Friday, 11 March 2011


You'll be deeply relieved, I suspect, when you discover that this post is to be light on words.  I was going to rant a bit about various things but when this morning's news broke about the Japan earthquake, even the most pressing problems at home suddenly seemed so trivial as to be barely worth a second thought.

I can't imagine how awful it must be, when your little world - the solid ground at your feet - suddenly starts jiving and rocking like a 12ft dinghy in a swell.  What do you hang onto when concrete is behaving like jelly and your personal space is suddenly filled with falling masonry.

I'm trying to imagine, too, what our local town's shopping street might be like, suddenly converted into a raging torrent of debris-filled water with ocean going vessels capsizing at the point where one normally catches the bus or nips into the pub for a pint of real ale.

We've had too many earthquakes, recently.  Let's hope there won't be any more for a while.

Scilla bifolia with weeds in my woodland garden.

About 15 years ago, I was wandering up Mount Parnassos, in Greece, with Kew orchid expert and botanist Philip Cribb and a party of fellow enthusiasts.  Phil was searching for wild orchids, but I was being bowled over by anything in flower.  As we neared the summit, where the snow was receding, I gasped with excitement and awe at the sight of spring flowers popping up in the damp  turf.  They weren't even waiting for the snow to melt but were thrusting through the pristine, crystalline slush at the margin of the snow field.  Crocus sieberi were the most obvious but the plants that won me over completely were Fritillaria graeca and Scilla bifolia.

The blue is as intense as that of Gentiana acaulis - not reproduced too well here.

The intense blue of scilla bifolia has to be seen to be beileved. They're shortlived and, frankly, not very gardenworthy, but for the few days that they are in bloom, they're an absolute joy. Back home, I quickly got hold of some bulbs and now have a thriving little colony.  

Among my seedlings, this pale pink form showed up.  I hope it multiplies.

Enjoy them - their beauty cannot be denied- but while you take in the blue, in my rather inadequate and rushed shots, please think of people who have suffered in recent natural disasters.

You may recall I mentioned hepaticas recently here.  Well, I'm glad to report that the rather tatty pink job originally bought at an RHS London show, has spawned some pretty babies.  Enjoy those too.  Sorry the photos are substandard, but I did them just now, on the run, in wind and lousy light.

Hepatica triloba - tatty but still going strong after weeks in flower.

The colours all look similar, online, but I can assure you they are all quite different.

A clean, dark blue.

Soft cerise with darker veins

Best of the seedlings a mid blue suffused with white.

I'm listening to a Tchaikovsky Piano Sonata and not enjoying it very much.

This week's film was Tirez sur le Pianiste - translated as Shoot the Piano Player.  Francois Truffaut getting dangerously close to awful 'New Wave,' but still a fine little film of just over 70 minutes.  Charles Aznavour is so perfectly cast as Saroyan/Kohler, the timid little musician who screws up his life because of excruciating shyness, and who is also caught up in some dark, weirdly plotted gangsterish thuggery which is never really explained.  Thankfully he doesn't sing much.  Oh, sorry to offend Azanvour fans. Wonderful to see the magnificently nosed Albert Rémy who most people remember from The Train.

This day in 1992 I was writing my first novel, The Kirkland Acres and complaining about the bitter cold wind and sparrows ruining my pulmonarias, wisteria and clematis.

Hepatica transsylvanica. More petals, you will note.

Thanks for reading - byeee!


  1. The images from Japan are awful and I think there is far too much voyeurgism and sensationalism. We are all capable of imaginging the horror of what those poor people are going through without the news images sensationalising it - sorry just really cross, its so disreputful.

    If you want to imagine what an earthquake is like there is an exhibit at the Science Musuem where you stand in a simulated shop and then it starts to move as in a quake - frightening, the lights go off and its so disoritentating although I suspect it is not on anything like the scale they experienced in Japan or New Zealand.

    I didnt know you had written novels - what genre?

  2. I think in our safe 21st century bubble it is virtually impossible to imagine what it is like in Japan at present. Saying that, I live just outside Cockermouth and witnessed the November 2009 floods. We live very near the river and were affected by road closures, etc., but despite the devastation caused in West Cumbria, compared to Japan the water was actually contained in a relatively small area. Watching TV at present I suspect, with sadness, that the figures given for fatalities are woefully inaccurate.

  3. We have a holiday in Japan planned for November (autumn leaves season) and I already have flights paid for, deposit put down and itinerary worked out taking in some of their best gardens. Hopefully things will have calmed down before November and our visit will help their economy rather than put a strain on an overtaxed infrastructure as I have to believe all these unnecessary masses of reporters and voyeurs do. I have always been really nervous about the possibility of earthquakes in places like Greece and Sicily when we holidayed there, although have never experienced one. I don't know whether Japan will still be getting aftershocks in November but I guess if the Japanese can cope with them so can I. On some level it is reassuring to think that in Tokyo the buildings are built to withstand even a quake of that size. We are mostly touring to the west and south of Tokyo which it seems has been pretty much unaffected.

    My heart goes out to all those people caught up in the earthquake and aftermath. The Japanese appear to be bearing this tragedy with astonishing dignity and calm which makes me even more determined to visit their country.

  4. What a coincidence! I just saw some pink hepaticas a couple of days ago...painted on a toilet stall in the ladies room. We Alaskans are nothing if not classy. No actual flowers here for a long while.

    Part of our downtown cracked open and fell during our last big quake in 1964.

    Christine in Alaska, flowerless