Author: Tony Bays

The writing on the wall

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The writing on the wallTony Bays

Only in time can the moment in the rose garden be remembered -a quotation from T S Eliot is the inscription on the sundial at the heart of the rose garden at RHS Rosemoor. Not many Hardy Planters have formal rose gardens these days, but there’s still a place for some well-chosen verse or apt aphorism amidst our beds and borders.

So, when all that hard work has at last come to fruition, the famous words celebrating Sir Christopher Wren in the cathedral he built may come to mind: Si monumentum requiris, circumspice – ‘if you seek a monument, look around you’. But no, we are far too modest for that, and so by and large are our gardens.

Those of us for whom the defining characteristic of a ‘des. res.’ is ‘a good-sized plot’ might, however, say with Wren’s contemporary Abraham Cowley: I never had any other desire so strong… as that I might be master of a small house and a large garden. And baby boomers could relive the 60s with Joni Mitchell’s song:

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.

But you might get the neighbours wondering just what it is that you’re growing in those pots on the windowsill!
A well-loved favourite of course, despite the whiff of Victorian sentimentality, is Dorothy Frances Gurney’s verse:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

However, when you’ve seen this for the third time in as many weeks, you may wish for something less popular. For example, the lines by Louise Seymour Jones:

Who loves a garden
Finds within his soul
Life’s whole;
He hears the anthem of the soil
While ingrates toil;
And sees beyond his little sphere
The waving fronds of heaven, clear.

Then there is Kipling, if you don’t mind that characteristic rumpty-tumpty rhythm:

Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden, that it may not pass away!

Or how about Mirabel Osler’s bon mot:

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.

But we know in reality that a good deal of cussing goes on as well – and our gardens are not always ‘the triumph of hope over experience’ that we might wish. Fortunately, we can always fall back on good old Ogden Nash:

My garden will never make me famous.
I’m a horticultural ignoramus.

Personally, I think I shall let the garden speak for itself!

First published in the Shropshire Group Newsletter, January 2006
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 23
© Copyright for this article: Tony Bays

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2009. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.

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