He squatted, gnome-like in his red wellingtons, examining the furrow I’d just prepared. A worm breached the surface and he leant over and carefully pulled it clear. It wriggled away to submerge once more.
‘Shake the seeds along the furrow, in a line,’ I told him, placing some in his palm, and he clumsily threw them in all directions. Laughing, I repositioned the rogue ones.
‘Dink!’ he announced. ‘Yes darling, we’ll water them in a minute.’
We carefully covered the seeds with soil, enjoying the earth running through our fingers, and afterwards he picked thoughtfully at his dirty nails. I fetched his little watering can and filled it with water and he sprinkled the seeds copiously until the can was empty. I had planted sunflowers every year. It was a tradition, both before he was born and after. When he was a baby, I had cradled his little body in one arm and smiled down at him as I worked. He blinked up at me, fascinated by the leaves shivering on the tree behind me.
They had always done well in the sheltered spot by the wall; towering over our heads when fully grown. I loved watching the first shoots push up through the earth and reach for the sky; the huge flower heads emerging under the summer sun like smiling faces, nodding in the breeze. They would follow the sun as it traversed the sky, hungry for its warmth. Every year I collected seeds from the plants and stored them in a dark cupboard until the following year, when the process would spawn once more.
The striking flowers made marvelous decorations for my dining room table; a talisman, if you like – a reminder. My true love had christened them ‘blazing glories’ when he presented a bunch to me one birthday, never dreaming that they would adorn his coffin just a few years later.
And now his son was beginning to take up the gauntlet to grow the happiest plant in the world, in memory of the father he had never known.