Now you can look at this at least two ways, out in the fresh air, the exercise, the solace, the retreat, the quiet solitude, the enticing aroma of new cut grass, the hum of the bumble bee, the chirrup of the birdies (enough of that) or the heartbreak of a late frost, the snail epidemic, the hum of the cat spray, the smell of the neighbours’ barbeque, the rammy of a late-night party fight, the thrub of music which is decades beyond your taste and the aching limbs the morning after. That is the garden for you.
Actually of course it all depends on the time of day or night, indeed the time of year, or even your mood. Me? Well the power of the garden to muffle the rage of nearby traffic, to give me an oasis among the tenements is more than I need to compensate for not having those acres, those distant views with only the sound of the tractor, the cattle and sheep breaking the silence.
Indeed it has become even more so over the years. A bit of a graveyard for several much-loved cats (heaven help anyone after I too have gone grave-wards who digs in the wrong place!), I also have plants which bring back memories of people and places of the past. There is the weeping birch I was planting the day my mother died. Now tall and graceful it is not a sad but happy reminder of a lovely, modest woman whom until later years I underrated.
There is the Margo magnolia in memory of Margo MacDonald, a friend much missed. It is a gaudy pink and so it should be. There is the winter viburnum which has moved (at least rootings have) with me from house to house and which started its early days as a seedling from one Lady White’s garden in Wigtownshire (it’s a long story).
There are the small yellow primroses from Mr Heriot and the tree peony from my first outing in Scotland’s Garden Scheme. The gardener selling it to me was as a mother to her little seedling, warning me that at no cost should it be transplanted once it was settled. I know the feeling.
All of this dirt under my nails I attribute to my late father who transformed what was a building site at our house in Clermiston (circa 1953) into a rose garden at the front and his proudest achievement, a year-round veggie patch at the back.
Speaking of roses, being a bit of a charmer, if he was out front pruning and a lassie came by, he would proffer a Peace rosebud for her to wear, saying as he did, “to complement your complexion”. It always worked and no-one thought, nor was there, anything untoward in his old-fashioned gallantry. Don’t suppose that would be the done thing today. Pity.
Ah but I can’t end without sharing my delight at being told a rose has been named after me. Honest. Out and about from the autumn it’s called of course The Christine Grahame rose and I am told it is yellow, slightly fragrant and definitely prickly. Prickly? Moi? I don’t care if I haven’t made the frontbench I have a rose! Good gardening!
Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale