|Off the Wall, by Herr Saush|
I asked Emma what she meant by structure. It means we already have a sunken sitting area; and brick walls.
So I asked what was so wrong with the plants then? And Emma took out some photographs she had taken in our garden in March and spread them out, gingerly, on the kitchen table. I noticed that the picture was taken from a folder labelled 'befores'.
In her photographs our plants looked strangely random, and mainly brown. I glanced outside the window; she hadn't been enirely unfair. Mrs Botogol and I studied the pictures gravely, trying not to feel defensive.
Then Emma dived into a folder labelled 'afters' and then alongside her monochromatic snaps of of our drab beds she laid some photographs of gardens. Gardens of beauty and elegance; Flower-beds of exquisite colour and texture; Desirable havens of scent and pleasure, of sunshine and warmth. Mrs Botogol sighed approvingly, while I looked desperately from one side of the table to the other with a gowing realisation that I had been out-manoeuvred, this Emma was good, she was very, very good and this was set-up
And like Steve Martin before me I had no alternative. I hands-upped to overwhelming force, agreed with everything, and made just two demands to salve my self respect: I'd decided we'd keep the coloured paint on the walls at least, and as part of the general clearing out the overgrown Bay Tree on the patio had to go.
It turns out that white walls are an intrinsic and important feature of Emma's design: white walls, removal of manky old pieces of trellis to be replaced with vine eyes and wire.. and a selection of plants that would give our beds some structure.
"Yes, you mean brick walls and somewhere to sit?"
"Don't be silly, dear", said Mrs Botogol, and Emma explained that with plants structure doesn't refer to seating areas: it means using fewer colours and, especially, repetition.
"So did you get a job lot or something, then?", said Mr Botogol Snr when he came round for lunch two weeks later.
- "Yes, Dad, something like that, do you like them?"
- "Well, could it do with more variety?"
I resisted the urge to smack him round the back of head and muttered instead about structure, and patterns and repitition.. "Well, I expect so, son", he said, when I had finished, "Yes in fact I am sure you are right", and he surveyed the garden carefully. "Indeed", he said, "it's lovely ... but while they were doing all that - couldn't you have got them to cut down that giant Bay tree?"