Posts

Pruning the laurel

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I'm very excited that one of my gardening poems won the 2021 Poems on the Move competition run by the Guernsey Literary Festival and judged by Kate Clanchy, who said:  "Best of all, I like the unexpected: I had never read a poem about feminism and hedge trimming before, and in the end, that supplied our winner." Pruning the laurel Three points of contact with the tree, the way my mother taught me: two feet, one hand, one free to hold the saw. A smell of bay leaves now, pale sawdust on my clothes like flour, the thump as each branch hits the ground. I’m high enough to see across five gardens: wheelbarrows and washing lines, a football goal, a Wendy house. My neighbour steps outside. Where’s hubby then? he asks, his meaning clear. Things must look different from down there. I guess I seem quite small to him, my saw no bigger than a bread knife. Not sure , I say, my eyes on what I’m doing ­– one hand on the saw, three points of contact – What did you want him fo

Gardens of 2019: Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens

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  Remembering all the beautiful gardens I visited in the summer of 2019, when travelling more than five miles from home was still legal.   Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens are restored walled gardens in the Castle Bromwich area of Birmingham, run by volunteers. They include orchards with old apple varieties, pears and mulberries. An apple poem (first published in The Cannon's Mouth ): Comment t’appelles-tu? (or Comment Apple Two) Today you say you’ve learned some French – something to do with apple 2 and comments. I think I hear the windfalls snigger, their waspish thoughts, backchat of pips, remember Coxes are cousins of roses, which smell as sweet no matter what you call them. Your namesake again. Another Will, I tell you, split an apple with an arrow. You make your vinegar face, say you wish I’d called you Zak or Ethan. The scent of sap is faint. Ros Woolner

Gardens of 2019: Benthall Hall Gardens

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  Remembering all the beautiful gardens I visited in the summer of 2019, before I learned what an R number was. Benthall Hall is a National Trust property in Shropshire, not far from Ironbridge.      

Gardens of 2019: Winterbourne Gardens

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  Remembering all the beautiful gardens I visited in the summer of 2019, when zoom was a word found mainly in comics and photography magazines. Winterbourne House and garden is on the University of Birmingham campus in Edgbaston. There are lawns, a terrace, flower borders, a nut walk, a shady pond with a picturesque bridge, a glasshouse with carnivorous plants and a walled cottage garden (I love seeing plants against old brick walls).   

Gardens of 2019: New Place

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  Remembering all the beautiful gardens I visited in the summer of 2019, when a bubble was just something you could make with Fairy liquid. New Place in Stratford-on-Avon was once Shakespeare's family home.  A good excuse to share this Shakespeare-inspired sonnet from On the Wing (Offa's Press):   Sons and Roses Shall I compare him to a climbing rose – my semi-hardy, prickly twelve-year-old? He’s scaled the larch-lap fences that enclose our garden, and gone rambling. Buds unfold beyond the fence, in places I can’t see. Some days, on this side, all the stems are bare and hurtful thorns are all he offers me. I worry then: wild brambles lurk out there. What gardener in my place would know for sure which stems to prune and which to leave unchecked, how far to let him wander and explore, at what point freedom turns to base neglect?   I don’t have answers, yet I persevere: so long as roots need water, I’ll be near. Ros Woolner

Gardens of 2019: Martineau Gardens

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Remembering all the beautiful gardens I visited in the summer of 2019, when a face mask was just another name for a face pack.   Martineau Gardens is a community garden in Edgbaston. I went to a poetry workshop there run by Mandy Ross and loved how peaceful it felt, despite being only two miles from Birmingham city centre.

Insect poems

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  I'm delighted to have a poem about pond dipping in this book of insect poems from The Emma Press . I grew up by the Thames and spent hours fishing for minnows with a jam jar (and building 'piers' out of planks of wood and falling off them). The Emma Press is an independent publisher based in Birmingham that publishes wonderful themed poetry anthologies for children and adults, as well as collections of poems by individual poets.