Our Victorian forebears were rather taken with the language of flowers and could semaphore their feelings through a careful choice of blooms in a posy. Hence the pansy, or pensée in French, signalled, ‘you are in my thoughts.’
Mrs T and I visited Chartham village with Abel. After he had played on the roundabouts at the village green, we wandered into the churchyard for lunch under the trees.
Our Victorian forebears, if they could afford it, erected finely carved stones over their loved-one’s graves. Without much effort at all we found these three carved with passionflowers which represent the saving death of Jesus. There are ten petals for the ten apostles who did not deny him – leaving out Peter and Judas. There are five stamens representing the five wounds; three stigma for the nails, and the fringe of filaments around the flower stands for the crown of thorns.
All this suffering somehow mirrored in a beautiful flower. And by carving this flower over their dear ones’ graves, the three families were proclaiming belief that the dead would rise again with Christ. A good thought and prayer for November and All Souls.
In Saint Mildred’s churchyard in Canterbury, across from the L’Arche garden, there is a solitary standard rose; it was looking quite shabby with suckers at the base and lots of blackspot on the leaves. Beside it is a plaque telling that it was planted in memory of Elizabeth Hover, who was married in this church in 1948 and died in Australia.
One day this spring I could bear it no longer and pruned the flowering stems hard, removed the suckers and sprayed for blackspot.
There have been three flushes of flowers since then. I was pleased about that. But one Friday I heard more. Elizabeth’s husband Albert had paid for the rose from Australia. When he came back to visit Canterbury after her death, he met one of the ladies who now run the coffee mornings where L’Arche are regular customers, including Abel when he’s around.
She knew the returning native straight away. ‘I said, “You’re Albert Hover that went to Australia.”‘ His wife had the most beautiful golden hair, she reminded him, not auburn but pure gold. ‘Well, after that he kept in touch though now he’s 91. He was only on the phone yesterday, asking, “How’s Elizabeth’s rose?” Now I can tell him. Thank you for taking it on. ‘
So there we are. You don’t know what ripples may come from a random act of something like kindness; and often enough you may never know. But it was worth pruning the rose for its own sake. Laudato si!
A version of this post appears on Agnellusmirror.wordpress.com
Kent is famous for hops, and next weekend is the hop festival in nearby Faversham. We have a bine growing over the willow arch at the Glebe garden of L’Arche Kent in Canterbury. L’Arche is a community of people with and without learning disabilities. I enjoy the hops in their natural glory as well. With some care and attention they should be producing really useful amounts in years to come.
Where the council took out an ailing cherry tree in the next street, they left a void. One neighbour offered a hazel, and another cuttings of hydrangea. With a little tlc they are thriving, but the annual flowers have not enjoyed the dry summer so much. Other neighbours have offered their outdoor tap for watering, saving yours truly a few yards carrying watering cans. Someone else has promised daffodils which can go in next month.
Today I was tackling some of the weeds which have sprung up between the annuals from seeds that have lain dormant for years; fat hen, various docks, sow thistle, dandelions and their friends and relations. Mrs H stopped by: ‘I might have known it was you. Thank you for doing this.’ And just when I could get no more in the bucket, a professional gardener offers to empty it into his van and ‘save you carrying it around.’
All very encouraging! I’d best keep up the good work.
A walk up the Hill to the University and back by another way showed many a brown lawn. We can feel a little smug because our bath water goes out of the back door and onto the ground. Our grass is still mostly green but some plants have been afflicted with powdery mildew due to the drought.
Mrs T often comments that we are allowed to use the birds’ territory for our garden. Two examples of this today.
It was time to prune the apricot tree, but some of that must be postponed. As I cut through a shoot some 3 metres above the ground I saw that the fork leading to it was occupied by a brooding collared dove. I’d seen the nest before, but it was built while we were away for a few days, and I thought it had been abandoned as a silly place to build. It was a silly place to build, but it was not abandoned, so it will have to be respected. Unless she abandons it again.
The second example was the cock blackbird, leading one of his daughters around the garden, demonstrating the art of pecking food from the floor, or even aphids from the prunings of the apricot tree, while we sat at our evening meal. At least it is peaceful co-existence; neither doves nor blackbirds are aggressive thieves, unlike the Canada geese in the Royal Parks!
The bench would be sittable-on, were it not for the weeds, and the willow is doing its job as part of an informal hedge. A change of crop in the field beyond, and fewer rainstorms, may both have contributed to its not being further undermined, but those vertical shoots are still vertical and almost thick enough to become fence posts if needed.
A good spot to curl up with a book, especially if you bring a scythe along with you!