The Rose … and Rising Higher than Self

The consistent appeal throughout this Internet site
has been that, for any thoughtful, conscientious person
to break this perverse obsession in modern humanity

of needing to spend every waking opportunity either
staring into the electronic screen of some technological toy;
or seeking attention through some form of vanity possession,

is to exercise the mind
by the reading of quality books,

or exercise mind, body, and senses
by caring for – and appreciating – the natural world.

Gardening, I have endeavoured to suggest,
facilitates both:

cultivating empathy, exercising mind and body,
and breaking the modern obscenity
of existing like a machine.

It will also, of course, provide a peaceful setting
in which to sit and enjoy that quality book.

Whether you live in a British Country Cottage,
or Tokyo Flat, or Modern Urban Townhouse,


will transform any balcony, patio, or garden
into a visually beautiful, fragrantly scented
setting that will

calm the nerves,
arouse an empathetic mind,
foster an interest that will counter laziness,
and replace the modern fixation
of being connected to a machine.

Whether in a garden or suitable container,
all the rose requires is friable, nutrient-laden soil,
at least four hours of sunshine,

and a gallon (about a 4-litre milk jug)
of water applied to the base of the rose
every 3 days
( which is usually supplied by rainfall
from late autumn to early springtime ).

Now, as a side note: that exercise
of empathy and consideration referred to above,
will begin with your newly-planted roses
which will need water every other day.

Look at the garden; observe the plants;
and provide the care that they need:
a removal of Self-obsession
that is so desperately needed
by the hordes of the modern masses.

“How can I love anyone if I don’t love myself?”
has been the perverse mantra of self esteem humanism
since about 1990:

Simple – Removing that selfish mindset
will allow you to actually experience Compassion
… Self-LESS-ness … and Responsibility

( qualities which were not only instilled,
but expected – demanded – in us
as children in the 1960’s )

and learn what it is to think less of ME,
and more of others.

Sunshine, gentle watering, and healthy soil –

if you have the will to provide these things,
and place them where they are not ‘bullied’
by neighbouring plants (3 feet of separation is fine)
or harsh weather … you can grow roses.

And benefit immensely from them.

To offer your roses a little extra treat,
consider an application of Rose Food
at the end of March; a week later,
lay down 3 inches of mulch
in order to deter weeds.

Applications are available for ‘rust’ and mildew,
while Aphids can be sprayed off with a blast of water.

And cutting back spent flowers will not only
maintain the visible beauty of the plant,
but will facilitate that ‘hobbyist’ element
of fine-tuning, caring for, and presenting
your collection to visitors.

Caring for roses: It is that “caring” –

that selfless, get off your backside and make an effort
that will benefit something other than vanity, ambition,
or tribal agenda

– element of the garden that is so
desperately needed by modern humanity.

Caring for plants ( that offer no tangible love in return )
will make it a simple matter to extend compassion
and care to animals and other kind and deserving people.

The more you do,
the more pleasurable, and natural,
kindness becomes.

Whether in a large garden,
or diminutive balcony, ROSES
offer so much more than visual beauty
and fragrant aroma …

… they can stimulate qualities in your life
that are so tragically lacking in the world today.

Care for a garden,
Care for a rose,

and set a moral example

to all who see you.

P Livingstone

October 2017: Relocating … and Back to Work

After eight years of living in relative isolation
at the foot of a mountain,
we are in the process of selling home and property,
and relocating to a more urban locale.

Beginning the task of preparing the approximately
100 pots of select ferns, hostas,
and other perennials that will be joining us
in relocating to a new house and garden …

Having been obliged (due to distance)
to turn down offers to work and consult
on private gardens; or offer lectures and courses
in old world gardening principles and practice,

I am now able to once again provide
thoughts, practical help, or advice should
previous clients be inclined to call again;
or anyone having an interest in “old fashioned”
gardening techniques wish to make use of same.

My specialisation is the Woodland, or Shade, Garden.
and, of course, the techniques of “old world” gardening
that were taught to me in the 1960’s.

Friend, Mentor, grandpa: John Hall
at work in the Botanic Gardens, Belfast, c.1960.

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

He impressed upon me the importance of knowing
more about soil, than specific plants;
was a friend to every animal in the garden;
and limited his services to people
who wanted to spend time in their garden,
rather than staring into a television set.

I miss him very much and think of him
every time I feel and smell the rich aroma
of soft, friable garden soil.

The house that we have purchased
is a 1920 ‘British Colonial’ house –
now re-roofed and with new siding,
and situated at the centre of an ‘over 55’
private development –
Like-Minded folk desiring Peace and Quiet !

Internet satellite view:

The garden of the Old House (centre left)
lies in the centre of the photo;
the seniors’ homes backing on to it
provide complete shelter from winter winds;
whilst the canopy of trees screens the heat of the sun …

The garden is essentially of Japanese-style,
fully enclosed by sturdy steel-link fencing
and covered by a virtual umbrella of Acer trees.

It has, however, been clearly left to fend for itself
over the last year, at least, judging by what we have seen:
the soil is very dry … cedar hedging trees
next to the perimeter fencing, turning brown
from lack of sufficient water …
and the plants desperately in need of moisture
and organic nutrients –

I cannot wait to start at the rearmost corner,
and bring the whole thing to life once again.

If any visitor to this site would like to join me,
I shall do my best over the subsequent few months,
(we are due to get the keys to the property
on the 10th of November)
to feature a series of pictorials
featuring the effort that will (all being well)
made to transform this garden.

Soil will have to be double-dug;
well-rotted horse manure forked in;
trees and shrubs gently cut back as appropriate
in order to take strain off the root systems
in springtime 2018.

Those who appreciated a similar series
back in 2012 will, I hope,
be interested in this upcoming challenge.

Having been taught by a gardener who, in turn,
learned his skills from Edwardian gardeners,
my methods of gardening
are decidedly contrary to what has been
presented in gardening television and magazines
over the past thirty years or so.

I should not want anyone to be disappointed,
and offer no “easy gardening” articles:
experience and physical effort make a garden.

There has, most noticeably, been a tremendous push
to have gardens turned into dumping grounds for chemicals
as a way to facilitate laziness and a ‘quick fix’.

Since the 1990’s for instance, the advice dispensed
from countless television gardening programmes
and garden centre ‘experts’ has been –

When planting a shrub or tree,
place a handful of Bone Meal to the planting hole.

It is advice that I have never been able to fathom.

Bone Meal destroys Mycorrhizal fungi –
the bacteria which encourages a plant’s roots
to take in water from the soil.

Certainly, the Bone Meal may provide
a steroid-like ‘boost’ … in the beginning,

But by destroying , the long term, natural benefits
which produce a robust plant are effectively hindered,
if not destroyed for the long term

I do not own a television and, indeed,
have not so much as seen one in over a decade;
however, I am have been assured
by several viewers of British
and European gardening programmes,

that the current advice on the BBC
is to no longer to buy Bone Meal,
but to … buy (!!!) … Mycorrhizal Fungi …
and sprinkle that in the planting hole !

From twenty years of telling people
to spend money
buying a commercial powder
which destroys essential bacteria in soil,

to another twenty years of telling people
to spend money
buying a commercial powder
to add to the natural bacteria
that are already in the soil.

And because it is “on the TV”, people do it,
and repeat the ‘advice’ to others.

Since about 2000, much of my garden work for people
has been to remove and repair the work of TV garden gurus
and local landscapers. It is very great shame indeed
because gardening – true gardening – is simply
understanding what a specific plant requires;
and then giving it a good home in your garden.

The foundation of gardening is Empathy –
to recognise what a plant needs to be happy;
and Propensity – desire to actually be IN the garden,
working amongst the plants, birds, and animals
that abound there.

Gardening is Not about spending money.

Now, of course you pay the nurseryman
for providing you with a beautiful addition
to your garden: that is only fair and proper,

but after the initial expense
of procuring … A Few … needful tools,
your biggest acquisition should be
well-rotted horse manure from a friendly stable,
or compost from your own compost bins.

Even failing an ability to acquire
either of the above for free,
the application of commercially bought ‘organic matter’
is a once-a-year event.

With one exception (mentioned below),
there is No need to buy chemicals.

Adding anything manufactured by man to a garden,
is not only (ultimately) detrimental to the garden,
it is an utter waste of money.

A bit of energetic work and the garden
will more than take care of itself
as far as the growth of flowers and shrubs
is concerned.

You Do NOT need to spend money.
You DO need to expend Energy and Interest:
an ‘old fashioned’ concept
once known as “physical exercise”.

Gardening will shape your body;
sharpen your mind;
and stimulate both empathy and patience.

It WILL make you a better, more caring,
and tender-hearted human being.

P Livingstone

Brief Considerations for Thoughtfully Planning the Garden

If there is anything more relaxing
than the deep green surround of the garden,
I cannot think what it is.

Nor can I recall anything more stunning
than a shaft of sunlight piercing the canopy of trees
to light on the spectacular blue, red, or orange
of a flower within that theatre of green.

The garden can – with a little bit
of forethought and consideration –
be a place that both comforts and pacifies;
but also stimulates and refreshes the senses.

Simply plan your garden
in much the same way as an artist
might mentally prepare a beautiful painting.

Alternately, think of the stage in a drama theatre
or ballet performance:

the lights are lowered in the auditorium
to a level approaching near darkness …

… and then, when that spotlight
first hits the performers – Well !!! –
every colour seems to leap of the stage.

It is, quite literally, breath-taking.

The garden should have the same effect
on all who visit its sanctuary:
the deep green ‘backdrop’
that accentuates brilliant displays of colour.

Against the dark green of the shrubs and hostas,
carefully plan out a colour scheme of
Blue and Purple, with highlight pin-points
of either brilliant Orange or Red.

Nothing made by man
will present a more stunning display
of colour and beauty.

Enjoy the serenity of your garden

… and share it with others.

P Livingstone

Hostas … Foundation for the Shade Garden

Twelve Hostas to Provide Exquisite Visual Impact in the Garden

P Livingstone
Innerleithen, 2001

There exists an almost superfluous array of hosts
– many of which, seem barely distinguishable
from others.

Any one of the hostas recommended in the list below
will certainly provide absolute, stand-alone distinction
for those who are specifically seeking visual impact
in their garden.

Collected together, they provide
focal points in the garden
which are are spectacular.

The measurements given below
are the actual, measured dimensions
taken from the respective hostas
that are growing in our garden.

I present the following suggestions
for your consideration …

01. Blue Mammoth

A very large, Blue-leafed hosta
featuring leaves that span some 16 x 12 inches.

02. Blue Angel

Again, a very large, blue-leafed hosta
featuring similarly-sized leaves
of about 16 x 12 inches.

03. Sum and Substance

A very large, light green-leafed hosta
featuring leaves of about 18 x 14 inches.

04. Sieboldiana elegans

This large, darker green-leaved hosta
features leaves spanning about 16 x 10 inches.

05. Krossa Regal

This large, physically attractive hosta
features green, elongated, wavy leaves
of about 11 x 9 inches.

06. Frances Williams

The colour combination of yellow and green
has never appealed to me at all, however,
any advice offered throughout this Internet site
is NOT based upon my personal preference,
but rather, objective considerations from experience
and discretion. With that clarification, I must
certainly recommend hosta Frances Williams.

This large hosta offers yellow borders
to blue-green, leave which reached
about 12 by 10 inches.

07. Halcyon

With distinct, seemingly white-veined leaves,
Halcyon is a medium-sized hosta
featuring lancet-shaped, blue-green leaves
of about 8 x 6 inches.

08. Undulate albomarginata

A variegated hosta, the lovely
white-margined leaves of albomarginata
seem to shimmer from the shade of the garden.
Expect these somewhat lancet-shaped leaves
to reach approximately 8 by 5 inches.

09. June

A green centre and blue margins make this
a particularly beautiful hosta.
Planted in deeper shade, the green
will be considerably darker (and the effect
even more superb) than those which have
more sunlight reaching them.
Leaves will grow to about 6 x 4 inches.

10. Fire and Ice

A medium-sized hosta white green leaves
that feature a single white stripe down the centre.
Expect leaf dimensions to be about 6 x 4″.

11. Patriot

An incredible white-leaved hosta
that features a green stripe down the centre.
Leaf size will be about 5 x 3 inches.

12. Guacamole

To interject personal sentiment,
this is indeed my favourite hosts:

Large leaves feature a stunning gradient
of greens which (for me) are reminiscent
of aerial views of my home, Ireland.
Guacamole is a large-leafed hosta
featuring an ovate-shaped leaf
of dimensions around 11 x 9 inches.

The above list of considerations is presented
to offer hostas that have definite Visual Impact
in either size or colour,
that WILL enhance any shade garden.

I hope that it has been of interest or help
to one or two folk.

A Walk Through the Garden (Part 1)

It may be that one or two folk would like to join me
for a walk through the garden
that I had the pleasure of keeping from 2009 until 2017 …



Fuji san

Calluna vulgaris

Rosa canina

Fire and Ice

Early morning sounds of wailing attracted the attention of Seona, our Mastiff,
who promptly came and let me know that something was wrong.
Following her, she led me to six tiny rabbit kittens,
crying pitifully, and crawling blindly …

It was evident that their warren had been unearthed by some night predator.
Gathering the brood, I held them on a towel in my lap
and fed Skim Milk to each through a syringe.

Replacing the earth up to their disturbed home, I lined it with straw
and a dry facecloth; put the kittens inside,
and covered the whole with a piece of plywood.
Keeping a careful watch, I was relieved to see
their mother return at 4:00 o’clock that afternoon.

Hosta June

Nature’s Diamonds

Krossa regal

Iris siberica

The Best of Friend

A Graceful Turn

Please join me as we continue our walk in Part 2 …

A Walk Through the Garden (Part 2)



Hosta Guacamole


Iris pseudocorus

Dicentra eximia

Fire and Ice

Dicentra spectabilis Alba



Sambucus nigra Black Lace

Prunus Kwanten

Prunus Fuji san



Sambucus Emerald Lace

Sambucus nigra Thunder Cloud

A Garden Resident



continued in Part 3 …