Jack the Buddhist says that I am coming back as a lily beetle, doomed to be plucked from a fragrant bloom and stamped upon with a shrill cry of jubilation. This will keep happening with every incarnation, until I’ve learned my lesson. I would leave the pretty red insects in peace but they don’t share the bounty. If permitted to browse undisturbed, they will eat foliage, flowers, stem and bulb, then plaster the scrabby remains with larvae, which hide in a jacket of their own excrement. I strive to catch them when they are bonking; you get two at once and I like to think that they wing their way to the afterlife as happy as possible in the circumstances.
Lantana (shrub verbena) in the conservatory
I’m already languishing in hell. The seedlings of Dierama pulcherrimum (angel’s fishing rod) “Blackbird” all germinated last year. My heart was full of lust and plans to put masses of the spectacular dark beauty all over the garden. I kept the trays full of promise warm all winter and then put them in the cold frame, ready to spring into action. Two strands of green have emerged and after six months of loving care, sadly I have to conclude that these are nothing but grass. Daucus carota (Queen Anne’s lace) “Purple Kisses” is flowering already without promised colour, in white umbels which are easily confused with ground elder. The difference is that they don’t put up a fight when ripped from the soil in error. The perfect time for anointing lawns with selective weed killer never arrives. The earth is too wet or dry, there’s too much sunshine or it’s raining, never just right.
Vitis, outdoor grapes
Last year, Acanthus mollis (bear’s breeches) was fabulous. Immediately before the front door, it made a huge clump of towering spires of elegant white, above classical burgeoning greenery. This year has seen two wonky, flea bitten flower spikes, sprouting from mildewed, brown pocked, snail sucked leaves. I am resolved to dig it out, resiting against the back wall and replacing it with Heuchera (coral flower) “Obsidian”, Hemerocallis (day lily) “Indigo” or “Midnight Magic” and other notably mysterious plants. This will form a wonderful contrast to the Eryngiums (sea holly) which are currently being swamped and will give them enough space to actually survive. What a strange feeling; regret mixed with celebration, but I’ve made up my mind and now I need a strong hand with a shovel, to make my dreams a heavenly reality.
In the Dahlia bed
Attila has been watching cricket. He twitches at a missed catch, wriggles at each LBW and skips for every six. He stares at the Formula 1 and shouts when Mercedes win, which they do, always. Football is about to start. He’s pinned his faith on his team in a triumph of hope over expectation. I’m trying to get him to see gardening as an ichor dripping contact sport. If I send him into the borders to kill dandelions, sometimes I end up with a smoking two foot wide trench leading to a vast hole of destruction. He’s supposed to treat the weeds as the opposition, not my precious perennials. I try to inspire him by rewarding a good job with a cold beer delivered to his next match. He has put in some faultless work of late; you can tell, because the fridge is just about empty.