One beautiful year ago, my little girl was born. I still think of her as a baby, but look how she’s grown. Crawling, standing but not walking; saying mama and dad but not really talking. Laughing when she’s not crying; happy most of the time she’s awake. Good at sleeping. Very much a part of our family with her own expressions and her own voice. Today we celebrated with family and it was fun to have everyone here for a feast. I remember the relief I felt after when my other two turned one and I started to get a little more sleep and feel a little less exhausted and more of myself again. The peonies and poppies in our garden are blooming, just as they were this time a year ago when our little girl was born.
Yesterday it felt and looked like spring and we spent the afternoon tidying up the garden a little with the help of my sister. I love the yellowness of spring flowers and the way it is so often paired with bright pink or purple in combinations I would never enjoy anywhere else. Look at the colours of this flowering currant! And this forsythia. (I must pick some and bring it inside – the bush is need of pruning anyway.)We have daffodils and primroses coming up, and the hundred tulips I planted in November (very late) have beautifully healthy looking leaves about 8cm tall. I can’t wait to see the flowers. Little E was out in our tent, exploring the leaves and grass and sticks – and anything else she could reach and get into her mouth. D and E were running around in bare feet.Today is grey, again, and cold and wet. Still, we have our promises of spring. We can wait a little longer.
Once upon a time, a little boy whose name began with D brought home a sunflower from nursery. His Granny helped him to plant it in a great big plant pot. It was much smaller than he was. (That was on the 21st of June). It grew and grew and grew and grew. Soon it was over the little boy’s head.
It kept growing all through summer until it was nearly autumn. It grew taller than his daddy. Finally, the flower came out. The little boy had to stand on his Daddy’s shoulders to see the petals. It was 234cm tall. The sunflower opened the same day the little boy’s Grandpa left to fly home to Cape Town. It was like a big yellow flag waving good bye.
Summer has definitely come to an end here this last week. I’ve got out my boots and a warm jumper. We’ve lit the first fire in the stove and reluctantly turned the heating on. In the garden the plums on our tree are finally ripening. Our apple trees are weighed down with fruit. Rowan berries are bright. A few leaves on every tree are yellow among the green. After such a good summer, I welcome autumn: I love the brilliant colours and mild days; the yellow fields, the bales stacked high; I even enjoy trying out my warm clothes for the first time in months. But still I feel a little heavy at the thought of seven months of cold, layers, dark mornings and short afternoons. I’d better enjoy this time between the seasons while I can.
Our garden is truly over-run by these poppies and I spend a lot of my time trying to dig out their enormous roots. But when the flowers come out, as they just have, I have to admit they look pretty nodding under the apple tree, which is currently covered in the palest pink blossoms. Yesterday, my son presented me with this bunch (picked with the help of his grandmother.) I’m surprised by how lovely they look on my windowsill.
I have been thinking about this poem since we moved into our ‘new house’. I found the postcard I have with it written on as I was clearing out a drawer this week. Its always been a favourite but takes on a new meaning now that I have a garden and can count my own trees. Off the top of my head, we have one plum tree (with no plums to glean), two birch trees, three apple trees, one flowering currant and a rowan.
On not counting sheep by Helen B. Cruickshank
Seven apple trees, a willow and a pine
At the top of the garden, that makes nine,
A privet and a cypress, a winter-flowering cherry,
A birth and a rowan, green tassel, crimson berry.
A juniper, a hazel, a laurel and a gean.
A yellow rose, a plum tree, with no plums to glean.
I’m counting my trees; no, I’m not counting sheep –
A rowan at the gateway,
I’m… falling… asleep.
For the first time yesterday afternoon, Daniel was crawling around our garden, examining blades of grass and nasturtium petals that come up to his nose.
The garden is a length of very scraggy grass, dotted with dandelions. Down the centre is an old brick path. The grass on the left hand side of the path is ours, the grass on the other side is our neighbours’. We both have a strip of flowerbed running down each fence. The neighbours’ side is low maintenance: the soil is covered in bark out of which grow three tall rose bushes, two low shrubs with mottled leaves and a Japanese maple. They also have some very colourful flowers in pots.
For the last two years I’ve planted nasturtiums on our side which have flourished, climbing over the fence and creeping out into the grass. They move so fast I’m sure you could watch them grow if you sat for an hour. Even this year, when I haven’t planted any, the little round leaves are appearing all over the place. We also have jasmine, lavender, oregano, mint and rosemary in pots, flowering stock, lambs lugs, a climbing rose and a green bush. Last year we grew tomatoes. Its a sunny, south facing place and plants seem to enjoy being there.
Like others before me, I’ve learnt some things in my garden:
1) Planning in November what you want to see in June is a good idea (planning, even what I do next week, is not one of my natural abilities).
2) Believing that that stick will one day become a rose bush and that speck a mass of orange flowers is not crazy.
3) Plants need watered – often.
4) If one day we all stop gardening and stay inside and watch TV, the walls and streets and houses of London will disappear under the weight of Japanese bindweed – and that will take less time than you think.