Writing from my happy place.

Thanks for clicking on the link to ‘Writing from my happy place’. It’s been a while since I was last here with you, but I’m delighted to be back, and so glad you’ve joined me.

As said I haven’t blogged for a while because I’ve sort of been away with the garden faeries; I’d have mentioned this sooner was it not for the fear of judgement, or people losing faith in me. But here I am once again, back in the blogosphere and speaking openly – for better or for worse.

Whilst moving through the last few years it is fair to say that I’ve experienced a good deal of change, most notably in my working days, and gardening ways. I’m certainly not alone, as many others have experienced similar too, leading lots of people to reflect more, to refocus, and re-evaluate their situations – my head has been in that space too.

Many have held steady career courses and weathered these turbulent times with confidence, but many have not, and have looked for positive change in new situations. As you probably know, I sought change, and whilst my endeavours barely got out of second gear, I do believe that every step of the way made a lasting and positive difference – not only to each place, I trust, but to me personally. I certainly churned a lot of compost over the last few years!

On reflection though, I’m coming to realise that the last few years have been somewhat experimental for me, where subconsciously I might have simply needed a new focus. If only I’d figured this out sooner I may not have frustrated those around me, or those further afield who watched on in bewilderment.

Experimental or not, those years have certainly been engaging, and pretty taxing too, and I’ve met some fabulous people and spent time in the most incredible places – Indeed I’ve been very fortunate. It has though become harder in recent months to continue blogging with as much freedom as before, and my Gardening Ways posts have dwindled.

At this point though, having found a little more stability in my working days, I’ve started questioning what to do with my blog. Should I develop and adapt the posts, if so how? Shall I shift focus to allotment gardening, or pick up on my garden and parks consultancy work somehow? Or, has the blog run its course, and is it time to call it a day? Your thoughts are of course welcome.

It might not seem like a big issue to some, but I’ve poured an awful lot of time into this blog over the years. It’s frustrating then, that I’ve struggled to deal with not blogging so often over the last few months, but I can reassure that my work with Gardening Ways is not done yet.

The turning point, if it was one, was a week or so ago when a proverbial apple fell out of the tree, and I realised something fundamental to this whole blogging dilemma. I’ve therefore made time to produce this very different post, both to record the point where my blogging world pivots, and reason why. Apologies if you were expecting pretty floral pictures by the way…maybe next time!

Firstly, my shift this year from working in frontline horticulture to consulting has meant that I now physically experience far fewer melancholic sunrises or soul nourishing sunsets. I enjoyed no professional propagating for borders or plant sales in spring, and there were no topiary shapes to clip in summer. Next week, there will be no ‘work’ pumpkins to carve or bird feeders to make for events, and my annual mowing mileage has literally dropped off the chart! I’ve practically switched from garden deliverer, to garden influencer you could say.

To those ends, it would seem that the daily free delivery of experiences, or fuel that I previously used to stoke my creative blogging furnace, disappeared overnight in January. That sudden perceived loss of fuel led to my heavily preened garden Journal posts fading away like dying coals in the grate, and that’s caused some feeling of frustration.

Secondly, I have on the whole considered Gardening Ways to be a blogging venture only, somewhere to post much loved images and support them with text, and not anything more. I’d be the first to say that it was never a writing voyage, at least not in the traditional sense, it was a place to record, to relate, and to be present; and I needed it for some reason.

I will admit though, that at one point I do remember adjusting all my ‘social’ labels to that of gardener and garden writer, in the hope that somehow the label itself might evolve me into one. But, did I really expect myself to carry the notion forward when every day I’d return to the task of gardening itself, and every night my eyes would be tired and creativity diminished?

In any case, deep down did I really possess the words to shift from blogger to writer? Evidently I thought not, as I remember it wasn’t long before I deleted those labels as it felt fraudulent, and I’ve stayed away from such labels to this day.

Furthermore, I’d say that I haven’t classed myself a writer because, whilst I might have secretly harboured those ideas, did I ever seriously consider making them reality? More often I occupied myself by playing things safe, and focusing on being a better gardener.

I now realise that I’ve been missing something, not just blogging in its physical sense, of delivering messages on the theme of gardening, but all of the creative process. I’ve not exactly sat around doing nothing, but over the last few months I’ve missed those hours of editing and creating articles off the back of random images. I’ve also missed the nervous anticipation of hitting that publish button and exposing my words to the world.

So where’s all this preliminary talk leading us? Well, I’ve realised that garden writing is not a skill you’re born with, but one you develop; alongside skills for sparking creativity and editing. Obviously, some people seem naturally talented, as in any walk of life, but whilst I’m certainly not elevating myself too high, there is hope that with a little practice and tuition, I could get there. (Wherever ‘there’ is of course!)

I’ve recognised very recently that writing can be a planned, mechanical, creative process, so why this hasn’t struck me before I just don’t know. I mean, I have followed my own procedures and developed routes to a blog post, but I’d rarely say that my posts displayed real creativity, far from it. If anything, my blog writing processes might actually have suppressed it.

The trigger, which for the time being will stay under wraps, has made me realise that the behind-the-scenes creative process of writing itself; has driven me all along. Every photo or video clip I’ve snatched each day has also been part of that process, but aside from gardening itself, I’m never more engaged or in-the-moment than when I’m doing this – writing.

Every time I’ve sat down to write, sometimes out of desire, sometimes out of duty, the words roll like autumn leaves blowing across a lawn. Some will catch on a noticeable shrub here, others will roll to a lichen covered bench there, but most often they’ll assemble in a tidy-ish pile for collection, and distribution.

OK, so I can openly say that I’ve started more posts than I finished, and deleted more words than I’ve ever published, but I now understand that to be a normal part of the process. All this time I’ve cursed myself for not having the ability to evolve into a writer, and not understanding that it’s really a skill that can be developed, honed and improved.

Looking ahead, I’m not saying that articles will suddenly flow thick and fast, because in many ways I’m still getting to grips with where I am and where I want the blog to go; combined with the fact that I’m really seeing this post as a new beginning. Equally, I know I have quite a job ahead to break from the structure of my previous articles, a posting style that I’ve desperately wanted to change for a long while. Overall, if it matters to you at all, I can at least assure that I shall be working on my writing in the days ahead, and in the process I hope, figuring out who I am, and what I want to say.

So there you have it, these words might have received some editing, but I’ve spoke openly and honestly about where I’ve been, and why. I’ve not rushed it, although I might have overthought it somewhat, and I’ve enjoyed the process more this time. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to haunt me.

I’ll come back soon, for sure, but not so soon as to force an article. I’ll be aiming to produce something that comes from my new found creative and happy place; and I can’t wait to see where the words take us. Who knows, maybe one day from my happy place, a book or magazine article might pop out; we shall just have to see.

Thanks for sticking with me through all of the above, I really do appreciate your time and equally, I’d really appreciate your thoughts and comments. Do feel free to DM me on Instagram or Twitter if that’s easier, but I’d love to hear from you either way.

Kind regards, Gary

My Woven Web

Hello and welcome back to my gardening ways blog. It has been a while since I last showed up, but many thanks for stopping by. I hope you’ll find something to delight, entertain or connect with, be it a few moments pondering my weird take on a life in horticulture, or enjoyment of a few carefully selected seasonal images and notes.

If you know my blog, you’ll know the importance I place on images which contribute hugely to whichever piece I’m presenting. You’ll understand, that for the first time in I don’t know how long, I’m jumping straight into the writing, and the images will be randomly squeezed in afterwards. This isn’t due to a shortage of pictures by the way, but more related to my present state of mind. In the next few lines, all will become apparent, as they say!

Manipulated image of a gardener at work on an allotment.
A manipulated image of my good self at work on the allotment.

The different approach to this post is due to the strange horticultural path I feel I’m treading just now, balanced precariously as I am between a garden consultancy role, restoring an allotment, and establishing a new garden at home. (This lifestyle shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise if you know me at all!)

I don’t think I’m different to many other people, in as much that I’m inspired regularly by my surroundings and situations, and I’m increasingly driven to capture them in some way. To this end, I’m usually to be found snapping pictures of flowers, bees, beetles and anything garden-like, in fact anything ancient, artistic or horticulturally trivial that captures my attention. I’ll often lag behind on an outing, only to have to hurry to catch up because I got caught up taking some pictures!

Woolsthorpe Manor and Newton’s apple tree in full leaf, positioned behind a low wattle barrier
Another property on my patch, so to speak: Woolsthorpe Manor, with Newton’s apple tree.

In the last week alone, I’ve filmed clips of freshly shooting trees, grazing deer, potato planting, potting-up in the garden, dragonflies resting, and both wild flowers and roses swaying in the breeze. It’s all linked I think, yet makes my photo archive something of a random mix of visuals. You might experience a slither of the experience were you to scroll down my Instagram page!

The random nature of my imagery has become all the more varied since taking a major personal turn in direction towards the end of last year with, as mentioned previously: a new home, a new allotment and new job. I’ve always collected images of course, but now they’re from here, there, and seemingly everywhere!

A seedling Rowan tree in a pot
An important little seedling Rowan tree, its family line stretching back to a family garden two generations back.

However, despite the head-filling work days and remaining no-time-to-rest hours left over each week, I feel duty bound to record a post that in some ways will capture this moment in time for me; a time when some days deliver intense frustration or exhaustion, whilst other days can present moments of complete fascination, enlightened discovery and new levels of personal fulfilment. It’s hard to explain, bu oh what a woven web we weave.

If only I could stitch all the good moments together and edit out all the bad. If the whole journey could flow and not switch lanes every five minutes. If the rain only fell at night to refresh our gardens. It would be all perfect and life would be more enjoyable, right? Wrong? Who knows.

What I do know is that it’s usually a matter of balance, in as much that the challenging moments often make the special moments even more special; a case of yin and yang I guess.

Father and son studying tadpoles in the historic garden that is Painswick Rococo Garden.
A special moment studying tadpoles with my lad at Painswick Rococo Garden.

The main body of text in this post doesn’t therefore tell a story, or record key themes as my typical garden journal posts would, but hopefully, in the spirit of openness, lets you know where I’m at mentally. The images selected, therefore, whilst not themed to the post itself will nevertheless be chosen to indicate the random nature of the days I’m experiencing.

If none of it makes sense, or is hard to contemplate, rest assured that plants are still there every day in abundance. Physical gardening, whilst randomly placed, calls me regularly, keeps me active and keeps my thumbs green, and my mental engagement in the horticultural world has risen to new, infuriatingly brilliant levels. It’s all very busy, and all very fascinating!

Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
Berrington Hall, Herefordshire, acknowledged as ‘Capability’ Brown’s last landscape commission. Tomorrow I visit Croome in Worcestershire, also on my patch, & Brown’s first large scale project.

Putting all that heaviness aside, I do hope you’ve been enjoying all the growth that spring has brought. It feels as though we’re on summer’s doorstep now and its warmth is already wafting over our gardens.

I’ve enjoyed some catch-up sessions watching Chelsea Flower Show on TV, and despite my concerns over the whole shebang, I can’t help but be inspired by the creative people and entirety of the product; I hope you’ve managed to watch some or even visit the real thing?! (If you’re more of a Beechgrove fan, I’m right there with you too).

I’ll leave things there for now, but will in my closing words encourage you to stay positive, enjoy the flowers and keep in touch. Oh yes, and please do pass on the keys to a balanced lifestyle if you have them, I could do with unlocking its mysterious ways!

Kind regards
Gary

Garden Journal 7.11.21

You are very welcome, to another garden journal entry at a time when winter looms large and that familiar autumn atmosphere surrounds and embraces us. The season’s leaves have been floating down for some while now to enrich our soils, berries and fruits have been dazzling us with their little balloons of brilliance, and spent flowers are decaying in their own special way. Isn’t it an exquisite time of year for nature and gardens?!

Bright red mountain ash berries hanging in clusters from the tree, with leafy background
Nature’s larder ready for winter shoppers

Garden Journal 29.5.21

Hello and thanks for clicking the link to my garden journal. This week I’ve written about fading tulips, the day the rains came and general glasshouse busy-ness. I also mention a garden move on the home front, (as opposed to a house move,) and introduce a new section about observation.

Tulips Fade


I last updated my garden journal on the May 19 when tulips were very clearly stealing my show. In some cases they continue to flower well but, I’m sad to say, many have now gone over. It has though been a dazzling year for them with cooler temperatures playing a useful role in slowing things down, although now it does seem like the show is nearing its end as each tulip one by one gracefully bows out.

Bright yellow Tulip ‘Yokohama’ flowers fading towards the end of their season
Tulip ‘Yokohama’ on the slide…

The Rains Came


I say gracefully, but for the second week in a row the weather has been all over the place; in fact the whole of May has been. Monday last brought very heavy and prolonged showers with added hail for good measure, and at my work’s garden of Sulgrave Manor, following a morning of it, all I could do was head indoors, again, to dry out.

Journal 21.2.21

It’s journal time for me and as I think through my week in the garden, I have to say that winter does seem to be fading away. Temperatures have risen, frozen solid ground has turned to the consistent dampness we’re more accustomed to and most importantly – there are green shoots most everywhere I look.

I speak though with a touch of hesitation, for whilst I’ve enjoyed twelve degrees of February warmth whilst walking and working this week, I really know that from a gardening perspective there’s a long way yet to go – at least I hope there is, as I have much winter work yet to do!

Rosemary flowering on regardless with its delicate violet flowers amidst aromatic foliage
Rosemary flowering on regardless

Traditionally though I often do tend to shy away from the vigour that emerging plants show, from the swelling buds on trees and the flowers that revel in winter light. Don’t misunderstand me, I do love to tune into the colour and vibrancy that occurs just now, but in the same breath I sense, almost mourn, the loss of a season which offers a more subtle kind of beauty – equalling that of any other season to my mind.

My Gardening Ways

Garden blogging – what’s it all about eh? Why do I invest good money in a WordPress blog site, only to invest more valuable time in the creation and editing of articles? (Articles that generally get caught up in the tiniest corner of a loose outer strand of the World Wide Web anyway!)

A recent article of mine…

It’s cathartic and therapeutic, that’s why. It gives me opportunity to ponder the incredibly diverse world of plants and gardens, to consider the never ending revelations, and it gives me a very personal and creative outlet. This I believe is more important than the ‘stats’ behind any blog, stats that I don’t make time to study and play to anyway.

Trust In The Gardener

Many people have ownership or responsibility for an outside area, a conservatory or balcony. The idea though of actively working one of those spaces into a garden, of cultivating plants or improving that space does not always come easily.

I’m not a gardener,” and “I know nothing about plants,” are statements I’ve heard many times, and it’s often through a fear of failing, of being judged or maybe, of having a space for growing but not knowing how to approach it.

Time’s well spent in the garden….

Now I’m not for a second going to judge or wag a green finger of disgust, because everyone is their own person, in their own unique situation and gardening shouldn’t be a forced activity. Indeed, gardening actively for some people can be next to impossible.

Gardening Creatively

Welcome to a slice of what normally would be my garden journal. Last week I actually drove down a new lane on my journey to work and delivered myself to a new garden called Sulgrave Manor.

Brassica foliage lit brightly by sunshine
Shapes in the garden

To coincide with this new chapter, and in an effort to develop my garden writing I’ve decided to take my blog in a new direction also. For the foreseeable future therefore, I’m going to try some posts that explore particular topics or themes related to gardens, horticulture, heritage or the natural world – all subjects that surround me everyday and remain close to my heart. My GardeningWays blog will henceforth feature posts with individual titles. Let’s hope I don’t run out of ideas!

Journal 30.9.20

Welcome to a slice of my weekly gardening journal – this entry a little later than planned, but an important entry nonetheless; as you find me on the last page of my chapter gardening in the Cotswolds.

Essentially it’s change of job time, equalling new days and new challenges ahead. My boots though are not yet cold from tearing around the works garden, preparing things as best I could for the inevitable gap between me and the next gardener. Therefore, for this journal entry, unlike my usual format of reviewing and looking back over the previous week, I want to be a little more creative with a look back over my last year.

Broadwell Manor, East Front in the Cotswolds in September
A reflective post….

Not wanting to assume that you know anything about the place, I shall try, at the risk of under-selling, to explain in one paragraph the garden as I see it.

Situated in the rural Cotswolds, the mellow stoned Manor House with its formal east facing Georgian façade has owned its place in the landscape for more than three centuries. Lichen and moss enriched dry stone walls and mature woodland wrap their arms around the garden, where plants ornament every corner, and iron fixings pepper every available garden wall. Fully grown walnut, beech, lime and oak trees anchor the garden firmly to the limestone packed soil, and sweeping lawns roll away from the house to a reflective pond and farmland beyond. Did I mention the kitchen garden…?

Moving into a working position there took some time, with my notice period taking a full three months to navigate. Apart from brief visits to keep things going therefore, my start was held back until mid-November, about when the rains arrived – and seemingly for the whole winter.