You know those first forms and applications at school that ask for your interests/hobbies? I used to dread them- as I knew I didn’t have any. I just wrote swimming-every time- yet could only do a length. I think I felt hobbies were for older people – and socialising is your main priority at that age anyway. Interests develop as the years go on and I am happy to be in a kind of personal ‘renaissance’. I am discovering so many things I enjoy doing and can throw creative energy into.
My mum has a beautiful garden. I grew up hearing all of the names of plants, shrubs and flowers and I was reliant on her when I had to put in or take anything out of the ground, so much so, it was ‘her thing’ not mine -in my head- but nevertheless- I spent hours discussing design and plants and gazed out often, making corrections in my mind’s-eye.
Like many people, my interest really grew when I bought my first and then subsequent home with a ‘proper’ garden. I was forced into a position of ‘doing something’ with this outside space and, in the process, fell in love.
As I said, I was always interested, i’d taken countless trips to RHS gardens and spent hours listening and participating in plant-talk with my parents and I would watch Gardeners World, (it was after university, I was friendless, what can I say). I felt I wasn’t the target market for it all though. I was stepping out of my territory and into my parents’.
I half expected groups of silver-haired heavies to show up at my door demanding that I stay off their turf.
But then…I found I was starting to develop a genuine interest ‘for myself’, I found out things, as I bought my plants, I somehow kept bumping into my kin, people of all types, all ages and backgrounds/professions who were into horticulture- in particular -creating beauty through plants, shrubs and flowers or turning their hands to a spot of pottage and growing vegetables and fruit. I learnt of some quite rock n’ roll gardeners out there- members of various bands and so on. Did you know there isn’t actually an age restriction on plants!?
It’s interesting now to me that I hid this interest – even from myself. I see prejudice often. Many people perceive it to be an older persons’ pursuit and even refer to it as something you do when you don’t have anything much else going on- gardening leave. I beg to differ. It is the perfect antidote when you are frazzled and barely have any time! It is the ultimate stress reliever – and works you as hard as any gym.
You won’t always feel like going out there, it won’t seem appealing and then after 10 minutes of your hands involved with some plant or shrub, pruning, planting, sowing or just tidying it all up, it works on you- like magic. It’s meditative and distracting. It consumes you and you feel healthier and more alive each minute you are there. I maintain that it is something to do with how we ‘should be’- it’s our natural state to work the earth. I’m of Irish descent and so I think it’s in my blood to work the land! It just feels right and I’m very at home when I’m in a garden.
I heard someone say on a gardening show that it’s the antithesis of our modern, busy, gotta ‘have-it now’ culture and mentality. It takes time, you see your results, but slowly and gradually.
I’m not a tidy gardener and so I think this helps. I think people who buy leaf-blowers are probably nuts. I don’t pick weeds out of my lawn or sculpt-out perfect lines. I like a natural set up, it has to feel like you’ve stepped into nature for me-not a glossy magazine. I like spontaneous clumps of daffodils; random bulbs popping up between the shrubs; unmarked borders and rocks covered in moss- flanked by ferns and heather. But there’s room for everyone’s tastes. There aren’t any rules!
Something happened to me though- in terms of my gardening ‘plant age’. I think we all have one of these. I started out loving Azalea and Rhododendron and admiring those summery, bright, in- your-face blooms, but then I started to grow a little in my understanding of how an outside space develops and got a yearning for ‘year round’ beauty, the timeless elegance of Wisteria still captivated my imagination but the subtlety of Pulmonaria, Snowdrops and Hellebores started to work on me. The spring-garden started to have a bigger effect on my thinking. Your garden is not just for summer -it is for life 🙂
I remember the turning point. The Hellebores. They are sometimes nicknamed the ‘Winter Rose’ because err they come up in winter – and what a serious bonus! The dark, green foliage fans out into rich stars and the flowers are little nodding heads of loveliness. I had seen them many times but couldn’t understand the fuss. They weren’t big and blousy, they had very little in the way of attitude, they weren’t going to stop you in your tracks. Ahh how wrong I was.
You see, at the time of year they come into their full, beautiful best, there has been little else out in the garden and so on a number of levels they are a wonderful tonic.
You have been starved of colour, apart from the odd winter Jasmine, Dogwood or Viburnham (Daphne is winter-flowering) , the Daffodils might be appearing, just, and then there are the Hellebores. Giving it the big I AM. They are varied in colour but yet have those old-fashioned hues. Mine ‘pop’ in their lime-fullness and then I have a few younger ones nodding happily in their richer, ‘vintage’, pinky, reds. I have a lot to thank them for.
They made me a gardener. They made me see something about gardening I didn’t see before. They are also like a little secret that other gardeners know about. Chances are if you have taken an interest in Hellebores you are a gardener.
The great thing is there is no end-point in gardening. It is ongoing and that’s what makes it so relaxing. You never know it all and it doesn’t matter anyway. You try things, you learn things, you develop your tastes.
It works well with children -ish. They like to be out there with me and we all get some fresh air, which is never a bad thing. They do of course use my newly-formed arch, smothered in Clematis Montana (though not in flower yet) as a football goal -but I accept the fact that family life has to fit in with our surroundings and vice-versa.
One addition to your garden, I would recommend, to avoid lugging water-vessels around your garden in the hot-summer months, is a water butt.
Not only do some plants prefer rain water, like Camellia, it is a great way to use water in an environmentally friendly way and useful if there’s a hose-pipe ban. My husband put it together and we use it a lot, the children can work the tap (has advantages and disadvantages there!) and it gives me that same feeling as when I re-use my carrier bags, one smug-saving-the-planet point to me. It is also the source of some infantile humour in my house: “have you see my butt?” , “your butt looks leaky”, “my butts full’ etc etc…
Whilst I know I probably lost many readers at the line, ‘I watch Gardeners World’, if you have gotten this far, I thank you, and welcome your pictures / gardening anecdotes and comments.
…and compliments on my butt gratefully received.
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