Gardens Are Good!

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My garden earlier on in the summer

When I was a little girl, I used to love watching “Gardeners’ World” (and still do, actually) with my Nan and Grandad. The presenter at that time was the wonderful Percy Thrower, another Shropshire resident like my grandparents, and those evenings spent in the company of my beloved grandparents and the gentle voice of Percy Thrower stared a love of gardening in me.

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These petunias are called “Galaxy” – you can see why!

It’s only in the past two years that my love of gardening has been able to translate itself into the creation of my own garden. For some reason, it was assumed that I didn’t like it, the dirt, the labour, the bugs… However, this misunderstanding is something I have endeavoured to put right.

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These are “Ray Sunflower” – love the name!

Also – the link between gardening and the benefits to mental health are undoubted. That veritable green-fingered gardening god Monty Don and the brilliantly brave and lovely Rachel De Thame have both in recent programmes talked about the emotional connection with their garden. I found it very moving.

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One of my wonderfully tactile ornamental grasses, “Pennisetum Rubrum” – or “Basil” to his friends..

I am perhaps a somewhat chaotic gardener. I start out with the best of intentions (“Why don’t you make a plan Mum?”) but then I get carried away digging, or something, and I forget what I’ve planted where… It’s like my birthday every day in my garden when Spring arrives, as there are new surprises sprouting up all over, much to my delight.

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I named this one “Casanova”…although he is more properly “Pennisetum Fairytales,” just couldn’t keep his hands to himself on the bus home!

I love the stately beauty of tulips, the robust colours of dahlias, but perhaps my favourite, well, in this year just gone at any rate, have been the petunias and ornamental grasses. The grasses bring a lovely flow and movement to the garden which I find ineffably soothing, and after a stressful day, there is nothing more I like than to come home and dig a few holes, plant some things, tend to others and communicate my love for my garden, watched, usually, by my four faithful girly gardening buddies.

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Not unsurprisingly, one of my favourite books is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I would like to finish with this quote:

If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden”

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Gardening… With Cats…

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1. Quietly ascertain the exact location of each cat (two younger ones on bed, small black cat lying on laptop, tabby asleep on chair.)

2. Stealthily open shed and collect trowel, seeds and clematis that really needs planting out.

3. Turn to shut shed door and jump in fright, dropping compost, as four pairs of eyes watch you… accusingly.

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4. Sigh in resignation and walk to spot in garden where you intended planting clematis, first removing small black cat from shed and seeds from Siamese.

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5. Observed by cats, dig hole for lovely new clematis plant.

6. Turn away to retrieve plant then shriek in horror as you see small tabby princess squatting elegantly over hole, preparing to… um… christen it.

7. Wait until tabby has finished and fetch watering can to rinse hole out, only to find Siamese using new, conveniently dug hole, while the two black cats look on, politely waiting their turn.

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8. Comfort clematis – it is visibly shuddering in horror.

9. Find nice clean ceramic plant pot.

10. Abandon idea of planting clematis directly in garden, instead filling previously-mentioned pot with compost, placing clematis carefully within, watering and removing to an ideal location on the patio.

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Murder… most crispy

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I didn’t mean to do it. Honest. And I feel awful too, absolutely horrible. I have killed my son’s Bonsai tree.

Bonnie-as she was known-was purchased from a special market that only comes to our city twice a year. They have wonderful stalls, one that makes French crepes, a subtle flick of the wrist and your pancake is done to perfection, sugar or syrup added and it is presented to you in a paper cone. No bits stuck to the ceiling as you try and flip, no acrid black smoke drifting through the house…A hand made chocolate stall, rich and dark, glistening with the sheen of luxury and finished with points of nut, sugared flowers…ethnic stalls with clothes and bags, bright zigzags of colour against the usual dull grey of the market square. An amazing Baltic Amber stall, chunks of the past polished and made into wonderful things…like trees…Yes, I know, I’m evading the issue…

My son and I were wandering entranced through the stalls when his eyes fell upon one previously unnoticed, selling Bonsai trees. His face lit up and he set off with determination. Even then, my heart sank a little, as I am not the world’s best gardener and any houseplants I am given are usually re-homed for their own safety.

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Moss Agate – the ‘gardener’s talisman’ and beneficial for increased plant growth… 

However, these little trees were robust and jolly. Perfect miniatures of their giant counterparts, tiny leaves of emerald and jade, glowing with health and vitality. Some even had little flowers, dainty and delicate, that looked as if any minute a tiny fairy would pop out from behind its gnarled trunk.

After much debate and conversation with the stallholder, my son decided upon a Chinese honeysuckle. Not quite as aged as the others, her delicate trunk bore aloft fine branches and tiny twiglets, carrying miniscule leaves that shone green in the sun, bursting with health and vigour.

Proudly, my son bore her home, studied the instruction leaflet assiduously and installed her carefully in the optimum spot in his room. He named her Bonnie, spoke to her tenderly, watered her carefully and gently dug in the pellets of feed.

At first, Bonnie seemed to relish the attention, she stretched out more branches that my son carefully tweaked away to maintain her neat shape. Then something went wrong. She had a little accident where the cat sat on her…but nothing to DIE about. Her leaves lost their gleam. She seemed somewhat pallid and unhealthy.

Then one day when my son was at college and the sun was shining, I thought:

Perhaps she’d like a change of scene. The fresh air and sunshine might cheer her up.”

I carefully placed her on the garden table and left her. Overnight. I forgot.

When my son left for college the next day I rushed out and brought Bonnie in. She looked…crispy. As I looked, a couple of leaves fell off. I elected for the coward’s way out and replaced her in my son’s room still looking…crispy. Later, my son said:

Bonnie’s not looking too well, perhaps I’ll water her, and give her a bit of Reiki. Maybe gridding her with Clear Quartz points and Moss Agate will help.”

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Numbly, I nodded my head. Personally, I thought it was too late as Bonnie had probably already left for the big forest in the sky…

I love my son. He’s had some unpleasant incidents in his short time on this earth, but he remains calm, kind, immensely compassionate and forgiving… I told him what I had done. A brief look of pain crossed his face. Then he said:

It’s all right. We can get another one when the market comes again.”

A weight lifted off my conscience, but the black stain of murder remains in my mind. I’ll buy him an Amber tree…what could possibly go wrong with that?

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