I love this time of year because the explosion of colour everywhere in the garden is matched by a desire to illustrate my journal and even decorate the walls of my ‘she-cave,’ ‘dame den’ – whatever you want to call it – with colourful images. At the moment, birds and flowers predominate (see pics).


For me, the poet who really captures the colours of the season is John Clare, with his
rich brown-umber hue the oaks unfold
When Spring’s young sunshine bathes their trunks in gold’
(from Wood Pictures in Spring)
He’s got lovely things to say about birds, too:
‘From dark green clumps among the dripping grain
The lark with sudden impulse starts and sings
And mid the smoking rain
Quivers her russet wings’
(from The Summer Shower)

Larks are in short supply in garden suburbia, but the greenery does quiver aplenty with iridescent flashes of blackbird, greenfinch and robin. Admittedly, toucans (painting, below) are in shorter supply than larks, but I find their iconography seductive. My other half reckons it all dates back to a Guinness T-shirt I owned years ago, but I think it’s do with dreams of ‘other greenery’; specifically, of the cloud and rainforests I’ll probably never get to visit. I only realised the full extent of my preoccupation when I rediscovered, in the back of a cupboard, a cup and saucer I’d bought at least 10 years earlier (pic, below). In the meantime, I’d bought toucan-motifed storages boxes, stationery and lampshades.

This is our first summer at our current address, so the garden has been unfolding its floral secrets very gradually, from glossy pink roses to the unexpected arrival of pinky-purple foxgloves (digitalis purpurea).
The spots that line each cerise campana are said to be fairy fingerprints. According to Norwegian folklore, fairies taught foxes to ring the bells on the flower, warning each other of approaching hunters. It’s rumoured to be bad luck to bring foxgloves into the house, presumably because the flower’s versatility is matched by the fairy folk’s dependence on its petals for hats, gloves and petticoats.
I love to take photos of the garden’s sudden revelations and either paste them into my journal or retain them as inspiration for future sketching.
Each bud, shoot or rain-sodden stem glimpsed from a window is akin to the view from the top deck on a bus, when facades seen at eye level take on a whole new perspective, yielding honeycombed corners, passageways and shadowed spaces, just as baked walls in hot countries shelter tiled courtyards, filigree fountains and pockets of that ‘other’ greenery.
Luckily for us, it’s never more than a summer shower away.


If you love poetry or just fancy the idea of finding your inner poet, come along to a poetry workshop at The Mill, Banbury, on Saturday 15 September 2018. Visit www.themillartscentre.co.uk