Trust is important in a relationship, which is worrying since my Personal

Bank of Marital Trust seems to be empty.  My husband is at home, by himself

in an empty house, and I'm three thousand miles away.  Am I worried?  You

bet your solitary life I am.  The man is alone with a pair of secateurs and

fifty feet of my precious garden


Other people go on vacation, sit back and watch the grass grow.  I go away

and worry about unchecked moss and canyon-sized fissures in the sun-baked

clay soil.  My two square yards of patchy lawn becomes in my mind a

prairie-style expanse of knee-high waving grasses that will transform into an

East End taxi driverŐs crew-cut the moment it gets reacquainted with the

Flymo.  I fret about the triffid like geranium that gallops through the

flower beds without rigorous pruning, and the aphids munching their way

through my roses.  And don't even get me started on snails.  I've been

fighting a war of attrition over the sweet peas all summer.  When it comes to

anything slimy that dares to take a bite out of one of my buds and you can

just call me Saddam. I happily resort to chemical weapons.  Who can be

bothered with all that so-called humanitarian stuff - faffing around getting

them drunk with beer before drowning them, or leaving them trapped inside

mini indoor swimming pools - lemonade bottles on their sides filled with an

inch of water.  I wander round the garden under cover of darkness, cursing

the snails roundly, and either throw them over the neighbour's wall (depending on how often their cat has deposited his investments, off shore, on my lawn) or scatter slug pellets in my wake. 


But let's not let the gardening thing grow out of proportion.  We are talking

suburban back yard here, not Sissinghurst.  My green acres amount to a strip

of grass sandwiched between two crumbling brick walls and a couple of

flower beds.  There's a deck at one end and an expanse of cracked concrete at

the other, but nevertheless I love it with the same overcompensating devotion

that a mother shows for an ugly baby. I don't so much garden as arrange.  I

grow easy things in pots and then move them around in various combinations

depending on my mood, as though I was living in an Ikea catalogue instead of

North Kensington.   I do everything but take Polaroids.   My neighbours are inside listening to Start the Week and I'm running up and down the lawn in my nightie with my arms full of terracotta planters.  Then, not content with colour co-ordinating the

containers, I start moving all the chairs and tables around to get just the

right grouping.  Sometimes I even sweep the lawn and use the dustbuster to

clear the deck.  It's changing rooms meets ground force, but with

Miracle-grow instead of MDF. 


Nor am I particularly green thumbed - well not unless I've gone a bit crazy

at the manicurist.   Iâm greener with envy than ability.  But the one thing I

hate about holidays is being parted from the buds I've been coaxing along for

months just at the point before they bloom.  The climbing white rose bush,

whose thorns are as large and painful as unretractable claws, bursts forth

like a blowsy barmaid in August - the month we always spend elsewhere. By

the time I return itŐs moment in the sun is over, the giant daisies will be dead, and the

sweet peas will be pods.


I nurture things for months and then miss them.  I go ballistic when, for

instance, I've just got the thirty five pound tree peony to finally bloom

through the surrounding foliage of the front flower bed ,and the kids

decapitate it whilst playing football.  But though I've grown flowers from

seed, and tall climbers from plug plants, itâs still true to say that, bad

red hair day apart, Iâm no Charlie Dimmock.  My horticultural knowledge

extends to growing lots of Ôtall skinny blue-thing with bells onŐ, knowing

that all-white gardens are supposedly the epitome of good taste and that

yellow, get ye behind me saffron, is the devilŐs own colour for beds of

no-breeding.  Red isn't much better.  Especially if it matches your shoes or

your handbag. 


When it comes to reaping and sowing, Posh, overpriced Garden Centres R us,

but still - leaving my husband in charge of the plants is like putting Lizzie

Borden in charge of a rest home for the aged.


His idea of pruning is akin to giving himself a home haircut.  You snip

everything off in as straight a line as possible.  As for weeding ö who knew

that my proposed rare lavender hedge, coddled from birth when it arrived DHL

from a far distant specialist nursery and raised for months in an interior

window ledge before being transplanted to the garden was indistinguishable

from dandelion leaves?


The thought of him romping, unhindered, through my variegated greens is

enough to make my leaves droop.  So we have developed a scheme.  Forget

telephone sex.  When parted, we do telephone gardening. 


Are you in the beds, darling?  I murmur down the transatlantic telephone

line and whispering sweet mulchings.  No not there, lower, lower.  Is the soil moist, or is it still dry? 

Not so fast, just trickle the water in slowly.  Direct your hosepipe

Carefully, and don't let the pot overflow.  Nip at the buds, pinch out the

tips.  Tie the stems up loosely and, for God's sake don't be too so rough. 


What with the time difference I get some very funny looks over breakfast in New York as I

talk him through his afternoon watering routine.  But otherwise, all I can do

is count the days until I'm reunited with my one true love.  And pray for