Sit down with a cuppa and learn what is happening in the Pollination Garden.


The rain has cleared as I head outdoors, camera in hand. I do this most days. A quiet little moment of observation. I like taking some time to connect to the garden, to see, to learn and to understand my role it more. Sometimes it is a quick dart out, other times I can be there as long as I want, luxuriating in being able to wander around distracted by whatever takes my eye. You can quickly lose an hour doing this.

Over the year or so since I took up my camera, taking photos of the garden has helped me understand my role in the garden. My role has become one of an observer and gardening for me has become less about controlling and maintaining and more about becoming part of the community that lives in my flower beds. I think a large part of the reason for this is from what I have seen from behind the camera.

I definitely see more of the details that make up the garden and this tends to be what I take photos of. Little details. Some days the images I take are inspired from something I have seen as I have weeded a bed. A little secret that was hidden. I would have walked past it before. It would have gone unnoticed. Other days I know it is the season for roses, dahlias, spring bulbs and I am anxious to capture then before they pass. I find regular practice has helped improve my skill set. Those daily ventures into the garden benefit me creatively and definitely spiritually.

The interest in creative details that you find in your garden and how to capture them is the main theme of the workshop I will be giving in February at Crosshill Gardens.

I did a practice run for workshop the other day. No doubt confirming for the neighbors my oddness as I talked to myself whilst in the garden. I discovered on my first attempt that I get distracted, that I get excited that I am like a kid in a candy store. I darted from one bloom to another. The delights in a garden constantly inspire and when I think of sharing that excitement, of others feeling the same, it fills me with joy.

So today, camera in hand, I walk down the path. In this moment for me it is about the roses. Roses after rain are the best. They droop with the weight which can evoke a feeling of life weight. They have just opened, a fresh bloom, with a delicate sprinkle of raindrops on petals. Or they are a tight bud wound to a tapered point, ready to burst when the sun returns.

When I take a photo I think about what has attracted me to the flower. What was it that caught my eye? Humans like distractions, our eyes flickering one thing to another. A quick endorphin rush follows after our eyes have rested on a beautiful rose. I have questions that run through my head unconsciously as I take my photo. A dialogue almost between plant and me. It tells me it’s mood and I respond with my camera. Sometimes we feel the same. I factor in the environment, again more question and finally I think about how I want to tell the story of the bloom. The options are numerous and I work my way through them factoring mood and environment. The photo is taken.

My purpose is not perfection. In fact I embrace imperfection. A bruised petal, a faded bloom, they for me hold just as much beauty as the newly flowering. Perhaps more so because they have a story. Even the out of focus photos have merit. One of my teachers advised me of this, that the technically imperfect photo can capture the mood better than the perfect one. Sometimes the images flow, other days nothing works and I take it as a lesson. I listen to what is going on around me and within. Taking a moment to reflect.

My workshop in February, my first, at Crosshill Gardens will be like this, us walking in the garden together, seeing what captures our eye – squeals of delight are optional. I will talk though how I take a photo, do a demonstration if technology is kind and then we can wander, talk and capture the beauty that is Ali’s stunning garden. I hope you will join me.

Workshop details can be found on the Secret Gardens NZ website. I do have plans forming for other workshops. If you are interested please sign up to my newsletter.

The scent of rain drifts in the window. A smell I love, especially after a hot day. I’ve realized over the past few nights I have started to make a nest in the bed. As evening draws in, I take comfort from blankets and pillows. Windows are open to let cool air in after a hot day (yes, I know I referenced blankets in the previous sentence - it is more about comfort than warmth). I look around me and I have a collection of things in my bed nest. A dog, either the big one or the little one, is usually at the end of the bed. I am never sure if it is for company or it is if because it is cool. Either way I am happy. Hidden somewhere in the blankets and pillows is the camera. I had taken photos earlier and I like to sit on the bed flicking through the images. Selecting, editing, learning.

Scattered in the bedding is usually a number of books. I am back to my nibble reading. Over the Christmas break reading was more of a devouring nature, where because we spent most of the time at home, my daily sense of achievement was the reading of a book. I would start the book when I woke, dipping into it throughout the day and then stubbornly finish before sleep. Bed times became very moveable during this period.

In my younger days I use to always be a solid one book at a time reader but over the years I have become a nibbler. As I look at the scattered pile* in the bed I have 5 books which I try and read a chapter each night. Some chapters are a few pages. Some chapters are more and despite best intentions are only partly read, eyes closing, becoming too heavy to continue.

I did visit an old friend during my devouring period (does anyone else consider books friends?). Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Big Magic’. I had read it many years ago during a different chapter of my life. The chapter of potential escape, of understanding that there was more to me than the current job, the wondering what if. I read it as someone reads a map at the beginning of a journey. With connection to what was written and with conviction to what was said. Her words echoed and unlocked the idea that I could do more and that I could have a creative aspect to my life. That there was something there to untap. Pages where marked. Quotes taken. Ideas opened a curiosity that I hope I never loose.

I am not sure what happened to my copy. It was past to someone who at the time I left needed it more than I. It disappeared as I thought it would into a bookshelf somewhere. Given to read in the hopes that it helps unlock potential just as it had for me.

Years pass. Big Magic returned to me after listening to a workshop for creatives. I thought it would do no harm to reread. I was feeling a bit off at the time and that I perhaps needed to reconnect to what it was that I was actually doing with my life. A second-hand copy was found. It was then read over a couple of days. Nibbled at in big chunks. It needed digesting slowly.

I want to say confidently that I am an artist but often when I do it comes out in a voice that feels smaller than it should be. I know that that this happens because of lack of confidence and I know that saying these words are new for me. After all this voice has been quiet for a number of years. It does need to warm up a bit. Reading Big Magic as an artist is different to reading it as someone who is starting think that creativity is part of them. The first read opens doors. The second read says you are through the door and you shouldn’t keep your foot holding it open. Let it shut to what was before and let what stands before you be greeted with an open heart.

I found it insightful to read about the merits of practice and regularity of practice, something I had unconsciously being doing over the past few years. I felt encourage to continue with it. I learnt that good enough is good enough. And I think most importantly that this is a creative journey. As I plan my future with this creative part of me taking more of a prominent role I realized that I need to honor the creative gift that I have. That enjoying this gift is more important than making money. A job can give me money, creative work can give quality to my life. The more I read the more I breathed deeper and I felt the quiet little voice that says I am an artist getting louder. Each day I now say in a quiet moment I am an artist. Some days the words roll of my tongue. Some days they are stuck in the back of my throat. Either way I am becoming more comfortable saying them and appreciating the wonder that is Big Magic.

As I nestle into my bed, books, dog and camera scattered amongst the bed clothes I realize this too is part of the creative journey. Taking time to nest, reflect and absorb what is happening around me. Words stretch my mind as the delicate scent of a rose wafts through the window. Big dog stretches out and nestles his head on my feet, letting out a big comfortable sigh as do I.

P.S I won’t be giving away this second copy.

*scattered pile are as follows:

“Call of the Reed Warbler” Charles Massey

“On Photography” Susan Sontag

“A Poetry Handbook” Mary Oliver

“Where I was From” Joan Didion

“Little Stories of Your Life” Laura Pashby

It is early January. So early that days don’t seem to have names and times melts into nothingness. That delicious period of time when Christmas and new year celebrations have past and you settle into the days of nothing. You can’t recall what you did or when and there is a blissful feeling of contentment. It only occurs at this time of year and your mood will change as the week progresses. The itch to do something will return. Plans will slowly start to form in your mind. Hopefully you can leave this period of time when you want to and not when you have too.

I sit in the garden in handmade chairs under the olive tree. The olive tree stands in the lawn, planted when we first moved in. Planted with natively. It leans to the left a little too much, it’s trunk slopping due to gravity and a lack of support when it was younger. Part of me wants to straighten it make it look right, the other part of me acknowledges it as a rookie mistake and that I will know for next time. I long for the next time. The next garden.

There are bees in the olive tree foraging for food. It is a warm day that is on the verge of turning too hot. I can comfortably sit in the sun but time and heat will force me either inside or in the shade. The dogs for the moment can potter about. They get hot quickly and will head indoors when they have had enough. Occasionally one will stubbornly stay near me. Keeping me company.

The bees are everywhere and the garden literally hums. This is my favorite time to be in the garden as it feels like all the work, the growing, the planning, the planting has resulted in this moment. Everywhere I look I see a little bee bum, either honey or bumble. The amount of activity is fierce, a reflection of the warmth of the day.

I feel grateful that I can sit here and enjoy what is around me. As I write the keyboards on the computer get a dusting of pollen. Nature, as it should, is taking center stage at this moment and I am humbling observing. I am also learning. The bees tell what is their preference when it comes to foraging and I take note. Borage, lavenders and the new to me this season peach/golden Achillea. I want to plant more of that one.

The crimson Heuchera border with it’s stalk of white delicate flowerheads, no more than a dot, sway with bee movement. I love how while there is no wind flowers sway regardless. A bumble lands on a lavender flower head and the weight of the bee sends the head bobbling.

It is a peaceful moment.

Noises from neighbors change the tone. The sun is breaking through the clouds and I can feel it start to heat up on my skin. The dog runs to the gate in anticipation of someone walking past. No one walks past, it is just a car parking across the road.

More pollen falls on the computer from the olive tree. The hum from bees continues. I yawn and feel the moment beginning to change. The deliciousness of the sun begins to become slightly oppressive. It will be too hot soon. I will go indoors. The images of the garden will continue to dance in my head and when, later in the day, the light is softer I will aim to return, camera in hand and try and capture what I saw just now.

The garden will be different then and the camera will capture a different mood. Just as these words capture it all in a different way to how I feel. Regardless the bees will keep on doing their thing. My garden is a place for feasting. I love this thought.

My mind has wandered too far for peace. The dog, momentarily inside, charges outside for whatever purpose. The birds fly off the lawn. Their peace disrupted. There is still pollen on the keyboard and splash on the screen. I leave it, an indoor-outdoor reminder of this moment when I next open the computer and my mind can drift back to this moment, to the sounds of bees in the olive tree and the warmth of the sun. The little chatter from the birds and the sway of the flower heads.