It sort of crept up on me like moss across a damp lawn.
I had left a large garden long ago and on closing that gate in my life, claimed to be done with spade and rake and hoe for ever!
I had even sworn that on pain of the biggest rose thorn deep in my finger I would never return in any shape or form to anything that looked remotely garden-like, no matter how appealing.
But once a sower of seed, a planter of soil, the passion will always be there and there is no question that even the smallest barest space will not call for our attention and we cannot help but get involved in it.
So when I moved into my apartment, I found myself shopping, not for ornaments to decorate my new sitting room with, but for large pots to place on my balcony.
And before you could say ‘Lavender angustifolia’ The first leaves of the runner beans were opening and the courgettes were producing large yellow flowers.
Two thoughts occurred to me a few weeks later as I admired the purple flowers of the broad beans and the red of the runner’.
The first in my plant’s favor; No snail could climb this high (I was on the third floor).
The second one not so favorable; I would have to use a paint brush and hand fertilize my bean flowers for what bee would find them at such a height.
Now nature is wonderful and should never be doubted and one late afternoon as I sat hidden among the high bean foliage sipping a glass of wine, the first bee arrived.
I laid aside my brush and left them to it.
As you may have guessed by now, the gardening seed in me was resown, I was flourishing in the delight of having my hands once again in the soil and now I was facing my third problem.
My daughter and her husband have bought a house nearby.
One within cycling distance and with a large garden.
‘Oh I’ll just cycle up for a visit’ I thought. ‘But only because the road to their house is a quiet picturesque one mind! An ideal road for cycling. It has nothing to do with their wild overgrown garden of course’.
My daughter and I are in the garden center!
I have the large trolley and a mad look in my eye.
She has the credit card and is clutching it nervously.
‘Look’ I call, trundling the trolley over the uneven path. ‘lavender angustifolia‘
I start loading some pots in.
‘Over there’ I shout ‘climbing roses and hybrid tea’s‘.
‘Ooooh a lilac, Syringa Vulgaris which colour would you like’ ?
‘And is that not a white hydrangea’ I sigh ‘Hydrangea paniculata! it would look stunning by your fence’.
I am going faster now looking at labels, checking for good strong specimens, discarding the pot bound.
She is stumbling behind me in a daze.
I stop to examine a sturdy specimen ‘For the fruit section of the vegetable patch’ I call to her, holding up a potted rhubarb plant.
A unthinkable thought occurs to me.
‘There WILL be a vegetable patch won’t there’ I ask my daughter, fear in my eye’s.
She nods quickly and lays a soothing hand on my arm.
‘Its ok mom, relax! yes if you want, there will be a veg patch.’
I breath a sigh of relief.
My hands sift through suitable pots of herbs. Sage and oregano. Thyme, lovage and fennel. Marjoram, lemon balm, rosemary!
I am swooning with the deliciousness of their mingled smells.
I place them gently beside the camellia plants.
‘I don’t remember putting them there’ I say, looking at the glossy green leaves and the half opened buds promising wild pinkness.
I am puzzled.
‘I put them there’ my daughter said laughing ‘Is that ok Mom’?
‘Oops sorry! yes of course it is’ I have the grace to look shamefaced but not for long.
‘We might as well get the packets of veg seed on the way out’
‘Oh do they sell seeds here too’ my daughter asks.
I nod ‘Yes, I saw them in the shop on our way in’.
Thank goodness one of us is observant I think to myself.
I am speeding down the hill , muddy hands on the handlebars of yellow bike, cheeks red and hair array after a day’s gardening at my daughter and son in laws.
I am starving and decide to call into my local shop and pick up something for my supper.
As I reach for a tray of tomatoes I hear someone call my name.
Its a man of my age whose father I had nursed.
I had heard that the father had died and I hadn’t seen the son for months.
He holds out his hands.
‘Thank you for all you did’ he says ‘You were so kind to him’.
I give him a hug and tell him that I’m sorry and say what a lovely man his dad was and how it was an honour to take care of him.
In the same breath I am apologising for my appearance.
We both look down at my stockinged feet wedged into berkinstok sandals.
A feat in itself (pardon the pun) as the sock has to be pulled up between the big toe and the next one in order to fit into the leather toe divider in the sandal.
A sort of geisha appearance of the foot.
I notice to my horror that the bottoms of my trousers have splashes of mud and my blue hand knitted jumper is stretched and haphazard looking.
I probably have bits of twigs in my hair.
I put up my hand to check. At the same time he also has his hand up brushing it through his own hair.
Realizing we are mimicking each others gestures we laugh.
‘Sorry about the state of me’ I say plucking at the hem of my jumper and stretching it further.
‘I’ve been gardening at my daughter and son in laws house.
I don’t usually look like this’.
‘But you are still working at the hospital’ It is more of a statement than a question.
I nod ‘And gardening on your days off? Wow’ He continues.
‘Oh I love it’ I reply modestly not wanting to appear a hero ‘I sort of offered. Its no big deal, It relaxes me, I like to be doing things outside, its a break from my work inside. Really I’m just suppose to be minding the dog but as I’m there I do some gardening as well. I’m just explaining why I look so messy’.
The words are tumbling from my mouth like campanula over a wall.
‘Minding the dog as well! A nurse, a dog minder and an unspoken gardener! Impressive!
He smiles, his teeth are slightly crooked. His eyes are twinkling.
‘How is your mother doing’? I ask, anxious to change the subject.
‘Oh she cries a lot’ He makes a face ‘She misses him of course. She is lonely even though we call into her a lot’.
‘Thats the problem when you have a great marriage’ I say thoughtfully ‘You would almost wonder if is it better to have a bad one? I’m divorced so I’ll never experience that grief’.
‘Really’? Is it my imagination or is he looking at me with renewed interest. ‘I’m just going through a divorce myself now’
I notice an apple and a packet of cooked chicken in his basket.
I catch him looking at my garlic bulb and tray of tomatoes.
I’m suddenly embarrassed as though caught without my clothes on.
‘I must fly’ I mutter ‘I have to get the car and pick up my son in law off the train. Goodbye and take care’.
‘I better go too’ He replies. He heads off down the aisle, coat tails flapping, a slightly untidy air about him.
I rush off cursing that I have so little food in my basket.
I dodge back to get some mushrooms.
He is also back again, reaching for the celery.
‘Ooops we must be cooking the same thing for dinner’ I joke grabbing the mushrooms and the celery and rushing by him to the tills.
‘Caesar salad’ He says ruefully ‘The only thing I can make without burning’ .
‘Mine is Pasta con funghi, panna e sedano’ I reply in my best italian accent.
‘That sounds good’ he lifts his eyebrows hopefully.
We stand looking at each other for a moment.
‘Oh god, my son in law’ I shout suddenly ‘I’ll be late’.
and so that is where we left it.
I suppose you could call it an unspoken romance.