The pots around the back door are proliferating. In addition to two blueberry plants in large earthenware pots that accompanied us from our previous home, there is a miniature blueberry (Tom Thumb), a thyme in a badly cracked pot inherited from the previous owners, some bulbs which refused to flower this year, five gooseberry and blackcurrant cuttings awaiting transfer to a more permanent home in a yet-to-be-built fruit cage, and half-a-dozen plastic pots that once contained pansies, and other annual experiments but which have since been left to go to seed. These are lined up on the wall opposite the backdoor, alongside the strawberry planter.

Then there are the pots actually by the back door – the two large pots with obelisks stuck in them for the sweet peas, the equally large half spheres in which our courgettes failed to grow this year, several pots of what had been seedlings acquired at the village flower sale, exchanged with neighbours or left over from planting out the herbaceous border in the spring, a pot of sorrel, two of greenery from the larger garden assistant’s experiment in wild flower cultivation, and a tray of asparagus heads. There is also a tray of compost in which I sowed this year’s salad crop and which I have not yet dealt with since planting out the last round of seedlings.

The latest addition to the pot collection

And finally there are the indoor pots, ranged over three window. The utility room has two vigorous aloe veras and an equally vigorous coffee plant that produces a great number of leaves but no fruit. The window sill by the large kitchen sink is home to five Chinese money plant babies which we have yet to find homes for.* The other kitchen sill is crammed with the large money plant, a supermarket ‘grow at home’ thyme which sheds leaves everywhere and refuses to die, two roses, a pot jasmine, a curly-leaved basil (all gifts from generous friends over the years), and a hardy gardenia that, after several years of careful nurturing, has proved less hardy than advertised and finally given up the ghost entirely after producing nothing more than a few small green leaves. The most recent addition is a chilli plant, acquired at this year’s village fête and already earning its keep through the production of a large green fruit.

All these pots, both indoor and outdoor, demand care. They need to be watered regularly, protected from too much heat or cold, moved about and, ultimately, tidied up. The indoor ones shed leaves, or drip dirty water, on windowsill and counter-top. Endless wiping of surfaces ensues. Sometimes they reward this care. The jasmine flowers every few months, filling the kitchen with perfume. The sweet peas have been even more fragrant, delighting eye and nose throughout the summer. And the roses and fruit cuttings bring pleasure simply by flourishing, proof that our fingers are green enough to nurture something (even if the tiny courgettes which rotted before they ripened suggest otherwise).

At this point, it is worth noting that Matt is rather better at pot nurturing than I am. He is the one who remembers to water everything on a regular basis, who rotates things so that different sides are able to grow towards the sun, who carefully prunes away dead leaves. My contribution, in addition to wiping up after them, tends to involve potting out seedlings and cuttings, dead-heading the roses and watering when reminded to do so.

The sweet peas’ last hurrah
Tiny courgette

Most of my potting work tends to happen in the spring, although the courgette pots do get stored in the barn each winter to keep them from cracking in the cold. Beyond that, for the past couple of years I have disgracefully ignored the steady accretion of unproductive outdoor pots, and carried on in blind faith that the gardenia would recover and bloom. But the proliferation really has got out of control this year. So last weekend I tidied the pots, getting rid of the redundant ones and re-potting the sorrel and the black currents, both of which needed more space. I finally said farewell to the gardenia, and sorted through the summer’s acquisitions, getting rid of anything I could no longer identify. I still need to remove the filthy plastic on which the asparagus seedlings sat (and which the Chinese money plants still do) and scrub down the windowsill. The jasmine could also use a proper tidy-up before the winter. The courgette plant earned a short reprieve by producing one final tiny fruit and the asparagus still awaits the completion of its permanent bed for transplanting. And the sweet peas, currently in a final very late flush, will be allowed to bloom and go to seed which I will harvest for next year. In spite of this work still to do both back door and windowsills are feeling clearer and cleaner, tidied and ready for the winter to come.

*If you would like to offer one of these a home and are in the Hebden Bridge/Todmorden/Halifax area, please do get in touch!

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