Spring is the season for ideas of rebirth, rejuvenation, renewal, resurrection, and regrowth. The first day of Spring, the vernal equinox, has 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. The term vernal is Latin for “spring” and equinox is Latin for “equal night“.
1. Spring was called Lent in Old English. Starting in the 14th century, this season was called “springing time”—a reference to plants “springing” from the ground. In the 15th century this was abbreviated to “spring-time,” and then further shortened in the 16th century to just “spring.”
2. The growing season in England is now a whole month longer compared to the average for 1961-1990.
3. All cultures celebrate the spring in some way, looking forward to the burst of growth in plants and the birth of baby animals, signalling more food to eat. Ancient cultures recognized the equinox with their architecture. Stonehenge functioned as both a pagan site of worship and a celestial observatory; in Egypt, the Great Sphinx points towards the rising sun on the spring equinox; and the setting sun creates a triangular shadow on the El Castillo pyramid that looks like a descending snake, or the Mayan feather serpent god Kukulkan.
4. Spring fever is a real syndrome. It refers to restlessness, daydreaming, and increased sexual appetite. While the exact cause is unclear, scientists believe that warmer temperatures, increased light, more exercise, and more bare skin influence hormone levels.
5. The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two times during the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west. On the first day of spring, a person at the North Pole would see the sun skimming across the horizon, beginning six months of uninterrupted daylight. A person at the South Pole would experience the start of six months of darkness.
6. The first day of spring does not always fall on March 20th as the earth does not circle the sun in exactly 365 days (actually 365.42). This means that eventually Easter would occur in midwinter. Pope Gregory XIII established the Gregorian calendar in 1582, thereby continuing the tradition of the early church by keeping the equinoxes more or less at the same time each year: 19-21 March.
To celebrate Valentine's Day, I have selected some of my favorite quotes about love and gardens. I hope that you find them inspiring. I do.
If I had a flower for every time I thought of you . . .
I could walk through my garden forever
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Flowers are the beautiful hieroglyphics of nature with which she indicates how much she loves us
Johann von Goethe
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies
As the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle became the backdrop to a turbulent period that changed British history, monarchy and even religion. This medieval castle was rescued from ruin by William Waldorf Astor (yes, the American). Between 1904 and 1908, he completely renovated the Castle and laid out the gardens on a majestic scale. Over 1000 men worked on the grand design of the gardens with 800 men taking two years to dig a 35-acre lake!
I particularly love the eclectic nature of the design: there is a surprise around every corner. The work on the castle and gardens is reputed to have cost over $1 billion in today’s prices. The result is spectacular
Rudyard Kipling’s life was a story of fame and misfortune. A most colorful life: from his birth in Bombay and his career as a journalist in India, to his instant success as a writer in England, living in Vermont, and winter holidays in South Africa with Cecil Rhodes. He needed to live peacefully.
To Kipling, Bateman’s house and 33 acres of land was an English idyll. Yet tragedy has left a sense of sadness amidst the tranquil gardens and home that had mellowed over the centuries. It feels very intimate. I was especially moved by Kipling’s voice reciting his poem ‘If’ and imagined him walking through the woods deep in thought.
The Bohemian circle of artists and writers, known as the Bloomsbury Set, spent many creative years at Charleston. Artists, Vanessa Bell (sister of Virginia Wolfe) and Duncan Grant, formed an idiosyncratic household in a modest farmhouse tucked beneath the Downs. They proceeded to craft paintings on every available surface. The neglected walled garden and paddock became a prolific kitchen garden, lawn, and a ‘dithering blaze of flowers, butterflies and apples’. A place to dream, play and perform amateur theatricals.
Whilst you are in England, you may want to add the Chelsea Flower Show to your trip. It is a fabulous, hugely popular Show that will be staged from Tue 21 - Sat 25 May, 2109. And it is in Central London, so easy to get to by public transport.
I first encountered the Chelsea Flower Show when I worked for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea in Parks & Rec. We managed the South Grounds at the Royal Hospital, which is the retirement home of the red-coated Chelsea Pensioners (all former soldiers of the British Army). The Show has been held there since 1913 and now covers 11 acres and has over 500 exhibitors. Parks & Rec actually exhibited at the Show, winning a silver medal (a source of enormous pride). I was blown away by the gorgeous gardens and superb blooms displayed in the Great Pavilion. It was really the start of my odyssey into the wonderful world of gardens.
Enjoy these two short videos: one that excites and one that relaxes. And both inspire!
Highlights of the 2018 Chelsea Flower Show [1:40]
Health and Wellbeing [3:40]
The gardens and countryside simply glowed in the warm Autumnal sun of this October. Even the roses were still blooming!
Eclectic private garden:
Geoff has created a minor miracle in his seaside garden. He has taken the design principle of garden rooms and applied it to his small suburban home. His many ‘rooms’ are tiny, yet packed with exquisite plantings and quirky garden art. I particularly like the references to his family’s heritage as commercial fishermen. He prepares delicious cakes or a light lunch for the occasional private group - last time we had a savory ricotta cheesecake with salad. He has raised many ££s for the MacMillan Cancer Support.
Geoff’s beloved garden has won many awards and has been featured on the BBC.
Fabulous follies and rare plants:
The owners of a 17th Century Manor began developing this garden into a plantsman’s delight in the 1950s. The 7 acre garden bursts into bloom in spring with displays of magnolias (> 30 varieties), azaleas, and rhododendrons, with drifts of hellebores and bulbs below. In the warm days of summer, the garden is vibrant with crocosmias, dahlias and one of the best collections of salvias in Europe. Ornamental grasses grace the lovely borders and the multi-hued trees of Autumn.
This is a surprising garden with an enchanting woodland walk, Italian Garden, explorable 'ruins' and 'temple' (hand built by the owner, using sand and stone from the garden). The stables have been converted into a charming tearoom.
Now is the time to dust off your passport and dream about traveling to distant lands. The 2018 World Airline Awards were published recently, so I thought that I would share them with you. They are useful wherever your dreams take you.
Fares to Europe, in particular, are astonishingly low right now.
Just in case, you are considering booking a Rose & Heather Tour, I have extracted the airlines that have direct flights to London from Oakland (Norwegian), San Jose (various airlines, operated by British Airways), or San Francisco. Leaving early May for 15 nights with 1 checked bag and economy class seats costs < $750 return and premium seat are also a great value!
For early access to my 2019 Spring Tours, please consider joining my email list, Bookings are opening soon and I hope to fill up quickly. Join email lis
I look forward to sharing with you the glorious gardens and intriguing historical places, found deep in the English Countryside of Sussex and Kent.
Thankful for all the rain over the past few weeks! Although it has been rather dull and chilly at times. Here is a short video [75 sec] to brighten your day.
During last year’s tour, I was struck by the abundance of Garden Art that embellished gardens, both large and small. The sculptures ranged from joyful abandon to tranquil reflection and whimsical amusement. It was so delightful to discover these flights of imagination, whilst wandering through the lovely gardens. And I was impressed by the novel use of materials, so different to the formal marble sculptures of yesteryear. Keep tuned as I will share some mobile and interactive sculptures in another blog.
Adversity has marked the history of Nymans since Ludwig Messel bought the estate to create his dream home in 1890. And indeed he did. The glory years of the pre-war era ended abruptly with World War II. Shortly after, a devastating fire destroyed a wing of the house, leaving a romantic gothic ruin as a backdrop to the enchanting gardens. Disaster visited again forty years later during the Great Storm, which blew down 500 trees, including 40 champion trees. Yet the love and artistry of successive generations surmounted every setback to create one of the most romantic gardens you could wish to see.