My Favourite Window

December 21, 2013

Where on Earth? Revealed

Stonehenge indeed. 

Cro Magnon from Magnon's Meanderings guessed without conviction, that the scene below

could be the Gallops at Newmarket.  Geo over at Trainride of the Enigmas was much closer to the mark even though he lives in California: he guessed Silbury Hill in Wiltshire. So was there someone who knew for sure? I'm not sure that Steve of Bloggertropolis fame knew for sure, but he guessed right! He wins the hand-written letter - not because he bought me lunch in Royal Leamington Spa - but because his guess was spot on. Thanks all three entrants for having a go.

We happened to visit Stonehenge the week they were closing the A344 past Stonehenge. I couldn't quite believe that I had travelled in time, to a long-proposed event I had been vaguely aware of since visiting the site over twenty years ago. For more detailed and stunning shots of the roadworks in this remarkable setting, visit Mike Pitts' Digging Up the A344

In spite of the crowds of people there, I felt that the current layout and route around the stones allowed for clear viewing without the distraction of leaping camera hogs, or distracted cellphone users. The wide grassy sweep with seating also allowed for just sitting and contemplating away from the flow of people.  

I remember how excited Kitty was as we breasted that hill showing in my original photo - I was too busy watching the queue of traffic in front of me to realise we'd reached Stonehenge. She tried to show me, "Look at the Stones, look there they are."  All I could see were traffic cones and men in hi-vis vests. Of course she would have loved to get close to the sarsen and blue stones, 

but finding an Aubrey Hole marker, and being able to pick out the Avenue satisfied the budding archaeologist in Kitty. 
Stonehenge on that warm June evening was very hard to leave.

Meanwhile, here in Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden, the Summer Solstice arrives on a gale and I notice the rose petals swirling like snow flakes.

December 16, 2013

Summer Profusion

This really is a remarkable Canterbury summer. The maddening Nor' Wester hovers over the mountains but veers to a light Easterly; the sun warms the day but cloud cover takes the heat out of the afternoons; rain falls often enough to keep the grass green. And my wilderness of a garden loves it.  Roses such as 'Wee Sandra' and 'Bobbie James' scramble over my garage, or mingle in the boundary hedge with potato vine and kanuka.

A recent visitor identified the salmon coloured rose as 'Compassion.' It really has proved its worth here over the years, and cuttings strike easily. Good to know its name though I will always think of it as Dad's rose, since he planted the original specimen here about thirty years ago.

It is one of my favourite photographic subjects, whether as a bud frozen in ice, a heavenly profusion along the veranda or a single perfect bloom matched with our native kanuka in time for Christmas.

Roses aren't the only thing flowering along the veranda and not at all co-ordinating with salmon roses, is the magenta haze of rose campion, with a startlingly good spurge thrusting through. 

Meanwhile the deep red velvety blooms of Clematis 'Niobe' ramble happily through wild raspberry canes around a water tank, and a flax that has never bloomed in twenty years has thrust up dramatic flower spikes for the first time. Dyk over at Welly Jewell has also had a tardy flax bloom for the first time this year.

But the backbone of this garden is its trees. I've never noticed this pleasing spacing before, the wild plum, the coastal lacebark and overhanging bough of weeping willow, all different but somehow in scale with one another.

Not much 'gardening' goes on here these days but there is certainly a profusion of choice flowers, specimen trees and balanced spaces to inhabit.

Rosa 'Wee Sandra'
Rosa 'Bobbie James'
Rosa 'Compassion'
Potato vine  Solanum jasminoides
Kanuka, tea tree  Kunzea ericoides
Rose campion  Lychnis coronaria
Spurge  Euphorbia sp
Clematis 'Niobe'
Harakeke, red flax  Phormium tenax 'Purpurea'
Wild plum  Prunus cerasifera
Coastal lacebark, narrow-leafed lacebark  Hoheria angustifolia
Weeping willow  Salix babylonica

December 8, 2013

End of an Era

Ten years of Being draw to a close. Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti* grew from a visionary dream - grown out of need, shared goals and determination - to provide an alternative to mainstream schooling. Although the school's city site is now cleared land, the premises of its pre-cursor primary school, Discovery 1, are still visible at the top of an old, re-developed department store.

Both schools have been operating from sites outside of the central city since the Feb 2011 earthquake. Ministry of Education reforms announced earlier this year for Christchurch schools declared that the two schools would merge next year. Although the reforms have been unwelcome for many school communities, the merger of Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti with Discovery 1 is a desirable progression, with many children moving through both schools, and families carrying through the qualities and understanding developed at primary school level for the benefit of the secondary school. 

A large group of current and past pupils, staff and families gathered yesterday to mark ten year's of Unlimited's success as well as the end of its secondary school identity. We gathered under the big plane tree, which used to serve as an evacuation muster point for fire alarms and earthquake drills.

There were memories shared of great education ...

and the Earthquake itself.

There were speeches from students past and present, Board of Trustees representatives and the incoming Director of the new Area school. It was touching that Steven chose to speak as a past Learning Advisor (teacher) rather than as Director of a school that doesn't yet exist. 

There was a cake - cut by some of the Foundation Forty students: the school opened in 2003 with just 40 students.

A sprig of rosemary sat next to the cake, a poignant reminder of the loss of Life, that has threaded through the last ten years - too much of it tragic, though none from the great Earthquake. Remembering the deaths brought to mind the strength of this school community at dealing with loss; how the whole school marshals to support families through shock, funerals and grieving. 

And whenever we gather there is always kai. Food!

Listening to the speeches and informal conversation I noticed that although everyone had a personal story to tell, there was a strong sense of shared experience, and a layering over the years, of people with common goals.  I can't believe that as Bryony graduates from Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti in a few days time,

I am lucky to be able to move with Kitty into the exciting next phase of student lead education and participate as the new school, with a new name, moves back into a vibrant recovering city. 

*Paenga Tawhiti  can be translated as distant or boundless horizons.

December 3, 2013

Where on Earth?

Do you recognise this view?

Tell me what vantage point you think I have taken this photo from 
and one lucky reader will win ...

A hand-written letter in time for... well, probably not Christmas, but New Year. 
Yes, to anywhere on Earth, but you will have to be prepared to forward your physical address by way of my email address.

The place is well known globally, but the day I was there seemed to be particularly weighted with the grand schemes of Man. The time of day intensified the ancillary goings-on and made for distracting photo opportunities. Funny to notice how many sight-seers are distracted by their cell phones!

Leave a comment by 20th December to be in to win in Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden Christmas competition. A tip if you are having trouble leaving a comment, is to open another browser - if you are using Google Chrome, open Internet Explorer for instance. I now have my blog bookmarked on Internet Explorer (even though I prefer Chrome for speed) so that I can leave comments on blogs like 
Going Gently, Magnon' s Meanderings and Retro Pottery Net .

November 28, 2013

Across the Junes

With apologies to The Black Peach Theatre Co for using the title of their mid-winter 
theatre sports evening. While NZ was storm-wracked, the company managed to stage their monthly show in Rangiora in spite of floods, a broken bridge, snow and gales. 
Pity I couldn't be there...
Or do I mean here?

This November has felt so like England's June this year. Warm balmy weather with a misting of damp days to keep things growing, few vicious winds, roses blooming profusely... Five months ago the cabbage trees (or palms) were flowering along the seafront at Torquay, and in Barbara Hepworth's Sculpture Garden in St Ives, Cornwall.

But come here to see what they can really do. They have stolen the show this year all around Ashley, their big densely-packed plumes scenting the whole village. The blossom is going over now, aided by cooler temperatures and rain over the last few days. Rain. What a good excuse to take a stroll back through that glorious British summer of 2013.

A walk down memory lane - or the Oxford Canal towpath - was a must, since Elwin and I spent four years living here on the Hythe Bridge Arm.

How lucky I feel to still have family in Oxford, to be able walk home through the meadows 
that patchwork this paradoxical city;

to stroll in University grounds like the Corpus Christi College garden on its public open day;

or explore the margins of the city - places like Headington Quarry where we found this 
Wisteria cascading over a garden wall.

But, to escape the crowds in town 

the Cotswold countryside was a refreshing retreat:

a place to find traditional village morris dancers 

like the guardians of the Stanton Harcourt tradition - on one of their two annual appearances 
- at the village's mid-summer fete;

or just to watch ducklings on a village duck pond: 
at Ducklington on this occasion.

Touring further afield, Kitty and I visited ancestral territory. 

She made a daisy chain for her great great great grandfather, David Hobby, at Brympton d'Evercy in Somerset, and we walked the domain of his son William (my great grandfather). He was Head Gardener not far away at Montacute House while his father occupied the same role at Brympton.

In the nearby National Trust garden of Tintinhull I found a patch that could have been my own, though here in New Zealand this easy overgrown ramble of Cherokee rose and Apple tree with self-sown docks, seeding grasses and buttercup is considered something in-need of tidying up.

These wildflowers, speedwell and buttercup, also grow wild in my garden. Here their free and pretty nature was in stark contrast to the view across the road

of Dartmoor Prison.
And crossing Dartmoor we left June behind.

While I have been writing this post, Black Peach have been rehearsing for this month's show in my lounge room. And since the show is a round-up of the year's best acts, entitled Pick of the Crop, I should get to see some of what I missed in June!

November 8, 2013

I've been back in the Secret Garden for a couple of months now.  After leaving my blog to its own devices for three months, I thought I'd dash off a welcome home post as soon as I arrived back. 

A traveller's round-up maybe

or good-to-be-back...

Really it was - and is - good to be back. 
A pity that in that first week home, the biggest gale in nearly 40 years blew any tranquility away. We were lucky here in the Secret Garden. We only suffered loss of power, ash-fall in the night and a few cast willow branches. Elsewhere, forestry lots were smashed to pieces or destroyed by wild fires, trees were uprooted, roads were closed, and cows went unmilked.
Then our friend, Gerald died, and it was hard to find joy in being back home. 

Two days ago we remembered losing Elwin, and I know that it's time to gather my strength again and celebrate what I do have, and what I can do.

Spring is here, early summer really, a match for the season that was blooming in England when I arrived at the beginning of June; the beginning of that remarkable heated summer... Now there's a tale to tell!

Double pink may, Crataegus laevigata 'Rosea Flore Pleno' (seedling grown)

May 29, 2013

Time for Autumn

It is the time of chrysanthemums in this North Canterbury Secret Garden. A single plant romps with gay abandon through the rose bushes along the verandah. No need for staking when there are handy rose bushes nearby.

Time for medlars too - if they take your fancy... Friend Jo found a crop in an old garden and we've Googled them, admired their rosehip forms, and yes, tasted them. There's no need for any laying out on sawdust. They just 'blet' quietly and within a few days, in a bowl on the kitchen bench - the skin changes from firm, to wrinkled and soft. If you can push yourself past the feeling that they are rotten fruit - I decided that they looked like spicy buns instead - medlars have a light apple flavour, with the gritty texture of cooked quince. But eating around the large seeds is fiddly and not very rewarding. I can understand why they are used in preserves instead of as a fresh-ish fruit. I'd still like to have a few trees here in the Secret Garden for their lovely flowers and foliage, so yes, I have saved some seed.

There has been time for celebrating Mothers

with Kitty's treat of a sun-filled breakfast tray to begin Mothers' Day,

and afternoon tea with my own mother.

It was time for someone to move house! 
This one - possibly a refugee from the Earthquake Red Zone - was parked in the village for nearly a fortnight. 

There was a time to wash and dry a new stash 
of pretty linen for my shop. 

It is time to look to the Future.
I found this silver ball at the same dump shop as the linen. 
The silver ball is for me, not my shop.

When I was a child in the 60s, one of these set on a pedestal, was a genteel garden ornament. I was enchanted by them.
They belonged with rose bushes in a row along each side of the path. 
They belonged with a white ceramic swan displayed on the front window sill.
Time passed and they became very uncool in my generation's eyes. 
That neat front garden ethic: it's almost gone now - replaced all along those suburban streets with 1.8 metre plank fences - for privacy of course.
But the ball, the ball... I have wanted one (or more) to float in the occasionally flowing ephemeral stream ever since Elwin and I placed our house to overlook it. 
How strange to have come across this one, streaked with paint and jammed into a cardboard box at the dump shop, at a time when I am constantly questioning where I belong and whether I should stay here. 
You're not finished here; remember to come back,
the ball is telling me as I fly off into Arabian Nights and Summer days.

Medlar  Mespilus germanica