One Summer In France – Episode 10

Agnes thrust the fork into the weed-infested soil and leaned on the handle, catching her breath. Getting to grips with this overgrown jungle of a garden was proving harder than she’d anticipated. Gardening at the auberge had consisted mainly of looking after geranium-filled pots and the occasional pruning of the back hedge. Bruno had grown their vegetables in a plot securely fenced off from the ducks and the chickens while the rest of the ground had been used for guest parking.

Here she had both the land and the free time to indulge herself in what she was beginning to suspect could easily become an obsession. There was a lot of work to be done. Bruno had cut the lawn before they moved in, but nothing else had been touched for years. Looking around her now, she could see primroses, daffodils and miniature cyclamen all at various stages of growth in the old flower-beds. The rambling roses over the old arched pergola were already budding up. Closing her eyes, she imagined sitting out under its perfumed shade of a summer’s afternoon, enjoying the tranquillity.

The patch of ground she was currently clearing was the sunniest and warmest spot in the garden. A buddleia tree had spread its branches out along the back wall, but there was plenty of space for more shrubs and trees when she’d

decided what she wanted. She quite fancied an olive tree.

Bruno had promised he’d clean out the old pond and restock it with some fish. Maybe they’d even get some visiting frogs. Many a summer night Agnes had gone to sleep listening to the croaking of the canal frogs.

Outside the kitchen door, the old granite trough was filled with compost, waiting for her to plant it up with the herbs she wanted. Basil, parsley, chives, sage and thyme were all on order down at the garden centre.

“Agnes. Will you be ready to go in five minutes?” As if reading her thoughts, Bruno’s voice startled her out of her day-dreaming. She’d forgotten the herbs were ready for collecting today.

“Better make it ten,” she said, hurrying indoors to wash her hands and change her shoes.

The garden centre was buzzing as they drove in. Springlike weather over the past few days had infused people with enthusiasm for sorting out their gardens.

While Bruno went to pay for the herbs and put them in the car, Agnes wandered down to where the large shrubs and trees were. She was standing looking at a willow tree when Bruno found her.

“Do you think we could plant a willow? It would look wonderful by the pond,” she said. “It would be a real statement in that part of the garden. They’re such elegant trees. I love the way everything moves in a gentle breeze, like they’re dancing.”

“Let’s go and find Pascal and see whether he thinks we have the right conditions.”

“He’s here today?” Agnes said, surprised. Only last week they’d attended the funeral of Giles de Guesclin, Pascal’s father and Bruno’s friend from school days, and one of the biggest landowners in the area. His only son Pascal had inherited the estate, which included a small château, a couple of farms and the garden centre – which had always been Pascal’s responsibility. “I’d have thought he’d be too busy sorting everything else out.”

Bruno nodded.

“You know how much he’s always loved this place. He was saying just now how being here with the plants helps him to think straight. It’s his sanctuary from the world.”

“Where is he? Still in the office?” Agnes said.

Bruno nodded and they began to make their way up through an enormous polytunnel to the office area, where they found Pascal busy checking off a delivery of plants with an assistant.

“Agnes.” Pascal kissed her cheek. “How are you?”

“Ça va,” Agnes said. “How are you coping?” she asked gently. “Your mother, too?”

“She’s not good, but she copes. What can I do for you?”



Margaret Scott

Margaret is a sub-editor within the Production Team on the "Friend". Her main job is to work on the stories and make sure the magazine leaves us in its best possible guise. When not doing that, however, she either has her head buried in the old “Friend” volumes or is out and about giving talks or going on Warner trips (fab!). She hates cheese.