It’s almost a year since I mentioned my forbidden garden: the plants in pots I’ve smuggled on to the roof. Here it is today, on a murky Tower Hamlets morning.
It’s growing. There’s a leggy hydrangea that had been given up for dead, not far off opening into handfuls of white blossom. Sweet peas are climbing up a thriving bougainvillea among the violas. I bought that for a pound, to use as an attractive stick, as the stall holder said it had had it. It’s a bit of an interloper in my urban cottage garden but can only add to the life among the bricks and concrete.
The bright pink pelargonium is part of an original more than 16 years old: it sat on a Barbican balcony all that time until my daughter’s father brought it here a few months ago. The white peony smells sweet and delicious: my husband bought it for our 4th wedding anniversary (‘flowers and fruit’) and was disappointed that it wasn’t the blowsy red dramatic version I remember from my gran’s garden. I think it’s perfect.
A constant supply of ants covered the three tight peony buds and I have to confess to some ignorant attempts at formic cleansing,involving dregs of coffee cups. Then we found out they are needed to open the buds. Well, there’s a thing.
The peony is next to a rose of almost blue, from Watney Market, some fading snapdragons and more sweet peas: my favourite flower (apart from all the others.) It’s the first year I’ve kept them alive so long, on a roof blasted by wind and scorched by sun.
I still have to wash the bay leaves very, very thoroughly, as various people who wander the roof still see a public urinal sign that’s invisible to me. The caretaker is still turning a blind eye and the bees are back in force.
I set up my wobbly wooden table to write. I’ve reached an understanding with the lone magpie who hovers around, explaining that I am not superstitious and so will not say good morning to him. The peregrines that usually roost over the way don’t seem to be around this year. I blame the invading parakeets. But there’s a single blackbird too, at dusk, with the loveliest song.