Prima (UK)

Spring f lowers

As winter draws to a close, it’s time for opportunit­y to bloom…


Harriett turned off the weather forecast with a sigh. That was the problem with spring: you could have weeks of nice weather and then a cold snap.

In fact, the weather was one of many things Harriett didn’t really like about the time of year. Others always seemed overjoyed by the end of winter, with the promise of spring weddings and Easter holidays, but Harriett didn’t have any big plans.

She checked her bag for her keys, phone and gloves, ready for her drive to work. She’d been working at the garden centre for almost a year, since relocating to the village with her partner, James. Unfortunat­ely, the move had been a disaster, and was another reason this time of year was difficult. James had admitted he was missing one particular woman from his previous office and had promptly moved back. Harriett, having nowhere else to go, had stayed, shocked and disappoint­ed. Her previous job, working for a large but unfashiona­ble stately home, was no longer available and she had taken a job at the local garden centre in desperatio­n, hoping she might be able to persuade someone to put on a few events similar to the ones she had organised in her last role. So far, her ideas had been dismissed by the manager as too ambitious for Bishops Seaford.

Putting on her oversized waterproof garden centre coat, Harriett resigned herself to another day of routine watering, sorting and coaxing the rather uninspirin­g display of spring bulbs into something more exciting. She found the endless tubs of yellow daffodils, pink tulips and blue grape hyacinths hard to like, with their garish colours and forced jollity. She had been happier with the subtle shades of the hellebores, snowdrops and crocuses she’d nursed through the winter.

She remembered sadly the plans she and James had had for their garden this time last year. Big, blousy borders full of cottage garden plants smelling deliciousl­y in the summer warmth, with Harriett enjoying a glass of wine sat under a pergola of roses. It seemed a lifetime away on this chilly morning with a long day at work ahead.

Harriett was halfway through watering the indoor plants when her walkie-talkie crackled into life.

‘Delivery, Harriett. Can you come straight away?’ came the curt instructio­n from David, the manager.

‘Please,’ thought Harriett tersely to herself. ‘Yes, David, can do.’ Harriett walked through the rows of plants to the outside area at the back of the garden centre, where an intriguing van with French number plates was parked with its back doors wide open. David was talking to an interestin­g-looking man, dressed more causally than the usual plant reps.

‘Right, Harriett,’ said David, ‘I’m taking Christophe here for a bit of lunch, as he’s come a long way. I want you to give these plants a bit of je ne sais quoi.’

Christophe gave Harriett a smile and shrugged apologetic­ally.

With a disarming French accent, he explained the delivery was from his lavender farm in the south of France. Apparently, David had done a deal when he holidayed in the area that summer. The smell from the van was captivatin­g, as the plants’ pale silver green leaves had been jostled on their journey.

David led Christophe away, leaving Harriett alone to unload the van. She found a trolley and transferre­d the beautiful shiny little bushes, which would be ready to bloom purple in a few weeks’ time. Smiling at the little piece of French sunshine that had been delivered, she pushed the trolley out of the storage area and suddenly found inspiratio­n. Looking around at the damaged stock and leftover bits, she knew exactly how to create a bit of ‘je ne sais quoi’.

Harriett was almost finished when the two men returned later that afternoon.

‘Wow!’ whispered Christophe.

Harriett had created a stunning upright display, using the broken terracotta pots from the storeroom planted with the lavender bushes and topped with gravel from torn bags. She had found an old display poster from last year’s summer event to create a background of sun and blue sky behind the pots. Each plant had a handwritte­n label with the price and the name of the village in France where they were grown.

‘You have a talent,’ said Christophe. ‘Maybe you could come over and help me some time…’

‘In France?’ asked Harriett, smiling.

‘Yes, the château needs someone with a few ideas.’

‘The château?’

‘Ah yes, the farm is part of the château’s estate.’

‘Well, as it happens,’ said Harriett, ‘my previous job was managing a stately home.’

Christophe looked both impressed and delighted, and Harriett’s heart gave a little jolt of happiness. All of a sudden, spring really did seem like the start of something new.

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