Most gardeners, I suspect, worry about weather, tenderness, colours, slugs, aphids, how quickly and how big things will grow…. in their own order of priorities. My concern is just how many plants I can fit in to my diminutive patch. And I mean different plants.
This is no way to garden. It’s bound to be a dog’s breakfast. ‘Cottage’ is the politest thing you can say about a random muddle of favourites. ‘Short at the front, tall at the back’ hardy applies when the front and back are three feet apart. The one factor I do discriminate about is colour. White is good (it shows up in the shade). Blue is better. And yellow, at the right moment and beside the right blue, can be just the thing. Colour hits your eye in a different dimension from size or texture. Just now some Viola labradorica (not really blue, I know) is flowering in crevices where the seed has lodged. It is right beside a primrose. That little duo is a jewel.They come and go, these little treats. Persistence is not their strength (though primroses go on and on). But so do I come and go; what matters is that I notice them again and again, and each time get a thrill. Is this ‘mindfulness’? It’s a quite different pleasure, and attitude, from the repeated leisurely – and of course critical – survey of carefully planned borders.
The ceanothus is in flower, and so are the pale yellow wallflowers I cut back last year. A pulmonaria is almost gentian blue. And the amazing tulip Ballerina is flaming orange, with just enough yellow at the tips of its pointed petals to count. It stands two foot six high (I’ve just measured it), its flowers held vertical on the end of its long swooping stems. Why amazing? Because unique among tulips – as far as I know – it has a scent, somewhere between freesias and apricots. Andrew Marvell wrote ‘Make that the tulip may have share of sweetness, Seeing she is fair’. God (or a Dutchman) listened