A Buddhist garden

Buddhist garden in St John's Wood
St John’s Wood

I walk past this garden every day, and it gives me an inordinate amount of pleasure. Unlike pretty much every other garden in St John’s Wood, it is entirely unreconstructed. It has no box balls, just some traditional shrubs and perennials.┬áIt doesn’t have electric gates, just a Rosa rugosa trained along a few wires, and no hard landscaping apart from a little pond. There’s always something new to look at, and over the past few weeks it has been filled with primroses, forget-me-nots, pulmonaria, daffodils and an azalea. It’s semi-wild, but lovingly tended.

My SJW mole tells me that the house is a Buddhist monastery. It’s the former home of Christmas Humphreys, a barrister (he worked on the Ruth Ellis case) and a Buddhist. After his death he bequeathed the house to a Zen foundation.

I love the fact that the house isn’t owned by an oligarch or a banker, but some gentle people who meditate. I hope they never have cause to sell it, because if they do, it will be paved over and some box balls added just as soon as the new basement and electric gates have been put in.

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Wisteria and peonies

As any Buddhist will tell you, everything passes and nothing lasts forever. It’s an idea I’m more than willing to embrace when I’m faced with something I don’t like – eg winter – which can’t go quickly enough as far as I’m concerned. But I struggle with the idea in spring, when everything moves so fast. If I could freeze any moment in time, it would be now. There’s colour and blossom everywhere, it’s warm, it’s light, and there are a good six months of half-decent growing weather and oodles of daylight ahead.

And then there are wisteria and peonies – a few weeks early this year. They don’t last long, but I guess that’s part of their charm. On the garden design course I did a few years back, peonies weren’t seen as particularly useful plants as they flower so fleetingly, but I think I’d definitely have some in my garden. And a wisteria too, come to that. And I’d do my best to accept that they won’t be around for too long…