It may seem odd to be excited by forget-me-nots, which are surely the most mundane little flowers in existence. The truth is, I’ve been trying to get forget-me-nots to bloom in my garden ever since I moved in here, ten million years ago, And every single time, something has stymied me.
It’s my neighbour’s fault. The ones just to the north of me have a fantastic sea of forget-me-nots in spring, and they’re such a lovely sight. I was smitten with nostalgic lust for them the first time I peered over the fence. My grandfather always had a load of them – pink and pale blue – in the back garden, and as a small child I used to put together posies of them for Sindy, in between running her over with my bike and hanging her, in elaborate Satanic rituals, from the Rowan. (I only found out I’d picked the wrong tree in which to conduct such business years later, which explains why none of the Satanic rituals ever worked and to this day, I still do not rule the world).
I decided to grow some of my own. The first year’s seedlings were baked when I went abroad on a business trip for a week.
The second year’s were flipped, in a glorious earthy arc, across the kitchen and quite a lot of the hall, by Henrijk, who managed to somehow use the covered seed tray as a take-off point for one of his Mars missions.
The third year I think I gave up and, too late in the season to plant any, searched the web for forget-me-nots you can buy. “A simple pot of them,” I reasoned, “and soon I shall have more than I know what to do with.” Except nobody sells them. Oh, you can get brunnera, or “false forget-me-not”, but it isn’t the same thing. So that year was a wash.
Last year I went all-out. I planted up another covered seed-tray indoors; sowed seed outside in situ, and just when I thought I’d got all bases covered (Henrijk: do your worst!), I discovered a solitary little pot of forget-me-nots in my local garden centre. I pounced on it. I clutched it to my chest and snarled threateningly at anyone who dared look at me or come too close, as I made my way to the till to pay. I cradled the thing home. It was like March of the Penguins, except it was me, and a pot of little blue flowers. They were planted, and they thrived. The seedlings in situ started to come through as well. The ones in the seed tray got Henrijked again, but that was always going to happen. That is what Henrijk is for.
And then one morning I had a meeting with my builder and arranged to get the top patio re-covered with decking. It needed doing – or something needed doing, at any rate – and that seemed the affordable thing, although I really would have preferred stone. The work would not involve doing anything to the flowerbeds. Half an hour after my builder left – literally – the chap I’d had in to do my front garden landscaping the previous year roared up on his motorbike. It was like a sign from god. I arranged to have the garden done with stone, and a curved patio at the top. Which meant moving the flowerbeds.
Come June, the workmen all piled in and I gave strict instructions to move all the plants to a side bed I had set apart for them, as a sort of vegetational kraal. I went out there later on and everything was perfect. Except my tiny forget-me-not seedlings and my one little forget-me-not plant had not merely disappeared, they had physically ceased to exist in a way that defies the laws of physics. There was not so much as an atomic fingerprint to indicate that they had ever existed. All my other plants were fine.
I gave up.
About a month later I noticed something in my front garden. A leaf, poking up from the gravel. Stuff self-seeds into that gravel with great enthusiasm. But this was a leaf I didn’t just recognise: it was one I had hunted yea these years. It was my Edelweiss. It was a forget-me-not.
I left it the fuck alone.
All my efforts to encourage the plant had met dismal ends. Perhaps if I pretended I had never seen this one, it might survive. It did, and once it had formed a vital-looking clump, I dug it up and transferred it to my newly finished back garden, watered it lovingly, and … and weirdly, not a foot away from it, this year, the little plant I put in last year has reappeared, a bit battered and reduced, but very much alive.