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Gardening. Day 2

An image of how I would like my border to look. So beautiful! But it will never resemble this garden, because it contains too many Azaleas. 

I spent several happy hours in my sister’s garden today, and by the time I left, her herbaceous border was weeded and thinned out, and I had loads of stock to plant in ‘my’ garden, so we were both happy. I’d offered to keep her garden tidy, and she’s now had a good first installment of that promise, but I’m not sure whether I’ll have the time to keep up with it, because my garden is quite large. It’s in two parts. At the moment I’m working on the strip in front of the building, but there’s another strip at the side of the block, and it carries on along the back. This area is also very public, so it’s important to try and get the whole of it in order. There’s also a private garden for the residents to sit in which probably needs work, but I haven’t even looked at that properly.

We have some younger residents with special educational needs, and I may try and encourage them to help me. People with educational difficulties are often undervalued, and because of that they sometimes believe they have no use. I volunteer in an Oxfam shop, and one of Oxfam’s policies is to encourage so called ‘disadvantaged’ people to help in their shops, where they can learn valuable skills and feel like valuable members of society, perhaps for the first time in their lives. I would like to offer the residents a similar opportunity. I’d also be genuinely glad of some help.

Maybe we could get a cold-frame at some point, and be allocated a space for seed sowing, who knows? Growing plants from seed brings a real sense of achievement and satisfaction. I have seen wonderful transformations in individuals as a result of working in community gardens. maybe this garden can make a positive difference in somebody’s life.

It would be nice to grow vegetables… 

But I mustn’t get ahead of myself. I’ll make more of an effort to spend time in the community room, and properly get to know people. An old friend of nearly 40 years standing has been living here for several years. She knows all of the residents and is close to a couple of the women with special educational needs. I may have a quiet word with her in the next week or two.

© Jane Paterson Basil

The Gardening Has Begun

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I have finally started tidying the public garden that runs around this block of flats. I promised before/after photographs, but I’ve let everyone down on that score. I felt self-conscious enough going out there with my hand-fork, let alone taking photographs to pull out later and use to prove what an amazing gardener I am. So instead I’m adding images which I have borrowed from Getty Images, such as this one which has no bearing whatsoever on this post.

I’ve worked in gardens which are overlooked by the public before, but it never bothered me, because, whether the garden was my own, or one that I was employed to work on, I felt confident in the knowledge that I belonged there. However, this is a job for which I volunteered. Nobody knows anything about me. For all they know I could be completely ignorant about plants. 

The garden contains a lot of roses, and quite a few azaleas in various colours, which, although they’re not favorites of mine, look bright and cheerful at the moment.

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After a few hours out there I feel more self-assured, as the staff and residents lost no time in making it clear to me that they have complete faith in my abilities,

As anyone who has undertaken a job of this nature will know, the hardest part of the job is carrying on working – without appearing unfriendly – while everybody in the neighborhood stops to talk to you.

My first job is to clear the pesky montbretia (crocosmia x crocosmiaflora) which has claimed large swathes of the border, crushing out many less robust plants, and probably killing some off completely. While this is an attractive plant, my recommendation is to steer clear of it unless it’s the only plant in the whole world that you find attractive.

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I make exceptions with some of the cultivars, for example crocosmia Lucifer, a large, showy specimen that brings fire to a display. It doesn’t expand so fast, and is worth doing battle with occasionally, because of its exceptional beauty. Maybe I’ll try and find some.

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Although so many plants have been swallowed up by the crocosmia, some attractive perrennials such gladiolus communis, and a lovely royal-blue iris have survived.

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Because so many plants have been swallowed up by the crocosmia, I need to put in replacements. I’ll wander around the gardens of friends and family, and beg bits off them. One of my daughters has too much cranesbill, and another has a lovely penstemon which has grown too bushy.

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My sister’s garden is stuffed with plants which she wants to get rid of, so that she can grow more veg. I’m going to see her tomorrow to desecrate her garden take some unwanted plants off her hands. She has all sorts of lovely perrennials, most of which were originally put in by me.

The sun is shining and today I feel fully alive.

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© Jane Paterson Basil

Love/Hate Challenge

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Here’s an unexpectedly mind-stretching challenge that looks like it will be doing the rounds on WordPress. I picked it up from Calen, at Impromptu Promptlings, who had, in turn, got it from Fimnora at Quantum Hermit. I invite anybody who wishes to grab the torch, and carry it onward.

It sounds simple, but I’m not so sure. The challenge is to make a list of 10 things you love, and 10 things you hate.

These are my lists:

I love

  • My extended family, some of whom are not really related to me. They say you can’t choose your family, but you can choose your friends. We choose to adopt some of our friends into our family.
  • Seeing others triumph over their demons. There are so many demons; depression, addiction, greed, hatred, loneliness, shyness, low self-esteem, psychosis, mental and physical disability… to name but a few. But millions of people every day are striving to be better, and winning.
  • The bloggers who have reached out their hands to me in friendship and support. I don’t say this lightly. You have held me upright, and made me stronger.
  • The sky, which gives me a reason to look upwards.
  • Trees, which give us beauty, clean the air and remind us that we need roots in order to strive.
  • A warm spring morning, giving promise of the future.
  • Flowers, which attract butterflies and pollinating bees, and add beauty and colour to my life.
  • Writing and writing and writing.
  • My new home. Some would say that a one bedroom flat on the third storey of a block built for the ageing and disadvantaged is nothing special, and I’ve lived in houses which may have been more spacious and prestigious, but this is my home.
  • Love. I love love. I spent many years of my life shying away from it, distrusting it because something which gave itself that name had bitten chunks off me, so I didn’t think I was allowed it; didn’t think I was worthy. I didn’t even think that I was worthy of love from my children, because deep down, I must be a bad person. But as it turns out, I’m not.

So that’s my rather wordy list. There are many more things I could say I love: books, curry, (particularly if it contains cream and coconut) good coffee, Morris Minors, cheese, sewing machines, jugs, bridges, stationary, jeans; but they’re just the luxuries I could survive without. Imagine trying to survive without trees and love!

I hate

  • Greed/selfishness. (the flaw, not the greedy person) I believe they are the different sides of the same same thing.
  • Corruption 
  • Being angry
  • Lack of care for this beautiful planet.
  • Capitalism (although I know that we’re not ready for the alternative)
  • Targeted bullying. This is a word which I believe is misused these days. By bullying I mean deliberate cruelty towards the weak and vulnerable.
  • The suffering brought about by indifference and abuse towards humans and animals. That covers a lot of ground…
  • Over-production of plastic
  • My weaknesses and flaws
  • Dysfunctional computers

Phew! Not as easy as I thought, and all the second list really tells you is that I hate the damage caused by human beings to plant and animal life and to the air that we breathe. I didn’t manage to mention that I can’t stand dessicated coconut unless it’s incorporated into curry; in which case I love it!

© Jane Paterson Basil

The Flower Border

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There is a flower border around the block of flats that I have moved into. It is supposed to be maintained by the landlord, but although the residents pay for the upkeep of the garden, the landlord doesn’t keep it tidy.

It beckons me over, with its ill-pruned shrubs and overcrowded crocosmia, its badly positioned Cerinthe.

The garden was not created from love, but purely to give the residents something
reasonably attractive to look at.

Over the years efforts have been made to pull out the weeds and keep it tidy, but nobody has ever tried to make it the most beautiful flower border in this town.

It would be unfair to call it ugly. It contains some quality shrubs, and although they would not have been my choice, I’m sure I can work around them.

As I pull out my hand-fork and secateurs I think about the creeping buttercups, the unwanted wild garlic and the dock. I think about the gaps that they will leave, and what I could plant to replace them. My fingers itch.

The garden is in a promonent position. People walk past it all day long. They will watch me, talk to me and about me. They will ask me what I am doing. They may even try to give unwanted advice.

I will feel intimidated – embarrassed.

They will slow me down with their friendly talk.

After a while they will begin to see the difference. They will utter sounds of surprise and praise me.

I gave away my rake, spade and fork. I will need to replace them. I will need something to put the weeds into.

There are people with special educational needs who live in this block of flats. I could try to enlist their help and teach them as they work.

I will plant Echinacea, Veronica and Salvia, and lavender to attract butterflies and bees. I will put in self-seeding poppies and foxgloves. I’ll have blocks of Scabious, Cornflower, Snapdragons and Wallflowers – lots of old-fashioned planting to please the elderly residents.

I will reserve an area near the main entrance for rosemary, chives, sage, oregano and thyme. I’ll sink a bucket into the soil and plant mint. The residents will have fresh herbs for culinary use.

Tomorrow I will talk to the House Supervisor about the tools I will need.

Next week I will begin the work.

© Jane Paterson Basil

My Story Got Shortlisted!

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I’m so excited!

I recently stepped a little further outside my comfort zone, and submitted a short story to a competition run 4 times a year by Mash Stories. If you haven’t heard of them I suggest that you check them out. They are a friendly bunch of people, and their flash fiction competitions attract quality stories.

The rules are simple: there is a 3 word prompt, and all three words must be used, and the story must not contain more than 500 words.

Stories are assessed as they are submitted, and submissions for this competition are being accepted until April 15th, so if anyone wants to have a go, there is plenty of time. Each story which is shortlisted goes onto the site as soon as possible.

My story got shortlisted!

Just a moment; I would like to say that again!

My story got shortlisted!

In order to qualify for the final, the amount of votes received by a story is taken into consideration. I would be really grateful if you could go over to the website and read my story, and if you like it, vote for it.

Here is the link:

A big thank you to all my readers who have sent supportive comments about my work. Although stories like this aren’t necessarily what I am about, you have given me the confidence to risk rejection, and it has paid off, as I was not rejected!


Lisa’s One Word Challenge


I found a link to a video about a man who, for 25 years, has been digging beautiful caves in sandstone hills.  Although the creator of these monumental works of art didn’t mention the word ‘love’, I am sure that love is what drives him  – it certainly isn’t money, as he only charges $12 an hour.

The images of these caves filled me with wonder, and with love, and that is why I have chosen it as this months post for Lisa’s One Word Challenge.

It must be an a moving and unforgettable experience to stand in one of his monumental, sculptured constructions.

Nothing more needs to be said, as the caverns and walls speak for themselves.

This is the link.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “In Loving Memory.”

WordPress’s Daily Prompt today asks us to write our own obituary. I thought it would be fun, so here it is:


She was a nice enough woman, but so stupid! She never listened, or if she did, she always did the opposite of what was recommended.

When, at the age of four, her mother told her she would be sick if didn’t stop eating those un-ripe blackberries, she kept eating them and was, indeed, sick, for two days.

At six years old, somebody foolishly gave her chewing gum for the first time, and she was playing with it, fascinated by the way it stretched. Her mother got the strange impression that she was about to wrap it around her neck, and told her not to, because it woould stick like glue and have to be scrubbed off. Nothing could have been further from her mind – until it was mentioned. Her mother was right; it did have to be scrubbed off, and cut out of her hair.

Then there was the occasion when she was advised not too get in the highchair, because she was too big, and she would get stuck – her little sister had to learn to sit at the table with the rest of the family, because the highchair was too damaged to repair.

Fortunately the baby clothes were too stained to be used by the time she put them on, but her mother accidentally scratched her with the scissors while she was cutting them off.

Even as an adult she tended to ignore sensible advice. There was the time she found that bottle full of an un-named fluid in the garage, and her mother-in-law warned her just as she was about to take a sniff of it. She ended up flat on her back on the floor that time.

Then there was the lipstick that she happened to find two hours before her niece’s wedding – well, I suppose the incident was partly down to the celebratery pre-wedding drink – she was warned not to do it, but she thought it would be funny to use it as rouge, planning to clean it up before the ceremony. She didn’t believe the words emblazened on the tube which claimed that it would stay onfor 24 hours. She sat through the wedding with her hands over her cheeks, covering a scarlet blush that wasn’t entirely natural.

So when it was carefully suggested that she needed to switch the electricity off before connecting the new cooker, and that, anyway, she should leave it to an expert to do, nobody was particularly surprised.

Still, it all came out OK in the end: it just happened that the undertaker happened to be an electrician, and he, most kindly, came round and wired the cooker in at no extra charge, so we were able to cook a decent evening meal.

© Jane Paterson Basil