The sun finally shone last weekend, which meant one thing – gardening. Like thousands of others, I’m drawn into the garden when the weather is good. I finally planted the potatoes and did some long overdue weeding, but much of the time I was simply enjoying being outside. The fruit tree blossom was humming with wild bees and the robin kept me company. There are six newts in the pond, too.
Spring is definitely my favourite time of the year in the garden. There’s a yellow and blue theme at this time of year which I love. The wild end of the garden (an increasingly large part) was full of crocuses a few weeks ago. Now the grass is covered with primroses, grape hyacinth, forget-me-nots and the small yellow flowers of lesser celandine. As the daffodils fade, the bluebells start to take over. Then the tulips appear, with glorious splashes of red.
Gardens great and small
My first ‘garden’ was a large wooden box filled with earth, which (aged 4) I looked after carefully, planting mainly cress and sunflowers. The link between gardening and food was already there. My mum always loved gardening and I just followed in her footsteps.
Since then, wherever I’ve lived, I’ve always planted something outdoors. Over the years, I’ve had gardens of all different sizes. There was a tiny patch of overgrown ground in Stoke Newington, but I managed to clear enough to grow a few things, though it was a battle to keep the ivy away and to stop a housemate’s dog from digging up the flowerbeds.
Later, there was a large plot of land in Yorkshire, perched on the edge of the Pennines, where you could get snow as late as May, so planting anything out before then was risky. Miraculously, broad beans, cauliflowers, raspberries and rhubarb all thrived, as well as hardy geraniums, lupins and even roses.
When I first moved back south in the 1980s with my partner and small son, we lived in a small Victorian house – typically Brighton – with an even smaller garden. After a few years and the addition of a daughter, I got itchy feet – or should that be fingers – and we moved to a newer house on the outskirts, with a long garden full of trees at one end. I dug out the chalky earth (with difficulty) to make a pond and it was soon populated with frogs, newts, water beetles and dragonflies. Bliss.
In 2017, my partner and I lived in Berlin for six months, and I grew begonias in pots on the balcony of our third floor flat, which looked over a small shared garden full of trees. Before we went, I planted potatoes in our Brighton vegetable patch; they and the plants looked after themselves and we came back to apples and potatoes galore. Although I loved Berlin life, I missed the garden and couldn’t wait to get it back into shape.
A gardening life
I should add that I’m by no means a gardening expert. I’ve never had any training and don’t know the Latin names of plants. I rarely just sit in the garden, as I always see something to do. A typical gardening session for me is unplanned. I’ll just go up the garden to take the veg peelings to the compost bin. An hour later, I come in for lunch or a cuppa, having got distracted by some little job – cutting back a shrub or doing a spot of weeding.
When the children were young, the garden was an escape. I’ve never been one for housework, and gardening always relaxed me if I got a bit fraught with the children and their friends playing noisy games round the house. I’d just go outside with a cup of tea and a pair of secateurs and the stress would fall away. It still does.
During the Covid lockdowns, the garden was a lifeline, and I felt really lucky to have it. To me, gardening is more than a hobby – it’s a way of life. There’s nothing I like more than pottering outdoors in my welly boots with a trowel in my hand. It’s a creative process and makes me feel part of nature. Time passes more slowly and I get lost in the moment.
My son is now a professional gardener, so he must have picked up the interest from me, as I did from my mum. Maybe he’ll pass on the passion to his newborn son too. I like to think of it passing down the generations.
Happy gardening everyone!