I have my mum and dad to thank for my optimism. My mum always sees the best in people, and my dad always makes the best of a bad job. There is always a bright side, even if you have to wait a while to see it.
This bank holiday has been fairly wet, until I happened to just pop my head out of the back door at about 3pm yesterday afternoon. There was a fine mist (you know the sort when the rain is just hovering in the air, so you only feel it when you move), so I thought I’d just take a little skip to the greenhouse. By the time I had had a little fiddle with my seed-trays, the levitating rain had lifted.
I decided to take my spade for a walk.
Often when I’m taking a stroll around the garden I’ll see a buttercup or a dandelion, but don’t attempt to pull it out, as it needs a spade. Which is locked in the greenhouse. So taking a walk with a spade with no particular purpose in mind always leads to satisfying results.
Three dandelions, a couple of buttercups and some creeping cinquefoil later, I was happy as a lark. Three years ago when we moved to this garden, what is now the bright border was covered in a thick mat of creeping cinquefoil. It spreads by runners, being related to the strawberry, but with the obvious disadvantage of no delicious fruit to devour with cream. Three years ago I thought I would never get rid of the stuff. Every time I dug it up, I had to separate out the pieces of root from clay that was claggy enough to spin a pot out of. If I left any root, it would re-sprout and I’d have a new plant to remove.
But I did it. I just kept coming back with my spade.
I didn’t know that I would ever get rid of it. The internet suggested I wouldn’t. But I have got rid of it enough. It’s easy to dig up the odd plant every couple of months.
When the sun came out, it was difficult to feel anything other than pure joy. I spotted a clump of snowdrops that have finished flowering and needed dividing. I took them down to my Rosa rugosa hedge, as part of my guerilla gardening strategy to take over the allotment! As I sank my trusty spade into the ground, it gave out the rudest sucking and squelching sound you can possibly imagine. At this point my stepdaughter came to join me and we both delighted in the delicious disgustingness.
Last year I was worried that this boggy bit of ground would just rot the roots of my roses, but I gave it a go and they seem fine. I planted five different clematises along the fence behind them, and four of these look dead as a door-nail. One of them is named ‘Freda’ which I planted for my Gran. I’m not devastated. She would know there was nothing I could do to protect it from The Beast a few weeks ago. I can plant another.
Then I went back to the bright border and spotted a phlox I needed to divide. We had a lovely time hacking it into four peices and re-planting the peices in the rose garden. My step-daughter was concerned that I had inadvertently spliced a worm in half, but I reassured her that there are plenty more, and worms expect this treatment occasionally. It’s probably nicer to be cleanly spliced by a spade than tugged at for ten minutes by a blackbird. We mused on how a worm is just a tube with a mouth at one end and a bum at the other, and how we are pretty much the same, just with a few extra bits attached.
Then we moved some hemerocallis. I explained to sd that this was the worst soil ever, made largely of builder’s rubble, but that hemerocallis (day lilies) are practically bomb-proof, so it will just shrug its shoulders and grow anyway.
The sun shone; we pottered a bit more. We splashed around in the pond. Sadly, no sign of frogspawn, but there was a millipede. I transplanted a few self-seeded euphorbias, whilst sd played with the millipede. We picked our first rhubarb, which made a popping sound almost as satisfying as the earlier squelching.
So in an otherwise wet weekend, we will have enjoyed at least two hours of glorious sunshine, and there is still half the long weekend to go.
My weeds are there to show me that hard work pays off. If you keep coming at them with a spade, you don’t need chemicals. The weeds that self-seed prolifically show me that my soil is there to support life. My clay and my bog and my rubble are there to help me learn what can and can’t grow in particular conditions. If something dies, then it died. Things die. I don’t need to berate myself. If one thing doesn’t work, I can try another. If it has been miserable and wet all week, then I will enjoy it all the more when the sun comes out.
And rhubarb and custard is the most delicious Saturday pudding ever.
Do you need any help in seeing the bright side? Do you need forgiveness and absolution for lost plants? Does optimism go hand-in-hand with gardening? Or any creative pursuit? I love hearing your thoughts, and they often inspire new posts!