I am NOT a garden designer….

You know all that ‘I am a garden designer’ stuff that’s been going on in these pages over the past couple of years? Well, I’m going to let you into a secret. It’s all bollocks. And I’ll tell you for why.

Just because you do a garden design course for a year doesn’t make you a garden designer. Or at least it doesn’t make me a garden designer. What it does make me – or rather what it did make me – was slightly insane.

It’s taken me a year to realise this. But now, with a new year beginning, it’s time to set the record straight. Because –


There I’ve gone and said it. And boy, oh boy, does it feel good. Cos here’s the thing…

The reason I chose to do a garden design course (as I explained when  I signed up) was because friends had been asking me to help them with their gardens, make suggestions, offer advice. Which I was keen to do. But before I waded in I felt I could do with a bit more knowledge. I wanted to feel more confident that what I was suggesting was the right thing to do. I wasn’t looking for a full blown, start at the bottom and work my arse off career. I’d been and gone and done that thing once before in my life. I really didn’t need to do it again.

Added to this I had just been through a bumpy couple of years, with loads of family stuff going on, and I wanted to do something for me, something rewarding, enjoyable, challenging. What I was looking for was the life enhancement and fulfilment that I believed would come from learning about a subject I loved. Which is why I signed up for the garden design course at Hampton Court Palace.

So…? How was it? Challenging? Yes. Rewarding and enjoyable…? Hell, no.

The palace was fabulous. The people were lovely. The course was… a frickin’ nightmare. It was. I’m not exaggerating. And it all started out so well.

I loved the early stuff; the sketching, the garden history, the plant knowledge. But, after the first couple of weeks, it all went pear-shaped. To become a garden designer there is so much you need to know. If you’re going to go into someone else’s garden and start shifting earth around, knocking things down, building things, planting things that are going to live, die, grow big, take over… you really need to know your onions. (No pun intended.) You need to be an expert in design, know all about construction, about plants and planting, the climate, all that insurance and liability and who’s responsible for what stuff. You need to know how to sketch and draw, how to design using a computer. You need to know how to set up and run a business. These are vast subjects in themselves. Two days a week for a year can’t begin to do them justice.

So it was mad. It felt as if there was too much to learn crammed into too little time to learn it. Which for a raging perfectionist like me was complete hell. Added to which it seemed to me that we spent far too much time on the superficial stuff, and not enough on the nitty gritty. I wanted more substance and less packaging. For me it was too much about the presentation and not enough about what we were presenting. We were concentrating on, and being assessed for, drawing pretty pictures, when I wanted to learn about what makes a great design, how to manage space and utilise mass and form, the philosophy and guiding principles for putting together a planting plan.

I dropped out, went back, and dropped out again four weeks before the end. I came out of the experience feeling less able rather than more. And I lost myself in the process.

So do I regret doing it? Well I don’t believe in regret – and good stuff has come out of it. This blog for one thing – which led me back to writing. Which in turn encouraged me to have a go at self-publishing The Greenyards Legacy. Which in turn has encouraged me to have a go at writing another book. For this I am eternally grateful.

But if I knew then what I know now, would I have done the course? The answer is a resounding no. It’s entirely personal, but it seemed like a very expensive way of finding out how little I knew about garden design. Given the chance again I would find more practical, hands-on ways of learning how to be a garden designer. If being a garden designer was what I wanted to be. As it is I’m leaving it to the experts, and I’m going to stick with writing.

Will I carry on with this blog? I’m not sure. It depends whether I’ve got anything to write about that I think people might want to read.

Which means that this is yet another one of those watch this space moments. Only this time I don’t know if I’ll be back.

Writer’s Block….

Remember me….

I’m the schizophrenic, who am I, what’s it all for, gardener/writer, (or should that be writer/gardener?) who started this blog a couple of years ago with wild promises about writing once a week, and didn’t do too badly…. until a few months ago, when everything kind of went pear shaped.

Because I hit a wall. Couldn’t write, didn’t know what to write about, didn’t want to write. It was scaaarrryyyy….

I considered writing posts about my garden. But couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm. (The truth was I couldn’t summon up the enthusiasm for my garden, let alone writing about it.) Several times I started off writing about writing. And ground to a halt after a couple of paragraphs. Aaargghhhh.

It was horrible. I felt like I’d lost myself. Didn’t know who I was, who I was meant to be. Did people really want to know about my garden? Who really cared if I’d self-published a book? Was there any point in writing about anything?

But today I woke up, got out of bed, drew back the curtains, and peered out across the fields. The sun was shining in a pale blue, winter sky; the whole world was sugar-coated with silver. I went downstairs, fed the dogs, made tea, sat at the kitchen table, tea mug in hand, looking out at the frosted garden. The cotoneaster outside the kitchen window was weighed down with jewel-red berries, and two thrushes were perched in its branches enjoying a winter feast.


Hurray! Hurrah! Hurrooh!

And now I remember why I write….

Because I want to.

So here I am. I’m not going to make any promises about writing weekly posts. Because who knows how I’m going to feel tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the day after that. But today it feels great to be back writing again.

And I’m going to leave you in a ‘watch this space’ place that could lead anywhere.

Exciting, huh….

Coffee and sympathy….

Ok. So here’s the thing.

I’ve just been paid!!!!

For writing!!!!

And it feels huge. After years of doing this thing that I really love, I’ve actually received money for it.

So I’m going to go out and celebrate. But what to buy with my hard earned cash…..? There’s the question. It’s got to be something memorable, something to savour, something to remember with pleasure in years to come when I look back and think about this special moment.

I’m thinking a cup of coffee maybe. Or a magazine. A cup of coffee and a magazine would be nice. I can’t do both.

Because the amount I’ve been paid is….

£5.00. Oh and $1.18 for the one book I sold in America.

This is the grand total of my earnings for the month of August, when I sold 25 copies of The Greenyards Legacy. Impressive huh!

So what I’m thinking is….

Maybe it’s about time you read The Greenyards Legacy. People who have, seem to have really liked it. It’s available at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. And it’s available on Kindle. So there’s really no excuse.

And if you buy it then maybe I’ll be able to afford the coffee and the magazine.

On second thoughts….

Ignore all that hard-done by impoverished writer special pleading malarky. I’m just chuffed to bits that people are reading and enjoying my book.

Big day, huh!

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 Amazon.co.uk and order your copy. If you’re in the US you can click on the Amazon.com 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!




Watch this space….

Hello you poor abandoned blog you….

And I’m hoping that those of you out there, who might have been aware that something was missing in their lives but couldn’t put a finger on what it was, will be sighing with relief knowing that all’s well with the world again.

Because I’m back…. And I’m better than ever. At least I hope I am.

I’ve been taking a breather. From blogging, from garden designing, from rushing around like a crazy person thinking I should be doing loads of important stuff, from trying to be what I have convinced myself everyone else expects me to be. I’ve given myself some time.

And I’ve concentrated on two things. My garden…. That’s my garden. Not other people’s…. Mine. And my book…. That’s my book. The one I’ve been writing for so many years I’ve forgotten when I started it. I had convinced myself it wasn’t good enough. And at the first hint of rejection I abandoned it and left it to fend for itself. But now I’ve gone back to it. I’ve realised it doesn’t have to be perfect. Because nothing ever is. And if I wait for things to be perfect I will end up with nothing.

So this is another of my ‘watch this space’ posts. Except for this time the space is going to be filled. Because the manuscript is as good as I can make it. And within a couple of weeks it will be available in print or as an ebook. So you can read it if you want to. I’ll let you know the details. And I really hope you like it. But if you don’t….. You know what. It’s not the end of the world.

So it’s back to blogging. Cos I’ve missed it too.