The roof garden was coming along nicely; the decking was laid, as were the paths, with arches over them to support climbing roses and honeysuckle, the flowerbeds were lined and filled with compost, and all that was left to do was put the plants in. Ianto studied the trays and pots of young plants; it was just possible he and Jack had got a bit carried away at the nursery, but everything looked so enticing, and the thought of all those bight colours and sweet scents was too much to resist.
Ianto wanted honeysuckle close to the decking outside the French windows, where the scent would waft inside on warm evenings, so he decided to start there, putting the plants where they’d climb up the supports and eventually provide a bit of shade. The sun-warmed boards of the decking almost scorching his knees, he leaned over, plunging his hands into the moist and clinging dirt, scooping out a hole big enough for the first plant.
Over at the bed beneath the kitchen window, Jack was equally busy, smears of soil already streaking his face as he planted several varieties of lavender. Ianto could smell it from where he knelt, and the aroma made him smile. They’d wanted a cottage garden feel despite the fact that they were high up on the roof of what had once been a warehouse, not far from Cardiff bay. There would be roses, aquilegia, hollyhocks, lupins, delphiniums, pinks, snapdragons, pansies and a whole host of other familiar plants, with a few shrubs to shelter the more delicate varieties from the brisk winds that often blew in off the bay. Later there would be a herb garden and vegetable beds, fruit bushes and tubs of strawberries, maybe a greenhouse with tomatoes and peppers, and espalier fruit trees against the south-facing wall, but first they wanted flowers.
The compost was rich and dark, moist and crumby between Ianto’s fingers. He dusted the worst off his hands and reached for his watering can, pouring water already warmed by the sun into the hole before removing the honeysuckle vine from its pot and arranging it carefully. Scooping soil back into the hole, he firmed it down, sticky mud oozing up between his knuckles. Dipping his hands into the half-full watering can to rinse most of it off, he moved to the other side of the decking, where the second honeysuckle vine waited to be planted.
It took most of the day to get all the plants bedded in. As each bed was completed they spread dry, aromatic bark-chip mulch between the plants to keep moisture in the soil where it belonged, and by late afternoon the bulk of the work was done. All that was left was to put their few tools away and stack the empty pots to be cleaned; neither job took long, and when they were finished they stood back to admire their handwork.
The garden looked beautiful, which was more than could be said for the gardeners. Their hands were rough and dry from repeatedly delving into the earth, not to mention filthy, and they both had muddy streaks on their faces, arms, and clothes, but neither of them cared. What mattered was the satisfaction of seeing what that morning had been nothing more than bare earth transformed into a garden that would hopefully be in full bloom in a few weeks’ time.
“Shower?” Jack suggested. “I’ll wash your back if you’ll wash mine.”
Ianto looked down at himself and chuckled. “My back is probably the only part of me that isn’t muddy. It’s my front that needs washing.”
“I have no problem lending a hand with that either.” Jack winked.
“I’ll bet you don’t! Come on. Let’s go get cleaned up.” He studied Jack. “Or maybe I should just grab the hose and sluice the worst off us first. You should see the amount of soil you’ve got in your hair. What have you been doing, making the holes with your head?”
“No, but I did lose my balance and went headfirst into one when I was planting the Alexandria rose,” Jack admitted. “I thought I might need your help, but I managed to get out by myself.”
“Wish I’d seen that,” Ianto laughed. He brushed dry soil off his hands and then out of Jack’s hair, showering the gritty particles over both of them. “On second thoughts, hosing us down would probably make matters worse, we’d be dripping mud everywhere we went. We’d better leave our shoes outside the door though; don’t want to track dirt through the flat if we can avoid it.”
“Or we could just shed all our clothes outside and deal with them later. It’s not like anyone would see.” There were no buildings overlooking the roof garden; it had been designed so there wouldn’t be.
Ianto considered the suggestion. “Actually that might not be a bad idea.”
Barefoot outside the open French doors, they stripped naked and used their dirty gardening clothes to wipe as much of the drying soil off each other as they could before stepping inside and padding through to the bathroom for a much needed shower. They’d earned it; everything else would just have to wait until later.