Once upon a time, on a market stall in a little French town, there stood a tray of six small, pink-flowered pelargonium plants. They were surrounded and overshadowed by other bigger, flashier (and more expensive) plants, but nevertheless, one sunny morning they were seen and bought by a summer visitor, who wanted to add a splash of colour and beauty to the front of her little house.
Planted out in two big blue ceramic pots, the pink pelargoniums blossomed happily all summer and when the time came for the summer visitor to depart, instead of being abandoned to be killed by the first frost, the were transplanted into smaller pots and taken across the sea to spend the winter in an old Welsh farmhouse.
That was three years ago, and each summer since then, the travelling pelargoniums, no longer small but still beautifully pink, have been carefully brought back to France and planted out in the same big blue pots, to blossom and brighten up the doorway of the little French house. J
|Standing guard by the door|
One of the problems of trying to garden in a place where I don’t live all the time is keeping plants alive. In our absence our big patch of former orchard is grazed intermittently by a few of our neighbour’s cattle, which at least keeps the grass within bounds much of the time.
Unfortunately cattle are just as partial to some nice flowering plants as they are to a swathe of juicy grass, if not more so. This means that before we leave each autumn, DH and I have to construct a temporary barrier of branches to protect the little flower border so lovingly created by my mother-in-law two years ago.
|Gardening keeps you young|
The branches do a sterling job of keeping the cattle away, but sadly they don’t do the same for the weeds, and by the time we return each June, the flower border has all but vanished under a carpet of invaders. Nothing daunted, once we've evicted the spiders and unpacked, and I've planted out the pelargoniums, I make it my next task to banish the weeds and rescue the border, before turning my attention to taming the hayfield lawn.
|The weeds make a bid for dominance|
|The battle is worth it|
Some people might find it odd that I work so hard all summer to weed and mow and make the garden as lovely as I can, only to turn my back on it for the next nine months, and have to start all over again next year. I don’t see it that way at all.
One of my most pleasurable occupations during our summers in France is working outside in the garden. I actually love the mowing and get more healthy exercise this way than at any other time of the year. I enjoy finding out which plants will survive neglect to blossom faithfully each summer in my little flower border, and I take pride in the fact that my travelling pelargoniums continue to flourish year after year, flowering happily both in the French sunshine and in my Welsh kitchen. They may make unusual travelling companions, but it works for us.
|A splash of colour and beauty|