I killed the olive tree. I moved its pot one frustrating day over the winter, when I knew that its roots had dug into the patio looking for water, and a big handful of suspiciously significant-looking growth came away in handfuls. And then it was dead. Yep, actual death.
Figs are great survivors, hanging on in old gardens long after the lawns and walls on which they were displayed have disappeared. There was one in our old place, where, after 18 months of hacking, we discovered we had a walled garden. It took about 15 years to get that plot back into full production, and the fig was one of the first things we tackled, once we had cleared a way through to it. The stone wall against which it must once have been trained was still standing (south-facing), but the tree had long since broken its moorings and arched out over about 20 feet of ground, its huge leathery leaves unmistakeable among the brambles and seedling sycamores.
Not since Alexander Pope ended the 18th-century craze for artfully-trimmed hedges by lampooning aristocrats for turning shrubs into “awkward figures of men” has British topiary faced such a grave threat.
So the big question, this time of year, turns out to be this: how can my friend Kelly screen her garden, so that she doesn't have to look at her neighbours while they are standing at their (upstairs flat) kitchen sink? We need a solution that covers up those washing-up souls with some sort of transparent veil, allowing a deep calm of privacy to descend. Ah! But which also lets through sunlight. Like a barrier, but without being a barrier. See, it's tricky.
Very rarely does the Chelsea Flower Show set a trend in gardening, but it often reflects shifts that have been going on for some time in the real world. At this year's show, there was a welcome move away from dark, claret-saturated plantings: maroon astrantia, purple-leaved geranium, interspersed with blobs of knautia. This colour palette was arresting when it was first introduced at Chelsea in the garden made for Gardens Illustrated by Piet Oudolf and Arne Maynard. But that was in 2000. And we've learnt how drab those plantings look in a typical British summer of grey clouds and rain.
Dahlias, they're like those Disney songs from the studio's 2013 smash hit Frozen. Big, bright, not in very good taste, nonetheless totally irresistible. In fact the only dahlias I don't get are the mostly very popular "Bishop of Llandaff" and friends; far too respectable, frankly, with small flowers, simple undouble petals and laughably ungarish colours.