Tag Archive: fun

OK, this is cheating bit, I suppose. I wanted my fifth object to capture several things; but all of them involve cutting. Finally I decided on  a plant, or rather a plant treated in a particular way; topiary. In this case at Levens Hall, Cumbria.

levens hallPruning plants is a key gardening task; to stop or promote growth, to shape plants, to remove dead or diseased material, to propagate – and of course we should include grass cutting here.

I could equally have chosen a pair of secateurs or perhaps a lawnmower, but the clipped shapes of yew, box, or other species capture for me this important garden task and also symbolise what you might call the core ingredient of gardening; the conscious act of doing something to enable a plant to grow and to grow in a particular place or way.

Topiary’s clipped shapes transform the wayward beauty of nature into forms and masses which can add structure and give pleasure; when standing alone or providing a foil for swaying grasses, nodding allium heads or cottage garden favourites.

I know there is one school of thought that says this, sometimes drastic, technique seems unnatural, which is certainly true. But then again gardening is about the directing, guiding and controlling of nature. And I have to say, as a fan of topiary, it can make a garden fun. Just look at this combination of geometric shapes at Levens Hall, some of them centuries old. And when you search for topiary on the internet- which I suggest you do- you see all manner of human, animal and other forms, cleverly cultivated and maintained for our enjoyment.

One might almost say topiary puts a smile into any garden…

Old School Gardener

Fun tools on display at Corpusty Mill Garden, Norfolk- or are they cunning, personally crafted designs?!

Old School Gardener

Picture: National Trust, Charlecote Park

Picture: National Trust, Charlecote Park

cat in cloverA few more clippings from a book I bought in a charity shop last summer ….

Mesh Maxim:

The best-laid schemes of mice and gardeners aft a-gley, especially where cats and kids are concerned. It’s one thing to install a cat-proof, child-proof seedling net. It’s another thing to prove to the cats or children that they can’t get through it.

Bamboo Laws:

1. Stakes to support floppy plants are used by children to break the floppy plants they supported.

2. Bamboo canes make more realistic spears than those sold in the toy shop.

The Cat Trap:

The only way for a cat hater to keep cats out of his garden is to get a moggy of his own.

Laws of Attraction and Repulsion:

1. Where dogs, cats and children are concerned, seedbeds and wet concrete have irrestible magnetic propoerties.

2. If you lay a path to protect the lawn and the flowerbeds  you are simultaneously creating a force field which prevents children and animals from using it.


Children are always on their pest behaviour in the garden.

children in gardenFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


Large-trees-HD-picture-5-44992A few more clippings from a book I bought in a charity shop last summer ….

Celsius Curse:

Anything that survives the coldest, wettest summer since records began will perish during the mildest winter on record.

First Law of Arboriculture:

The magnificent mature tree you spotted in the National Trust garden and a similar sapling bought later at your local nursery at great expense take a hundred years to mature. no one told you this. Even if you did live to see it, the full-grown tree wouldn’t look the same in your garden.

Au Soleil:

The carefully selected, ideal situation chosen for the specimen, shade-loving shrub in November will get the full force of the sun all summer.

Law of Planters Can’t Be Choosers:

A gardener who is hunting for shrubs or trees looks first at the specimens suitable for his land, then at the substitutes on his list, and finally buys the one he can afford.

Incredible-Flowering-Shrubs-Design-ideas-for-pretty-Landscape-Traditional-design-ideas-with-columns-flowers-grass-hosta-landscape-design-Porch-shade-garden-shrubs-turf-vineFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


greenflyA few more clippings from a book I bought in a charity shop last summer ….

Altruism Truism:

A garden is an area of land devoted to growing fruit, flowers and vegetables, which in turn are dedicated to insect rearing.


1. The earth is alive to the sound of mastication.

2. Healthy plants breed healthy bugs.

Law of the vegetable patch:

A dose of insecticide whch would wipe out a medium-size town will do no more than temporarily stun a cabbage white. You can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool the caterpillars.

Law of Killing Generosity:

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but if it comes from a garden centre, do check for trojan aphids somewhere in its anatomy.

A Winning Aside:

In the fight between you, the world and blight, back the blight.

PotatoLateCycleFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


Blue-flowers-path‘With flowers, as with all other departments of the garden, you first decide what kind you want to grow and then whittle it down to what kind you can grow in the space. When you have further gone through the list and reduced it to what you can afford to grow and then eliminated the ones which you know from bitter experience will refuse to grow you have saved yourself a very great deal of labour indeed.’

Ethelind Fearon 1952

6934950_origOne more extract from a book I bought in a charity shop in the summer (apologies for the gender stereotyping)…..

The Basic law of Weedlock:

The best training for gardening is marriage.


1. Behind every successful gardener is an astonished woman.

2. About the only way to get a gardener nowadays is to marry one.

3. Gardening is a process by which a man finds out what sort of husband his wife thinks she ought to have married.

Every Wife’s Lament:

Gardening expands to exclude all more interesting possibilities.

Law of The Unwelcome Arrival of Spring:

There is nothing so harrowing to the soul of the average married man as the first growth of lawn grass.

lawn-mower-manFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


ulle.b garden booksHere’s another extract from a book I bought in a charity shop in the summer…..

Mrs. Brown’s All- Encompassing Law of Gardening:

Gardening is like pregnancy: it is nothing like the book.

Mrs. Murphy’s Literary View:

Gardening books should not be set aside lightly: they should be hurled with great force.

Four Laws of Obfuscation:

1. There are no real secrets to cultivation- only plots.

2. For counter-instructions read every good Gardening Authority.

3. For subtle distinctions (pinched from every good Gardening Authority) read the Sunday newspaper supplements.

4. For contrary advice, listen to ‘her indoors’s’  interpretation of the plagiarism in the Sunday supplements.

'Sunday Supplement' by Sarah Boardman

‘Sunday Supplement’ by Sarah Boardman

From : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


gnomeHere’s yet another extract from a book I bought in a charity shop in the summer…..

Gnomic Pondering:

The astonishing anthropomorphic success of garden gnomes is based on the simple British proposition that dirty old men are lovable if they wear red hats.

Another Couple of Inches Law:

Any fool who thinks a pool is simply a hole in the ground, filled with water, has never tried to make water level with the surrounding ground.

Corollary- No pool looks aslant until it has been filled with water.

uneven pond -distortedKite’s Fundamentals Relating to the Preservation of Fences:

1. If the paint or preservative is harmless to plants, it will kill the goldfish.

2. If it is clean, quick and simple to use, the large-sized brush recommended won’t fit the pot.

3. If the brush fits the pot and the paint doesn’t write off the goldfish, the plants will probably die anyway.

Painting_a_FenceFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener


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