Pillar to PostYou thought your garden was overgrown? You ain’t seen nothin’!
I love my garden. I love gardens, full stop. Was brought up by a gardener, and her daddy was a gardener. Not that she knew all the Latin names for plants, but many’s the time I’d arrive home from school and she’d be up to her knees in wellies and spuds.Grandad - Mum’s dad - had a very large garden in Banstead, Surrey, UK. He had had his mock Tudor house built during the early twenties (this was a popular style then) occupying a huge tract of land composed of the apple orchard he cultivated and lawn large enough to accommodate archery and games of tennis. I’ve got the photos to prove it, plus photos of granddad planting and planning, holding chalk and lengths of string. As a kid I recall the small kitchen and a small greenhouse next to it, packed with cardboard boxes overflowing with apples. My mum adored apples. Could never get enough of 'em.
'Good Heavens - is that really the time? Let’s pop the kettle on.’
'Good Heavens - is that really the time? Let’s pop the kettle on.’
The house was demolished during the seventies - its exsitence didn't last long - after the Grandfolks came to live with us. Today the plot is a thankfully tasteful Georgian-style housing estate.
I'm the blondie second from right on ground, looking moody. That's mum and dad,
standing behind Grandad.
I grew up in a bungalow opposite the River Thames in Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex - sorry - Surray - (county names were shifted during the seventies and Surrey was/is ‘porsh/posh’). Mum and dad had a substantial bit of garden, themselves, both front and back, and mother spent a vast amount of time there, cultivating fruit and veg and flower beds, much preferring that to being in the house. She told me in latter years that she would have liked to have been a horticulturalist.
Most of my childhood was spent playing in it, on the swing, pretending to be a hippy, wanting to be one, and making daisy chains. But I had no interest in gardening or gardens. That didn’t happen ‘till adulthood. I simply felt proud that we had a garden this big, and that grandad’s garden was big enough to hold an American baseball team.
Plough on twenty-plus years. After husband and I married, we moved to Hampshire (Hampsherrre – as the natives utter – actually they don't very often) which I love - from posh to village idiot. Our first plot consisted of a box end of terrace ex-council house, which meant we owned the largest rear garden. We owned a tree and attempted, quite successfully, to grow a wigwam of sweet peas. Boot on another twenty years and two more houses in Hampshirrre. The first of these still boasted the largest garden, two trees, a rockery, steps and a patio. Tres posh. Now we’re getting somewhere. I still wasn’t into gardening per se but I had matured, like manure, a liking and desire for a garden with lush, exotic plants, trees, and eccentricities such as sculptures, water features, hidey-holes and secret bits. This garden was large enough to accommodate husband's figure of eight 0 guage model railway in and around the rockery. Great fun.
The next pad was our current and probably final. We brought/dragged the kids up here, so time for garden appreciation or actual gardening remained limited. This house boasts a conservatory – nya (what posh folk say) - and the biggest lawn we’ve owned yet. I wanted trees. Trees? We had a forest-full! Slight exaggeration, but we were surrounded by ‘em. Enough to give us ample privacy to do anything questionable we fancied on the lawn that only Google Earth helicoptor pilots could photograph.
We chopped several down over the years to let more light in and reduce the maintenance. Husband
declares he’s gonna concrete the lot so’s he can ignore it. ‘At least make it green,’ I responded.
Initially I hinted that we’re overgrown. I’m no gardener a la mother, and can't tell my perrenials from my annuals (no real desire to, either...), but I do appreciate a good potter, a prune, a trim, a weed. Don’t mind a mow - good exercise - burying the occasional plant and watching it wither, but haven’t a clue about bedding plants (what’re they, when they’re at home?), and what’s good for where? Our garden ain’t cultivated, ain’t manicured. The lawn doesn’t have alternatively shaded mown stripes. It’s choc-full of weed and moss - dandelions make excellent soup (apparently Russians love 'em) and I love their colour, and moss is super soft, springy and pretty. Yes - there was/is an awful lot of overgrown about our garden, but we’re on-root - haha! - to fixing this. Away with the scythe and out with the secateurs. Buzz off, Death. Hello, Titchmarsh (Alan Titchmarsh, to the uninitiated – non-Brits mostly – is a famous British gardener/TV presenter. I do love his novels, I have to say, and have read most of them). Talking of which, our plot is beginning to look a teeny bit more landscaped with terrace, steps and fruit trees.
Among our oodles of interests is visiting British National Trust properties and exploring their gardens. Occasionally ideas may be gleaned from a roam around, although constructing a ‘ruin’ or Greek temple (did you know the saucy reason behind the Temple of Venus at West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire? Go on, you Brits…look it up. Ooh...!) might be a bit far fetched, but you never know.
Husband’s railway was demolished due to nicely rotting wooden bridges, but it used to squiggle
all over the place, hither and thither, through a tunnel, beneath a bridge and over one of four ponds - a sophisticated one is his, mine is ‘wild’. Go figure. My wind chimes send the neighbours barmy in a high gale, and a pottery pig and two ugly gargoyles (mine) and luscious ladies (his) grace the lawn. A water feature sits within a gravelled patio, waiting for James Bond and his Martinis, and a fourth pond and solar panel operated waterfall are set into a steep slope, making you want to go for widdle when the sun's out.
Our rockery, besides accommodating the usual plants, houses bits and bobs that any budding archaeologist (me) would be proud of. Broken bits of colourful pot, a whale vertebrae, railway odds and sods, and whatever else I feel like chucking at it.
Finally an upside-down Canadian canoe provides shelter for spiders waiting to be taken for a paddle – the canoe, not the spiders - on our local Basingstoke Canal (which way's Alaska? Old joke), and my small cabin contains Wild West artefacts and may one day boast an extension.
But I have a concern that I'll wake up one morning with the gentle strains of a churning cement mixer filtering through my window and Husband joyfully flattening the surface of the concrete that's creeping mercilessly, like fence to fence carpeting.
I wanted a jungle, a wilderness. He wants one pot plant.