Friday, April 1, 2011

Sssh, I'm re-reading my garden

I was at parents' evening at my daughter's school the other day, and listening to her English teacher talking about re-reading the set text - in this case, Tess of the D'Urbervilles. He was saying that the more one studies a book, the more you find in it the second, third, or twelfth time round.
I am a great re-reader of books. I have what I call "flu books" - novels that I re-read when I'm feeling a bit under the weather. These include all of Jane Austen, Elizabeth Arnim's The Enchanted April, E F Benson's Mapp and Lucia series and Stella Gibbons' Nightingale Wood.
This last was recently republished in paperback, I'm delighted to say, and more will be available in August. I'm a huge fan of Stella Gibbons, who wrote dozens of novels, hardly any of which have been in print for years.
As well as falling with delight upon favourite phrases, it's amazing how often you notice something new, even in a book that is dog-eared with years of use. As one's experience of life increases, so does one's insight and perspective, I suppose.
The same goes for gardening books. The more years I spend gardening, the more I find that I see certain chapters in a new light. Something I may have flicked over four or five years ago now holds my attention. It's like learning a language: suddenly, all those unfamiliar phrases make sense.
This also helps me re-read my garden. I think we all have a corner, a bed or a problem patch that somehow, whatever we do, just refuses to come right. I've got a bit on the right-hand side of my garden that I've never really got to work. I've looked at it, and looked at it, and never until now had the courage to rip it apart and start again.
One day a couple of weeks ago, I was flipping through some books on Oriental and exotic garden design and wishing I had a rare Chinese ceramic shrine like the one in the picture. Then it struck me (the realisation, not the ceramic shrine) - I like the look of something that's motionless and monolithic amongst the movement and jumble of leaves and flowers and bees and whatever else is rustling in the undergrowth. That's what drew me to the picture.
Perhaps this explains why there are so many empty pots (focal points, as I like to think of them) in my garden. Perhaps what I needed was one more, in the middle of this particular bed...
I'll let you know if it works or not.

The bit of border in question, in high summer last year.