J and K, Jarman and sea kale

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There really aren’t many plants beginning with J and K!

Well J is for Jasmine my favourite scent, but have sadly not managed to keep alive in my garden. It’s a difficult environment. Today we have salt encrusted windows that I can’t see out of, high winds and the ground and all the pots are drenched. If I could see out of the window I’d see some spectacular waves crashing over the shingle. The gales brought some of my nicest pots down and smashed them and have blown the back fence down (there’s always at least one fence down, I really need some more hedges..)

The only garden I’ve ever seen that has it tougher than me is probably Derek Jarman’s garden at Dungeness which really has to be the most exposed garden I’ve seen.  Dungeness is an amazing desolate and wild landscape, and an area of Special Scientific Interest and bird sanctuary. It’s home to 600 species of plants (a third of all the plants found in the UK)

Walk around and you’ll see an extraordinary array of habitations (from old boats and tin shacks to beautiful designer homes), a bleak nuclear Power station and (if you look closely) the wildlife that does manage to exist here.

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Derek Jarman (1942-1994) was a film director, stage designer, artist and author. The book Derek Jarman’s Garden is inspiring, a mix of poetry, passionate description of plants, an embracing of the hostile but extraordinary environment, and anarchic approach to gardening and rejection of the traditional manicured garden and rule books.

Sea Kale  (according to “Derek Jarman’s Garden”), is Dungeness’s most distinguished plant, and there are more of them here than anywhere in England. Though they are edible, they accumulate radioactivity from the nuclear power station more than any other plant. They die away in Winter and in March start to sprout from pink buds, developing through glaucous blue green and then to sprays of white flowers with a heavy honey scent. I’ve not really got enough beach in my garden for these magnificent shingle dwellers. So I settle for spotting it on the beach at Tide Mills!

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So any plants in my garden at all for J and K? A couple of new ones, Kaffir Lily that I bought from the Community Garden, which gave some Autumn colour in the new bed and the Japanese lace fern which I bought for the shady bed

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And another not in my garden, but making me happy is the knapweed up on the nature reserve, so beloved of bees and other insects

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And the best J – is the Joy that the garden brings to me! It keeps me fit, active, curious, busy (how often have I popped out into the garden, and suddenly realised I’ve been out there five hours!) It never fails to delight me and make me happy. And that is surely why we do it!

(happiest pig I’ve ever seen, living in a prairie garden near Henfield)

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