I don’t travel well. I’m much happier surrounded by familiar sights and sounds. I’ve become accustomed to green fields and birdsong. My favourite place is the potting shed. A quiet, peaceful haven- shared with a cheeky robin. The scent of potted Carnegie white hyacinths and creamy Paperwhite narcissi wafts around. I’m reluctant to leave….
But I need to travel to London. So after much fussing with packing and checking train times and tickets, at least 50 times, I set off for the unfamiliar.
Just at the garden gate, I see some violets in flower. Nearby, the first snowdrops are in bud. There’s a primrose poking through the leafmould. And there’s a tiny hellebore flower wearing a hat of compressed beech leaves. The leaves have protected the plant and forced the flowers into early growth.
So I pick a few flowers and gather them into a tiny posy. I wrap them in dark green gutta tape to lock in moisture. I twirl around some string, add some lavender from the potting shed table, and set off for London- carrying a tiny piece of my garden with me. A talisman. A kind of amulet. Protection against the noise, hustle and bustle.
Propped up on the flip-down table on the train, the scent from the violets is a welcome reminder of home. I look about to see if anyone else is bothered by the noise and diesel fumes. They don’t seem to notice.
I’d forgotten that snowdrops have a strong honey scent. The flowers start to open as we travel along. These are Galanthus elwesii, the first to flower in my garden.
The hellebore is called Jacob. It’s a strong, healthy variety. Dependable and hardy. The violets and primroses arrived as seedlings from my grandfather’s garden. I have happy memories of grandad Foulds arriving each Sunday with a little piece of his garden; a cutting, a seedling, or division. He loved walking around the plot, pointing out the weeds, giving advice on growing veg and cut flowers. After we had pottered in the greenhouse and orchard, he’d settle down in a cosy armchair with home-made cake and tea. Such memories are a comfort, brought back to life by these few flowers.
And this is the place I’m travelling to. The Barbican conservatory, for the annual party for Perennial. I’m a fish out of water. A country mouse. But I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to support a charity that is dedicated to helping all people who work in horticulture. I’ve been lucky enough to make my living from horticulture for this past 20 years, and I care about the gardeners, contractors and tree surgeons I work with. Perennial provides a “lifebelt” to anyone in a crisis. Advice, help and financial support, for anyone of any age.
The auction featuring luxury holidays and events raised more than £11,000, and there were raffle prizes too. It’s the most hectic and noisy event I’ve ever attended. But I’m glad I’ve pushed myself out of my little potting shed. The chance to support a valued charity, and see friends from all over the country, has been worth it.
Looking in the pink are from left to right Fran Suermondt, Tanya Batkin, Perennial’s Laura Garnett, host James Alexander-Sinclair, writers Naomi Slade , Alison Levey, and in front, Barbara Segall.
Do you have a favourite charity to support? Do you ever carry a piece of your garden with you on your travels? What measures do you take to cope when you are stepping outside of your comfort zone? I’d love to hear your news and views.
Read more about Perennial here.