"Pure style is my way of life... a blueprint for living in the 21st Century"
10 June 2016
9th June 3pm: the garden basks in afternoon heat and light. Days like this in our hit and miss summers are precious, as all worthwhile things are. The bees are here again, feasting on the fluffy alliums and there`s a haze of blue nigella magic from a packet of seeds. Blue and purple, purple and green: summer colour pairs which work so naturally and beautifully. Framing the left and right borders lush green and pink, the usual, but never taken for granted , bowing and flopping roses are sweet with soap scent..
The week in December that I spent almost double pushing several hundred tulips and alliums far into the ground to prevent squirrel digging was all so worth it. Each morning, coffee in hand, I`m outside inspecting the day`s new blooms. The tulips are first , and I can almost see them growing as vivid pink and raspberry rippled flower cups unfold in the sun on smooth lime green elegant stems .
Leaves are strewn like golden paper plates over the garden. Summer`s die back is a challenge and I need to chop, weed and clear to make space for bulb planting. Past four pm and the day is closed and so it is easy to ignore the untidy goings on in the garden.
I have a gardener friend, Simon ,who says Jane your task is to get all those beds weeded, and then the job`s done. So I take his advice and do it . He does the heavy stuff and is ace at pruning and keeping many other local flowering spots neat and under control.
You know my Label hate, but I need a new pair of wellies and the pigeon grey Hunters at TKMaxx are cheapish at £40.00 (they`re seconds ) compared to £79 up the road at Morleys. I don`t even feel comfortable at spending this on a boring pair of rubber boots, but I have to say they fit like a glove and as with my favourite rake and spade, it`s good to have practical functional items with which to garden. I suppose I`ll be hiding them from the festival goer next summer.
Away from the screen, solicitor`s letters , leaking sink pipe, and the general impermanence of things, I feel contentment digging snug earth beds for the alliums, and tulips. The afternoon is quiet , blue wash sky going into pink and a blackbird on the fence.
Cradling each bulb ,laying it down in its nest bed I think optimistic pleasing thoughts. I think about the garden in spring decorated with fluffy allium balls, a sea of purple and pink.. I think of the summer grass warm and herby and the sun setting behind the apple tree
The whole thing of putting Christmas together is great, I love to do it for my family but what I do rage over is the commercial relentlessness which began somewhere back in September with cut price chocolate snowmen on sale at the Co-op. Out in the garden there`s none of that and I am grateful to all the growing things for that
Good things are also cooking in the kitchen to keep the household stoked up because I`m being frugal with heating. My daughter and I went went on a morning`s quest for pigs trotters, ingredients for pork pies. Herne Hill market saved the day when there wasn`t a pigs trotter to be had between Pecham and Streatham. She worked from the recipe in Pie a brilliant book, and no doubt why said pies won lst prize at the classroom staff bake off. I`ve been having fun with mackerel fillets coated in oats and fried in a little olive oil great brain food tasty and economical . I also bought silvery and fresh wild sea bass to be baked with herbs`s from wonderful fishmonger,Pauline . Sadly she is moving on because greedy greedy shortsighted landlord wants to get fatter and fatter and lease to another betting shop or pawnbroker.
I`m as besotted with my garden as the bees are sated on sweet nectar from the starry alliums. It feels almost electric with activity: bursting glossy pink roses, voluptuous peonies shedding brilliant carpets of petals and crowds of bees, enough, if there were such a thing for a bee club night. I get up close, eye to bee pollen sack with black and white striped ones, fat yellow ones, small bobbly hairy ones, brown fluffy types as if they`d had a cut and blow dry.
Growing, budding, flowering, seeding on a still warm June afternoon the garden seems more dynamic than the brains in any government think tank. Only joking, but as George Eliot suggested "If we could hear the squirrel`s heartbeat, the sound of the grass growing, we should die of that roar" .
The garden soothes, me with its it`s distractions and needs. What better way than to work off writers block or parking ticket annoyance with the physicality and sense of purpose that an hour`s weeding gives. The fact that nature is ambiguous, that she is neither all good nor all bad, that she gives as well as takes away, also puts life outside the garden into perspective. Contentment with green fly free roses, fury at the bullet headed snails who strafe the rocket, it`s all about the ups and downs and the getting on with what is thrown at you. A dancing in the rain approach., rather than waiting for the storm to pass I suppose.
Pink rose love: gorgeous Constance Spry with a scent that almost knocks you out in a perfumed stupor. I cut them for a jug on the table and take bundles tied with string to friends` as a summer offering.
I`m glad I ditched climbing beans having lost them to slugs over the last two summers, and went for the sweet pea option to pole dance around the wigwams of willow sticks. Snug in their flowerpots in the shed at the bottom of the garden they began to sprout towards the light way back in the winter. In early may I prepared their summer beds with shovels of home produced compost and set about planting. For the first week so it was touch and go as to whether they would survive - the leaves went pale and flabby as if they were homesick . I think that the energy was going into putting down strong roots and sure enough, they`re leaping skywards now and putting out brilliant bursts of scented colour.
Each summer, my mum`s peonies, lifted from her garden after she died, produce more and more pink memories of her and my
On the subject of the colour purple, it`s the most wonderful colour to go with the greens of the garden. Purple alliums, as you might have noticed are my latest crush. I could never have predicted this after been subjected to years of school uniform in a particularly brash shade of the colour , which topped with a hideous purple berets marked us out as targets for ridicule at the wild and untamed bus stops of South London.
There`s so little show of summer, I`m feeding you some visual energy with these garden-in-the-early-morning -sunshine snaps.
7am , camera in hand: My feet bare on cool brick and the sweet grass smell give me that country in the city feeling. I am accompanied by the cat, who pads the frothy chive edged paths swishing her tail contentedly, caught in the shafts of light it looks like liquid chocolate flecked with gold.
Heavenly allium "Gladiator` , a heavenly pit stop for bees.
I like to think about morning tulip petals and shimmering green lavender rather than breakfast radio gripes and bumper to queues on the South Circular. See below: