BROWN THUMBS & IMAGINARY GARDENS – Barbara Monajem

I have a brown thumb. Plants survive in my house, but they don’t thrive. As an act of mercy, I should probably get rid of what I have and not buy any more. I was in the supermarket the other day, and they had the cutest little pots of some kind of very pink coleus-like plant. So adorable, but I nobly resisted buying one.

Knot Garden at the Red Lodge Museum, Bristol, courtesy Wikipedia Commons
Knot Garden at the Red Lodge Museum, Bristol, courtesy Wikipedia Commons

Nevertheless, I do love gardens. I used to buy garden magazines and drool over them, wishing I could have a lovely garden and knowing I don’t have the persistence to create and maintain one. (Most of my creativity goes into writing books, with a little left over for soups.) I didn’t know about knot gardens and parterres until a visit to Lancashire several years ago. Naturally, once I saw the parterre at Gawthorpe House, I had to learn more. (My photos there were taken in late fall–not the ideal season for garden pics–so I won’t post one here.)

A knot garden is a formal garden set out in a square or rectangular frame. They first became popular in England during the reign of Elizabeth I. Herbs such as rosemary, thyme, hyssop, marjoram and so on were commonly used. Later box became the most common border plant.

If you’re interested in formal gardens, I highly recommend Knot Gardens and Parterres by Robin Whalley and Anne Jennings. The pics are awesome, and it’s full of fascinating history and advice on how to make your own knot garden.

Captivated by His Kiss 3-D cover on transparentUm, no. I know better than to plant my own knot garden—a doomed endeavor—so instead I put one in a story, The Christmas Knot. It’s one of seven novellas in the boxed set Captivated By His Kiss, which came out last week. The e-book is only 99 cents  for a limited time — a great deal for seven stories! It’s available at the following retailers:

Amazon (Kindle): http://amzn.to/1zX1Stt
Amazon (Paperback): http://amzn.to/1yXYpMP
B&N: http://bit.ly/1FVkz4x
iBooks: http://bit.ly/1zqXLG2
Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/nj7acvx

The Christmas Knot takes place in Regency England, and the hero’s house has a 200-year-old knot garden.

And a ghost. And a curse.

Here’s a blurb:

Widowed and destitute, Edwina White takes a position as governess in a remote village in the north of England—in a haunted house. She’s so desperate that she’ll take anything, and besides, she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Little does she know that her new employer is the seducer who lied and deceived her many years ago.

Sir Richard Ballister inherited an estate with a ghost and a curse, and every governess he hires leaves within a week. Finally, a woman desperate enough to stay arrives on his doorstep—but she’s the seductress who dropped him many years earlier for a richer man.

The last thing Richard and Edwina want is to work together, but they have no choice. Can they overcome the bitterness of the past in time to unravel a centuries-old knot and end the Christmas curse?

~~~

And here’s an excerpt. Edwina has just arrived at her new employer’s house…

Her employer was Richard Ballister?

Edwina could do nothing but stare, aghast. Richard looked as appalled as she felt. She gazed about her hopelessly, shivering in the gathering dusk. If she returned to the inn, if she…

Richard recovered himself and handed the waiting man a coin. “Thank you, Joseph. Off you go before it starts to pour.” He grabbed Edwina’s valise and with a curt motion of the head, indicated that she should follow him indoors.

She hesitated. Death from exposure to the elements―for the first fat drops had already begun to fall―or from mortification?

“For God’s sake, Edwina, come indoors before I have to drag you.”

A wave of nostalgia rolled over her. Typical, no-nonsense Richard Ballister—one thing she had always loved about him. She didn’t love him anymore—that went without saying; one couldn’t love a liar and a jilt—but a few good memories lingered amongst the utterly miserable ones.

She went inside, and he slammed the door behind her. Before she could move, he loomed over her, large and threatening, trapping her between himself and the door, and another shudder of memory went through her. He hadn’t changed much: tall and darkly handsome, with a sensual curl of the lips and half-hooded, appraising eyes.

Why must desire rear its foolish head at such a time?

“What the devil are you doing here?” he said.

Desire and nostalgia dissipated at once. “Perhaps you should have identified yourself in that advertisement, if you didn’t want an unpleasant surprise,” she snapped. “Believe me, if I’d known you were my prospective employer, I wouldn’t have come.”

“Wise of you,” he drawled.

She wanted to hit him. “If you had any consideration at all, you would have arranged for the governess to apply to an agent in London, rather than spend her every last farthing traveling to the middle of nowhere.” To find the one man she loathed most in the entire world.

“Every last farthing?” He rolled his eyes.

“Not quite,” she retorted, spitting with fury. He retreated a few inches. Good. “I have a ha’penny in my reticule.”

“You can’t possibly be down to your last ha’penny,” he scoffed. “Your husband is a very rich man. I ask again—why in God’s name are you here?”

“My husband is dead,” she said flatly. “Didn’t you advertise for a widow?”

“My condolences,” he said unpleasantly. “But that doesn’t make you a governess, Edwina. Surely you can find some worthy charity or other to occupy your time. Succoring the flower girls in Covent Garden or some such.”

Oh, how she longed to hit him. “My husband died penniless. Therefore I am penniless, too.”

He blinked, taking it in. She didn’t blame him for being surprised. At the time of her marriage, her late husband had indeed been wealthy. Richard’s lips curled into an evil smile. “Well, but you’ve got a ha’penny left, didn’t you say?” He threw his head back and laughed.

~~~

And on that cheerful note, here’s another knot garden. 😉 (But I swear the story has a happy ending. It has to — it’s a romance, and it’s about Christmas!)

Knot garden at London Garden Museum, courtesy Rosakoalaglitzereinhorn via Wikipedia Commons
Knot garden at London Garden Museum, courtesy Rosakoalaglitzereinhorn via Wikipedia Commons

Does anybody here have a green enough thumb to plant one of these?? Tell me about your gardens so I can go green — with envy. 🙂

Barbara Monajem
Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.
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Barbara Monajem started writing at eight years old. She has wandered from children’s fantasy through mystery to paranormal and historical romance. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

16 Responses

  1. Oh, I had to chuckle reading this. Mr. Alexander says I don’t have a brown thumb, I have a black thumb. Every plant I have dies! I have had success with my outdoor perennial garden though! But I that chalk up it’s success to the landscaper who built it. He put in the best soil (his own blend, including his own compost), and made sure it was well drained. It’s also in the perfect spot for getting sun, but not too much sun. So all I have to do is water it in July and August on the hottest days and it’s good to go. I highly recommend a perennial garden!

    • bmonajem

      Hi, Alyssa. Landscapers are awesome, aren’t they? They know all the tricks. I have a very old rosemary bush, and I’m pretty sure it has survived only because a landscaper planted it. 🙂

    • bmonajem

      Thanks, Mary R! 🙂

  2. Before the writing bug took over my life, I used to have 3/4 of an acre of beautifully manicured yard and over a dozen lush houseplants. I have 2 house plants now, one a pointsettia from Christmas, and the yard has seen better days.

    • bmonajem

      LOL. When I was writing this, I thought, “I bet if anyone among us has a perfect garden, it’s Collette!”

  3. They are beautiful, but there’s some serious hedge trimming going on there! Love the knot your characters have gotten themselves in!

  4. Wish I could walk through the pictures and stroll in those gardens in your photos. Great excerpt, Barbara!

  5. bmonajem

    Hi, Kathy —
    LOL. That’s one reason I can’t imagine having a knot garden — all the maintenance! Yes, the characters have quite a knotty situation to work out in more ways than one. 😉

  6. I loved the excerpt. And I also suffer from a brown thumb. More like the black thumb of death. I really love the look of plants so last year I bought a few potted ones (they said hardy) to put out on my sun porch. It’s heated and enclosed – lots of sun. Ideal, right? Now, the lush ferns and tropical plants have been reduced to leafless stems and brown, droopy messes. I’m with you – jealous of gardeners that can promote life, not squash it.

  7. bmonajem

    Hi, Jessica. I don’t feel quite so bad now. At least I don’t usually kill my plants! Which reminds me, I should go water them right now!!

  8. Fancy maintaining a knot garden! They are lovely to look at though.Weeds flourish in my garden, although I turn a blind eye to them. 🙂

    • bmonajem

      Weeds! Ah, yes. Where I live, wisteria is a weed. At one point it started growing under the siding and in the windows.

  9. This looks like a terrific read. Looking forward to it.

  10. bmonajem

    Thanks, Mary R!

  11. Hi Barbara! I finished The Christmas Knot last night and loved it!! I do like having a vegetable garden in the spring and early summer (in my part of Texas, things usually die by the end of summer because of the heat), but the last few years I’ve had so much going on that the garden has taken the back burner. 🙁

    • bmonajem

      Hi, Glenda! What a lovely comment to wake up to this morning. I’m so happy you enjoyed The Christmas Knot. :~))