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.
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 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.
“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.”
“In both sculpture and writing, it is the crossfire of unrelated elements that makes the story.
“So this sculpture developed out of The Song of Hiawatha (Longfellow) and the sad time in my twenties when my boyfriend was drowned.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
“When we outgrew the space, we built an extension (or two or three!).”
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.
“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.
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.”
She and Edwin are also redesigning the garden.
Like everything else Hilary creates, one senses the finished products — book and garden — will be intriguing, powerful and beautiful.
73 thoughts on “At Home with Hilary Custance Green”
Thank you for introducing this special woman! I’ve already ordered all of her books!
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.
Wow. What a profuse display of creativity. I look forward to exploring more of Hilary’s art. I love the idea of growing a Japanese maple from seed.
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.
Thanks for the background Hilary. I’m still impressed by the maples and your overall creativity!
A fine portrait, Cynthia
(I think she gilded the lily somewhat!)
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!
You are very kind. I have been exceptionally lucky in being able to follow my interests in life and I owe this to my family – my parents, my amazing husband and both my daughters
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 🙂
I’ve just dropped into your Corner of Cornwall and seen the Mary Oliver quote – wonderful!
Thanks for popping in, Hilary. Yes, I love that quote 🙂
Wow, a very busy, talented lady. Thanks for sharing.
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.
Holy guacamole! I am in awe.
Believe me, luck and time made an enormous contribution.
To paraphrase Louis Pasteur, chance only favors the prepared mind. 😉
Prepared? If curiosity counts as a prepared mind, then I guess that’s how I qualify.
Thanks for introducing us to Hilary, Cynthia. She’s obviously bursting with creativity and energy! I love the view from her writing nook. 🙂
I do too, though I watch the bird-feeders instead of writing. This was part of an extension planned for a different purpose… and I got lucky.
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…
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.
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,
My reply is below. I probably hit the wrong button.
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.
Hilary, the diversity of your creativity has me shaking my head in wonderment. I think making inroads on homelessness demands creativity, too.
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!
Hilary and you Cynthia look alike : achieved women on all fields. You wrote a wonderful description of her.
Wow! I love the idea of being in Cynthia’s class. Thank you.
Came this way via Hilary’s blog. What a lovely write-up you’ve done here. She’s a remarkable woman indeed.
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.
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.
I’ve been following Hilary for quite some time and her talents have always amazed me!!
You are very kind GP. It is concentration and depth – such as yours – to continue to work in a difficult, complex and often harrowing field that I admire.
My turn to blush, Hilary!
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!
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.
Thank you for introducing us to Hilary in this beautiful post, Cynthia ❤
And thank you for taking the time to read it.
I love Hilary’s post and am in awe of her creativity (and a little jealous!) and I always enjoy reading her posts. You’ve done her proud here.
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.
What an inspirational lady! Thanks for introducing her – I’ll have to go look at her blog. 🙂
wow…gotta give her a full hooray…this is amazing…so much talent in a woman that knows how to use it…amazing!
Thank you… I’ve had a long time to develop and plenty of luck along the way.
I have been in the UK (England and Wales) and I can tell you that British people are amazing writers!
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.
Yes, it is. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I appreciate both.
Thank you, Gerard, I think the creative spirit is something you know a lot about!
Thank-you so much for Hilary’s portrait, Cynthia. What an amazingly talented woman.
She really is, Clare, and modest to boot!
Holy smokes! I’m tired just reading all that! I will definitely be looking up the books though. 😉
I did a lot of sleeping along the way… this covers years and years!
it’s still an impressive rate of production!
What a fascinating life and story. Thank you for sharing!
Thank you for reading.
What a lovely and generous post, hi-liting a most multi-talented woman. I have been following Hilary for a while and reading her books as well as her blog.
I’m glad to hear that, Cinda. And yes, she is a very talented woman. It was a pleasure to write about her.
Thank you, Cinda, its a revelation to me that the books have travelled so far and wide.
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!
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.
Hello Gwendoline, I am grateful to Cynthia for her lovely post. I have had an easier life than many and never had to face such challenges as you did.
… and which you overcame so well, and so bravely wrote about. (I hit the post comment button by mistake, because I was called away!)
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 🙂
That’s true, but I am aware luck can be very unevenly distributed.
Ah yes. That’s too true too . . .
I am green with envy looking at her knot garden – gorgeous. Applause to the gardener. 🙂
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!
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
Beautifully presented and well deserved! Hello Cynthia 🙂