A few days in the sun and we all strip off, plants and people alike. There is a trail of cardigans around the place: on the garden bench, the picnic table, the rocking chair on the patio. The little ones leave puddles of empty clothing by the back door as they run off to paddle and splash. And the trees and shrubs release their flowers from their protective buds, and blossom.
Everything is flourishing, out there. We’re picking lettuce daily, and cutting the chard which so obligingly comes again. All the onions are up and beyond being pulled by the curious birds. The leeks are beginning to thicken from trembling spikes to something with substance, so that I can imagine transplanting them one day, a few weeks from now. Other plants have been settled into their final positions: the summer cabbages, the courgettes, the celeriac and celery. I’ve never grown these last before, and couldn’t quite believe that the flimsy seedlings would ever translate into something I could handle, let alone leave out there on the veg patch. Then one day, there they were, a set of sturdy and recognisable little plants, just desperate to get out into the big wide world. Lots of water, a mild forecast, and they’ve done it.
In fact, they’ve done so well that I couldn’t bear to waste any of them, and put in more than I’d intended. Thus they are encroaching on the space marked out for fennel. That’s the problem with fennel, and other latecomers to the patch. There’s never enough space left for them. No matter how hard I try: something else always gets there first. Every spring I tell myself I need a bigger patch, and every winter I dig another bed, but it’s never enough. There’s something new to try, each year, as my love for the garden blossoms. I’ll squeeze the fennel in somewhere, but it won’t be ideal. I’ll be using that spade again next winter.
If I had my way, I’d turn the whole garden over to vegetables, double digging the lawn and putting it to good use. But then I glimpse the children running barefoot on the grass, dodging arcs of water. The hens peck and scratch, and turn grass and insects into the most orange yolks I’ve ever seen. I watch Ben stroll out in the evening, revision done for the day, and challenge the others to a game of french cricket. So I dig my beds in the parts that are played on the least, adding just a little more space each year. Children need to blossom, as well as vegetables.
Watering in the celery, I remembered the promise I had made to myself of weaving flowers in amongst the edibles. The sweet peas are yet to go in, the marigolds outgrowing their nursery. The beans must be planted and the weeds are getting rowdy. Yet all I seem to manage, day by precious day, is to plant and to water. It’s all about priorities, just now.
With that in mind, I’ve blocked out an entire day to sow those seeds and get the weeds in check. I’ve warned Mrs P, and bought some cold cuts for our supper. The baking can wait. So can the wash. Let the postman knock; let the boy with the telegrams come. I won’t hear them. I’ll be in the garden, helping it blossom.