Sunday was Garden Day.
No one in the house was consulted of course, though it was written in thick, white, decisive chalk on the blackboard. A technique I use often.
“I didn’t know O was having jabs this week?”
“Oh? It was on the board”
“So you are going out Wednesday night?”
“Yes. It’s on the board….”
It’s perhaps not a substitute for a communicative marriage …..but ……the meagre slice of evening remaining after we have fed, bathed and storied O leaves little time for talking jabs, gardens or anything else. Not when there’s dry roasted peanuts to eat, a blanket to snuggle under together and True Detective to watch.
Midweek I did offer up a little hint however.
“S, will you dig out the tree stump for me on Sunday so I can get the new plants in?”
“That’s quite an ask” was the response I took as a yes.
Sunday morning came and S volunteered to do the food shop. Gratefully I furnished him with two lists. One for more peanuts and the second for more soil.
“By soil” came the text from the garden centre “do you mean compost?”
“Two big bags” was my reply.
The phone beeped again.
“Secateurs this says. Do you mean shears which are like scissors or actual secateurs which snip.”
I braved a cursory glance into the shed…its interior looking dangerously as chaotic as its predecessors. Meekly I replied.
“I’ve found two pairs. But. Maybe get shears anyway as we don’t have any of those?”
In S’s absence his miniature set about helping me. Donned in wellies and scruffy clothes he gladly dug holes but rarely where they were needed and often times with the extracted dirt being deposited directly onto the patio. It wasn’t long however before the sight of a worm halted our progress.
“I don’t like him, mummy. He’s scary”
“Oh no. Not worms. They are our friends.” I replied.
“Shall I chop him?” he asked, brandishing his mini spade menacingly.
“No no. Don’t chop him. We look after worms. Let’s help him back into the garden as then he’ll look after mummy’s new plants. Oh look. There’s another…”
Whilst O accepted that the technique he has now perfected for crushing the snails that “eat mummy’s plants” was banned in this case (a practice I’ve guiltily turned a blind eye to…in fact…on discovery that an entire tray of lettuce seedlings had been devoured it was positively encouraged) he still wasn’t entirely sure. With such a high risk of scare-factor, digging quickly lost its appeal. And so we moved to watering…
“You pour the water in that hole” I directed.
“Ill water the grass” I was informed.
“Oh, maybe later ….but it would be really helpful if you put the water in this hole.”
“Okaaaaayyyy mummy” O would sing tossing me a droplet or two before setting about watering his football.
Refilling the watering can busied us both for a fair while before I made a huge error of judgement and filled up O’s Fireman Sam hosepipe-with-a-backpack in the misguided belief it might free me up to continue planting. Instructions to go to the end of the garden and water the vegetables were disdainfully ignored and instead I felt the piercing coldness of a watershot up my back as I sat hunched over the dahlia, resulting in a high pitched squeal and the disproportionate threat of no treats until Christmas.
Thinking it might be wise to change tack I employed O’s throwing skills to scatter daffodil bulbs along the fence and under the apple and pear as I had avidly watched Monty Don do earlier that week. He then helped plant the pansies in pots which we under-planted with more bulbs, crocus this time, before helping me to position the curry plant, parsley and lemon verbena within the mini herb garden running along one patio wall.
Unsurprisingly there came a point when no more water, mud or planting would hold a three year old’s attention any longer, particularly whilst under the almost constant threat of seeing a worm (a good sign that our dirt is the good stuff I’m thinking?). The time had come to employ the Electronic Babysitter, otherwise known as Aladdin, and with O happily ensconced in dramas involving genies, lamps and carpets I ventured up to the veg patch to follow some more of Monty’s advice and cut back the foliage of my toms allowing the green ones to ripen. The plants were in such a hopeless mess than often times I had to cut my losses, or rather the plants, in order to be able to see what I was doing so by the time S returned sporting umpteen bags and a new haircut, I had bowls brimming full of both red and green tomatoes, the last crop of green beans, two small courgettes and a round squash of some unknown sort.
S had amongst his bags gardening gloves, a small bag of compost and some twine but had decidedly, probably wisely, that all else on the list including the shears we could live without. Unpacking his wares he cast a sidelong glance at where the spade was wedged hopefully in the small ditch I’d attempted around the tree stump.
“I won’t be able to dig that out pet. The roots are too deep. We’ll need to get someone in.”
Getting someone in was not an option my impatience could readily entertain so whilst the boys took off to the park I set about finding a more instant solution. The stump regrows long weed-like tendrils which engulf the bed in the time it takes to blink so I thought I might conduct a little experiment. I shrouded it in thick plastic, tucking the edges right down into the trench, then covered the lot with soil figuring I’d plant something ground-covering over it to hold it all in place. That done I was ready for the fun bit and my remaining purchases were laid out on top of the bed, tweaked, rearranged and then, once satisfied, planted.
Arriving home, momentarily fooled by my conjuring trick, S looked aghast.
“I covered it.”
He said nothing…. but his silent retreat made its own point. It’ll never work.
Exhausted I called it a day.
A couple of days later O and I, having both recovered our gardening mojo, potted up the Bellis Daises which my father in law had given me as plug plants a few weeks previous. Following instructions I had repotted them into the bigger trays he had given me …..using the clever technique of pushing each one out of its bijou home with the head of a nail ….and then left them to develop their root systems in my mini greenhouse. Six patio pots have now been filled, and will at some point (spring?) blossom into beautiful pink and white double flowers.
There are still a couple more jobs to do. The terrace is in desperate need of a jet wash to remove the muddy footprints. The back beds are as yet unfilled though I have plans for one of them and plants are on order (a shade loving morello cherry and a plum to accompany two conifers gifted by S’s mum on his birthday which have been waiting patiently to be housed for far too long.) The right hand bed may or may not involve a playhouse straddled over it so I’m leaving it be for the time being but, getting possibly a bit overconfident, I’ve decided to tackle an expanse of fence on the sunniest side of the terrace by planting a kiwi plant to romp (hopefully) up some trellis. And then there’s the breeze block wall for which I have a plan…..and it requires the skills of S.
Its on the board…….
The tree stump
Clockwise top left: Dahlia mystic ‘Enchantment’, Heuchera ‘Regina’ ‘Little Cuties’ and ‘Cherry Cola’, Pansies, Evergold Sedge Grass, Fremontodendron ‘California Glory’
Clockwise from top left: Tradescantia ‘Sweet Kate’, Potentilla Fruticosa, Acer, Pennisetum, Pennisetum ‘Hamelin’
All planted up
O planting Grandad’s daisies. Engage flat of hand with tender leaves then press down firmly….