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Friday Features: The Only Garden I Can Relax In

Introduced by Claire Buss, Deputy Editor, Write On! 

Friday Features has been running on the Write On! and Pen to Print website for almost a year and it has been wonderful reading all the different submissions. We’ve had features with writing advice from writers at all different stages of their writing career as well as individual author journeys chronicling their ups and downs. Whilst the Friday Feature aims to provide writing advice, tips, hints and inspirational author stories we are also keen to showcase great writing. The following piece is from Clare Cooper, formerly Deputy Fiction Editor for Woman’s Weekly magazine and now a key member of the Write On! team. It talks about gardening, something some of us can enjoy during our enforced isolation but also something some of us wish we could do. My hope is that you can take the love of gardening, plants and flowers that Clare has shared and use it to inspire your own outdoor space in the future. 

I myself live in a first-floor flat so I am tending to my window-sill Rosemary and Aloe Vera with as much expertise my fledgling green thumb will allow. I do have access to a shared garden and last year my son and I planted croci, tulips and hyacinths. The tulips are fighting through and I’m looking forward to seeing them bloom. 

If you have an article about your own writing journey, some vital writing advice or a non-fiction article you’d like to share, please send your submission to – I can’t wait to read them. Stay safe and stay connected. 


The Only Garden I Can Truly Relax In Is Someone Else’s

by Clare Cooper

Ah, summer.  The gentle drone of lawnmowers and bees, birds and butterflies flitting about busily, the borders looking lush and colourful, the grass thick and luxuriant… STOP! 

For me, it’s much more a case of: Argh, summer! Noisy neighbours out partying in their gardens, the smell of their barbeque smoke wafting over the washing on the line, birds serenading us at a distinctly unrespectable hour of the morning, insects indoors where you don’t want them and weeds colonising the flower-beds… 

Can I be the only one who dreads the summer and actively looks forward to winter in the garden?  Oh, the blessed relief when everything dies down, the grass doesn’t need mowing, the hedges don’t need trimming, the weeds don’t need exterminating and I can finally reach to the backs of the borders. 

And don’t get me started on watering. You can guarantee that, if you see me out there with a hose and watering can, even on a blazing hot day, there’ll be rain within the hour. 

Ive come to realise that the only garden I can truly relax in is someone elses.  Don’t get me wrong: I love to see the blossom in spring and watch the leaves unfurling on the trees – except that, at the same time, I am mentally fast-forwarding to autumn, when althose lovely leaves are going to turn brown and come raining down. More work for me to do! 

However, in my quest for the perfect, low-maintenance garden (it doesn’t exist, though my long-suffering other half has, on more than one occasion, threatened to concrete over ours, which is one solution), I can never pass a garden centre without going in, a mad glint in my eyes. I’m in my happy element, as I push my rapidly-filling trolley around.  

But, while I have that gleeful glint, my other half has the light of panic in his own eyes, as he beetles off in the opposite direction, towards the safe sanctuary of the cafe and the refuge of a much-needed cuppa, crying out: “But where’s it all going to GO?!” 

I’ve developed and fine-tuned a cunning that would give Blackadder’s Baldrick a run for his money. “Oh, look, a café!” I cry, adding, as my other half is lured in, “and it’s attached to a garden centre!  Well, I never!” 

Sometimes, you get more than you bargained for.  On one occasion, I brought home a large and most definitely unwelcome spider that had set up home in a pot and, on another, proudly placed my carefully selected plant (a lovely blue Hibiscus, since you ask) on the back seat of the car, only to discover a very angry “guest” attached to it.  A case of buy one, get one bee. 

So, I’ll see you down the garden centre, then. I dare you to beat my personal best of visiting four in one day. It would have been five, but my other half put his foot down, literally and metaphorically, as we sped past the fifth, ignoring my wails of: “But we’ve never been to that one!” AndOh, look, theres a café…” 

Clare worked on Woman’s Weekly magazine for 29 years and, as Deputy Fiction Editor, was responsible for reading, critiquing, choosing and editing the short stories for both WW and its monthly spin-off title, the Fiction Special. One day, she hopes to write something of her own. Meanwhile, you can read her blog at:

On one occasion, I brought home a large and most definitely unwelcome spider that had set up home in a pot and, on another, proudly placed my carefully selected plant (a lovely blue Hibiscus, since you ask) on the back seat of the car, only to discover a very angry “guest” attached to it. A case of buy one, get one bee.