Every year, the garden catalogue drops through my letterbox and I start to daydream. I mentally design flowerbeds when my body is too busy to be doing any of the other things my mind ought to be doing, adding in all the plants I would love to grow for their beauty, all the fruit and vegetables I would tuck in between them, all the herbs I like to use for home remedies. It is a relaxing pastime that costs neither time nor energy, because I know from experience that the reality will never match the dream.
I have always grown things. This is the first place I’ve ever lived where I haven’t made a proper garden, but even so, there are plants on the windowsill and a little flower bed with a few rescued roses, herbs and wildflowers outside.
There are a good few reasons why the garden I miss so much has yet to materialise. Muscle power has depleted over the years, time and energy are in short supply, money even shorter. The main reason, though, is simply the terrain; the gardens of new-build homes seldom have much topsoil and the earth of my small patch is clay. It bakes hard and cracks wide, so before I can waft around planting things, I’ll need a lorry load of topsoil, a shovel and a wheelbarrow. And probably a man with a rotovator. So I look at it and it looks at me and we both hope I’ll manage to do something with it sometime soon.
I look back on past gardens in wonder. Some were huge, some tiny. I planned them in great detail in imagination, poring over plant and gardening catalogues, but none of them ever went according to the dream. Instead, I foraged, salvaged and recycled whatever showed up, fitting it in where I could. I needed paving, so when a house a mile away took up the old concrete drive, I carried it home, bit by bit in shopping bags, to make crazy paving. A fallen sandstone wall on wasteland scheduled for clearing came home the same way to edge flower beds, eight foot deep and fifty feet long. Dying plants and trees were rehomed and resuscitated, mingling with those raised from cuttings and seeds. Native flowers, often catechised as weeds, were allowed to fill the gaps. And, if it took a year or two more for things to start looking their best, well, gardening is all about patience.
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