Story for the Day: The Gardener PT1
|Harry, master of all he surveys.|
From BBC's Victorian Kitchen Garden
there is no need for extra fabrication. Harry Dodson is one such person: head gardener at the Chilton Estate until he was in his 90s, Harry was a champion of gardening in the old style. His abilities were showcased on BBC's Victorian Garden series, but even more interesting than his powers were his glorious appearance and melodic voice. He looked and sounded like a character from Wallace and Gromit (minus the Lancashire accent). After watching him waltz around his gardens for so long, I decided he had to be placed in the series. Harrigh, head gardener of Diras Castle, cares for the king's gardens when his counterpart has already traveled to the stars.
Brighel had roused early and prepared to better acquaint herself with the castle grounds. She had washed and dressed and agonized over what to wear on her first day in court before a maid has been sent to her quarters for assistance. Eager to be out and glory under the auspices of so fine a morning, Brighel went to the garden herself before Searle or any other man of upstanding character could escort her. As her father’s house had been long managed without all the nonsenses and fripperies of needless expense, she had been used to wander her father’s estate without being weighed down by handmaids or footmen. Walking unattended just after sunrise was become a regale she could never relinquish, even when transplanted into the king’s house, and when Searle discovered her standing on the threshold of the garden, she wondered at his tender remonstrances, demanding to know where the maid was who had been sent for her comfort and solicitous for her not to walk anywhere unattended on her first day in the keep. She might be turned around in the midst of the various halls and find herself the servants’ quarter before she should be aware. All her assurances, given with a tender smile, quelled the thegn’s qualms: she should like to see every part of the keep and witnessing the revelry and joyous bustle of the servants’ quarter should hardly give offense. The thegn was appeased, and even more conciliated was he when Harrigh came from the garden to greet their guest and give her a well-guided tour of the garden.
“I will take M’Lady wherever she should like to go,” was Harrigh’s obliging answer, said with a nigh toothless smile. “I was just digging the grubs out of the muskmelon beds. Them’s the chappies what eats the Majesty’s melons.”
Searle remarked Harrigh’s somewhat humble appearance and feared that his knitted vest, overbearing spectacles, rotted teeth, and kindly smiles might be too modest for one who must be accustomed to grander displays of affluence. The foreman’s friendliness, however, spoke well for his untoward aspect: his laughing eyes and cheerfulness of manner overpowered any paucity in dress or articulation, and Lady Brighel was as ready to follow him as she was to hear him discuss his various methods of trapping beetles and aphids in his drawn out Glaoustre drawl.
They walked through the neat rows of the kitchen garden, remarking the budding fruits of the autumn, their flowers withering and dying off, giving way to the various hues of the bulbous blooms delicately blanketing the verdant plantation. Here was a true sundry for Brighel’s discerning eye: never had she sees such a vast array of vegetation on so modest a scale. The espalier apples and quinces, peaches and pears, meddlers and apricots, cherries and currants, rowan and whitebeam all lined the walls, their boughs ornamented with ties and their roots gripping the dark soil beneath; the copses of shaddock and plum praised the sun for their last bloom before the frost, the orange and lemon saying their farewells and relinquishing their leaves to the changing season; the netted gourds hung low over the high clamps; the Lucentian cultivars of mango, fig, date, olive, citron were shedding their leaves; the runners and climbers of bramble and berry flourished along the corners of ground; the high sprouts of the brassica and solanum bent under the influence of the early morning gales; the horsetails and fiddleheads unfurled their shoots and bowed to the eastern quarter; the herb beds, rife with rosemary and thyme, emitting their mellifluous aromas, masked the flagrant fragrances of the allium as they relished the sun’s attention. The prospect of the luxuriant kitchen garden, furnished with its veritable garliday of verdure and proof of sustenance, begged Brighel’s full adulation, and she stood for some time listening to Harrigh’s lectures on propagation and germination without hearing a word of what he said.
“I’ll leave M’Lady to peruse the rows as she likes,” said Harrigh, highly gratified. “When M’Lady is ready, I will take her to the courtyard where the rest of the Majesty’s plants are being grown.”
“There is more?” Brighel breathed, her eyes brightening.
Harrigh brandished his wide and toothless smile. “A’course, M’Lady. The elderberry and the mulberry sure don’t grow in here. They want more room to flourish prop’ply.”Mesmerized by everything that the king’s gardens had to offer, Brighel followed Harrigh into the adjoining courtyard. The illuminated flower beds and low trees, all tastefully arranged, opened upon her in an inundation of splendor, the various colours and shapes of leaves and petals, the differing textures of barks and stems, the whirling seeds and clusters of keys falling to the ground producing a sufficient foray on her senses, stunning her into silence.