In the quietest times, the garden consoles

Allan Jenkins
·2 min read

Spring shoots, like a dead man’s hand. The first narcissi have broken through their winter grave. A pot full of fingers, reaching for the future. Hope is buried here.

My first bulbs were hyacinths, dangling over water in clear glass, a gift for mothers from primary school. Blue for boys, pink for girls. Much later I grew amaryllis. We don’t have indoor plants any more, but there was once a living-room glade of fig and yucca. My daughter Kala has them now, every few years a more extravagant pot to fit them in. She has the gift of it.

This Christmas my mother-in-law gave me a mother-in-law’s tongue: Dracaena trifasciata in the family Asparagaceae, maybe more commonly known now as the snake plant. I worry about it alone at the beach hut, though it thrives on little care and water. Our neighbours will pay it an occasional visit. Some tulips are shooting through, too, on the Danish plot. I wish them well in their Nordic winter and hope the squirrels and deer don’t attack them like last year.

Isolated and unable to buy flowers, I have ordered narcissi from the Scilly isles and potted Fern Verrow paperwhites with our vegetable box. I will soon beg Fern Verrow’s Jane Scotter to start me some sweet peas in her greenhouse, for an assorted tray of sweet-scented spring.

For now, though, our world has shrunk and we will live through the still-flowering Bengal Crimson rose and occasional blooms on our David Austins. A couple of new year prunings sit on the table. There are rosemary buds in the kitchen window box. The hanging geraniums are shuddering through at the front, still showing January flower.

I’ll wander around the terrace, whisper urgent encouragement to the baby bulbs and anxiously scan for more broken soil.

Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com