Sowandso is part of a group called You Can Grow That!. Every 4th of the month we publish posts about our favourite plants, our love for growing vegetables and our enthusiasm for gardening. Want to know more about our group then go to www.youcangrowthat.com
May I introduce you to Chalkington May Villas – otherwise known as Chalky. Pure white with ice blue eyes, she was a stunner of a cat with a personality to match and she arrived at the Villas back in May 2010 from an animal rescue centre in nearby Hickilng. Hickling is a village not far from the Villas, so as the weather was warm and inviting one Sunday morning, we decided to cycle the short distance to check out their feline residents, with a view to adopting one.
Needless to say, all of the cats were equally in need of a permanent and loving home and maybe I should say it was difficult to choose …but to be honest it wasn’t. As soon as we saw Chalky, we knew she was the one (even though she played it cool, feigning complete disinterest in the whole affair). We were told that she had been one of a litter of four, all white, that had arrived at the rescue centre during a cold snap earlier in the year. They had been collected from an old lady who apparently had more cats than she could cope with. There were several inches of snow on the ground at the time and so the kittens were named Snowdrop, Frosty, Ice and Ickle. Snowdrop (soon to be renamed Chalky) happened to be the only one left. Goodness knows why she hadn’t been snapped up sooner – perhaps it was just meant to be…
Once back at the Villas, Chalky soon settled in and instantly became an important member of the family. She even got on with the chickens, or maybe it would be more accurate to say they developed a healthy respect for each other. She proved herself to be a prolific hunter and earned her keep by doing her bit to control the local mouse population and (much to my great displeasure) an unfortunate garden bird from time to time. Now, the Villas is situated in a sleepy little village in the heart of the Norfolk Broads but even so I used to worry when I saw Chalky streak across the road in front of our house. Once to my horror I saw her escape an oncoming lorry by the skin of her teeth.
However, I always hoped the fact that she was white and wore a reflective collar would keep her safe but one fateful day her luck ran out. She was hit by a car and killed outright. We were heartbroken and to ease my douleur I set about creating a small memorial garden in her honour. The plan is that one day, once the rose hedge has grown tall, it will be a secluded place where we can go and sit to contemplate life and think about Chalky and her antics – like the time she caught a mouse that was still caught in a mousetrap …and proceeded to drag the whole lot through the cat flap with a tremendous clatter!
The idea was to make the Secret Garden (as it became known) a haven for birds and pollinating insects. The focal point in the centre is a columnar Poplar Tremula which gets its name from the soothing sound the leaves make in the summer breeze. Honey bees like poplar too and collect propolis from its buds which they use to repair hive damage. I marked the entrance with two Griselinia and planted the boundary with Trailblazer rose hedging along three sides and Ballerina Fuschia hedging along the front.
I then filled the borders with Bergenia (pictured above), Nasturtium, Oriental Poppies, Acanthus Mollis, blue Agapanthus, Fennel (that I leave to flower because hoverflies love it), Achillea Moonshine, Geum Mrs J Bradshaw, over fifty Tulip Ballerina bulbs, snowdrops around the base of the tree, umpteen Tom Thumb wallflowers and Alba foxgloves (that I grew from seed this time last year), three Shocking Blue floribunda roses and Stinking Hellebore at the base of a birdbath that I made from a section of gnarled tree trunk stood on its end, topped with a large shallow terracotta drip dish from the local garden centre. The picture below of My Secret Garden was taken last summer before planting had been completed:
All but finished now, space has been strategically allowed for a circular gravel path around the tree and a simple curved seat or bench – both of which we are planning to build this summer… “Michael – have you got a moment?” In the meantime, rest in peace Chalky and thanks for the memories.