Gardens Ablaze

A Gardening Blether
Monthly Column by Patrick Vickery
November, 2003



Architectural Elements

Backyard Habitat





Companion Planting


Container Gardening


Gardening Q/A

Garden Ornamentation



Ground Covers




Insects & Diseases





Ponds & Water Gardens



Shade Gardens

Shrubs & Hedges









A Topiary Blether

Holiday time, a Greek island in the Mediterranean, Corfu, sun, sand, sea and relaxation. Perfect.

A long drive to the airport of course, a good breakfast required first, so what's it to be today, I wonder, Porridge or Spoff?

Well Spoff, I think, one of the finest breakfast cereals in the land, made locally, interesting name, once heard never forgotten (sheer marketing genius, that's what I say), then a quick shave (and do you shave your ears as well as well as your face of a morning, sprouting like the best organic veg, that's the burning question!), feed the goats, dogs to kennels, a fond farewell to the chickens (I recently heard, by the way, of a chicken called "Peckalot" - good name, that), check on the ducks in the hanging basket, admire the garden and then off to the airport to catch a plane.

'Bob's your Uncle' and we're away.

A pleasant flight of course - and aren't they always - a 'dwam' or two, brief view of the Alps below and reached Corfu safe and sound around midnight.

A 'dwam', by the way, for those unaware - no, not a dram, a 'dwam' -  being a pleasant state of conscious unconsciousness. 'Sometimes I sits and thinks' as the saying goes, and 'Sometimes I just sits', or in other words in a state of 'dwam-ness'. Not a word you're likely to find in the Oxford English Dictionary, however, as I believe it's a word peculiar to the Scottish Highlands (so could be associated with a wee dram or two after all then, who knows?) Anyway, enough of my haverings. Onwards.

Lovely island, Corfu. Enormous tomatoes, you know; stupendous melons; leggy geraniums; giant marigolds; evidence all around of extraordinary horticultural splendours; a marked preponderance of 'topiary haircuts' too, if my memory serves me right, the sort of haircut usually associated with topiary gardening, Kew Gardens or Chelsea, that sort of thing. And, do you know, it was a few years back, whilst holidaying in Lanzarotte, one of the Canary Islands famed for its volcanic ash, giant cacti, active volcanoes and the international artist Cesar Manrique (he, of course, being renowned amongst other things for creating a giant cacti plantation on the island - renowned in the Spanish speaking world of giant cacti cultivation anyway) when I first noticed the 'topiary haircut' phenomenon. Extraordinary. Perhaps hairdressers should do topiary, don't you think, and topiarists should do haircuts?  Now there's an interesting idea.

Trim your box hedging in the hairstyle of a Percy Thrower, an Art Drysdale or a Leonard Perry perhaps?   And why not?   A  hairstyle to influence your pruning habits.

And then in reverse a hairdresser could do 'topiary style' haircuts.

"I'll have a Kew Gardens please, hairdresser - you know, that laurel bush just past the parrot shaped box hedging and before you get to the café, a duck-like bouffant with just a smidgen of hair gel ("lavender passion"), do me fine, that will.

What an excellent opportunity for a good blether on the High Street, don't you think?

"Gor blimey, interesting hairpiece, that, saw something similar on 'Gardener's World'. A 'Kew', is it?  No?  Oh, an Edinburgh Botanicals with a touch of the Wisleys thrown in for good measure?  Very good."


"What happened to that beech hedging on your front lawn?  Had a 'dwam' during pruning, did you? What? What's that? Oh, a Percy Thrower, is it?  Well, looks like an untidy mess to me. You'll need to prune it in the style of a Drysdale, a Perry or a Gertrude Jekyll next time, might do the trick, might just sort it out."

Yes indeed, the opportunities for light-hearted banter over the garden fence - even neighbourly warfare perhaps - are endless.

And what about me - my hairstyle?  Well picture this. A touch of the Hampton Courts, I think, with just a smidgen of Compton Acres thrown in for good measure; and then there's that beech hedge to be found in central Inverness, the one with the bare patch on top that holds a passing resemblance to my coiffured' bonce'! 

Topiary and haircuts, they have a lot in common, don't you think?  I do.

(Acknowledgements: thanks to Leonard Perry and to Art Drysdale for permitting their hairstyles to feature in such topiary bletherings!').

(Copyright: Patrick Vickery)


A Tomato Blether - January, 2002

A Tree Blether - February, 2002

A Hare Blether - March, 2002

A Surreal Blether - April, 2002

A Slug Blether - May, 2002

A Goat Blether - June, 2002

A Half-Man, Half-Garden Blether - July, 2002

A Blaze Blether - August, 2002

An Inanimate Object Blether - September, 2002

A Notable Quotable Blether - October, 2002

A Plant Blether - November, 2002

A Compost Blether - December, 2002

A Copper Beech Blether (or a chainsaw pruning!) - January, 2003

A Heron Blether - February, 2003

A Bergenia Blether - March, 2003

A Rose Blether - April, 2003

A Critter Blether - August, 2003

Patrick Vickery is a garden writer who lives in the Scottish Highlands.  He runs a small perennial plant nursery and has one book published to date: 'In Pursuit Of Perennial Profit - The Pot Of Gold At The Bottom Of The Garden' (Capall Bann Publishers. ISBN: 186163 1480), a 'How To' book about the propagation of hardy perennial plants in an environmentally friendly way, and how to make your garden productive in a variety of ways for both expert and gardening enthusiasts alike - at minimum cost and in an innovative and exciting way.  And - of course - how to sell the plants you grow (should you wish to) to raise money (not a fortune) for yourself or a particular charity or cause. 


Patrick is married with three children, lives in a two acre wood in a wonderful part of the world, uses a raised bed system of propagation and has two dogs, a cat and two goats. His second book - 'Gardening Tales - Blethers and Grunts' - a collection of anecdotal tales concentrating on the more humorous side of gardening (particularly the things that go wrong!) has recently been completed.


Patrick's book can be bought from an absolutely fascinating website full of gardening, herbal, mystical, and magical books that one would never find anywhere else.  The address is

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