I’ve always loved plants. There are keen gardeners in abundance in my family tree, so I guess it’s in the genes, but I suppose I’ve learnt the most from my parents, whose horticultural efforts always result in amazing displays of colour and design in wide, sweeping beds that would be the envy of any grand country house.
Rambling cottage gardens kept in check by a box hedge, or a low wicker fence appeal to me. That lovely profusion of stately lupins, alongside weedy forget-me-nots, feathery carrot fronds, the pointed leaves of tarragon, and a deeply scented Bourbon rose. And you can’t beat a Hydrangea, with their big fat mop-heads that change from lush blue to magenta, or brilliant white to antique rose, as the season turns from summer to autumn.
House plants are just as important in my life, there’s at least one in every room of the house. Two years ago I rescued an Umberella plant (Schefflera arboricola), from outside a house – I had to park the car awkwardly and run back to get it, but it was displaying a large sign that said ‘please take me’ – so what could I do? It turned out to have a serious case of scale bug that made the leaves all sticky, so I treated it, and cut it down in size – to gradually re-shape it. Sure enough it began to thrive and now looks amazing.
I would like to have a lovely delicate maidenhair fern (like my mum), but having killed at least two within a few weeks, I’m a bit nervous about subjecting any others to my care. What I do well with is Streptocarpus. I discovered some beautiful different varieties which I bought as plugs from Dibleys Nurseries (www.dibleys.com), they flower constantly for about eight or nine months of the year.
Not surprisingly plants feature hugely in my fictional writing. My book The Madonna Lily, is the result of suffering from car sickness as a child. Sounds strange, but I was always told to ‘look out of the window’, whenever I felt sick, and so to also relieve the boredom of long journeys – I imagined a world where plants grew over the top of houses and roads, reclaiming the world from men.
Nowadays, it seems there’s always a book on herb use, or trees, creating fragrance, medieval gardens and such like, on my desk. I can’t imagine my writing life without plant power.