As the November darkness closes in I look out at the little garden, now defined by its wall lights and the lights in the greenhouse, as my little compartment in life. Everything in it has emotion attached – not dramatic, operatic emotion, but the affection that comes with familiarity. And also involvement. Everything in it has been thought about, has had my attention and care, from the pots to the tendrils finding their way up the trellis, the plants in the wrong place, or struggling, to the roses out of control above the fence. Each has been mentally processed to the point of decision – in the roses’ case, to let them rip. So I am aware, and in a sense attached.
The dogwood outside the window, with its white-variegated leaves now turned parchment white, the autumn cherry, now bright yellow as its tiny flower-buds begin to open, the dark bulk of a sarcococca and the last blue flowers of a sprawling geranium are a picture I have painted, in brushstrokes separated sometimes by years. Now I can’t imagine changing it, or swapping plants in their places, any more than I would redistribute the features of my children.
I am an unregenerate conservative. I love what’s there, or rather here, and the longer it has been here the more I love it. The changes of the seasons bring joy, but part of me is like the notoriously conservative Duke of Cambridge, who said ‘There is a time for everything, and the time for change is when you can no longer help it.” Now, where can I plant this new clematis?