A Gardener's World
The aspect from a window into the garden has been
my 'world' this summer. I've had to view it as
an outsider, without lifting a spade or hoe to
maintain its sub-tropical, blooming lushness as
I've been confined for weeks after knee surgery.
Years ago my mother warned
me not to kneel on
wet earth, chop down trees or double-dig a half
acre vegetable plot. I gave up the vegetables and
since, I've had the joy of designing and planting
a new garden, which, sadly, my mother never saw.
To garden is fundamental to the women in our family
and it's a characteristic that both my sister,
myself and our offspring, have inherited in our
growing genes. She would nag constantly in that
way mothers do, "You should take care of your
knees.... when you get older, they'll be the first
thing to let you down", she didn't intend
to be ironic, and of course I took no notice, and,
of course, she was right!
The time had come to 'bite
the bullet': every
step was painfully miserable and after several
months of faffing around, I had a knee replacement
in early summer. It's been a curious experience
of being out of touch with reality, especially
in the first weeks that blurred into an analgesic
induced haze; if anything, I'm now able to empathise
with those being housebound and dependent on others
to be taken out. Sleeping was difficult and I spent
many afternoons dozing and doing exercises from
bed, just looking at the outside world, particularly
the garden, getting along without me. I've found
it quite acceptable to have made 'friends' with
a pair of collared doves; such gentle, elegant
creatures, cooing and canoodling and trusting enough
to be hand-fed....well, that was what I thought
until I saw the ferocity of their attack on a magpie!
I was convinced that I
was hallucinating and
the Tramadol were getting the better of me
on the day that a mundane agave, growing
insignificantly in the gravel garden for
ten years, began to change shape. Something
peculiar began to emerge from its centre.
A bulbous, green reptilian head like a vegetarian
variant of the 'Alien', 'chestburster', pushed
through the fronds, growing at an alarming
rate of at least 3 ft a week, until it reached
around 20ft. The green 'head' unwound, spiral-like,
sending out 'branches' to create a skeletal, triangular
shape that flowered into cascades of the most beautiful
Is it odd to say that I
feel privileged to have
experienced a plant manifest such palpable life
force.? To think it's spent a decade building up
the energy to reproduce itself so spectacularly
just to die. I sent a photograph to the RHS magazine
for interest and the editor of The Plantsman. Mike
Grant, identified it as a Furcraea Parmentieri.
It's monocarpic (dies after flowering) and in the
florescence there are numerous acorn-sized bulbets
ready to begin the process again. This plants indigenous
home is the arid deserts of Mexico and it's not
something that we expect to see, living in Cornwall.
I'm happily content having my hands covered in
earth, weeding, dead-heading and waiting for plants
to flourish as they takes their chance against
the capricious Cornish climate, so being physically
incapable, has been like watching a slow motion
traverse through someone else's summer where flowers
have unfolded, flowered and faded in a parallel
universe from which I've been detached and excluded.
Summer began as the wisteria began to lose its
froth of smokey, lilac-grey clusters that had smothered
the pergola. Here we are in September; the striking
spikes of echium are contorted and shrivelled and
the agapanthus blooms have dimmed beyond their
blue brilliance. The air already has a morning
chill and there's a dank smell of autumn on the
unpicked sloes and blackberries, while diamond-bright
dew sparkles on the spiders' webs.
Part of me is sad that this has been a 'lost'
summer. But the future is good; I've got a new
knee, I'm independent again and I'm beginning to
wonder how lovely, and perverse, the crazy Mexican
plant will look covered in Christmas lights!
If you'd like to make a
comment, please do so below.
Email this page
to a friend