In the last forty-eight hours, I have been lashed in the face, poked in the eye and received lacerations to my arms and legs. My hair has been ripped out of my head. I can barely walk with pains in my back and my arms are black and blue. Before you call the guardians of the peace, don't bother - It's all self inflicted. I've been cutting back the plants around our pond in Poppy Cottage. I was slightly over enthusiastic when planting dogwood around it a few years ago, to keep weeds down. It had turned into a bit of a wilderness. Two days work and it is looking mighty fine. The kids found a frog in the pond. They were beside themselves with excitement and I was pretty chuffed too. I loved every minute of it and I'm going back for another thrashing tomorrow.
Yes, gardening. If you ain't into it, you won't understand what I am talking about. I'm pretty much addicted to it. I get a buzz from buying a car full of plants, dying to get home to plan and plot and plant. For my three weeks holidays, the thing that I was most looking forward to on my holidays was getting on my old clothes and digging holes in my garden. After a hectic few months at work, and a more hectic autumn to follow, in Gretta Garbo style (but without the white fluffy dress), I relished the idea of just being alone. Although having said that, the garden is the one place where I can be with the kids, but really do my own thing. They are happy to potter around, Leon digging holes where he shouldn't and watering the ground, or the windows, rather than the pot plants. Mya will plant seeds, deadhead plants and generally help out. It is the only place where we can all have fun and the kids aren't saying 'I want ....'. 'Can I .... ?' No Mr. Whippy van will appear. If the kids want to be fed, they can make a jam sandwich.
I bought some bamboo sticks earlier in the summer for my sweet pea. The kids were so impressed by these sticks that I bought them their own supply. Twelve of them at forty cent a pop. Bargain of the century and biggest hit of the summer. The sticks were used for marking our rooms in the garden and as frames for obstacle courses. However, they were also used for 'accidentally' whipping the heads off one of my daisy plants. I threatened to use the bamboo sticks for other purposes if any further accidents happened.
I don't covet my neighbours goods, or (rarely) their husbands, but I am prone to a dose of Garden Envy. It hits me real bad every now and then. Pure green I am. The worse dose of GE that I have is brought on by the sight of a manicured herbaceous border - the ones you see in walled gardens, run by OPW. I'm not envious of those state run gardens. It's Joe/Jo Blogg's borders that get me - where do they get the flipping time ? A healthy looking vegetable plot brings on similar feelings of GE and general inadequacy, as despite my acre of a garden, ten years later, I have yet to have a vegetable patch.
To tackle my feelings of inadequacy, this year, I planted potatoes in large plant pots, to great success. The kids got such a buzz pulling them out of the soil. 'Look Mam, there are more and more !!'. Myself and Mya like strolling around the garden in the evening inspecting what flowers have blossomed, munching on mange tout that we also planted in pots. I have herbs growing, to great success in a turned-on-its-back filing cabinet. A friend gave my some courgettes plants, which are rather impressive, but the cabbage plants ... well, let's just say they fed all of the caterpillars from Athy to Waterford ... There are some rather impressive plum and apple trees in Poppy Cottage. I can take no credit for these - they were here when we bought the house and happily thrive on neglect. Next year though, I will have a vegetable plot DEFINITELY. I will ... And a greenhouse. (Also the cause of much garden envy, especially glass ones, with proper slidey doors.
Getting back to coveting, I have a bit of a thing for the English gardener Monty Don. Rugged, but gentile and handsome, I could listen to him talk dirty (soil, people, I mean soil !!) all day. One of my favourite books is his 'Jewel Garden'. He talks about spending massive money on plants when he didn't have a penny and maps the making of his fabulous, rambling garden. He also talks about his bouts of depression and how gardening helps that. I'm conscious of how fragile mental health is and can see the benefits of being in the garden. There is something very theraputic about getting your hands dirty. I don't always feel like hacking down trees, but even walking around and spotting a new seedling, or plant that haas bloomed is worthwhile. Some plants, like my poppies only flower for a day or two, before their tissue-like petals are blown away, but it's worth having them for that one day. No one else may see them, except me. I love sharing these transient moments with my children too. I see it as a way to seize the day, to appreciate the moment.
If I am having visitors over the summer, I will spend more time tidying the garden than the house. Not that I expect non-gardening folk to notice my work in the garden - I know what I have done and I take satisfaction in that. I just want them to enjoy it.
I want children to see it as a place for adventures and to explore. I want to build memories for my children and their friends, like the fun of their, now annual, Easter Hunt. To use the garden like an extra room in our cottage. To make 'secret' dens and create their own space. For adults to relax and take time out. The garden in Poppy Cottage, like any good garden, will never be finished. It's a work in progress. But there will always be time to sit back and quite literally, smell the roses.
“For you little gardener and lover of trees, I have only a small gift. Here is set G for Galadriel, but it may stand for garden in your tongue. In this box there is earth from my orchard, and such blessing as Galadriel has still to bestow is upon it. It will not keep you on your road, nor defend you against any peril; but if you keep it and see your home again at last, then perhaps it may reward you. Though you should find all barren and laid waste, there will be few gardens in Middle-earth that will bloom like your garden, if you sprinkle this earth there. Then you may remember Galadriel, and catch a glimpse far off of Lórien, that you have seen only in our winter. For our spring and our summer are gone by, and they will never be seen on earth again save in memory.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Dedicated to the memory of an inspirational gardener, my friend Andrew Farrelly