( An article recently published in the IGPS newsletter. )
Anyone who knows me will be aware of my love of gardening. When I try to analyse it there is never a clear picture of why that is. On the down side its hard work. Gardening in all sorts of weather spent dodging rain showers, being buffeted about by the wind or being scorched by the sun ( I just added that last one in for the fun of it )
Then there’s the physical work , digging ground that is too wet, too dry, too sandy, too heavy or too weedy . The part where you wrestle with plants that attack you as you try to prune them like roses, raspberries,pyracantha,berberis or holly. Don’t they realise you’re trying to help them stay healthy. Then of course our favourite pastime of weeding. The annuals that pop up like shepherds purse, willow herb and groundsel that though easy to weed arrive with alarming speed and spread everywhere unless you get them early before they seed about. Buttercups with their cunning method of sending out arching slender stems that root as they go ending up a metre away from the parent. Dandelions, and docks that send down roots to Australia are another bane and of course the weeds that makes every gardener tremble in their boots like bindweed or robin run the hedge. I’m sure you’re begining to think I actually don’t like gardening at all but I’m only teasing.
The list of what makes me love gardening is so much longer. Firstly it gets you outdoors in all sorts of weather. I’ve spent many a pleasant morning in the garden with one eye on the darkening sky and one eye on the job at hand and feel that great sense of achievement when I complete my task ahead of a shower. I’m lucky enough to have a greenhouse that means of course I can sow seeds, divide plants, pot on plants or even tidy up though that’s really pushing it. Its important to also take time to walk about your garden and inspect and enjoy the results of your labours though I find it impossible not to bend to pull a weed or deadhead a flower thats gone over. We call it the driveway dance as you walk, bend, pull then repeat. In the few good summer days is there anything more rewarding than to sit on your patio and enjoy the fragrance,colours and sounds of a happy garden.
There’s a lovely quote attributed to Audrey Hepburn that says “ To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow “ and I really believe that to be true. We sow seeds, we divide plants and nurture them willing them to go on and thrive. We take slips and watch over them eagle eyed until that eureka moment where we see the signs of new life as new roots appear at the base of the pot and the cutting puts on healthy top growth. We plan borders and colour schemes, we trim, prune, mow, strim, deadhead, feed and nurture our plants along, taking care of their individual needs until they delight us with blooms or striking leaf colour. We plant bulbs on chilly autumn days content in the knowledge they will reward us in Spring from the shy hello of a snowdrop to the full blown explosion of colour that shouts “we are tulips look at us.”
Oh the delight of it all is what keeps me gardening but one thing more than anything else brings me such joy that my heart is filled to bursting with it. I know we all buy plants wherever we can but it is the plants that remind us of people that are the most special. I’ve many plants in my garden from loved ones gone before us who gardened in their lifetimes. Their plants are a connection to them that tugs at the heartstrings and flood us with memories. I’ve got snowdrops my parents dug up from an abandoned farmhouse in the 1950’s, roses my Dad planted for my mother who adored their fragrant blooms, rhubarb my beloved uncle tended to for most of his 96 years, slips of scores of plants from my mother’s best friend and plants that have been gifted to me by fellow gardeners equally obsessed with the joy that is gardening.
So those plants are not just plants to me they are reminders of gardeners in my family, they speak to me of a generous friend, they bring back a memory of a visit to a fellow gardener who delighted me with a slip of a rare or unusual plant. Each memory is a perfect prism reflecting a moment captured in time. Emotions are tied to these plants and give us focus as we tend to their care and nurture them , yes getting cold fingers and toes and the odd scratch from a thorn but mostly the pleasure of seeing them grow and each enjoying their moment in the sun. So we gardeners can reflect on the fact that we are a link to our past and hopefully to a future generation of gardeners.