Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
go down to Kew in lilac-time
(it isn't far from London!)
Mid-spring and many people's favourite month of the year. Most things are in place in the garden and you can take time off and gather lilacs with Ivor Novello or yield to Alfred Noyes' exhortation and go down to Kew (it isn't far from London!). It is a time for romantic trivia. On a personal level I usually find that a compulsive urge emerges and instead of tackling the moss on the lawn or even tidying the beds I am overtaken by whimsy and embark on a side-tracking venture which I alone consider worthwhile.
Some time ago it took the form of changing the shape of our small suburban front lawn from a circle - such a cliché - into a hexagon. I couldn't see hexagons being all the rage at Chelsea any time in the near future. Nevertheless, hexagons did represent a geometrical challenge and my mathematics had always been an area of both weakness and mystery. I lean towards that simplistic view that in real life there is no such thing as algebra. However I did pride myself on an albeit tenuous grasp of geometry, probably because drawing was involved.
Dispensing with set squares, protractors and theodolites etc. but armed with pieces of string and straightish stems plundered from the nearby clump of Pampas Grass, I set to work. A certain amount of doubt and self-interrogation began to creep in about the choice of implements but perseverance was the key I told myself. There was the old adage about having set the hand to the plough do not readily sheath the sword.
I was quite prepared to face the odd enquiry from the inquisitive engineering neighbour as to whether I had my interior angles correct. Yes, I confidently answered - 120 degrees to be precise, more or less. Edges were cut, turf lifted, job almost completed. Then the window flew open." Tea's ready and it's a rhomboid!" Now this was a little bit disheartening but with a bit more off here and a straighter lateral there, I stood back and surveyed my handiwork. Definitely a hexagon! Perhaps it would have looked better as a pentagon ... No, a firm no, though it did look more like a 50p coin. A brief count of the sides.... Seven, that's a heptagon and my shape had six sides even if my wife had to count them twice. It was a pleasing enough shape, providing a much needed sense of order in the shambolic structure of that part of the garden.
It remains so and much more personally satisfying to do than scraping bits of moss in all directions. It is more than whimsy. With the addition of a couple of dozen home-grown box balls the feature looks comfortable and friendly. It doesn't show that aggressive modern trend and taste for the sharpest of angles wrought in concrete, steel and expensive quasi- marble ferociously waiting to wreak havoc on your veins.
Looking ahead there are already opportunities to go out and scout around for ideas for one's own garden. For, however we strive to incorporate another's scheme, the result is always different, unique and personal to ourselves alone and that is the joy of our gardens. Pip