COLIN DRURY: Can bedding plants plug my balcony gap?

This is the plan: A sparkling display of balcony flowers
This is the plan: A sparkling display of balcony flowers
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THERE are, I suppose, certain moments in everyone’s life that forever stand out as being important.

A first kiss. A first job. A first spouse.

All significant landmarks in each person’s journey. All symbols that you have left one part of your self behind and become, in some small way, different; that something unalterable in you has, for better or worse, changed forever. It’s called maturing, I think. Or getting old.

Readers, I had such a moment this Easter Monday when, for the first time ever, I walked into a shop and bought plants and garden furniture.

Strange, really, because I don’t even have a garden, just a balcony which would probably be described by an estate agent as bathed in morning sun and hosting a cityscape panorama, but which is described by me as being permanently shaded after 10am and having views of a main road and a takeaway.

And yet I kind of like it anyway.

And so it was on Monday morning, standing there in the shade, smelling the exhaust fumes, I found myself in the entirely alien position of thinking: What this terrace needs is some geraniums.

And then I thought: I don’t even know what geraniums look like.

But I did know I was bored and earlier I’d discovered a length of wire which means I can set up the stereo outside and listen quietly to The Doors while I potter about, and so off we trundled – me and her – to a garden centre to buy something colourful. And a watering can. And a trowel. Pots, troughs, compost, a small spade, a bucket, some gloves, a couple more plants, a how-to book, a patio table, couple of seats, couple more for guests...

I confess the spending got a little out of hand – but we were enthusiastic, and it was all displayed so attractively, and when the shop assistant was telling us how simple it all was it was easy too to forget I once managed to kill a cactus through neglect.

I just saw the future blooms, all purples and pinks, and my father – sitting at that table – jealous his years of gardening had never produced such a yield.

We looked at the carrot and sweet corn seeds, onions and tomatoes, and discussed creating an allotment area.

I think somewhere I used the phrase ‘living off the fat of the land’. I confess a small pig sty may have started to hover somewhere in the back of my mind.

God bless the shop assistant – clearly not working on commission and well used to spotting a couple of amateurs when he hears them ask how often you need to water flowers – for suggesting we start off slowly with just the plants.

So we took his advice, bought the flowers, left the veg (for now), and got to work planting, while Jim Morrision sang in the background about passé subjects like drugs and incest. Whatever, dude, I have petunias to attend.

And when it was all laid out it looked... small, and not that colourful.

Apparently, they’ll flower in summer but I don’t think there’ll be any jealousy issues on my dad’s behalf.

Still, it was nice that night to wash dirt from my fingernails and, before I went to bed, stroll out on to the balcony and, Prince Charles-style, give those little fellows a pep-talk.

“We can do this together,” I said. “We can make it through the summer.”

Aye, this getting old malarky can be kind of fun.