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  • Writer's pictureAnne Jennings

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Updated: Jun 19, 2020

So, the small things came into their own: small acts of helping others, if one could; small ways of making one's own life better: acts of love, acts of tea, acts of laughter. Clever people might laugh at such simplicity, but, she asked herself, what was their own solution?’ Alexander McCall Smith - The Good Husband of Zebra Drive

This Easter weekend is not the one we might have expected to enjoy only a few weeks ago, when plans had already been made for holidays, family gatherings and Easter egg hunts. Well, we are where we are and must make the best of it – spirits up and all that.

It’s hard to know what to do to help others who have more challenging lockdown lives than our own without threatening one’s own health – and high praise, hand clapping and tear-filled eyes to those who through paid or voluntary work have done exactly that.

Unable to be so bold or generous, I have enjoyed the reaction of the occasional stranger who stops a moment to look and smile at our front garden and its attention-seeking spring display. I use this small space to create seasonal colour and installations, certainly for my own benefit but also for the (equally selfish) sense of goodness gifted by a smile on the face of an unknown passer-by.

Last autumn, with wrist still in plaster, help was drafted in so work could start. Our previously luxuriant box hedges that defined the elegant parterre beds to each side of the path had already been dug out (that darned box caterpillar again), and it was time to replant.

The only box plants that we now own are two topiarised specimens forming the house number, one each side of the path. These have been crafted over 15 years or more and are worth the spray treatment necessary to keep them healthy. As I write they are covered in that giggle-inducing, slightly ridiculous bright green froth of new season’s growth – how I miss seeing that throughout the gardens. They will be trimmed in the next couple of weeks but are too much fun to manicure at the moment.

Also remaining from the original scheme are Iceberg shrub roses selected for grow almost anywhere toughness, Agapanthus Midnight Blue and my Desert Island Disc plant – Erigeron karvinskianus.

With the empty soil dug over and manured, planting started with bare root yew hedges, the cheapest to buy, but a bit of a pain to plant with long, thin trailing roots to manipulate into the planting hole.

That done it was time for bulbs – no small task as it comprised:

60 Allium Purple Rain

100 Allium sphaerocephalon

100 Narcissi Toto

100 Tulipa Purple Dancer

100 Tulipa Spring Green

But a magnificent tool had been recommended to me – a mini-auger that fits onto a drill – life changing! With an able bodied helper drilling the holes, I followed on with one good hand, dropping bulbs into the neat little orifices. Talk about right tool for the job!

And still we were not done. 200 deep red wallflowers – Erysimum cheiri ‘Blood Red’ filled the spaces around the existing plants. Looking no more than lumps of leaves on top of stumpy roots, these are perhaps the most generous seasonal plants to grow, rewarding effort with the brightest and most floriferous display of all spring plants.

And now, come April we are revelling in the result – a cacophony of colour (forget the design purist monochrome, white garden aesthetic), demanding attention, scenting the air and bringing a smile to otherwise sad faces. Worth the effort which is repaid a thousand-fold.

And as a final ‘keep up your spirits’ gift to those walking by, this weekend we will dress the lovely Edwardian doorway with branches from the hawthorn tree and decorative eggs that come out each year, usually for the Easter lunch display indoors. This year we share instead with strangers and are delighted to do so as the smallest of giving gestures at a tough time for all.

Happy Easter everyone

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