A Good Home, Author Interviews, Author's Homes, Gardening, Hilary Custance Green, Sculptor

At Home with Hilary Custance Green

Hilary Custance Green has many roles. She’s a daughter, wife, mother, author, sculptor, blogger and gardener.

It’s the gardener role that first caught my eye.

More specifically, it was her Japanese maple seedlings that caught my interest.

Blog Photo - Hilary Maple Seedlings in Pots

Hilary had written a blog post about growing Japanese maples from seed. Being a gardener ( and having failed to grow Japanese maples from seed),  I was impressed.

Hilary Custance Green

Hilary loves gardening, of course.  She brings both art and science to the task. (Did I mention she also has a doctorate in brain science?) 

She even had a knot garden, which I know from experience is not an easy thing to create. 

Blog Photo - Hilary Knot Garden 2

“I love all the phases of project work, creation, engineering, labour, completion and peer review. I am never happier than working to exhaustion on a big 3D piece of work, or weeding for hours in the garden.”

“As a teenager I dreamt of becoming Rodin or Michelangelo. It was not to be, but I spent twenty (mostly happy) years making large semi abstract sculptures and also, to earn a penny or two, portrait heads.”

Blog Photo - Hilary Sculpture 2

“In both sculpture and writing, it is the crossfire of unrelated elements that makes the story.

Blog Photo - Hilary Sculpture 1

“So this sculpture developed out of The Song of Hiawatha (Longfellow) and the sad time in my twenties when my boyfriend was drowned.”

Blog Photo - Hilary Sculpture 3 boat

One of the recurring themes in all Hilary’s books is this question: What gives individuals strength in adversity?

By the time I met her through her blog, Hilary had already written three novels — Border Line, A Small Rain, Unseen Unsung — and was working on a special non-fiction book.

Each novel explores the question above, with themes of “love, grief, adventure, disability and both good and bad luck.”

Unseen Unsung by [Custance Green, Hilary]

“I hope to give readers something positive to take away as well as a hefty dash of the music and poetry I love so much.”

Blog Photo - Hilary workroom 2 and piano

Family and home are important parts of Hilary’s life.

“Home is where I have the wondrous fortune to be loved and feel safe,” she says.

“My husband Edwin and I both had parents with jobs that moved around. To give us a good education they sent us to boarding schools far from our homes.

“When we found this house, and had our two girls, we never wanted to move again and our children walked to school in the village.

Blog Photo - HCG Children

“When we outgrew the space, we built an extension (or two or three!).”

Blog Photo - Hilary Home

Hilary’s parents, Barry and Phyllis, went through great adversity during the second world war, and in  2016, she published a book about their experience. 

Surviving the Death Railway: A POW’s Memoirs and Letters from Home  is that book. Both acclaimed and very successful, it may well be her signature work so far.

Blog Photo - Hilary Book Cover Death Railway

“It includes the 68 men captured with Barry and their families back home in Britain, who kept in touch with Phyllis throughout the war. The real story is the amazing support these ordinary men and women gave each other in horrific and testing times.”


Today, Hilary and Edwin’s daughters — Eleanor and Amy — are grown up with partners and lives of their own in other cities.  

Blog Photo - Hilary two daughters

Hilary too has been busy.

She has done many author presentations for her latest book, and is working on yet another. The work-in-progress is about “a brilliant, crazy woman, her concert pianist mother, their young, troubled and disabled biographer and a prickly young jazz pianist.”

Blog Photo - Hilary Workroom 1 with window

She and Edwin are also redesigning the garden.

Blog Photo - Hilary Garden in progress1

Blog Photo - Hilary Garden in progress2

Like everything else Hilary creates, one senses the finished products — book and garden — will be intriguing, powerful and beautiful.

Brava, Hilary!

73 thoughts on “At Home with Hilary Custance Green”

    1. Thank you, I am overwhelmed, I am not a big hitter as an author. A Small Rain is long out of print and although there are some copies floating around, I fear they will be early copies with innumerable errors. I hope you enjoy them.

    1. Cynthia has been very generous in her descriptions. The Japanese maple seedlings are really serendipity. When, many years ago, I tried to plant seeds nothing happened. Then I cleared an old bit of lawn and sank two maples in big tubs into the ground (actually three, but one died), and surrounded these with fine chipped pine bark. This was my lucky break, the maples set seed, and the seedlings just grew in this bark. As you can see, they are completely random in form and colour.

  1. I agree! You have presented a fine portrait of a very special woman’s life. So much creativity in one individual. Thank you for introducing your readers to Hilary Custance Green and her work, Cynthia!

  2. So much to investigate about this lady and her passions and talents. Thanks for introducing her, Cynthia. The question she explores: ‘What gives individuals strength in adversity?’ meshes perfectly with a post I’ve just written – written from the heart one one which remains very much in my mind at the moment. I shall enjoy learning more about Hilary 🙂

    1. Thank you. I don’t know about the talent, but busy, yes. It’s this strange period of life we foolishly call retirement, when you try to fit in all the things there was no time to accomplish while we worked full-time. Somehow, this is even more full time.

  3. Thank you for introducing us to Hilary, Cynthia – another interesting person blog-met! Hello, Hilary – may your creativity continue to bloom. As for retirement, surely that is the wrong word for this time of life? We need a similar word that means refocusing rather than withdrawing from the ‘working life’! Somehow ‘refocusment’ does not sound right…

    1. Good to meet you too. You are absolutely right. I think refocusment is a great word (even is spellcheck does not agree) and really describes these years of working on a variety of fronts. For those of us healthy and lucky enough to afford it, we can even take on new challenges.

  4. Great profile and pics, Cynthia.

    Sculptor, author, blogger, gardener, Hilary Custance Green sounds amazing. Retired myself now, pursuing the writing I love but could only do off-and-on during my long, hectic years in social housing (helping the homeless etc), I still find it quite a juggling act with so many competing priorities every day. Maybe a future title for Hilary might be ‘Time Management for the Retired’!

    More seriously, I love her quote that “In both sculpture and writing, it is the crossfire of unrelated elements that makes the story.” Very true. And a reminder also that there is common cause between all the arts with many fruitful points of connection.

    My very best from Wales,


  5. Hallo Paul, I’m laughing about your title for me. I am failing daily, hourly and significantly on this front. One of the reasons I eventually changed career (to science) was because I could not see how making sculptures was doing much for humanity, whereas working in social housing most emphatically does.

    1. I agree creativity is a good ingredient in most fields, but it sometimes (and I am guilty of this) sets off into the blue skies and fails to land somewhere useful… I think this metaphor got a bit stretched!

    1. Indeed, Carrie, but as you can see from her replies to comments and by the post on her own blog, she’s having the dickens of a time accepting something nice being said about her! I’m still laughing. Thank you very much for visiting my blog.

      1. I do love nice things being said about me, but I still feel like the schoolgirl who had too many dreams and not much to show for them – I seem to have speeded up a bit late in life.

  6. I always enjoy reading Hilary’s posts and wish she would write more often……. but I can see why that might be low on her list, she is too busy doing to spend time writing about it! I’d like to read ‘Surviving the Death Railway’ and will pursue that. Oh, and Hilary, I don’t think the lily has been overly gilded in this post at all!

    1. I would love to read more posts and post more often too, but I have to pacify the greedy god of time. The people around me and practicalities – people, life and creative work (as you will understand only too well) have to come first.

    1. And I am in awe of travels and writing, Mary, I still have your wonderful book, No More Mulberries, in my mind. Through this absorbing story I began to learn about life for different kinds of men and women in Afghanistan. Writing poetry is still my idea of aiming for the sky.

  7. What an inspirational lady! Thanks for introducing her – I’ll have to go look at her blog. 🙂

  8. wow…gotta give her a full hooray…this is amazing…so much talent in a woman that knows how to use it…amazing!

      1. I have been in the UK (England and Wales) and I can tell you that British people are amazing writers!

  9. A good description of Hilary and her work. The creative spirit never bows but rises above it all. Her example I keep in front of me whenever a lapse occurs. The sprouting maple seed is a good metaphor.

  10. What a wonderful profile, and yes, I can see Hilary is having a hard time accepting the well-deserved admiration. But it is so nice to know more of the people behind the blog posts, Very well done Cynthia!

    1. Thank you, Gwendolyn. It is indeed nice to know more and I learned quite a few things about Hilary too. She’s a remarkable woman, and it was a privilege to write this story about her. Of course, I have to say that softly, lest she thinks I’m saying something nice about her.

      1. Everyone has trauma and challenges in their life, no matter how solid or comfortable their upbringing. And they hurt and leave scars, just the same. I always tell people it’s not a competition 🙂

  11. Wow. What a talent! Love the garden shot up top with the maze (is that the knot garden?), and am impressed with her sculpture and writing as well.Hilary makes me really want to get going with my own gifts and focus better!

  12. Love the art! Most specifically those Maples trees. I am in the process of growing an avocado tree, a lemon tree and a pineapple.

    This blogpost was perfect! Now I know there are others who are like me, and just love their trees!

    The Northern Garden

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