I am by nature an optimist. A very glass half full type of person. When things are going wrong around me I will find the positive in the situation. I am sure that I am one of those people who can be a little annoying in my cheeriness.
I blame my mum. She was a very can-do type of person. Nothing was too difficult. There was wonder in her life. She organised trips, stays at hotels, concerts and gardens. She always had a plan afoot, something she encouraged you to join in with. She loved doing things and sharing doing them particularly with her children. I can look up at the sky or a tree, see a swift soaring overhead or hear a beautiful piece of music and my heart skips a beat. I have inherited her genes.
In the garden I will marvel at bulbs poking up when it is still cold, delight in the fresh green of spring foliage, be suitably impressed when flowers turn to beans, or florets turn to flowers.
But it turns out that I have also inherited a little bit of my mum’s pessimism. You see I think all those things she did and organised were to ward off the blues. It got her worst in the autumn as the nights drew in and it got colder. She wasn’t a huge fan of Christmas although with five children she had to fake it for quite a long time. In the end, when we were older she delegated it to other people. Professionals. We would go to hotels and be waited on. It became a tradition for a while. Where would we go? Who catered best for all our varied needs? Organising five children, partners and grandchildren became the thing that drowned out the winter funk.
My pessimism comes in an altogether more prosaic form. I don’t trust my plants.
When autumn comes (it has taken a long time this year) the first frosts wreak havoc with the garden. Perennials die back and disappear below the ground. Leaves tumble from the trees leaving bare stems pointing toward the sky. The last remaining annuals give up the ghost having worked hard at producing flowers all summer and the garden reverts back to it’s bare bones. They do what they should do but it is the moment I have a rare moment of panic.
What if these plants, lovingly tended and some brand new this year, don’t re-appear next. How can they just totally disappear, leaving no trace and not have gone for ever. My lovely man hears my woes most years and tells me I always say this and they always come back. And of course he is right. They always come back! Nature is the most extraordinary thing. It knows what to do without us humans intervening.
The yearly cycle starts afresh. The spring bulbs cheering us up with their delightful shapes and colours, braving the very worst of the early spring weather. These are followed by all the gorgeous spring perennials, Lamprocapnos spectabile (Dicentra spectabile to you and me), bluebells, Epimedium rubrum and E. wallichianum, Thalictrum delavayi and T. rochbrunianum with their lush foliage and delicate, ephemeral flowers. Ferns unfurling their glamorous fronds. Leaves on the trees glowing in their fresh livery. So many delights the list goes on forever.
The summer creeps up on me and suddenly the garden is awash again with colour and form. Fences are hidden and the shed recedes into the background. The year is in full flood and all is well with the world until around the middle of September I feel a little tickle of apprehension. A month til the clocks go back and the spectre of a dying garden.
But I have learned that there is beauty in death. There are plants that die with great dignity and stay feeding the wildlife with their seed heads. Detritus affording a little comfort in the chilly winter months. The low light catching the colour of stems and shapes silhouetted. There are plants that push out huge wafts of perfume to remind me that it won’t be long before the first stirrings of a new year are not far away. I hold the faith and sure enough the cycle of life begins its yearly journey and optimism rises like the sap.