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With your back to the water butt, walk seven paces. Turn right at the trellis, three steps forward, then cast your eyes to the left. By Flint’s bones, where are the miniature Iris? I planted the bulbs in autumn and swore that I would remember, so as not to disinter them whilst in pursuit of dandelion roots in the future. Many treasures are beginning to show their promise above the sere soil, which makes this an exciting time of year. Hyacinth are dimpling the ground with the assurance of jewel bright blossom and the downright dirty pledge of perfumed pathways. Botanical tulips are shaking their striped leaves and the snowdrops are going full tilt.
Hermodactylus Iris tuberosus (widow Iris)
Hermodactylus Iris tuberosus (widow Iris)

I don’t care for labels, which strike me as ugly and clinical, when my entire garden should be striving for splendour, adventure and whimsy. The main drawback to this approach, is my constant assault upon the lilies by thrusting a weeding fork through their vitals. They survive the mugging but by gad, my language is appalling. If I send Attila out with a spade and a victim for burial, he makes a plan on paper. This he then files in his shed, possibly for the benefit of future generations, since it is lost within five minutes of hitting a shelf. My husband is a mathematician, rather than a nature boy. He keeps a mortuary on the front windowsill. Cacti suffering from alternate over and under watering, drop body parts in despair. Every time that I open the curtains, another dusty limb falls off; these he replants, so that they may die over a wider area.
Crocus “Ruby Giant”
Crocus “Ruby Giant”

I hide my failures from view, in a forgotten corner. When I thought that I had murdered an Epiphyllum (orchid cactus), I put the corpse in the garage where it could rot in peace. We subsequently took in a couple of kittens to quarantine for a local animal sanctuary and kept them in the same outbuilding, until certain that they harboured no pox or plague. After we found them a new owner, I noticed that the dead plant was sprouting burgeoning healthy leaves and dragged it out to pride of place in the sitting room. Within minutes I noticed a vile odour, a loathsome stink that by diligent sniffing, I tracked down to the resurrected succulent. The foster cats had anointed the compost with their own version of tender loving care, which foetid fertiliser had spurred the thing to choose life.
Helleborus Niger (Christmas rose)
Helleborus Niger (Christmas rose)

Once you have acceded to the need for a combined hospital, intensive care ward and morgue, you may find that the beds become crammed with patients. I find it difficult to withhold optimism but try to limit the time spent on cosseting dry, mouldy, utterly deceased gems. The presence of a wooden leg or two is the clincher. Keep trying with a new plant if, were it to live, the specimen would be so beautiful as to make your pulse rattle. Hope is a thing with feathers; never give up, although you may find that the cost smells too bad to bear.

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