On and on and on. Cloud? What’s that? Actually, not quite true, because we have had some glorious clouds – really painted-on, over-the-top clouds skimming hills on the horizon, and tinged indescribable colours by beautiful sunsets. Temperatures have dipped, admittedly. But we can deal with that half way through October, can’t we?
Half way through October. So now we have officially had this house for more than ten years. We bought it in September 2001. What we bought was, in essence, an oak tree with a falling-down structure next door. So magnificent was the oak tree (and the view from the then-kitchen window wasn’t bad either) that we couldn’t have passed up this opportunity.
As soon as I clapped eyes on it I thought “that oak tree needs a rustic bench underneath it.” This was reinforced for me one day when, standing there with Mario observing the mighty plant, he said to me what I thought was “I’ve dreamed so many dreams beneath that tree.” I remember staring at him, thinking of this kind-hearted but very prosaic contadino in a new, more poetic light. Months later, he said it to me again in such a way that I realised what he had said was “I’ve had so many naps under that tree” – still pleasant but not quite so profound nor moving.
But it wasn’t until September 2011 that I finally got around to putting my bench there. How can I let things slide like that for ten years? “Another place for us never to sit down,” was L’s sardonic comment. And of course he’s right – sitting down isn’t our strong point. But if we want to, we can. And it’s aesthetic anyway. The tree needed a rustic bench. It didn’t need us sitting on the rustic bench. I never said that.
I have dug up and divided the clump of purple and bronze irises which I put by the tree’s roots way before we even started building. The bulbs were given to me by a woman whose name I don’t remember, the mother of one of the girls whom C used to doing rowing classes with, on the Tiber in Rome. She had a wonderful, magic garden: the only time I went there it was full of fireflies which was extraordinary, given that clean-air-loving fireflies generally shun polluted places like Rome – and this garden, set slightly back off the crazy-traffic via Pisana if I remember correctly, should definitely not have been clean. The woman had been a great friend of Italian garden designer Ippolito Pizzetti: had he planted that garden? I don’t remember. Anyway, my clump of her irises disappeared beneath piles of bricks and all sorts of materials salvaged from the house as it was being dismantled and put back together. I had few hopes of them (or, for that matter, the tree) surviving. But they did. And now they’re arranged in clumps around the ends of my bench, ready to make it all look rather less stark come spring.
I have sent two plans off in the past week, to two of my new clients. This is always an anxious moment. The initial plans I send are always vague – not so much in structure but definitely in planting, with just patches of green to denote the areas I would fill with greenery. Inside my head, that greenery is pretty well defined… but I’m not going to give away all my trade secrets at such an early point. But at this point doubts begin to assail me: will they come back to me saying I’ve completely misunderstood their wishes? Or will they be so shocked when they see the cost of translating their wishes into reality (people rarely think that gardens can be so expensive) that they’ll throw their hands up in horror? Or will they simply disappear, as happened once, several years ago, very unpleasantly: I worked long and hard on that project, and made several journeys to this man’s hill-top home. But after sending off an initial plan, no amount of emails from me (he lived in London) could raise a single answer from him. Not even my demands to be reimbursed for travel expenses got an answer. Well, that’s bankers for you I guess. And I really don’t think the clients I’m dealing with right now are that type of person. Still, once bitten twice shy: the anxiety, naturally, remains.