Photo by Candia Dixon-Stuart
Gyles and Carrie had agreed to open the garden of Nutwood Cottage to the
general public, in conjunction with three other neighbouring plots, in aid of
locally popular charity, Anacondas in Adversity.
Although their cottage garden was only just over half an acre, Carrie’s
anxiety levels had been high. It was all so competitive.
Tiger-Lily, their teenage daughter, had taken some time out from
studying to help with the baking required for the refreshment stall.
She had been crystallising violets while her mother attempted to
produce Jane Asher’s Festival Cake recipe, which was de rigeur for any
self-respecting National Garden Scheme follower.
Owing to the appalling Spring, Carrie had lamented that there was not a
lot of colour to celebrate. However, in the previous few days, some roses
had blossomed, including all the ones she had chosen for their pretentious
names, such as Bluestocking and Aphra Behn. She was alarmed to notice
that Sappho had whitefly infestation and Theresa May had black spot.
There seemed to be some undermining of their party wall, which Carrie,
initially thought was down to the roots of a fig tree which she now
regretted ever having planted, but, on closer inspection, she saw that
some burrowing creature had been tunnelling with the dedication of a
Yet the fig tree had been spared in the Biblical manner and the neighbours’
attention had been diverted from sapper activity by the questionable gift of
a jar of fig chutney. (Not the best atonement for a family who were latex
The afternoon of the opening had arrived and assistance had been
requisitioned from as many of Carrie’s friends as she could muster. That
meant Brassica, Chlamydia and myself. We were on teas and Clammie
was appointed treasurer and guardian of plants. No cuttings were to be
taken by the light-fingered, no matter how green-fingered their
credentials and not even if they said their name was Gertrude Jekyll .
Carrie’s children were still at school and Gyles was at work. He
had, however, helped by potting on a few ubiquitous seedlings for
Magda, the carer, had offered to wheel Carrie’s mother-in-law, Ginevra,
round for an hour or so. Carrie thought that this was a bad idea, as Ginevra
had never shown any interest in horticulture whatsoever and had a deep
antipathy towards Carol Klein and all of her ilk. Still, Carrie wasn’t going to
make a mountain out of a molehill over it and so she acquiesced, though
somewhat grudgingly. She knew Ginevra would avoid paying the ticket price
for entry and Magda would eat all the cupcakes.
She surveyed the greensward in front of her. Gyles had definitely won the turf
war thanks to his sister, Victoria, who lived in the Charente, who, hearing of
his trials in attempting to create a perfect pelouse, had sent him a box from
Gamm Vert, the Gallic garden centre, which contained a detaupeur and a set
You can’t use this in the UK, Gyles had told his sister on Skype.
Well, all my French neighbours insist that it is the only solution, she had
informed him. They say, Pouf! Ca marche and C’est normal! Ze mole, he is
Carrie worried about the hypocrisy of supporting anacondas while blowing
Monsieur Pantalon Velours as high as the Eiffel Tower, in the cause of
cultivated jardinage. Hadn’t she read Kenneth Grahame to all her brood?
However, with one hit she had eliminated all earth excavation and she felt
as powerful as Cate Blanchett in Charlotte Gray. Next she would be toting a
smoking pistol in her stocking top and wearing a Kangol beret. Gyles wouldn’t
put up any resistance.