About a fortnight ago I prepared the narrow strip of soil running along the front wall of our back patio. I loosened the soil, removed weeds and biggish stones and began relocating our darling clematis and lavender from their pot homes of almost 10 years. Yes, I was a bit nervous as, one, I didn’t want to upset their roots and, two, wasn’t sure how they’d react to their new home, which hopefully soon be a cheerful one, densely packed with a variety of country flowers, whose tiny seeds, by the way, were shaken on to the ground and raked in on the same day of the transplantation. So pleased that clematis and lavender have adapted well to their new surroundings…no signs of any traumatization yet… and some of the little seeds having ended their germinating process are already starting to grow! And whilst I check on or water them – oh, I am sooo patiently waiting for clematis’s first flower(s) – I caught myself whispering, hey my little beauties… guaponas mias, a ver…despaaacio, yes take your time now…schööön wachsen, ihr süßen little Blümchen …
I came across John Agard’s Two plants, after reading his poem Talking to plants during a lecture at Goldsmith University a few years ago. Since then I’m often reminded of both poems when tending to my ‘babies’.
Talking to Plants
Always talk to your plants.
Sit back and watch them flourish.
Good advice. Of course we presume
that all plants speak English.
Speak slowly, watch them bloom
If necessary shout each syllable.
Their little ears are ready vessels
for a shower of the Queen’s vowels.
Never mind if it’s a China rose
or an African violet.
Better yet, recite a bit of English lit.
See abundance spring at your fingertip.
So I spoke like an Oxford don
to my wilting rhododendron.
It wilted more. As for my drooping shrub,
my words only seem to draw more lugs.
O plants, what is it that makes you grow?
I watch my immigrant neighbour’s patio
with a sense of distant envy.
Tell me, plants, must I address you in Punjabi?
First poem in John Agard’s Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2009)