Tuesday, 31 July 2007

God in the Garden in July – Fruits

Summer has arrived at last, after twelve weeks with at least a little rain every day, I think. Of course we haven’t suffered as badly as so many in England. I offer a prayer for those with flooded houses, farms and businesses. But I was blessed with sun for my commisssioning as a Reader last Sunday, and it has been sunny and dry since, thank God for it.

Today I attacked the fan-trained Victoria plum. ‘Pinch the side shoots back to six leaves in July’, advises the pruning guide, ‘and after harvest cut back to half their length’. That may be the ideal if you’ve kept the fan properly, but I have let it overgrow, and it’s grafted on too vigorous a root-stock for the space allowed it. So I just hack it to size and trim it to my best judgement. There’s a good set of fruit, but as usual I notice some with the drop of resin that betrays the plum sawfly grub inside. The pears and apples too have set well. The raspberries and loganberries are finished, but I’ve just picked a good bowl of blackcurrants. Not a big yield from four bushes, but sufficient for a summer-pudding. They are quite overgrown by goat-willows eight feet tall that should have been dug out ages ago, which is why the yield is poor – proving that open ground here will revert to willow scrub within five years if it isn’t mowed or cultivated!

The fruit swells too on the wildlings, the damsons, sloes, elderberries and brambles in the hedge, and the Whitebeam and Spindle in the wilderness. The berries on the Mountain Ash and the Guelder Rose are starting to colour, as are the haws. Autumn is almost upon us, before we have had time to enjoy the Summer!

To my surprise I see that several of our young trees are also starting to fruit. There were seeds on one of the Limes in the Alley last year, but this year there are acorns on one of the hybrid oaks, grown from seed collected in the Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin. There are also cones on Cupressus goveniana grown from seed collected in California, on Cunninghamia lanceolata ‘Glauca’ bought as a seedling at an IGPS plant sale, and on Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’ given to Susanna by a friend and barely four-foot tall. I think most gardeners feel their trees are a bit like children, but it seems Joakim may not have to wait too long for trees like grandchildren!

To my great joy three real grandsons, Cal, Gabe and Finn, came to stay for my commissioning. It was lovely to watch them playing together in the garden, cousins reforging old friendships. One game they played they called ‘mob’, a name new to me, but a kind of tag in which the one who was ‘it’ had to touch the last tree in the Lime alley without being caught by the others. So much hiding and stalking, and squealing, frantic dashes down the paths and through the wilderness. Now they’re gone, I’m surprised to see how little damage the garden has suffered: a small boot print in a flowerbed here, a broken branch on a shrub there, nothing of any consequence. This is what the garden was made for! They too are fruits; fruits of love, the apples of my eye. Some of the loves that went to make them are broken now, but I pray they never doubt their origins in love.

Not all fruits are good to eat. After the commissioning service, the boys were clambering in the old Laburnum trees beside the Church, and discovered the pods full of seeds like tiny little peas. Forgetting mother’s warnings, two of them ate some of the very poisonous seeds. They had to be rushed to A&E, where I’m glad to say they were given very nasty activated charcoal to drink, to neutralise the poison. They are all fine now, thank God, but they won’t be such silly boys again I’m sure!

Paul in Galatians describes the fruits of the Spirit as ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’. Please God these fruits will flourish in this garden too.

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