Saturday morning. Mrs Gardener is still asleep bless her, the childerwigs are breakfasted and playing happily – something to do with going on a boat journey, which has taken over the sitting room with blankets and cuddly toys: what fun! So I can sneak to the laptop with a cup of coffee and catch up on the past few days’ goings-on.
Outside in the slowly-lightening garden one of the robins is singing with great gusto. They know, don’t they, that spring is here. They’ve moved their nest site slightly, just around the corner of the house into another bit of the doomed ivy: maybe this time the nest will be used? It’s been a poor winter for birds in the garden – good for them, of course, as they’ve clearly not been all that reliant on our feeders – but poor for sightings. Three blackcaps have been present through most of the winter, two males and a female, which is good: I wonder if one of the males was born here, and has hung around with his parents. But, as with so many so-called ‘resident’ birds, the likelihood is that these are migrants, and not the ‘summer’ birds at all. Maybe our garden has a reputation all across western Europe in the blackcap community!
Worrying stuff in the news about water shortages. I do agree with Adam Pasco
on the Gardeners’ World blog, that gardeners are generally (these days) highly water-conscious, and much less likely to waste water than many other people. I haven’t used a hosepipe in our garden for ages (thanks, Monty Don for the encouragement there), and they are absolutely verboten
at the allotment of course. And yet ‘hosepipe ban’ is synonymous with ‘drought’ in this country. Having said this, my own garden’s capacity to capture, store and use rainwater is severely limited: something I need to attend to. Maybe these early warnings of a dry year will spur me on at last. I’ll also need to talk to clients about how we deal with water restrictions in their gardens.
Speaking of which, I may have picked-up a nice piece of work through Mrs G’s yoga teacher, who wants her new garden planted-up. It would be nice to create a ‘yoga garden’ – I am thinking of a mixture of meditative and contemplative space, with physicality and strength, shape and control. Watch this space.
I finally got the new shrubs planted in my front garden on Wednesday, finishing off just as it started to rain, so they at least got underway with a decent drink. Sambuca Black Beauty, Cornus Alba, and Prunus Ko-Jo No Mai are all new to my garden. But the best of them has to be Lonicera Fragrantissima, which has a fantastic scent: I look forward to many deep lungfuls of it as I walk up to the front door after a hard day’s work. Lovely.
Nothing can beat the scent of ‘Old Man’ though, with the added joy of knowing that Edward Thomas had just such a plant next to his front door in Steep a hundred years ago, inspiring one of the greatest of plant poems:
Old Man, or Lads-Love, – in the name there’s nothing
To one that knows not Lads-Love, or Old Man,
The hoar green feathery herb, almost a tree,
Growing with rosemary and lavender.
Even to one that knows it well, the names
Half decorate, half perplex, the thing it is:
At least, what that is clings not to the names
In spite of time. And yet I like the names.
The herb itself I like not, but for certain
I love it, as someday the child will love it
Who plucks a feather from the door-side bush
Whenever she goes in or out of the house.
Often she waits there, snipping the tips and shrivelling
The shreds at last on to the path,
Thinking perhaps of nothing, till she sniffs
Her fingers and runs off. The bush is still
But half as tall as she, though it is not old;
So well she clips it. Not a word she says;
And I can only wonder how much hereafter
She will remember, with that bitter scent,
Of garden rows, and ancient damson trees
Topping a hedge, a bent path to a door
A low thick bush beside the door, and me
Forbidding her to pick.
As for myself,
Where first I met the bitter scent is lost.
I, too, often shrivel the grey shreds,
Sniff them and think and sniff again and try
Once more to think what it is I am remembering,
Always in vain. I cannot like the scent,
Yet I would rather give up others more sweet,
With no meaning, than this bitter one.
I have mislaid the key. I sniff the spray
And think of nothing; I see and I hear nothing;
Yet seem, too, to be listening, lying in wait
For what I should, yet never can, remember;
No garden appears, no path, no hoar-green bush
Of Lad’s-love, or Old Man, no child beside,
Neither father nor mother, nor any playmate;
Only an avenue, dark, nameless, without end.