The Gardener

‘Step into the drawing room, would you, Harman.’

‘Certainly, Mr. Wilkes.’

The gardener removed his cap, carefully wiped his boots on the rough mat by the back door, and made his way to the opulent room, its cool shade a relief from his labours. Quickly he was joined by his employer, dressed as usual in his tweed three piece suit.

There was a moment’s silence, and Harman was a little apprehensive, being unused to an invitation into the house. He thought that it must be a horticultural matter of a particularly serious nature.

Jeremiah Wilkes cleared his throat. ‘Well, Harman, the reason I have asked you in here is to discuss, ah, an important matter. A horticultural matter of a particularly serious nature.’

Harman nodded gently, a little self-satisfied.

His employer continued. ‘This garden of mine, of ours, was recently, as you know, voted one of the top fifty gardens in England. Much of that has been down to your stewardship, for which we all here at Wilkes Manor are grateful.’

‘Thank you sir.’

‘Lately however it has come to my attention that things are starting to look a little less than sprightly, less than perfect. A little forlorn, even.’

‘I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Wilkes.’

‘And I’m sorry to have to say it, Harman. But the garden is not what it once was.’

‘The weather has been unseasonably warm, sir.’

‘I agree. But I think there is more to it than that.’

‘Indeed, sir?’

‘Indeed. The rose garden, for instance.’

‘The rose garden, sir?’

‘The rose garden. It seems a little bereft of roses just lately.’

‘Rotation of the soil, Mr. Wilkes. The beds need alternative plants for a few years, to regenerate.’

‘And which plants are we expecting to grow there?’

‘The fuchsias and rhododendrons, sir.’

‘Fine. And are we in the midst of this rearrangement?’

‘We are indeed, sir.’

‘And where are the plants meantime?’

‘Temporary storage, sir.’

Wilkes nodded slowly. Harman licked his lips nervously.

‘The foxgloves are looking a little thin on the ground. Last year they were excellent.’

‘They were indeed, sir.’

‘The rockery plants have gone as well, I see. And the rocks, in fact.’

‘I’m working on a new design, Mr. Wilkes. A seaside theme. I’m sure you’ll like it.’

‘It’s just that, well, we have an impressive collection and it has some value.’

‘I can quite understand sir. It’s certainly a garden to be envious of.’

‘Or was. The walled garden, for instance. Glorious for many years. Beautiful reds, wonderful yellows. Many comments have been made about the astors.’

‘I am very proud of those, Mr. Wilkes.’

‘But all gone now, it would seem. The walled garden is no more. Nor the walls.’

‘As I say, sir, the weather has been unseasonably warm. And the greenfly a touch voracious.’

‘On the walls, Harman?’

‘A new strain, I wouldn’t wonder. From Africa.’

‘The thing is, Harman, I was casting an eye over the list of entrants for this year’s Best English Garden competition. I see that you yourself are entering your garden at home for consideration.’

‘I take great pride in my own garden as well as your own, sir.’

‘I’m sure. I took the liberty of asking my driver to swing past there yesterday. Very impressive. It’s almost as if you were replicating the garden at Wilkes Manor.’

‘I like to think of it as an homage, sir.’

‘Hmmm.’ Wilkes nodded slowly. ‘Well, just see that it doesn’t take up too much of your time. We need you here on a full time basis with the competition coming up.’

‘Indeed sir, you need not worry.’

‘Good. Then that’s all. I’ll leave you to the garden.’

Harman nodded his acceptance. Jeremiah Wilkes straightened his waistcoat, turned and left the room. The gardener was quickly in pursuit, sweeping a new Coalport vase from a side table as he passed and secreting it under his jacket.

Find a longer chuckle in my humour writing compendium of offbeat short stories on Kindle :The Real Jamie Oliver and other Stories

Chris Towndrow

Playwright & author. Three professional adult pantos have sold out their runs in Guildford in the past 3 years. Currently planning for 2017.