The 15th of January … 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 tells me a great deal indeed
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”
and, “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 January 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 you 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 …

“Too Expensive” ???

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 today, the first appearances of

Hyacinth …

Peony …

and Jasminoides …

I hope that you have enjoyed visiting the garden
with me today. If so, it may be that one or two folk
will even let me know … and perhaps, join me for another
walk around the garden at the beginning of 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

にしきごい … Nishikigoi and The Garden Pond

I said nothing.
And hung up the telephone.

Having purchased the house in September of 2009,
my wife and I ventured out during a sub-zero ‘cold snap’
one December morning,
to plan where to begin the work that would be needed
to rejuvenate its somewhat neglected garden.

Arriving at the far end of a raised portion of ground,
I paused and bent down to tug at the protruding end
of an old, partially buried … kitchen sink.

What I saw made me miss a breath.

There, in a corner, in the equivalent of about
two cups of water … were two goldfish
almost encased – solid – in ice.

I was deeply distressed by the sight;
disgusted that two fish had been
overlooked and forgotten;
and tried not to think of them dying like that.

Giving the ice a sharp tap in attempt to, at least,
remove and bury the fish properly,
I was shocked – when the block came loose,
to see ice water flow from beneath,
… and one of the fish move.

Trying not to actually drop the ice in my
what-can-only- be-described-as ‘controlled panic’,
I rushed inside the house and immediately
began filling a bucket with cold (ignoring the
overwhelming desire to want to quickly
warm the fish) water.

Adding a generous amount of chlorine neutralizing
drops, I returned to that disgusting, discarded sink
beneath the tree.

Placing ice and fish in the bucket,
I brought them indoors and held my hands
(taking needed pauses to re-warm them)
around the ice to speed its melt

Quickly able to actually cradle one fish in each hand,
I could not believe it when both began to move
and swim feebly on their own.

Genuinely upset, I found the house sale papers,
turned to one section in particular,
picked up the telephone
and called the woman whose house we had bought,
to tell her of my ‘find’, and that
her overlooked fish were alright.

“Oh,” she replied … “they’re still there?”
“We just let the fish freeze every winter,
and buy new ones in the spring.”

I was livid.

Said nothing.

Felt the silence.

Ignored her ‘Hello? Hello?”

And hung up the telephone.

A Graceful Turn … One of the two little goldfish that was saved from the ice.

They feel the cold,
they feel frightened,
they feel pain,
and they play when they are happy.

They are fish.
And, like any animal, they deserve the care
of any human being
who has them in their garden.

Nothing is as loathsome to me as Apathy.

The type of vicious, obscenity-spewing savages
that are lauded as “ real men” today
are brute beasts
who openly reveal themselves as such
to anyone of maturity.

But self-centred ingrates who “use”,
and “enjoy”, or in any way ‘benefit from’

the work, efforts, or good will of any person;
or the loyalty or affection of an animal,

and yet refuse to go ‘out of their way’
to lift a finger in gratitude,

are the most repulsive of creatures:
characterless hypocrites who know to do good,
but CHOOSE to do nothing.

No one who has visited this site
and read its contents, will imagine
that I have any admiration for the Internet.

It is the greatest method (the television alone
excepted) ever invented by man to promote
Confusion, Conflict, and Cruelty
amongst human society.

It is the theatre for every form of narcissism;
the soap-box for every quick-buck con man;
and the podium for propagating infantilism,
arrogance and inexperience.

With rare exception, the Internet is
a labyrinth of nonsense, arrogance, and ignorance
promulgated by those who are out to
to ‘impress’, amass ‘followers’, or sell
a personal agenda or business product.

Any occasional truth … comes only after wading
through a cesspool of fantasy, vanity,
malignity, and outright malice.

Common Sense, Empathy, and a Compassionate heart,
will do far more for that rare person
endued with discretion,
than the massed hordes of Internet ‘experts’
combined.

By proposing a few thoughts from experience,
I hope to encourage one person
who would like to give and receive
the mutual enjoyment that comes from
caring for ornamental fish in a garden pond.

BUILDING a Home … on the 11th of January

In the part of the world where we currently find ourselves,
Racoons are nightly visitors to the garden;
and whilst their splash patterns on the stones
evidence that they enjoy a refreshing bath
in the water garden on a summer’s night …
we want them to keep away from the fish.

The answer – from our brief experience here –
was to build a free-standing fish pool.

The first stop was to visit a specialist lumber yard
for the purchase of fifteen, 4x6x10’
heavy ‘landscape’ ties.

After digging down to ensure that there
was no plant life that might one day
reach the surface only to find the horror
of an impenetrable barrier of pond liner,

a base of boulders was laid,
its crevices in-filled with crushed rock,
and then ‘padded’ with a layer of sand.

Upon this solid base, we began the process
of building the shell …

A piece of old pond liner was placed
on the ground to ‘pad’ the liner
that would actually be containing the water …

Special attention – and excessive time –
is always spent ensuring the liner
fits snuggly into the corners;

and that folds are made with meticulous care
to make them as minimal, and smooth, as possible.

THE PUMP and POND FILTER

Now, a little word about all those remedies
and promises that will (I am sure) be found
on the Internet, on the subject of garden ponds,
algae, and ‘green water’ …

Yes, barley straw and ‘oxygenating’ plants are fine
IF you have a large, natural pond. The ‘field pond’
in our previous home filtered itself quite nicely –

there are, after all, country homes in Britain
and Europe, that use reed beds on boggy ground
as a sewage treatment centres
– and they do wonderfully well.

BUT once you move to smaller ponds,
the number of fish, resultant biological wastes,
sunlight, algae spores, and falling vegetation
all affect the confined environment
of smaller ponds.

Please take up my suggestion to INVEST
in a proper, quality filter
that will clean the water, neutralise the algae,
and remove waste from the pond itself.

Do Not frustrate yourself with the ‘advice’
promises, and do-it-yourself gizmos that
might work for one person in one specific location,

but will end up wasting your time, money,
and best intentions –
in a very short space of time indeed.

The Air Pump is thoroughly cleaned,
and all parts checked for signs of wear …

When considering airline hose,
the spiral ribbing is touted as being
much more resistant to crushing.

This it may well be, however, one must ask
quite WHY anyone should be ignorant and careless enough
to be ‘crushing’ the hose in the first place.

( Those ‘valleys’ between the ridges
are a wonderful home for algae
– which cannot be readily removed
by washing alone – here, the ‘clean patches’
are where the sponge has removed algae;
the remainder provides some indication
of the difficulty in getting in between the ridges. )

I have never, in over 50 years of caring for fish,
found any difficulty or disappointment with using
a quality, smooth hose …

The POND FILTER

The filter here is a very ‘standard’ one
that is made for ponds up to 2,000 gallons;
it will provide a clean, happy environment
for both fish and you.

Clean and check the filter unit –

examine the O-ring in the top channel …

clean and set the biological filter bags in place …

clean and insert the actual filter …

secure the lid in place and connect
the ‘input’ line from the pond pump,
and the ‘outflow’ line, which flows into the pond …

( The third outlet is used when cleaning the filter
– a hose is connected, and green algae-rich
fish-fertiliser-soaked water can be pumped
onto the garden beds. )

FILLING the POND

Once both filter and pump are again cleaned out
and rinsed thoroughly,
Water is added to stretch the liner:

With the pond filling ALWAYS ENSURE that crucial
de-chlorinating liquid has been ADDED
to the household water supply.

In the ‘natural’ pond: check for leaks
from water that is flowing backward
and escaping through some area of
liner whose fold lies below the water-line.

Two little birds enjoy a drink from our Water Garden.

In a Formal Pool, it means selecting rocks and plants
amidst which, the fish may play and hide
– and generally not appear to be in a quarantine tank.

Once the pond has been filled,
test the pump and filter unit …

This is the time to scrutinise the back of the
water reservoir for any leaks from the
input hose … as well as the hoses leading into
the water filter unit itself.

I follow the precaution of adding a final
deterrent to particles of muck getting through
the filter and being returned to the pond –

Here, a piece of filter material is simply
slotted into place immediately before
the waterfall return …

Note the colour of the white filter barrier
just Below the waterline … the results,
after three weeks, are self evident …

Plants having been added to give the fish
a ‘feel of their old home,
they are gently caught and placed in a large bag
to float in the new pool for a few hours
until the temperature in bag and pool are the same.

The whole project today has taken 10 hours,
and we are quite exhausted from our labours.

As cedar boards can be added later
to hide the exposed liner and act as a ‘top rail’
without any disturbance to the fish;

and additional stones placed gently, at leisure,
to provide a more ‘natural’ environment
in which the fish can play, and hide,
and generally feel secure …

not wishing to subject them to
an unnecessary stay in a container overnight,
the fish are gently introduced into their new home.

The following day, with completed Cedar Rail …

(In order to accommodate the water heater (here, in January),
the water level is kept slightly lower – being increased
when the water no longer requires heating.

A cover fits is placed on the pool when the fish are
‘put to bed’ for the night.)

All that is left is to add shrubs at leisure in order to
‘break up’ the outline of the pool itself.

Here, fragrant Sarcococca hides the filter unit
and wires leading to and from it
(and the pond heater in winter) …

If you are tender-hearted, patient, and compassionate
enough to want to give an animal a home,
simply remember that they feel the same
fear, pain, misery and contentedness as you …

and treat them with the empathy, care,
and attention to detail
that you would like to have others afford you.

Even a fish will respond to care, and
the joy of seeing them swim towards you
at “tea-time” to feed from your hand,
is truly, a wonderful thing.

P Livingstone
philiplivingstone.org

Cultivating Humility … The Rose

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

The “boy who driveth the plough”
of William Tyndale’s day [ c.1523 ]
had the capacity to read a New Testament
in English …

… while masses of barely literate ‘adults’ today
cannot differentiate ‘there’, ‘their’, and ‘they’re’

– a disgusting fact of which the Internet
provides abundant proof.

Rather than be ashamed at the fact,
and grateful to those who would teach them;
vicious, arrogant creatures spew invective
at the … “Grammar Nazi’s” …
who would dare to help them to learn.

There has to have been, arguably,
no other time in history
in which human beings, collectively,
have been so defiantly Proud of their
Ignorance and Vanity.

Multitudes who are without even the sense
of Responsibility – the Integrity … to
‘check their work’,

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

which is eagerly believed and repeated
by people bereft of the maturity to Discern
that something is manifestly wrong
with their “teacher”.

Peony

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 infantile emotional outbursts,
rather than mature, considered thought,

the ability to Think is something
that is desperately needed.

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 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 –

Roses

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.

Rose Petal Tea

In a garden bed 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 further
deteriorating your own mind and conscience,
in front of a television or computer screen;

and acquaints you, instead,
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, people voice their disgust and impatience
at anything 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.”

“The words you write prick my conscience –
they make 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 disposable mindset is seen in a phrase
that has been bandied about since
a switch was thrown on humanity in 1990 –

“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.
They deserve the appreciation of 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
philiplivingstone.org

ごがつ … The GARDEN in May

A few of the plants that arrived to join us in the garden,
during the end of April and the first week of May, 2018 …

Syringa vulgaris

Mecanopsis

Blue Mammoth

Fuji san

Prunus Kwantzen

Ajuga

Athyrium

Hosta Guacamole

Mecanopsis

Hart’s

Philadelphus

By mid-May, the canopy thickens overhead

Thank you for stopping by to visit today;
join me again when, all being well, we can enjoy the sights
of the Garden from May into June …

P Livingstone