The Cottage Smallholder

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Huge delights in every garden

humingbird moth in EssexMy first very own garden was barely three strides square. I was in my mid thirties and began planting with passion. It was the size of a giant’s plant pot but small enough for me to scratch around with confidence.

It could be weeded in twenty minutes and was small enough to notice and cherish every tiny detail. When my clematis Jackmanni opened for the first time, I fell hopelessly in love.

The gardening bug is like a benevolent form of Malaria. It keeps on returning. You might take a year or two off but it will get you in the end. After a break, the tendency becomes as pervasive as daisies on a forgotten lawn.

At times it can dominate.

“It’s just sandwiches tonight.”
Is what I long to say when I finally kick off my boots to rustle up something a bit more substantial. When D is away I usually lose weight and never feel hungry.

Every garden is a series of small worlds, whether it’s set within in a window box or a space large enough to walk through with the dogs. The magic is the same. If you look carefully enough every visit is a ramble.

It can be visiting insects, buds that finally open or a slim shaft of sunlight that suddenly lights something that has been growing quietly, unnoticed for years. Each is a moment to be savoured as every visit to a garden will be different. Nature can never stand still.

A large garden makes stage managing this journey of delights a little easier for the gardener. At their best, hedges can shield and extend the mystery and drama. A brilliant city balcony or tiny terrace of lingering surprises displays the true skills of a gardener.

However hard a gardener works, each garden can only be a backdrop to the wildlife. Who can forget the glimpse of butterflies chasing against a clear blue sky or swallows circling high on the wing for insects?

Early last summer in an overgrown Essex garden, I spotted my first hummingbird moth. It’s a moment that I often return to. Standing in the long grass with the sun on my back absorbing the chrome yellow of the dandelions and sound of this beautiful insect foraging for nectar. Unforgettable.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Scintilla

    Positano looks wonderful!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Scintilla

    Just found your blog – love it as we share the same sentiments on gardening exactly! I look forward to reading more.
    We have those hummingbird moths in Positano amongst the Jasmine !

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    At one stage in my life I worked for four days and gardened for three – bliss!

    Hi Gillie

    That sounds like a perfect mmoment!

    Hi Amalee


    Hello Kay

    That’s me too…

  4. It is like malaria! Lord knows, in November or February I’m sure the infection has died out and I’ll never want to garden again, but by June I’m out there every minute of daylight, neglecting all my other tasks …

  5. amalee issa

    Fiona, that’s a very generous photograph. A bee gathering nectar from a “weed.” This is what makes your blog so good.


  6. gillie

    I’ve just spent the day working in the garden. Our garden is really four different smaller gardens (plus 2 veg patches and the soft fruits) so I know exactly what you mean about little different worlds. When I was weeding the lane bit of the garden I could hear a frantic buzzing. Being somewhat wary of bee stings I looked around and saw two mating bees! Two tiny tiny creatures furiously doing what they do well in amongst the dying tulips.

  7. Kate(uk)

    I know just what you mean Fiona. Must dash, gardening to do…

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