Saturday, February 28, 2009

You win some...

Ah, thanks, blogfriends, for your generous sentiments. But alas, the next day that I had this class, Claire was in a bad mood. When I gave her some work to do, she said… well, I won’t tell you exactly what she said. But it meant that I should go away (though it wasn’t as polite as that) and insert my worksheet up my… (I’ll leave it to your imagination). Ah, the joys of teaching.

She did apologise later in a sort of head-down “SOrrEE (humph)” way. Of course, I could report her and have her excluded. But then where would she be? Back out of education.

I’ve been in the garden and gardening is always reliably soothing. Mind you, it’s a source of annual astonishment that although each October I sweep up every dead leaf which has fallen from my two trees in the back garden and put them in plastic bags to rot down for leaf mould, by the end of November all the flower beds are once more covered with a thick layer of dead leaves. Where do they come from? We don’t live in the middle of the Amazon rain forest, or the thickly-wooded acres that I remember from American journeyings in my youth. There aren’t that many trees within blowing distance of my little patch. And yet they must come from somewhere.

Between November and February we’re hardly home in the daylight so I more or less ignore the garden. It looks horrible – the herbaceous plants that I didn’t cut down in my October holiday because they were still blooming feebly are now skeletons of dead twigs poking out from this nasty carpet of soggy dead leaves. Snowdrops, crocuses and the shoots of other bulbs are beginning to force their way through the mush but everything looks deeply depressing. And I know that the only way to remedy this is to get out there with the rake and secateurs to cut down the dead bits and rake up the leaves. So that’s what I’ve been doing.

Our garden is small and yet I’ve made it fairly labour-intensive by having quite a few flower beds. The biggest is a herbaceous border about 36 feet by five feet. (Mr Life is a tall chap, over 6 feet, and I tend to measure things by imagining him lying down (something he does quite a lot). So I think the bed is about 6 Mr Lifes long and a bit less than 1 Mr Life deep.) A lot of leaves can lie on a bed this size, all tangled up with dead stalks of Michaelmas daisies and marguerites and Japanese anemones and so on. Dealing with these is not good for a woman with a bad back.

However, it’s now mainly done and the garden's MUCH better. While it currently looks rather empty, I know that lurking beneath the surface of the earth are wonderful summer flowers, already beginning to send their shoots up towards the increasing light. The early spring bulbs are blooming and there are some green shoots on the little crab apple tree by the gate. These photos were all taken today.

Gardening is an optimistic pastime. You’re always thinking ahead to the pleasures of the next part of the growing cycle. And although I didn’t exactly enjoy my raking and cutting, it did give me a feeling of achievement.

The cats are particularly interested in gardening, though their assistance is more theoretical than practical. They enjoy jumping over piles of leaves, for example, and chasing bits of vegetation around the garden. Cassie cranes her neck to look at seagulls flying overhead (not a chance, Cassie – they’d be more likely to eat you).She’s good at climbing up the middle of hedges and is extremely alarmed by the flapping polythene bags that I’m cramming with leaves.

After that, they're tired. No, Cassie – that is NOT your quilt.


  1. And now I feel sufficiently shamed by your efforts that I will go out tomorrow and attack the wasteland that is our back garden. Honestly. That buddleia's days are numbered....

  2. I love the idea of gardening cats. It would be a very wild little space.

  3. I love to read about your garden. There is such satisfaction in growing plants and watching their progress.Your bulbs look so gorgeous.
    I used to have lots of daffodils and some crocuses, but here the climate is against them and there is no room. The other day I had to do some pruning of a Chinese star jasmine which had escaped to next door's roof, by means of an osmanthus, and had to stand on a chair, put my head through the clothesline, yank with the end of a broom, and then hack with the secateurs. It was quite a feat.
    Alas, though, my daphne is dying.

  4. I was out there today too, and the daffodils are still comning up and I saw some snowdrops too but no sign of the crocus plants yet. It must be all that snow!

    And I had whole classes of your young lady to contend with too, so I know the feeling well! Ah the joys....

  5. I always enjoy your gardening posts. Especially in winter. We won't have spring chutes until the end of March or April. We can't even plant our non-bulb plants until May! (Well, we could but they'd be killed by frost and need to be replanted! :))I do have many leaves to rake! :))And the dogs do not enjoy watching me garden. :) I'm sorry about the unpleasantness of your student. I much prefer the younger versions who are more apt to be molded. ;)

  6. Lovely pics again - you bring your garden to life for us. And Claire is fortunate that you have such a good outlook! Zxx

  7. I hope the catlets stay out of your daffodils, ours used to love to pounce on each other in amongst the drifts, broke a lot of stems.

  8. And here in Oz, after a hot hot summer, I'm so glad today is the first day of autumn...

  9. Are those flowers blooming NOW? Or are they photos from another time?
    They are positively beautiful.

    We have had a couple of rain shoowers and my mingy little plantings of autumn crocus are out. So pretty.
    Ordinarliy I would have a showing of native flowers but the wretched possums have stripped the trees. Truly ugly, and they were so pretty.

    (Must get some possum deterrent. haven't had this problem before.)

    Oh and the man that came to trim the trees VERY kindly sprayed the section of garden where I had some bulbs. He thought they were weeds.

  10. Loved the look of all this 'springy-ness'! I sometimes wish we only had two trees!

  11. After the drear and dead of winter Spring is such a hopeful time of year! All that promise of life revived....

  12. Gosh Isabelle, I can't believe those flowers are all blooming now! Your garden looks just beautiful -- all sparkly and clean. Sadly, it's still below freezing here -- much too cold to get out and clean up my leaves -- of which there are many. Do you suppose the wind picks up my leaves, carries them way up high and then drops them in your yard?

  13. Now I too feel I should go out and do something in the garden (other than drink my tea and dream that is) My excuse is that snowdrops have appeared in my veg patch and I couldn't possibly move them just yet ;)

  14. Those flowers are beautiful. I wonder if there are any flowers out here that I haven't noticed yet.

    Maybe there is some parallel between gardens after winter and difficult students.

  15. Daffodils and crocuses...sigh. The only thing I'm growing is muddy snow and ice.

  16. Some days in the classroom are rough. Teachers don't have it easy. You are a special breed.
    But yes, we gardeners are an optimistic bunch :)
    Ah, thanks, Isobelle, for the little glimpse of spring. Those little daff faces look so cheery peeking out at us.
    Our sky is clear and very cold tonight. Hubby just pointed out the fat crescent moon which has a shimmering purple glow around it. And stars are twinkling. I went out and took a photo. It's freezing!! (I must be insane!).
    My bulbs are peeking through but it'll be quite a while until we see daffs. Although I did see a few buds on the tiny snowdrops. Soon perhaps!
    Happy March :)

  17. Anonymous5:40 am

    I have never really got into gardening. I'm not sure why. I do like to have a garden but I tend to fill it with shrubs that just need pruning every now and then and a lawn that needs mowing. But I love to admire the gardens of others.

    I think perhaps that to find something soothing and therapeutic it has to involve mindless marching for me - walking or running or driving. Perhaps if I marched around doing gardening it might work. I'd get dizzy though as I too have a small garden!

  18. I love seeing those spring flowers. Oh and the cats of course.