For me my garden isn’t just about having something beautiful to look at – it’s a friend. When I need to, it helps me switch off from life’s trials and tribulations.
When I lost my beloved dog Pebbles in March 2014 I spent hours out there finding jobs that needed doing and some that really didn’t. Although it hurt to be in the garden without her and I wept so many tears that I didn’t need a watering can, it seemed somehow better than being inside the house without her.
In 2016 my sister and I had to take matters into our own hands and find a nursing home for our much loved mum. Her Parkinson’s and associated dementia had reached the stage that made it impossible for my 83 year old dad to cope with the demands of caring for her. The first home she went into was the only one we could find with an immediate vacancy. It soon became clear that the staff were not geared up to caring for her needs and we found her in some distressingly undignified situations on a number of occasions. When I returned home from visiting her I would go straight out into my garden and work on it. It helped me take my mind of my grief because it did feel to me as though we were letting her down. After 3 months we got her into a nursing home dedicated to the care of patients with severe dementia. The staff are wonderful carers but it doesn’t take away the feeling that I have already lost my mum. She loved gardening. When I sold my parents house I transplanted some of her plants into my own garden, including some forget-me-nots. They reliably reseed each year and remind me of the warm, capable mum and granny she once was – never to be forgotten.
In May 2015 we took ownership of our new puppy Lily. I spent a lot of time in the garden with her but not much gardening got done that first summer! Close supervision was required. She thought it great sport to chase fledglings who hadn’t quite mastered the art of getting airborne on the first attempt – thankfully she never caught one. She tried to eat every plant and I spent hours scouring the internet to identify whether what she had munched was poisonous to dogs – most seemed to be. Miraculously she didn’t come to any harm. She also found wasps and bees fascinating, despite my attempts to teach her to leave them alone. How she has never been stung remains a mystery – she would pounce on them and bat them with her front feet until the tiny body no longer moved. Fortunately she has grown out of eating my garden, other than the odd blade of grass when she wants to make herself sick. I have not been so successful in deterring her from chasing insects but I do my very best to protect the bees and butterflies. Other than the risk of a sting, I don’t feel so inclined where the wasps are concerned, even though I know they are good for the garden too!
My next door neighbour Victoria also likes gardening. We chat endlessly about our plants and how they’re doing. We share cuttings and seedlings but frequently can’t remember their names and text each other later after a Google. A couple of years ago Victoria and her husband Albert (affectionately known as the Royal family) replaced the rickety old fence between our gardens. The new version ended up being so high that we could no longer see each other over the top. We still spoke to each other through it but it wasn’t the same, not being able to see a face. Last summer Victoria’s son made us a fence hatch with a little hinged door. It makes us howl with laughter every time we use it. It’s known as the natter-hatch.
I don’t profess to be an expert gardener – far from it. I have made many mistakes over the years but I just try things and often they do work, to my great surprise. Mine is not a manicured well planned garden, it’s simply a mishmash of the plants I love. When I am indoors I like nothing better than to settle down in front of the TV with a glass of wine and Monty or Alan.