Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections: Lally MacBeth

10th December 2022

Every year, we give over all of December (and usually most of January) to a series called ‘Shadows and Reflections’, in which our contributors share highs, lows and oddments from the past 12 months. Today it’s the turn of Lally MacBeth.

At the beginning of the year Matthew gave me a Geranium cutting. It had been given to him by his mum, cut from a much bigger plant that once sat in his Grandmother’s garden. There is a label poked into the compost that states the original plant the cutting was taken from was first planted in 1915. A Geranium of generations.

When the Geranium cutting first came to live with me in Cornwall it was sad. I cut it back and sprayed it with water that I steeped cloves in (a top tip I was given by an organic gardening friend). I dressed it with fresh compost, re-potted it and found it a spot on the windowsill in the kitchen. It thrived in this new sunny position. Soon it stretched, triffid-like, across the window, winding its way into every nook. It is a pleasure to see it creep and grow.

“There’s a flower!”

There was much excitement when, for the first time, a spray of creamy white flowers appeared. There surely is nothing more nostalgic than the smell of Geraniums; musty and thick and timeless, they are the scent of my own Grandmother’s kitchen, her greenhouse and her hands; thick with mud from gardening. But they are also the smell of the present. The smell of my own kitchen.

Now we have multiple cuttings. On each windowsill sits a cup with another cutting, all taken from the first cutting. They will become gifts for mothers and friends.

This small, and seemingly insignificant gift has, for me, brought joy to each morning of this year. I gaze at it and make coffee. I gaze at it and make eggs. I gaze at it and wash up. A timeless Geranium that links long lost grandmothers to the present and a sense of hope for the future. If this Geranium has survived since 1915 I’ve a feeling we’ll get through to 2023.