Back to basics…

It’s that time of year. Weather frightful. Rain hurling itself at the window. Wind wailing in the eaves. But, as far as I’m concerned, it can do what it likes.

Because I’m on a mission. The Jane King, DIY, get to grips with, find the confidence that’s been lacking, go back and have another go, mission. And the aim of this mission – to redesign the planting for the four central beds of my garden. I’ve put novel writing on hold and I’m channelling the gardener in me.

When I started with this garden in the early days, I knew less than nothing. I bunged plants in with little thought to how big they were going to grow, what shape I wanted them to be, how they would look when they were grown up. Some turned out ok. Others haven’t worked quite so well. Now, with time and space to draw breath and contemplate, I’m having a rethink.

These are the beds I’m working on.

Exhibit A…

Where do I begin???
The Where Do I Begin Bed

This is my biggest challenge. North-west facing, heavy clay, and more ins and outs to it than the Hokey Cokey. I’ve already drawn up and thrown away at least three plans. (The first of which I showed you in my last post.) So it’s still very much work in progress.

Exhibit B…

The White Mischief Bed
The White Mischief Bed

I went all Vita with this bed and decided it was going to be my white moment. It hasn’t worked. Which is why I’m having a rethink.

Exhibit C…

The Never Satisfied Bed
The Never Satisfied Bed

This was supposed to be my hot border. Didn’t really work. Time to reconsider.

Exhibit D…

The Rewrite Bed
The Rewrite Bed

This bed has had more rewrites than my first novel. (The Greenyards Legacy – you have read it haven’t you? And if you haven’t… WHY NOT?) Now I’m going to do it properly.

So you might think that – HAVING DONE A GARDEN DESIGN COURSE – I would have all of this planting design stuff under my belt, that I would be able to rustle up a cunning plan with my eyes shut. You would be wrong.

The amount of time we spent during the course on the principles of putting together a planting plan was minimal. Which left me contemplating the prospect with fear and trembling. Where to start? What to do? There are a million and one plants out there. Which, what, who am I going to choose? And how, when, where am I going to position them?

But with the help of two really excellent books, (The Complete Planting Design Course by Hilary Thomas and Steven Wooster, and Colour Your Garden by Jill Billington) I’ve gone back to basics. I’ve sharpened my pencils and I’m putting my ideas down on paper. I’m dusting off and rediscovering my Vectorworks skills, plotting and replotting plant combinations, drawing up plans… and then rethinking and starting over. I’m learning that, where the planting is concerned, it is important to view the garden as a whole, not, as I have been doing, as individual beds. I’m discovering that small gardens need a different approach to large. That there is an approach to planning the front, middle and back of borders which I’ve been failing to consider. And the light is beginning to dawn. I can do this thing. I have got what it takes.

Who knows where this will take me? But one thing’s for sure – my garden is going to look bloomin’ fantastic.

Spot the difference….

So I’m on holiday in Puerto Pollenca. And I’m doing the things I always do when I’m on holiday in Puerto Pollenca, like swimming in the crystal clear waters of the bay,

Pollenca Bay
Pollenca Bay

wandering along Pine Walk to the Illa D’Or,

Pine Walk
Pine Walk

soaking up a bit of sun, trying not to eat and drink too much so that I don’t come home the size of a house. And it’s all pretty much how it usually is, which is pretty much perfect.

Except for something’s different. And the something that is different is that when I’m sitting in the sun reading one of the books I’ve brought out with me, and beside me other people are sitting in the sun reading one of the books they’ve brought out with them, some of them are reading…. MY BOOK. That’s the book written by me.

I cannot begin to tell you how extraordinary that feels. Extraordinary and unanticipated and…. kind of amazing. Because they seem to be enjoying it. And I get to have a lovely time talking about the characters and the places and the plot. Which I love doing, because I love the characters and the places and the plot. Because the characters feel like family to me, and we all love to talk about our family, don’t we?

So here is Sue. And she’s reading The Greenyards Legacy.

photo copy

And if you’re interested, (which of course you are, aren’t you?) you can find out what she thought about it by clicking here.

Exciting, huh?

First Feedback….

Really really big day….

Just had my first review….

It was good….

Actually it was really good….

I’ve just come back down to earth after a bout of overexcited leaping around the room. And just felt I had to share this moment.

If you want to read the review – and of course you do, don’t you!!!!! – you can find it at amazon

Exciting, huh!



The book what I wrote….

Ok folks…. Prepare yourselves…. Because today’s the day.

I’ve finally gone and done it. After years of fannying about, self doubting, prevaricating and generally believing that nobody would be interested in reading a book written by me, I’ve taken the plunge.

And this is it.

The Greenyards Legacy

My book. The one I started writing nearly ten years ago, the one I researched and wrote, found an agent for, didn’t find a publisher for, gave up on, picked up again, thought ‘you know what I really like this book,’ self-edited, self-edited some more, found a really cool self-publishing service provided by Amazon, turned it into something that looks like a real book.

And now all you have to do is click on this link for and order your copy. If you’re in the US you can click on the link, and you will be able to get it right now. And by August 21st you will be able to read The Greenyards Legacy on Kindle.

So there you have it. I really hope you read it. And if you do, I really hope you like it. And if you do, I really hope you tell all your friends and write a glowing review.

Big day, huh!




The Old Dog Book List….

So here we go….

I’ve met with my first client, agreed the brief for my first job and I’m going back to do the survey next week. I’ve been down to deepest Kent to look at my sister’s front garden. Taken photos, done a bit of sketching. My pencils are sharpened, my desk is tidy, the books that were piled up on the floor are neatly arranged in the bookcase….

…. hold on, they should have been neatly arranged. But when I sat down this morning to organise them I got sidetracked. Because to hell with fiction, who cares about poetry; this year I’ve been gardencentric to the point of obsession. I’ve discovered the joys of secondhand gardening books and the postman has been plodding up to my front door on a pretty regular basis with parcels of garden focussed literature. When I pick one up I find it very hard to put it down again without reading a few pages. So this morning turned into more of a reading than an arranging experience.

I was amazed to find out how many there were. But when the books cost less than the postage it’s hard to resist. Some have been good, some have been bad, some have been downright ugly. But the good have become close friends and they’ve seen me through some tough times.

There have been some unexpected pleasures. Open the front cover of A.M. Clevely’s The Integrated Garden and you find a handwritten message on the flyleaf – ‘To my Darling from his Darling on his 30th Birthday.  14.11.1988.’ And the imprint of a lipstick kiss. How intriguing. Like the plot of a Richard Curtis film. Who were they and where are they now? Did ‘my Darling’ lose interest in his garden? Why did he give the book away?

Then there is the book with the Northamptonshire Central Library sticker inside the front cover. Turns out it should have been returned by 1.11.2010. Oops. Someone’s in trouble. I hope it’s not me.

And there’s the rough sketch of a planting plan for a rose garden tucked into the pages of Beth Chatto’s The Green Tapestry.  The scent of old roses and lavender drifts into my imagination from the faded scrap of paper. I’m tempted to try and recreate the plan for one of my designs.

These books are so much more than they seem. Each one is a mystery, has a history, a backstory of usage and inspiration. I feel honoured to be the next in line to benefit from their wisdom.

I realise that my crammed bookcase is a testament to my quest for the book with all the answers. Have I found it? No. But there have been some pretty close contenders. And before I turn my back on studenthood I just want to offer up a list, for anyone who might be interested, of the books that have been most useful, the titles I will be keeping by me to turn to for guidance and inspiration in times of need.

First off…. anything by Beth Chatto.

Then there’s:

Brian Davis’s Gardener’s Essential Plant Guide

Roy Lancaster’s Perfect Plant Perfect Place

Hilary Thomas and Steven Wooster’s The Complete Planting Design Course

Jill Billington’s New Classic Gardens

John Brookes The Garden Book

James Blake’s An Introduction to Landscape Design and Construction

Tania Compton and Andrew Lawson’s Dream Gardens: 100 Inspirational Gardens

Michael E Doyle’s Colour Drawing (for advice on hand-rendering plans – and lots of what looks like good stuff for Photoshop users but since I’m not one it’s lost on me!)

I’m sure there are others that my fellow students could add to this list. And if anyone feels that way inclined I’d love to know what they are. But these are the books that I keep on going back to.

And maybe I’ll tuck a few notes and messages in between their pages for the next person in line to use them.





The essential book list….

In the last few weeks I’ve bought a lot of gardening books. I’ve already got a lot of gardening books. Just not the right ones.

But I have discovered the joys of buying second hand on Amazon. The only frustrating thing is that the delivery costs more than the books.

Here’s the list so far:

The Dry Garden by Beth Chatto

Perfect Plant Perfect Place by Roy Lancaster

Shrubs by Roger Phillips & Martyn Rix

Perennials Volume 1 Early Perennials by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix

Perennials Volume 2 Late Perennials by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix

Roses by Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix

Gardeners Essential Plant Guide by Brian Davies

Dictionary of Plant Names by Allen J Coombes

What Plant Where by Roy Lancaster

In the Roses book by Phillips and Rix I found a couple of rough sketches of planting plans… It’s nice to think I’m using books whose previous owners had them for the same reasons that I do. To make gardens.