Pomegranates are not often found growing above 55° latitude outside a hothouse, in the sleet and snow, but I have one I have grown – the sole survivor from a few seeds sown in garden centre compost. This fruit-bearer has lived through five winters – the last winter was severe for this country at the tail end of the Gulf Stream – and flood-prone summers. I say survivor because it has not thrived or progressed much beyond two stems and sparse red-tinged leaves in all this time.
And, in all this time, I have wondered at its tenacity and strength of purpose. I have allowed my pomegranate, in its galvanized bucket, to become choked with pink-flowered corms and red-stemmed weeds. I have neglected the pomegranate’s basic need for nourishment and space. I have been consumed by pride that it grew, arrogant in my appreciation that my green thumb supported its struggle as well as the proliferation of these corms, both of which made light of the weeds whose lacy fragility of leaves and stems belied their will to conquer the cultivated pomegranate and the Crocosmia rosea.
But, in this dry summer, only the weeds and the Crocosmia rosea have thrived. Weeds appear without bidding. Corms propagate of themselves. A pomegranate, grown from seed, cannot be left to fend for itself. Amputation of one stem was the first casualty of a lack of horticultural responsibility. Dry, starved soil. Water runoff. Stunted growth.
Could I call myself a gardener while I allowed chaos to govern? If I want pomegranate, I must sacrifice proliferation, regardless of the ease with which the green spreads, spills and tumbles to fill the blank pages of the pots and flowerbeds.
The corms, which have plenty of cousins in the old washday tub, have been edited out. They and the weeds will nourish the compost bin. My penchant for self-satisfaction and benign neglect will be rectified. With precision and purpose, I am determined to have a pomegranate worth looking at.
And today, after the drought and threats of deprivation, the rain is falling to reward my effort to become a good gardener.