Sandy's Garden ... Life or Death

How dramatically situations change.

By Sandy Simpson
Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 4:16 pm
Updated Sunday, 22nd March 2020, 4:17 pm

Just seven days ago, churches, pubs, restaurants, parks, museums, public halls – indeed, all public meeting places – were open and bustling. Just seven days ago, I and my fellow-members of the committee of the local Probus Club were discussing what was in the best interests of the club’s members, guest speakers and hostesses. Just seven days ago, we could look at scenes of life in Italy without any feeling of panic that we would soon be facing similar restrictions on our ‘everyday life.’ Just seven days ago.

Just seven days ago, Ailsa and I bought two small hydrangea plants from a local supermarket. They were very healthy plants and they were very reasonably priced. Hydrangeas do well in our garden and another two to add to the selection we already have seemed a very good idea. We were not fussed that their precise species was not defined; one was described as ‘pink-flowered’ and the other as ‘blue-flowered.’ But at their price we did not expect examples of exotic species; and, let’s face it, once they are established in the garden only a purist is concerned for the precise name of the variant. We gave them a very welcome drink and placed them on the well-lit windowsill of our utility room, where they enjoyed the morning sunshine. And they were very happy there, seeming to grow by the day.

Just four days ago, on a very pleasant afternoon in our sheltered, south-facing back garden, I took them outside and carefully transferred them to two outdoor pots. They immediately seemed quite at home, their young leaves widespread to catch as much life-enhancing sunshine as they could. When the sun went in and the temperature started to drop, I came indoors, unfinished gin and tonic in hand. And just three days ago, shortly after I had risen and got dressed, I looked out of the glazed patio door which gives access to our back garden. And I saw the layer of ice on the bird bath; I saw the frost shining white on the cover which protects our garden bench during the winter months; I saw the sad, bedraggled, drooping shapes of our young hydrangeas, overwhelmed by the silent killer which had come, unannounced, in the night. And I knew that I should have been more thoughtful. I had heard a weather forecaster talking of overnight frost; I did know that young plants should not be transferred directly from a nice, cosy location indoors to a cool … not to say ‘cold’ … spot outdoors: but I didn’t pay attention to what I already knew and to a warning I had been given.

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Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

Now, despite the fact that there is no great financial loss involved, I feel that I have a moral duty to put my plants on life-support. I don’t think that they are actually dead: but I do know that they are critically ill. I think they will not survive being re-transferred to smaller pots to make it possible for them to be brought back indoors; so I have placed them on life-support in the garden, shielding them from any attempt by an easterly or north-easterly wind to gain access to them and protecting them from the continuing overnight frosts. I don’t have any proper life-support systems, so I am improvising as best I can, with upturned polythene buckets carefully positioned over them, secured by elastic luggage straps, before the real cold of the evening sets in and removed again in the morning before the sun is high enough to shine on them. My fingers are crossed, though I know that hope alone will avail them naught.

I think there is a moral for me in this true story; I know that there is a silent killer abroad; I know that I am particularly vulnerable; I have been warned to self-isolate, to avoid social contact, to maintain the highest hygiene standards. I really will now! Will you join me?