Secret gardens


When I was younger, I was an avid reader of Frances Hodgson Burnett. Every strangely exotic (and worryingly Orientalist) setting she wrote about; every annoyingly precocious and lovable child protagonist she created; every ‘oh that was lucky’ plot turn she employed — I loved. I still do, although for rather different reasons, both academic and nostalgic.

About a year ago, Valerie and I had the brilliant idea of trimming her father’s potted geranium plants (grown woefully rather tall) and making a makeshift plot near her kitchen window. They were quite tiny, unnoticeable cuttings — most of them got uprooted over the autumn and winter months, and I often ran outside to scold them and push them back into the soil. Those cuttings became our own little secret garden, or ‘sekrit garden’, because the whole situation was more than a little bit absurd and deserved teh spellinz of teh intarwebz.

Our Garden of Sekrit and Tricksiness is growing quite contentedly; in fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s becoming a monster of a flower patch. Valerie and I have moved from carefully tending the cuttings to wantonly trimming the leaves, yelling ‘off with their heads!’ and other awesome warcries. It’s nowhere near the picture I used at the top of this post, but it certainly feels like it in my head.

The thing about having a garden that is so Sekrit and Tricksy, though, is that… well… you can’t tell anyone. And when the actual owner of the garden isn’t quite sure why there are new geraniums growing where he never planted them, do you really want to tell him, ‘IT WAS I! I decapitated your geranium bushes and planted their little severed heads!’ ?’

No. Not really.

For a while, he had decided — ‘he’ being Valerie’s father; the owner of the garden — that the geraniums just appeared there as some freak of nature and, no less, are tending to themselves. This amused me a great deal, and still does, although it does mean that I can’t stop trimming the geraniums: if I do, no one will trim them because, as far as Valerie’s father is concerned, they’re self-sufficient planty soldiers.

Just yesterday, however, Valerie informed me that her father has a new theory: that there is a very neat bird attacking his geraniums.

This very neat bird, mind, is neater than most: it not only trims the geraniums evenly, but also piles the geranium trimmings in a neat little stack on the compost heap.

I didn’t know birds could be so finicky.

It’s kind of awesome to think that Valerie’s garden is inhabited by neat birds, even if they don’t exist and it’s really me and Valerie playing ‘kill the enemy!’ in the flowerbeds.


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