A day out

Yesterday I woke and was instantly awake.  Most mornings I drift in and out, slowly shaking off the fuddle of sleep but yesterday I was right there with my eyes wide open and the clock saying eight.  I realised it was because I was going somewhere: a visit to Karen at Artist's Garden over on the west coast of Wales, a visit that has been postponed and postponed as things fell about our ears.  I felt slightly guilty, leaving Ian with FIL for the day and lots of jobs to do and for no other reason than that I wanted to see her.   I'm not a great one for feeling guilty so it slightly surprised me.  When I took it out and looked at it I found that it was weeks and weeks since I had done anything which wasn't focussed on someone else: looking after my FIL, visiting my brother, worrying about how my mother is coping, wondering about whether Ian is doing too much.  And yesterday I was saying that despite all those concerns, I was just going to get into the car and drive away.  No wonder I felt guilty.

The drive from our corner of North East Wales to the coast near Harlech is one of the best drives in the world.  The road lifts out of Denbigh up over the Denbigh moors, bleakly beautiful, and then takes you even higher into Snowdonia.  The narrow road curves through a high and empty bleached winter landscape and the mountains pile up on either side.  Nobody was going anywhere on a Friday morning in February.  Sheep munched stolidly on the yellowed winter grass.  A black crow flapped slowly up from a rabbit carcass on the road as I approached.  Eventually the sea gleamed silver grey on the horizon and down and down I drove through stone villages, under the trees, down towards the sea with the sand and grass running out to the shore.

I don't think I was very good company but Karen was.  She made me laugh.  She reminded me that spring will come.  I have been tentatively trying to reconnect to my garden.  The garden has always made me feel better.  I have cut back the hellebore leaves and done some mulching, scrabbling for satisfaction and  feeling frustrated that the greyness didn't lift.   But Karen reminded me that January and February are not the time to look for light and colour in the garden.  She has seeds already sprouting inside and seed packets bright with orange and russets, glowing on the table. It's all there, just waiting.

We talked.  I found myself surprised by sudden tears.  I left, leaving marmalade and some of my favourite gardening books behind me and taking away sweet rocket and seeds for a blue Salvia and a sense of having been reminded of myself.

And today the sun shone and I cut back the autumn fruiting raspberries and tidied the greenhouse and undertook the annual, anal, snowdrop count.  We put in about 500 snowdrops in 2006 and 2007.  In 2009 I thought I would count the flowers in the hope of finding that they were spreading even though they looked very little different to my eye.  In 2009 there were 725.  Last year there were 1094.  And this year there are 1480.  I can't tell you how much this pleases me.  Karen tried to tell me that snowdrops increase and yesterday I responded with a snort about their slowness.  But they do and they are.  The crocuses are coming out too by the gate and in the wooden greenhouse the dark purple spears of iris reticulata are unfolding.

Spring is out there, stirring.


  1. I'm so glad you had a day out. It sounds as though you could do with it. and you've trippled the snowdrops. stupendous!

  2. Sounds as if you needed that day out. For once here in my part of Oz we have had only a few searingly hot days and with the cooler weather rain, not floods or fires and my gardenis looking beter than it ever has. The birds have left the apples in the orchard alone and it is one of those sumer when the very old lovely cooking apple, Emperor Alexander has plenty on it,not a storing apple but when it cooks it fluffs up magicaly. Sorry this is so long. I have no doubt the heat will arrive and we wont cope with it, so I look forward to autumn as you look for spring.

  3. So glad you had a day out, and with Karen too - who says I am jealous!

    Think its really important to take time out, and do things for ourselves - it recharges the batteries, and means we have more to give and aren't running on empty all the time. Why do women always feel guilty about taking care of themselves too? Toyally understand where you are coming from with the guilt.

    Anyway, glad to hear you had such a lovely time, and I hope Spring isnt too far away xx

  4. Good medicine.

    Why should we feel guilty about caring foro ourselves - as Zoë says? This is a day you deserved - and it sound just right.

    ...and isn't this slow unfolding of the growing things just perfect?

  5. It was lovely to see you Elizabeth, and yes you were good company - and it was good to be reminded that the way my garden looks just now is just a temporary state of affairs.

    I told you the snowdrops would increase!!

    Thank you for visiting - it was a good day.

    PS Zoe - When you next come up to Wales you too can sit and look at my garden through a drizzle of rain

  6. I'm pleased you got a day out. I bet everyone at your house will notice the difference too. You'll be all round better for it!

  7. You needed that day out and you needed to be reminded that spring is really on its way and that yes, your plants are really growing and multiplying and settling in well and that your garden is maturing. Soon everything will look lovely and all your work will be very rewarding. Have hope, Elizabeth. We look forward to what your garden will look like and we have lots of faith in it.

  8. And isn't the sight of Harlech castle wonderful. I'm sure we've made that exact trip.

  9. Definitely sounds as if you needed that day out. Hurray for Karen!

    I have two snowdrop flowers. This is mega news. Snowdrops have never deigned to flower here at all. They don't usually even grow any leaves. They just vanish. These two flowers are now warranting a conducted tour of three square inches. (Tolerant family here!)

    How are your glamourous Thurdays working out?


  10. Having grown up in the lush and elm-wooded landscape of the Thames Valley, all gentle flatness and wind in the willows where the domestic thread of grey-green river always full of slippery fish and boats, meanders quietly and unhurried though ancient towns and country pubs, I have always abhorred those cold, desolate Welsh hills and even more so the mountains which in Gwynedd do not even have the benefit of the gently rounded contours and sunlight of the Brecon Beacons. Ugh, put it away please. But glad someone likes it and glad you had a good day.

  11. Isn't it heaven taking a break and coming home renewed! Think you needed it if only for the snowdrop count!!!! I do love those wonderfully delicate flowers!

  12. Quality time with good girlfriends leaves you feeling refreshed and invigorated-so important for all of us. Good to read you had this with Karen. I'm going to look up that road trip you took as I'm doing a visit to North Wales in my camper in April and really want to get the route as beautiful as possible. Love Helen x

  13. You will be all the better for doing that beautiful drive and having some time for yourself, no need to feel guilty at all. Your iris reticulata are really beautiful, I've never had any luck growing them but I haven't tried them in a pot. Next year I shall buy a few and give it a go.

  14. I learnt last year that it is important to have some time for yourself and that this isnt selfish. We are so busy looking after others and worrying about that we forget it has an impact on us emotionally and time out helps you think and sort out your feelings and recharge you for the next round. I am sure your visit to Karen's was just what you needed and a good cry is always good of off loading the stress.

    I have never counted my snowdrops since I think it would be like counting sheep and I would count the same ones over and over!! However I know mine are spreading partly because I keep disturbing them accidentally!

  15. I know I've said it before in a similar way, but since you've gone and done it again, I'll have to repeat myself. You can take the quietest day and make it into something absolutely lovely. You have a lovely way of saying what's on your mind without dwelling on details, and in the end you create a kind of universal experience that we can all relate to. Well, I can, anyway. 'We talked. I found myself surprised by sudden tears. ' Just like that.

    I'm glad for your tears, actually, because they meant you were able to share some of your emotional burdens with a sympathetic friend. I hope you felt lighter on the way home.

    Spring is showing itself in your heart, too, I would say.

  16. Sounds like a perfect trip, we all need time for rejuvenation, and the bits of that drive that I know are truly wonderful.

    Your snowdrop count is very encouraging - I'm not sure I need more than my own fingers and toes for ours at the moment, but in time... Glad you are feeling the stirrings of Spring, hope the garden and its Spring delights help you balance your own needs with those of the people you love.

  17. From Denbigh to Harlech - I agree, it must be be one of the loveliest drives.

    We have exactly twelve snowdrops in our garden (I just counted them) - so a long way to go yet!

  18. Glad you got away to reconnect with yourself, and your friend. When things look bleak and grey, just remember there are folks all the way across the ocean in New York who would give their eye teeth to be in ANY part of Wales, even in the teeth of winter!

  19. No doubt about it - you needed that day.
    This post seemed meant for me today - thanks for taking me with you on that beautiful drive.

  20. Dear Elizabeth, You certainly deserved your day out and I am sure that it will have done you a power of good [as they say]!! I am not surprised that the sight of your burgeoning Snowdrop drifts filled you with joy....these little wonders of Nature are so uplifting. Enjoy your week!!

  21. Another beaut post. Some day I would love to make that drive. I took the little steam train north from Harlech once a million years ago and would love to go back.
    Sounds like you utterly deserved the day off, and what a lovely way to spend it.
    We too are learning that there's not a lot of color in the garden yet, but much promise - hellebores like yours that need cutting back, tulips coming up, fruit trees budding etc. I just learned about not cutting raspberries back until the spring - I do mine in the Fall and it makes them dry out and die. Wish I'd known! May you have a bountiful harvest this year!

  22. So good....that you recognized the pulls of responsibility, yet answered the responsibility on that day of nourishing yourself. I can picture your beautiful drive and heart-opening time with a friend so well through your words.

    I hope that spring comes to you when you need it and that your moments of gladness multiply like your snowdrops.

  23. Those iris reticulata are enough to make anyone's heart sing elizabeth.

    When one has a lot of responsibilites I think it is doubly important to take a day out - even if you feel guilty it is a day away from everything and it does the soul good. I am sure that the spring garden will have the same effect. Best wishes.

  24. I take my hat off to someone who counts their snowdrops! I'm so glad to hear they are increasing and the count is worthwhile. Your day out sounds exactly what you needed and it's good to hear of it. Beautiful iris too.

  25. Oh what a lovely day out - I must try and make a visit over that way sometime.
    What a coincidence that you should have a photo of iris reticulata as I have been trying, without success, to design a new print of irises. On Friday I visited a garden and saw these beautiful flowers in the exact same colour and did not know what they were called. So thank you for posting them and the name and I will now try to use them in a design.
    It sounds like you have a lot on your plate and that you needed a few hours of pleasure to restore your batteries - you shouldn't feel guilty but I know we all do in these situations :-)

  26. It has been a long hard winter for many of us. This post chimes with so many of my feelings; you know when you read something and you have that total feeling of YES (I do feel that, too).

    I know that spring will come; I can see it coming in small ways, despite the ongoing greyness; but it just isn't coming fast enough to please me!


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