It wasn’t my fault. I started the day without any inkling of what was in store, just bimbled into the garden, resolved to re-plant the large containers by the front door. I had made my purchases of winter hardy vegetation, choosing some pansies for colour and bargain evergreens of various species, to give the arrangement some different texture. B&Q sold cheap trays of six plants for £7 which although small, gave me a lot of variety. The shrubs were well established cuttings and unlabelled, so some guesswork was involved in identification. I made plans for selected plants such as the Pieris and lime leafed Choisya (Mexican orange blossom), which include growing on for re-siting in permanent beds, if they survive the rigours of a northern chill.
Acer palmatum dissectum & A. palmatum “Bloodgood” autumn foliage
The same goes for me; the layers of jumpers, coats and scarves become more excessive with every passing year. I dressed spherically for the weather forecast and added a few jackets against the bitter prevailing wind. I’ve been waiting for the summer annuals to finish but unlike me, they seem not to feel the cold. Brachycome (swan river daisy) had been flowering its socks off for months and was still going. I felt that brutal eviction was an unkind reward for good performance but I dared not leave this any longer, or new roots will not get a grip before the frost bites hard. I gathered my assortment of foliage and in doing so ejected Cactus the cat who was taking a nap on top of them, sprawled like Queen Cleopatra on a verdant chaise longue. I dragged compost, bone meal, tools and herbage to the porch and started work. The foolish feline enlivened the proceedings by chasing crispy autumn leaves into the corner where I was busy, to arrive like a hurricane amongst the trowels and tranklements.
Winter planted pots
Attila had bought huge quantities of spring blooming bulbs at bargain prices. Against all odds I found the special planter in the back of the garage. The kit was supposed to make light labour of cutting out a plug of soil, leaving a neat hole for daffodil insertion. My spouse toiled his way down the borders, stopping occasionally to clutch at his spine and to moan, bitch and blaspheme. Although he couldn’t stand straight afterwards, he admitted that the utensil made the job go faster. He said that it would have been more useful for planting into my beautiful, even, striped lawn. Over my dead body.
Nicandra physalodes (shoo-fly plant) seed pods
I’ve discovered that the most likely cause of failure in pot culture, is poor drainage, the under application of water and the overzealous use of thumbs. I’m inclined to settle new residents into their quarters with a fervour which crushes the earth and roots to a desperate state. Decades of pruning has given me strangler’s hands and ferocious fingers. Unless I exercise some self-restraint, the plants will die of compaction and I risk turning the soil into a soggy brick of hopelessness. While I mixed compost and arranged the greenery to my satisfaction, the mad moggy bullied the bees, rolled crocus corms along the paths and dived into bags of fertiliser in a gale of sneezes. She’s not a cat, she’s a crime scene.