The roof terrace stirs. Leaf is breaking free from pruned rose stems. The ‘Bengal Crimson’ has soft, new growth and flower buds, a red-fire haze on a green-leaf bush. Soon it will be covered in blooms. We don’t trim this rose at all. It’s settled into an almost Japanese harmony, and, anyway, flowers through the year.
We went bigger on bulbs this winter. Narcissi and tulips, taller French and assorted others. Mostly, I think, from Farmer Gracy (farmergracy.co.uk) – though Henri is known to add her own hidden orders. Normally I start by making my choice and she sorts through these, culls mine and then adds her own spin.
Technically the roof terrace is her space to play with. At least since ‘we’ have the plot. Or, at least, that was the case before multiple lockdowns and myriad quarantines combined with my impatience to interfere. Also Henri leaves the house less than me, so has had to contend with my impulse buying, including last year’s pink geraniums from the veg stall. Not on her preferred colour spectrum.
I have persuaded her, though, to prune them pretty tight. I figure she’s secretly impressed with their vigour and can’t quite bring herself to cull healthy plants. The bulb pots are almost comically bursting with life. They seem to be thrusting through at pretty much the same time.
There was a lot of movement in the two weeks we were away. They were almost mole-like in their determination to blindly nose through soil. Nothing to do now except try to be more patient (never my greatest strength) while whispering quiet encouragement.
I have just ordered a pot of indoor tulips from Fern Verrow while writing this. I’ll try to sneak them past Henri. I figure if they are beautiful she’ll forgive me.
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com