The Secret Life of Gardens

‘I wonder what temperature grass grows at?’ Mr Litlove said the other day. ‘I must check on the internet.’

I am quite used to my husband starting a conversation in the middle of a thought, out of the sweet but perplexing notion that I have been reading his mind for the five minutes of inner monologue leading up to it, but this one seemed just out of left field. Literally.

‘What temperature grass grows at?’ I repeated.

‘Well have you noticed the fuchsias in their tubs?’

I confessed I had not.

‘They’re covered in buds. The mild weather has confused them. But I don’t think I need to cut the grass yet. It’s sort of depressing, really, as you expect fuchsias to be a bit more intelligent than grass.’

‘You expect fuchsias to be intelligent?’

‘Well, yes.’

I looked at my husband: tall, strong, blond, handsome, charmingly insane.

‘I hadn’t considered the secret life of the garden before,’ I said. ‘So what’s the most intelligent plant out there?’

Mr Litlove thought about this. ‘Trees,’ he said. ‘You know, they’re good at enduring. Plenty of individuality. They spend a lot of time watching what goes on.’

‘And the stupidest?’

‘That would have to be the grass.’

‘Grass is stupider than moss or lichen?’

‘They’re different.’

‘What, because they have parasitical tendencies – they’re sort of cunning?’

‘No it’s not that.  There’s very little chance for individuality in grass.’

‘Oh, so it’s a groupmind thing,’ I said. ‘No freedom of self-expression.’

‘Well hardly,’ said Mr Litlove. ‘Are you laughing at me?’

‘No, no,’ I said, ‘ I’m learning all sorts of things I never knew before. What else should I know about the personalities of the garden plants?’

Mr Litlove had another little think. ‘The climbing plants are garrulous,’ he said.

‘What about the shrubs? Salt of the earth?’

‘Loyal. They know their place.’ He gave me a grin. ‘You know I’m making this up as I go along.’

‘No kidding,’

‘It’s all right, love,’ he said. ‘Everyone knows you’re an orchid.’

Well, the garden went back to living its secret life in secret, although every time I walked through it to get to my car, I did regard the plants with a new eye and wonder whether the grass was being particularly silly that day, or whether the rain-battered honeysuckle was carrying on a long, whispered conversation with the sudden, surprising new shoots of the roses concerning the arrival of spring. And then I had almost forgotten our conversation entirely when Mr Litlove, quite out of the blue, began talking about jelly babies. ‘It’s only when I’ve eaten four or five and I realise I’m not going to be able to stop that… well,’ he paused, ‘jelly babies are not exactly noble sweets, are they?’

‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘Let’s not start this again. I’ve barely got the garden back under control. I can’t start looking at jelly babies and thinking that they’re not noble.’

‘Ignoble,’ Mr Litlove corrected, gently. ‘Jelly babies are ignoble.’

Of all the surprising secret lives out there, the secret lives of husbands are perhaps the most surprising of all.

45 thoughts on “The Secret Life of Gardens

  1. Mr. Litlove is totally onto what is going on in the garden! Grass is definitely stupid. It’s like the borg from Star Trek Next Gen. And spot on with the trees too. Give him some credit even if he was making it up as he went along😉 I had to look up what jelly babies were. Kind of creepy and vaguely cannibalistic. Thank you and Mr. Litlove for bringing a chuckle to my afternoon!

    • Oh I always give him credit where it’s due.🙂 I daresay he knows what the borg are in Star Trek, too! (I’ll ask him in a bit). I thought jelly babies were known the world over, which is clearly an insular point of view. They ARE a tad creepy but very delicious – I’ll have to send you over a packet for your birthday.🙂

  2. Aha so what sort of terrestrial orchid are you? One that confuses the bees into mating with it so that you cunningly transfer your pollen? One of the crazy slipper orchids or one of the saprophytes with no chlorophyll like the Ghost Orchid or the Violet Limodore? Your botanically inclined feline friend would like to know!

    • I should have realised it sooner!🙂 I must pay more attention when Mr L says dippy things, which he does fairly regularly. I’m just delighted you enjoyed it!

    • Lol! I’ll get all these plants straight eventually! And I completely agree with your definitions – nothing makes a person more optimistic about spring than the sight of those first daffodils!🙂

    • Ah now this is why I think America knows about jelly babies – Dr Who! I knew there was a link but I couldn’t think what it was. Thank you, Jenny, for that useful enlightenment. And I’m delighted to give you a smile when your posts never fail to entertain me.🙂

  3. From a fact sheet produced by the “Institute of Grassland & Environmental Research”

    “Grass growth begins at 5 C . An increase in temperature up to 25 C increases the rate of leaf appearance as well as the rate of leaf extension. In mid
    summer a new leaf can appear every 7 days but in midwinter this can be as long as 35 days. The production of new leaves is faster at higher temperatures as is the production of new tillers and the greater the chance of sward survival. Optimum growth is achieved between 20-25 C with night time temperatures equal or only slightly lower. Sustained periods of higher temperatures will eventually decrease growth rates. Leaves will also grow faster in spring than at the same temperature in
    autumn.”

  4. My husband and I have many insane conversations, none so charming as this. It certainly beats the pants off his theory that I should have my nose lengthened (so I have more room to push my glasses down) just to avoid having to get bifocals.

    • Oh but that’s a great theory – typical stuff of which husband’s brains are made. Mr Litlove has long said that he wants me brainwashed for our 25th wedding anniversary – a sort of statute of limitations on all the ammunition I may possibly have collected over the years. It always sounded such a long way off, but these days, if he told me to get in the car, we were going on a surprise trip, I have to say I would probably run very fast in the opposite direction.

    • He loves appearing in this blog, you know. He’s a complete sucker for the publicity!😉 But then he does say things that make me laugh and that I find I just have to pass on.

  5. That was enjoyable, only I don’t picture you as an orchid. I think you’re more of a violet or a mimosa both of which are fragrant. Or maybe a windflower. It’s quite delicate as well.

  6. I enjoyed this post very much (of course you are an orchid) and will go further to say re your post about Esther Freud I have got the book from the library. Plan to start reading it tonight in this terrible heat wave we’re having here – it’s impossible to sleep so I’m looking forward to being transported to a different place.

    Sue

    • I’ve heard about your heatwave – you have all my sympathy! I really hope that Esther Freud turns out to be just the distraction you need. Do let me know how you get on with it, won’t you?

  7. Loved this post. What a delightful conversation. Thank you for letting us eavesdrop. Ask Mr. Litlove what he thinks of ivy. I have ivy growing up the sides of my house. I believe it must bother my neighbor because she asked me, “Is that poison ivy? Are you going to leave it there?” (she put a fat questioning emphasis on the word “leave” and drew it out…”le-e-e-e-ave”) It isn’t poison ivy but I’ll pull it down this weekend since to l-e-e-e-ave it up is apparently nonsense. Perhaps Mr. Litlove knows whether ivy is just being nosey or curious. It wants to climb up and peek in the window.

    • Mr Litlove tends to have a very sympathetic view of all plants in the garden unless they are growing too vigorously, and then he just has to cut them down to size. So I have a feeling he’d think ivy was just amusingly curious until it started tapping on the windows of his workshop, and then it would be too nosy for its own good.🙂 It sounds like your neighbour could do with a little pruning, too. You are a very kind gardener to tend to her concerns!🙂

  8. Who thinks things like that? And I don’t say that as a criticism–only that I wish I did! I had a teacher in high school who mused over a student who told her she wished carrots grew on trees–all in seriousness. To this day I remember this–the teacher was so impressed and all I could think is that I wish I had that sort of creativity or wonder or whatever it is–of the world! Anyway, had a chuckle over the conversation–I do agree with Mr Litlove–grass is stupid and my own as dumb as they come!

  9. Pingback: Die Sonntagsleserin – 3. KW 2014 | buchpost

  10. Oh my Christ that was funny. And I’m glad I’m not alone. I’ve always thought lilies feel a bit superior and are rather gossipy.

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