Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fertilizer Friday -- An English Lady's English Garden

In 2006 my English mother-in-law (MIL) invited me to visit her, alone (without my husband, her son, whom she doted on). The invitation was an unprecedented surprise! Since there is very little flowering in my garden right now, I thought for Fertilizer Friday I would share some photos that I took on my trip, mostly of her garden.

 Birdhouse in MIL's Garden

I stayed with her for a week, at her house in the town of Kirby Muxloe (a suburb of Leicester), visited the local castle, toured the University of Leicester Royal Horticultural Society garden (subject of a future post), and went for a very posh lunch at a beautiful estate called Kilworth House.

Kirby Muxloe Castle

MIL's Garden

The front was always very regimented, with bedding annuals in serried rows, planted out with ruler in hand to make sure the spacing was absolutely accurate, and color coordinated.

But the beds in the back were a different story, where plants were allowed to run amuck more freely. And the plants used were all common cottage garden style plants that I love too -- violas, hellebores, lungwort, aubretia, rose campion, primroses, daffodils, muscari, forget-me-nots.

 The shrubs and trees, which provided the backbone of the garden, were still very structured.

She included several concrete statues that I loved, but standing on their own, not integrated into the garden.

Included in her garden was a small rockery.

Finally, in the interests of honesty, I have to admit, I didn't have the kind of friendly relationship with MIL that I wanted. She was prickly, opinionated, somewhat bigoted (a bias that covered anyone who wasn't English, including the Scottish and the Irish, and unfortunately, the Americans), and looked at me with a critical eye, so that I often had the feeling I didn't measure up to her standards. I was overweight (still am, I like sweets!), and she was 4'11" and weighed little more than 100 lbs her entire life. I was an ugly, uncultured American, and she was a very proper English lady.

But....and this is a big but....she is the reason I am a gardener.

Many years ago, when our son was 6 or 7, MIL visited our house in Massachusetts, and toured our yard (we couldn't call it a garden), and then came inside with some very harsh criticism. She thought there was so much more we could do with our yard, and encouraged me to start gardening.

So I did.

I threw myself into gardening with great enthusiasm, because if I was going to be a gardener, I was going to be an excellent gardener. Just so I could show her what I could do, how much I could learn. My garden never impressed her, but that's OK. Because I realized I loved doing it. For me.

At Christmastime in 2006, MIL suffered a stroke that left her physically debilitated, but mentally sharp, and still capable of communication. In Spring, 2007, we had to return to Kirby Muxloe, to empty her house and get it ready for sale. She spent her last few years in a nursing home, greatly frustrated by her inability to care for herself, and be independent.

She passed away last Fall.

Please head over to Tootsie Time to see all the other posts by gardeners who have flowers to flaunt.