Derek – Thursday 23rd May 2019

It’s warm and sunny today, and everybody comes to the Garden. Or it seems that way. We have 30 nursery children from Woodgrange with 10 adults, and 10 children with adults from Durning Hall too. That’s apart from after school children, and mothers with babies and toddlers, and a few dad’s too.

Irises are in bloom in the pond. And the water boatmen are speeding around. They are not adult size yet, which is around 1 cm, but are getting there. They are in frightful rush. I spot a fracas. A group have crossed county lines, and there’s a swift bundle. All over before the cops arrive.

The wild flower bed is in its glory. So many ox eye daisies, as well as Californian poppies, borage, pink campion and hedge mustard. We haven’t had any rain for two weeks, and we are unable to water this bed. If we don’t get rain soon, it will wilt on us. All the barrels at the back of the middle shelter are empty. Our water is down to just half of the metre cube. Which is, quick calculation (whirr, whirr), 500 litres. That equates to around 60 watering cans. We can count them down.

Much of our water is going to the greenhouse plants and those in small pots for sale. We have a market stall this Saturday.

I see a cabbage white butterfly taking a random flight, a little later a holly blue. There are many bees around, visiting the wild flowers and the cultivars in various beds. The buddleia is nearly ten feet high in places.

There’s a large red damsel fly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula) on a leaf of the hollyhocks by the side of the pond. It has a stick-like body, red with black markings and curves its long body like a living question mark. The shadow is sharp in the afternoon sun. We mostly see blue damsels so this visitor is a pleasant surprise.

We have a patch gentians in the raised, stone filled bed, vibrant by the post at its centre. They are a powerful blue, the flowers a small trumpet, a clarion call to summer. I had never seen gentians when I first came across them in a poem by DH Lawrence, Bavarian Gentians, written in 1929. He wrote it towards the end of his life. The poem is redolent with death, with Persephone in the Underworld. Here’s some of it:

Reach me a gentian, give me a torch!

let me guide myself with the blue, forked torch of a flower

down the darker and darker stairs, where blue is darkened on blueness,

even where Persephone goes, just now, from the frosted September

to the sightless realm where darkness is awake upon the dark

and Persephone herself is but a voice...

The origin of the name, gentian, takes us back to classical times. The flower is named after Gentius, an Illyrian King who is thought to have used it for herbal medicine. Illyria encompassed much of former Yugoslavia, now broken up into more than six nations.

We have come a long way, in time and space. From the gentians in the centre bed, we have travelled to Bavaria, then down, down, to the Underworld with Persephone, and back 2000 years to the court of a Balkan king. Finally, with a Tardis twist, I return you to our garden, flowering in spring, and our water low.

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