Even my elderly neighbour puts me to shame with an immaculate lawn, thriving allotment and her gentle suggestion for her son to ‘trim back the boundary hedge between our gardens’; a responsibility clearly mine. There have been other subtle hints such as, ‘the other residents prefer the yellow flowering hedge by our driveway, to be of a certain height.’ Feeling reprimanded, I duly promised to cut it back in September, as she advised, or whenever it finished flowering.
The problem is, seven days into October and the hedge still has flowers on it; so do I cut it now, or wait? What are the rules? Totally out of my gardening depth and excruciatingly aware of the regulatory eyes of the cul-de-sac eager for my attempt to ‘keep up appearances’, anxiety at my ensuing task is growing.
Don’t get me wrong; I love gardening. Love to be in the garden, and so much the better if I’m clutching a warm mug of tea. Nothing beats it. The supreme pleasure of perusing and enjoying your garden whether it’s a window box on a balcony, a small-enclosed patio garden, or a sprawling manicured haven, whilst you sip a steaming mug of something. For when we sit quietly in the garden it allows us an opportunity to feel connected to nature; to listen to the creak of trees swaying in the wind, the swish of branches, a choral of bird song as they swoop and flit around the garden. No matter how busy I am, or how stressed I feel, just to be still and silent within the beauty and nurturing space of a garden is calming, exhilarating and often meditative.
Both inspiration and clarity of mind can be found in a garden; along with a much-needed sense of peace that we all need in this hectic, demanding world we inhabit. Pets are well documented to be good for our health and I believe that gardening must be too. Whatever degree of gardening we are able to achieve, whether it is keeping a pot plant alive, a potted herb garden on the kitchen window sill, spring bulbs planted in terracotta pots on the balcony, or beyond, there are undoubtedly benefits.
To be a gardener is to be creative. We plan our intended gardening project. Plan and then create; and in time nurture our seedlings, bulbs, plant or whatever we grow. It is in this process of creation that we become connected, our intrinsic nurturing instincts awoken as we begin to care for them. Maybe even talking to them, encouraging them to live, to grow.
From gardening there is much to be learned about life, about ourselves even, and also humanity. A garden, an array of flowering bulbs or a healthy indoor plant allows us the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of living energy born by our own hands. There is no question gardening can be empowering. The downside, though, is that gardening can also be time consuming and brings with it a lot of hard work and commitment.
Over the years I have had gardens that required varying degrees of attention. In houses we owned there was a blank canvas to play with, allowing me to plant roses, and African daisies, both favorites of mine, along with a mixture of inexpensive fillers. Living in apartments with only a balcony, I contented myself with growing bedding plants in window boxes. During the past few years I pottered around a cottage garden with empty borders where I grew odd shaped courgettes, and cabbages no one wanted to eat (whilst battling a landlord with a worrying attachment to weed killer so strong it is no longer legal).
In December we moved to a bigger, yet more mature garden. ‘Will it be okay if I do a little gardening?’ I asked the agent showing us around the property, completely lulled into a false sense of security by the winter calm keeping the garden in check. When spring arrived, it became apparent that the garden was in fact a wild beast, a monster in need of being tamed.
During the summer months, I fought and lost an endless battle, constantly mowing the lawn, weeding, tugging out enormous handfuls of virulent weeds overtaking the herb garden, the borders, and the pathway. Some with flowers so striking they could actually have been flowers, and quite possibly were.
Thankfully, autumn has now arrived. Trees look majestic as they evolve and blend into hues of warm and comforting orangey-browns. Leaves fall to the ground, waiting to be trampled through and crunched beneath our boots. For me, there is no better time than autumn for gardening. It is a period of reflection, of tidying, evaluating and preparing the garden for the onslaught of winter and in time, the welcome advent of spring.
Gardens progress through a continuous cycle, a miraculous ebb and flow of life and death, of renewal and hope. So, I am eager to begin afresh with this wild beast of a garden. During the following weeks we will concentrate on those tasks necessary to prepare our gardens, digging over soil, planting spring bulbs, taking cuttings from plants and many other jobs. We shall do it together, one step, one mug of tea at a time. So why not allow yourself some time this week to reflect on your own garden, what it means to you and what style of garden you would like to create.