Sarah Coles

The Garden as Jewellery

‘Daisies are our silver,    Buttercups our gold: This is all the treasure    We can have or hold.

Raindrops are our diamonds    And the morning dew; While for shining sapphires    We’ve the speedwell blue.

IMG_3463These shall be our emeralds–    Leaves so new and green; Roses make the reddest    Rubies ever seen.’

A hymn by Jan Struther (aka Joyce Maxtone Graham) which we used to sing at school as children, and which has stayed with me ever since. OK the words are so banal and the rhymes so plinkety plonk doggerel that I squirm writing this, yet then I found them inspirational and now old I still do. All the garden is intricate jewellery.

The gold of buttercups! The crystals of raindrops hanging from trees, reflecting my universe in miniature, only upside down with the arc of white sky below and dark green trees above. And on the morning grass, scattered in millions.  The chandeliers of Nectaroscordum siculum or Allium cernuum, I should be wriggling on the ground to inspect, and there’s a parahebe, blue, which looks as if dark lines have been painted with a hair brush.  The pepper pots of poppy seed cases, which earlier when the petals fell were like expensive chocolates, the stipples and lure lines on foxgloves: all repays the closest gaze.IMG_3127  The filigree seedcases of Nicandra.  The coral beads of cotoneaster in autumn.  Better than all the shops in Bond Street.


Lure lines on foxgloves, stripes on lilies … tIMG_4166IMG_4173oday, early February, each snowdrop about to bloom is like a pearl suspended from the ear of some medieval potentate.


We might have sung about snow and its monochrome beauty. The fine crystals on day lilies. We might have sung about the gardens’ other owners, the butterflies, squirrels, birds, slugs and worms, and insects in their various incarnations.


I was in the great glasshouse at Wisley Gardens, where for two winter months they fill a section with at least forty different tropical butterflies. Little children gasped, camera nerds clicked, I gasped. Notices gave scientific reasons for the brilliant shimmering opals, the laced patterns. They wanted to make it educational, to explain it all – which at that moment, being with the butterflies, was completely irrelevant. Like the garden, they simply were.




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