Rumba, Ragtime and Reinsurance

My apologies but I started writing this blogpost a year ago and then forgot to post it – as you will see if you decide to read on it is quite season specific and would have been a bit weird if I had put it out there in the spring. So I have waited twelve months and the moment has come round again: as things tend to do in gardening so the story is still relevant.

Another early morning start in order to get to Horatio’s Garden in Glasgow by 9.00am. Increasingly as I get older I am becoming a creature of habit and don’t like my routine being disrupted which is, of course, a very good reason for so doing. It is good for me to do different things otherwise I will become unbearable and cantankerous too soon.

So it is mind broadening to force myself out of a warm bed at 4:30am, to forgo my breakfast and to bundle myself out into the darkness in order to get to Birmingham airport for the 7.00am flight. Quick snooze, bumpy landing, Croque Monsieur and a cup of coffee in Starbucks and off to the Spinal Unit and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

I have been meaning to write about Horatio’s for ages and have failed spectacularly. The background story is pretty well known now (details here) suffice to say that from an appalling tragedy and extraordinary thing has been born and I am so thrilled to be part of it. It has been a truly extraordinary experience full of remarkable people. Moments of extreme joy, moments of mild anxiety and waves of powerful emotion – I have wept a lot over strange things like Corian worktops and pond coping stones. I think, no actually I know, that it has been the most moving and most important garden I have ever designed.

The greatest pleasure has been watching patients emerge, like blinking moles, from the antiseptic gloom of the wards and beginning to use the garden. Be it for sitting, for cake eating, for salad harvesting, bird feeding of just watching the flowers move in breeze from the Clyde.

So, as you can see from these pictures, we have built stuff (at the least the endlessly patient Kenny McFadyen from Endricks Landscapes has built everything), planted everything shrubby and herbaceous so it is time for……… the bulbathon…

I have been plotting this for a while (along with Sallie the head gardener). My part of the arrangement is to organise the delivery of 12,500 bulbs, her part is to find enough people to help plant them. That may seem, justifiably, to be a slightly uneven distribution of labour but she was amazing and the place was swamped with volunteers, doctors and assorted gardeners. My job was to direct and supervise and also to actually get down in there and dig some holes and plant stuff – yah boo sucks to those doubters amongst my readers who thought I was too old and fey for such on carryings.

For those interested in lists we have planted
Allium Mont Blanc/atropurpureum/Purple Sensation/cernuum
Anemone blanda/nemerosa
Chionodoxa Forbesii
Crocus Cream Beauty/Remembrance
Eremurus Cleopatra/White Beauty
Fritillaria meleagris
Gladiolus The Bride
Iris Katharine Hodgkin
Iris Gordon
Iris Kent Pride
Lilium martagon Hansonii
Lilium martagon Manitoba Morning
Narcissus February Gold/Cheerfulness/pseudonarcissus/Actaea
Tulip Abu Hassan/White Triumphator/Ronaldo/Spring green/Negrita/turkestanica/China Pink
All of them in abundance…..

It was a glorious couple of days with shiny weather, smiley people and the wonderful sense of anticipation that comes with bulb planting. All that glorious flower wrapped up in a brown nubble of concentrated energy. Bulbs are so basic – plant them, go away, have a jolly Christmas, endure the dark days of January and then come back to four months of continuous flower.

A note from a twelve month later…
Well that worked – come the spring we had sensational tulips, cracking daffodils etc etc. Weeks of joyous bulb filled ecstasy. Every day something new happened and all patients and visitors were thrilled. What a start to the season.
So now November has come round again and we have had Bulbathon part two and have planted another 6,000 bulbs – I was worried that we would not have room for them but I was wrong, there is loads of new space that needs planting. Nine volunteers and various patients and staff rallied round and my goodness they worked hard. For the listy among you here is another – we also planted more of the same as last year.

Allium afflatuense
Crocus Barr’s Purple
Narcissus Cheerfulness/cyclamineus/Altun Ha
Tulip sylvestris/Ronaldo/Royal Pretender/Purissima/Jackpot/Armani

The garden has now been open for a year. All four seasons have passed and I still adore everything about the place. The volunteers are amazing – their energy and dedication is indefatigable the patients are complimentary about the garden, the staff are amazing and our little bit of Glasgow is so much better than it was a couple of years ago. This is a garden that will, over the next years, make hundreds of peoples’ lives better and that is something that makes me very, very happy. And has also made me start sobbing again..

I am listening to Kiss with a Fist by Florence and the Machine*,  the picture is of various tulips in jugs.

*I built a garden for Florence’s parents in Camberwell many years ago. If I remember rightly we did a very neat bit of stone cutting around a drain.