We have a little garden, A garden of our own, And every day we water there The seeds that we have sown.
We love our little garden, And tend it with such care, You will not find a faded leaf Or blighted blossom there. Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943)
I have long admired the feisty Beatrix Potter. The stories of Peter Rabbit, and all the other woodland creatures that were brought to life by her brush strokes, are a bit like old friends to me. I have read them many times to my children, and I even bought a set in French when my daughter first started learning it. This little rhyme was included in Cecily Parsley Nursery Rhymes, and I have not read it, nor thought of it, for a very long time. Recently, most subconsciously, the words sprang to mind. So appropriate, those rhyming words seem to carry the same melancholy that I have been feeling.
You see, I have moved again ... and I left behind my little garden. Somewhat overgrown, but well loved. In that tiny garden, we planted several trees, shrubs and ground covers. Somehow, we also managed to fit in a small pond with a family of goldfish. I was fortunate enough to become the custodian of 'Bradley's Hand', a large metal sculpture made by a talented IB student, This sculpture found a home there as well. Happily rambling along over the tall back walls, and into the trees, and over the shrubs, and along the ground; were several species of flowering climbers and creepers. There were also a variety of aromatic plants which scented the garden during hot days and sultry nights. Oh, and then there was George III, the resident garden frog. Sadly, when we left, George III had to stay behind in his little paradise.
George III was the son of George II, which of course was a direct descendent of George I. George II loved to play hide and seek in the house whenever he found the door ajar. This he did, clearly just to freak me out. The unfortunate habit led to an early grave when he 'hid' in the bucket of soapy water which the housekeeper had left on the veranda. Fortunately, George III learned from his father's mistake and stayed in the garden, like all resident frogs should! But I am veering off course... back to the garden. We had some wonderful alfresco dinners under the night sky, or 'teas' in the afternoon during the cooler days. Many times we could be found, in the garden, just chatting away and laughing into the small hours of the night. Of course, a few times we squeezed in so many people in, looking back, I wondered how we managed it! Thanksgiving and Christmas, when the winter nights were pleasant, the garden was usually decked out in splendour, awaiting the guests. Sometimes we dangled baubles off the branches, suspended twinkling lights on twigs, and when the occasion arose, fake lilies could be found, floating freely on the pond. Usually, all the mosquitoes in the neighbourhood also attended, despite the smoke signals sent out via the Citronella Candles. But that is all in the past. All the greenery was traded for a bare patch of desert sand. I know that I used to refer to that garden as a 'postage stamp', (and I meant that very affectionately!). This was however before I saw the 'new' garden! This 'patch' is the size of a 1/2 p postage stamp!
Less than a week after we moved in, we tackled the 'eyesore'. The children, the neighbours and the maid were all a bit surprised, since the curtains were not even up.
With our usual aplomb, we 'filled' the new garden. Our motto is : 'stick it in and see what grows'. This is usually why we end up with more plants than should be accommodated in our garden! The space under the single existing tree was under-planted with various shade loving plants, and the rest of the garden managed to hold several shrubs and climbers. We added numerous bags of compost to the sandy soil, and hopefully this will also encourage earthworms to take up residence. The wonderful thing is, that in the desert, plants grow really VERY fast. There are no real winters, and this means accelerated growth. That is as long as you remember to water daily!
We also discovered a gorgeous glazed planter which will eventually be a water feature. This will be in the centre of the '1/2 p postage stamp'. No fish for the moment as the 'fountain' is in full view of the desert sun for most of the day, and currently our day temperatures are scorchers. No goldfish will survive such an ordeal.
I was lucky enough to add 2 more rose bushes to my 'collection'; which means that I now have 3! They all seem to be 'old' species, but as the amusing and helpful man at the Nursery could only speak Arabic,( and I have to admit after living here for sooo long, my Arabic is still limited to a handful of words), I was unable to get more info from him. After spending 2 hours at the nursery, communicating with hand signs and pictures I drew in my notebook, we laughed like old friends by the time our Jeep was stuffed to the roof with plants. While seated in the car, he brought MORE plants; 'Gifts' , he explained, and he gave me his card, which was in Arabic. Unknowingly, I held it upside down while looking at it as if I was 'reading' it; until he laughed and and turned it 'around' for me. I laughed heartedly along at my ignorance! I have been to my fair share of nurseries but I have never had such a delightful experience! ( I have to mention here that it was midday, 40 degrees celsius and the nursery was NOT air-conditioned! Gardening in summer? Never fun and definitely not for the faint hearted!)
I now know that one the two roses is a fuchsia pink. The one I had from before is of a slightly lighter in shade, and the other new one, a deep red. And how do I know this? They have both rewarded me with flowers since I bought them two weeks ago! The blooms are the floppy, old fashioned kind, but where they are lacking in beauty, they reward with their wonderful scent. Besides the blooms, they have leaves which I am happy about! Now you may think that I take pleasure in simple things, which is true! Especially since I like to make (and eat) chocolate date cake, and most important are the chocolate covered rose leaves on top... without it, the cake is just not the same!
For old times sake... My light and airy studio can be seen upstairs. It was truly a room with a view, and I used to feel as if I was painting in a tree house while working there.