25 July 2015

Beware Belligerent Daisies

The blue heat of Kephalonia seems a world away now. Manchester, and Britain, continue to uphold their watery grey reputation.

While on holiday I read Gerald Durrell's 'My Family and Other Animals'. I thought I could relate better to the carefree life he lived on Cyprus if I read his stories in a similar environment.

One of the characters he met was Mrs Kralefsky, the bedridden elderly mother of his tutor. She gave him intriguing advice on the nature of different flowers species. I wonder if you agree with her ...

“Another thing that you don't notice when you're young is that flowers have personality. They are different from each other, just as people are. Look, I'll show you. D'you see that rose over there, in the bowl by itself?”

On a small table in the corner, enshrined in a small silver bowl, was a magnificent velvety rose, so deep a garnet red that it was almost black. It was a gorgeous flower, the petals curled to perfection, the bloom on them as soft and unblemished as the down on a newly-hatched butterfly's wing.

“Isn't he a beauty?” inquired Mrs Kralefsky. “Isn't he wonderful? Now, I've had him two weeks. You'd hardly believe it, would you? And he was not a bud when he came. No, no, he was fully open. But, do you know, he was so sick that I did not think he would live? The person who plucked him was careless enough to put him in with a bunch of Michaelmas daisies. Fatal, absolutely fatal! You have no idea how cruel the daisy family is, on the whole. They are very rough-and-ready sort of flowers, very down to earth, and, of course, to put such an aristocrat as a rose amongst them is just asking for trouble. By the time he got here he had drooped and faded to such an extent that I did not even notice him among the daisies. But, luckily, I heard them at it. I was dozing here when they started, particularly, it seemed to me, the yellow ones, who always seem so belligerent. Well, of course, I didn't know what they were saying, but it sounded horrible. I couldn't think who they were talking to at first; I thought they were quarrelling among themselves. Then I got out of bed to have a look and I found that poor rose, crushed in the middle of them, being harried to death. I got him out and put him by himself and gave him half an aspirin. Aspirin is so good for roses. Drachma pieces for the chrysanthemums, aspirin for roses, brandy for sweet peas, and a squeeze of lemon-juice for the fleshy flowers, like begonias. Well, removed from the company of the daisies and given that pick-me-up, he revived in no time, and he seems so grateful; he's obviously making an effort to remain beautiful for as long as possible in order to thank me.”

She gazed at the rose affectionately, as it glowed in its silver bowl.

I was wondering today, as I apologetically pruned a rose bush in Garden65, if you have to be hard-hearted to be a proper professional gardener. How do they cope with the guilt of cutting bits off and the digging up of innocent (or not so) plants?