October 2018 – gardens, gardening and memories.

Dry weather for most of the month meant that we made good progress on the rustic fencing along the boundary to the east of our garden. I don’t like solid barriers. They look unfriendly and boring to me – unless you are lucky enough to have a walled garden. The one we’ve erected is wildlife friendly and our neighbour will be able to share the beauty of the blooms of the two varieties of Clematis montana that I planted along it – C. montana rubens and C. montana rubens ‘Tetrarose’.

The wide border in front of the fence yielded an almost unbelievable 18 barrow loads of stone, rubble, broken glass and other bits of debris. It took most of the month to clear it all and I now have 40cms of good soil, enriched with compost. I have  planted some perennials but will add more next spring. We have already had a few cold nights but, despite heavy frosts, the Liquidamber is still at its beautiful best.

I’ve re-instated the fatball feeder. It’s on the terrace railing close to a Ceanothus so the visiting birds aren’t too exposed. It’s squirrel-proof with food in the middle of an outer casing. Long-tailed, blue, coal and great tits, house sparrow, robin and a nuthatch are visiting; and a dunnock, after much hesitation has plucked up courage to join them.

Unfortunately a health problem is necessitating hospital appointments, some as far away as Stoke on Trent and Wolverhampton. But we always manage to add a treat to these enforced days out. Thus, we visited Shugborough Hall where we had fun taking photographs of The Botanist.

Trentham Gardens impressed us and we will definitely be back next summer. I loved the amazing wire sculptures of fairies and giant dandelion seed heads.

Most of the formal flowering was over but a delightful prairie planting was still a joy to see.

I’m finding creative writing difficult although thoughts on WW1 after an exhibition in St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury inspired me to write a poem about Wilfred Owen. This will be read at a memorial event at our local Community Library.

Lost Words

Wilfred Owen –
Shropshire lad –
shoes blessed with gold of buttercups
could not save him from
the shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells.
or the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle.

So many poets lost.
Words they might have written
locked inside the pen
sealed in the earth
like barren seeds
that should have grown
and bloomed.

The golden shoes struck a cord with me because, way back in the mid 70’s, Richard referred to these in the blurb for a weekend course. I knew that I would have something in common with this very observant gentleman, so I went along and we fell in love and started our life together. It’s been a busy and varied life and although we’re happy in Shropshire we are finding it hard to let go of our involvement with The Botanist Gin. Having spent ten years of our lives in developing the recipe and providing the botanicals for every distillation up to December 2017 we amassed a great deal of information. One of the highlights of the work was giving talks and demonstrations to Brand Ambassadors from around the world.

We miss contact with these enthusiasts so have decided to give some talks in Shropshire and surrounding counties. Hence, a new Facebook Page – The Botanists of The Botanist Gin. We already have two bookings and the local WI have asked for a talk on ‘Our Life in the Hebrides’. It seems that we are unlikely to have a conventional retirement. The article written about us when we left Islay ended with these words –

‘May we add our sincere thanks and very best wishes for a long and fulfilling ‘retirement’ if that be the right word in these circumstances.  It is hard to think of Richard and Mavis slowing down much, let alone stopping !

I am still writing articles and enjoyed researching the life of Murdoch McNeil, the Gaelic speaker and botanist who, almost a hundred years ago, wrote a book about Colonsay. My article was published in Scottish Islands Explorer along with a picture of the original book and The House of Lochar reprint.

Finally, on the last day of the month we went over to Birmingham for a day with Caryl, Joe and Cerys. Unfortunately Olive wasn’t able to join us so we sent this photograph.