Cultivating Compassion … Roses and the Garden

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

(barring the moral support and ‘likes’
of a friend from Britain whose presence
provides silent encouragement to try ‘one more time’)

who come here
and leave again without a word.

It is the price, I suppose,
for having a tender heart and a 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 characterised
by wholesale Ignorance and the blind pursuit
of constant entertainment,
the ability to think is something
that is DESPERATELY needed.

The human race into which I was born and raised
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 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

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 notably, 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 the rose requires is friable, nutrient-laden soil,
at least four hours of sunshine,
and a gallon (a 4-litre milk jug)
of water applied to the base of the rose
every 3 days, if there has been no rainfall.

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:

Removing that obscene “Me First” mindset
will allow its former adherents
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);

as well as provide the experience of thinking
Less of ME … and More of Others.

Sunshine, gentle Watering, and healthy Soil:

Have the resolve to provide these things,
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.

To offer your roses a little extra treat,
consider an application of Rose Food
at the end of March; a week later,
apply a 3-inch cover 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.

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 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

Relocating … and Back to Work

After eight years of living in relative isolation
at the foot of a mountain,
we have sold home and property,
to relocate to a more urban locale.

No longer isolated by distance,
it is a pleasure indeed to not only
once again serve as a working gardener
to folk having an interest in “old fashioned” gardening.

Beginning the task of preparing the approximately 200 pots of select ferns, hostas, and other perennials that will be joining us in relocating to a new house and garden …

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 caring for their garden,
rather than sitting 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
(what we would regard where I was raised as)
a 1920 British Colonial House –
now re-roofed and with new siding,
and situated at the centre of an ‘over 55’ private development.

Internet satellite view:

The garden of the Old House (centre left)
lies in the middle of the photograph;
the seniors’ homes backing on to it
provide shelter from winter winds;
whilst the canopy of trees screen the heat of the sun.

The garden had clearly been laid to a Japanese-style,
fully enclosed by sturdy steel-link fencing
and covered by a virtual umbrella of Acer trees

but – with a very disparate range of shrubs
punctuated by the odd fern, it shows signs
of having been left to fend for itself
over the last few years:

the soil is very dry and lacking in nutrients;
cedar hedging trees next to the perimeter fencing
have turned brown from lack of sufficient water;
and the plants desperately in need of moisture,
pruning, and organic nutrients.

I look forward to starting at one corner,
placing 4″x4″ garden ties to establish clear planting beds;
digging up the few ferns, hosts, and shrubs,
and bringing the whole thing to life once again.

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 system
in springtime 2018.

For the few visitors who appreciated
the progress of our previous garden in 2012,
the intention is to present a ‘pictorial diary’
in the following months which will highlight
the effort of transforming this garden,.

Having been taught by a gardener who, in turn,
learned his skills from Edwardian gardeners,
it has always been evident 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 …

… which seems to make for a lack of congeniality
from folk who adopt the modern mindset
of ‘fast and easy’, “low maintenance” laziness.

Still, there may be one or two folk
who find their way here,
who would appreciate joining me
for this particular garden project.

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, I 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 (!!!)
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.

And when your garden is healthy,
animals will show their appreciation
by offering you their company …

The foundation of gardening is Empathy –
the capacity to recognise what a plant needs to be happy;

and Propensity – the Desire to actually be IN the garden,
and working amongst the plants, birds, and animals
that abound there.


Can I encourage people to leave staring into a screen,
and immerse themselves, instead,
in the sights and scents of the garden?

Perhaps not. But conscience – from having been alive
long enough to see the state to which humanity has fallen –
obliges me to try.

People spend thousands of pounds, euros, dollars,
on mind-dissolving DVD’s, television, and computers,
yet view the garden as an ‘expense’.
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”.

Cultivating Interest … ?
Choose a theme for the garden:

an herbal garden of ‘old world’ medicines;
a shade garden;
a rose garden;
a garden built around a pond –

imagine a theme; cultivate an interest;
and enjoy the pleasure of seeing the garden
respond to your care and attention.

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

Garden Thoughts … Soil and the Garden

More than a few houses throughout Ireland and Scotland
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.

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.

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

Chemicals …

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.

GARDENING: Year-round Interest

Gardening will sharpen your mind,
pique your curiosity,
and keep your mind and body
in infinitely better condition
than multitudes who sit slowly dying
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 a local garden supply shop
or 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

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS: 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 …