Sunday, 12 July 2009


On the last bank holiday weekend, the weather being glorious, we decided to go for a drive. Ideally, I'd have liked to go to the seaside - being a Cancerian, I always have the crab's desire to scuttle back to the sea - but knowing that the roads would be a town-to-coast traffic jam, we set off without any specific destination in mind.

Now, this not a first-choice type of excursion for someone who has never learned the - as our American cousins say - to 'hang loose', but as we were driving through Brenchley, near Tonbridge in Kent, I happened to spot a sign to Marle Place Gardens and we decided to stop by and take a look...

What a happy happenstance that was...


This surprising act of spontaneity (which, as I've indicated, is a quality in which I am sadly deficient) led to an idyllic afternoon wandering around, and photographing, one of the most satisfying gardens I've ever visited.

Marle Place has both formal and wild features, from the ordered serenity of the scented walled garden to the chaotic kaleidoscope of colour in the poppy garden...

Summer afternoon

What was obvious at every turn was that this place had been created and maintained by people who love gardening...

Now, personally speaking, I've always loved gardens - whether in country cottage or great parks - but I've absolutely never been one for getting involved in the actual grubby, back-aching business of gardening. As a kid I used to make a vague attempt to help my parents but - probably due to early intimations of gayness - simply hated getting my hands dirty! Also there were worms and slugs other slithery and creepy-crawly creatures...

I did once attempt to make a model garden in one of my Mum's soup tureens (the unfortunate results of which you can read about, along with an account of one of my favourite parks, here) but, for the most part - well, for the whole part, really - I'm absolutely content to admire and enjoy the down-to-earth labours of others...

Fiery feathers II

Still, I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt about my lack of green fingers (although from experience, as I say, I've always found the predominant colour to be black, rather than green!), especially whenever I read that wonderful patriotic ode to the joys of gardening by one of our great pop poets, Rudyard Kipling...

OUR ENGLAND is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.

For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You will find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all;
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dungpits and the tanks:
The rollers, carts and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks.

And there you'll see the gardeners, the men and 'prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise;
For, except when seeds are planted and we shout to scare the birds,
The Glory of the Garden it abideth not in words.

And some can pot begonias and some can bud a rose,
And some are hardly fit to trust with anything that grows;
But they can roll and trim the lawns and sift the sand and loam,
For the Glory of the Garden occupieth all who come.

Floxglove I

Our England is a garden, and such gardens are not made
By singing: "Oh, how beautiful!" and sitting in the shade,
While better men than we go out and start their working lives
At grubbing weeds from gravel-paths with broken dinner-knives

There's not a pair of legs so thin, there's not a head so thick,
There's not a hand so weak and white, nor yet a heart so sick.
But it can find some needful job that's crying to be done,
For the Glory of the Garden glorifieth every one.

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner in the Glory of the Garden.

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener's work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hand and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!
And the Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!

Three flames

My days of getting down on my knees are - with all due respect to God - gone with the wind, since, if I were to get down there, I'd quite simply never now get up again!

But I will go on glorying in the garden, acknowledging the craft and graft of all those gardeners whose work is truly never done and I'll continue to offer thanks and praise to whatever deity is responsible for the endless multiplicity of shapes, colours and fragrances that they contain...

Succulent I

You can see more of my and David's photos from Marle Place Gardens and other garden spots in my flickr album, Up the Garden Path.

And you can read buttons account of the trip here.


Suzanne said...

Beautiful pics Brian. The new man in my life is terrific in the garden and my little patch of green has never bloomed like it has this year! Gardening is something best enjoyed "à deux" so up to meeting Raphael my attempts were limited to an occasional trudging around with the lawn mower. And I shall print out and translate the Kipling poem into French for my green-fingered archangel!
wunda: the only word to describe my garden this year!
and then that word verification was refused, so:
chdupe: an especially long entwined bit of bindweed - the bane of my flowerbeds!

Brian Sibley said...

I'm so pleased that your garden - and your life - are in bloom once more. Beautiful!

I have always had a soft spot for Raphael. One reading of his name, as I'm sure you know, is "God Heals".

As a lover of Venice, I was delighted to encounter the Archangel in Sally Vickers' wonderful novel, Miss Garnet's Angel. You must read it sometime...

SharonM said...

A lovely place - and fabulous photos. what camera(s)did you and David use?

Being a fellow hayfever sufferer, did you manage to get round without too much sneezing?

Brian Sibley said...

Thank God for gardens - and antihistamine!!

Brian's camera: Lumix, Panasonic DMC-FZ7

David's: Canon, Ixus 960IS

SharonM said...

I'm guessing the terrific flower close-ups were taken with David's Ixus (like you, I've got a Lumix)?

Susan D-L said...

Stunning, gorgeous pictures. Living here in the land of high desert and rocky soil, blooms like this are a fever dream. Thanks for the virtual visit.

Matt said...

Spectacular photos of a beautiful garden, would that my thumb were as green. Never had much success with flowers, but I have successfully tamed the wily HOSTA, of which I have over 200 now in full force.

scb said...

Lovely, lovely photos. Thank you for brightening yet another dull, chilly day over here where the weather doesn't realize it's July! There are flowers blooming doggedly, but it's too chilly to get out and enjoy them (at least for a wimp like me)...

Brian Sibley said...

SUSAN D-L, MATT and SCB - Thank you! :-)

SHARON - Er... No, actually!


Not to take anything from David's talent as a photographer (or the mighty mega-pixels of his Canon), but all the pictures on the blog were taken by me with the Lumix.

On the flickr album, David's snaps carry his accreditation, the others are by little ol' me!

(Well not so 'little' these days, but certainly very nearly 'old'!)

SharonM said...

I'm going to grab my Lumix and head for the garden!

But I suppose I'd better read the manual first to find out what setting I should use.

What do you mean 'nearly old' - you're 59 for another 15 hours and then you'll still be young.

Brian Sibley said...

Shock-horror confession coming up, SHARON...

All the photos I took used the automatic, aim and shoot, setting!

Manual? What manual? There's a manual?

FIFTEEN HOURS? Is that all that's left?? I demand a re-count!