This year in the yard.

My first view of what would be the Night Planted Orchard was not auspicious. The front yard was an expanse of dirty, crunchy gravel designed to park multiple vans and protect them from marauding brigands. There was not a living thing in sight. Within a few weeks the decrepit fences had mysteriously fallen down, all on one windless day.

From its position, we guessed that the yard would get little light. We decided to plant a Tombstone Rose to soften the Stalinesque front and hide the miss-matched brickwork in the extension. As we repaired the fences we removed several large peices of concrete which had to lay where they wished. We planted a few herbs around them, scattered some seeds and left it to its own devices while we coaxed the Night Planted Orchard from its long sleep. We were wrong about the light, and under the gravel is fen soil, rich and unused. Water drains through the yard and because there is a steep drop on one side, it doesn't hang around, but it's not completely arid either. The weeds that sprang up in the first year should have been a clue.

The Tombstone Rose established itself in a season. Perhaps its closeness to the lair of the Water Spirit has something to do with that and now it smothers one wall with relish. I have to prune it three times a year to keep it going onwards and upwards. I could say that the rest of the planting was slow to establish. But that would be stealing credit. The yard self-seeds like nothing on Earth. Indeed, sometimes I think tiny plants rain down from heaven when we're not looking and establish themselves overnight.

Over the years this self-perpetuating garden has grown like a child that you meet once a year. One year it's tiny and inconspicous. The next it's feisty and running around. The next time you see him he's filled out and is a rugby player. So it is this year in the yard. Amongst the ferment, a couple of pretty little Silver Birches set themselves in altogether inappropriate locations. We decided to move them to somewhere more fitting. So it was that I found myself sitting among the growing gravel garden, trying to persuade roots out from under the garage. The Hunter came snuffling about and was surprised to find me hiding among the plants.


I realised with a certain amount of shock that the plants had spread enough in height and width to provide me with a hiding place. I am not a small person. What's more it had integrated itself into some coherent whole. It had 'clicked'. I was surrounded with Lavender, Rosemary and a stray Buddlea. Thyme crunched under my hands. Poppy heads caught my eye as I sat and the tall spires of Salvia spread all around me. In the heat the scent was strong and muscular, a genuine herbal immersion. California Poppies line one wall. Welsh Poppies brought from our old garden flourish. A couple of Nigella have popped up by the water butt. Grannies Bonnets nod everywhere. The Banksia is now in full flower, a solid wall of tiny cream blooms. it occurs to me that we have never had a garden where plants self-set so abundantly and in series, year after year. My usual experience is that one year's planting brings a second, smaller flush the next. Here each year doubles the number of plants. The self-setters don't creep, they detonate.  Lady Snoutingdingle resolutely pulls up all the Forget-Me-Nots when they finish every spring and every year they come back. Even the Winter Flowering Jasmine, a plant I see in my mind's eye as a tangle of ugly bald branches for most of the year, looks lush and comfy against every wall. We have two pots of sedums and even they have self-set in the gravel, spreading like a lime-green foam. I laid back among the herbs and let the Hunter snuffle sloppily at my chin. Content. 

When I returned to the house, Lady Snoutingdingle sniffed my herb-washed jacket and said that she was inspired to make pizza. The Hunter wagged his approval.

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