Sunday, July 8, 2012

Quilting in my Garden

Three things I love a lot – yoga, writing, stitching.  (And there is a yoga pose known as ‘The Eye of the Needle’)

 Needlework and mixed media collage are among my favourite creative projects – when I have time.

Perhaps that’s why one of my favourite perennials is hostas. The leaves have such a wonderful quilted appearance; they might have been cut out and stitched in the garden studio of a horticultural goddess. Shades of blue-green, green with white couched stripes, green with gold-edged binding.

One of the houses I lived in as a child was row house in Liverpool, England. It had literally what North Americans call a ‘yard’, just a few square feet of paving stones, nothing green or growing. That’s why I am so sad to hear grass, plants, flowers, bushes and trees, all clumped together and described as a yard. So bleak, so colourless, so uninhabited, so un–flourishing.

I first saw hostas as a grown-up. On an assignment on Kent in the south of England, I made my visit into a long weekend and included Sissinghurst Castle. This had been the home of Vita Sackville-West and her husband, the diplomat Harold Nicholson. In the 1930’s they created amazing gardens there. One of Vita’s then-pioneering ideas was the creation of a number of gardens each defined by a single colour.

 With their purple and white flowers hostas are featured in the gardens of both those colours. But it was the leaves that enchanted me. Not just the size and shape but the lines of what might have been stitches, not perfect, for this is nature, but so wonderfully delineating these plants.

Wherever I’ve lived since I’ve always planted hostas, and marvel each spring as they spread their quilted patches.

Among my favourite flowers are peonies. Their petals are like the hand-made paper and fabric I tear for my collages.

Sparingly cut for the house just one or two make a superb arrangement, the delicate perfume enhancing their wrinkled edges. Even the dark spear-like leaves make a singular arrangement.

Appropriately I’ll let Vita have the last word on flowers.

“A flowerless room is a soulless room, to my way of thinking; but even one solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it.”

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