I am lucky enough to have a wonderful grandmother who lives in the Derbyshire countryside. She has dogs and a horse and the most beautiful cottage garden, and I adore staying there. It’s a wonderful break from the stresses of ordinary life, and I can sit for hours listening to my grandmother’s anecdotes, or touring her garden with her as we talk about the many varieties of flowers, shrubs and vegetables that she grows. My grandmother is 94, and day to day she is helped by my aunt, who lives nearby. However, as my aunt is away this week I have jumped at the excuse to drive the 5 hours south and look after my granny for the week. Or is it she looking after me? It’s hard to tell. While I walk the dogs and put the hay out for Emily, Granny cooks me the most enormous meals. If it weren’t for all the walking, I’d be the same size as Emily myself by now.
My seedlings have come on holiday too. Faced with the forecast of night frosts all week for Edinburgh, I didn’t feel that I could expect my husband to bring all the seed trays in to the cold frame every night and put them all out again in the morning while I was away. So I put them all in the car and took them with me. They have been enjoying their time in my grandmother’s greenhouse very much; even four seeds of the impossible-to-germinate Cleome spinosa have been persuaded to germinate—quite some feat.
Spring advances northwards at walking pace, about 13 miles a day, and when I am in the south at this time of year it is really noticeable how far along spring has come compared with Edinburgh. While my aubretia is only just coming in to flower in Scotland, my grandmother’s is in full fling and is covered in bees. It emerges out of the beautiful dry stone walls for which Derbyshire is famous, built of old rounded stones which absorb the warmth of the sun and radiate it back across the garden, creating a hot little micro-climate that speeds spring along even further.
Elsewhere in the garden, the camellia, name unknown, planted by my grandmother when she came to this house about 40 years ago, is also covered with the most beautiful carmine flowers. The bearded iris leaves face like tall green swords towards the sun, which bakes their roots the way they like them to be baked, and the drumstick primulas by the pond are at their peak while mine are still emerging from their crowns 300 miles away.Meanwhile, I hear that Edinburgh has also been enjoying some marvellous warmth and sunshine, and while I will be loathe to leave my idyllic retreat, my grandmother, and my three enormous meals per day, I can’t wait to get back and see how the garden has grown.