Monday, June 22, 2015

Ruminating and germinating

While I've been pondering my next project and at times being unable even to get to my desk due to the roofing work, I've been doing a bit of proper gardening, ie sowing seeds and watching them grow, something I've rarely had the time to do in my life but which my Welsh grandfather did every year. Of course, he grew from seed enough flowers and vegetables to fill a whole big garden, and produced enough vegetables to feed a family most of the year round, and my efforts have been decidedly punier (I don't have a greenhouse, for a start), but I'm finding it very satisfying, and a kind of physical parallel to the creative germination and growth going on in my head.

I started in an even smaller way last year with cultivated primroses, which flowered this year. (Since I took the photos they've suffered a bit with the scaffolders stomping over the bed I put them in, and you can see in the second picture that the slugs were already having a go!)

The plants I'm most proud of this year are the hollyhocks above, which I've grown from the seeds of the one hollyhock I already have in my garden. (The slugs always get the ones that come up in the ground as soon as they appear, so I gathered the seeds last autumn and started them off in a cold frame in the spring.) They're much bigger now and I've already put them in the ground. They won't flower this year but next, I believe, and I'm excited to see how they turn out then, if I can get them to survive the winter and the slugs: the parent plant had pink double flowers, but of course you never know what plants the flowers were pollinated with, so they could turn out anyhow - the way that one of my sons has quite the opposite colouring to me: dark curly hair and brown eyes! The gardening books always tell you to buy new seeds, so you can be sure of the outcome, but I much prefer this mixup pot-luck thing, which is why I love the mad variable columbines in my garden (below) that seed themselves profusely (they're resistant to slugs), and which feels more to me like the creative process of writing, where the words and sentences can take you to scenarios and notions you had never expected.

In a similar way, I'm growing some Oriental poppies, also from the one already in my garden - which is perhaps just as well, as when the scaffolders dismantled the scaffolding they plonked a huge barrel right on top of it, which they proceeded to throw heavy metal joints into from high up, and I don't think the plant has survived.

Having got the appetite for it all, I did go and buy some seeds. I've always longed for a country-cottage style garden like my grandfather had, so I took a walk up to the garden centre and came back with packets of seeds of sweet pea, larkspur and garden poppies, and even some sage. The sweet peas are now halfway up the wall, and the rest are ready for potting on or putting in the ground. They just need to survive my being so busy at the moment with literary events away from the garden...

Oh, and I can't resist showing you one of the tulips that came up after my gruelling two afternoons planting bulbs last autumn:


Anonymous said...

Gorgeous flowers — I tend to kill plants! All four of my grandparents liked gardening, but the green thumb gene has bypassed me... At least my dog lets me know when he wants food or water :-)

Elizabeth Baines said...

I think it's practice and experience, Hayley, more than anything - and the time to get them!