Lyn Kriegler | Illustrator
KareKare, West Auckland | December 2013
‘Your quality of life is improved immeasurably if you have a garden – it’s a university of higher learning. Nature is our best teacher.’ ....more words below images
I was a ‘what’s that?’ child. Always asking my mother, who would tell me the names of plants – portulacca, nigella, snap-dragon – I loved the sound of these words. I grew up picking primroses and bluebells in the woods of England and Lady’s slipper orchids in the forests of Virginia. I was always looking, looking, looking and still am – it’s a life-long pursuit.
We started our garden on the step of a north-facing terrace in Karekare 9 years ago. The garden is mostly laid out around the house and the soil is red clay – so it was almost impossible to grow anything on it at the beginning. Over the years we have built up soil with coffee, teabags, seaweed and compost to create good garden soil. We have discovered that worms love coffee and teabags – they use the teabags as their nurseries. Whenever I find and open one up it is full of tiny, baby worms. A teabag is safe, warm, contains acidulous tea leaves perfect for them.
I spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors, watering, dead-heading, just watching and getting ideas for pictures.
Roses, herbs, poppies, iris, marigolds, salad greens, artichokes, lavender all grow well. The sea air seems to suit these crops. We keep chickens – about six at the moment. The chicken run is a very fertile area and seeds will often come up, if I’m quick I can transplant the seedlings into the garden. Also, I use the straw straight from the chicken coop as a mulching fertilizer on the garden. I put vegetable scraps onto the garden too and sometimes seeds germinate and grow so we have tomatoes, potatoes, pumpkins – I even have a small almond tree growing. My mother calls these self-sown plants ‘volunteers’.
As I pull out weeds I try to apply the Vedic thought that you are also pulling out your bad thoughts and poor qualities – those seven deadly vices that crop up every day…
I love to be in my garden in summer between 6.00 and 8.00 (am or pm). The light at dawn or dusk is beautiful and I can see the bees opening poppies, they literally pull the young unfurled flowers open in their hurry to get at the nectar. It’s a quiet time too, I listen out for the really subtle sounds like poppies ‘popping’ open.
Monet used to stare at a flower for hours until he had fully absorbed its beauty and only then would he paint it. The colours you can see in a flower cannot be duplicated in terms of the rich intensity and deep saturation. The more you look, the more colours you see within colours. If you imprint that on your memory it will never leave you.
Flowers are complete universes. I saw a picture taken with the Hubble telescope of a pink galaxy being formed, it looked just like a rose unfurling.
I am often going into a state of bliss in my garden – it happens a lot!