Little Weed

Weeding the herb patch (or herbing the weed patch) yesterday I found this growing between a clump of sarriette and the hyssop we bought from the market a few weeks ago.




After the rain the sky water

blue cloud-foamed and flecked


earth damp yields weeds easy now

liberating occupied territory


and beneath ranks of goose grass

sow thistle tormentil and cinquefoil


treasures sown and forgotten

raise frail green arms in thanks.


Perhaps with a little sun

they’ll thrive.

Sometimes you have to

dog roses and vines

Sometimes you have to cut back,

Hack, uproot

to let in the light,

so what was meant to climb is not trapped,

creeping in the dark,

and what was meant to laugh

in sunlight and raindrops

puts down roots and digs into the silence.

Sometimes you have to chop out

a green shoot, a season’s struggle for light,


and then and then

when you have tended and staked,

pruned and watered

the good comes through

in a fruiting and shooting,

spreads leaf-palms

and tendril-climbs

to the sun.

Still chill

The north wind is still blowing hard here and temperatures have plummeted, down to I°C last night and only reaching 14°C in a blustery sun and cloud. Everything is suffering. Some of the grape vines have wilted in the cold, and the pyramid orchids that shouldn’t really have been out yet.

Last night we brought some of the army of plants waiting to be planted into the porch for shelter and today have been planting out some of the more vulnerable plants: four roses, a honeysuckle, one of the hydrangeas, a passion flower, a mock orange and an apple tree. It’s the tip of the iceberg. I took the photo a couple of weeks ago. The plant family has grown considerably since then and the porch is so full now you can’t walk across it.


Chill strikes deep

tender growth cutting

a scythe

before haymaking time.

Limp the flowers now

that bloomed too soon

and silent the hedge

where new things chirruped and mewled.

A handspin too far too hard

the breath of wind too cold

and spring turns inward

retreats what can

furls what was spread

face to the sun

and waits for better days.


Microfiction: Gardening

In the pot with the dead primula, something was poking through the withered leaves, not a single shoot, more like a brush sprouting.

I rescued the living thing from the pot full of death and flinched away from what lay on the trowel—no healthy root, but a clump of brown pods like pomegranate seeds emerged, dense and shiny, chitin-like, a colony about to hatch. The mass quivered. Was it the breeze? My trembling hand? I hesitated between destroying the thing and curiosity. Curiosity won.

I have put it in a pot in isolation at the end of the path, away from the flowers. I inspect it every day, watch the brush bristles shove higher, purplish brown, awkward-looking, thrusting in different directions. Today, small, flat leaves opened. Like hands waving. In thanks, or in threat?

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.”