posted in: Growing | 3


Seed Variety

varietyIt’s winter here. Ice on the ground and the mountains now have their beautiful snow caps, shining in the sun on clear days. I’ve still got a few vegetables bravely growing in the veg patch – leeks, kale, beetroot – and the delight of picking them and making the freshest soup to warm ourselves after we’ve been out is huge.

But my thoughts are turning to spring and the next plantings. A friend has introduced me to a seed store here where they are trying to create a repository of old varieties that people don’t grow much any more, but offer fabulous and different experiences of fruit and vegetables, adapted to the climate. I’m hoping to go over in the next couple of weeks and make my selections, so I need a list of what I want to grow. Then it’s the happy task of selecting from everything that is on offer the perfect blend that will happily grow alongside each other all summer long.

If you’ve read my earlier blogs, you know I get most of my inspiration from nature and gardening. There’s something about the ‘hands in the soil’ experience that grounds me and reminds me of what is really important. And so it is with this musing. The thought of all those varieties, some now lost to commercial production, got me thinking about where else variety is important in our lives.

Fashions and Trends

It can be easy and sometimes fun to be drawn into the latest healthy eating advice, the latest fashion trend, the latest guru to offer a new way to happiness, the latest trend on Twitter. But these things can also make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t go along with the crowd. As I am a big fan of all things new, I will pop in and see what all the noise is about and take a look at what is on offer. In my ‘corporate’ life as an innovation consultant it’s my day-job to help new ideas get launched, and it can be an exciting process. And I am delighted to say that some of the new things that emerge are genuinely bloody marvellous and make me wonder how I used to do things before they were invented.

New Ways of Looking

I’ve also had big life-breakthroughs by following the wisdom of some fabulous teachers and thought-leaders. Some of you Silver Synergy members of The Silver Tent hopefully reading this will know how much you’ve helped me in the last couple of years by sharing new ways to look at the world. This old dog is able to pick up new tricks and I’m blossoming as a result.
And don’t ask me to go back to life before I got my new spade. It’s a total winner. And lycra leggings. Freedom.

The benefit of being older is that I can now see all of this through the long lens of a lifetime of watching these things ebb and flow, come and go. I have a marvellous toolkit of things that I can use when the time is right, a wardrobe that spans three decades of purchases still going strong and a cupboard full of handy gadgets, some of which I now use with super-careful hands as I won’t be able to replace them if they break. The variety in what I collect is pretty wide. And that serves me well.

Variety in Life

varietyThere is no single saucepan that I use to cook. No single pair of jeans that I can wear on every occasion. No single piece of wisdom on which I have based my whole outlook. I take my time, look for what is good and works for me – that’s the really important bit – and curate my collections on a regular basis to make sure it all still fits. Sometimes I am told that I am too eclectic – that there is a ‘right way’ to do something and I simply don’t understand enough to see it.

But I’m content with my approach to variety. It means I travel this road of life with all sorts of interesting ideas, people and things. And my life is enormously richer as a result. And sometimes people try to tell me that others’ contributions are not valid or expert or ‘spiritual’ or whatever their complaint is. I’m afraid I just don’t see it that way. Each of us walks our own path and shares what we learn on the way in the best way we know how. Every soul eventually returns to the light. There is, in most things, no right and wrong simply shades of perception. I like to keep my field of vision wide and my heart soft.


So back to my garden. What am I going to select? Well, it will all depend on what catches my fancy. I will take the advice of the good people in the seed store and balance that against my knowledge of my needs. With 50 years of gardening experience I now trust myself to make good choices. I’m bound to pick a few different and exciting varieties as there’s nothing better than seeing a new plant thrive. I have a hankering for some new herb varieties and to see if I just might be able to grow carrots if I can find a local, old variety. Mine usually come out gnarled and lumpy, but it doesn’t put me off trying. I’m also looking for loofah seeds again. One day……

But I will also select a few old friends to make sure I do have haricot beans to give to the guests in the summer. I couldn’t hold my head up in the village if my bean crop was less than prolific. People are valued differently here. A bountiful veg patch has much higher status than any designer handbag that I could ever own. They don’t care what I do in my day job, so long as I do it honestly and with integrity. They only really notice how big my pumpkins are. And that’s why I love my Pyrenean home so much.



Hilary Stringer

varietyAfter she turned 50, Hilary realised that what she really liked was listening to people and growing vegetables.  She had accidentally worked as an innovation consultant, a Reiki master/teacher, EFT practitioner and coach.  But all of those were just different ways of listening to people. She now runs a B&B and Wellness Centre in the French Pyrenees were people can come to relax and be listened to, and eat the vegetables that she grows.

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Thoughts From a Pyrenean Garden


Hilary S Coaching


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3 Responses

  1. Christine Miller

    What a lovely , warm and uplifting post, Hilary, thank you for your insight and humour. Can’t wait to see the size of your pumpkins!

    Variety is so precious, and valuing our own and others’ range of experiences, similarities and differences, adds such richness to our lives. I too treasure seeds in so many ways – those drying in the kitchen and the greenhouse, collected from the land, and those I discover and harvest from the variety of encounters and explorations occurring in life. Nurturing and nourishing, and allowing growth, with Love.

  2. Mary

    I love your thoughts on variety Hilary. I too have an eclectic approach and like to pick and choose as I feel is right for me at the time. Thank you.


  3. Francesca Cassini

    Love your exploration of variety and its value in the garden, in the wardrobe and among friends… and I am sure all your neighbours love your pumpkins! They are very fine if I remember rightly.

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