My Favourite Window

September 28, 2010

Unexpected pleasures

Although there are no flowering cherry trees in the Secret Garden, they are in full bloom in suburban streets and amenity plantings. Today I noticed unexpected but harmonious pairings of cherry trees, with shrubs and hedges also in flower. Laurestinus, Mexican orange blossom and prostrate rosemary all added their own delicacy to the cherry blossom extravaganza.

At home plump red tulips have opened amongst the broad beans, and I spent the morning weeding and tidying the little nursery area under my kitchen window. 

Laurestinus Viburnum tinus
Mexican orange blossom Choisya ternata
Prostrate rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus'

September 27, 2010

A New-Mown Day

"Look at the pear blossom." Lady Mondegreen reminds me to look up: look up from a weekend spent clearing rubbish from the ground floor of the old house. So much stored by different family members with the idea that something might be useful again one day... One of my favourite finds, washed and hung to dry today, is a sheet sides-to-middled.  The centre seam which was originally the sheet's outer edges is beautifully felled, though how comfortable it is to sleep on I don't know.

This day: a day to dry sheets, to smell the pear blossom carried on the warm air, to note the apple blossom on the cordons, to make time for tending the garden, and to realise that I need to wear my reading glasses for hand-weeding!

Also a day to find that there is a new method of posting photos and to be foiled by it. Sunlit cowslips are what I would show you if I could. They'll keep.

September 22, 2010

Spring Blues

 Today, for the first time since the Earthquake I ventured into the centre of Christchurch. Although city life seemed normal, the impact of the September 4th earthquake was evident block by block; the damage arbitrary in its intensity.  Yet the day itself was perfect for this equinoctal time of year - the gales abated for a day - fresh snow on the Port Hills, dazzling sunshine, a swathe of daffodils the length of one of the Four Avenues, cherry blossom and voluptuous magnolias presenting a contrite bouquet for Mother Nature's savagery.
But in the Secret Garden the sweet progress of Spring is untempered by any vengeful aspect of the Earth Mother.

Forget-me-nots and grape hyacinths vie for attention in a wild corner, and winter purslane flowers in its eccentric way: the tiny white flowers spraying from the centre of the leaves. Also known as Miner's lettuce it provides welcome dietary greens during the winter months.

Claytonia perfoliata Winter Purslane,   Miner's Lettuce

Myosotis sylvatica Forget-me-not

Muscari botryoides Grape hyacinth

September 16, 2010

A Reason to Smile

These tulips have bloomed under the window in the old house's overgrown  front garden. For the first time in years the buds have unfurled and lasted for days due to this cool and mostly overcast weather. Previous springs have proved too hot and the Nor' West winds withered the buds before they opened. So this is a celebratory photo.  I found, by chance, while emptying my mother's many handbags this last week, a bulb label from a bag of  'Smiling Queen' tulips. I set it on the inside window sill to compare the picture with the flowers as they opened, and although the printed label shows a more lurid red and white image I think that these are they.

September 15, 2010


I have been clearing and sorting my mother's belongings. Her old house - my new house - is 48 years-full of one family's life. There are all sorts of treats; some sentimental like the congratulatory telegram to my mother on the occasion of my birth, others gratuitous like this Paragon fine bone china set - Gainsborough meets Clarice Cliff. Lady Mondegreen thinks she would like to use this  delicate trio at one of her garden parties. Would it be safe in the hands of the Mad Hatter?

September 14, 2010

Return to the Garden

How glad I have been for these soft Spring days in the aftermath of the Earthquake. The aftershocks still come, few and far between now, and the early anxiety seems to be receding. I have been pre-occupied with the old house, and with so much rain, I have merely passed back and forth through the garden this last week.
In spite of all the rain, the weather has been mild and even warm, and all sorts of little delights are appearing - wild and cultivated, like these brilliant polyanthus under the walnut tree.

September 7, 2010


I thought that we got off lightly, and really we have. But after a night of aftershocks, two of which were magnitude 5.4 I have joined the ranks of the anxious. Everyone it seems, whether their initial losses were great or small, came through last night -the third since the big quake - nerves jangling with dread.
In the City, buildings assessed as safe are having to be reassessed. Here I no longer feel so confident that this humble cottage will stay strong. I took this photo on Saturday when the sun shone as brightly on ruination as it did on this tranquility.

The beauty of the Secret Garden has been almost unbearable in the last few days. Plum blossom is everywhere and its scent is heavy on the air, even on cool damp days like today.

Do you remember the daffodils at the opening of Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden?  The buds thrusting towards Spring - well here they are in bloom.

September 4, 2010


After being jolted awake at 4.35 this morning I am barely awake at the keyboard.
The sun shone today, and all the plum blossom seems to have unfurled at once: clouds of white against the blue of the sky. The chimneys on the old house still stand. The cracks in the walls from previous earthquakes seem no greater than before this morning's quake. A cracked window is all that my heritage building seems to have sustained. Unlike the devastion of Christchurch's gracious built heritage. But unlike other earthquakes of similar magnitude - 7.1 - in populous places around the world, we have been lucky that there have been no deaths as a direct result of the earthquake. The aftershocks continue as I prepare for bed. We have been lucky here in the countryside, not so far from the City, to have stored water, a septic tank and continued power.  Elwin and I have got on with cutting up the firewood gums that he felled last weekend. So there's a bit of honest fatigue mixed in with my long day tiredness.

September 3, 2010

The Skudder House at Ashley Bank

The Skudder House at Ashley Bank, circa 1890
Today's inclement weather, cold, wet and windy, was more winter than spring, and no fun to be out in. A spot of delving in my archives rather than the garden was more appealing. Here's a view from the same end of the house as my September 1st post, but taken about 120 years ago, before modern extensions had been added.  Hannah Skudder and her daughter Frances are standing in front of an early extension. Thomas Skudder, a London stone mason, built the original two up and two down cottage from  poured concrete, but within ten years and maybe disillusioned with this method, he added a kitchen in brick. I love the simplicity and balance of these two elements, and wonder what it would be like to restore some of this simpicity.

September 2, 2010

While I was out with my camera this morning I photographed this scene. A circular sweep can just be seen marked by the lawnmower. Long before a wild plum seeded here, this was my first garden. My mother encouraged me with this roundel planted with polyanthus, a few daffodils and not as many marsh marigolds. Together we collected cuttings from her friends' gardens and grew them there in a joyful muddle. These days I like the way this sunny circle appears each spring, a vestige of my first flower bed.

A Good Wall

This wall has always captured my imagination, with its solitary little window facing the afternoon sun: a 19th Century failing of Northern  Hemisphere builders and planners to adjust to the Southern Hemisphere's solar sweep. And now this space is poised between picturesque dereliction and agressive takeover by wild plums.
I have plans...  But I will let the trees bloom once more before I take to them with my new chainsaw!

September 1, 2010

South Elevation

A photo! Not taken today, but on a fine day last week. The willow tree has leafed-up since I took this shot, a view from the south of my new old house, The early 1880s stucture rises centrally from later extensions.