Cultivating Humility in an Age of Ignorance … The Rose

This Internet site exists only because
I care enough about people to make an effort
to reason with those who will not give me
the time of day.

Perhaps that makes me gullible:
providing entertainment and amusement – ‘a bit of a laugh’ –
for those who use this site
and continually leave again without a word.

It is the price, I suppose, for having
a tender heart and moral conscience.

The greatest shock – and only “benefit” (?) –
of the Internet, for me, has been to reveal
not merely the depravity of the modern
human race in general,
but the selfishness of people on the whole.

Multitudes who cannot even spell properly,
and are without even the sense of responsibility
– the integrity – to ‘check their work’,

have the audacity to dispense “advice”
on the Internet,

to those who are without the capacity to think
– to discern – that something is manifestly wrong
with their “teacher”.

Ignorance, Error, and Apathy abound:
and no one cares.

The very nature of Gardening requires
conscientious thought, instils attention to detail
… and teaches patience.

It obliges the gardener
to pause long enough … To Think.

And in an Age that is absolutely Characterised
by wholesale Ignorance
and the blind pursuit of constant entertainment
by multitudes whose crude conduct
and vulgar conversation reveals them to have
a level of character that is lower than animals,

the ability to Think is something
that is desperately needed.

The human race into which I was born
has long since been replaced.

Where I have spent my life being grateful
to those who have corrected my error,
this is an age in which
anything more challenging than

“You’re perfect, just the way you are”

is regarded as an “insult”.

It interferes, I suppose,
with the Luciferian religion of “Self Esteem”

the arrogant veneration of … “Me”.

I believe that the GARDEN is a wonderful way
to cultivate Compassion, Tenderness,
the Humility to learn, and a sense of
what-was-once-known-as Personal Responsibility.

Roses are a wonderful way
to develop an interest in gardening.

The garden can equally be a place that both
comforts and pacifies; as well as
stimulates and refreshes the senses.

By planning the garden
in much the same way as an artist
might mentally prepare a beautiful painting,

the finished appearance may be thought of as
a stage in a drama theatre or ballet performance

in which the lights are lowered in the auditorium
to a level approaching near darkness
in which a spotlight makes every colour
seem to leap of the stage.

The consistent appeal throughout this Internet site
has been that, for any 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,

he or she must either exercise the mind
through the reading of quality books,

or exercise mind, body, and senses
by appreciating and caring for the natural world
– most especially, animals that suffer the Neglect,
Brutality, and Apathy of human beings.

Gardening, I have endeavoured to suggest,
will cultivate empathy, care,
and halt the modern propensity
to exist 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, and
foster an outside interest that will counter
both laziness, and the modern fixation
of being connected to a machine.

Whether in a garden or suitable container,
all that 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
(a necessity that is usually supplied by rainfall
from late autumn to early springtime).

Newly-planted roses will need water
every other day – a great way
to develop the habit of responsible care.

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

The answer is simple:

Remove that obscene “Me First” mindset.

Making a genuine physical and mental effort
will instil Compassion, Self-LESS-ness,
and Responsibility –

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

It will cultivate the HABIT of thinking
Less of ME … and More of Others.

Whatever effort you put in,
the garden will abundantly return.

A garden requires constant care and attention.
A Gardener is one who delivers that care and attention.
With Enthusiasm.

There is a world of difference between the words

“Survive” … and … “Thrive”.

Many a dog understands the directions
of an Inconsistent, Impatient, or highly Undeserving Owner;

but that is testimony to the intelligence of the dog
– Not the “training” from the owner.

Many a garden exists
due to the tenacity of plants to survive,
rather than to the attention afforded it
by an unworthy owner.

Gardening is ‘easy’ … IF … you have the right mindset.

Provide a good home for plants
and they will thrive and give you a wonderful display
of colour and scent.

Have the resolve to provide Sunshine,
gentle Watering, and healthy Soil;
and place them where they are not
‘bullied’ by neighbouring plants (3 feet of separation is fine)
or harsh weather … and you can grow roses.

And if that gets you away from staring at that television
or computer screen; and acquaints you with patience,
diligence, attention to detail, and responsibility,

your efforts in that garden
will have profoundly affected your life.

When I was growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s
people used to appreciate things;
used to care for things;
used to make the time to mend things.

Now, with this new version of “humanity”
people voice their disgust and impatience
at the slightest thing that does not go according to their lofty
and (more often than not) ignorant expectations.

Marriages, “friends”, the family dog
are of no more value to multitudes,
than a toy whose novelty has worn off.

“I cannot be bothered with it: throw it away.”

“What you said pricked my conscience –
it made me feel guilty.
I am having nothing to do with you ever again.”

Live your life with values higher than
what is popular with the modern masses
and you will – I assure you – experience
just how quickly “friends” will leave you alone.

This same disposable mindset is seen in a phrase
that has been bandied about since
a switch was thrown on humanity in the 1990’s –

“low maintenance garden”,

a term that means ‘I want the benefit of a garden,
but am too lazy to care for the plants that I want to enjoy.’

As a working gardener, I have never accepted any job
whose description includes the phrase
“low maintenance”, “barbeque” or “party”.
having neither interest or patience for those who treat the garden
as a backdrop to getting drunk and making noise.

Quite frankly, if you do not appreciate the plants,
you do not deserve to have them.

The garden is a collection of living things
that provide great beauty deserving of appreciation
by those who have more substance to their lives
than the vacuous hedonism of multitudes.

Caring for plants ( that offer no tangible love in return )
will make it a simple matter to extend compassion
and care to animals – as well as 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

Ishidourou …

I was taken by surprise yesterday,
when asked if I … “make Zen gardens”.

I had 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 … Most assuredly.

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 –
apparently bizarrely – imagined) should 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 one man-made feature
that I would like to share with you …

While the only statuesque features, for me,
are the trees within the garden,
there is one object that I find 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:

I can assure any potential owner
that 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 its annual bath
with soap and hot water,
and left to dry before being placed outside.

The rear of the Light Chamber
into which a candle may be placed.

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

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


JANUARY … The Time for Garden Tools

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.

JANUARY is the time when each garden tool
should be inspected for wear, dirt, damage,
and 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,
the gardener will lay hold on clean equipment
which invariably fosters greater enthusiasm
for the tasks involved in preparing the garden
for the upcoming year.

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.

and … Specialist tools for areas of special interest.

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 ritual of being a diligent gardener.

P Livingstone

December … Restoring the Garden

December is the time to relocate deciduous shrubs,
dig new garden beds, and remove any invasive
or rampant growth that is not wanted.

Having moved into this house in November,
means that these tasks – which are crucial
in order for us to even SEE the garden –
are all being done at the optimum time of year.

Under a dark grey sky, with absolutely everything
cold and soaking wet, our first efforts in the garden
involved digging, levering, and pulling back
the horrific mass of Hedera that smothered the ground entirely
and was making its way up many of the trees.

We could not even see the garden beds
unless we first removed the mass that covered them.

It took three days of work before being able to actually
roll the Ivy into something resembling a massive carpet
awaiting delivery … and then roll that onto a tarpaulin.

With me holding the end of the monstrous cylinder aloft,
my wife was able back the car under the end,
and from there, it took both of us
to slide, wiggle, and shove it into the back of the car.

Three trips to the ‘green dump’
were needed to remove all the Ivy,
and with it gone, we were able to take a look
at the garden beds.

What a disappointment: beneath the tangled mass,
the disheartening sight of reddish “soil”
that was almost pure sand, was laced with the roots systems
of the dying cedar hedging that encloses the perimeter fence.

That any plant was even ABLE to grow in this,
is testament to the resilience of plants
and their incredible ability to sustain life:

Everything here was trying to find nourishment
from soil … that has none.

There were no worms to be found
in any portions of the garden
in which a shovel was turned.

At the end of the garden, a 10-square foot area
behind the Potting Shed,
was nothing more than a rubble tip
composed of asphalt that had seemingly been
poured from a truck and left to ‘level’ itself.

On top of that, bricks, stone,
and broken concrete was stacked in heaps.
What a mess.

At the end of eight weeks, five carloads of wood
and debris were taken to the rubbish dump.
Seven more went to the ‘green waste’ dump.

The fish that moved with us had been spending
the first two weeks in a child’s paddling pool.
Priority had been given to dig a pond
that would allow them a chance to have a new home
before any real cold settled in.

By the end of the first week, they had moved in
to their own home – complete with heater
to let them be comfortable as almost constant winter rain
keeps their pond full to overflowing.

With that done, we had to turn our attention
back to what had lain underneath all that Ivy
for dear knows how many years.

The reddish sand/soil would have to be dug over;
and lashings of well-rotted horse manure forked in
before any plants could be set in place.

We did make some wonderful “finds”, though,
including an old, gnarled Pieris,

Pine, Sambucus,
and even semi-tropical Hibiscus,
were found smothered by neighbouring cedars,
overgrown, and seemingly just ‘shoved in’
without any rhyme or reason.

Working methodically from the left side gate,
these ‘finds’ were dug up as we encountered them;
cleaned, trimmed in the niwaki manner,
and re-planted.

Given the constant Pacific-coast rain here,
they should have noticed little or no stress
from their December disruption.

By the end of December, the bed
on the left side of the house had been completed.

The 25th and 26th of December saw us
clearing Ivy, stones, and other debris
turning the corner into the main garden itself.

Digging soil and forking in well-rotted horse manure
was arduous work, particularly in the almost-constant rain:
but very gratifying indeed, to see results.

[ Continued in January ]

November … Restoration House and Garden

As much as I appreciate the serenity of a well-planted
Japanese Garden, I confess to being fascinated
with the dark wood, glass door-knobs and ornate windows
of old British houses.

It was unthinkable then when, in November of 2017,
we were able to purchase a 1920 house
complete with an utterly forsaken Japanese garden
entirely surrounded by a sturdy, six-foot chain link fence
hidden amidst a canopy of Acer trees
and a perimeter of dying Pyramid Cedars;
all in the centre of a 25 town-house Seniors-only community.

We brought to the new house ninety-five, 5-gallon pots
of select ferns, hostas, and other perennials
which I looked forward to planting in the new garden.

Ten hours, every day, during the first two weeks
were given over entirely to the house itself –
cleaning every floor, wall, and window-sill;

having the heavy, 40-year old carpet on the stairs
and hallways chemically cleaned;

and filling nail-holes, dents, and imperfections in the walls
prior to sanding and re-painting.

Should it be that one or two folk
might share my fascination with old homes,
I enclose a series of photographs of the house
as it appeared on the 31st of December, 2017 …

The house having now been thoroughly cleaned, December
now allows us to take a look at the garden …