…and suffocate the ants, in an English Country Garden

I have been gardening. I am hot, sun-burned and cross. I bet this never happens to Alan beatific bloody Titchmarsh.

It hasn’t been the best of weeks: child has been teethy – the sixth one has broken cover – and hubby and I have been unhappily and increasingly squabblesome about tensions that we must and will address. You’d think that merrily surviving the trials of infertility would subsequently render us bomb-proof, but seemingly not. In consequence, the garden has not progressed much beyond the default state of untidy scrub, and the car-full of plants I bought on Wednesday were beginning to look stressed. They were starting to realise that they had not come to Kew.

So, today I concentrated on a 10ft by 3ft border, that, until I attacked it violently with a fork, was a matted tangle of creeping buttercup and grass with a single crocosmia and three ornamental grasses protruding listlessly. One of those is dead, but I left it anyway, as it vaguely looks like a circa 1983 Tina Turner has been dropped feet first into the ground from a great height.

The ground here is clay. Solid clay. A randomly-chosen spadeful would doubtless make a nice little pot for a deserving granny, as they tend not to mind things that look rustic, cracked, and a bit shit. Hence, when you drive your favourite earth-inverting implement hopefully into the… look, lets call it soil for the sake of argument, yes? all you tend to achieve is a gigantic clod balancing heavily on your fork. Assuming you’ve missed your sandalled foot, which I only narrowly managed on a number of occasions. My clearance technique consisted of grabbing all clods that had grass still attached and hurling them savagely over the fence into the field towards my startled geese. John obligingly ignored this blatant fly-tipping onto his land, and wheelbarrowed over some of what he cheerfully termed ‘topsoil’. Yeeeeeeesssssss. This would be the agricultural variety, as opposed to the horticultural, then. The boulders are significantly bigger in the former.

I made the mistake of covering the head-sized chunks in the border with this… substance, before I dug the holes for the flowers. As soon as I began to move the stuff about, the smaller bits promptly flipped me the sedimentary bird and disappeared under the bigger blocks, leaving me once again with what could accurately be described as a really fucking lumpy layer of crud. Undeterred, I kept mining away at the rock-hard slabs to create planting holes. I’m sure gardening should not be about scratching what looked like (and will doubtless amount to) shallow graves for these hapless plants, followed by scrabbling about to back-fill the edges with a bloody cairn of some of the smaller pieces.

There is still a 45ft stretch of border along the front of the house to tackle, and 2 trays of pot-bound dahlias left, all desperate to get their roots into something squelchy. John is out there now, hopefully armed with a mattock and a HRRrruUUUaaAAAaaarrRR attack-mode mentality, as nothing less will dent the thick carpeting of weeds.

Bastard things. We had been consoling ourselves that the pampas grass that mother planted was doing well this year – and occupying a useful 6ft of border to boot – but then I read something the fabulous Antonia had written, and since then we’ve been a tad uneasy about it. It may meet with an accident this autumn. 

After all this, I bet it will piss down on Friday, when I have approximately 20 (Yes. Party has out-grown its original specifications.) small children, all replete with a mama, descending, and we will all be tightly confined to indoors.  There is also a vague threat that Severn Trent are planning to cut the water off that afternoon as well.


Brownie points for any commenter who can include an couplet from the school-assembly title ditty. I’ve been humming it all day. No cheaty-googling!

6 Responses

  1. Thankfully I have no garden, as I have a severe gardening aversion. If I came up against clay I would just give up completely.

    I’m not familiar with the origin of your title. Here in America we only learn songs about liberty and freedom. Duh.

  2. Hmmm, I am afraid that this particular ditty escapes me! (I would google it, but that would be cheating!!) Love your quote “Alan beatific bloody Titchmarsh” – made me laugh!!

    By the way, I have tagged you for the six quirky things meme, but that post wont appear until tomorrow (sorry!) as I didn’t want to post twice in one day!

  3. Oh no! Now it will be an earworm for me…and I can’t remember too many of the words. I’m sure there’s a rude version that’s much more fun than “how many songbirds come and go in an english country garden? I’ll tell you now of some of them I know, and those I miss you’ll surely pardon”

    Thank you for your blog, it does my ex-pat soul good. I still find the American sense of humour rather peculiar (when I can find it at all, that is!).

    Lynne (in north Florida)

  4. Oh no. We used to sing that song remorselessly on school trips. On and on and on. “Pick up a leaf and…”

    Good luck with the garden-for-the-party, oh brave and noble and slightly mad soldier that you are. I burnt out my gardening neurones as a child. I console myself with the thought my geraniums never seem to need me, and go and pour another cold drink.

  5. “Get a little spade and bury what you made…”
    I tell you, you’ll be humming it all week!

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