Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A typically tropical moment

I've been feeling a bit dispirited about the garden recently. I know I've been joking about dithering and dawdling, but it really has been an effort to get out and get anything done, or think up new ideas, or muster any enthusiasm.
The spirit of the garden seemed to suffering too. It used to be quite in-your-face, a larger-than-life space full of larger-than-life plants. Now it seems a bit lacklustre, a bit - dare I say - boring.
I remember when I first moved in, someone came round to pick up their child and when they saw the garden, they exclaimed: "Goodness! It's like the Riviera." Wow, I said, that's a nice compliment. "Actually," said the mother rather waspishly, as she looked disapprovingly at the variegated cordylines and scarlet cannas, "I meant the Devon Riviera."
Actually, I'll settle for any riviera you care to mention - French, Cornish, Bulgarian, Mexican, German or Italian. (Well, maybe not Mexican.) I love that combination of blue skies and brilliant flowers, that on-holiday feeling that comes from being surrounded by Gauguin-bright colours and sub-tropical plants.
My garden used to give me that feeling. Sitting outside felt like being on holiday, especially on a sunny day. I decided that what I had to do was to try to recreate that atmosphere, even if it meant offending the gardening style police, who hate variegated foliage, and bright colours, and anything that looks remotely like municipal park bedding or French roundabouts, and doesn't look like Sissinghurst.
Usually I spend far too much time worrying about what other people think. However, on a visit to our local B&Q DIY store yesterday, to buy some screws to reattach the hinges on a kitchen cupboard, I came across a selection of the brightest, most garish geraniums (ie pelargoniums) you could hope to find outside of a floral clock. I didn't spare a thought for what more sophisticated souls might say. I found myself beaming with delight, and my hand stretched out, almost without me being aware of it, to take one down from the display.
Reader, I bought them. I bought the multi-coloured foliage ones ('Contrast') and the bronze foliage ones ('Vancouver Centennial') and the bright yellow foliage ones ('Occold Shield') and even the dark brown foliage ones (I think they were called 'Chocolate Twist'). Being B&Q plants, they weren't particularly expensive, though they are really well-grown - bushy, with lots of strong, sturdy stems and flower buds. Buds that will produce bright red flowers. How did I ever have the nerve?
And you know what? I went home and put them down on the terrace, still in the black plastic trays I'd filched from B&Q to keep them upright in the car, and felt happier about the garden than I had done for ages.
So what am I saying, that garish is good? Well, possibly, but more importantly I think the message is that we should have the confidence go with what we   like. Whether your taste is for box parterres, or garden gnomes, or massed busy lizzies that spell out Manchester United, indulge yourself. After all, it's you that's got to look at it most of the time.
There's a picture below. You might want to put on a pair of dark glasses.