I’ve been incredibly busy working on the calories in the post Christmas pantry. Going at it hammer and tongs, I can cut a hole in a packet of plain crisps like a saw mill through soft wood. Of course it’s raining outside, this is England, after all. Typically for February, it’s the sort of penetrating drizzle that were you out in it, would render you soggy down to your underpants. The lazy wind doesn’t bother to go around you, it just goes straight through. The showers are interspersed with sunlight so low and bright, that your eyes fill with tears, making the weeds hard to see.
Galanthus nivalis (common snowdrops) amongst the leaf litter
The garden is down to imagination at present. Planning the year’s sweat provoking toil is easier than actually undertaking the hard graft. Nevertheless, I am eager to get busy with a trowel. I can dream of the touch of a rose petal to my lip, to soothe impatience. In my mind I can see the swathes of blossom, smell the scents and hear the birds squabbling over territory like fish wives. That has a nice ring to it. In fact, if I go out and churn the soggy soil, I would compact the structure and cause more damage than gain. I’ve read the seed catalogues, thumbed the perennial brochures and generally have consumed so much plant porn that my head is dangerously full and my heart rate is close to critical.
Helleborus x hybridus “Double Ellen White” (Lenten rose)
Rescue comes in the form of daughter-in-law Angelica, with my grandson in tow. At three years old, Herb is a little young for the finer points of Latin nomenclature. I find that he can be bribed to attempt a few common names with the aid of cake or ice cream. It’s still too cold for the latter, so we take off for the delights of the nearest garden centre with a café, so that I may attempt the subornment of an infant with gingerbread. While the junior branch of the family checks that the play area is up to scratch, I browse the bags of summer flowering bulbs, tubers, rhizomes and other roots lined up for my delectation. The photographs have been tinted and pimped to the max and poor Attila is helpless in their grasp. The prices are so steep that he has to stop and fan his wallet. I feel like a complete party pooper, pointing out that the pictures are bald lies for the seduction of swains like himself. Like most plants, he would have to wait for several seasons and court a little luck before attaining the glory painted on the packet.
Echinocactus grusonii (mother-in-law’s cushion)
We retire to the coffee shop for comfort eating. Huge scones piled with strawberry jam and pillows of cream are two for the cost of one, so we stuff our faces. Although many green specimens have caught our eye, we feel unmoved to reach for our purses. Angelica’s house is still infested with builders so until they finish, her garden remains the preserve of horsetail and hawkweed. I have no room for another Dahlia and need to bring last year’s bumper purchase of Iris to bloom, before I can justify buying any more. I did spot a tiny, ridiculous and unusual cactus that would make a worthy addition to my collection. Got to strike while the iron’s hot.