Turning my back on a crab

Lets be clear right from the outset – I’m not trying to generate sympathy when I start to mourn what I’m missing in my own garden while I’m away for the next month checking out gardens in Italy and the US.

But you’ve got to understand.  A gardeners day – week – year! – is made up of these simple pleasures; so much so that you’ve really got to wonder if they’re really simple at all, as far as pleasures go.

Think of my old copper full of ‘Rococo’ tulips, for instance..

You sweat over which tulips you’re actually going to commit to, given the dramatic discrepancy between all you’d like and the few you can afford.  This is back in about Feb.  You plant them in April, in a process so outrageously charged with anticipation that you wonder that you don’t cause some sort of spontaneous lightning strike.  Then you watch and watch, until the spears pierce the soil August-ish, and leaves of verdigris unfold, as if made of the same copper as the pot. You’re almost holding your breath as buds then start to appear – crazy, buckled buds with a waxy grey bloom.

And then…

Then you fly to Italy.  By the time you’re back, it’s all over.

Missing the flowering of the trees doesn’t feel quite so traumatic, as they’ve put this same show on last year, and will do so again next (when, come to think of it, I’ll be away again, but you see the point). The cherry near the letterbox is an exemplary specimen of Mt. Fuji, which is far, far better than I deserve, given that I’ve routinely neglected it for about nine (mostly drought-stricken) years.  All that aside, it’s right at bud-burst.  It couldn’t be more pregnant.  And just as it’s straining its hardest – just when a year’s work is about to come to fruition – I fly to Italy.  

The same goes for the crabapples.  They’re spangled with their fuzzy leaf and flower buds, just days away from opening and releasing that delicate essence-of-spring scent.  Having planted seventeen new crabs in the last few weeks I feel a renewed sense of commitment to the relationship.  Then I go and turn my back on them in their moment of glory.

Finally, I’m going to miss my little pea seedlings running up their twiggy sticks.  OK, I made that one up.  I couldn’t care less about missing that.

But I pruned back the lemon verbena today, and immediately put the prunings to use by sticking them in the ground for the peas to run up.  It was such a ridiculously feel-good moment – it all felt so rich, wholesome and sustainable – that I had to shove in a photo.


  1. Looking forward to your reports on Italian gardens. So jealous!

  2. I know what you mean about the tulips Michael- I had a lovely pot full to bursting waitng for the inevitable pink and white to emerge when an errant ride-on mower went astray- pot smashed to bits- tulips all fallen apart, but miraculously a new pot ,safer new location and there they all are standing straight and tall like soldiers. in full fig. And the crabs; all twelve of them had the hard prune this year in winter to try and beat the bower birds at their game- so far we have succeeded and now they are all in leaf and just about to do their stuff- the joys of spring!

  3. Michael, I have to say that I am in-love with my 150 now mostly blooming tulips – and like you, I have been watching and waiting for this very moment to arrive! Will take some photos to show you when you get home. Nik

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