Spring seems such a long way off. A huge pall of freezing weather seems to have fallen over everything this week and it is hard to be hopeful, so in the long tradition of human survival in dark times I turn to memory and imagination.
All my Gardens:
The first garden I remember was around a suburban house in Cheshire. The house was newish and the garden was only a few years old and still raw around the edges. My mother planted roses and scented pinks in a raised bed above the lawn. My father constructed a swing on the neat lawn and I could swoop high above the fences and look down for an omniscient moment onto the gardens of our neighbours.
To the left was a garden full of red hot pokers. That was the first flower name that I consciously learnt and I was immediately fascinated by violence inherent in it and the obviously alien nature of the column of compacted flowers designed to be pollinated by humming birds that would never find Cheshire.
To the right was a garden with a dense sweep of shrubs around a circular lawn. This was interesting. Everybody else had square or rectangular lawns; a circular lawn seemed like a clearing in an Arthurian forest and who knew what might happen in this secluded ring.
What actually did happen was marvelous, but did not involve knights in shining amour. My first pet was a small tortoise. We let it out on the lawn to feed and brought it lettuce. It of course escaped and much wailing followed. Eventually it was decided it was dead and I forgot about it in the way that children do. One day, when peering over the larch lap fence, I spotted it traversing the secret lawn slowly , nonchalantly. It was resurrection. It was a miracle and a marvelous mystery that it could have been so close for so long, without my knowing.
The tortoise later came to a sad end due to Blue Peter, but that is another story for another cold day.
When the roses flowered I was fascinated by their huge perfumed petals and I greedily collected every one that fell and sometimes before they fell! My father owned a racey ash tray that had a naked little figure of a woman reclining along the dish. When the roses bloomed I would take her out into the garden and dress her in the petals which would stick to her figure with a little water. A red petal for a skirt, an orange petal for a top and a pink petal for her hat. The variations on contouring her nakedness were intoxicating . Surplus petals were collected to make perfume. Covering them in water produced rose water of which I was inordinately proud and presented to my mother in a bottle with a ribbon round it. Of course the liquid was soon brown and rank, but she told me she would wear it sometimes.
Whenever I smell pinks or carnations their heady spicy perfume transports me back to that first garden. I have tried to grow them in my own gardens, but with little success.
Some things are of their time and place and cannot, it seems, be recreated.