It was something that Roy Lancaster had written in the January issue of The Garden which resonated with me: “over the years I have come to regard [my plants] as an extended family…Like all gardens, there are losses and new arrivals that help provide a continuing sense of anticipation and pleasure”.
What good fortune he has had to have lived in the same house for well over 30 years! Hence he can look out into his garden at plants collected over that period, some given to him by friends, some bought by him and some grown from cuttings or seeds. As he says, “each comes with a story”.
And so it is, as we prepare for a house move this summer, that our garden plants are much in my mind. As frequent movers (due to my husband’s job), many of our plants are deliberately grown in pots for ease of transportation, but to others, as with friends made in our current location, we will have to bid a fond farewell in due course.
The other week we did the annual repotting of the amaryllis bulbs after their overwintering in the dark and cool of the garage. One of them is named Vera (I can show you the label if you don’t believe me), named after the dear elderly lady to whom it previously belonged. Somehow we inherited it after her death more than 15 years ago (and two houses ago). It blooms faithfully.
The hydrangea in the front garden was from a cutting of a plant in my Mum’s garden, and which I don’t think will tolerate moving. However, anticipating this I have two cuttings from it in the kitchen which I am hopeful will thrive and can in time be planted in a new garden.
Currently in the greenhouse there’s a fuchsia given us by someone two moves ago who also, sadly, has now passed on. I was saddened that all of my fuchsias last year developed some kind of infection which distorts the leaves and flowers. It’s a great shame because I love fuchsias.
We also have a peony which dates from three moves ago. Now rather crowded out by Japanese anemones, it may not be worth the effort to attempt a fourth move.
As with family and friends there are inevitably losses over the years. I do like fruiting trees and bushes. We had a small cherry two moves ago which, with herculean effort, we did manage to move and replant and hopefully it is still thriving at our previous house. The cherry bought to replace it here, though, very sadly died. We came to the conclusion that the conditions were not right.
Attending a family funeral two weeks’ ago it was sobering to realise how many of that generation have passed on in the time we have been in our current house. But at the same time it was heartening to see the ‘younger generation’, all grown up now with gainful employment and meaningful relationships, and to learn of one new twiglet due to make an appearance on the family tree later this year.
Pouring over the photo albums in the pub after the funeral proved to be an unexpectedly bonding experience. Spotting ourselves as young children, we shared memories of the games we played at the legendary Christmas family parties.
Losses and new growth, plants to say goodbye to and cuttings to take with us. 2020 is likely to bring new discoveries both of ancestors on the tree and plants in a new garden. One plant, though, which we are determined to take with us, is the wisteria which for over 20 years has been entwined around a framed garden seat. Last weekend we took a pruning saw to it and separated the two. We managed to keep a surprising amount of growth, so now we just hope that the shock of separation will not prove fatal and that it will join the family of plants to be moved by one means or another to pastures new. Both plants and family history provide that “continuing sense of anticipation and pleasure”.