1. a woman in a position of authority or control.
My garden is my mistress. She’s in a position of authority or control. But, that’s because, as a modern man, I allow her to be so. I observe her subtle demands; I look for her silent clues that something isn’t right in her world and I attend to her every whim and desire. I bestow her with gifts to enhance her natural beauty. I spend (arguably far too much) time with her and do whatever is within my power to make her truly beautiful.
And she is a modern woman. I am happy for her to be that. She seduces, she flirts and teases those who come to visit her. She flaunts her blowsy femininity at all and sundry. It’s shameless!
So where am I heading with this analogy? I was asked recently by an aspiring gardener how I know what to do in my garden and when. I responded, as I always do, that she (the garden) tells me what to do. And she does. Years of experience have taught me that gardening ‘things to do’ lists are a great and important reminder of what needs to be done and when, but your garden will ‘tell’ you; it will show you. And, as such, I am continually observing her, looking closely for tell-tale signs and clues that suggest she needs attention, or is indeed unhappy. She can be demanding, wanting so much; but in return for my continued ministrations, she delivers and makes me happy beyond words.
In winter, she slumbers quietly; undemanding, barely stirring. Heavy rains or sometimes snow, hard frosts and biting winds battle around her. Still, she sleeps, requiring very little from me.
With the dawning of spring she awakens. Ready to give of her all, but hungry. In the long winter months, torrents of rain have leached precious nutrients through her soils. Spikes of fresh, lush, green foliage begin to pierce her barren borders; they will need sustenance in order to grow away. ‘Feed me’, she whispers, and feed her I do;
Parchment coloured grasses have now fallen haphazardly, their perished stems collapsed and untidy. Leaf debris blown from afar lies in drifts, whilst a sprinkling of annual weed seedlings are germinating randomly here and there. She looks dishevelled and weary. I groom her bedraggled borders. But, still she demands. Ever expanding clumps of perennials jostle for space, encroaching upon each other. ‘Divide them’, she instructs. ‘Give them space to breathe’.
Tall, leggy roses sway awkwardly in her borders. Myriad buds swelling up their length. She is showing me that her roses can grow from lower down their lanky stems. Each plump bud bursting with energy and new life. Pruning now above an outward facing bud much lower down will produce a more attractive, freer flowering rose. The signs are all there.
In the summer, she glows and takes centre stage. She is a prima-donna. She’s at her best; beautiful, burgeoning and bountiful. Nothing must spoil this vision of romance. Her pageant of perfection must not end; not yet. Not a spoiled flower, not a stray weed, not a yellowing leaf, a single aphid or seed-head can blight her now. I’m primed with secateurs, snippers, hoe, trowel, organic sprays and an armoury of feeds and tonics. She looks magnificent.
October arrives and the warm, wet winds of autumn blow in. The spent, blackened stalks of Dahlias, Echinacea and Rudbeckia bend forlornly in the gales. Geraniums, Hostas and Brunnera fade and flop. Verbena bonariensis has shaken its last seeds onto her borders, the remains of its skeletal structure standing solemnly. I can’t leave her like this. She has standards; or is that me? One of us is not going to be happy until her faded perennials are chopped to the ground and composted and her borders tidied in preparation for the long winter ahead.
And there we have it; a long standing love affair with the mistress I call my garden. She’s an open book. Years of close observation and scrutiny, largely achieved through general and ongoing maintenance, have taught me so, so much. The words of advice and guidance in my library of books and countless websites and blogs I follow have been invaluable, giving me the knowledge I need to attend to her in the best possible way.
I love her.