It's time to apply a little healing balm in the form of good honest dirt; gardening is a wonderful therapy for a sore spirit. During July's rain, mini heat wave and exhausting sadness the appeal of work out of doors was greatly diminished. It's true, the doughty and determined gardener does not let a little thing like inclement weather and a breaking heart get in the way of her obsession; perhaps I'm made of flakier clay. Yesterday, Gardener turned up again after an absence of two full weeks, in the pouring rain, ostensibly to 'find out how Benno is', but also feeling a touch guilty for having let the grass grow to great heights on the lawn. Looking out of the kitchen window we could see a promising patch of blue sky appear in the West and, sure enough, not long afterwards the rain stopped.
Fortunately, times have changed since the days of Elizabeth von Arnim, ladies are allowed to do their own gardening; I believe, even rich and aristocratic ones. Elizabeth wailed, in her hugely successful book "Elizabeth And Her German Garden": "I sometimes literally ache with envy as I watch the men going about their pleasant work in the sunshine, turning up the luscious damp earth, raking, weeding, watering, planting, cutting the grass, pruning the trees - not a thing that they do from the first uncovering of the roses in the spring to the November bonfires but fills my soul with longing to be up and doing too."
Doing it yourself means that you have no-one to blame for mistakes or negligence; Elizabeth's garden would not have had paths resplendent in a healthy crop of dandelions or a totally overgrown rose border, where the lavenders, planted at the foot of the roses and meant to complement their delicate colours, had been choked by eager volunteers and the rampant growth of perennials which were supposed to have been cut back many weeks ago.
Neither would Elizabeth's gardeners have allowed an unknown creature to make a fine filigree of the leaves of all her hydrangeas bar one, a very tough and leathery leaved specimen.
Gardener and I mercilessly ripped and pulled and dug, until all the vegetative miscreants had been removed and taken to the compost bins via the trusty wheelbarrow. Maybe I will be a little less kind to volunteers in future. I am not sure that I can salvage the lavenders. Truth to tell, I had totally forgotten that I had planted some of them as far back as mid-way through the border, a mistake I hope not to repeat.
August is the month when many of the early hardy perennials have 'gone over' and it is not quite time for their autumn replacements. In common with many keen gardeners and garden writers I dislike the artificiality of carpet-bedding. Gardening is about thinking, planning ahead, visualising; a deeply creative activity. Gertrude Jekyll said: "For planting ground is painting a landscape with living things and I hold that good gardening takes rank within the bounds of the fine arts, so I hold that to plant well needs an artist of no mean capacity." It is always possible to add a container with bedding plants to fill temporary holes, as I have done here, by filling a large terracotta pot with petunias. This is an experiment, I have never done so before. 'Petunias', even the name sounds sickly and petulant. Now, pelargoniums are a different matter altogether, I love the continental balconies and window sills dripping with great hanging sheets of them, big and bold and eye-catching. As I don't have a balcony my pelargoniums - some of you may know them as 'geraniums' - sit on the terrace, taking pride of place.
For all you tender bedding plant lovers out there, I'll admit that this pot of petunias is a cheerful sort of gap-filler; I might reconsider my dislike of them. But I swear they'll never get into my borders.
If there's anyone who wants to see more carefully chosen pictures of my garden go and visit Susan at Prufrock's Dilemma. She and Josie were careful to exclude all holes and weeds.