We have roses: baby pink, deep yellow, fiery red. And a lilac: I’d not even realised we had a lilac until I saw its lanky, lazy purple-tipped blooms. A clematis; huge, pink rhododendrons … A week of dry, warm weather and the garden is showing us its summer garb.
As Ellie pulled out of the drive this evening, with two small bodies strapped safely in the back and leaving rumpled beds, smeary windows and lego-strewn carpets in their wake, I turned away, casting for something to fill the void. A meander to the post box … but with no small hand to hold or piping voice exclaiming at the waterfalls, something was missing. I’d noticed the roses over the course of the week: now was my chance to look properly. The garden whispered an invitation: “come, see what secrets have been unfolding in your absence”.
So I took a solitary evening stroll. Treasures indeed. The string of yellow roses had been calling me all week. Now I could absorb the tightly packed buds;
the golden-yellow petals as they opened to the evening sun;
and the faded glory of the earliest blooms – already past their prime and thus already in that wonderful blowsy, bleached state of unkempt, vintage splendour: their last hurrah.
Next to the yellow rose, still on the fence but unnoticed until this evening, a clematis has opened to the sunshine: saucer blooms in deepest, richest purple.
The rose beside the front door has many buds and several open blooms. A vibrant pink, and with beautiful glossy leaves, this rose has smaller flowers and a spicy fragrance. It pays to get close to this rose. I’ve planted lavenders around it’s twisted stem. Perhaps one day we’ll welcome visitors with the tang of lavender and cloves.
In the secret garden the tall lilac is in full bloom now. Tucked against the mighty conifer, I’d not even realised we had a lilac until a week or so ago when it’s purple panicles caught my attention against the lime green fronds of its towering neighbour. Now fully open, the plumes of flowers are paler: lilac-hued in fact, and fringed with white. This lilac is tall and rangy, growing freely but thus keeping its flowers to itself, for they are well above head height. Shall I try to bring it back within bounds? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s better standing tall and thus visible from the kitchen window. Something to ponder.
And tucked against the boundary in the secret garden? Massive, complex heads of rhododendrons,
keeping an industrious bee busy with some evening harvesting.
Our new garden has a maturity and a spontaneous, shambolic feel to it. There’s a mixture of cultivated and wild; clearly there has been thought and planning in the past, and equally – some plants seem to be here … just because. And I like that very much.
I am inspired by this garden, more so I think than any garden I’ve made or inherited in the past. As it reveals its early-summer secrets, it calls me softly: whispering sweet nothings and promises. This is not a garden to own: to control, to subjugate – to bring under the restricting net of intention or expectation. This is a garden of nature – with the human hand as the servant rather than the master. And I’m a willing apprentice.
O Were my Love yon Lilack fair,
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring;
And I, a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing.
How I wad mourn, when it was torn
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing,
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d.
O gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa’!
And I mysel’ a drap o’ dew,
Into her bonnie breast to fa’!
Oh, there beyond expression blesst
I’d feast on beauty a’ the night;
Seal’d on her silk-saft faulds to rest,
Till fley’d awa by Phebus’ light!