Early summer means geraniums. Time to change the window boxes, refresh the rooftop pots. We usually leave it until the early May bank holiday,or the later one at a push. We stock up on lupins, geraniums and lobelia (always dark blue); perhaps a few deep purple petunia.
My window-box tastes were defined at 19, selling plants in a posh Kensington square. I like the restricted palette, the repetitive ritual, keeping changes minimal.
Our choices are usually between which red we like – something dark, or maybe scarlet; and sometimes ivy leaf trailing geranium – or not. At least until this year. A warm, wet winter meant the geraniums flowered through. Finding new plants was impossible, so I pruned them tight. Some scant lobelia has self-seeded. Everything is now in happy bloom.
The rooftop, though, was a tulip battlefield: petal corpses, leaf exhausted. One early morning, I saw my local fruit and veg stall had started selling a few cut flowers, plus a tray of Barbie-pink geraniums and a couple of garish harlequin-striped petunia.
My wife was unconvinced by the candy colours – that’s architects for you – but these were healthy little plants and I wanted to give them a home.
The baby pink sits well with me in the slightly crusted terracotta (I’d bought some old pots a few years ago from the Chelsea Physic Garden). And I am liking the brightly striped petunia lolling in a chimney.
I am trialling them with Dalefoot Double Strength compost (Soil Association approved, peat-free and made from wool and bracken) that I’ve mixed with old spent soil. So far the results have been impressive.
It seems in these fearful, difficult days I am cheered by childish colours. You could say they’ve grown on me.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com