad enough for me, but I don't even want to think about how it's been for Jack.
Jack, as you may recall, has put his shoulder to the Bloom-wheel and now also goes under the alternative title of 'My Hero'.
He spent last week, in gales, rain, mizzle and more gales, gouging, slinging and lifting trees out of the ground, into pots, out of pots, to this location, to that location and generally getting soaked, re-soaked and beyond frazzled.
All - I am reliably informed - without losing it.
Some trick.

As you can probably tell, I wasn't there.
I wasn't idle last week - I'm feeling the need to justify myself here, I just put in my hours elsewhere. My only contribution to the Tree Operation was sleepless nights.
A futile offering indeed.
Yesterday, I drove down to Jack's armed with a bottle of good whiskey.
It seemed wholly, woefully inadequate.

The deep trenches gouged in the verge of his laneway told their own sorry tale of overburdened vehicles in-coming.
We reviewed the trees in minute detail. They are all on drips in his Intensive Care Ward, as he calls it, and no patient in any ward has either been better cared for or had a more probing doctor's round than ours.
They are all in one place, they are enormous and they look great - but, admittedly, it is a bit early to say. They might still suffer from fatal arrests and turn up their muddy toes. I hope not. I feel bad enough wrenching them from their cosy, unremarkable homes.
Or rather, having them wrenched.

I came home and spent the rest of the afternoon with a tape measure and a bag of flour in the orchard.

The In-Charge, at my request, had cordoned off a plot the size of the garden at Bloom. I need to get a feel for the reality of it, trees and all.
The hens thought it was a terrific new game, and followed on my heels like the birds in Hansel and Gretel, but eventually even they got bored with eating it - white, self-raising wouldn't be high on their list.
The trees are big, there's no doubt about it, but they need to be. They need to look mature, like they've always been there.
I still have flutters of unease. Suppose they are too big? Suppose they die? HOW am I to get them to Dublin in one piece - in leaf, by then? Suppose they don't come into leaf - dead trees don't come into leaf...  Suppose, suppose, suppose...
But at least I now have them - they are safe, in one place, in the ICU and for the moment at least, present, correct and ticked off.
At some level I suppose something has relaxed, because I slept like the proverbial baby.
Even though I wasn't the one drinking the whiskey.

And this morning, Easter Day, despite the battering, freezing, howling weather we have had this week, my garden is calm and still and full of timid flowers.
Perhaps I am calm and still and full of timid optimism.
For today anyway.