Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


  • Ploughing the Rocks of Bawn

    Come all you loyal heroes wherever you may be

    Don’t hire with any master till you know what your work may be

    Don’t hire with any master from the clear daylight till the dawn

    For he’ll want you rising early to plough the rocks of Bawn

    The Rocks of Bawn – Irish traditional

    By some oversight, I don’t have any photos of the front border from when we came. It was a tangle of potentilla (a pale pink, rather washed out and struggling), senecio bushes, wildly overgrown, and a sinister sprinkle of creeping buttercup and couch grass. This is what it looks like now!

    bare soil with three rose bushes, and daffodils and tulips just showing through

    It was a sair fecht! And I have had the words of that song (sung by Christy Moore), running through my head ever since. The senecio wasn’t that bad, though it had layered itself and overgrown itself and died back and resprouted, but I got it out, eventually. What made it such a pain was the soil, mostly sticky clay, but also some rather scratchy sand, and these:

    pile of stones against a brick wall

    These are what I dug out of the planting holes for the roses. I should have known – there is a geology report of the area which describes the ground as heavy silty clay with cobbles inclusions, over coal measures. I had to look that up too, but it means the sort of thing you find where coal might be present – siltstone, mudstone, and limestone, which explains why the soil, although wet, isn’t as acid as I thought it might be. But I had no idea how many stones there were, nor how hard it would be to get them up. But there are now three roses, Maidens Blush, a delicate pink alba rose, Buff Beauty, a creamy-yellow musk rose developed in the early twentieth century, and Tuscany Superb, a variant of the Apthecary rose (gallica officinalis) I’ve grown for years. It’s a deep crimson, and richly scented – as in fact they all are. There’s no point in a rose without a scent!

    The other excitement was discovering that there are airvents in the wall, which were covered up by soil on one side, and lawn on the other.

    grass growing up to a brick wall, in which you can just see the vent, almost buried

    The garden slopes down towards the south, and clearing those vents is going to involve creating steps down, so that soil doesn’t just wash downhill. My conversations with this garden are becoming steadily more feisty!

    I’m still getting used to the east-west orientation. The light is never where I expect it to be, and the wind, which is still mostly south-west, pats and plays with the house, like a cat with a ball, or hurls rain against the kitchen windows, living the sittingroom peaceful. We can’t hear the slates rattling here, partly because they are heavy concrete ones, mostly because we’re not directly under the roof. In the old house it was easy to imagine trolls riding the roof until it broke, as they used to in Icelandic sagas, but the draught whistles through the windows. All of which means that my planting designs are being revised again and again, as I find cosier corners for things that like sun or shelter, more open ones for plants that are hardy, or want shade. It’s as disorientating as learning a new language, but as fascinating.

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