May 29th – The Glade Road Gardening Competition

At one time it would have all been forest where Calewynch district now stands, and indeed the district borders on a small sliver of what would once have made up Calewynch forest, which itself would, once upon a time, have connected to Dunmonii wood to its south. Calewynch district is right on the edge of the City, and Glade Road is on the furthest edge of the district. Here there is room to breathe, and each of the thirty seven houses that sit on the other side of the road from the last dregs of forest all have large and beautiful gardens. Today they will all look particularly beautiful, because today they are being judged.

Some gardens are designed for those long summer nights of July and August, some are made to look good the whole year around. The gardens of Glade Road are all designed to look their best in late spring, specifically for today, when the Calewynch Horticultural Society will send a contingent of board members to judge them. The competition is fierce, and whilst there is neighbourly love between the residents at most other times of the year, there are only hard glances and suspicions in the spring. It’s thought that there’s something about the soil on this verdant edge of the City which encourages the growth of the late spring flowers here; they overflow from planters, hanging baskets and borders.

Here in the gardens there are roses climbing trellises, delicate orchids hiding in sections of wild grassland, startlingly clear pools topped with flowering lily pads. Gardeners create intimate spaces where frogs hop peacefully over dewy grass, sun streaming through the wisteria arches overhead. Paths are laced through these delicate spaces, winding their way about the intricately layered flower beds, creating vistas pleasing to the eye. To dwell in these viridescent spaces is a salve for the weary soul. For pretty much all of the Glade Road residents, gardens are an obsession, an art which gives meaning to their lives.

Besides the judges, plenty of Buentoillitants will travel to the gardens today, to experience their delight first hand, after the judges have marked each garden, of course. Often they ask, as they gaze at the blossom on a tree, there much later than it should be, or at the perfect shape of the roses with not a brown petal or leaf in sight, how do they manage it? How can a place be made so perfect, even if it is only for a day? The answer they give is of course hard work, resolve, experience, but there are other clues to a more esoteric, less believable explanation, hidden in the shrubbery or a quiet corner of each garden, if you know where to look.

In 1845 there lived on Glade Road a woman called Martha Hindergall, a brewer who worked quite some distance away, and had little time for gardening. Every year, when the competition came around, she realised that she had entirely underprepared, and her roses wilted, there were weeds in the beds, in short it was (for Glade Road standards) something of a disaster. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to compete, or that she didn’t care enough, she just simply didn’t have the same time and energy as the other gardeners, nor did she have the experience or skill. After seven years of the same story she was tired of always having the worst garden, of the way the other gardeners talked about her (not with malice or harsh words, but with suppurating pity), so she looked for outside help.

The word ‘surprise’ does not really cover the feelings of the other Glade Road residents when Hindergall won that year. The idea that this frankly useless girl had managed to create such a glistening spectacle in her garden, when days before it looked a scraggly mess, was beyond belief. Magic must have been involved, surely! Perhaps she was a witch? All the other gardeners surreptitiously walked around the public showings, trying to spot the trick, trying to see how she had managed it. What they found was a small shrine in one corner of the garden with a dozen cut flowers and three yew branches laid upon it, and in the grass all about strange cloven footprints, yet not foot prints because there was no impression on the ground, just a lengthening of the grass in the shape of a footprint. They knew what it was immediately.

In many Escotolatian myths there are forest spirits, spirits that once roamed all across the land which was then all wooded. They take many forms in these myths – that of animals, ghosts, the trees themselves. One of the most popular was a mysterious figure, somewhat akin to a woman but with the legs and head of a deer, who made plants grow wherever she stepped. This is who Hindergall must have summoned, they thought, this is how she must have done it. In fact, they were so preoccupied with the notion, with making their own shrines for the next year, they did not notice the other footprints in the soft grass; the bootprints of many workmen and the wheel ruts from reams of freshly grown flowers she had carted in, all technically against the rules, but later admitted by Hindergall on her death bed. It seems, however, that the admission did nothing to stop each gardener trying to gain an advantage with their own shrines, just in case.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Inexorable Impresario
  • The Golden Tongue Festival
  • Herbert Machievn’s Dark Art Festival