Local Gardening Inquiries for 2019 …

A few thoughts from reflecting upon
inquiries that were received last year …

My meishi – (business card) …

When thinking of a Japanese Garden,
the image that (evidently) comes to the minds
of “Western” people generally, is of a red footbridge
surmounting a stream, next to a stone statue
of some description.  That is a tragedy …

an ishidorou may supplement a garden –
but if that is the predominant feature
in a visitor’s memory,
then something is woefully wrong.

つぼにわ (tsuboniwa) … The Small Garden

The key principle to appreciating the intricacy
of Japanese gardens, is to recognise
that the Japanese Garden represents a section
of the natural world, depicted on a smaller scale.

Much of this is accomplished by using perspective
within a relatively small space:

placing several larger rocks in the front of a planting bed
with smaller rocks being positioned to the rear conveys
– to the artistically minded, the impression of distance
as it would be seen in a grand landscape.

Another illusion, is to create a sense of depth
by ‘hiding’ an object, path, plant, or sculpture
behind, perhaps, a shrub or hedge …

which piques the curiosity of the viewer,
and makes them want to venture forward
and around the immediate shrub or hedge,
to see what lies behind and beyond.

Items in the Japanese garden are arranged
asymmetrically. Rather than one dominant item
flanked by two others, an off-centre arrangement
creates a sense of movement (rather than static display)
which draws the attention of the garden visitor
to the entire group as a whole.

Attention to detail in the Japanese Garden
is such that it is planted and arranged
so as to be of visual interest in winter,
as well as summer.

Care is taken to ensure that rocks placed
in the garden are not just set down on the soil,
but are placed into carefully pre-dug ‘hollows’
whose bases are then filled and the soil pressed down
to give the feeling that the rock has lain in the ground
on that particular spot, for a very long time.

Again: attention to detail:

taking great care to make the artificial garden
look entirely ‘natural’.

Trees and shrubs are carefully trimmed ( niwaki )
to display the shape of the tree form itself:
it is not merely the foliage that is of interest,
but the shape of the trunk and branches
that actually form the tree.

Planting young trees, for instance, at a slight angle
will – due to geotropism – form an asymmetrical trunk
as the canted tree again begins to grow vertically,
towards the sky.

While placing odd-numbered groups of perennials
creates a pleasing appearance if done properly,
the Japanese garden offers more –
intriguing the thoughtful mind, as well as
pleasing the appreciative eye.

The Garden is a haven from a world that has discarded
every last trace of courtesy, consideration,
conscience, or moral discernment,
and whilst multitudes may have little interest
in a quiet, serene, and peaceful setting,

it is precisely this characteristic of the garden
that makes it appealing to an ever-dwindling remnant.

While the traditional Japanese garden
may not be awash with flowers,
that does not mean that yours must be likewise:

the use of perspective and meticulous attention to detail
may be equally employed into the Rose garden,
Perennial garden, or indeed, any bespoke garden.

The man who taught and inspired me:

friend, mentor, and grandpa, John Hall
at work in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast c.1960.

A kind and extremely gentle man,
I never once saw him leave the house
without his gold watch in his waistcoat pocket,
or New Testament in the inner pocket of his jacket.

He never ceased stressing the importance of
caring for soil, or showing kindness to any animal
that found its way into the garden.

Whilst I have no memories of his beginning
to teach me from the age of three,
I do remember my first “professional” garden work
– clearing any stones from the beds
outside the Tropical House …
for which the foreman paid me sixpence.

He taught me to compose the garden
with an artist’s eye: Foliage and Flowers –
deep shades of green from which the reds, oranges,
blues, and purples of carefully-placed flowers
stand out as though lit by a spotlight.

I think of him every time I smell the aroma
of rich, friable soil.

Foliage and Flowers –

Deep shades of green from which the reds, oranges,
blues, and purples of carefully-placed flowers
stand out as though lit by a spotlight.

One aspect of inquiries that did recur last year,
is worth clarifying here:

I am a gardener: a man who makes homes for plants,
for people who genuinely admire plants,
and appreciate the various animals who are attracted to a garden.
If you consider the area around your house as a “yard”,
or want an outdoor “entertainment area”,
I am probably not the man for whom you seek.

I do Not use machines when working in gardens.

I neither own ‘technology’ in our home,
nor use it in my work. Wheelbarrow, spade, rake, and
a selection of Japanese hand-tools are the only equipment
to supplement eye, mind, hands, and feet.

I am simply a Traditional Man,
doing Traditional Work,
using Traditional Skills.

Whether forming a large garden, tea garden,
or a ‘pocket garden’ on a high-rise balcony,

This is the work that I love.

P Livingstone
March, 2019

さんがつ … 15th of March … in the GARDEN

Although allowing for a few young Bonsai to be trimmed and potted,

five weeks of snow and temperatures at the freezing level
have given way to warmth and sunshine once again …

Sights from the garden in mid-March …

Spirea

Magnolia

Galanthus

Sheltered in the lee of the house,
and enjoying sunshine at this time of year, Polystichum setiferum

Sunlight streams through the young leaf of hosta Undulata Albomarginata

A scent to rival many Roses …

One of the few welcome sights left in the world,
the garden for mid-March.

I swore to myself in 2015 that, if the silence
from visitors continued, I would no longer continue on
as the pathetic man still futilely trying to ‘make friends’
after the ‘7 Years’ mark arrived.

I shall leave it with those who arrive here:
if you have enjoyed this visit, perhaps you will let me know.
Returning here on the 1st of April (all being well)
will tell me what to do.

P Livingstone

ことり … A Little Bird

FORE WORD:

I cannot even begin to imagine the depths of Callousness
in those miserable, conscienceless, self-centred creatures
who would not even put out food for little birds
on a cold winter’s day …

nor the type of immaturity and ignorance
which presumes that, because THEY are irresponsible wretches
too lazy to pick up any fallen food that might attract rodents,

therefore, so is anyone else who possesses
the moral conscience and empathy
to feed the birds in the wintertime.

A highly unusual fall of snow the day after
photographs from “The 1st of February … in the Garden”
were taken,

has meant that for most of February
the garden has lain beneath a blanket
of (slowly) melting snow.

At some point in the night, I awoke remembering
that I had not put away a 5-gallon pot
after planting the blackberry bush it contained
into the newly-built cedar garden bed.

Waking as usual just after 5:00,
I stumbled out into the pre-dawn darkness
of Friday morning, the 22nd,

noticed the pot in the dim light,
lying on its side beneath the large Rhododendron
and leaned forward to pick it up.

I stood up infinitely faster than I had bent down.

Having closed my fingers around
the edge of the pot – something soft
brushed the back of my hand.

We have, here, a very friendly resident skunk
along with a frequently-visiting family of Racoons
and I instantly thought that I had just disturbed
one of them who had been using the plant pot
to catch up on a bit of sleep.

Even in the darkness, however, I could see
that the blur of movement … was a bird.

I knelt and tried to gently catch him
– feeling certain that an active bird
on the ground at 6:00 am, surely meant
that the little creature was injured.

As the little fellow ran between my elbow and thigh
I realised the futility of it: I could not see properly
in the darkness, never mind also being underneath
a large Rhododendron bush.

I went to do my Wing Chun practice but –
never able to get the idea of the little bird
on the snowy ground, out of my mind –

kept looking out the window
into the slowly lightening gardening.

After practice, I called to the birds while
setting out their morning breakfast at 7:00 o’clock.

Normally, they arrive en masse in the pre-dawn
light – often, even standing on my feet
in their anticipation of a meal.

Sure enough, the little chap from this morning
began to move from the bushes towards me …

but, Oh, it was a tragic sight:

His wing drooped on the snow; and his right leg
was tucked against his chest. He hopped on one leg,
then fell on his chest … hopped, fell – and then stopped.

(Without pausing to focus, a hurried snap-shot
from my wife’s little ‘work camera’ … )

In the morning gloom, the first sight after my
initial clumsy attempt to catch him in the darkness –
the ‘pouring’ snow (more icy rain than snow) can be seen
as blurred streaks against the darker tree.

Wanting him to come closer, I went out,
left some crushed sunflower hearts on one of
the slabs of the path for him; returned inside,
and watched.

Large flakes of wet snow covered him.

My heart was broken watching the pathetic sight
of this dishevelled, utterly disabled little bird
hopping and falling in his efforts to reach the food,
and then find shelter beneath a blue spruce.

At least now he had food in him.

But I had to catch him, and warm him,
as well as provide shelter from the snow
and cold.

With the morning light now brightening,
I took a piece of shade cloth (a large sheet
of very fine net used to shield nursery plants)
and strung it in a ‘V’ – the net making one side,
the solid side of the porch steps, the other.

Placing more sunflower hearts on the flagstone,
I watched for half an hour as dozens of species
of bird came – clearly ignoring their regular
feeding areas for this new, novelty location:

at this rate they were going to finish the food
that I had left for the little bird to find.

I had turned away from the window to dip
the little bowl into the Sunflower bag
and was turning the handle of the door
to go back outside when –

the little shape caught my eye.

I froze and released the handle.

The little bird was standing – pitifully
misaligned with his drooping wing and
tucked-in foot … the wet snow falling on
and around him.

Wet shoes notwithstanding, I turned
and walked quickly through the hallway,
leaving quietly through the door from the kitchen.

Looking across the garden, I could see him:
still in the same position, now almost covered
with snow.

I remember actually wondering if he was dead.

The birds were exceptionally well used to me
and I reasoned that, if I began ‘sneaking around’
– far from hiding my presence, I might as well
beat a drum to announce it.

I would walk into the garden, talking aloud to
the birds – just as I always did.

“Ohaiyo gozaimasu, mina san!

Tabemono ikega desuka?”

Calling gently as always, I walked past the fish pool
(which positioned me behind him in the garden)
and only then, turned right, hoping regular movement
would allow me to approach the little shape.

He hopped. And fell.
Hopped, and then pecked feebly in the snow.

He was moving away from me … but not in any panic.
Most importantly, he was moving towards the “V” shape
of the net.

I waited as he casually paused to peck at bits
of sunflower that had clearly been spread
by the other birds.

He was in the “V”.

I stepped more directly now.
Hop. Hop. He was on the folds of the net
that lay on the ground.

He moved … into the soft, fine mesh
that now folded around him.

I moved … and the bath towel that had been
draped around my shoulders,
now gently covered him and the net.

A pull of the thin garden twine released
one side of the net from the stair railing;
another pull opposite, released it from the tree
that had held that side.

He never struggled: wet snow and ice
covered his feathers – but I now had bird,
towel, and net in my arms, held against my chest.

I took the whole package inside the house,
and carefully unwrapped net from towel
while placing the bird into a food cooler
used for giving the fish visual medical exams
twice a year.

The little bird was (literally) ice cold to the touch.

I breathed gently around his beak and set him
into the towel. Placing food beside him,
and a small plastic lid full of water,
I added a night-light and positioned a clear lid
to allow fresh air, but protection from the cold.

Wanting him to be able to hear the sounds
of the other birds, his new living arrangement
was set out on the porch, where the other birds
were enjoying their morning buffet.

I noticed – when checking on him an hour later,
that those wet, dishevelled feathers were now dry;
and he held his wing properly in position.

He spent that first night warmed by the night-light.

The following morning, surrounded by birds
that arrived for their daily breakfast,
I slid the lid back and gently turned the container
on its side:

still unable to fly, he was now able
to walk around the porch –
standing on his leg,
rather than falling to his chest.

While birds flew into the porch
to eat alongside him;

others paused to stare in amazement …

… before joining them in the morning meal.

His second day was spent
hopping about or watching the garden
from the comfort of a hand towel
which we had formed into a ‘nest’
in his own little box, from the security
of the covered porch.

We watch him, feed him, change his water,
and welcome his company until such times
as he is able to fly away.

[ At 6:03pm on Monday, 25th, I heard a rapping on the window:
turning my head to see, my little friend was standing looking in
– from the top of the tiny table that was supporting the 3’high net
that was keeping him from leaving the porch until he could fly.

He now had the strength and ability to gain “lift” and,
as I opened the door to the porch, he flapped his wings,
flew in a steady arc, and disappeared into the hedge
30 feet away.

At least now, he was able to lift himself into the hedge
or trees, away from predatory mammals.

[ UPDATE:

He has shown up for breakfast Every Morning since –
(in fact, he is the first to appear, in the pre-dawn gloom,
at half-past six) – I even found him on the morning of
the 2nd of March, standing in the covered porch
staring up at the door … yes … Waiting.

Seen throughout the day, he stops for lunch at around noon;
and again after three, for a late-afternoon meal.
He is – as I write this update on the 18th of March
– clearly determined to live in our garden). ]

LIFE … Is the GARDEN

My wife and I had had a television in our home
from 1996 to 1999. But we could not stand
the vulgarity, viciousness, vacuity, and
constant normalisation of moral depravity
that it delivered in everything
from ‘dramas’ to ‘documentaries’.

We both felt immense relief when returning home
after discarding it in the town dump –
Our household felt … clean … once again.

The garden has never failed to provide me
with hours of mindful (not mindless) entertainment;
it has edified my mind by obliging me to learn about,
observe, and understand the plants
with which I am working;

it demands the exercise of patience, gentility,
and common sense – thinking always about what a plant needs
– and not what I want.

Anyone who gardens out of appreciation for its flora
and wildlife – (as opposed to neighbourhood posturing;
or competing in some vanity-driven gardening competition) –
will share that same sentiment.

Gardening cultivates everything that is
contrary to modern mentality:
empathy, selflessness, and attention to detail.

Even, sometimes, when it is covered in snow.

Everything that I value in this life
is found in, and nurtured through, the Garden:

the joy of caring for fragile life;
a serene setting for a quiet cup of tea;
the peace of a home without ‘technology’;
the simplicity of a Plain Life indoors … and,

– in a world where human beings feel no shame
in being vulgar, crude, and vicious –

a personality which becomes easily obsessed
with the need to show tenderness
and compassion

to a little bird.

P Livingstone

Possessions … and Freedom from Greed

Ownership of Things increases pride,
greed, and arrogance – which those
who are wise, will discern accordingly.

It is an excellent observation that:

“Many men go to hell
getting an estate:
their children go to hell
spending that estate.”

There is a perverse mentality
– clearly held by multitudes in this world –
in which people are admired
because of what they own.

It revolted me as a child;
a sentiment that has only increased
over the past 50 years.

Even the social Introductions
that are made in the 21st century
… reek of Greed:

In North America, when introduced to someone,
what are the very FIRST words that are
invariably spoken to you ?

“Hello … What do you do ?”

When I was growing up,
the question was ALWAYS …

“Hello … HOW do you do ?”

WHY Think About What I Own ?

Your casually spoken and written words
reveal your moral character.

So, too, do the items that you own.

Not only do your personal possessions,
reveal the quality of your mind and personality,
they can even alter your character
… for the worse.

Living without television, stereo, and newspapers
while being of immense benefit
to our mental and moral well-being,
also separates us from that
mass-controlling feature of the modern world:

the perverse onslaught of advertising,
and its utterly bizarre, absolute control
of the modern multitudes.

It is one of the most liberating feelings
in the world to observe people, in general,
speaking, agitating, and rushing frenetically about
in their mad rush to buy the latest technological toy,
sale item, or popular fashion accessory –

and to be, oneself, not the slightest bit interested
in what so evidently controls the thoughts and
desires; commands the attention, and dictates
the actions of the modern multitudes.

Truly, this is Freedom.

Greed – the mindless acquisition of amusements
and vanity toys – is behind the appalling
superficiality of 21st century humanity;

and – for anyone who might seek a life
with more meaning than the constant pursuit
of entertainment and ego –

I can promise that you WILL view the world
– and people – much differently,
once commercial advertising
becomes meaningless to your life.

We moved into our house in November, 2017;
this was the content of the garage
when the previous owners lived here …

This is the content of the garage
now that we live here …

“But surely”, I hear a voice ask – “this is not Practical:
everyone, of necessity, MUST have ‘junk’ –
suitcases, paint tins, tools …”

Yes, very true. BUT that does Not Mean
that these things must be kept in a chaotic mess.

Here is what constitutes our ‘junk’ –
the items that are not particularly wanted,
but which nevertheless, must not be thrown out …

Every item has a clear box;
and every item is in its own box.

HOW TO BEGIN

In considering the question of HOW one begins
to ‘downsize’ one’s belongings,
I suppose the best practical answer would be:

“If you have not used it in the past 18 months,
you probably will never use it again.”

(Now, it will go without saying that this excludes
emergency items such as a torch, batteries,
a Primus Stove, and such like –
these can be stored in a container that is
specifically marked for such things as ‘power outages’,
‘plumbing’, ‘electrical’ &c. )

With the “18 month” guide, I refer to personal
and household items; accumulated acquisitions,
and clothing.

Set aside those items that you have not used
in the past year and a half or so:

pick up each one, and ask yourself – out loud:

“Why did I buy this, exactly?”

Then answer the question – out loud:

Talk to Yourself …
And LISTEN to your own answer !

“I bought it to impress (so-and-so)”,
“I bought it because it was on TV –
because ‘everyone else’ had one”,
“I bought it to feed my Vanity” –
and so on.

Then ask, “What does this do with my time?”
“What does having this do to my mind?”
“Could my time be better used than by
wasting it on this?”

When physically hearing the response –
you may well embarrass, if not shame, yourself.

Once all superfluous junk has been set aside
using that criteria as a starting point,

exercise personal integrity in examining
your own conscience to determine
which possessions most gratify Conceit –

that is,

identifying what things have been bought
in order to “impress”
those who are shallow enough
to actually be impressed by … ‘things’.

A WORD of ADVICE

IF you are determined to ‘downsize’
your own belongings, arrange somewhere
that you can leave the ‘discarded’ items
for a month or so.

If, in that time, your resolve is fixed, and you
truly do not need things to secure happiness,
then you may donate the items to charity,
if you so wish.

Items that are destructive to mind or morals
– such as a television, books, CD’s, DVD’s –
are not given to corrupt someone else, but instead,
taken to the town dump.

If, on the other hand, the whole exercise was, for you,
a passing fancy … then no ‘harm’ has been done,
and you may freely return to the satisfaction
of your material objects.

DISCERNMENT

Everything that we own has either practical
or sentimental value: there is nothing in our home
that is a ‘fashion statement’ or ‘popular’ product.

I have always believed in quality; dependability;
– craftsmanship: one good item,
rather than three cheap ones.

Taking that little while longer to save one’s pennies
allows one to focus upon whether that item
is really an important and worthwhile purchase.

It removes that desire to ‘collect’ … IF
a self-disciplined mind-set
is behind every potential purchase.

By limiting the things that you own
to the narrow and meaningful standard
of definite practical need (clothing),
and sentimental or edifying items (things) only,

you will have effectively removed
the superficial dross of impulse and greed
from your life.

WHAT I Own, and WHY I Keep It …

We have two small Toyota motor cars
– both bought Used; one for my wife’s
medical profession in which mileage
is refunded her;
the other, is our ‘shopping’ car.

Our furniture is antique Scottish or Irish oak,
bought for both its practical use, inherent beauty,
and our deep appreciation of hand-crafted oak.

No attic. No basement. No junk.

It is, very much, A State of Mind
that changes your perception of life:
and reveals the emptiness of the superficial toys
at which multitudes grasp, crave, and strive to own.

It is, quite literally, Freedom from Greed:
something which, I hope, these words might
serve in some way, to help you discover.

Every personal possession that I own
is pictured in this photograph …

An 8”x8″ air-tight plastic box
contains passport and personal papers;
A second, contains Kodachrome transparencies
from early work as a photojournalist.

Printed pages of my academic dissertation
reference notes from books read over the years;
and the typed content of this Internet site.
are all contained in one 9x12x2” black stationery box.

A tea pot, tea bowls, 6 teacups; and Neko the cat
accompany Tyndale’s 1536 New Testament in Middle English
along with a pair of secateurs and set of small shears
– which have sentimental value as my first professional
Japanese gardening tools.

Daily-use clothing hangs in the wardrobe,
while pressed-and-folded replacements are kept
in the plastic box just visible beneath the Samue jacket.

Everything can be carried
in the empty duffel bag that you see here.

Absolutely everything I own
is in this picture for you to see.

A few personal, daily use items accompany me
when I go anywhere …

The bracelet is personal: one bead for
every year of my life; with a brass bead
inserted in the appropriate place to remember
the death of an animal who shared
home and friendship with me.

A phial of pine and lemon essential oil
removes headaches; a small phial of rose oil
is simply calming at any time.

Also carried are a business card case, reading glasses,
and (a personal idiosyncrasy) teacup,
as I refuse to spend the exorbitant amount
charged for an occasional mocha coffee,
only to slurp it through a slit in the plastic lid
of a paper cup.

Lastly, if stopping to eat whilst not at home,
a leather pouch contains はし – collapsible chopsticks.

My secateurs are my tool-of-trade, and have
– more than once – brought me work, or the opportunity
to help folk who were having difficulty in their garden.

Everything is conducive to peace, self sufficiency,
and considered thought.

SHOPPING

If looking at something in a shop display,
the philosophy, for me, is a simple one:

Any individual item that cannot be wrapped
and placed in that duffel bag –
is something I do not need to own.

A Word about BOOKS …

Reading is my entertainment.

Although having given away my library,
I must mention that, over the years,
the contents of my old books
have been committed (by sheer repetition:
re-reading treasured volumes a dozen times and more)

to my appalling memory … and, in key quotations,
carefully typed, cross-referenced,
and placed in two notebooks
(which have served when called upon
to deliver a lecture at short notice).

A very well-stocked antiquarian bookshop
provides an admirable and constant source
of quality reading material:

once a book of interest has been read
and re-read, it is returned to the shop,
which, effectively, buys it back
at a small loss to me; credits my ‘account’,
and I can browse for another title of interest.

STRENGTH of RESOLVE

It is impossible to describe the liberty
from constantly ‘wanting’ things
– the freedom from greed – that comes

with a genuine desire and concerted effort
to be rid of extraneous possessions – MOST
of which, have no redeeming merit whatsoever,
and serve only to gratify vanity and waste time.

It is NOT the OBJECT sitting in the attic
of which you are seeking to be rid —
BUT THE desire to “Own things” and buy
some new item that takes your passing fancy.

That desire to own little and be content
with what you have … must be genuine.

If so, you WILL be embarrassed to recall
things that you once wasted money upon.

You WILL … once advertising has No impact
upon you whatsoever … find yourself (quietly)
listening to acquaintances talk, and watching
friends waste their money on Vanity Toys …
and you WILL feel sorry for them.

I can also assure you that – with the passage
of a very brief amount of time – one begins
to look back with disbelief
at the things that were once regarded as
“important” or “indispensable”.

If you are considering “thinning out”
your own personal possessions,
I sincerely hope that the suggestions
presented here may be of some help to you.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

にがつ … The 1st of February … in the GARDEN

Hinoiri ひのいり basks in the sunlight
beneath the reflection of blue sky
and overhead branches reflecting from
the surface of heated water on a cold day.

New Cedar fence boards were used to construct
four new beds for Strawberries, Raspberries,
Blackberries, and Rhubarb …

… but cold nights leave a hard frost
which means that even strong morning sunlight

requires until almost mid-day
before the soil is softened enough,
to allow any plants to be introduced
into the waiting loam of their new garden beds.

Stronger sun, however, does warm the earth,
which releases the first shoots of Galanthus …

and Crocus …

and brings the first buds to the trees …

However cold the nights, the nishikigoi
bask in the comparative luxury
of their heated pool – in water kept
some 40 degrees Fahrenheit warmer
than the air in which I am standing
to compose this photograph.

Here, hinoiri and kurosan pause

moments before hitting the surface of the water
to let me know that the fish are waiting
for their breakfast …

Whilst the temperature is forecast to drop
below freezing for the next week,
not one of them – in a pool four-fifths covered,
will be the slightest bit aware
of anything but the blue sky above

– and my blue finger-tips
that deliver their three meals every day.

Still – (clearly able to sense my foot-fall
as I close the back door of the house) –
there is something remarkably heart-warming
about approaching the water

to find seven waiting faces
looking up 
in rapt anticipation.

PL
philiplivingstone.org

Winter … in the GARDEN

For me, No invention of man will ever approach
the joy and satisfaction that I derive from watching
the little birds arrive a dozen at a time,

to enjoy their breakfast of chipped Sunflower hearts
on a winter’s morning.

I recall someone leaving a comment once,
to the effect that such a habit
was “too expensive” and “a waste” …

A statement like that reveals a great deal
about the level of a person’s character.

More especially, when they then have
the audacity to ‘admonish’
tender-hearted folk who actually possess
the capacity to feel empathy:

People gorge themselves on food
– and call it “going out for a meal” ;

they swill liquor – and regard it as “a party”
or, “a way to relax” ;

they squander their time,
and corrupt their minds and morals
in front of a television set … and regard
its gratuitous depravity as “entertainment”.

That may be your idea of “a good time” –
but it is not mine.

I use my money to dispense kindness,
and provide a safe haven for creatures who would
otherwise struggle in the bleak, early-morning hours.

When I look out my window
and see this – especially on a frosty morning
in January …

… the very idea of spending money to bloat my body,
stupefy my senses, or debase my mind,
is, actually … degrading.

THIS is the joy of the garden
on a cold Winter morning.

In the morning light, Calluna vulgaris
sits blanketed beneath a coating of frost …

… which also highlights the edges of the Hinoki …

As the sun warms the air, a few of the sights
to be seen …

Sunlight provides encouragement for this hosta, Fire and Ice …

If FRAGRANCE appeals, Sarcococca – in January,
provides a scent that RIVALS many ROSES.

A wonderful addition to the garden in winter,
sunlight releases its perfume which will
not only transform the garden , but enhance your life
with a scent that will stay in your memory.

If you have not one already in your garden,
allow me to recommend Sarcococca ruscifolia …

January (in the northern hemisphere) is a wonderful time to find
incredible prices on items such as pots which are simply
too expensive to even be considered (for me, at least)
at any other time of the year.

Here, a 48″ high terracotta pot, was sitting covered in frost
with a tiny green sticker that proclaimed: “70% off”.

A £115/€132/$200 terracotta pot … bought for £35/€39/$60.

The high-gloss lacquer coating its deep emerald green surface
now reflects the sights in our garden …

Also in the garden on the 15th of January, the first appearances of

Hyacinth …

Peony …

and Jasminoides …

If anyone has enjoyed visiting the garden
with me today and will be good enough to let me know,
we can meet again for another visit in February …

P Livingstone

じゅうにがつ … The GARDEN in December

In the Northern hemisphere, when
much of the garden is enjoying a winter nap,
garden tools are being used least …

… which makes December the perfect time
to give tools and equipment a thorough scrub.

Spare plant pots should never be
put away when dirty, but any that have been
can now be scrubbed out
and left to dry in the garden shed or suitable
area of the house, if available.

For me, the 90lbs or so of stone
which make up the Ishidourou gets brought
into the house, and given a good scrub down
using a mixture of hot water and bleach.

A thorough cleaning with a bristle brush,
hot water, and a splash of Dettol antiseptic
serve as a well-deserved reward for
the tools that are used to keep the garden healthy
throughout the rest of the year.

Whilst drying each one, inspect tools
for chipped, broken, sticking, or loose
parts.

The leather case of my grandpa’s tape measure
is always treated to a coat of Dubbin
to keep its 70-year old leather supple.

Spades, Forks, and other digging instruments
can be scrubbed and given a light rub
with a quality household oil to counter
any possibility of rust due to moisture.

The hori

December is the perfect time to inspect bladed tools
such as shears, scissors, and secateurs,
ensuring that each is scrubbed, dried, oiled,
and put away with blades honed to a razor edge
ready for the gardening year ahead.

Even in this coldest time of year,
the gardener can still be … ‘tending to the garden’.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org