A garden is a lovesome thing

It has to be admitted that a garden can be a most beautiful place. I have many patrons who will spend much of their time supervising teams of gardeners. Indeed some even go so far as to forget themselves and take part in the labour in person, trimming, pruning, taking cuttings and propagating.

I have several times organised events which will take advantage of particular features of a garden. I’ve even arranged events which moved around a garden ensuring we caught the right feature at the right time of day and approached it from the right angle. Rather more often I have found myself carrying oaken swill baskets loaded with well-rotted horse dung for a patron as she uses my presence as an excuse to get certain more physically demanding tasks done as we discuss the entertainment. Not all of my patrons can afford gardeners.

Maljie and her sister Margarita have a rather nice garden of which they are justly pleased. It is quiet, screened from the vulgar gaze by Maljie’s log pile. This heap is colloquially known as Maljie’s Mount. Officially it is known to officialdom by the name of Dragon’s Butte. It appears that some wag had illicitly added the name to the city street maps diligently maintained by Public Works Office.

But Maljie had cast her gaze upon the Shrine of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm. The building’s front, looking out over Exegesis Square, entirely fails to dominate the area. It technically overlooks the open area in front of the shrine which we use for fairs, and similar. Now there wasn’t much Maljie could do with the architecture, but she felt that she could do something with a few plants. She did build some raised beds. These she had the mendicants set out a little way from the walls to allow ease of weeding. In all honesty these beds looked well and people commented that they lifted the whole area. She set her heart on finding two flowering shrubs to stand, one each side of the main door. Given time she felt they could be trained to meet above the top of the door and worshippers would enter through a living floral arch.

The problem is that the shrub she really wanted, because she felt it was perfect for the site, was quite rare and was also quite expensive. They come from one of the islands to the west and are known by their native name as Escallonias (I believe that the name means ‘yes, give me more of those rather pretty gold discs and of course you can have this worthless weed). When she raised the question of purchasing two plants from shrine funds, Laxey gestured at the pile of papers which would at some future point coalesce to become the shrine’s budget for the coming year. He then commented, rather more pointedly than was perhaps kind, that given our current fiscal situation, he would be delighted to take all the Escallonias he could get, provided somebody was paying him in hard cash to take them away.

Her plan placed firmly on the back-burner, Maljie decided to console herself by visiting the gardens of friends. Much to her delight she discovered that Madam Fulwin had decided to open her gardens to the public. Madam had made a name for herself among the keen gardeners of the city. Whereas other ladies apparently marry with the sole aim of changing their husband and ‘making something of him’, Madam Fulwin was perfectly happy with her husband but was determined to make something of his garden.

She had plenty to go at. The property was at the edge of Dilbrook as the city fades into the surrounding villages, and not only was there the ‘big house’ but there were half a dozen pleasant cottages included within the bounds. Madam Fulwin integrated them into her scheme and after thirty years felt that she might be starting to make an impact. As it was, she had been recently persuaded by friends to open her gardens to the public for a day or two a year, visitors making a small contribution to various charities.

Given the distance, Maljie and Margarita needed some transport, and eventually took Maljie’s two person sedan chair. Given the length of the trip they even took a spare team of mendicants. Still it took them nearly two hours to arrive at the garden, and both teams showed signs of wear. Maljie had them park the chair near a temporary tea-room in the newly erected gazebo (the purpose of the tea room was also to make money for charity) and purchased scones, jam, cream and coffee for them all. Then, knowing they would be happy there, she and Margarita went to take in the gardens.

I have mentioned that the gardens are extensive and the two ladies spent a couple of happy hours just wandering as their fancy took them. They saw a good half of the garden and arrived back at the gazebo just as they were feeling peckish and joined the mendicants another round of scones, jam and cream. Leaving the mendicants to snooze in the warm afternoon sun, the two ladies set off to explore the rest of the garden. It was an hour into this peregrination that Maljie stopped abruptly and pointed. There, on a cart, were a score of Escallonias that were obviously going to be planted once the visitors had left.

Maljie examined them, each was properly trussed up, with its root ball wrapped in wet sacking. Her problem was how she might transport them. Admittedly both she and Margarita could carry one each. Yet at this point Maljie was forced to admit to herself that this was rather more obvious that slipping a cutting or two into your handbag. It was then she had her idea. Because of the size of the gardens and the age and general infirmity of some of those who wished to view them, a handful of the older ladies were travelling round the gardens in their sedan chairs.

The next problem was the various gardeners who were wandering around. Maljie suspected, probably rightly, that Madam Fulwin entertained a healthy suspicion with regard to her fellow gardeners. It must be confessed that Madam was as guilty as anybody in her habitual surreptitious collecting of cuttings. Indeed whilst other ladies might secrete a pair of secateurs about their person, Madam Fulwin was known to keep a machete in a sheath sewn to the leg of her nether garments. It was apparently accessible through an inconspicuous pocket in her dress.

Maljie had the matter summed up in a moment, she turned to Margarita, “Look winsome, distract the gardeners.”

With this she set off at a jog to collect her sedan chair.

This left Margarita with a quandary. There is a limit to just how winsome one lady can look. Not only that but she apparently had to look winsome over quite a wide area. This would seem to indicate that she would need to move at a speed that might be said to negate the very concept of winsomeness.

Still as she looked around she saw a group of young women, who were obviously friends, taking a walk together. She walked across, introduced herself, and pointed to Maljie’s sedan chair that was now moving towards the Escallonias.

“Ladies, I wondered if you could help me, my aged mother is determined to take some cuttings and I’m supposed to distract the gardeners by looking winsome.”

Immediately she knew that she had struck the right note. One of the young women laid a sympathetic hand on her arm. “Oh I know exactly how you feel. My elderly grandmother is a nightmare to be with in somebody else’s garden. She takes secateurs with her wherever she goes.”
Another young woman gracefully put a hand on Margarita’s other arm. “Secateurs! I’d be delighted if my grandmother took secateurs. My grandmother takes a trowel with her!”

The third young woman looked at her friends. “I think this is decided, let us spread out and see just how winsome we can be.”
It must be confessed that Margarita could claim a success. As she looked round, she came to the conclusion that the gardeners wouldn’t notice if Maljie took the cart, never mind a few cuttings. So carefully arranging her parasol in a manner that was fetching if not positively winsome, Margarita walked across to the sedan chair to join her sister. She arrived in time to find Maljie wresting the second of the Escallonias into the sedan chair.

Maljie looked up, “I was wondering if we ought to take four in case one dies?”

Margarita looked inside the chair. “To be honest I’m not sure you’ll even get three in without the risk of them damaging each other.”

She saw Maljie looking carefully into the chair and added, “And don’t even think of hiring a second chair.”
Maljie sighed sadly. “You’re right.” She turned to the bearers. “Right, take these back to the shrine. Leave them in the chair until we get back.”

One of the mendicants asked cautiously, “Is there a little something to help us forget this incident.”

Maljie grabbed him by the front of his robe and slammed him into the sedan chair, “The amount of scone you’ve eaten you should have forgotten your own name by now.” She stepped back, “Right get on with you.”

As she watched them disappear Margarita tightly folded her parasol so it could serve as a walking stick. “Come on, thanks to your Escallonias, we’ve got a two hour walk home.”


Should you wish to learn more about what Maljie and her colleagues are getting up to, a novel has been published.

It’s ‘Tallis Steelyard. A Fear of Heights’ from https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08ZD5P5S8/

In this novel, recounted by Tallis Steelyard in his own inimitable manner, we discover what happens when the hierarchy plots to take control of the Shrine of Aea in her Aspect as the Personification of Tempered Enthusiasm. Will the incumbent be exiled to a minor fane in the far north? Will Tallis end up having to do a proper job? Does ordination and elevation beckon for Maljie?
This story includes the Idiosyncratic Diaconate, night soil carts, Partannese bandit chieftains, a stylite, a large dog and some over-spiced food. On top of this we have not one but two Autocephalous Patriarchs and a theologically sanctioned beggar.

19 thoughts on “A garden is a lovesome thing

      1. Absolutely. I think it’s a form of gravity. If you’ve got a massive body, you attract moons and suchlike to orbit you. Well if you’ve got a massive personality, you probably attract other stuff 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. From the larcenous hands of Maljie no doubt as her personification of over perfumed winsomeness, to the pen of it’s mightier than the sword, Tallis Steelyard and the inimitable imagination of the Famed Jim Webster is such a tale born.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Apparently in US, Canada and Philippines they’re ‘Pruners’ which is a reasonable choice of word.
      We picked it up from the French, plural of French sécateur ‘cutter’, formed irregularly from Latin secare ‘to cut’.

      Apparently it’s a 19th century affectation rather than something that came over with the Normans 🙂


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