My mother has been a constant influence in my life, even in death. She gifted me many things I didn’t appreciate at the time – how to eat peas in polite company; why you shouldn’t wear brown shoes with a grey suit in the City; the best method of hanging wall paper with a particularly large pattern repeat; and how to enjoy the ineffable loveliness of a garden.
Dad was all for using me as forced labour, to grind me into a Soviet-style apparatchik who’d dig the party line and plant potatoes to feed the proletariat that lived at our house. Mum wasn’t into forced anything but all about joy and love. She wanted me to understand how the Chinese proverb about doing something you will love a lifetime was correct: you create a garden.
Gardens are a labour, sometimes of love and sometimes they just are. Like my Latin homework seemed to be, they are never finished, always a work in progress. Mum worked on the horticultural equivalent of a good cheese board: you take a plate of cheeses and crackers; you find you’ve finished one of the cheese/crackers but not the other so you take a little more crackers/cheese; repeat. She’d buy materials and seeds and have too much for whatever project it was; she’d buy something else to make sure she used the first surplus and now had too much of that; repeat.
When we’ve moved, Mum’s first interest was the garden, the potential and she’d supply us with a constant stream of small gifts to help give effect whatever plans we had.
I can stand looking at our garden and think about Mum, imagining her bent back, the murbling from the transistor radio that was her constant companion and the trug of tools and whathaveyous that went with her everywhere. But if I really want a reminder then spring is the perfect time.
She adored hostas and some of these are direct descendants of hers that burst forth after a dormant winter.
Fritillarias, with which she started us off with seeds, shortly after we moved in.