Category Archives: Garden

Loving Winter’s Chill – The Best Bits of Winter

Winter is the season of warmth and chill –
the warmth of sharing and loving and the chill of blizzards.

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Night Sky and Scented Candles…
I love it when the clocks go back… Night draws in and the stars twinkle with winter diamonds, and this winter Venus has sparkled like a gem in the sky. Inside, I burn scented candles: Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate, Berry Trifle, Honey Clementine, and the sweet aroma of Macaroon, Apple Strudel, and Snowflake Cookie waft down the stairs from my daughters’ rooms…

night-sky-and-scented-candles-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Frosted Leaves and Winter Trees…
I adore the bling that Jack Frost brings, sifting icing sugar across nature.
Leaves fall from trees, leaving them bare, and swathe the ground in glittered jewels.
Moss, the emerald survivor of the season, carpets the forest floor
and adorns the naked trees, clothing them in winter beauty.

frosted-leaves-and-winter-trees-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Warm Boots, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, and Cosy Blankets…
Don your best boots, wrap a cosy scarf about your neck, pull on a hat, and slip your hands into fleecy gloves – and you’re all set to wander out in the winter wonderland. If that doesn’t entice you, then snuggle down beneath a warm blanket and enjoy the central heating!

winter-boots-hats-gloves-scarves-and-soft-cosy-blankets-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Winter Landscapes…
The skies are a mixture of clear and frosty, rainy and dull, and rolling mist and fog,
enjoy those late sunrises and early sunsets and warm up with a walk.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Hot Chocolate and Winter Baking…
Baking takes centre stage with Christmas on the cards
from cookies, cakes, and pastries to hearty soups and winter cuisine.
Enjoy homemade fayre and settle with a steaming mug of creamy hot chocolate…

hot-chocolate-and-winter-baking-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Winter Flowers…
Delicate fairy-bell snowdrops peep through the snow or push through the soil to bring
new growth to the dormant season, accompanied by the beauty of hellebores.
Let winter flowers bring colour and hope.

winter-flowers-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Ruby Red Berries…
Like flowers, red berries, often associated with Christmas, shine bright like rubies, especially against the frost and snow, and they’re great sustenance for birds coping with the cold.

ruby-red-berries-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas Joys…
My favourite holiday season is Christmas; it’s filled with so much joy and so much meaning. There are a multitude of celebrations during winter, all wrapped in lights, warmth, and love.
I love the Christmas cake, decorations, gifts, giving, food, and family time –
a time for peace and goodwill to all…

christmas-joys-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

All That Glitters…
Glitter everywhere – frost, snow, jewellery, stars, Christmas decorations, lights.
December glistens with Christmas sparkle,
and the rest of winter embraces the shimmer of nature
and the crackle of fire in the hearth.

all-that-glitters-the-best-bits-of-winter-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

A Crystalline Carpet of Snow…
When it snows I hurry to my window to watch the fluffy white stuff then rush outside to let it fall around me! That moment when you wake up and look outside and see a blanket of snow sparkling in the early morning sun is pure magic.

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© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Winter and what do you love about it most?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Check out The Best Bits of Autumn

Aquilegia’s Spring Dance – The Ballet of Columbine and Granny’s Bonnet

Columbine bob and dance with eagle claw spurs and fairy blush
As ballerina skirts and satin frills swathe spring’s sunlit meadows…

Aquilegia's Spring Dance the Ballet of Columbine and Granny's Bonnet - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

Aquilegia, commonly known as columbine, swathes the British countryside and cottage gardens at this time of the year. It is, I think, my most favourite spring flower. As its clusters of soft scalloped leaves develop, its stems shoot up and begin to bud, and I can’t wait for its flowers.

Aquilegia, blue, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

Frilled blues – © Lisa Shambrook

The name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word: eagleaquila. The petal shape is often said to resemble an eagle’s claw. Columbine comes from the Latin word for dove, and is said to have come from the flower’s resemblance to five doves clustered together.  It’s also often called Granny’s Bonnet – for its nodding head and bonnet-like appearance.

aquilegia, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

© Lisa Shambrook

Many years ago when I started gardening, I had a packet of Thompson and Morgan seeds – a packet which probably came free from Amateur Gardening magazine – and I planted them and tended them in my bedroom! I watched tiny seedlings push through my trays of soil and I raised aquilegias. They have rewarded me every year since as I adore my – now slightly wild and meadow-like – garden swathed in aquilegias every spring!

diamond raindrops in aquilegia leaves, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

© Lisa Shambrook

I love the way these flowers naturalise, the way the rain collects in their leaves like diamonds, and the way they self-seed and produce beautiful and variegated versions of their parent plants! The parents pushed up every year – I began with Blue Bonnet, deep purple spurs and petals with double white frills – and I was in awe as their later offspring threw out flowers with gorgeous green tints. I had single pink aquilegias with white frills and I collected seeds from dead heads out in the countryside to get dark purple single aquilegias. I bought a white, in bloom from a garden centre, and a pink spur-less double, and after that every variation have been crossbreeds from self-seeding.

aquilegia, meadow flowers, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

They love the shade, but do brilliantly in meadows and woodland, growing and spreading easily. If you don’t want your named varieties to crossbreed, then snip the heads off when they die and don’t let them go to seed. Otherwise, let them be promiscuous and see what they gift you!

blue aquilegia, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

My favourites will always be the blues –
deep purples and blues with frills of green and white…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Early evening fairy blush… Delicate ballerinas with their frills and fairy hues…

blue aquilegia, blue columbine, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow AD with public reviewsCheck out Beneath The Rainbow to discover my love of cottage garden and wildflowers, you’ll find them in Freya’s heaven – even aquilegias!

‘Freya opened her mind and allowed emotions and simple feelings of beauty flow through her. The feelings weren’t strong, or rich, just pure and simple, and Freya knew at once that all the flowers were vibrantly alive, not just with colour and scent, but with life of their own, each a simple, but divine entity.’
(Beneath the Rainbow – Lisa Shambrook)

In paperback or ebook on Amazon

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

‘…she flopped to the ground amid the bluebells.
Her hands brushed the mat of flowers and she lowered her head 
staring intently at the spray of tiny bells.’
Beneath the Rainbow

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

Anyone stopping by my blog cannot fail to notice my love for bluebells. You’ll find them on my banner and on my first book cover, I’ve blogged about them before and they’ve been my favourite flower since I was small. Now I wander through Carmarthen’s Green Castle Woods rather than the Sussex woodlands of my childhood. The beauty, however, exists countrywide.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Bluebells talk to me of spring, new growth, romance, fairies, childhood and innocence, and I look forward to them every year. The hardy flowers thrive in our damp climate amongst the woodland flora. 50% of our native bluebells grow in our woodlands and we stroll through their carpet of blue every April and May as their delicate flowers swathe the ground.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Not much gets in their way as they spread beneath our trees, but the Victorian introduction of Spanish Bluebells, as garden plants, have become a threat over the years.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Spanish bluebells are stronger and more vigorous, and can easily crossbreed creating a fertile hybrid. Native bluebells have become protected by UK law and we’re encouraged not to grow the Spanish variety in our gardens.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The varieties have distinctive differences and the hybrids lean more to the stronger Spanish Bluebell.

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Native British Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

British Bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Dainty, nodding and delicate.
They have narrow stems and leaves, and arch like a shepherd’s crook with delicate bells that droop.
The bells only hang from one side of the stem, nodding lightly.
They have a soft sweet scent and are often a deep purple, violet blue and have creamy white/yellow anthers and pollen.
Their bells are narrow and the petals curl back at the tips and they carry fewer flowers.

 

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Spanish Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

Spanish Bluebells (hyacinthoides hispanica)

Sturdy, upright and strapping.
These have a much thicker stem and leaves, standing tall and erect.
Their bells are more closely packed and their sturdy stems can hold more flowers.
The bells don’t hang they grow all around the stem and are generally a paler lilac blue.
They don’t really have a scent and their anthers and pollen are blue.
The bells are shorter and open wider.

 

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© Lisa Shambrook

Both are beautiful, but the Spanish bluebells that once grew in my garden are now restrained in containers, while I allow the natives to sweep, unrestricted, through the undergrowth. And every now and again I’ll revel in the white bluebells that show their nodding faces…

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Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Here’s a fun author/writerly fact:
Bluebell bulbs and stems were once used to make glue that was used to bind books!

Where do you find your favourite bluebells? 

The Fascinating World within Nature’s Carpet – Gathering Moss

Moss swathes the forest floor, old stone walls, and creeps leisurely onward.
It drapes the trees and cloaks the ground in a jewelled garment of green.
Moss creates its own miniature ecosystem – a forest within itself.

Gathering Moss - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite colour is very much lead by nature and lends itself to my romantic soul which finds delight in anything serene and beautiful. My favourite colour is the honey green of moss, the earthy colour of the forest floor softened by the peridot jewel tone.

When I need to unwind or just return to my roots, I wander in the forests and the earthy tones of green and soft breeze lull my soul.

One gram of moss contains... - Robin Wall Kimmerer | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

 

 

 

 

 

There are over 1,000 species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people only notice two or three varieties. If you get right down on the woodland ground you’ll see the intricate detail and real ecosystem living right there in amongst the moss and lichen, especially if you have a magnifying glass. Moss is nature’s carpet.

Reindeer Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Reindeer Moss © Lisa Shambrook

Moss and lichens don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

Elan Valley - Haircap Moss | Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Elan Valley – Haircap Moss © Lisa Shambrook

They have great strength, especially as they grow dense and low to the ground, but they are still vulnerable. They are stripped for the florist industry and are constantly trod upon. As our society, towns and farms spreads into their territory they try to grow, as you’ll see on walls, paving slabs and rooves, but many new building materials are not moss friendly. Many people will also treat moss with weed-killer killing off their tiny ecosystems. My garage shares its roof with my neighbour’s garage and my side of the roof was blanketed with little hedgehogs of cushion moss, and my neighbour, who follows a regimented gardening style used a weed-killer to remove the moss and thereby prevent damp in the garage. This made me sad – I suppose I don’t mind a little damp…

Moss in its element - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in its element © Lisa Shambrook

One of my most favourite places locally is the Brechfa Forest. It’s like a fairy-tale forest and I expect to bump into Galadriel. Moss covers the forest floor in a springy carpet and drapes like feathery curtains from the fir trees. It’s a magical walk, and the dog loves it too!

Brechfa Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in Brechfa © Lisa Shambrook

Ancient conversation moses and rocks - Robin Wall Kimmerer - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about moss? Or do you have a different favourite woodland flora?
One of my most favourite photos is one I took on Exmoor of a tree swathed in moss…pure magic…

Exmoor mossy tree - The Last Krystallos

Exmoor moss swathed tree © Lisa Shambrook

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature

Jack Frost creates a winter wonderland as the temperature drops,
and nature still has a few gems up her sleeve as you don a scarf and hat…

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature | The Last Krystallos

This year hasn’t given us as much frost and lacy webs as I’d have liked;
it’s been a warm and rainy winter so far, but there’s still magic…

holly and ivy, the holly and the ivy, Ten Winter Wonders of Nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Holly and Ivy: two of the most iconic plants of winter and abundant at Christmas. Immortalised in song and gracing many, especially Victorian, Christmas cards.
Holly, with its red berries, is often pictured with robins, though an interesting fact shows it is rather the mistle thrush that is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.  The tree was seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was also thought to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.
Ivy is a popular groundcover plant and found throughout woods and forests, climbing trees and weaving through the undergrowth.

daffodils, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Early daffodils and Narcissi (Narcissus): This year, with the warmth and rain, daffodils are flowering early. Generally small narcissi flower first, heralding spring and paving the way for the daffodils and their huge trumpets of colour, but this year in February they’re already throwing out their glorious golden trumpets to brighten the gloomy days.

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Frosted EvergreensNothing delights me more in winter than gazing at the garden decorated in icing sugar frost. Spider webs are encrusted with diamonds and sugar strands and glitter as the sun dances. Leaves and trees are dipped in ice and create a true winter wonderland. And last year’s Christmas tree grows a few more inches!

cyclamen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Cyclamen: I’ve tried growing these as houseplants, but I’m not good at keeping plants alive indoors… I struggle a bit with cyclamen outside too, I don’t think they like my damp, clay soil! Still, I persevere every year because they’re so delicate and pretty with their bright red or pink, pastel pink, or white blooms and dark, heart-shaped leaves… One day I’d love a patch of naturalised cyclamen coum to cheer up winter.

hellebore, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

Hellebore: also known as the Christmas or Lenten Rose, are stunning additions in any winter garden. They grow into large clumps and can be divided or you can plant the little babies that grow from seed around the parent plant. I love their simplicity and beauty as they grace the garden with slightly drooping heads that, when lifted, often show a freckled face. I love the pinks, deep reds, and almost black flowers, but I particularly love the pure white with a lime green hint staining their petals.

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn: This is a favourite of mine as it flowers in clumps of pink blossom on bare, dark stems as winter progresses into spring. Strangely the leaves have a pungent smell which I rather dislike when touched, but the flowers have the most divine heady fragrance which makes up for the leaves.

moss and lichen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Moss and Lichen: on bare branches and stone. When the season becomes sparse, and flowers are hard to find, if you look closer you can delight in the intricacies of lichen and moss. Grab a magnifying glass and search out the smaller pleasures of nature. There are numerous varieties of both; in the UK there are over 1,700 species of lichen and over 18,000 species worldwide. I love the curl and sage colour of common lichen found on trees and enhanced in winter on bare branches. Moss delights me, I cannot resist brushing my hand across a carpet of peridot moss, and they offer me my favourite colour! Rainy Wales and our woodlands are the most amazing places for moss. (I love moss so much I may well do a separate post in the future for it!)

bronze fennel, frosted fennel, fennel seedhead, ten winter wonders of nature,the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Fennel: I grow bronze fennel in my garden for the haze of purple it gives me in the summer. It grows tall and feathery, and then gives long stems and stunning seedheads in winter. When Jack Frost visits he always decorates the seedheads, creating even more works of art in my winter garden.

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Red Berries Cotoneaster: Cotoneaster comes in many varieties, from trees to shrubs and ground-cover. Red berries are the epitome of winter and every garden should have some!

snowdrop, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Snowdrop (Galanthus): I’ve said it before, I adore the tiny British Snowdrop, I look forward to its little nodding head and vibrant green marks. It’s a sign that winter is beginning to draw to a close. It generally flowers before the vernal equinox marking the arrival of spring in the middle of March, but can flower from midwinter on. One of the most beautiful winter sights to me is a patch of snowdrops peeping through a fresh coating of snow…offering new growth and hope.

What are your favourite winter flowers?

What inspires you to wander winter’s woodlands and
what flora do you search out as Jack Frost bites?

The Blessings of being an Observer

‘It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.’
Henry David Thoreau.

the-blessings-of-being-an-observer-the-last-krystallosI’m one of life’s observers. Details are my thing, right from when I was young and experimenting with art and writing. I had a penchant for precision, clarity and aesthetic beauty – and a deep need to put what I saw into a creative context.

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My love of art and detail began from a young age…’Storm’ at age eleven, hands, Dali, cliffs and self-portrait during teens, and drawing my sister and her horse, fairy and a steampunk bumblebee as an adult… © Lisa Shambrook

I see things – all the time. I see everything. I’m an HSP Highly Sensitive Person – (and I’ll write a post on that another day) – but it accounts for my ability to see so much around me. Sometimes it’s a difficult thing: that fluff on the carpet needs to be moved, the white glaring book spine on the shelf cannot be placed with dark spines, and tiny movements in the corner of my eye distract me to the point of tears at times, but most of the time being an observer is a blessing.

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Fairy wing anemone, papery blackberry flowers, clouds of soft cow parlsey, delicate nigella, the perfect rose and pink peony © Lisa Shambrook

I see the dew drop in the rose, the tiny green spider weaving a home amongst the stems, patterns in the frost, the sparkle of ice in winter, the heron standing as still as a statue, the dust-coated papery wings of a moth or the light behind petals that turn them into fairy wings…

Wasp nest growth over eight weeks © Lisa Shambrook

Wasp nest growth over eight weeks © Lisa Shambrook

I notice the small things. I hear the whisper in the forest and differentiate the clouds in the sky. I watch the swallows dive and the bats flit over our heads. I feel the sunbeams on my skin and see the shimmer of moonlight in my hair. I breathe in jasmine and honeysuckle and notice the hairs on bumblebees’ legs. I recently watched wasps build a nest in my Dad’s garage – the precision and care was amazing.

And it’s not just what you see it’s what you feel too. Feel the mood change as the clouds gather and the wild feeling of passion as storms swell. Enjoy the sensation of a soft fall of snow and wonder at the design of each individual flake. Feel the sprinkle of cold water from the waterfall. Smell the freshness of rain and the fragrance of petrichor, and the waft of delicate perfume. Think of the taste of chocolate melting on your tongue, a kiss beneath the stars, and the warmth of a hug…

Waterfall showers © Lisa Shambrook

Waterfall showers, rainbows, curtains of water, the sprinkle of cool, a cascade © Lisa Shambrook

Imagine, for a moment, life without seeing these things… If you can see them you’re rich, in every way!

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Delicate web, frosted leaves, hidden gallows, furry ice, bird print on sand and lichen © Lisa Shambrook

And there’s the blessing of humanity. We see so much harm, but do we notice the youth who holds the door open for his elder? We should notice the small works that are done every day to help, to serve and to love. See the love in a mother’s eyes as she gazes at her child, the protective hand on a shoulder from a father, and the simple gesture of holding hands.

Sometimes life gets busy, sometimes it gets us down, and when it does that’s the time to start looking. That’s the time to search for the little things, to see the small things and drink them in. Stand by the ocean and watch the waves, breathe in the salty air and listen to the pebbles turn beneath the shore. Let the wind whisper in your hair. Wander through the woods and notice the flowers, the tiny wild violets, or simple daisies. Let the sun dance upon your face, close your eyes and feel it. Gaze up at the stars and wonder at the Milky Way as it arcs in a mass of constellations right over your head.

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Rainy sunset, shaft of light across clouds, sparkling water, light on cow parsley, sunbeams on horses and wispy clouds © Lisa Shambrook

I take these moments into my soul. I let them charge my emotions and I use my recollections as I write. Description flows and colour pervades the page, and the world comes alive in the stories I tell.

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Moss wrapped stone, Jack Frost, puppy’s eye, wire wrap jewels, regal peacock feathers and mystic oaks © Lisa Shambrook

It’s a blessing to be an observer and anyone can be one. Just take a moment to see. Take a moment to look, really look and see what you can see…

Let the beauty around us, the huge grandeur and the tiny blessings of nature and humanity, fill your soul.

Tell me, what observations make your day?

What do you see that makes you happy?

The Loss of Laburnum…

Have you ever loved a tree, just watched it blossom and held your breath?

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Laburnum © Lisa Shambrook

When we moved into our home twelve years ago, a scrappy tree stood half way up the garden. It was bare and about fifteen feet tall, with straggly twiggy branches, but beautiful glossy bark. I had no idea what it was until the following spring, when from behind the two rhododendrons, the most beautiful acid yellow blossoms suddenly bloomed, gorgeous golden chains hung from the branches, and brightened my garden.

I’d seen laburnums before, and never been very keen on them, but this one blew me away. It was beautiful, a lovely shape, and the colour accentuated the purple and lilac rhododendrons perfectly. I was sold.

laburnum tree, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

laburnum blossom, yellow flowers, the last krystallos,

Laburnum Blossom © Lisa Shambrook

The children climbed it in autumn, hung rope from a branch in the summer to swing on, and we hung homemade insect houses from it too. I was never worried about the toxicity of the tree, well aware of its poisonous nature; all parts are poisonous if ingested. There are other toxic plants in my garden and I’ve always taught my children to respect nature and enjoy its beauty rather than chop down something beautiful due to fear.

There was never a more pleasing sight in my garden than the week the laburnum blossomed. I’d watch for it, watch the buds appear, and wait patiently for the day when a glance out of the window would take my breath away.

I adore trees, of all varieties, and we have a couple of apple trees (Discovery and Worcester), an Abies Koreana (with wonderful purple/black cones), a replanted Christmas tree, a couple of small ornamental firs and the laburnum. I can’t take credit for the laburnum. The previous owner chose it to accompany the rhododendrons, and it was an inspired choice. As it turns out the positioning would be its literal downfall, but inspired all the same.

I’d love to plant many trees, but a 30 x 90 foot garden can only take so many and the garden rises in a very steep slope.

The laburnum in its glory and uprooted © Lisa Shambrook

The laburnum in its glory and uprooted © Lisa Shambrook

It was a very sad day, when three weeks ago I wandered into my daughters’ bedroom, stared out of the window and bit back tears. The high winds of the previous two days had uprooted the tree. Now the twenty-five foot tree lay across my garden, swathed in lemon yellow, and I could only stand and stare.

uprooted laburnum, fallen tree, fallen laburnum, the last krystallos,

Uprooted laburnum © Lisa Shambrook

The loss of a tree might seem small, even unimportant, but it’s still a loss. I recall the hurricane of 1987, when I was fifteen and in Hove. Our local park lost two thirds of its trees and I remember that Seven Oaks lost six of its oaks. A loss of even one tree still hits me.

Trees inspire me and feature heavily in my writing, particularly in ‘Beneath the Old Oak’, where Meg finds solace beneath her tree. Losing my tree was tough. The horizon in my garden will never look the same. Next year, I’ll glance out of the window and something will be missing.

My garden has currently acquired the appearance of a meadow, due to hubby’s long work hours, my writing and bad back, so I don’t know if we’ll replace the laburnum. The whole garden is waiting for an overhaul…so we’ll just have to wait and see…

fallen laburnum. uprooted tree, the last krystallos,

Fallen laburnum © Lisa Shambrook

Have you ever lost an important tree or plant, how did you overcome the loss?