Finally, our fruit trees arrived – two espaliered apples, a Bramley Seedling and a James Grieve, and a fan-trained Morello cherry.
Our garden is quite small, about 20 feet by 50, standard issue for a London terrace. It slopes upward slightly at the back, as many London gardens do. During the great housing rush at the end of the Nineteenth Century, builders seldom took away their rubble. They just slung it all into a heap at the far end of the garden and covered it with a bit of soil, before racing onto the next house, the next street, the next parcel of profit. When I’m digging, I often turn up an odd fragment of blue and white china or chunks of thick, greenish bottle glass among the broken bricks and shattered slates. Once we even found a stoneware flask from a local wine and spirit merchant.
We built a deep, raised bed along the back fence of the garden, open to the ground, for the apple trees. Séan hauled 40 litre sacks of topsoil, 34 of them, through the house to fill it. We planted the trees. I thought they looked majestic, like sails. Our neighbour Paul thinks they look crucified. He has a point. With their two, parallel rows of horizontal branches they do resemble a pair of Orthodox crosses on an altar. In a few weeks, frothy blossom will soften their austerity.
We spent most of the weekend in the garden, tidying, weeding, encouraging the roses’ new shoots over the pergola. We joined the masses at, well, the closest lots of Londoners get to Mass: Columbia Road Flower Market. In that narrow street, for a few hours on Sunday morning, spring is in riot.
A house at the entrance to the market.
I always start my floral pilgrimage in the little courtyard off Ezra Street, where they sell the best coffee in the world, and that’s official.
I can’t decide whether these oysters are the breakfast of champions…
Or this chorizo sandwich?
Barney, meanwhile, holds out for a sausage.
A chair on Sean’s stall (no, not my Séan).
I can’t believe I resisted the temptations of this
book by M.E Gagg…
Or these pots.
Suitably fortified, we edge our way into the market.
Every week, I buy my flowers from Carl. He has the most interesting selection and they’re the best in the market. They always last for at least 10 days; I tell him this must be bad for business.
My garden, kitchen and cooking owe much to the wonderful herbs, fruit and vegetables bought from Carl’s lovely mum and dad, Mr and Mrs Grover, who have had a stall in the market for more than 35 years.
Mr and Mrs Grover’s herb stall.
Thyme – how could you resist running your fingers through it?
Tiny rhubarb plants, pies in waiting.
And onwards into the rest of the market…
Hyacinths, cyclamen and primroses.
… and after.
Tiny cyclamen petals, like butterfly’s wings.
Cheerful little daisies.
Perennials in their clods of earth
‘What will I be when I grow up?’