... (the eldest of my mother's many siblings) and her husband Uncle Dave had a smallholding in the depths of rural Sussex.
She grew dahlias and chrysanthemums to sell at the gate. As a small child I was entranced by the forest of giant brightly coloured pompoms and spiky stars that towered above my head in a great swathe leading up the path to the front door, which I never saw open. We always went round the side, in through the hot glass lean-to smelling of musty ripening tomatoes, where Dave used to sit in an old easy chair in his none-too-clean shirt-sleeves and pullover.
Her ghost was at my shoulder today, tut-tutting at my neglect of the dahlias I planted in the hot border in front of the cottage. To my surprise, one of the dahlias - a deep rich burgundy - has turned into a triffid; its many stems weaving and intertwining, bent double from the weight of the heavy blooms. The strong southerly winds of last weekend had broken several of its tallest stems and with twine and tomato plant poles I was trying to recover and support what was left.
I realise now that the "forest" I walked through as a child would have been tall even for adults. Lizzie must have staked and twined those many heads with such loving care, day in day out, keeping them straight and strong to make the most splendid of long-lasting cut flowers.
I'll cut some of ours tomorrow. They won't be here for much longer. This evening in the dark, as I closed the gate at the end of the terrace, I heard the wild cry of the cranes, speeding before the cold air coming down from the north that will drive our temperatures down to zero later this week.
Next year, Lizzie, I promise to take better care of this dark beauty.
2 years ago