The Garden … No Place for Television

Experience means little, if anything, anymore
in a perverse world where everyone’s opinion
is (seemingly) just as “valid” as anyone else’s.

Multitudes of belligerent youths and ‘instant experts’
having neither the will or humility to learn;
needing to “look it up”, rather than retain
intelligent thought,

think nothing of spewing profanity-laced contempt
at those whose wisdom, life experience,
and mature deportment should instead,
cause them to blush with shame.

Finding Common Sense in the 21st century
is like searching for a jewel in a cesspool:

you have to wade through
a tremendous amount of sewage
to find anything of value.

The television and the Internet
have no place in the garden
when those who use them are unable (or unwilling),
to discriminate, discern, differntiate Knowledge
from inexperienced opinion … or an outright sales-pitch.

The twisting labyrinth of Corylus: the Corkscrew Hazel

The Television exists to control your mind.

It has NEVER had ANY other purpose.

Television Removes the ability to think.
Gardening Requires the ability to think.

By the mid-1950’s, television was the
prime method of convincing American housewives
to buy Proctor and Gamble laundry soap,
as well as other household products.

The recurring, turmoil-soaked serial “filler”
in-between those brief mind control sessions,
was known as a Soap Opera

– and even then, the “Stars” of those
daily or weekly programmes would be seen
performing – often still in their character’s wardrobe
and ‘on set’ – in adverts for whatever brands of motor car,
or breakfast cereal were sponsoring their ‘show’.

In 1960, that TV – now a ‘must-have’ feature
of American life – began its subtle role
of re-engineering the morals and mentality
of anyone and everyone who owned a television set.

When one has no interest, vanity is not an issue:
one does not ‘defend’ “My favourite show”
… and the patterns fairly ‘jump out’
at the unbiased observer …

In 1960, ‘Sherriff Andy Taylor’
introduced Americans to the concept
that a child can be raised in a home without a mother.
Oh, there was a surrogate – ‘Aunt Bea’ – but to change thinking,
it is essential to introduced thoughts gradually.

In 1966, ‘Uncle Bill’ raised Buffy, Jody, and Cissy
without a woman whatsoever.
The only help needed was dear old ‘Mr French’.

A woman was certainly not needed to raise a child:
She was of far more use being ‘liberated’ from
instilling respect, manners, guidance, and admonishment
to her children … to instead, earning spending money
which contributed taxes to bureaucratic coffers.

In 1966, and again in 1970, the removal
of the traditional family conviction from women
would be championed by two heroes of The Cause,
as Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore
played character roles in which any notion
of the wife and mother being at home
to raise moral, responsible, and respectful children,
was utterly abandoned for a career at the office.

In 1969, kindly ‘Marcus Welby, M.D.’ featured
topics that were associated with promiscuous sex,
rape, abortion and drug addiction.
No need for a mother at home:
all the advice you need is found on the TV set.

In 1970, the son-in-law of ‘Archie Bunker’
made such vehement, passionate humanist
discourses as “Why do we kill people
to show that killing people is wrong?” –
captivating the simple

with the specious, infantile ‘reasoning’
that removes all concept of difference
between the vicious actions of a Sadistic Savage,
and the judicial imperative of removing evil
from a society of morally-centred people.

In 1971, ‘Daddy’ Walton
did not accompany his family to church;

which ushered in a legion of programmes
that featured increasingly rebellious children
who went to ‘friends’ for advice,
rather than discuss concerns
and seeking the wisdom of caring parents.

[ Twenty years later, the perversion of “The Simpsons”
would exemplify the slovenly, stupid parents
and back-talking, belligerent brats,
that were characteristic of mass humanity
at the close of the 20th century. ]

In 1982, the cinema introduced the world
to the ex-military, Steroid Ape who would set the standard
for profanity-spewing, bullet-spraying savages
that would be worshipped and adored
by thug humanity up to this present day.

Men would now follow the Way of the Grunting Savage,
and women would do all they could
do to hurl any last vestige of femininity
from their lives.

The 1990’s were dominated by series’
in which cohabitating groups of ‘friends’
were concerned, in each episode,
with little more than copulating.

Several concepts in 21st century TV
(at least, in Britain and Europe) are readily apparent:

the trend of ‘police’ series’ in which
the chief of police or top detective
is an aggressive woman;
while men are the dependent assistants
seeking her approval for their efforts;

the nauseating repetition of the “T” word
where every bolt of lightning striking the ground
is potentially an act of … T- ism,

and the theme of pagan Earth Worship wherein
the earth is about to collapse if “we”
do not do this or do that.

Woman as leader; Man as subordinate;
and constant fear-mongering to keep the masses
dependent and compliant.

For over the last decade, apparently,
one cannot even watch a television programme,
without a little sliding window appearing on screen
to advertise the next ‘upcoming’ programme.
Condition viewers to become used to intrusive ads.

I cannot fathom how people can sit through it all
– but they do.

And with the advent of the Internet,
multitudes who cannot distinguish
“there”, “their” and “they’re”,
or “your” and “you’re”,
not only regard themselves as “teachers”
– but have a willing audience
who ‘like’, subscribe, comment
… and even say ‘Thank You’ to them.

If it appeals to ego or ease, people Like it
… Believe it … and Express their gratitude.

Light, Water, and Soil: the first shoots of Sum and Substance
emerge from the garden bed …

The Gardener

The garden REQUIRES four things that are
clearly repulsive to Modern Humanity:

Contemplation – the capacity to think before acting;
Empathy – to see things from the plant’s perspective;
Patience – to do things properly, and
the Humility to stoop down to do menial chores.

A plant is in a stationary position:
it cannot tell you when it needs help –
it is up to you to have the empathy to
see that its home (the soil) is well-tended;
to bring it water;
and to look for signs when it is unwell.

Those who do Not ENJOY caring for the garden,
are Not a gardeners.

The garden is no place for laziness and apathy
– the very things that are the Selling Points
for TV and Internet advertising.

Those who ‘cannot be bothered’ to provide
affection and healthy mental stimulation
to their dog, cat, budgie, or goldfish;

and subject them daily
– like dogs in an SPCA concrete kennel –
to perpetual misery and mental torture,
do but reveal what selfish,
hard-hearted creatures they are.

Gardening is about Appreciation:
willingly expending the mental Effort
and Energy (a concept that used to be known as ‘exercise’)
to care for that something that so desperately depends
upon human intervention.


Gardening is not about spending money.
And honestly, gardening is not even difficult –
for someone with a tender disposition.

A long-standing, unkempt garden reveals
the apathetic character of its owner.
The days of labouring and living in coal mines
are long over:
the mantra of “I don’t have the time” is pathetic.

The Gardener will MAKE time.
The deserving owner of an Animal will MAKE the time.

Multitudes make the time to vegetate
in front of the TV or on the Internet;
but complain that they “Don’t have the time”
for things that require effort or conscience.

MAKE time for the garden, and it WILL
change your personality – for the better, I assure you.
Gardening Will make you a better human being.

And if you DO make time for the garden, do not be swayed
by the declarations of pedlars who pander to laziness.
Your garden Does NOT Need
the junk that Advertisers are trying to sell you.

Gardening is exercise for the mind
… body … and conscience.

It requires is a tender heart,
a sensitive soul – Empathy …
and the willingness to care and make the effort
for living things that depend upon you
for kindness.

Friend, Mentor … and Grandpa: John Hall, the man who taught me
and gave me my first ‘paid’ job in the Botanic Gardens, in 1969 …

What MUST You Buy to be a Gardener ?

Five tools:

1. a spade
2. a border fork
3. a trowel
4. a pair of by-pass secateurs
5. a rake

6. a wheel-barrow,
which helps to carry away the various results
of an afternoon’s exercise in the garden.


7. well-rotted horse manure
or similar, suitable compost.

There is NO other additive that is required for your garden –
no chemical,
no ‘booster’,
no other thing Whatsoever need be added to your garden.

There is No Need to Buy
the bulk of what is being sold:

no need to turn your garden
into a pharmaceutical dumping ground.

1. Friable Soil
2. Sufficient Water
3. Proper Light

– supply these things, and invest thought and exercise
and your garden will reward you with blissful serenity,
sights and scents.

As for television and the Internet:
one will not go far wrong with the instruction
of Alan Titchmarsh: an highly experienced gardener
with a demonstrable ability to teach in a congenial
and humble manner.

But sober-minded teachers of humble disposition,
who are unwilling to accommodate modern sloth
and ‘politically correct’ agenda-pandering …

… are a rarity.

Find them if you can, and appreciate their efforts.

[ Thoughts upon “Teachers on the Internet”
are presented on this site;
perhaps, there may be something to consider
in the suggestions offered there? ]

Gardening is about Empathy:
looking at a plant that is unable to move, speak,
or fend for itself – and making the Effort
to provide that plant with what it needs to be healthy.

Whether you garden on an acreage, city plot,
or high-rise balcony, Cultivate Kindness,
Responsibility, and Discernment –
and enjoy the plants that will flourish as a result.


A ray of morning sunlight penetrates the darkness …


The Will to Live … tiny shoots make the effort
from a shard of hosta crown that had, a some point,
been broken from the main plant.

The plants in your garden WANT to survive:
How would it be if You gave them the opportunity –
and in so doing,
enriched your mind, morals, and life … ?

Cultivate INTEREST

“How” one might ask, “do I go about
developing an Interest in gardening?”

More than a few people, when I was a teen,
delighted in Collecting Stamps, Coins,
Porcelain Figurines, or Tea Sets.

Do the same thing in the garden: Collect.

Choose a THEME for the garden:

and Collect –

Herbs of ‘old world’ medicines in a Physic Garden;
Shade plants for a Shade Garden;
Roses in a garden that will
overwhelm the senses with beauty and fragrance;
Serenity … simply reading from a book
while sitting at the garden pond.

IMAGINE a theme;
CULTIVATE an interest in your garden-related topic;
BEGIN a collection of favourite plants;


ENJOY the pleasure of seeing the garden
respond to your care, attention, and diligent work.

Human Beings will TAKE your efforts
and say nothing – a ‘Thank You’ being beyond
the dulled conscience of many;

The Garden will NEVER do that.

Even a flower has more solemnity,
courtesy, and appreciation
than the bulk of what struts through this earth today.

Every plant in the garden
will be grateful for your labours –
– and will show it.

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.

OLD PATHS – Not Modern Madness

More than a few houses – throughout Ireland,
Scotland, and Europe stand two-,
three-, and four hundred years after being built
.. out of Cob.

Cob is a thick mixture of lime; horse-hair or straw;
clay, … and sharp sand.

Now, with that in mind, precisely why it has been
that the “advice” handed out by media ‘experts’ ,
garden centres, and television gardening celebrities
over the last thirty years,
has been to rejuvenate clay soil by adding “sharp sand”

has been, for me, something that is utterly mystifying
and extremely frustrating when noting
the look of desperation upon the faces of folk
who have asked me to fix
the resulting quagmire that occurred.

Clay – mixed with Sharp Sand
is the principle ingredient … in Cob.

Quite why anyone would be instructed
to turn their garden beds
into nature’s version of cement,
is, truly, beyond my ability to fathom.

Any soil – sand, clay, or simply
old soil lacking nutrients – Will be … Will Be –
enriched and made highly suitable for plant growth,
by digging in well-rotted horse manure.

Nothing else is required.

In lieu of well-rotted horse manure,
– for folks living in cities – any available compost
forked in to existing soil
will immediately improve its characteristics,
transforming it from being detrimental to plant life,
to being a home in which plants will thrive.

If you are ever faced with the seeming dilemma
of whether to trust “Science” – or the Victorian farmer:
trust the old-fashioned farmer.

Every time.


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

Yes, gardeners in my grandpa’s time,
used Arsenic to control certain infestations of weeds.
But it was handled by men in a time in the world
when human beings could be trusted to exercise
basic common sense, self control, and discretion.

It was also – for my grandpa,
a very rare event.
Many a loving mother put Opium on a baby’s gums
to reduce the pain of teething.

Different time.
Different Human Race.
Nothing whatsoever to do
with the infantilised hordes of today
who must run to “a doctor” or a bureaucrat
to be instructed in things that require considered thought
and “old fashioned” know how.

A sudden gust of wind could irreparably damage
the average child today – if the antics of Modern-day Mummies
have been anything by which to judge.

And as for a garden pond …
The hysteria is scarce to be imagined.

BUY This, BUY That … Just BUY!

Still, in the age of laziness and impatience,
there has, most noticeably, been a tremendous push
to have gardens turned into dumping grounds for chemicals
as a way to facilitate a ‘quick fix’.

I still cannot fathom the advice dispensed
from countless television gardening programmes
and garden centre ‘experts’ since the early 1990’s –

– when planting a shrub or tree,
place a handful of Bone Meal in the planting hole.

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

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

By destroying the naturally-occurring bacteria,
the 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, have been assured
by several viewers of British gardening programmes,
that the current advice on the BBC
is to no longer to buy Bone Meal,

but to … buy ( buy !!! ) COMMERCIAL
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.

Gardening – is understanding
what a specific plant requires,
and then providing it
with a good home in your garden.


Well-rotted horse manure
(from source to garden bed,
it is best to allow 12 months)
WILL ‘condition’ ANY type of soil,
and provide a luxurious home
for your perennial garden residents.

For those in the city, consider Mushroom Manure
as an alternative although, do be aware that it has
a higher concentration of ‘lime’ –
making it too alkaline for evergreens.

For evergreens, use Composted Bark;
this is not bark mulch, but is a dark,
soil-like compost, which can be applied
over the root-area to top dress evergreens.

“Well-rotted” horse manure:
from the fresh article, ideally allow 12 months
before placing this phenomenal source
of everything-that-is-good
into your garden.

Any plant WANTS to grow.
The gardener simply has to know how
to give it a safe, secure, and comfortable home.

Forking in organic compost will transform
ANY type of soil
into an inviting home for plants;
time, in addition, will attract worms,
which will then carry nutrients
throughout that garden soil.

Thereafter, a 3-inch covering of mulch
on the garden beds during the first week in March
(early enough so that springtime bulbs
are free to emerge without being broken)
will inhibit weeds
as well as helping the soil to retain moisture.

Shade plants for shade areas:
Nothing, I suppose, can be more depressing
than seeing a hosta struggling to survive
because home-owner or landscaper
has situated it in a location of full sun.

Plants make their own food using light
and Carbon Dioxide – more carbon, more oxygen.
Give them a comfortable home of friable soil
and regular supplies of water,
and they will look after the rest.


Whilst it is true that each plant – given
a secure place to grow, WILL ordinarily look after itself –
the artificial environment of a garden
DOES require intervention from you.

If none is given, weeds will invariably take over.

Mulch ( depriving the weeds of light )
and a bit of healthy exercise ( time spent
on hands and knees ) is what is required
to defeat ruthless invaders known as weeds.

The toughest Perennial weeds ( such as Dandelion )
will grow through the mulch, and it is the up the gardener
to get down on hands and knees with a trowel,
or stand with a garden fork,
and loosen the area around the weed
using care to remove the entire Tap Root.

Remove young weeds as they are sighted.

The same, ideally first thing in the morning,
is true for slugs.

Pernicious weeds may certainly require
careful application of a systemic weed-killer;
but that should be the exception, rather than the rule.

No caring, conscientious gardener will ever
use “slug bait” poison as this will inevitably end up
killing the garden animals who eat them.


Equisetum has thin, easily breakable roots
that spread perniciously below ground;
whilst Convolvulus binds itself
around the plants surrounding it,
in effect, strangling them as it grows.

In an invasive situation, where forking
is not practical due to the sheer mass of weeds,
the only recourse is to apply a Systemic weed-killer
which kills the plant and stops at the soil.

The herbicide ‘Roundup’ is a carcinogen.
So, rather than fly off into the typical 21st century,
mindless Panic;

do not inhale it;
do not roll in it.

Use if for those initial infestations,
and treat the potential danger with the maturity
and Common Sense that still existed in adults,
when I was growing up in the 1960’s.


Gardening is Not about spending money.

Yes, 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 an amenable stable-owner
or compost from your own compost bins.

Even the application of commercially bought
mushroom manure or other ‘organic matter’
is a once-a-year event.

With the extreme exception of Equisetum
or Convolvulus (pernicious weeds invading usually
from neighbouring pasture or wasteland),
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 develop Interest
in an ‘old fashioned’ concept once known as
“physical exercise”.


Gardening will sharpen your mind,
pique your curiosity,
and keep your mind and body
in infinitely better condition
than multitudes who sit putrefying the brains
in front of some form of video screen.

When it is pouring with rain in the winter,
get into the greenhouse or the potting shed:
check the labels on seedlings and cuttings;
clean and oil secateurs and other garden equipment.

When a howling snowstorm makes it too cold
to be outside at all,
sit beside the fireplace with a hot cup of tea,
and pour over the pages of the latest catalogue
from the local rose nursery.

Make gardening your hobby …
your exercise …
your genuine interest in life,

and you will be quicker, sharper,
and far more healthy
than multitudes whose entire existence
is constantly spent looking for ways to be
lazy and to “make life easier”.

Do wonderful work in your garden,
and your garden will, I assure you,
do wonderful work upon you.

P Livingstone

The 15th of APRIL … In the GARDEN


The Old Testament describes Gardeners as

“… those that dwelt among plants and hedges”.

Men who were content to do the servile work
of planting and hedging …

The phrase is not a complimentary one but is, rather,
a rebuke at those who had been content to serve a pagan king,
rather than join their people in returning home to a theocracy.

Being the type of person who is (I earnestly believe)
all-but extinct in the 21st century,
I confess to finding  – not merely contentment, but – relief
doing work in people’s gardens,

rather than aspiring to the vanity, greed,
viciousness and ambition
that visibly-and-audibly characterises modern society.

For anyone happening upon these words
and who might perhaps understand the sentiment,
it may be that you will appreciate joining me
for a walk around the garden as it was
on the 15th of April …

The first rays of sunlight add colour and warmth to the blue cast of early morning,

faintly lighting a tulip which is still in the shadow of pre-dawn …

Several of our baby nishikigoi – hearing me out and about,
demand to know when breakfast will be served.

With the lads having been fed, time now to look at the garden beds …

Having brought with us, to this place, some 78 hostas
along with other perennials from our former nursery,
it will be practical to feature only a few –
I hope that those I have selected to show you here
will give a pleasing enough sense of the garden today …

As the heavy, thick leaves of gigantic hosta
‘Sum and Substance’ make an appearance …

… the soft and delicate fronds of Matteuccia struthiopteris
prepare to unfurl in the warming temperatures …

Garden Care

The yellow blooms of Forsythia
having made their appearance for the year,
the plant is cut back to encourage new growth,

… which comes from the younger branches …

Though the process seems somehow, “Wrong”,
the plant is happier for it.

Hosta Halcyon joins its neighbours in adding colour
to the monotone earth tones of the soil …

Having served admirably to protect the plant
during the cold rains of winter,
old fronds (such as on this Hart’s Fern)
are cut back to make way for the new growth
which is ready to present itself
for a new year in the garden …

Each and every plant in the garden
deserves to be given careful and individual attention …

Dicentra eximia

I began this Internet site in March of 2012,
in the hopes that it might be the means whereby
I could meet – and share thoughts,
commiserations, and ‘links’ with other,
tender-hearted, quiet, and contemplative
men and women.

That notion having failed beyond my wildest imagination,
I have often wondered if I am the only man alive on earth,
who can be moved with compassion
at the plight of a plant.

Until, that is, I saw a BBC interview
with an Arabic gardener who was not afraid to say
that the thought of a plant suffering in the garden,
filled him with distress.

Now, I know that there are two of us
left in the world.

Digging through a mound of perfectly good soil
(presumably left by previous owners
who seemingly removed some garden ‘feature’
from the ground, and piled soil on this spot)

I came across a little glint of white.

Using my hands to pull away the soil,
I came across the pathetic sight of a hosta
– completely inverted – some 2 feet
below the surface –

struggling desperately (it would have failed)
to reach the surface to live.

As the root ball was upside down,
the shoots were arcing – trying to grow
in the direction of the now-upward roots.

A tragic sight which filled me with
immense compassion for the valiant
little plant.

With the rescued plant in hand,
and friable, manure-rich soil ready to receive it,
the problem was – how does one plant it?
to cover the roots properly,
would be to cover the shoots as well.

The solution seemed to be … to build a smaller
mound within the new planting hole;
place the root-ball, and cover as many roots as possible
– whilst still leaving the shoots exposed to light and air.


Just 24 Hours later, the shoots had moved
sufficiently horizontally to allow the roots
to be fully covered –
(for me, if no one else) happily,
the little fellow is responding well …

People gawp with awe
at the latest piece of mind-stupifying
‘technology’ to hit the mass market
of the modern human race –

while something that is truly miraculous
and worthy of admiration,
is either “boring” or of no interest whatsoever.

A Photograph taken in pre-dawn light
reveals that, in the darkness and pouring rain,
the shoots continue to arc skyward.

Immense satisfaction – in an Age where
human beings respond with silence, apathy,
and ingratitude –

to see them eclipsed, surpassed,
by the response AND obvious appreciation
that is shown … by a ‘mere’ plant.

Contrastingly coloured with green from shoots regularly exposed to daylight,

Hosta Undulata albomarginata

Taking a rest today, the Bog Garden
awaits the addition of more soil and manure
to hide the pond liner beneath the plants
and increase the depth of the soil for lush growth;
but that, all being well, will wait until tomorrow …

Since starting this morning, the nishikigoi —

– [an aside: to avoid, perhaps, confusion, should this
series in the garden continue throughout the year;
the name is nishikigoi – quite erroneously referred to
in the North America World, as “koi” (‘goi’ meaning, “carp”).

Having never seen Any need whatsoever to either
imitate ‘America’ or ‘follow a multitude’ in any thing,
I use the name ‘nishikigoi’ – “coloured (like jewels) carp” ] –

— are slapping the water, calling for a bit of attention.

Time to set the camera down and enjoy a little community spirit
with my friends … and hope that one or two folk
will have enjoyed this walk through the garden.

PL, 16th April, ’18

The 1st of April … in the GARDEN


A Tulip displays in mid-morning

With April ushering in that extraordinary temperature
of 11 degrees Centigrade,
shoots begin to emerge from the cold garden soil –

Should there be one or two folk remaining in the world
who appreciate the wonders of the garden – in all stages,
Join me as we take a walk around …

In every garden bed, Hostas make their first appearance …

… as the first leaves emerge on bright red branches.

Matteuccia struthiopteris

From Blue Mammoth to the diminutive Blue Blush,
every species of hosta in the garden is now responding to the warming air.





The ‘glow’ of Forsythia

The Beautiful, Purple-Black of Hellebore “Blue Lady”.

The first display of Prunus


Something not destroyed by the interfering touch
of man-made inventions or brain-wasting techno-toys:
the wonderful sights of the garden
which, I trust, one or two folk visiting today
may have appreciated.

For those possessing the capacity, be congenial,
say “Hello” and leave a word of greeting;
I hope that you have enjoyed sharing the sights
of this walk around the garden on the 1st of April, 2018.

I shall leave you with another look
at one of the Tulips in the garden …

As always —
Rise above the degradation of the 21st century;
Cultivate Kindness, Gentility, and Attention to Detail:

Make the Effort … Care for a Garden.

April ’18

MARCH in the Garden … いしどうろう … ishidourou

March in the garden is the time to begin
the gardening year by walking systematically through
and taking note of what needs to be pruned and trained
for the year ahead.

During the last two weeks of March,
shrubs should probably be the first to receive
care and attention … with a pair of cleaned
and sharpened secateurs,

to remove all branches that are Dead, Diseased,
Damaged, and (what I call) Diagonal –
that is, growing inward towards the centre of the plant,
or at an undesirable angle.

With proper pruning, light and air
will now freely circulate throughout
the centre and interior of the plant.

When it is discovered that I make gardens
after the Japanese manner,
folk not infrequently seem compelled to ask
if I … “make Zen gardens”.

I had, initially, not the slightest idea –
and had to ask for an explanation
of the term.

The result of that query enlightened
both the inquirer and me:
the answer turned out to be .. “No”.

What was described to me seemed to be
Disneyland versions of what cinema-goers
think a Japanese Garden looks like.

Water …

Yes, most assuredly, each of these is integral

… But, No –

No stone Buddhas;
No Red, Arch-shaped Bridges;
No concrete stepping-stones with katakana characters;
No statues of Geiko Maidens carrying pitchers of water.

Such things would no more occur to me
than would putting plastic leprechauns,
gnomes, or fairies, in a garden in Ireland.

The garden, surely, is a place to relate
… to Nature …
to the plants and animals that reside within
the confines of the well-tended garden ?

Features added to the garden ( I had always
– apparently bizarrely – imagined) should always
be “in keeping” with the natural surrounding –

a dry stone wall;
a fallen tree used as the front of a raised garden bed;
or a stone positioned as a directional guidepost.

But there is indeed one man-made feature
– only one –
that I would like to share with you
since few seem aware of what precisely it is.

While the only statuesque features, for me,
are the trees within the garden,

there is one object that, for me,
is indispensible in any serene setting,
and that is

an Ishidourou – いしどうろう

… the stone lantern.

Although Ishidourou may be found
in a staggering array of sizes and shapes,
the yama dourou is one that is
composed of natural stones.

Before moving to North America,
I had always appreciated the gentle flicker of flame
from the ishidorou’s lantern,
when enjoying the serenity of a quite evening
in our country garden back home.

( Tragically – perhaps unsurprisingly,
there now exists the appalling practice
of outfitting modern stone lanterns
with electrical cords and light bulbs:

Such barbarous tastelessness
will never remotely approach
the gentility of a candle
placed within the lantern’s chamber! )

It truly is a wonderful and soothing experience
to sit and enjoy a gentle breeze in the garden,
by the flickering glow of the lantern.

In the rare chance that it might be of interest
to one or two folk,
a few photographs of our lantern
taken after being given bath with soap and hot water,
and left to dry before being placed outside.

Illustrated here,
a candle may be slid gently
into the rear of the Light Chamber …

The flame will then flicker
through the stone ‘grill’ in front.

There is absolutely nothing
that removes one from the crude vulgarity,
inherent noise, and self-venerating barbarism
of 21st century humanity

than the flame of an Ishidourou
sending its warm glow,
and casting gentle shadows,
in the darkened surround
of a garden in the evening.

If you have never considered
(or perhaps, even seen) an Ishidourou,
I hope that these few words
may pique your interest.


FEBRUARY in the Garden … Time for Tools

The First Hellebore of February, ’18

In considering the garden, my ‘frame of reference’
is The British Garden and those locales
that have a similar, maritime climate.

“Mid-February” for me, may be Mid-March for you.
If you live in Sapporo, Saskatoon, or Stockholm,
you may still have snow on the ground;
while folks in Australia will be preparing for autumn,
not Springtime.

February is the time when each garden tool
should be inspected for wear, dirt, damage;
and for any sign of corrosion
in which stones or dents have caused blemishes
that might provide a starting point for rust.

Examine shovels and spades
– particularly the area to the rear of the shaft
where the handle meets the blade:

if the shovel, spade, or fork has been used to do any levering,
it is not unheard of for the metal to tear or break,
leaving cracks that will provide a foot-hold for rust.

1. While no tool should ever be put away dirty,
hot soapy water should now be used to wash away
any and all residual dirt that an earlier ‘once-over’
with the garden hose may have missed.

2. Dry the tool thoroughly.

3. For bladed tools such as secateurs and loppers ,
use a fine sharpening stone to bring a nicely honed edge
to the blade.

4. Finally, giving all metal parts a light rub
with an oiled cloth is rarely be a wasted effort.

Care and attention given now will mean that
when the tools are next picked up to be used,
we will lay hold on clean equipment
which invariably fosters greater enthusiasm
for the tasks involved in preparing the garden
for the upcoming year.

As encouragement for anyone who may
be contemplating gardening
as a replacement for a wasted existence
perusing the mental and moral sewage
on a television or Internet screen,

in preparing the garden as a place for

a rose collection,
the calming presence of goldfish or nishikigoi (‘Koi’) in garden pond,
or simply a place in which to relax with a fine book,

rest assured that a few basic, quality tools
are all that is required to get busy in the garden.

1. A Shovel or Garden Spade – “Border” versions
are smaller and easier to use.

2. A Rake with the head forged in one piece.
Again, a small “border” rake is smaller
and easier to use.

3. Secateurs – Felco of Switzerland make superb secateurs
for those who may not have opportunity to obtain fine Japanese tools.
Always choose by-pass secateurs: never the ‘anvil’ type which horribly
crush the plant, rather than make a clean cut.

4. A Trowel – choose a solid, robust trowel.

Consider also:

Hedging Shears: for those who require them.

The Hori Knife: is a wonderful, all-purpose tool.

A few tools and the desire to create
are all that is required to experience the physical,
mental, and moral exercise of working in the garden.

Fussing and fidgeting – taking care of them –
is all a part of the end-of-winter ritual
of being a diligent gardener.

Is there any way that I can encourage you
to set aside (or, better yet, throw away)
the techno-toys … and instead,
get out in the garden this year ?

I sincerely hope so.
I am certainly trying.

P Livingstone

[ Related: Garden Portraits – A Pictorial Walk Through the Garden ]