An English cottage garden with a Spanish twist. Here are some photographs of my parents’ back garden in England. After I visited them in Spain on my recent trip to Europe, I went on to England and stayed at the family home in Cheshire. They had asked me to tidy up the garden. What a relief it was for me that there was virtually nothing to do. Even though only a few years old, the perennials grow and dominate the space, shutting out weeds. The only weeding that was needed was on the paved area; and the pots which were to be planted with annuals. The first photo is taken after that extra work was done, the rest were taken of the garden that had not been tended for two months.
I have written before about how their garden in Spain uses local plants but in an English design. Here we have the reverse influence. A garden in England with English planting, but the design influenced by Spanish design. They have often remarked on how the Spanish create lovely courtyards with pot plants. Usually these have high walls and create shady areas that a cool places to retreat to in the sun. My parents decided to remove the old central lawn and make it a planted bed so that the main space, where the seats and the pots are, is now paved and surrounded by plants on all sides, creating a courtyard effect. This is the ‘Spanish twist’ I referred to. To see pictures of their English garden in Spain, and the how this garden in England looked before they removed the lawn, go here.
When they sent me these photos, my mum, who had just read a previous post about the garden poem of Ben Jonson, referred me also to a 19th century English poem about gardens. So here it is - My Garden, by Thomas Edward Brown (1830-97). For those who like me didn’t know, ‘wot’ is an archaic term meaning ‘knows’ and ‘grot’ is a poetic form of ‘grotto’. This post is the second garden-and-poetry column I’ve done in a short space of time. I ask readers please don’t tell anyone I’ve been doing this – it will destroy the image I like to portray of myself as a poetry hating curmudgeon. So, on to the poem…
A Garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!
Fern’ed grot –
The veriest school
Of peace; and yet the fool
Contends that God is not –
Not God! In gardens! When the eve is cool?
Nay, but I have a sign;
‘Tis very sure that God walks in mine.
PS As an afterword, and going from the sublime to the ‘cor blimey’, here is a folk song about English gardens that always makes me sentimental about home when I hear it. It’s by Crowded House, who are not from England but New Zealand; and the only version I could get online has subtitles in Spanish, but given the Spanish – English garden theme in this article I suppose it’s not altogether inappropriate.