The new green, leafy installation downstairs at the cottage is doing very well.* I tell myself this is good news. The slimy green outsides of a few of the pots are even getting clean, not because I washed them off but because the slime keeps coming off on my hands. I do wash my hands. Sigh. One of the osteospermums–one of the ones I’ve declared an official house plant for the winter, and found room for on a windowsill**–is producing a new crop of flower buds. I can’t believe it’s going to go through with this madness, but it perhaps demonstrates that plants too have a sense of humour.
Meanwhile, outdoors, there’s a geranium at the front of the cottage that should have been dead weeks ago.
On the detached side of the house there’s a gap just wide enough for a waterbutt on one side and two small dustbins on the other. My tiny greenhouse is wedged in the back half of this gap, and through that is my handkerchief garden. The point is the gap is a short sharp wind tunnel. The wind comes in over the houses at the bottom of the little hill*** and splatters against the cottage which stands halfway up the hill–and then it’s funnelled between my house and my neighbour’s, goes whap against the back of the greenhouse and then falls ravening on the plants lining the gap. Of course there are plants lining the gap; it’s hard to get the dustbins through. Have I posted photos of the front of the house yet? It’s up half a flight of stairs, so too is the gap. Which makes the situation with both plants and dustbins more interesting. Anyway.
The plants on either side of the head of the half-stair to the gap tend to be sacrifices to the gods; I want something flashy there for the summer but I don’t expect much to survive the winter. There are two big pots with roses† in them, and I underplant with snapdragons and busy lizzies and geraniums and things. The snapdragons and busy lizzies, despite being at the back of the gap, were goners a while ago. The geranium, which is at the front, leading into the teeth of the gale, is still alive. At first I wasn’t paying attention. Things die, I pull them out. But as almost all the tender stuff but what I bring indoors has fallen off its perch, I’ve started noticing this geranium. Two of its sisters are in small individual pots, and they are coming indoors. This one is the biggest of the three . . . and it’s in a huge pot with a rose and life is short and I’m not going to repot it in something smaller. And I’ve missed my chance anyway: if I tried to repot it now it really would say, Hey! Unfair! –and croak.
So I said good bye to it last night, feeling rather guilty, because it certainly wouldn’t make it through till morning this time, and it’s been rather a gallant old thing. You see where this is going.
It was alive this morning. When I went out it certainly looked frosted, with its leaves in that limp, collapsed state that pansies recover from and geraniums don’t. But when hellhounds and I got back from our walk and the sun was out†† . . . lo and behold it was standing up again. Still green. Still alive.†††
So tonight, after I got my jungle indoors ‡, I sighed heavily, found a large cardboard box and some more bubble wrap . . . and went out and covered up that geranium. If I think of it I’ll take a photo tomorrow before I deconstruct it. It looks really, really silly, and if my Fancy Gardening Neighbour sees it he’ll probably burst into tears or sue me for defamation of landscape or something.
* * *
* Between the plantlife and my Glorious Electric Heated Laundry Airer–in frequent use during the cold-mud season as opposed to the warm-mud season–at present I have no sitting room. Hellhounds and I could just about make it to the sofa by sidling through the gap between the books waiting to go to Oxfam and the jungle, and then take a short cut over the rocking chair, but I’m afraid of accidents.
** One of the reasons I’m so fixated on the shortness of winter days is because it’s dark indoors all the time because no sunlight can seep through the foliage. The sills are rather spectacularly backlit . . . but you need the lights on.
*** It gets a lot taller, suddenly, as soon as there’s a little light haze of ice on it. Like today.
† Four years on the tough easy rose is struggling and the flimsy damsel with vagaries that I was insane to try to grow is doing brilliantly.
†† Yes, you read that right. The sun was out. It even had a remarkable little exhalation of heat to it, which you do not expect in December. Hellhounds and I went on one of our favourite walks around Jenny’s village, and which includes going past The Really Big Big House which was bought by a mysterious kazillionaire a few months ago and they appear to have torn out or up everything but the mere skim of exterior brickwork and are renovating from the sub-sub-basement up.^ Today about eight workmen were sitting in a circle in lawn chairs having their elevenses in the sunlight . . . with their gloves and their woolly hats on. Pretending it’s July, are you? I said.
^ They’ll never get all the goblin holes plugged. They might as well not bother. They’ll just have to have the goblin catcher in occasionally, like everyone else.
††† And no I’m not hallucinating. It’s tender. I’ve lost a lot of apple-blossom geraniums over the last eighteen winters.
‡ Why don’t there seem to be any fewer pots to bring in and take out even though my windowsills are now FULL of for-the-duration house plants?
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