Microfiction: Gardening

Today’s word from the Daily Post is ‘diverse’. Diverse is a term that’s getting a lot of air time lately. I’ll leave the more weighty definitions to other people and play with the more frivolous.



Irene was a gardener. Not like Fred Sutcliff next door who thought a garden was a square of green grass with a border of tea roses round it, and not like Enid Butler who thought a garden was what you had to get rid of if you wanted to keep cars. Irene had green fingers. She dug and mulched and composted. She took cuttings, split and grafted. She made raised beds, rockeries, herb squares and sunken water gardens. Every square inch was planted with something. She knew exactly where each plant would do best, and when it proved to be a stubborn bugger that didn’t conform to type, she moved it until it was satisfied.

Irene’s George had been more like Fred Sutcliff, but he had learned to leave her to the gardening and had stuck to his wood carving instead. Now George had passed on, but the garden was going from strength to strength. It became Irene’s private world.

Irene had a grand daughter, Julie. She had several grand daughters but Julie was the one who liked to have her own bit of garden to dig in. Irene encouraged her, giving her bits of geranium to plant, the odd packet of seeds. She explained which colours went best together, how to plant borders with the tall flowers at the back. Julie listened, and she dug, fed worms to the robin, caught slugs and tipped them over the hedge into Fred Sutcliff’s garden when he was out, and she watched the flowers grow.

Julie’s mother thought it was a funny sort of occupation for a little girl, but she was indulgent, and for Julie’s sixth birthday she gave her a miniature set of gardener’s tools, plant pots and a great armful of packets of seeds. The flowers in the pictures were dazzling, every possible colour imaginable. Julie was entranced.

“You’re lucky, being an April baby.” Irene beamed at her. “We’ll be able to plant out your seeds straight away. We’ll see what your mum’s chosen, and I’ll have a think about where they look best.”

Irene helped Julie clear her corner of the garden, pointed out which seeds should be planted where, which ones weren’t really suitable, and left her to it. It was June before she realised that Julie had gone beyond her remit. Julie’s flowers weren’t obvious at first, growing randomly among the carefully chosen borders and arrangements. But as they gained in size and confidence, and especially as they came into flower, Irene realised the enormity of what her grand daughter had done. Pale pink sweet peas clambered among the bright orange of monbretia, red poppies danced through purple phlox, bold flames of nasturtiums swallowed the delicate blue geraniums. Everywhere colours clashed. The discordant tones of creepers crawled among the delicate spires of lilies, through the rose trees, rambled down the rockeries.

“Look,” Julie said, pointing to the nasturtiums that climbed to her head height along the thorny stems of a pink rose. “Aren’t they pretty?”

“It’s a mess!” Irene said. “They’re all in the wrong places. You can’t mix colours together like that. And you can’t let them climb where they want either.”

“Why not?”

“Because…it doesn’t look right, all those different heights and colours growing next to one another.”

“They do in the field.”

“Exactly! A field is wild. This is a garden.”

Julie gave her grandmother a disappointed look. “I like wild best.”

A bee buzzed past. On its way to the rose, it sampled a sweet pea.

“See,” Julie said. “So do the bees.”

Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

18 thoughts on “Microfiction: Gardening”

  1. Alright, you had me from ‘Fred Sutcliffe’ but I didn’t see the ending coming. It’s either really scary or just weird, I can’t decide?

    1. I suppose that makes me weird, but I had this idea that there is something that gardeners tend to lose sight of, even the ‘good’ ones, and that’s the power of nature. Sometimes it’s best just to leave it alone and let the bees decide what’s best. Says she who can’t control her patch the size of a large dining table 🙂

      1. Yes, but why next door to Fred Sutcliff? That’s why I was trying to figure out, then it dawned on me, I was putting the names of two serial killers together, Fred (West) and (Peter) Sutcliffe together and getting Fred Sutcliff. So, essentially, your story made me, make up another. That’s an amazing to do, as a writer, to write something that is so evocative, the reader becomes part of the story. Wow. Nice one

      2. Now you’ve got me wondering who the weird one is. I remember Peter Sutcliff. He was scaring us all to death when I was at school, but I don’t know Fred West. I hope you’ll write down this story of yours, you’ve got me intrigued.

  2. Y’see, I was expecting the worst, suspense, and more, feeling fear, too. That nothing happened, made that scenario even more startling, a child talking about the wild ways of nature. So, I got, completely wrong but, you must admit, a tale of English country garden innocence, right next door to a serial killer, does have a ring to it?

      1. Ha, you put the thought in my head. You write it, it is, really, all about the garden

      2. Sorry to have caused such disturbance, but it was fun. I mean , suppose you did live beside, say, Fred West? What would you make of his garden activities?

      3. I wouldn’t have thought he had much time for gardening. Must have been sporadic frantic digging and pickaxing that went on at dead of night. You’d wonder at whoever was selling him all that tape. Didn’t they ever ask him what he was doing with it?

      4. I couldn’t write it. Especially not if they had a little girl who talked to the bees and watched the flowers grow. Let’s pretend Fred West never existed. If even the bricks his house was built with have been crushed…

      5. or Fred Sutcliff? He started it. Let’s forget about him. I liked your story and I liked the daughter’s answer. Leave it to nature and it will find its way. That was fun.

      6. It should have been Fred Robinson, the maniac for drastically pruned rose bushes who lived next door to my grandma. I wish I’d never changed his name now. Let’s leave the garden to nature. No patios either.

    1. I hope she’ll forgive her. My dream since I was little has been to have a wild garden. We’re close to getting the site for one, just not sure I have the energy to do the basic tree planting.

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