I HAVE a cup that reminds me to smile and be thankful every day. It has a quote from philosopher Cicero across it, saying: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need ”. It’s true. I do have everything. I have a beautiful space to walk and play in and books in abundance to enjoy, re read and share. But therein lies the rub. The two are in conflict.
I have barely stepped outside lately because I am lost in Tudor England, following the fortunes and misfortunes of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell in Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. The thought of putting aside how Cromwell brought the ill-fated Queen to trial to put my hands in the soil is as unthinkable as marrying six times. Before this, I devoured IBM and The Holocaust and then Voltaire’s Coconuts, followed by Marching Powder. Once it hits, the reading binge is like a drug fix. I can’t stop nor get enough. Like a smoker joining one cigarette to the next, I ”chain read” and suffer acute withdrawal symptoms. Nothing outside gets watered, tip pruned, tidied or even glanced at.
The Christmas-New Year patch does it to me every time. No scent, sight or shrub can lure me from one couch – the one on the deck – to the (other) couch, that is, the lawn, while I’m absorbed with the new Christmas books.
And it is starting to show, oh dear. The recent hot summer winds have parched some beds, wilted plants, shrivelled the potted plumbago, blown leaves all over the paths and pool, knocked over a papaw tree, withered the cabbages and browned the bromeliads. And all while my back was turned and attention caught between the pages of other people’s lives.
Now that I have surfaced for air and looked about the place, I am viewing it like a glass half empty/half full. I see so much in the garden that needs help and support, is not working and looks terminal thanks to my latest inattention. And it exasperates and flattens me.
Then I look again and see what is blooming, flourishing and trying hard to please me, despite my neglect and indifference over the recent weeks and that cheers and lifts me.
It’s all in the mind.
But it takes some re charging and re focussing when you have interrupted the thread of activity – like any pastime – and some renewed zeal is called for to throw yourself back in again. And the energy-sapping heat of sub tropical summer doesn’t help. Lemon, lime and bitters on ice and a comfy sofa with Ian McEwan versus the bending, mulching and trimming (with blunt clippers) along the fenceline. Hmmm. Sort of a no-brainer.
But I have ventured back to feel the luuuv, and counted a score of happy, colourful, healthy plants that I am thankful for; like the gorgeous scented pink and cream frangipanis,
that continue to perfume the morning air; the brazen and blowsy pink bleeding heart vine and its nearby white sister, twining around the pool fence and offering bundle after bundle of blooms for the vases. There is the sumptious ruby mandevilla trailing out of its pots and the demure white vinca holding up the shabby little patch near the water tank. Thank you.
I discover that by moving the basil and mint about 20m closer to the house, they have shrugged off the grasshoppers that plagued them and grown plenty of rich green leaves unhindered – also in the lunch salad, thank you.
The cape honeysuckle with its bright orange flowers pushes courageously on after a brutal trim by a storm earlier in the summer and my variegated hibiscus have shed their pest-borne disease and and are stretching and glowing with healthy red blooms. The tomatoes, shallots and cucumbers are doing well – just had them in our lunch salad – and some new lettuces are in train for picking weeks to come.
There’s a crop of brilliant blue and white agapanthus to cut for the table and the tangerine blossoms of the hardy driveway bauhinia galpini waving gloriously at me, seeming to say: “When you’re ready; no hurry. Would love a visit.”
Does this “slackening off” happen to other gardeners? Am I not a true practitioner, merely a distracted dilettante?
I slip on my gloves and boots, slap on the hat and all is well.
Happy 2013 in your garden.