As I changed beds this morning - hauling duvets into clean duvet covers and debating with myself if this less frequent ritual is preferable to the daily and now out-moded performance with sheets, blankets, bed spreads and eiderdowns - the radio prattled on amiably on the bedside table. As I bustled between airing cupboard and bedroom I found myself slowing down in order to listen. Each pillow got an extra 'plump' and the duvet was straightened to within an inch of its life...
Women's Hour's Martha Kearney was in conversation with Beth Chatto at the latter's garden in Elmhust, Essex. As a keen gardener I found it a compelling bit of radio and wandered with the pair through the now famous 'gravel garden' and onto the wood, water and scree areas which Beth has developed over the last 40 years from an unpromising piece of wasteland. I remind myself not to moan about the wrong environment - just find the right plants. Her chance remark that gardeners not so many years ago had fewer plants available than we do today did make me stop and think. The cornucopia that is today's average garden centre would make a latter day gardener weak at the knees - a thrill for them may well have been the arrival of a newspaper wrapped bare-rooted perennial or something now we might consider quite ordinary. Chrysanths, Gladdies or Montbretia for example. Bor-ing.
Let's say that when the Thompson and Morgan ('Experts in the garden since 1855') catalogue dropped into the post box an hour later I was in a receptive mood. The year is at its coldest and darkest - the earth is hard as iron and the hens are chipping their beaks on water like a stone*....and here is promise of fruitfulness - strawberries as big as babies, blight resistant potatoes, carrots to piss off the carrot fly, beans, peas, giant pumpkins, flowers bright and beautiful and apples to put the garden of Eden to shame. The slug - that bane of our lives is corralled by nematodes. The family feeds off the contents of the window box! It's sweeter, less stringy - tastier! It's New! Improved! Free? What optimists we are. Dream on.
But how can I resist? Even now I'm twitching to order seeds and reaching out for that little piece of plastic with which to pay. There are old favourites to re-order and the temptation of the new - just to try. (There's so much promise in those little packets.) Who knows what will grow on the top of a low mountain in Wales? And 2009 will have the perfect summer won't it?
* I exaggerate to make a point of course. I've changed their water twice today already.