Lost Gardeners, a poem by John Anstie; spotlight on the Lost Gardens of Heligan

Northern Summerhouse garden at the Lost Gardens of Heligan courtesy of Heinz-Dirk Luckhardt CC BY-SA 3.0

“This intoxicating mixture of history and place was powerful enough to compel me to write this in their memory.” John Anstie



There was such colour and bustle
where now reflective calm.

In the thunderbox room
nearby the melon yard
haunting echoes of silent voices

once green fingers that pressed
a trigger for King and country
gently call from an early grave,
who once scattered humus here.

They shed tears for weeds
that stained the fresh leaves
of Spring, unfolding, unseen

cold frames of mouth-blown glass,
warmed the summer fare
that meant so much to those
who dug one last trench

so many lost at such a cost
shovelling cold organic mud
to sow the seeds of future green
in very unmilitary drills

and who would say what
could have been had peace
been thoughtfully nurtured
like the fruits of this place.

Inundated by nature’s mission
their names forever bleeding
from these crumbling walls

so few in the flesh of then
left much in the earth of now.

Originally published on The BeZine blog. John is a member of the Zine core team.

© 2019 John Anstie

A visit to the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall, in the United Kingdom, revealed to me a very poignant story of its gardeners, 16 out of 22 of whom lost their lives in the First World War; of the gardens, which subsequently fell into ruin until the 1990’s when a descendant of the original owners set about restoring them to become one of the UK’s most popular botanical gardens. The scene is set around the ‘thunderbox’ room where they would carve the names in the walls as they sat and the very peaceful garden adjacent to it, where you can feel the history of this particular part of the gardens, which had almost completely succumbed to nature’s will. This intoxicating mixture of history and place was powerful enough to compel me to write this in their memory. / John Anstie



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Friday Photo Finish: Bird of Paradise

“The forest is a peculiar organism of unlimited kindness and benevolence that makes no demands for its sustenance and extends generously the products of its life and activity; it affords protection to all beings, offering shade even to the axe-man who destroys it.” attributed to The Buddha

Thanks to my much treasured friend, Mick B. for this wonderful quote. It reminds me also of the visions of a generous nature sharing often stunning beauty amid the dreck of city life: the intrusive metal posts and gates with their rusty chains; the garbage, dust and dirt; the sometimes awkward or sterile architectures housing human beings boxed and stacked twelve or more stories high.

This lush and colorful bird of paradise is thriving in the squalor of a bank parking lot alongside some smelly dumpsters belonging to the bank’s neighbor, a pizzeria.

(c) 2015,  Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
(c) 2015, photograph, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

FRIDAY PHOTO FINISH: all flowers keep the light

“Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.” Theodore Roethke (1908-1963), American poet and Pulitzer Prize winner (1954 for The Waking)

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© 2014, photographs, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved