Once in a while one’s garden has a ‘moment’, a brief period of time when everything comes together to create a picture-perfect scene and an exhilarating feeling.
‘Moments’ can be planned, but never guaranteed: nature and serendipity play far too great a part. A garden’s finest hour can be elevated to new levels by a stormy sky, a singing bird, a chance encounter or even an optimistic frame of mind; it can just as easily be trounced by a gale, the wailing of a car alarm, a plague of flying ants or a melancholy mood. A ‘moment’ can be missed altogether, especially during the summer when we are taking our holidays, but most usually because our attentions are diverted elsewhere. And my ‘moment’ may not be your ‘moment’, it’s the coming together of an image, an atmosphere and one’s own disposition to create a fleeting state of pure joy.
Most gardens have a ‘moment’ in spring, often in May. (I often say that if one can’t make a garden look brilliant in May, one has a serious problem.) Then they might peak again in July and once more in autumn, if the weather is just so. But August can be a tricky month and I tend not to expect too much of my garden beyond the start of the month.
Returning to nature and serendipity, the particular ‘moment’ occurring in the Gin & Tonic Garden right now is in large part down to these uncontrollable forces, rather than us. The first half of the year was a lot cooler than usual, which held plants back. Then we got caught up with other tasks and planted our lily bulbs late, towards the end of April. The consequence is that all the lilies in the Jungle Garden flowered together, right in time for our open weekend (another ‘moment’ altogether) and those in the Gin & Tonic Garden have done the same, only 2 weeks later. (It is reliably the case that the same variety of plant grown in both gardens flowers two weeks later in the G&T, despite that garden being warmer and sunnier than the Jungle Garden.) None of this was planned. It just happened that way. The result is pleasing us no end.
Although there are no leading roles in a ‘moment’ – one cannot happen unless all the stars are aligned – lilies are definitely part of the equation in this case. Lilium leichtlinii has come as a big surprise to me with its banana-yellow buds and freckly flowers. I have never grown it before and now I can’t imagine why not. Lilium ‘Beijing Moon’ is exquisite in every way; huge yet delicate, with a fragrance as subtle as a steamroller. On my nightly snail patrols I am bowled over by its powerful and rather sensual scent. (These having been quite small bulbs, they have produced just one bloom each in their first season. In future years they will produce several flowers per bulb, each held proudly on towering stems.)
Last but not least there’s Lilium ‘Purple Marble’, unscented, but perhaps that’s not such a bad thing with so much competition. The flowers are a curious shade, reminding me of a fruit leather. They echo the cerise pink of Salvia involucrata ‘Bethellii’ particularly nicely.
‘Moments’, when they happen, are to be cherished and indulged in. If ever there is a time to be mindful, this is it. It is tempting to take a few snaps, as I have done, and crack on with the next task in hand, or to share the magic on social media. Somehow the latter never quite satisfies. As yet technology won’t allow you to share a feeling, a mood (emojis don’t count), a scent or an atmosphere. Without all the senses stimulated, a ‘moment’ does not translate: by the time you’ve agonised over that, it’s gone. When you sense a ‘moment’ happening, look, listen, breathe and absorb, making an indelible imprint on your memory before it passes. TFG.