Thursday, 16 November 2017

In memoriam: J-P Stacey

It's hard to find the words. They have been stuck inside me for weeks. But I need to say it, to write it down. One of the dearest people in the world to me, has died.

J-P Stacey was one of the kindest, cleverest and funniest people I've ever known. He, along with his partner Kate, were two of Kevin's and my closest friends. But J-P died suddenly, unexpectedly at 40, a few weeks ago. It has shaken Kevin and I to the core. I can only imagine how devastated Kate, his Welsh Rose (as named in his blog), feels.

Fellow gardeners may know J-P as Next Square Metre, the name of his blog and his gardening Twitter handle. J-P was my gardening pal. He loved, was addicted to, plants and gardens, as I am. When we first met I had been gardening for longer than he, and he often asked me for advice. This quickly became mutual, as J-P was a quick study and his passion for learning about plants and gardening knew no bounds, and I soon was asking him just as many questions in return.

We enjoyed visiting gardens together and discussing design, varieties of both ornamentals and edibles, looking out for ideas that might suit our gardens. We had so many gardens we wanted to see. We kept trying to plan to go to Harlow Carr, but somehow we hadn't fit it in. Life got in the way. Now we can never fit it in.

We did go to local Hardy Plant Society talks, purchased more plants. There was a lot of plant-loving going on. As my ME got worse, J-P helped me out in my garden, even though he had his own garden as a work-in-progress. He also offered his skills and time to a local community garden, and the Friends of Sheaf Valley Park.

In fact, J-P was genuinely kind and thoughtful person. When you spoke with him, he listened. He would often pause before replying, as he thought over what you had said, and responded with understanding and thoughtfulness. He was an ally to feminism, people of colour, trans and other 'minority' groups, challenging and calling out sexism, racism and transphobia where he saw it. As a friend, he was always there for me. As Kevin has needed to travel to Australia for his dad a couple of times this year, it was J-P (and Kate) who helped me out when the ME made it difficult for me to manage. I believe we were there for each other, in good times as well as difficult ones. But we cannot be there for each other anymore.

And bloody hell, J-P was funny. The problem is, how do I capture his humour in words? Because the humour was contextual, you really had to be there. Maybe it's enough that I remember how much he made me laugh?

He was also clever, but he wore it lightly. I find pronouncing Latin names for plants difficult, and J-P became my Latin pronunciation wiki. Yet he never once made me feel stupid (like some others had done), instead he encouraged me and reminded me that we don't truly know how the Romans may have pronounced Latin anyway. He was also clever in many non-gardening ways, though my knowledge of Drupal* is limited to 'something J-P programmed in'. He used his knowledge for good, whether it was assisting others working on programmes to help refugees in Sheffield, campaigning on climate issues, or challenging toxic masculinity. And he would write the most incisive comments in 140 characters on late-stage capitalism that you have ever read.

J-P was someone I could trust and rely upon, as a friend, as an ally, as a fellow gardener. However, these words are inadequate, and don't truly capture the depth of loss that I feel. I just cannot find the words, the proper words, to show just how much J-P meant to me. The words are lost to me, like J-P.

I don't know how to say goodbye to J-P yet. So I want to close with an oddly prescient poem (a villanelle, no less) that J-P composed and published on his blog a couple of weeks before he died. I wanted to cross-publish it here, so it won't be lost when his blog closes. Inspired by a short tweet with photos of his garden by a fellow gardener, Darren Lakin, Before the rain and darkness fell:

Before the rain and darkness fell
While still we saw our garden fair
We worried not and thought things well

The apple, quince, pear, muscatel
Made show of all the fruit they bear
Before the rain and darkness fell

On this rich beauty did we dwell
We took our time, to stand and stare
We worried not and thought things well

We gazed at flowers, and smelled their smell
To ward off chills in autumn air
Before the rain and darkness fell

While gloaming could not yet compel
Our hearts to gloamier despair
We worried not and thought things well

But now we do not dare to dwell
On how, when we were unware
Before the rain and darkness fell
We worried not and thought things well

      J-P Stacey

J-P with Kate, at Chatsworth Flower Show for his 40th, June 2017

*See a post by Tom Dyson, a work colleague of J-P's.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Wordy Wednesday 1st November 2017: Age

Having just turned 50, I feel quite young. Well, barely a blink in the eye of time compared to this Trilobite ;)




Thank you to my lovely friend Kerri for this most excellent gift.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Hedgehog in the garden

Yes, we had a hedgehog in our garden on the weekend. A healthy one. Unlike the ill one that visited the garden in March and which I had to take to the vet, and well, was too sick to be saved.  :(  This was a healthy hog, having a good snuffle around the garden. It seemed to be checking out the privet hedge, maybe as a place to sleep for winter?

Not the best pics ever, but who cares, we had a hedgehog in the garden.






A little video. Not exactly a Cannes winner, but who cares, we had a hedgehog in our garden!


#WildlifeFromMyWindow

P.S. If you want some lovely jewellery and know the money you spend helps hedgehogs, head over the Little Silver Hedgehog. I've brought a couple of Emma Kate's necklaces and earrings, and they are beautiful. All proceeds go to her hedgehog hospital caring for sick and injured wild European hedgehogs.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

My garden right now: Autumn 2017 #mygardenrightnow


This weekend is the Autumn edition of My Garden Right Now. I took part in the early Spring (March) and Chelsea Fringe (June) editions, focusing upon my garden in pots. This time the focus is on resting in the garden.

Due to a variety of reasons, my chronic illness, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), has not improved, and in fact I'm doing less in the garden than in May. This is very frustrating, but this is as things are, so I'm adapting as best I can.

What I am doing regularly in the garden right now, is resting in my comfy chair with a cup of tea and a Tunnock's Teacake, listening to my favourite podcast, The British History Podcast, which is what the picture above represents.

My garden right now is mainly a place of rest. It is a place of quiet enjoyment of two of my favourite things, being in the garden, and learning more about British History. It's a good place to be.


I'd love to see your garden right now. Leave a comment with a link below and I'll come and visit!

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Thanks to Michelle for continuing this project. Visit Michelle's blog for links to other gardens right now, and for information on how you can take part too. And check out the hashtag on Twitter: #mygardenrightnow

Friday, 1 September 2017

Review: Indigo Herbs hemp seeds and tea

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to win an Indigo Herbs Hemp giveaway on Emma Cooper's blog, The Unconventional Garden. The giveaway was a packet of Organic Hulled Hemp Seeds and a packet of Hemp Leaf Tea.


I entered as I'd heard that hemp was good for your immune system. Research suggests that Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is an auto-immune disease, so I thought it would be useful to add hemp to my diet.

Up until now, I've been using Milled Flaxseed to increase the Omega 3 in my diet, via my morning yoghurt, muesli and nuts. For the last week or so I've been adding 2 teaspoons of the hulled hemp seeds to this, and am rather enjoying the taste. Obviously I cannot say if it's helped my immune system yet(!), but as it's tasty, I'm happy to keep including it in my breakfast. Particularly as it's higher in iron, zinc and magnesium than the flaxseed, and has Omega 6 as well. The flaxseed still has more calcium, so I'm going to continue to use both.

I wasn't sure if I would like the Hemp tea. I think in my head it made me think of nettle tea, which I just cannot stand, no matter how much sugar or honey (or both) I've added it it. But it's not like nettle tea at all. I'm not good at describing tastes, but it brings to mind a pleasant herbal tea, similar to peppermint, but with different flavours. Again, I like the taste of this product too.

Will I continue to use these hemp products? Why yes, I will. I'm enjoying the taste and given the high nutritional value of hemp, the hulled hemp seeds are a good way of adding an important collection of vitamins and minerals to my diet. I'll be ordering more from Indigo Herbs in the future.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Gardening with ME: the wonder of Hardy Perennials

In recent months, my ability to garden has reduced further due to my ME symptoms getting worse. I can do small amounts of gardening, potting up the odd alpine or smaller perennial, a bit of deadheading, but have to leave anything else to the fortnightly visit from my gardener Andrea.

However, some plants don't crave much of your time. Even in pots, my hardy perennials have yet again proved their worth. With almost no attention apart from cutting back the old foliage from last year in Spring, and a little watering, they just get on with the job of growing and flowering. If I do manage to do a little deadheading, then some of them will flower for months and months.

Here is what has been flowering and giving me a lot of pleasure over the last couple of months.

Lychnis coronaria

Dianthus cruentus, pretty by the front door

Salvia nemorosa 'Ostfriesland'

Astrantia 'Hapsden Blood'

The colours of Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Irish Dawn' &
Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' looking very good together

Helenium 'Sahin's Early Flowerer'

Heuchera 'Paris'

Primula veris, cowslip, flowering out of season.

Knautia macedonica

Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve'

The young lime-green foliage of Osmunda regalis 'Purpurascens'

Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Splendens'

The underside of Anemone hupehensis var. japonica 'Splendens'

The emerging flowers of Panicum virgatum 'Squaw'.
Looking good despite the cat frequently chewing on the leaves.

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'

Sollya heterophylla (bluebell creeper)

Lewisia 'Brynhyfryd' pink hybrid, fully flowering for a second time this year.
An alpine and a Hardy Perennial.

Rudbeckia 'Takao'

Salvia x jamensis 'Nachtvlinder'

Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora 'Carmin Brillant'

Flowering for months in the front garden, pink Valerian and
Linaria purpurea (thanks to @cmossperennials for the id on this one)

Although I can do little in the garden at the moment, these plants have been giving me joy daily, even on the days when all I can do is sit and look at them from my bedroom. If you are gardening with ME or another chronic illness, hardy perennials are a wonder and can definitely earn their place in your garden.

If you want to know more about growing hardy perennials, a good place to start is with the Hardy Plant Society.
Despite plenty of 'normal' grass, Freya likes to chew on my ornamental ones. Cats.

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I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments on your growing experiences, so don't be shy!

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