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China Girl blog 16th January 2018

Drawing pleasure and joy out of January is to know it won’t last forever. So Dearest decided to accept Freddy and Carol’s invitation and go to America for a week in February. I can’t think why, as Ma hates the cold, and it’s the coldest winter in the USA in memory. Ma met Freddy years ago in the garden, when on a hot summer’s day she was on the terrace, suddenly a strong gust of wind blew the beautiful standard wisteria to the ground. The stake supporting it broke and down it fell. Materialising as if from nowhere, came Freddy. The best looking man Ma said she’d seen since Clark Gable in ‘Gone with the Wind’. At all events the man, an American, said “Fetch a rope, a ladder, props, some stakes and don’t forget your gardener”  Dearest hastened to obey and within what seemed a short time, the lovely wisteria was again upright, looking as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Ma thanked the American, saying “Thank you so much for your help, how did you know what to do, are you an engineer?” to which he replied “No honey, I am a brain surgeon.” That was the beginning of their friendship!

At this time of year, trees give a sense of permanence to the winter landscape. One of our favourites is the swamp cyprus, Taxodium distichum, from the south-east of America to Mexico, which can reach 120 feet. When grown in wet places, long protuberances or ‘knees’ may rise above the surrounding land or water level. Pale green in spring, rich brown in autumn. This lovely tree was planted twenty years ago on an island in the lake. When I asked Ma the difference between a pond and a lake, she answered “You can throw a stone across a pond but not across a lake.”

Despite the cold and wet, work in the garden has to go on. All the climbing roses are pruned. The team are not really at all ladder-friendly, so Ma raked in Marcus, who lives in the North Wing attic which was converted a few years ago into a studio flat. Marcus shimmies up the ladders and with much shouting and encouragement from below on how to prune the high branches of the roses, manages to do a credible job.

What a fragile world we live in, time blurs the past vicissitudes of winter, as we all long for lovely spring.